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Grading January's Top Transfers After One Month of Play

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2013

Grading January's Top Transfers After One Month of Play

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    Regardless of the precursors, amount of money involved or hype associated with a transfer in football, it’s ultimately up to the individual moving club just how successful they might be in their new surroundings.

    Here, we’ll consider those transfers being touted as “the biggest” back in January and look at just who’s lived up to their billing and perhaps even who’s exceeded expectations.

    Each player will receive a ranking based on their performances in their new club colours only, with no attention paid to just how they’ve done in the past.

    The winter transfer window can often be the hardest time of the season to change allegiances but, as we’ll see ahead, some certainly thrive under the pressure while others succumb to it.

20. Taison

2 of 21

    From: Metalist Kharkiv

    To: Shakhtar Donetsk

    At the time, Chelsea will have been disappointed to see Shakhtar Donetsk hijack their January bid for Taison when the West London club were on the very brink of bringing the Brazilian to Stamford Bridge (via Guardian).

    Six weeks on from the Brazilian’s move to the Donbass Arena and Roman Abramovich might consider himself fortunate that his wallet was kept closed on this particular occasion.

    Since trading up in the Ukrainian Premier League, Taison hasn’t, in truth, had the greatest of opportunities to prove himself as one of Shaktar’s many talented South Americans, due to the winter break Eastern Europe entertains on an annual basis.

    In the two Champions League starts Taison made against Borussia Dortmund, the 25-year-old finished neither and averaged just 74 percent pass completion, showing the difficulty he’s having in settling into his new surroundings.

    While it may be unfair to judge one so inexperienced amongst his new teammates, Taison is familiar with the Ukrainian league having spent three impressive years with Metalist, and he has a long way to go until reaching the height expected of him at his previous club.

    Grade: D-

19. Wesley Sneijder

3 of 21

    From: Inter Milan

    To: Galatasaray

    One of the most unusual transfer sagas to unfold in recent years, Wesley Sneider’s lack of involvement during his final months at Inter saw him fall from grace in dive-bomb fashion.

    Once looked upon as one of the finest playmakers in world football, the Dutchman finally pushed through a move to Galatasaray that BBC Sport believed to be in the region of £8.4 million.

    In eight outings for the Turkish champions, Sneijder has managed to find the net on just one occasion and provided no assists, an uncharacteristically low tally for a player of his stature once so large.

    At times, the 28-year-old has been surprisingly unnoticeable, evidenced most worryingly in his 45-minute cameo in Gala’s Champions League second-leg tie against Schalke, where he managed to take just 23 touches of the ball (via WhoScored.com).

    Unfortunately for Sneijder, his gilded past means that he’ll forever be compared with the midfielder of days gone by at Ajax and Inter, a standard the maestro has so far failed to match in the red and yellow of Galatasaray.

    Grade: D

18. Demba Ba

4 of 21

    From: Newcastle United

    To: Chelsea

    Although still a far cry from the likes of Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, Demba Ba’s total of 13 goals for Newcastle prior to his Chelsea switch meant the Senegalese striker might have somehow challenged for Golden Boot honours.

    However, Ba’s dip in form since moving to West London is perhaps testament to the theory that some players who stand out as a main focus at one club may not achieve similar success when surrounded by players of a higher quality.

    With Fernando Torres as competition, Ba has struggle to maintain the same scoring form in the Premier League, netting just twice for the Blues, albeit both important contributions against Southampton and West Brom.

    As the main focus of a 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s the likes of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata that sometimes steal the limelight from Ba where Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran may have not at St. James’ Park.

    With four goals in 14 games for Chelsea across all competitions, the 27-year-old isn’t quite firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge quite yet, but he has shown glimmers of his former self at times.

    Grade: D+

17. Mateo Kovacic

5 of 21

    From: Dinamo Zagreb

    To: Inter Milan

    The man presumably brought to the San Siro with the intention of one day fulfilling Wesley Sneijder’s role at Inter comes next on our list: Mateo Kovacic.

    As James Horncastle writes for ESPN, the young Croatian has a heap of expectation on his shoulders now he’s in a top European league and has had an up-and-down experience in Inter colours.

