From Christophe Dugarry to Dele Alli: The best January transfer window signings


We take a look at the best January signings of the last few years – both those who made an instant impact and those who proved good long-term investments…

Instant Impact

Christophe Dugarry (Bordeaux to Birmingham, 2003, Free)

On the face of it, it was an inauspicious start for France’s World Cup star when the St Andrew’s floodlights failed on his debut – a 4-0 home defeat to Arsenal.

But Dugarry was the star of the show as far as Birmingham boss Steve Bruce was concerned. “Let’s be brutally honest, he could have played in their team,” said Bruce. “Dugarry was absolutely magnificent.”

The classy forward was still waiting for his first Birmingham goal with the team precariously placed in mid-April but they finally came in a flurry of five in four games as Dugarry scored in back-to-back wins over Sunderland, Charlton, Southampton and Middlesbrough in the space of just 14 days.

The Blues eventually finished 13th with Dugarry the undoubted catalyst behind their survival.

James Beattie (Sheffield United to Stoke, 2009, £4m)

Beattie had been playing in the Championship with Sheffield United, scoring 12 goals by Boxing Day, when he was picked up by Tony Pulis to help boost Stoke’s ailing debut season in the Premier League.

Although Ricardo Fuller had scored half a dozen times, the Potters were struggling for goals at the time and languishing in the drop zone by the time Beattie got off the mark at Spurs.

The then 30-year-old striker netted the only goal of the game in a crucial win over Manchester City just four days later to lift Stoke away from danger and added to his tally with a double against Portsmouth.

He also brought the best out of Fuller – both men scoring in wins over Bolton, West Brom and Wigan – as Stoke ascended to the relative safety of 12th by the end of the season.

Darren Bent (Sunderland to Aston Villa, 2011, £18m)

Aston Villa broke their transfer record to bring Bent to the club in January 2011, a move that looks all the more perplexing given owner Randy Lerner’s subsequent tightening of the purse strings.

Nobody can argue with Bent’s initial impact though as he scored nine goals in 16 games to help lift Villa away from danger.

Those goals included the winner against Manchester City on his debut in a game that could have left Villa in the relegation zone had they lost. Instead they suddenly looked upwardly mobile with Bent’s double in a 2-1 win at Arsenal in May followed by a final-day win over Liverpool taking Villa to ninth in the table by the end of the campaign.

Papiss Cisse (Freiburg to Newcastle, 2012, £9m)

Newcastle had to wait until Cisse finished Africa Cup of Nations duties with Senegal before seeing precisely what their money had bought them in January 2012, but the man from Freiburg proved worth the wait.

In an astonishing burst of scoring, Cisse scored 13 goals in his first 12 games for Newcastle to help provide added impetus to what was already an encouraging campaign.

Three consecutive doubles did much to see off West Brom, Liverpool and Swansea before Cisse topped all that with two stunning goals in a 2-0 win at Chelsea that all but sealed a fifth-place finish and European football at Newcastle once again.

Long-term view

Patrice Evra (Monaco to Man Utd, 2006, £7m) and Nemanja Vidic (Spartak Moscow to Man Utd, 2006, £7.2m)

Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off a minor miracle in January 2006, managing to reinforce his defence with two key signings that would form 50 per cent of a unit that ensured United continued to operate at the top of English football until his retirement.

Signed for £7m, Evra was bought as a successor to Gabriel Heinze and although neither he nor Vidic could help United catch a dominant Chelsea that season, he quickly established himself in Ferguson’s first XI.

Vidic, who had joined just a few days earlier in a £7.2m deal from Spartak Moscow, became one of the finest centre-backs in Premier League history, forming a superb partnership with Rio Ferdinand at the centre of the United defence.

Between them Evra and Vidic turned out for a combined 679 United appearances, winning five Premier Leagues, three League Cups and the Champions League before respective exits to Juventus and Inter Milan in 2014.

John Stones (Barnsley to Everton, 2013, £3m)

John Stones was a virtual unknown when he moved to Goodison Park for £3m in 2013.

Indeed, it would take some time for the Everton fans to get to know him as the ball-playing defender did not feature before the end of that season and had to wait until the following campaign before making his debut in the League Cup against Stevenage.

But by the end of that season, everyone knew who he was. Stones had established himself in Roberto Martinez’s first XI and was playing for England, making his debut in a 3-0 win over Peru.

He went on to make 95 appearances for Everton before being sold to Manchester City for £47.5m in 2016.

Dele Alli (MK Dons to Tottenham, 2015, £5m)

Dele Alli was highly rated in League One, but not much was made of Spurs’ £5m deal for the attacking midfielder on deadline day in 2015, not least because the then 18-year-old was loaned straight back to MK Dons.

But he quickly established himself in Mauricio Pochettino’s side at the start of the 2015/16 season, scoring his first goal in the 1-1 draw at Leicester.

By October he was making his England debut, coming on as an 88th-minute substitute against Estonia and in November he made his first start for his country, scoring a brilliant long-range effort in a 2-0 win over France.

He has since gone on to score 53 goals for Spurs and become one of the most valuable young players in world football.

Riyad Mahrez (Le Havre to Leicester, 2014, nominal)

Leicester were midway through their promotion season out of the Championship when they plucked Riyad Mahrez from Le Havre for a nominal fee in 2014.

The Algerian winger played regularly upon his arrival, but scored only three goals as the Foxes secured their promotion to the Premier League and his impact would not be felt until the astonishing title-winning season in 2015/16.

His 17 goals and 11 assists as part of a lethal partnership with Jamie Vardy helped him to the Premier League Player of the Year award.

His production dropped the following campaign, but 12 goals and 11 assists in the first half of the 2017/18 season prompted Manchester City to spend £60m and bring him to the Etihad.

Two to Forget

Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011, £50m) & Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool, 2011, £35m)

Of course not all January deals work out – and these two to forget are linked. The 2011 deal that took Fernando Torres to Chelsea and Liverpool’s subsequent move for Andy Carroll are among the most expensive mistakes in Premier League history.

Chelsea’s £50m may have been enough to persuade Liverpool to part with Torres after a superb spell at Anfield, but it did not give them much time to find a replacement. After completing a move for Luis Suarez – one of the best January signings in history – Kenny Dalglish swooped for Carroll, paying Newcastle £35m just minutes before the deadline for the big striker.

Injuries took their toll on both players, with Torres scoring 45 goals in 172 games for the Blues before moving to AC Milan and then back to Atletico Madrid, while Carroll managed just six goals in two seasons at Liverpool before a move to West Ham.

(c) Sky News 2019: From Christophe Dugarry to Dele Alli: The best January transfer window signings

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