Could Mario Balotelli be back in Serie A before the transfer window shuts?
Far away from the predictable nature of the "Top Four" of England's Premier League or the "Big Two" in Spain - which is rapidly becoming a trio as Atletico Madrid interrupt the Real/Barcelona party - Italy's Serie A is a wide-open race.
The chasing pack are reining in the not-so-invincible Juventus, the hunt for European qualification has any of seven teams all looking hopeful and the relegation battle is fierce and hard-fought. Therefore, seasons can be completed or destroyed in one fell swoop and capture of a player.
Does a team gamble and look to bring in an extra player or do they hold back, entrusting the current crop to do the deed?
Do the money-men bequeath fortunes on an under-fire manager, or do they save their rubles? This time on February 1, all will become a lot clearer. Until then, delve into this team-by-team guide to find out who exactly may move where.
Big names have been linked with equally big money moves. Mario Balotelli, Fernando Llorente and Robert Lewandowski have all been the focus of admirable glances. The question is: who will put their money where their mouth is?
Can Igor Budan help secure a consecutive mid-table finish?
After finishing 12th last season, any attempts to build on that took an immediate blow before a ball had been kicked.
Atalanta were deducted two points for their part in the corruption which emerged last year – for which their former player Cristiano Doni was implicated, and realised that they would need to consolidate as to repeat a mid-table finish.
Spending over €10 million during the summer transfer window, it has been a more sedate spree this winter with just three players – Luigi Giorgi, Michele Canini and Igor Budan - arriving, all of whom are on loan.
It is the latter, Budan, who could prove to be a shrewd signing: the striker, capped six times by his native Croatia, is no stranger to the Oribici having already enjoyed a goal-rich stint in Bergamo from 2003-05.
His arrival will look to ease the burden on Argentinian journeyman German Denis, with the striker – for whom Atalanta paid €5 million during the summer, half of their annual outlay – having bagged just six goals in 17 appearances.
With the team currently winless in five games, they will need their new signings to bed in pronto if they are to have any hope of not getting sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Currently in thirteenth, and with the worst disciplinary record in the league, only four points separate them from the relegation zone.
OUT: Thomas Manfredini (Genoa), Federico Peluso (Juventus – loan)
Alberto Gilardino will need to call on his years of experience if he is to help improve Bologna's recent form
During the summer, a quartet of proven yet bargain-priced signings arrived which had fans of the Felsinei pontificating about their, albeit optimistic, hopes of qualifying for Europe.
However, after 21 games, they find themselves in 13th position with 15 points between them and an all-important Europa League qualifying spot.
Were the lofty hopes of the Bolognese faithful too premature? Potentially, but that is not to say the second half of the season is all doom and gloom.
Alberto Gilardino–brought in on loan from Genoa–has let his quality show, having netted eight goals so far, displaying the kind of talent which lead him to previous cup glory with AC Milan.
Furthermore, in Marco Motta, Ginanluca Curci and Robert Acquafresca–all on loan, except the latter–they have three young players who are all eager to placate those who have previously doubted their ability, of which there are quite a few.
OUT: Andrea Pisanu (Montréal Impact – loan)
Marco Sau's seven goals have proved to be reason for optimism
With over €10 million invested in new players during the summer transfer window, its winter sibling was always going to be quiet for the Islanders.
However, as they precariously sit just one place and three points above the relegation zone, Ivo Pulga may yet bring in one or two players before the window slams shut next Friday.
The Christmas period proved to be a turgid one for Cagliari: after three straight defeats, they then had a home tie against leaders Juventus sandwiched between two tricky away games with Parma and Lazio, causing little surprise as their losing streak doubled to six.
2013 has seen their fortunes reverse, with four points accumulated in their last two fixtures. The question is, have they got enough depth to be able to kick on from that and propel themselves away from the quagmire?
After Chilean striker Mauricio Pinilla made his loan move permanent during summer, his profligacy this season has only been dampened by the emergence of Marco Sau.
With seven goals so far – including a double against Inter - the Italian striker may move on, but don’t expect that to be during this transfer window as Cagliari would understandably be averse to selling him.
