With the January transfer window behind us, here are the grades for the 25 biggest signings.
Loan deals like Nuri Sahin to Borussia Dortmund won't be included.
Lucas Moura may have arrived last month but his €45 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was conducted in the summer, hence why he won't be making an appearance on this list.
Vagner Love (Flamengo to CSKA Moscow), Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund to Wolfsburg), Danny Graham (Swansea City to Sunderland), and Raul Bobadilla (BSC Young Boys to Basel) missed the cut.
Feel free to comment below with your opinions.
From Heracles Almelo to AZ for undisclosed fee | Grade: A+
Hendry Altena, who manages the fansite HAFC.nl, told me via email he believes his club received around €300,000-€350,000 from AZ for the services of Willie Overtoom.
That eas a superb bit of business considering Willie has more assists in the Eredivisie this season than Adam Maher, Christian Eriksen, Kevin Strootman, Siem de Jong and Viktor Fischer.
The Cameroonian is a pass-first playmaker, who was heavily influential in Heracles' 6-3 win over Marco van Basten's Heerenveen. That was a game where Willie provided three assists and controlled proceedings.
He's a hard-working technically proficient midfielder, experienced, ice-cold from 12 yards out, and grew up in the AZ youth system.
Rising Swedish forward Samuel Armenteros certainly appreciated Overtoom's selflessness, since Willie made the Swede look like a star, which sealed a move to Anderlecht.
AZ presented Overtoom the No. 10 shirt, so if you link up the dots, the club will sell Maher in the summer.
This deal also means Erik Falkenburg, currently on loan at NEC, may not have a future at AZ.
Signed by Juventus as a free agent | Grade: C
Nicolas Anelka was disillusioned with life in China, not just because the club had stopped paying him, but he felt betrayed by management and the fans were hating on him.
The Frenchman has never quite gotten over his decision to abandon Arsenal, which started his nomadic career and precipitated Thierry Henry's rise to super-stardom.
Nicolas' defensive mechanism for his failure to maximise his talent is to accumulate as much money as possible, forcing him to only think about himself.
But, he accepted the responsibilities that came with being the captain and coach of Shanghai Shenhua with good intentions.
That quickly changed when his teammates weren't playing at the standard he expected.
It was a decision fraught with peril and gave you an idea how ignorant Shenhua's management were of Anelka's attitude to professional football—"I don't care"—which were the words he used when confronted by an angry Shanghai supporter.
Time after time, Nicolas vindicates those Gooners, who called him Le Sulk.
Anelka is an extremely prideful person to a fault, so when management wanted to backtrack, and replace him as coach, the Frenchman said (via SI.com): "If there is still no one to support me and they continue to play little tricks behind my back...then I will quickly decide whether or not to retire."
At least that was more diplomatic then when he lambasted Raymond Domenech (via ESPN FC): "F*** off, look after your sh***y team alone."
Domenech revealed in his autobiography: "I was less shocked by the insult than by the fact he used it towards me broke a barrier of positions, ages, hierarchy...Anelka had killed the squad."
Guangzhou Evergrande's CSL-winning manager Marcello Lippi, who won the UEFA Champions League with Juventus and the FIFA World Cup with Italy, spoke glowingly about the fans (via Mariella Radaelli at China Daily): "I like everything about this place. But above all, I really appreciate the kindness and affection the people show us."
If you respect the fans and you're a winner, you'll be treated as a deity—just ask Stephon Marbury.
Though, if you have a pompous attitude whilst you're underperforming like Nicolas, you'll be hounded out of China.
Juve are replacing Nicklas Bendtner with Anelka, and it forces you to wonder why Alessandro Del Piero isn't still at the club.
Il Pinturicchio would have been more successful than Bendtner.
ADP actually cares about the club, unlike Anelka, who is only in Turin to audition for his next payday.
By the way, Nicklas and Nicolas contradict what Antonio Conte sees in a Juventus footballer—team first, winning mentality, and toeing-the-company-line.
