The January transfer window is now open all over Europe, giving clubs the opportunity to fix problems that have become apparent during the autumn season. Spending in January never hits summer levels, but still it regularly climbs up to nine figures in the Premier League alone. This year, top level English clubs are expected to dominate the market more than ever before. We will start our coverage of the January transfer window by providing a list of players who spent the first half of the season outside the top five leagues, but are likely to move to the English top division this January. The list is inevitably dominated by the players from the Portuguese Liga Sagres, with Ukraine following closely.
Jesper Cillessen (Ajax), goalkeeper
Back in 2014, the Ajax keeper was one of the stories of the summer. After only one season as a regular at club level, Van Gaal selected Cillessen as his starting keeper during the World Cup. As the Dutch made it to the semis, Cillessen received a lot of attention, due to his style and shot-stopping ability. Even though both Ajax and his national team endured a pretty bad season, he was highly sought after last summer. Just a week ago he was chosen as the best player in the Netherlands.
One of the best keepers on the market, Cillessen would be a perfect solution for any club that likes to play from the back, like Swansea and Southampton.
Bruno Martins Indi (Sporting), central/left defender – Man Utd
Another surprise star of the Dutch World Cup team Bruno Martins Indi took an unexpected step after Brazil, ending up at Porto, even though richer clubs from the top 5 leagues had shown interested as well. His first season in Portugal was a successful one, but this term was not nearly as good, as the Dutchman suffered an injury soon after getting sent off during a national team game. Big and strong, yet skilled with the ball, Martins is a versatile defender who can play at center back or left back, and he is equally good when team plays with either three or four players at the back. This all makes him the perfect Louis Van Gaal signing, which makes it no surprise that he has been mentioned as a part of United’s latest splash.
Aleksandar Dragović (Dynamo Kyiv), central defender – Leicester
Dragović started his career at FK Austria’s youth setup, alongside David Alaba. Born in Vienna to Serbian parents, his debut for the Austrian national team was against Serbia in Belgrade. He was barely 19 when FC Basel acquired him halfway through their title-winning season, which was followed by a further two Swiss championships. Over Aleksandar’s two full seasons at the club, FCB managed to get to the second stage of the UCL and to the Europa League semifinals. His move to Dynamo Kyiv was unexpected, but he has proven successful in Ukraine as well, helping the team get back into the title after an extended Shakhtar dominance. The surprise package of this season’s Premier League, Leicester City, have shown interest in signing the 24-year old for a sum exceeding 20 million euros.
Mohamed Elneny (FC Basel), defensive midfielder – Arsenal
The young Egyptian defensive midfielder arrived in Basel three seasons ago to play alongside his good friend Mohamed Salah. After first Dragović and then his compatriot Salah left, it was up to Elneny to prove his worth and he did it with top marks, helping his team maintain its dominance in the Superliga. Since the start of this season Elneny has shown he can be an attacking weapon as well, scoring five goals in four months. A safe passer and tireless runner, he excels at interceptions due to his great positional sense. He is expected to sign for Arsenal this month for a cut price.
Marko Grujić (Red Star Belgrade), box-to-box midfielder – Liverpool
A true tale of the unexpected ended happily when Grujić signed for Liverpool just days into the New Year.
Less than a year ago Marko was unable to break into Red Star Belgrade’s first team and he even had to go on loan to the Serbian second division.
Back in May he was a part of Serbia’s U20 World Cup winning Serbian team, but he was by no means one of the stars. Only this season has Marko established himself, but once he did, success was inevitable. He has helped Red Star build an amazing 25-point lead in the Serbian Superliga, with telling stats to his name: his club has won every single game that Grujić started (20 in all); without him Red Star won a mere one in six games, losing three of them. Right after signing for Liverpool, Marko was sent back to Serbia on loan until the end of the season, to help Red Star see off the end of the season and start European club qualifying.
Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv), winger – Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea
The most amazing thing abut this Ukrainian gem is that Europe’s biggest clubs still haven’t poached him from Dynamo. By the time he turned 20 in October 2009, he had already won his first cap and proven himself a prolific scorer at club level. Ever since, the young player has gone from strength to strength, scoring 13 goals or more in every senior season for the Kyiv giants. With 22 goals in 55 games for Ukraine, he is a distant number two (Shevchenko is still way ahead, but Yarmolenko’s ratio is just as good). This season, he has scored or assisted every 83 minutes.
At the beginning Andriy was almost exclusively used as a right winger, but by now he is just as good on the left side and he can play forward if needed. His height and strength are pretty unusual for a winger, but his skills and pace can be put to better use on the flanks.
Even though he renewed his contract with Dynamo in October, he’s open to a move to one of top two leagues and his release clause is moderate by today’s standards – 20 million euros. Jose Mourinho was very interested and Everton made first contact months ago. His favorite foreign club is Barcelona, but the Catalans don’t seem interested.
Vincent Aboubakar (Porto), striker – Leicester
Back in 2010, Aboubakar was the only domestic-based member of the Camerounian team at the World Cup. After successful spell in the French League 2, he nearly ended up at Hull, but Porto managed to sign him. This season he has scored 11 goals in 22 games for the club so far, while his form for Cameroun is on a rise as well. Taking into account the turmoil at Porto, where coach Julen Lopetegui got sacked after slipping from first to third in four days, and the fact that the club has all but signed Setubal striker Suk, Aboubakar’s departure seems inevitable. And Claudio Ranieri is reportedly eager to bring some backup for Jamie Vardy.
Alex Teixiera (Shakhtar), striker – Chelsea
The last couple of years have been hard on Shakhtar, as the club was forced to play far from home due to geopolitical conflicts. Even though playing away from home cost the “Miners” the title, Alex Teixeira was a real revelation. The former Vasco striker has long been in Ukraine, but it took him some time to hit true form.
Over the past year and a half he has scored 48 goals in 62 games, with nearly a goal and half per game in the national league.
He is set to move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs this month, with Chelsea leading the chase. Their Brazilian contingent, especially his former teammate Willian, would surely help him adapt quickly.
Aleksandr Kokorin (Dinamo Moskva), forward – Arsenal
Back in 2013, this versatile attacking player was Russia’s hottest property. Having scored 10 league goals in his first full season for Dinamo, he was signed by Anzhi for 19 million euros, only to return to his previous club a just a month later, as the Mahachkala club collapsed. Ever since, various coaches have tried to find the best possible use for the player who can be used as a striker, a winger and an attacking midfielder. Dinamo has been banned from Europe due to a breach of FFP, and it is almost certain they will not be able to hold onto the player, whose contract is up this summer. Arsene Wenger has been interested in signing him, but he will have to beat Gazprom-backed Zenit, which will not be an easy task. Compared to Andrey Arshavin, the previous Russian at Arsenal, Kokorin is in a much better position, as he is only 24, four years younger than his predecessor.
Islam Slimani (Sporting), striker – Crystal Palace
Slimani’s move to Europe was very late – he had just turned 25 when Sporting signed him from Belouizdad FC. His progress was slow but steady, and by the end of the season he had established himself as a regular striker for the “Lions“. During the World Cup, he was one of the key players in an impressive Algerian squad, having scored twice and assisted on one occasion. Back at club level, his form improved further. He has scored 16 goals so far this season, including both in a recent win over Porto, which brought Sporting back to the top of the league. In early January, Sporting rejected Crystal Palace’s offer of 15 million euros, but Alan Pardew seems determined to go as far as needed, including triggering his 30-million release clause.
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