They had just better hope he–with the help of Brazilian striker Thiago Ribeiro, who has so far registered one solitary goal–can help them at least match last year’s 15th place finish.
The experienced Nicola Legrottaglie has seen Catania trouble the top half of the table
Following a steady finish in 11th place last season, few would have backed Catania to be getting in amongst the big boys at the top end of the table and grappling for a Europa League place.
However, after 21 games and only one defeat in their last six – a run which also included a not-so-shocking 1-0 vanquishing of Roma – Catania are lying in eighth place and only four points off Fiorentina in that all important fifth spot.
The cause of this rapid ascension has been helped by the nigh-telepathic understanding between the Argentine pair of striker Gonzalo Bergessio and winger Alejandro Gomez, who have scored 12 goals between them this season.
Both signed during 2011, they have displayed the kind of form which has previously lead to the former winning three caps for his country, and the latter being part of the Under-20 team which reigned supreme in their 2007 World Cup.
Catania have also kept things tight at the back: with veteran Nicola Legrottaglie–an almost ever-present–marshaling his defenders and harrowing opposition strikers, and captain Marco Biagianti has been able to shake off the injury woes of last season and orchestrate proceedings in midfield.
With 23-year-old Albanian striker Edgar Cani arriving on a free transfer from Polonia Warsaw, it is foreseeable that Catania will continue to avoid the mire that currently engulfs the bottom of the table.
IN: Marco Cuomo (Milazzo), Edgar Cani (Polonia Warsaw)
OUT: Takayuki Morimoto (Al Nasr SC - loan)
Chievo (in yellow) will hope that youth and experience can continue to blend
In the heart of northern Italy, frugality is the order of the day. After finishing 10th last season, Eugenio Corini’s men currently find themselves in twelfth in a position which succinctly exemplifies “mid-table”: eight points from both European qualification and the relegation zone.
Investment during this window is, like it was during summer, not top of the agenda. With €2.5 million of their total €3 million outlay spent on Romanian defender Paul Papp, it is unfortunate that he has been restricted to only four appearances.
In his place, 19-year-old Oumaro Coulibaly has come in alongside seasoned defenders Dario Dainelli and Gennaro Sardo.
The fact that they have shipped 34 goals–more than bottom-placed Siena–has been off-set by the fine form of Alberto Paloschi with six goals in only nine appearances, and much is expected of the 23-year-old.
If they are to cement that mid-table position though, Corini should maybe reassess his squad depth.
OUT: Pablo Granoche (Cesena)
In a quiet transfer window, Fiorentina's €10m capture of Giuseppe Rossi (right) has been the biggest outlay
In a rather sedate transfer window, La Viola have made the biggest outlay in signing prolific yet injury-stricken striker Giuseppe Rossi from Villareal for €10m.
Whilst he is proven at the top level and was once coveted by Real Madrid, he has spent the last 18 months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
When he does return to full fitness, and head coach Vincenzo Montella has alluded to the fact that could be before the season’s climax, he should have no problems bedding in.
With 27 Italian caps to his name, the former Manchester United youth player is all too familiar with the Italian leagues after a loan spell at Parma.
Lying in fifth place, they are seven points off Lazio and that all-important third Champions League place.
If they are to leapfrog Inter and challenge for that place, they will need to improve a miserable run which has seen them pick up just one point from their last three games.
Keeping Stefan Savic fit, and helping regain form, could prove as valuable as a new signing.
Speculation has been rife that Rafal Wolski, the prodigious Polish midfielder, may still come in to bring much-needed craft to the side.
IN: Marcelo Lorrando (Siena – loan), Giuseppe Rossi (Villareal),
OUT: Ruben Olivera (Genoa – loan)
Can Matuzalem remain injury-free and discover the form that first brought him to Italy?
Since the transfer window blew wide open on January 1, the revolving doors at Luigi Ferraris just haven’t had a break: six new signings have come in, including Brazilian playmaker Matuzalem in a move which has fans hoping he can shake off the injury problems which have plagued him since his arrival in Italy some four years ago.
However, the fact of the matter remains that Genoa need to invest if they are to avoid a repeat of last season where, finishing 17th, they only just survived.