    Kovacic has featured in just two Serie A matches since coming to Italy, 3-1 and 4-1 losses to Siena and Fiorentina, respectively, and the 18-year-old has yet to make an appearance from the bench since.

    However, Kovacic’s displays in Europe have been of a somewhat more encouraging nature, a platform the youngster is perhaps more accustomed to having played a decent amount of Champions League football while at Dinamo Zagreb.

    Still just a teenager, Kovacic’s Europa League ventures against CFR Cluj and Tottenham have shown some of his playmaking ability but defensive lapses appear to be the midfielder’s weakness as things stand.

    Still with ample time on his hands to change opinions, Kovacic’s first month at Inter just falls on the less glamorous side of our countdown.

    Grade: C-

16. Alexandre Pato

6 of 21

    From: AC Milan

    To: Corinthians

    After enduring a tenuous final few months with AC Milan, January saw Alexandre Pato take up the opportunity of moving back to his native Brazil in a €15 million move to Corinthians (via Guardian).

    With one goal in three appearances for the Almighty in their Copa Libertadores campaign, the 23-year-old has far from the worst scoring ratio in the world but is perhaps still settling back into the style of Brasileiro Serie A.

    Having suffered greatly with injury during his time with Italy, Silvio Berlusconi remains confident his former starlet will be returning to the San Siro before long, however, telling Antenna 3 (h/t Goal.com):

    "Pato will return to Milan in one or one-and-a-half years. His injuries distance him a bit from Milan, but I made a deal with him."

    "He has gone to Corinthians, but he will come back here in the not-too-distant future. That's what he promised when he hugged me one last time before leaving."

    Grade: C 

15. Didier Drogba

7 of 21

    From: Shanghai Shenhua

    To: Galatasaray

    Having experienced great fortune during his Chelsea days, Didier Drogba just couldn’t leave Europe alone and opted for a move to Galatasaray after a brief spell in the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Shenhua (via Daily Mail).

    The Ivorian had a bright beginning at Gala, scoring and providing an assist on his Super Lig debut against Akhisarspor, but Drogba has failed to have the same impact when faced with tougher opposition.

    After goalless performances against Eskisehirspor, Genclerbirligi and also Schalke in the Champions League, questions might begin to be raised about whether bringing the 35-year-old veteran to Istanbul was a smart purchase.

    Drogba recently missed a potential point-winning penalty in his latest outing for Gala (via 101GreatGoals.com) that pretty much summed up the former Chelsea man’s current scoring form at his new club.

    Grade: C

14. David Beckham

8 of 21

    From: Free Agency

    To: Paris Saint-Germain

    Many a fan of the Englishman will likely find David Beckham’s ranking on this list as unfair but the truth is that the veteran simply hasn’t played enough football to make any great impact on matters as of yet.

    That being said, in the four appearances Beckham has made for PSG, he hasn’t done much to put a foot wrong and has proven to be a reliable option in midfield for the Ligue 1 leaders.

    After just one month of calling Parc des Princes his home, the 37-year-old has shown that his vast experience and wealth of football acumen remains able to cut it in a top European league, even if that may not be for a full 90 minutes.

    As he proved at LA Galaxy, Beckham is still that extra step ahead of the opposition at times, able to provide a catalyst in midfield, a job made massively easier with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi ahead of you.

    Grade: C

13. Lewis Holtby

9 of 21

    From: Schalke 04

    To: Tottenham Hotspur

    After initially agreeing to sign the midfielder as a free transfer in the summer, BBC Sport reported in late January that Tottenham had agreed a €1.75 million deal that would see Lewis Holtby move to White Hart Lane six months earlier.

    At the time, the Guardian’s David Hytner proposed that the cut-price transfer could be Spurs’ “deal of the century,” going on to describe the deal as a “masterstroke.”

    Since then, the German Under-21 captain hasn’t quite been the marvel that Whites fans may have hoped for, but he has shown all the fervour and determination that has certainly gone down well among other Premier League players in the past.

    Others such as Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cissé and Gylfi Sigurdsson have made moves to England from the Bundesliga and enjoyed great success, a trend Holtby will be looking to copy in the coming months.

