While the January transfer window brings with it the immediate promise of moves that can change the complexion of the major European leagues, it also signals the beginning of a courting period that will last until the summer.
Players across Europe are entering the final six months of their contracts meaning that would-be suitors are able to begin approaching possible new recruits.
Some of the potential free agents have taken themselves out of the circus by signing contract extensions; Xabi Alonso will be remaining at Real Madrid, Michael Carrick has extended his stay at Old Trafford and Adnan Januzaj has decided that David Moyes is the man to unlock his potential.
Robert Lewandowski was another player looming towards the end of his contract, but that particular ship has sailed as the Pole will be joining Bayern Munich in June.
Blackpool winger Tom Ince is one of the Championship’s bright young stars. The England under-21 star has admirers across the Premier League.
The only thing that could prevent him moving in the summer would be if one of the big boys decided to steal a march on their rivals and purchased him outright during this window.
Cardiff and Crystal Palace are both interested, but Dominic Fifield of the Guardian reported last week that Swansea are “confident” of sealing a £4 million deal.
Ajax and Monaco are also eyeing up the player according to Samuel Stevens of the Independent, however, and may well swoop in during the transfer window or if Ince is still available at the season’s end.
Ola Toivonen has made no secret of his desire to find a new club this summer. Even back in the Autumn the PSV forward revealed that he would not be renewing his contract with the Dutch giants.
A number of Premier League teams were put on alert, although it still isn’t clear which, if any of them, will secure his signature.
Fulham and Norwich are two struggling sides desperately in need of a chance of direction up front. Newcastle are not battling at the wrong end of the table, but they need a solution to an attacking deficiency that has left Loic Remy as their only recognised regular goalscorer.
Toivonen has suggested that he would ideally depart in January so that PSV could receive a fee for him.
The Liverpool Echo has also identified the Swede as someone who might contribute to the Reds’ renaissance.
It may be that he doesn’t end up on English shores at all. Besiktas are seeking a replacement for their own want-away playmaker, Manuel Fernandes, and Toivonen could be their man, according to Omroep Brabant.
As Wolfsburg approach the conclusion of their transfer wrangle with Chelsea for Kevin de Bruyne—according to local newspaper Wolfsburger Nachrichten (via Eurosport)—another attacking midfielder drifts closer to the exit door at the Volkswagen Arena.
Both men became stars at Werder Bremen, but have struggled to recreate the form they enjoyed on the banks of the Weser.
Diego, now 28, is out of contract in the summer and has been targeted by Brazilian club Santos, per Sky Sports. The Brasileirao side are keen to sign the creative player in January, but should they be rebuffed, they will likely wait until he is a free agent.
According to ESPNFC's Ian Holyman, Paris Saint-Germain are “reticent” to give controversial playmaker Jeremy Menez a new deal.
He has had limited playing time at the Parc des Princes this season, particularly due to the re-emergence of Javier Pastore, and could be set to resume his exile from his homeland.
The midfielder has a fine reputation in Italy, where he starred with Roma for three years, and one of Serie A’s major clubs may seek to curtail his unhappiness with a January move. This would also appeal to a player keen to make a late run for the France World Cup squad.
Should the likes of Juventus, Milan and Napoli fail to recruit him though, Liverpool might step in. It has previously been reported by the Metro's Jamie Sanderson that the Reds are eyeing a January move for the 26-year-old.
Senegalese forward Mame Biram Diouf surely won’t be at Hannover for long. The German side recently took Artjoms Rudnev, a Latvian forward seen as a direct replacement for the African, on loan and Diouf's time with Die Roten looks to be limited.
The only questions that remain are where and when he departs.
Cardiff City look to be in pole position here. According to the Press Association (via the Guardian), Solskjaer is prepared to offer a fee of £2.5 million, which ought to be enough to bring the transfer forward to January. As Cardiff fight to stay in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unlikely to hesitate in recruiting a forward who, like him, has enjoyed success in Norway.
Few doubt that Younes Kaboul is a fine defender, but he simply hasn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate his qualities over the last two years. He has spent extensive time on the sidelines, having been ravaged by a series of injuries, and looked decidedly rusty in the recent rout at the hands of Manchester City.
