January Signings Who Could Feature in the Last 16 of the Champions League

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IDecember 20, 2012

January Signings Who Could Feature in the Last 16 of the Champions League

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    With the Champions League and Europa League draws taking place on Thursday morning, the inevitable frenzy regarding who will play who in the knockout stage of the competition starts to gather pace. With both Chelsea and Manchester City the teams exiting at the group stage of the competition, only Manchester United and Arsenal are left to represent England, with SPL champions Celtic somewhat performing a miracle by finishing second in their group.

    But before writing the likes of Arsenal and Celtic off in the competition, remind yourselves of the upcoming January transfer window, which opens on New Years Day. Some of the players that helped the Gunners reach the last 16 could be gone by the end of January, with Theo Walcott strongly linked with a move away after his contract dispute with the club. 

    Take a look at some of the stars who could move to their respective new clubs in January and as a result, possibly feature in helping their future employers to Champions League glory. 

Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem)

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    With Vitesse Arnhem not qualifying for Europe in the Eredivisie last season, signing Wilfried Bony to add to your Champions League squad seems like a sensible decision. Even more so when you consider the Ivory Coast international's scoring record at the club.

    A 24-year-old striker signed from Sparta Prague in 2010, Bony has gone on to become one of the key men at the Dutch club, who are currently flying in top-flight, sitting in fourth position, just two points off the leaders PSV Eindhoven. Thirty goals in 51 games overall, with 15 in 16 this season, means that he's currently one of Europe's top marksmen.

    Bony has an advantage in that he's not cup-tied in continental competitions, and for a top-quality player to have that luxury during mid-season, he's bound to have some clubs queuing for his signature. If Theo Walcott does leave Arsenal as expected in January, could Bony be the man to replace him and help the Gunners surge into the latter stages of the Champions League?

    Well, there is bad news. Skysports.com believe that Chelsea are said to be front runners for his signature, with competition from Aston Villa. On the other hand,  the Blues have seemingly cooled their interest after closing in on a deal for Radamel Falcao. That's good news for Arsene Wenger, if he decides to move for the highly rated forward, as the Frenchman will only have to part with £10 million of his transfer kitty.

Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina)

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    Stevan Jovetic is like your Serie A version of Theo Walcott. You'd assume that, because he's been playing for such a long time, he would be at least in his late 20s by now. It's startling to think that the Montenegrin striker Jovetic is still only 23 years of age, with bags of ability. It's possible that he could get even better.

    Usually playing behind the target man, consisting of either Amauri or Luca Toni, as a second striker, Jovetic is creative, yet dangerously lethal in front of goal as a forward. He scored a respectable total of 14 goals in 27 games last season as Fiorentina struggled to impress in Serie A, finishing 13th. Still, "Jojo" as he is also known, is considered to be one of the brightest talents to come out of the Baltic region for a long while.

    That's why moving to Juventus could be a huge step for Jovetic. Not only would he be linking up with his long-term idol and international teammate Mirko Vucinic, but he would be joining a side who are on the brink of achieving complete dominance in Italy. His link-up play would certainly fit the style of football Antonio Conte's side play, with Sebastian Giovinco and Vucinic playing with a similar knack as Jovetic does.

    The only stumbling block is the asking price, as prizing Jovetic away from the Stadio Artemi Franchi would cost a hefty £25 million. There's no doubt he's worth the money, with Jovetic able to make an immediate impact at both domestic and European level. But with players such as Fernando Llorente available at the end of the season on a free transfer, the Old Lady could be tempted by the cheaper financial option. 

Benat (Real Betis)

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    If any club was looking for a Spanish player who is good enough to play in either the Champions League or the Europa League but doesn't, you'd be required to do some serious investigating. However, one player that might cross your mind is 25-year-old midfielder Benat.

    Experiencing a rollercoaster ride to the top, Benat is finally settled at the Benito Villamarin. He's emerged as one of the Pepe Mel's key players after working his way up from the obscurity of Spanish football, and his creativity is one of the reasons as to why Betis find themselves currently challenging for a European spot. Sadly for the Verdiblancos, Benat's contractual situation is something of a forgone conclusion, with the La Liga outfit conceding they can't afford to keep Benat at the club.

    His passing ability is second to none, laying deep but also surging forward at the right moments, almost resembling some of Andrea Pirlo's attributes in doing so. If you haven't seen that free-kick against Getafe, you simply must once you've read this article.

    Jose Mourinho is thought to be a keen admirer, as Spanish newspaper AS reported earlier this month, while both Manchester clubs and Chelsea are thought to be keeping tabs on news of a release clause. A fee of around £15 million would be enough to convince Betis to sell, but you can only envisage Benat packing his bags to move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Paulinho (Corinthians)

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    Paulinho finds himself in a very favourable tug-of-war situation at present. On one side of the rope is Corinthians, the club which he has just won the Club World Cup with after they beat Chelsea in the Final. On the other side, is in fact Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan. It could be the latter who decide to swoop for him after his solid performances for the Brazilian side.

    At 24, Paulinho is something of a late bloomer, having only made his Brazil debut last year. Since then, however, he's gone from strength to strength, picking up eight caps and assuring Mano Menezes of his place in the side. Menezes has since been removed from his position, with Luiz Felipe Scolari taking charge of the national team.

    Paulinho reaffirmed his commitment to the side after their shock victory, but in any case, a player would be tempted by a move to the San Siro. Inter made their interest publicly known, while Chelsea have reportedly sounded out his representatives. AC Milan, however, have been much more secretive and cunning about their tactics; they instead moved for Javier Pastore only to be knocked back by Porto.

    With no cup ties banning him from playing in the last 16 of the Champions League, Paulinho would be a superb purchase at around £12 million, although it remains to be seen whether he would be willing to join a club, such as AC Milan, which appears to be on the decline.

Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)

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    As a Champions League debutant, Malaga have been the outstanding team in the 2012/13 competition to date, condemning AC Milan to second best in their group, while big-spending Zenit were hardly given a look in. 

    It's a common view that the Andalusian club need reinforcements, with the squad's strength in depth their weak point, and as a consequence, it has seen them drop to fifth in La Liga. There are many decent Spanish players in La Liga, but Iago Aspas is a special player, regarded as indispensable at the Balaidos by senior management.

    He was an imperative part of Celta's promotion push, scoring 23 goals in 34 games in the Segunda, and scoring six in 12 games this year certainly hasn't harmed his reputation. At 25, he's got his whole career ahead of him, and with Celta languishing in mid-table, why not join Malaga, a Qatari-owned club which much ambition and riches to match their ambition.

    Aspas is generally a very good striker, with terrific finishing attributes. However, the price of £10 million slapped on his head by Paco Herrera could be too high for Manuel Pellegrini, but there's no doubt that Apas would be a welcome addition to the squad.