From Marseille to Queens Park Rangers for £8 million [€9.2 million] | Grade: D
The grade isn't a reflection of Loic Remy's quality, moreso the weak negotiating from Queens Park Rangers.
He was behind Andre-Pierre Gignac and Jordan Ayew (has been playing out wide in recent times) for the No. 9 role.
Surely, QPR weren't surprised when Loic suffered a groin injury in training, because he has been hit by injuries in recent times, hence why he missed Euro 2012 and was in and out of the Marseille team this season.
Remy even admitted his psyche wasn't right (via ESPN FC):
The biggest reason for the tricky end to 2012, the start of it all, was that I didn't go to the Euro after my injury.
I'd played virtually every qualifier. To learn that I wasn't going when I'd contributed to the qualification was really a big blow to my morale, and it's from then on that things turned against me.
It's a period in which I've had a lot of bad things happen, but I know my form will return, of course.
Why give Marseille £8 million for Remy?
If the Hoops are willing to give Loic £75,000 per-week, why didn't they attempt to sign Mainz's Adam Szalai? Alfred Finnbogason of Heerenveen would have been a better alternative to the Frenchman, as would Vitesse forward Wilfried Bony.
From Toulouse to Newcastle United for £1.8 million [€2.1 million] | Grade: A+
Racial stereotyping played a part in Moussa Sissoko being burdened with comparisons to Michael Essien and Patrick Vieira.
Moussa doesn't like tackling, he hates contesting headers, and doesn't want to track back—he has yet to make a tackle in the Premier League and has lost out in 16/21 aerial duels.
Whenever he was given defensive responsibilities at Toulouse, he either failed or disregarded it—so, it always seemed bizarre to call him box-to-box.
Scouts came to watch Sissoko, only to come away remembering Etienne Capoue, who's the midfield general people wrongly assumed Moussa would become.
When Alan Pardew says (via BBC Sport): "I remember watching him for Toulouse 14 months ago and I thought he is definitely the one for us, if we can get him," you have to applaud the manager.
Alan didn't see Sissoko as a centre midfielder, and certainly not a pivot, but as an athletic deep-lying forward—which is becoming a trend: Alexander Meier, Fredy Guarín, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Marouane Fellaini come to mind.
Or, perhaps it was Graham Carr, who suggested changing Moussa's position.
You don't expect Dimitar Berbatov to be an elite ball-winner, so don't judge Sissoko on his defending, because he has always been an attacking player pigeonholed in midfield.
Now that he is playing this free-roaming role under Pardew, Moussa has the potential to be an elite player.
In Ligue 1 this season, Moussa attempted 19 shots in 19 games and only netted one goal.
He has already shot eight times and scored twice for Le Toon.
Only £1.8 million? Toulouse need to take some lessons from Lyon in how to inflate transfer fees.
Sissoko beating Ashley Cole for pace down the right was a thing of beauty. One of my favourite home games for 2 year at least.— Mac (@2NarMe) February 2, 2013
From Sevilla to Real Madrid for €3.5 million [£3 million] | Grade: A
A red card against Granada left Diego Lopez on the outer, as Andres Palop won back the No. 1 role at Sevilla.
Lopez is one of the best keepers on pedigree and was a great shot-stopper for Villarreal, who is familiar with the Real Madrid set-up, having been at the club from 2000-07.
The move makes perfect sense because Antonio Adan should be a third-string keeper, not a backup, let alone a starter.
When José Mourinho said (via goal.com): "In my opinion, Adan is better than Iker at the moment. As it's the coach who chooses, and as I have only as valid opinions of my assistants, we have decided so," what the Special One really wanted to say was: "Iker Casillas sided with Sergio Ramos, therefore I will make an example out of Iker, knowing he'll continue to be politically correct in the press."
Sara Carbonero, Casillas' girlfriend, confirmed the internal issues at the club (from Televisa via the AFP):
Right now, there is a split in the changing room and we will have to wait until the end of the season to see if Mourinho ends up going because he has many fronts open here at Real Madrid.
