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Players to follow in the winter transfer market: Enzo Fernández, Bellingham, Joao Felix...

Cristiano Ronaldo and Cody Gakpo have secured their January moves but who could join them between now and the end of the transfer window?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Cody Gakpo have secured their January moves but who could join them between now and the end of the transfer window?

January is a funny time of year in the world of soccer transfers. It’s become known as being a pretty difficult period in which to get transfers done, with clubs who are doing well understandably reluctant to sell players who are doing well and risk undoing all the good work done in the first half of the season. Clubs not doing well need all the help they can get and also want to hang onto their top players. As a result, asking prices go up to ridiculous amounts, which plays into the hands of a few select clubs prepared to flash the cash.

Of course, we also have to take contracts into account. What would buying clubs rather do? For players out of contract in the summer, would they rather pay a reduced fee now or wait until the summer to get their target for free? For those who still have 18 months of their deal left, should they pay more in January or wait until the player is in the last year of their contract to get them for a reduced fee? Even more than in summer, the winter transfer window is something of a game of chess.

At the same time, however, UEFA’s decision to scrap the cup-tied rule – which prevented clubs from featuring in the same competition for two different teams – has removed one of the previous obstacles which deterred clubs from doing business mid-season. Would Liverpool have gone for Cody Gakpo in January had he been ineligible to play in the Champions League until next season? We’ll never know but history suggests that maybe not.

Which players should we follow in the winter transfer market?

For this particular January transfer window, we also need to factor in the only-just-finished Qatar 2022 World Cup, which will undoubtedly have helped clubs identify transfer targets for the upcoming window and beyond. Which players should we be following over the course of the next month or so? Many of these names you’ll recognise as stand-out performers in the Middle East.

Enzo Fernández (Benfica)

Now that Gakpo has officially joined Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo has accepted Al-Nassr’s zillion-dollar per year contract, Argentina World Cup winner Enzo Fernández has become the most talked-about potential January signing. Rumours had linked the all-action Benfica midfielder with Real Madrid and Liverpool but it now appears as if Chelsea have moved to the front of the queue, with Portuguese media reporting that the London club have informed their Lisbon counterparts of their willingness to pay his €120 million release fee in January.

Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez won the Best Young Player award at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
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Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez won the Best Young Player award at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.FRANCK FIFEAFP

Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)

Like Fernández, the Borussia Dortmund midfield man has been on the radar of both Real Madrid and Liverpool for a while, although it now looks as if Manchester City have joined the race for the 19-year-old. Recent reports in England suggest that Bellingham’s father thinks he should join Liverpool but that the player himself is more tempted by either of the other two options. Dortmund are expected to hold out for anything between €100 million to €130 million for their prize asset.

João Félix (Atlético Madrid)

It’s no secret that João Félix and Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone haven’t seen eye-to-eye for a while and club CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín confirmed that the Portuguese international is likely to leave the club in January. The Spanish outfit spent €127 million to sign Félix from Benfica in 2019 but will have to take a hit on that investment, despite the attacker’s fine performances at the World Cup. No club has so far met their €100 million asking price and although Manchester United, Arsenal and PSG are said to be interested, a loan move to Chelsea looks most likely at the time of writing.

Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa)

We’ve not seen anything of Emiliano Martínez on the field since his penalty shootout antics in the World Cup final but we’ve seen plenty of him off it. Too much for some, who haven’t been impressed with how he accepted his Golden Glove trophy for best goalkeeper in the tournament or his mocking of France star Kylian Mbappé during Argentina’s celebrations. One of those who has reportedly not been amused is Unai Emery, Martínez’s club manager at Aston Villa, who may be happy to let the in-demand player leave, probably for Bayern Munich.

Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina)

Now, Sofyan Amrabat was not exactly an unknown quantity before the World Cup, given that he plays in Serie A for Fiorentina. But not many would have imagined he would hit the heights that he did in Qatar as Morocco shocked the world by reaching the semi-finals. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone picked Amrabat in central midfield in their team of the tournament and now a whole host of clubs are reportedly after him, including Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Sevilla.

Jude Bellingham has long been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Liverpool. Manchester City have also joined the race.
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Jude Bellingham has long been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Liverpool. Manchester City have also joined the race. Marvin Ibo GuengoerDiarioAS

Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

Marcus Thuram wasn’t named on France’s initial roster for the Qatar 2022 World Cup but was drafted in on the eve of the tournament following an injury to Chelsea-bound Christopher Nkunku. The Borussia Mönchengladbach man came off the bench in five matches and had a significant impact in the final, helping drag Les Bleus back from 2-0 down to the brink of victory before they ultimately lost in a penalty shootout. Thuram is out of contract in the summer and looks unlikely to stay at his currently club, with Manchester United leading the chase for the 25-year-old.

When does the January transfer window open?

As we are now rather used to, there are occasional differences, usually just a few hours, between the transfer windows across Europe’s major men’s leagues. In summary:

  • English Premier League - Sunday 1 January
  • Germany’s Bundesliga - Sunday 1 January
  • Spain’s LaLiga Santander - Monday 2 January
  • Italy’s Serie A - Monday 2 January
  • France’s Ligue 1 - Monday 2 January

When does the January transfer window close?

  • English Premier League - Tuesday 31 January 5pm ET / 2pm PT (local 11pm GMT)
  • Germany’s Bundesliga - Tuesday 31 January 11am ET / 8am PT (local 5pm CET)
  • Spain’s LaLiga Santander - Tuesday 31 January 5:59pm ET / 2:59pm PT (local 11:59pm CET)
  • Italy’s Serie A - Tuesday 31 January 1pm ET / 10am PT (local 7pm CET)
  • France’s Ligue 1 - Tuesday 31 January 5:59pm ET / 2:59pm PT (local 11:59pm CET)

When will new signings be able to play?

Clearly fans will be keen to see their new stars in action as soon as possible following the announcement that their club has got their name scribbled on an official piece of paper. And the good news is that there isn’t much of a lag time between ink drying and getting boots on.

The key timing to know is that the paperwork to register a player with the league must be submitted by midday of the last working day ahead of the team’s game.


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