    Over the last six weeks or so, Tottenham’s newest midfielder has made eight appearances for the North London club and is proving a versatile asset, filling in out wide, centrally or even in more attacking positions behind the striker.

    With a pass completion rate of 85 percent this early in his Spurs career (via WhoScored.com), it would seem only likely that Lucky Lewis’ bright start to life in England’s top flight will only get better as he settles into life at the Lane.

    Grade: C+

12. Christopher Samba

10 of 21

    From: Anzhi Makhachkala

    To: Queens Park Rangers

    In the end, Christopher Samba’s tenure away from the Premier League was rather short-lived after the Congolese stalwart was brought to Loftus Road after just a year in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala.

    Harry Redknapp’s side are lucky to have the £12.5 million acquisition, too, as Samba appears to be providing a much-needed resilience in the QPR back-line that has improved the Rs’ defence dramatically.

    Although QPR are yet to keep a clean sheet since Samba’s 0-0 debut performance against Norwich City, one can rest assured the West London club would have conceded more goals in recent weeks were the stocky centre-back not around to shore things up.

    With two wins in their last two games against Southampton and Sunderland, Samba is earning considerable plaudits for his play at times, reminiscent of the Blackburn Rovers defender that rose to Premier League recognition earlier in the 2000s.

    As Jonathan Liew of the Telegraph notes, the 28-year-old will be vital to any hopes QPR have of survival and while one might say club owner Tony Fernandes has wasted an awful lot of money, Samba may actually prove to be one of the side’s better splurges.

    Grade: B-

11. Mathieu Debuchy

11 of 21

    From: Lille OSC

    To: Newcastle United

    A name long linked with a move to St. James’ Park, January finally brought to its end the question of whether Mathieu Debuchy would ever become a Magpie.

    The French international has immediately slotted in well in the north-east, becoming his side’s automatic starter at right-back and settling in decently to the Premier League’s style.

    However, just as many wing-backs do in the modern era, Debuchy can sometimes fall victim to that dreaded taboo of over-stepping your mark and Newcastle’s defence remains one of the least impressive as a result.

    Although Debuchy is yet to clinch an assist during his time as a Newcastle player, the Frenchman’s influence when going forward is quite telling. It is a small part of the reason the Tyneside outfit have seen a rise in form of late, stepping away from the relegation zone.

    At the end of the day, full-back is still a defensive position and with just one clean sheet in eight outings for the Magpies, that’s clearly an area of his game Newcastle’s Debuchy could do with improving.

    Grade: B-

10. Loic Remy

12 of 21

    From: Olympique Marseille

    To: Queens Park Rangers

    Another January purchase for QPR to have worked in the club’s favour is that of Loic Remy, the surprise acquisition from Marseille.

    With Newcastle reportedly interested in the striker at the time of his Ligue 1 departure, it was somewhat surprising to hear it was the Rs that had won the race for his signature (via Sky Sports).

    That said, the French international may have made the right choice in coming to Loftus Road after all, netting three goals in his four starts for the West London outfit.

    While Remy may have been suffering with injury since coming to England’s top flight almost two months ago, the forward’s goal ratio may help keep QPR above water come season’s end as the club continue to battle against relegation.

    Grade: B-

9. Willian

13 of 21

    From: Shakhtar Donetsk

    To: Anzhi Makhachkala

    Although the Brazilian’s season is perhaps spoiled by the injury that saw him come off early in the Europa League tie against Newcastle (via rsports.com), Willian’s hop from Ukraine to Russia was looking like a hopeful one.

    The former Chelsea target joined Anzhi Makhachkala from Shakhtar Donetsk in early February and was given a chance to impress against Hannover straight away, playing the majority of a two-legged tie against the German club in European competition.

    With the Russian domestic matters then on hold, Willian’s £30 million impact (via Guardian) at Anzhi was put on ice and is now delayed further with the winger supposedly out until April.

    Grabbing an assist on his Anzhi debut, Willian appeared to be maintaining the form that saw him become a hit at the Donbass Arena and the speedster might be higher in the rankings were it not for the crippling blow to his season.