It is the popular opinion that the players don't get on with their coach at all.
Diego is Mourinho's No. 1 until he gets fired.
The only person associated with Real Madrid that didn't express sorrow when finding out about Iker's injury was Jose.
From Bordeaux to Newcastle United for £2.8 million [€3.2 million] | Grade: A+
Yoan Gouffran took advantage of Ludovic Obraniak's creativity and became a direct threat to opposing teams.
At one point during the season, Gouffran had scored in five successive games, and looked re-born as a centre-forward at Bordeaux.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa told Ross Gregory at The Shields Gazette:
He [Yoan] is the type of player that gives us defenders a lot of work, he makes us work very hard. He runs deep, collects the ball, and holds it up very well. He lets the team get forward, and gives the team chances to counter attack. He’s good on the ball, and that would be something very useful for the team.
Chelsea found that out the hard way when Gouffran pierced through the Blues' defence, took a shot, which rebounded to Moussa Sissoko for Newcastle's equaliser—22 minutes later, Moussa scored the winner.
Yoan's transfer fee is highway robbery but then again, you expect this from a Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias-run club.
Again, wonderful scouting from Graham Carr, who praised the football IQ of French footballers (from L'Equipe via Hugh Macknight at Sky Tyne and Wear):
Will I go on signing players from Le Championnat? Yes, because I love France and the French players.
We sign them because we had a lot of success working with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. They are really good players—very professional, which is essential these days.
They are clever, they understand quickly what we want and they have a very interesting tactical culture. Because French education is excellent, really.
I don't agree with people who believe that the mass arrival of French players could cause trouble.
Cabaye and Ben Arfa have adapted very well, just like Marveaux, and they speak English.
Gouffran is playing out wide for Alan Pardew but if Papiss Cisse doesn't revert back to his old form, Yoan will be given a chance as the No. 9.
Pedants' Corner: Yoan Gouffran's surname is pronounced goof-RON, rather than goof-RAN. And you don't really pronounce the 'n' either.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) January 29, 2013
From Metalist Kharkiv to Shakhtar Donetsk for €13.8 million [£12 million] | Grade: C+
Cleiton Xavier was Metalist Kharkiv's best player in the UEFA Europa League, not Taison.
Though, since Xavier plays the No. 10 role, a position filled by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shakhtar weren't going to sign Cleiton—something Brazilian football writer Chris Atkins pointed out.
Atkins told me via email about his thoughts on Taison's big-money move:
Taison is a different type of player to Willian. The Anzhi player is more of a heads-up player who can score and create.
Taison can be a bit more selfish, but should be able to adapt to playing in Shakhtar's setup.
His biggest issue is consistently producing the final product, which is why he is not good enough for a top side.
Personally I think it's a massive amount of money for him, but he's had a good last 12 months and is used to the Ukrainian game.
For a club renowned for its Brazilian scouting, it seems a bit uninspired.
The 25-year-old scored a Marco van Basten-like goal (lovely cross-field ball from Fininho) against Rosenborg, and the press started embellishing his ability as a footballer.
Shakhtar owner Rinat Akhmetov has a good track record in the transfer market but he has made mistakes in the past i.e. Nery Castillo, Marcelo Moreno, and Alan Patrick.
Money isn't an issue for Akhmetov, who is richer than Roman Abramovich, but Rinat overpaid for Taison—who'll replace Willian.
Hoffenheim's Roberto Firmino would have been a good punt for €5-7 million because he's a better dribbler than Taison, tracks back, and has a higher upside.
From Montpellier to Newcastle United for £7 milion [€8.1 million] | Grade: A+
Chelsea signed David Luiz for £21.3 million, a defender who believes charging forward and dribbling in his own penalty box are positive attributes in a centre-back.
In stark contrast, Newcastle spent 32.9 percent of what the Blues gave Benfica for Luiz, on a solid player like Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who has the potential to turn into a top-tier defender.