After 21 games, it’s looking equally bleak: in 18th place and with only one win in their last five games, they are embroiled in the scrap at the bottom. Three points separate them and safety.
Transfer activity may not cease just yet, but followers of Il Vecchio Balordo will hope that 20-year-old striker Ciro Immobile will not be tempted out of the door. Higher-ranked teams are monitoring the player who has bagged five goals in 20 assured performances.
IN: Ruben Olivera (Fiorentina – loan); Enis Nadarevic (Varese), Thomas Manfredini (Atalanta), Antonio Floro Flores (Udinese), Eros Pisano (Palermo), Matuzalem (Lazio)
OUT: Michele Canini (Atalanta), Masahudu Alhassan (Udinese), Alexander Merkel (Udinese), Anselmo (Palermo)
The assured performances that Fredy Guarin (second left) has been delivering have enabled him to fill the void now that Wesley Sneijder has finally departed
Following a rocky start, Andrea Stramaccioni finally seems to have settled the ship and regained a steady rhythm at the San Siro.
In fourth, they are ideally placed to rival Lazio for that final Champions League place. However, if they are to gazump Rome’s blue team, they need to start winning the big games: recent losses to Udinese and Lazio have seen them drop much-needed points.
After poaching veteran striker Tomasso Rocchi from Lazio, the Nerazzurri may have stolen a march on their rivals, who may find themselves shorn of strikers if injury was to claim Miroslav Klose.
At 35 though, Rocchi is an interim signing. And this may be where Inter fall short: in Rodrigo Palacio, Diego Milito and Antonio Cassano, they have a quartet of strikers who are all the wrong side of 30.
It is, nevertheless, Milito and Cassano who have carried the mantle thus far: with the former bagging eight goals and the latter contributing seven assists, the two may still fire Inter to Europe.
In addition, playmaker Fredy Guarin has settled in well, with his four goals proving him to be a worthy replacement for the freshly-departed Wesley Sneijder.
Any winter transfer activity is notoriously quiet at the San Siro.
Whilst Philippe Coutinho may yet depart for the Premier League – with Liverpool or Southampton appearing to be his likely destination - it is unlikely that Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, linked with a move to Inter, will pass him in the San Siro foyer as he arrives.
IN: Tommaso Rocchi (Lazio)
OUT: Wesley Sneijder (Galatasary), Matteo Cincilla (Parma), Manuel Gullotta (Brescia)
Could Fernando Llorente (left) provide much-needed firepower for holders Juventus?
After last season’s superior unbeaten title win, the Old Lady of Turin has been far from her doyenne-self this campaign.
With that unblemished record coming to an end in November at the hands of Inter–just one game shy of the half century–Antonio Conte’s team has stuttered.
However, over halfway through the season and Juventus sit atop the league, fending off the challenge of the chasing pack.
Despite the promise of Paul Pogba–captured from Manchester United during the summer–and Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci managing to, successfully, lessen the blow of Giorgio Chiellini’s absence, la Vecchia Signora lack firepower.
With only Federico Peluso brought in on-loan from Atalanta, there is a very real likelihood that one or two faces may still come in.
After being linked with Alex Teixeira, Nicolas Castillo and Lisandro Lopes, it is Athletic Bilbao’s prolific international striker Fernando Llorente who the fans would like to see pull on the famous black and white shirt.
With reports stating that, as he enters the last six months of the contract, he may be available for just over €3 million, Juventus would be making a real statement to the rest of Europe if they can get him onboard in time to help them in the quest for Champions League glory.
IN: Federico Peluso (Atalanta – loan)
If Lazio were to sign Mauro Icardi, it would ease the burden on ageing striker Miroslav Klose
Finishing fourth last season, Lazio would have ordinarily qualified for the Champions League this season, if it hadn’t been for Uefa rejigging the coefficients and awarding Italy’s fourth spot to the Bundesliga.
But this may have been a blessing in disguise: with Miroslav Klose looking like the prolific player the world recognises from international tournaments - and not the profligate lightweight he formerly was at Bayern Munich - Lazio have been resurgent.
Unbeaten in five, the Biancocelesti are currently in third, level on points with second placed Napoli and only five points behind Juventus. Any longevity of this form is dependent on Klose and whether he can avoid injury.