As pointed out by James Barnes of Bleacher Report, Kaboul has made just one league start in each of the last two seasons.
If he can reassert himself at White Hart Lane over the next few months, he could begin to dream of a contract extension and even an unlikely spot in France’s World Cup squad.
AC Milan have been linked with a move for the defender, who is still only 28, according to the Sun (via the Mirror).
Could it be that the chequered career of John Terry is winding down to a close?
According to Matt Law of the Telegraph, the former England captain has all but ruled out a return to national colours in Brazil this summer, while his future with Chelsea remains uncertain.
The Blues’ skipper is out of contract this summer and, in a narrative that twisted and turned during the end of 2013, it is unclear whether or not the club intend to offer him a new one.
Jose Mourinho will have the final say over the centre-back’s future, and while the club are postponing any contract negotiations until next month, there is an optimism that the Portuguese boss will reward Terry’s recent fine form with an extended deal.
Could you really imagine him anywhere else?
If French international full-back Bacary Sagna can agree new terms at the Emirates Stadium, then he will likely remain at Arsenal. However, at the time of writing, he is unhappy with the club’s offer of only two more seasons at the club and an insignificant wage increase, per The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson.
Sagna had been hoping for considerably more than the £70,000-a-week he is currently earning.
Already 30, however, the right-back cannot reasonably expect much more and the two parties may well reach an impasse.
Galatasaray, Monaco and, previously, Paris Saint-Germain have all shown interest in the player according to the Mirror's Jon Cross, while any deal may well affect Arsenal’s rumoured interest in Ivorian defender Serge Aurier, as reported by the Express' James Dickenson.
The only surprise concerning Bafetimbi Gomis during this transfer window is that he hasn’t already arrived in the Premier League.
The forward’s contract with Lyon is running down and with little intention of remaining in France, it looks like England is his ideal destination.
The fact that the French international has revealed that he is taking English lessons has only added fuel to the fire.
He has the physique to thrive in the Premier League. Tony Pulis, a long-time admirer of burly forwards, is keen on bringing Gomis to London in a bid to save his own side’s Premier League status according to the Mirror's Ed Malyon.
A safer bet, however, might be Newcastle—the former Saint-Etienne frontman would fit in perfectly in Francophone Tyneside.
It seems that Esteban Cambiasso is set to become another victim of Erick Thohir’s proposed overhaul of the Internazionale squad. According to Malyon, the Argentine is set to be released by the club this summer, when his contract expires.
While Cambiasso is still a very useful player, bringing experience, composure and bite to the midfield, his wage of £3.7 million-per-year breaks the owner’s ideal limit of £2.07 million.
Cambiasso, therefore, will not be offered a new deal.
Chelsea and Manchester United have both been linked with a January move for the player, but if neither club succeeds, then the international will likely be available for free this summer.
The 32-year-old Samuel Eto’o was only ever signed as a stop-gap measure at Chelsea. The forward remains a dangerous predator and is capable of terrorising defences, but his best days are behind him. The Cameroon forward is certainly not someone around whom Jose Mourinho could build a new dynasty in west London.
Even if he wanted to, Eto’o’s Premier League form has done little to suggest the striker has a long-term future in England.
The legendary forward has courted interest from the MLS and it looks like America may well be the final stop-off in a magnificent career. Dominic Fifield of The Guardian reckons that Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United will be in the running for the former Barcelona man when his contract expires this summer.
One school of thought argues that David Moyes was wrong to axe Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff and to try to change too much too quickly at Manchester United. Another suggests that the Scot can only truly be judged when he severs ties with the old regime and has his own personnel in place.
Patrice Evra has become a cipher for this debate, not least because the Frenchman plays in the same position as Leighton Baines, one of Moyes’ key summer targets according to Jamie Jackson of the Guardian.
Evra is a leader and vocal presence within the team, but his positioning and pace have come under question over the first half of the season.
With the French international’s contract running down, and United not keen on extending his services, Monaco look to be in pole position to bring him back to Stade Louis II according to Jack de Menezes of the Independent.
Despite Galatasaray’s desire to commit Didier Drogba to an extended stay in Istanbul, Turkish site Sabah have indicated that the Ivorian has no intention of prolonging his stay at the club.