He formed a resolute partnership with Hilton, which conceded the equal-least amount of goals during Montpellier's Ligue 1 triumph last season.
Yanga-Mbiwa didn't make the Trophées UNFP du football team of the year, but Ligue 1 experts Andrew Gibney, Jonathan Johnson, Jason Milligan, Steve Wyss, Ben Lyttleton and Andy Scott selected Mapou in their team of the year (per French Football Weekly).
From Dinamo Zagreb to Inter Milan for €11 million [£9.7 million] | Grade: B
Dinamo have been hard-nosed dealers in the past, negotiating significant transfer fees for the sales of Luka Modric, Eduardo, Vedran Corluka and Dario Simic.
The €11 million paid for Mateo Kovacic isn't based on what he has done for Zagreb, but what he can do for Inter.
He wasn't lights out in the UEFA Champions League like Isco was for Malaga.
However, it's hard to judge Kovacic in the Champions League when Dinamo are whipping boys reminiscent of Rapid Vienna.
One good sign is his dribbles per UCL game (2.8) was higher than Cristiano Ronaldo (2.3), Franck Ribery (2.2), Hulk (2.0) and Lionel Messi (1.5).
The Nerazzurri have high hopes for Mateo because they've given him one of the most famous shirt numbers in club football history—Inter's illustrious No. 10: Luis Suárez Miramontes, Sandro Mazzola, Lothar Matthäus, Ronaldo and Wesley Sneijder have all worn the number.
Kovacic should aspire to those heights, rather than be a disappointment like Domenico Morfeo.
From Inter Milan to Liverpool for £8.5 million [€9.8 million] | Grade: B
In 2001, Andrea Pirlo arrived at AC Milan amid much intrigue, following a frustrating spell with Inter Milan.
He would later become one of the best registas in football history.
Liverpool have taken a calculated gamble on Coutinho knowing they could potentially take advantage of his world-class ability.
The transfer fee could have been lowered because the Nerazzurri weren't going to start him, with Andrea Stramaccioni preferring Fredy Guarín's drive over Coutinho's guile.
The Brazilian will most likely start as a wide attacking midfielder, with Luis Suarez playing the nine-and-a-half position, whilst Daniel Sturridge leads the line.
From Crystal Palace to Manchester United for £10 million [€11.5 million] | N/A
It would be disingenuous of me to give Wilfried Zaha a grade when I haven't watched him play.
United will pay £10 million up front but will have to fork out another £5 million if Zaha meets certain performance-related stipulations.
The Stretford End Arising community published an insightful Q&A with Crystal Palace season-ticket holder Jesse Boyce regarding Wilfried's move to the Red Devils:
Q: What has been his stand out performance for Palace?
A: A couple stand out. Obviously the Carling Cup win at Old Trafford now feels like an audition which Zaha passed with flying colours.
Fabio da Silva got a bit of a shock that night, it’s fair to say.
Zaha provided the assist for Ambrose’s strike from outside the stadium, and then won the free kick which lead to Murray’s winner by forcing Ji Sung Park to obstruct him on the left flank.
He was fearless that night and the press have blown his trumpet ever since.
Q: Is he better on the left or right?
A: That’s a good question. He definitely prefers the right, he has that extra cheeky trick and seems to exude confidence when playing on that side.
From memory, his more audacious stunts have occurred from there. Attacking on the left wing I’d say he has a bit more of a traditional style, perhaps helped by our left back (Parr) linking up and overlapping well.
I’m just glad you don’t expect him to play up front! Even Sky (Sports) seem to think he’s a striker. He’s really not.
Q: What type of personality does he have?
A: He’s generally known as a placid character, he’s definitely not a firebrand, put it that way. He gets kicked around enough by Championship meatheads but doesn’t get really get riled by it, despite a lack of adequate protection from refs.
On the way back from Leeds earlier this season, the Palace team coach parked up behind me at the services and I literally bumped in to Zaha.