With Mauro Zarate rumoured to be on his way to Sunderland and Libor Kozak yet to find the net after eight appearances, a new striker may be on the cards.
Mauro Icardi of Sampdoria could be a potential, whilst the prodigious Casemiro from Sao Paulo could come in to provide some guile behind the forwards.
OUT: Tommaso Rocchi (Inter), Matuzalem (Genoa)
It is well-known that Mario Balotelli (centre) would relish a return to Italy, but can Milan afford him?
What a season it’s been for last year’s runners up. Whilst Stephan El Shaarawy and Giampaolo Pazzini have scored over 20 goals between them, the inexperienced Mattia de Sciglio and the unpredictable Philippe Mexes have not instilled confidence in defence.
In sixth place, one cannot help but think their summer signings - namely Nigel de Jong, Bojan and Mbaye Niang - have not delivered the performances that would have been hoped for.
In addition, with nobody filling the gargantuan void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, with only two goals in 12 appearances, is starting to once again look like the volatile individual who once graced Manchester City.
Speaking of volatile individuals from Manchester City, Mario Balotelli has continually been linked with a return to the San Siro but this time in the red and black of AC.
Known to be a boyhood fan of the club–as encapsulated when he was secretly filmed in a Rossoneri shirt whilst employed by Inter–it is thought he would welcome a return to Serie A after a disappointing season so far in England.
The only stumbling block is whether Milan can afford the €25 million asking price that City have put in place for their striker.
Somebody who won't be plying their trade for Milan any more is Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato. After four seasons in Italy, where he scored 51 goals in 117 appearances, Pato has accepted a return back to his native country with a move to Corinthians.
OUT: Pato (Corinthians)
With 17 goals already this season, will anyone come in with a late bid for Edinson Cavani?
Sitting pretty in second place, much has been made of Napoli's free-flowing brand of football.
With a goal difference inferior only to leaders Juventus, it is looking likely that they will be back playing Champions League football next season.
Whilst midfield playmakers Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik have been delivering world class performances, their star man is indisputable.
With 17 goals in 18 games, Edinson Cavani has found himself linked with all of Europe's biggest clubs.
With most of January now dissipated, though, neither the financial heavyweights of Manchester City, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain have yet tempted him away.
As the Partenopei look to consolidate their league position, it is minimally surprising that only Andrea Dossena and Eduardo Vargas, both deemed surplus to requirements, have been given permission to leave on loan as to seek more opportunities.
Arsenal's rookie goalkeeper Vito Mannone has also been linked with a return to his homeland, as a long-term replacement for 35-year-old Morgan de Sanctis is sought.
IN: Emanuele Calaio (Siena – loan), Pablo Armero (Udinese – loan), Miguel Medina (Udinese)
OUT: Eduardo Vargas (Gremio – loan), Andrea Dossena (Palermo – loan),
Will journeyman striker Milan Baros soon be arriving in Sicily to ease the danger of relegation?
At the start of the season, second from bottom is not where Palermo would have expected to find themselves after 21 games.
Four points from safety, they are currently without a win in five games, leading to Gian Piero Gasperini turning to experienced heads to help them out.
With Andrea Dossena already recruited, rumours are rife that much-travelled striker Milan Baros’s arrival may be imminent.
He can expect to join wily Argentine midfielder Mauro Formica, whose loan move from Blackburn has now been confirmed.
Much will be expected of Fabrizio Miccolli and Massimo Donati to lead the embattled team out of relegation mire and towards safety.
IN: Andrea Dossena (Napoli – loan), Anselmo (Genoa), Salvatore Aronica (Napoli), Mauro Formica (Blackburn Rovers – loan)
OUT: Eran Zehavi (MAccabi Tel-Aviv), Eros Pisano (Genoa)
Cristian Zaccardo's assured performances have lead to increased speculation about whether he will depart
Wait, who’s that unbeaten in five and looking likely to repeat last season’s heroics of finishing eighth? It’s only plucky Parma!
Lead by a born-again Amauri – who is this season already a third of the way to delivering the 17 goals it took him three seasons to score at Juventus – the Crociati are living up to their moniker and invading the party in the upper reaches of the table.