He too is out of contract in the summer and New York Red Bulls look to be leading the chasing pack for his signature.
He may be 35, but Drogba remains a fine forward. His physique has not been too affected by the passing of the years and he could certainly influence proceedings in a major European league should the offer from the MLS fall through.
Fernando is another example of Porto’s excellent South American recruitment system. The defensive midfielder was acquired from Vila Nova in 2007 and has grown to become a valuable part of the first team.
He has amassed four Portuguese titles, one Europa League trophy and numerous other domestic honours over the last six years.
But now, the time might be right to seek pastures new.
Milan, Liverpool and Napoli have been linked with "The Octopus" according to Goal.com's Nicholas McGee.
Igor Akinfeev has long been considered as a goalkeeper who belongs at the very top of the tree, at football’s elite level. He has been linked to Chelsea in the past and was also identified as a potential replacement for Edwin van der Sar at Manchester United—both rumours testament to his qualities.
Despite being at CSKA Moscow for a decade, Akinfeev is only 27. He has years of experience behind him but also has his best years ahead of him. He has also demonstrated fine leadership skills as club captain.
At the time of writing, the exact nature of the situation between Manchester United and Nemanja Vidic is unclear.
The club is reportedly not interested in renewing the veteran stopper’s contract, with the player’s own agent telling Radio Crc in Napoli (h/t to the Daily Mail), that the defender would not be extending his stay at Old Trafford.
The Daily Mirror's David Anderson, however, reported on Tuesday that United were considering offering a 12-month deal to their captain.
If Vidic doesn’t stick around then the likes of Monaco and Galatasaray would surely be tempted, per the Independent.
At the end of 2013, the thought was that Ashley Cole would receive a new deal at Chelsea. Now, in the cold, harsh light of 2014, things don’t look so certain.
It has been an ignominious few months for the venerable England international. The left-back has been usurped by Cesar Azpilicueta, himself a right-back by trade, presumably as Mourinho views the Spaniard as a better fit in his current 4-2-3-1 formation.
Cole is by no means finished, although it remains to be seen whether he will stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the summer. Greg Stobart of Goal.com, reported that contract talks are stalling as the defender is refusing to accept a reduction on his salary of £150,000-per-week.
Since serving his apprenticeship at Troyes and establishing himself at Saint-Etienne, Blaise Matuidi has proven to be a world-class defensive midfielder at Paris Saint-Germain. He is also firmly established within France’s first team and will be looking forward to a starring role at the World Cup this summer.
It seems, however, that Matuidi may not end the tournament as a Paris player. While PSG’s coach, Laurent Blanc is hopeful that the Toulouse-born midfielder will sign on for a sustained stay in the capital, however, as of yet, pen and paper have not met.
The likes of Barcelona and Chelsea are hovering, while it has previously been reported by Ben Burrows of the Mirror that Manchester City are looking to bring Matuidi to the Premier League. Blanc may have his work cut out to convince the defensive midfielder that Ligue 1 is the best environment for his talents.
Victor Valdes did what few could have in announcing that he was unwilling to prolong his stay at the Camp Nou beyond the summer.
The goalkeeper is in the prime of his career and has been ever-present during Barcelona’s glorious recent era.
Nonetheless, he has decided he wishes to seek his fortunes elsewhere and escape the bubble and pressures of Catalonia.
Manchester City have been linked with the stopper, but former team-mate Eric Abidal told radio station Cadena SER how keen he is for Valdes to join him at Monaco (via Yahoo!). The Ligue 1 side would be an inviting option for the Spanish international and he would doubtless be handsomely rewarded for his decision.
Earlier this month, Tuttosport.com (h/t to the Irish Mirror) reported that Andrea Pirlo is set to sign a new deal at Juventus at the end of January. This would take him out of the clutches of a whole host of sides who would love to bring the legendary Italian midfielder to their club.
Pirlo may be 34, but his effortless class and ability to dictate the tempo of a contest have appealed to certain London clubs, as reported by the Express' James Dickenson.
While it remains to be seen whether Pirlo could cope in Tim Sherwood’s new-look 4-4-2 formation, Arsenal and Chelsea would surely jump at the chance to bring the grandmaster to the capital—particularly if he could be acquired for no initial fee.