B/R Transfer Window Awards: Best & Worst Moves, Value, Ridiculous Rumours
The January transfer window is history. If you're not happy with what you've got, tough!
After the excitement, glitz and glamour of deadline day and a number of high-profile deals, we've set about awarding teams their respective dues—seeking out great business and punishing those who jumped the gun.
Who got the best value, who was most ambitious on deadline day and who secured the best loan? All this, and more, can be found in the pages ahead. Enjoy!
Best Value Move
Sidney Sam, Bayer Leverkusen to Schalke, €2.5 million
The move won't be completed until the summer, but Schalke general manager Horst Heldt has struck an incredible deal in Sidney Sam for a meagre €2.5 million.
The German right-winger has been on fire this season in the Bundesliga and offers remarkable pace and pitch-stretching ability.
If he could work on his composure, he'd be the complete, unstoppable package.
The Royal Blue had no hesitation in pulling the trigger in advance.
His injury-ridden past was a major factor in the low release clause, but it's a gamble well worth taking.
Runner-up: Ola Toivonen, PSV to Stade Rennais, £2 million
Worst Value Move(s)
West Ham United
Sam Allardyce was in need of a real pick-me-up signing this winter, but all he managed to land were a series of discarded Serie A fallen stars.
Pablo Armero has plenty of pace and a great engine...but not a lot else. Marco Borriello has been at 10 different clubs for a reason. Antonio Nocerino, whose contract has been assumed by the Hammers, has been woeful since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Milan.
We wish them and Big Sam the best, but on paper the club haven't strengthened.
Runner-up: Toronto FC (31-year-old Jermain Defoe for $10 million)
Best Player Outright Signed
Juan Mata, Chelsea to Manchester United
The best overall player to move during the January transfer window was Juan Mata, who swapped London for Manchester in a big-money deal.
The Spaniard finished as our top Premier League player across the 2012-13 season and really flourished under Rafa Benitez, but stalled under Jose Mourinho as a clash of styles occurred.
David Moyes was only too happy to swoop and pick up a world-class creative outlet in a month they're generally unavailable. We can see why.
Runner-up: Nemanja Matic to Chelsea
Best Loan Deal
Lewis Holtby, Tottenham Hotspur to Fulham
With apologies to Radja Nainggolan, Lewis Holtby to Fulham is our top loan deal of the window.
Rene Meulensteen pulled off this masterstroke on the final day of the window, and had it wrapped up so quickly the German was in training and available on Friday afternoon.
He adds some much-needed quality, creativity and work-rate to the front three or four and gives the manager flexibility in the formation.
Runner-up: Leo Baptistao to Real Betis
Most Ambitious Award
Make no mistake about it: Fulham are extremely aware that they are in a relegation battle and have done everything possible to ensure they've maximised their chances of escaping it.
Some would call it panic-buying, but we admire the Cottagers' willingness to identify their targets and bring them home—regardless of the fight they face over the next four months.
Lewis Holtby (loan) and Kostas Mitroglou (£13.3 million) are serious coups.
Runner-up: Stade Rennais
Xavi to Major League Soccer
MLSSoccer.com spent a good portion of January linking Barcelona playmaker Xavi to a move to U.S. football.
Despite the fact that the Spaniard is a little over-the-hill and wearing out as the months drag by, he still stands a player most top European sides would welcome with open arms.
For him to move to MLS would be an incredible coup by the league, and the rumour was soon quashed as it became clear the Catalan stalwart was not leaving the Blaugrana.
Runner-up: Ravel Morrison to Fulham
The Penny Saver Award
Les Verts did some deadline day business that all of Europe should admire.
The left-back spot in their team became a temporary revolving door as Faouzi Ghoulam departed for Napoli to help Rafa Benitez upgrade his back four. Hours later, Benoit Tremoulinas made his Ligue 1 return on loan from Dynamo Kiev.
Ghoulam was sold for £4.4 million, while St-Etienne hold a right to purchase option on Tremoulinas of £3.5 million. Nice work.
Runner-up: FC Copenhagen
Most Active League
For many leagues, and in particular La Liga and the Bundesliga, January was an extremely quiet proposition in which very few players moved.
Loans dominated most windows as clubs refused to pay over the odds or stretch their budgets, but Serie A gave us a flurry of excitement each day as teams shuffled their packs.
Internazionale and Milan, both in disarray, made several moves to right their respective ships; Napoli fixed their defence (or tried to); Verona, Catania and Sassuolo all added quality, but lost some assets too. Meanwhile, Juventus added striker depth in the form of Dani Osvaldo.
With all the co-ownership and multi-player deals being brokered, it was truly tough to keep up at times.
Runner-up: Premier League
A special mention is reserved for Stade Rennais, who not only did some excellent business in terms of quality and value on the market, but also kept a precious national gem in France for the time being.
The Daily Mail reported in mid-January that French starlet Paul-Georges Ntep was to hold talks with Queens Park Rangers, but SRFC stepped in and took him to the Route de Lorient for £5 million.
The former Auxerre winger is naturally talented but very raw, and to stay in Ligue 1/2 was paramount to his development. Not only have les Rouges et Noirs picked up a prodigal talent, but they've also helped keep quality in their own domestic league.