    Grade: B

8. Nacho Monreal

14 of 21

    From: Malaga

    To: Arsenal

    As a direct result of the ongoing issues Arsene Wenger’s been forced to deal with at left-back this season, Nacho Monreal was brought to the Emirates Stadium in January with the aim of adding some stability to that part of defence (via BBC Sport).

    After a hugely impressive start to the season in Andalusia, the Spaniard has translated his form to the Premier League with relative ease, fitting in well as part of the Gunners’ line-up.

    With one assist to his name already, Monreal’s £10 million signature will certainly be pleasing many of the Arsenal fraternity, helping to also keep three clean sheets in his first three outings for the North Londoners.

    Just as he did at Málaga, the 27-year-old has so far proven to be a good, well-rounded full-back capable of providing girth in attack while still living up to his defensive responsibilities.

    Grade: B

7. Diego Lopez

15 of 21

    From: Sevilla

    To: Real Madrid

    With Iker Casillas sidelined thanks to a broken hand (via Mirror), Real Madrid were forced to dip into the transfer-market for reinforcements, a quest that brought them to Sevilla’s Diego Lopez.

    The 31-year-old may have gotten off to an unenviable start with the capital club, conceding the only goal in a 1-0 defeat against Granada on his debut, but Lopez has since stamped his name on the No. 1 spot at the Bernabeu.

    Since his league debut display for his new side, Real Madrid are yet to lose a game and are enjoying a seven-match unbeaten run, two of which came against Manchester United.

    After drawing in the first leg, Lopez was thoroughly impressive against the Red Devils at Old Trafford, pulling a plethora of fine saves out of the bag and earning his team a place in this season’s Champions League quarterfinals as a result.

    Such fine form has even led Ben Hayward of Goal.com to speculate that Lopez might make the goalkeeper shirt his own at Real Madrid even with a fully fit Casillas around for competition, telling you just how gutsy the Spaniard has been in recent weeks.

    Grade: B+

6. Philippe Coutinho

16 of 21

    From: Inter Milan

    To: Liverpool

    Having stagnated slightly in his development with Inter Milan, it seems it was time for a change of scenery for Philippe Coutinho, who took Liverpool up on their offer of an Anfield switch in late January.

    One month later and it’s no surprise to see the Daily Mail reporting that the Brazilian is enjoying life at Anfield considering the more than moderate success Coutinho has enjoyed in his brief career with the club so far.

    Every time you come into training every day, you see the European Cup and that gives you all the motivation you need.

    Liverpool has huge players who are idols to many people. I’m young and learning and when you want to decide to sign for a club like Liverpool, these are factors you consider. Liverpool is still a huge club all over the world. Hopefully I will have a long career here.

    With a goal and two assists in just three starts for the Reds, Coutinho has definitely impressed since moving to Merseyside several months ago, and Brendan Rodgers can be pleased with the progress shown by his signing in adapting to the Premier League.

    Still just 20 years old, it might now be with Liverpool that the youngster lives up to the expectations many once thought he would achieve at the San Siro.

    Alongside Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and others, the Brazilian has been a big part of Liverpool’s recent rise up the Premier League rankings, a trend that Reds fans will be hoping continues for years to come.

    Grade: B+

5. Michel Bastos

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    From: Olympique Lyonnais

    To: Schalke 04

    Although only at the club on a loan from Lyon initially, Michel Bastos might have a very successful year ahead of him if his first month as a Schalke player is anything to go by.

    Bastos is contracted at the Veltins Arena until the end of the 2013-14 campaign and has already helped in dramatically improving the Miners' form of late. He scored three goals and one assist in his first seven games for the club.

    Functioning well from the left wing, the 29-year-old has proven to be a constant threat in attack since moving to the Bundesliga and was of particular help in earning results against Mainz, Fortuna Dusseldorf and fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund.

    One weakness in Bastos’ game remains his defensive cover, but a flourishing partnership going forward with Christian Fuchs almost counters that part of his game enough to compensate for a lack of tracking back.

    Now through to a Champions League quarterfinal with his new side, the Schalke support will be urging their newest star to continue his improvements to the squad after what was a poor first half to the season.