He agreed to a picture despite the rain, and politely declined an offer of a lift home in the car!
So all level headed politeness and manners, but no shrinking violet when he’s on the ball. He’ll take on whatever’s in front of him, and then whatever behind what’s in front of him.
From Newcastle United to Chelsea for £7 million [€8.1 million] | F
Only Chelsea could spend in excess of £75 million on four forwards (Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, Daniel Sturridge) and proceed to screw all four over.
Signing Ba tells Lukaku that he isn't wanted at the club—what was so hard about using him the way West Bromwich Albion are playing him?
If you're a Chelsea supporter, this is where you have to get angry, because the club brought in Rafa Benítez to make Fernando feel "untouchable".
Now, the club sign Demba—a superior forward—and Torres' self-esteem issues become a problem again.
At the same time, Ba's mojo is being messed up because Benítez won't give the former Newcastle United forward the full 90 minutes, as the Spaniard is holding out faint hope that El Nino can turn it around.
Meanwhile, Sturridge is scoring goals at Liverpool as the No. 9, like he did on loan at Bolton Wanderers—the Blues will rue not giving him an extended run as a centre forward.
Signing Ba would be an A+ in FIFA or Football Manager, but we're talking about real life, you have to think about the knock-on effects—clearly, Chelsea haven't.
Oh, and one of the Blues' brightest young talents in Islam Feruz isn't sure of his future, according to the striker's agent (via Sky Sports):
I have made contact with various clubs who all want the player, but he [Feruz] is currently at Chelsea and he wants to make his name at the club. The problem we have is that we don't quite know whether Chelsea feel the same.
From Anzhi Makhachkala to Queens Park Rangers for £12.5 million [€14.4 million] | Grade: B+
When the Birmingham Mail asked Deloitte how much money Aston Villa would lose if they were relegated, a spokesperson said: "The impact of relegation at the end of the season is likely to be in the region of £40 to £50 million."
In QPR's case, they are spending to survive, so the inflated transfer fees and the ridiculous wages will come back to haunt Tony Fernandes big-time, should the Hoops drop into the Championship—Portsmouth 2.0?
To quote Tony in February 2010 (via Toby Davis at Reuters): "People aren't getting tired of watching sport, it is just the financial way it's been run that has caused the problems."
Christopher Samba is Fernandes' Premier League insurance because the colossal Congolese centre-back has made a living out of last-ditched blocks, winning headers, making clearances and leading the backline.
Samba upgraded his contract at Blackburn Rovers, forced the club to sell him to Anzhi Makhachkala, where he was earning around £100,000-per-week, but despised the racism in the country, and wanted out.
Now, his agent has taken advantage of Tony's desperate attempts to stay in the EPL, by cashing in again.
Fernandes claims Christopher is on give-or-take £65,000 per-week, as opposed to the £100,000 mark that was originally reported.
Sky Sports' Chris Kamara was full of praise for Samba's performance in the 0-0 draw vs. Norwich City:
Christopher Samba also played really well, especially considering that when I spoke to him beforehand he said he was only 50 percent fit.
If there's another 50 percent to come on top of what we saw on Saturday, then he's going to be a massive, massive bonus for them!
From Chelsea to Liverpool for £12 million [€13.8 million] | Grade: A
|Last Four EPL Games||G||SH||A||SC|
G = goal/s; SH = shots; A = assist/s; SC = shots created
Roman Abramovich is paying Torres a higher salary than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but the Spaniard doesn't want to be a No. 9.
He wants to play like Wayne Rooney in creating goals and facilitating play.
Sturridge has possession of the ball, looks up, and shoots. Fernando needs to do that more often.
In a few years time, Daniel could be a 20-30 goals per season forward, whilst Torres will be in the MLS or the Middle East.
From Lille to Newcastle United for £5 million [€6.2 million] | Grade: A+
Tottenham Hotspur spent £9 million on Alan Hutton in 2008.
