There are many angles and aspects of how to judge the English Premire League's January transfer.
One thing is abundantly clear, though.
Liverpool emerged as the big winner.
If you had told me a month ago that Liverpool would lose Fernando Torres to Chelsea, I'd have called Liverpool many things. I can assure you, 'winner' wouldn't be one of them.
My, how a month can change things.
There's the matter of Fernando "El Nino" Torres. One of my favorite players at Liverpool over the past three years. How many memories does Liverpool fans have of Torres hitting impossible shots from even more improbable angles? How many times did he simply outwork the defense to score goals? He possesses uncanny timing and pace.
Simply put, he is a wonder of a player.
However, that was the Torres of two years ago. Now, it seems he has been replaced with is a 26 year old, injury-prone, whiner who sulked his way through the month of January. A player who seemed more likely to alienate his teammates while only playing for himself.
In the end, this may have been the best decision for all parties involved.
Liverpool had already signed Luis Suarez for 22.5 million pounds. Suarez, the leading goal scorer and Captain of Ajax, did extremely well in the World Cup. He's a fantastic goal scorer who has netted 81 goals in only 110 appearances for Ajax. A deft ball-handler with deadly accuracy and pace, he could be seen as a player with similar talents as Torres.
Suarez's best attribute may be his age. He is only twenty two years old, yet plays like a seasoned veteran.
With a sizable kitty, Liverpool immediately went out and looked for the best possible striker available - preferably someone with a game that would compliment Suarez.
Enter Andy Carroll.
Carroll has been billed as the next coming of Alan Shearer, or the second coming of Nick Bendtner.
He's a 6' 3'' striker who is masterful in the air but still possesses a deft touch and remarkable skill and pace for a big man.
In spite of nursing an injury and missing five games, he still has 11 goals for Newcastle this year. He's only 21 years old with miles of promise in front of him.
Did Liverpool overpay for Carroll? No doubt about it. But, it was monopoly money given to them from the likes of Roman Abramovich (thanks Roman). In essence, by paying such a ridiculous sum for Torres, he funded the transfer of Carroll to Liverpool.
Put in another way, Liverpool managed to sign Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez for 7.5 million pounds.
The risk here is Carroll's off-field antics. He needs to stay consistent, humble, and give one hundred percent at every match to win over the Liverpool faithful. Time will only tell if he's the real McCoy or the latest British bad-boy and a potential early flame-out (see Best, George).
Put another way, they get two potentially lethal strikers and they get a lot younger.
If Liverpool had not signed Carroll and waited for the summer transfer window, as cooler heads suggested they do, they not only miss out on making a very big statement to their legions of supporters, they actually risk relegation. Suarez, for all his upside, would have been a very lonely man up top in his first season in the Premiership. I don't know how he would have shouldered that load and no doubt about it, the Liverpool management didn't want to find out.
Newcastle United, in spite of getting a tidy windfall of 35 million pounds, are now without their best striker and in serious danger of relegation. They've further admonished a loyal fan base and now just look like they're "all about the money".
Chelsea? Great! Torres is Roman's latest boy toy (and an expensive one at that). Torres better show the form he exhibited two years ago or he could go down as just another expensive Chelsea mistake (see Shevchenko, Andriy). It also furthers cements Chelsea as a "plastic" club alongside Manchester City: Clubs that are little more than playthings for their billionaire owners and lacking in tradition and any kind of self restraint.
It's been a tough year at Anfield, but things are starting to look up.