    Grade: A-

4. Moussa Sissoko

18 of 21

    From: Toulouse

    To: Newcastle United

    Like Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko was one of the Ligue 1 ex-patriots to join the French revolution at Chateau Nouveaux over the winter period, a move both he and Newcastle fans will be over the moon with a month after the switch.

    At Toulouse, Sissoko was mainly an anchorman, a player primed for the engine room and one needed in helping the defence as much as the attack.

    As a Magpie, Sissoko has been allowed to move up the pitch and is flourishing as an attacking midfielder, using some supreme playmaking ability as well as positioning to create chances for both teammates and himself.

    With three goals and an assist in his first four starts for the north-east club, it’s fair to say the 23-year-old’s impact was felt swiftly at St. James’ Park, and the Frenchman has quickly became an integral part of Alan Pardew’s side.

    Helping massively in both their climb up the Premier League table as well as Europa League ties with Anzhi Makhachkala and Metalist Kharkiv, Sissoko’s first month on Tyneside has been something of a marvel, and all for the modest fee of £1.8 million (via Independent). 

    Grade: A-

3. Daniel Sturridge

19 of 21

    From: Chelsea

    To: Liverpool

    Choosing to take the initiative, Liverpool struck a deal very early on in the January transfer window in order to bring Daniel Sturridge to Anfield as part of a £12 million deal (via Independent).

    Although the forward’s tenure with the Reds has been slightly blighted with injury in the two months since his arrival, Kopites can still be pleased with what’s been seen of his performances.

    In six Premier League games for the Merseyside club, Sturridge is already playing a part in a goal per game on average having scored four of his own as well as providing two assists.

    At Chelsea, the Englishman was largely restricted to a wide role but made it perfectly clear that a striker position was what he desired.

    Under Brendan Rodgers, Sturridge has been granted such a wish and is paying his new manager back dividends as a result, playing just behind Luis Suarez as part of a frontman partnership.

    According to WhoScored.com, the 23-year-old is averaging 4.5 shots per game as well as two key passes, as well as a pass completion rate of 86.9 percent.

    Should Sturridge be able to maintain such standards, the future would certainly appear bright for the young attacker, who is now revitalised as part of a starting line-up once again.

    Grade: A

2. Lucas Moura

20 of 21

    From: Sao Paolo

    To: Paris Saint-Germain

    As John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team would once say, “I love it when a plan comes together,” and come together the expectations of Lucas Moura certainly have.

    Although the deal was finalised back in summer 2012, the young Brazilian only officially completed his move to Paris this January and hasn’t looked back since.

    Teamed up alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi in attack, Lucas has already managed to amass a tally of five assists in just eight league games for the French title favourites and is going down a treat at the Parc des Princes.

    Already featuring heavily in the club’s Champions League campaign, the 20-year-old is coping brilliantly with the translation to European football, which many fear is too physical for some South Americans.

    With speed and dribbling ultimately his trustiest allies, European defences have struggled to keep up with lightning pace of one of Brazil’s rising talents. PSG certainly appear to have a potential star amongst their ranks based on Lucas’ beginning of life in the French capital.

    Grade: A

1. Mario Balotelli

21 of 21

    From: Manchester City

    To: AC Milan

    Undoubtedly the smoothest of transitions this January, Mario Balotelli finally earned his dream switch to AC Milan this winter and is, for once, making all the right choices (via BBC Sport).

    Now 22 years of age, the Italian might have finally put his childish ways behind him and is no longer causing the same concerns he once did at Manchester City and Inter Milan, instead focusing on matters on the pitch.

    With five goals and an assist in his first five games for the Serie A club, Balotelli has certainly appeared as the standout success story of this year’s January transfer window, moving seamlessly into the side he has always hoped of playing for.

    Averaging 5.4 shots per game compared to the 2.4 he was at the Etihad Stadium (via WhoScored.com) and a goal per game no less, the youngster appears to have finally found his groove back at the San Siro and is finally making the right kind of waves.

    Grade: A+

    Do you disagree with any of my rankings or feel any of your stars have been left out? Let me know in the comments section below and don't forget to get in touch via Twitter.

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