The same year, Chelsea signed Jose Bosingwa for £16.3 million, and Martín Caceres cost Barcelona €16.5 million.
Several years later in a more inflated transfer market, Newcastle manage to buy an international-calibre right-back for only £5 million.
Mathieu Debuchy cruised through the win against Chelsea after Rafa Benitez bizarrely started Ryan Bertrand as a left attacking midfielder.
The Englishman offered no attacking impetus and gave away possession 30 percent of the time.
He didn't even test Mathieu, at least Marko Marin would have offered some threat.
Once again, Newcastle win in the transfer market.
With regards to the club's other right-back Danny Simpson, au revoir.
From Rennes to Rubin Kazan for €11.5 million [£10 million] | F
A notoriously short-fused Yann M'Vila playing in a country known for its antipathy towards black people—not a good idea.
He joined Rubin for financial reasons and to get away from France, knowing he wasn't going to be playing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
But, the French Football Federation has suspended the last four months of the ban, meaning he's available for selection.
This gives him the incentive to either be playing in Ligue 1 or the Premier League.
Unless Rubin make a profit from this transfer, it's a mistake signing M'Vila.
From Villarreal to Fiorentina for €10 million [£8.7 million] | Grade: C+
Last October, I made the case that Inter Milan should sign Giuseppe Rossi:
A fractured metatarsal, a knee ligament tear and ruptured ankle ligaments didn't stop Robin van Persie from scoring 37 goals in 48 games for Arsenal.
Antonio Cassano is still scoring and making smart, angled passes after suffering a stroke.
Giuseppe Rossi isn't a one-trick pony like David Odonkor because all those countless hours the Italian spent refining his technique won't disappear.
Sure, his mobility may be slightly hindered but he's a thinking footballer, who will work his way back to the top.
A €5 million bid for him in January would be worth the risk, even if he's still inactive. But, why not wait until he recovers?
If he starts scoring goals like the old Rossi, €5 million turns into €15-20 million.
Obviously, Massimo Moratti should include clauses in the contract to protect the club should Rossi succumb to another long-term injury.
So, why a C+ grading?
Villarreal are in the Segunda Division and Rossi is still rehabbing his injury, so €10 million is exorbitant in Serie A's current climate.
From Málaga to Arsenal for £10 million [€11.5 million] | A-
This would be an easy A+ grade if Nacho Monreal was signed in the summer, and it shows you how much faith Arsene Wenger had wrongly placed in Andre Santos.
Buying Monreal is Arsene's way of saying: "my bad," because Santos is so unreliable that the club is willing to sign a UEFA Champions League cup-tied left-back.
Though, the Frenchman insists he bought Nacho because of Kieran Gibbs' injury.
Let's assume Thomas Vermaelen will play at LB against Bayern Munich.
There's no reason to play Monreal in the two games (Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers) leading into the first leg.
Then, he'll have to sit out the game against Tottenham Hotspur and Everton (match will be postponed if the Toffees beat Oldham Athletic to reach the FA Cup sixth round).
Will this happen? Probably not, meaning whoever plays at left-back vs. Bayern won't have recent match form in that position, because Wenger feels obliged to play Nacho in the games leading up to the Champions League showdown with Die Bayern.
For me, Monreal was the second best left-back in La Liga behind Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis, a view echoed by my colleague Michael Cerna.
Nacho formed an organised backline with Jesus Gámez, Weligton, Martin Demichelis and goalkeeper Willy Caballero, with Malaga conceding the least amount of league goals in Spain's top flight so far.
From Schalke to Tottenham Hotspur for £1.5 million [€1.7 million] | Grade: A+
Lewis Holtby is a two-way player in that he can attack and defend.
He led Schalke in league assists (seven) whilst topping the team in tackles per UEFA Champions League games this season (4.0).
Daniel Levy may not be too happy with the £1.5 million transfer fee because his first January bid was worth a few month's wages—it would have been priceless to see the faces of the Schalke officials when they received Levy's original offer.