With no faces yet to depart the Ennio Tardini during this transfer window, the new recruits are all untested gambles.
If they are to replicate their upper table finish, much will depend on whether they can keep hold of Cristian Zaccardo.
At 31, now is the time when he may look to move on to bigger things but if he is, and there haven’t been any serious enquiries, it is likely he will wait until the end of the season.
Tricky Greek winger Sotiris Ninis, once linked with a move to Arsenal, has made seven appearances and has looked promising, as has Aleandro Rosi who for years looked like not being able to live up to early promise.
IN: Mohamed Traore (Crotone), Vincenzo Giannusa (Alma Fano), Alvaro Ampuero (Universitario)
Juan Quintero has been linked with both Internazionale and Manchester United
The Serie B champions have had an inauspicious return to Serie A life. In Mervan Celik, they have a young and promising striker who, with three goals in 10 games, has a decent score ratio.
In addition, in Gaetano D’Agostino, they have an experienced and steely midfielder who can cover a lot of ground.
However, sitting 16th and only three points above the drop zone, the team from the fishing town will hope to avoid making a rod for their own back too early: mixed form has seen Cristiano Bergodi’s side fail to pull away from the bottom of the table.
With no players yet to depart the Stadio Adriatico, there is still time for the circling teams to make bids for in-demand, and in-form, Colombian playmaker Juan Quintero.
Linked with Internazionale and Manchester United, the player recently stated he would relish a move to the San Siro.
Matti Nielsen has successfully managed to replicate his form from last season whilst Mattia Perin, despite being only 20, has been playing with a confidence much above his level.
In the crafty on-loan midfielder Vladimir Weiss they have a player who can, when it fancies him albeit, deliver assists and goals to help the team’s cause.
IN: Gaetano D'Agostino (Siena – loan), Milton Caraglio (Rangers), Nicolas Bianchi Arce (San Lorenzo)
Fans of Roma will hope that the arrival of full-back Vasilis Torosidis will shore up a creaky defence
Despite having two players – Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo – who have both scored 10 goals so far in the league, fans of Giallorossi have been disappointed with this season’s performance.
Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Inter displayed the talent and the potential that the team does have, but the previous week’s insipid 1-0 defeat to Catania displays its more resplendent tendency to implode.
In seventh place, they are in a strong position to challenge for a Europa League slot. Whilst this wouldn’t appease the fans, and lavishly-paid players who crave Champions League football, it may satisfy James Pallotta and Thomas DiBenedetto who have ploughed millions into the club over recent months.
Transfer-wise, it’s been a quiet month thus far at Stadio Olympico. Zdenek Zeman has recently started utilising the prowess and promise of Mattia Destro - who has chipped in with four goals in 16 appearances – meaning additions up front are uncalled for.
They have signed tough-tackling and athletic fullback Vasilis Torosidis with the Greek international arriving from Olympiakos.
Heading out of Rome though, Marquinho has been linked with a move to Barcelona but it is thought both parties would be reluctant to conduct business at this stage of the season.
OUT: Junior Tallo (Bari - loan)
Andrea Poli (left) has been linked with a move to AC Milan - can Sampdoria keep hold of him until the end of the season?
That heady play-off final of last summer, when Sampdoria overcame plucky AS Varese over two legs, seems like a long time ago now.
As another team implicated in the match-fixing scandal which erupted last year, they were deducted one point before a ball had been kicked.
Whilst it hasn’t had the same cataclysmic effect as it did to Siena, the Blucerchiati need to push on and get more points on the board if they are to avoid a return to the second tier.
In fifteenth place, they are four points clear of the relegation zone. But with one win in their last five games – a marvellous 2-1 victory over champions Juventus, no less – their form needs to improve.
19-year-old Mauro Icardi has taken a lot of this on himself, with the Argentine bagging three goals in 15 appearances, performances which have lead to speculation he may yet depart.
Fellow youngster Andrea Poli may also be on his way out, with the midfield general linked with a move to AC Milan.
What Sampdoria desperately need is a striker. As with all of his previous clubs, Maxi Lopez hasn’t cut it, with only three goals so far.
Eder needs to up his strike-rate as two goals is not the kind of delivery which will help his employers.
IN: Davide Gavazzi (Vicenza)
OUT: Nicola Pozzi (Siena – loan)
Will Neto (centre) abandon basement boys Siena mid-season for a move to either of the Milan teams?
When your team is rock bottom of the league, six points from safety, and has only one won of their previous five games, things are looking dire.
Siena have never really recovered from being yet another team to receive a points deduction–they were hit with a hefty charge of six points–as their season has been dominated by poor form and under-performing players.
Erjon Bogdani and Michele Paolucci are doing their best to spark a recovery with both scoring two goals, but both have been restricted to seven and six appearances apiece respectively.
Alessio Sestu has not delivered and 37-year-old Simone Vergassola is beginning to show his age.
Innocent Emeghara looks a promising player. Capped several times by his native Switzerland, he has been shipped in on loan for the remainder of the season.
Nicola Pozzi is another player who, with a decent record in Italy, can score but it remains to be seen whether he alone can help the Robur.
Fans may be alarmed by the vast number of outgoings from the Artemio Franchi and so a couple of new faces may instill belief that the great escape is on.
OUT: Gaetano D’Agostino (Pescara), Emanuele Calaio (Napoli – loan), Marcelo Larrondo (Fiorentina – loan), Matia Toro (Udinese), Ribair Rodriguez (Boca Juniors), Francesco Della Rocca (Fiorentina – loan), Andrea Campagnolo (Cesena)
Rolando Bianchi continues to wind bag the years at mid-table Torino
Out of all the teams promoted from Serie B, Turin’s other team is currently performing most admirably.
Despite being deducted one point for their part in last season’s investigation, the Serie B runners up are currently in eleventh place and a full nine points clear of the drop zone.
Second only to €10 million man Giuseppe Rossi, they have made the biggest single outlay in Paulo Barreto, parachuted in from Udinese for €1.8m.
This is a clear sign that Il Toro can smell blood and are looking to cement themselves as a top-tier team.
With Rolando Bianchi still finding the net–he has seven goals in 19 games–they have a target man who will, injury-pending, be able to keep on delivering assured performances.
At the back, Polish defender Kamil Gilk is looking like a good player, with teams from Holland apparently monitoring his progress.
Fans have a lot to be excited about. Torino are playing a reputable brand of football, and they have many young guns who could be here for a couple of seasons yet.
Alessio Cerci, Alen Stefanovic and Migjen Basha form a triumphant triumvirate in the middle of the park, leading to minimal recruits.
IN: Barreto (Udinese), Simeone Maugeri (Calcio Como)
OUT: Alessandro Sgrigna and Alessandro Agostini (both Hellas Verona – both loan), Nicolas Gorobsov (Nocerina), Giuseppe de Feudis (Padova),
The newly-recruited Alexander Merkel will hope to replicate his promising form for Udinese
Last season, Udinese finished third and, save Maicosuel’s bizarre penalty miss against Braga in the qualifying round, would have been playing Champions League football this season.
Maybe it is because of that early season knockback but Zebrette have been more conspicuous this season, leading to a hectic January transfer window.
Occupying 10th place, they appear destined for a season without a relegation battle or a European scrap.
Despite being 35, Antonio di Natale is still scoring–14 in 18 games is a phenomenal haul–with fellow veterans Giovanni Pasquale and Giampiero Pinzi also inputting noteworthy performances.
One of their newest recruits, Alexander Merkel, began displaying promise at Genoa. Whether he can continue that ascent in north-eastern Italy remains to be seen.
Furthermore, because of Giampaolo Pozzo’s duel-ownership of Watford and Udinese, expect to maybe see a couple of young faces depart Italy for second-tier English football.
IN: Matias Campos (Siena), Alexander Merkel (Genoa), Masahudu Alhassan (Genoa)
OUT: Miguel Medina (Napoli), Barreto (Torino), Fernando Forestieri (Watford), Pablo Armero (Napoli – loan), Willians Fernandes (Internacional – loan), Manuel Iori (Padova), Antonio Floro Flores (Genoa)