Not only had they lost Lewis on a free transfer set for the summer, Levy was just taking the mickey out of them in January, with the UCL game against Galatasaray on the horizon.
Right now, S04 have former Hertha Berlin star Raffael (on loan from Dynamo Kyiv) vying with Julian Draxler for the No. 10 role.
Julian's wide role is now occupied by Lyon loanee Michel Bastos.
Prodigious Max Meyer may feature towards the latter stages of the campaign.
From AC Milan to Corinthians for €15 million [£13 million] | Grade: A+
Corinthians get a marquee name, AC Milan don't need to mull over Alexandre Pato's injury worries and he returns to Brazil with the intention of making the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.
Everyone benefits from this deal.
Writing for BBC Sport, Tim Vickery discussed the high standard of sports science in Brazil:
Both club and player are betting that the physiotherapists, sports doctors, physiologists and physical preparation staff of Corinthians will be able to do a better job than those of Milan.
It is a widely held view in the Brazilian game that the local specialists in these fields are the best in the business.
And it seems undeniable that this was an important factor in Brazil's last World Cup win, a little more than ten years ago. Luiz Felipe Scolari would certainly agree. He coached Brazil to that 2002 triumph, and was recently reappointed in the hope that he might repeat the act on home soil in eighteen months time.
Almost the first thing he did on his return was announce the recall of one of the key figures behind the World Cup win—physical preparation specialist Paulo Paixao.
Remember the scenario. Inter Milan were unable to get Ronaldo fit. Barcelona said that Rivaldo was not in good enough condition to play in the World Cup.
Paixao and his team had both buzzing in time for the tournament. And they did much more.
The 2002 World Cup was held a couple of weeks earlier than usual in a bid to avoid the rainy season in Japan and South Korea. It gave the top players less time to recuperate after the European season—and this at a time when the recent expansion of the Champions League had made that campaign especially grueling.
The result was that everyone who had played in Europe seemed to be out on their feet - with the exception of the Brazilians, who were still full of running.
Could this be a factor in Alexandre's decision to come home?
From Shakhtar Donetsk to Anzhi Makhachkala for €35 million [£30.4 million] | Grade: D
There's no commercial reason to justify the extravagant money wasted on Willian, who is a good player, but he isn't Neymar.
Iago Aspas, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Max Kruse, Yohan Mollo, Adel Taarabt, Bastian Oczipka and a myriad of footballers around the world can beat players in one-on-one situations, play incisive passes, do it in an entertaining way, but will come at a fraction of the ridiculous transfer fee paid for Willian.
Samuel Eto'o went to Anzhi as a three-time UEFA Champions League winner, a four-time African Player of the Year, had won league titles in two different leagues, and also had an Olympic gold medal.
Willian should be playing in one of Europe's elite leagues, not chasing the cash.
Anzhi read too much into his Champions League performances against a sorry Chelsea back four and a weak Nordsjaelland side.
From Inter Milan to Galatasaray for €10 million [£8.7 million] | Grade: A+
Inter Milan froze Wesley Sneijder out and the Turkish giants have taken advantage.
Selcuk Inan and Felipe Melo have been the two centre midfielders in Fatih Terim's 4-4-2 during the UEFA Champions League this season.
Inan is a creative player, who presses, whilst Melo is a midfield destroyer.
You want Wesley in a more advanced role and Michael Cox suggested (via ESPN FC): "Terim is both a perfectionist and a tinkerman, happy to ditch one system if he feels the side isn’t performing. A 4-4-1-1 seems likely, with Sneijder tucked behind Drogba."
It's going to be interesting to see how Galatasaray fit Sneijder into the team.
Though, there's the old adage that rather than slotting a star player into a starting lineup, managers should build the squad around that player—and that's certainly applicable to Wesley.
Signed by Galatasaray as a free agent | Grade: A+
TIME correspondent Austin Ramzy quipped at Shanghai Shenhua chairman Zhu Jun's refusal to admit Didier Drogba was the equivalent of a quick hook-up:
Last fall Zhu Jun, a Chinese internet multimillionaire who convinced Didier Drogba to join his Shanghai Shenhua football club, noted that Drogba had a two-and-a-half year contract.
Despite rumors that Drogba was on his way out, the relationship between player and team “wasn’t a one-night stand.”
Zhu was right. The relationship between the star Ivorian striker and the mediocre Chinese team was actually a six-month fling.
Unlike Nicolas Anelka, Drogba left Shanghai with his reputation intact, having scored eight times and created two goals in 11 games.
He arrives at a Galatasaray side that has played Umut Bulut, Burak Yılmaz, and Johan Elmander as centre forwards this season.
Drogba should be a starter and even though most people will be watching AC Milan vs. Barcelona, he and Wesley Sneijder exponentially increase the interest in Galatasaray.
Now, they need to get the job done, and beat a Lewis Holtby-less Schalke.
From Manchester City to AC Milan for €21.9 million [£19 million] | Grade: D
December 31, 2013 (via Miles Chambers at goal.com):
Silvio Berlusconi: "Niang is better than Balotelli."
January 8, 2013 (via Rob Hughs at The New York Times):
Silvio Berlusconi: The name Balotelli? Never came into my thoughts. He is a rotten apple and could infect every group where he goes, even Milan.
February 4, 2013 (via Meytar Zeevi at Rossoneri Blog):
Silvio Berlusconi: "Balotelli? I could not sleep after his goals [Mario scored a brace on his Milan debut vs. Udinese, a game where he received the MOTM and a 8/10 player rating from Gazzetta dello Sport]."
Lizzy Davies at The Guardian reported how Berlusconi's political rivals believed signing Mario Balotelli would win Silvio extra votes:
Amid speculation that Balotelli's return to Italy could win the billionaire AC Milan owner some urgently needed votes—400,000, according to one estimate, the head of the centre-left Democratic party, Pier Luigi Bersani, tweeted: "While I was in Padua visiting disabled people and prison inmates yesterday, Berlusconi was negotiating for Balotelli. So I announce that I'm in negotiations to bring [Barcelona's] Leo Messi to Bettola," he added, referring to his home town in the north of Italy.
Benjamin Dodman at France 24 documented Il Fatto Quotidiano's observations of Berlusconi's transfer policies during the election cycle:
“20 million euros to City, 400,000 votes to Berlusconi”, headlined Il Fatto Quotidiano, adding that each potential new vote had thus cost the billionaire tycoon 50 euros.
The centre-left daily went on to draw a parallel between AC Milan’s fortunes on the pitch and those of its owner, pointing out that every election victory coincided with both sporting successes and expensive purchases—such as Ronaldinho’s in 2008, the year Berlusconi won a third term in office.
Similarly, every election defeat was concurrent with the departure of a Milan star, such as Shevchenko (2006) and Kaka (2009).
The latter’s departure to Real Madrid, Berlusconi later admitted, had cost him two percentage points in the ensuing European elections.
If you frame it in this political context, then signing Mario Balotelli starts to make some sense.
From a footballing perspective, it's not a good signing, given AC Milan's stringent economically efficient doctrine in recent transfer windows.
They cry poor when asked why they were outbidded for "x" transfer target, but then go around, and spend €20 million+ on a struggling forward with character flaws.
Signed by Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent | Grade: A+
The grade is a reflection on what David Beckham can offer PSG off the field, not on the field.
Beckham is a commercial signing for PSG, who want to be a recognisable brand to the casual footballing fan around the globe.
Beckham still believes he can play at the highest level and he'll be a tidy player for Carlo Ancelotti.
Paris is one of the Fashion capitals of the world meaning Victoria will be happy.
The family live in London and it only takes two hours by train to arrive in Paris.
David, being the classy person he is, has donated his entire salary to charity.
Allan Jiang is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via email interview.
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