January Transfer Window: 20 Biggest Storylines so Far

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJanuary 30, 2014

January Transfer Window: 20 Biggest Storylines so Far

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    The January transfer window is heading into its final throes; while there has not been a huge amount of transfer activity, there have been plenty of interesting storylines that continue to this day.

    Time is running out to do business this season and that, in itself, means that anxiety will be building in the boardrooms of clubs around Europe.

    What, then, have been the biggest stories of the month thus far? Bleacher Report takes a look at 20 of the biggest from around the world.

20. Keisuke Honda in at Evolving AC Milan

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    Lying in the bottom half of Italy's Serie A, it is quite clear that change was needed at AC Milan. The Italians have not held back, though, sacking manager Max Allegri and replacing him with former stalwart Clarence Seedorf.

    While he beat Seedorf in through the door, Japanese star Keisuke Honda will be the Dutchman's latest tool to work with, already linking well with a rejuvenated Kaka in the Rossoneri forward line.

    Milan have better players than their current league position shows, even if they are not up to the levels of previous years. The task for Seedorf and, indeed, Honda is to link together the individual pieces in the best way possible.

19. Cardiff Look to Norway for Inspiration

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    Cardiff currently lie bottom of the Premier League, but continue to show signs that their position is perhaps not an accurate reflection of their ability.

    New manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man charged with turning things around, but is yet to taste victory in the Premier League after a run of difficult fixtures.

    However, with the Bluebirds just nine points off 10th place, Solskjaer will be aware that time is on his side and has looked to quickly bring in reinforcements to help his side for the remainder of the campaign.

    As reported by ESPN FC, the former Manchester United icon has turned to familiar faces in Norwegian midfielders Magnus Eikrem and Mats Daehli as he looks to strengthen his squad, with both players having played under him at Molde. Per BBC Sport, Jo Inge Berget has since followed.

    Add in Kenwyne Jones, who arrived as part of a swap deal for Nigerian Peter Odemwingie, and Solskjaer will doubtless be pleased with his business thus far.

18. Chelsea Return to a Familiar Face for Midfield Reinforcement

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    It is a move that has provoked much teasing from rival fans, but those who have watched Benfica closely over the past couple of seasons will have been unsurprised to see Chelsea return for Nemanja Matic this January.

    Matic, who left Stamford Bridge three years ago as part of the move that brought David Luiz to West London, has shone in Lisbon and, as a result, returns to his former home for a price of £21 million, per BBC Sport.

    Chelsea will worry little about the cost if the signing helps them take a step towards major titles, with John Obi Mikel and Luiz both failing to convince as the deepest of the Blues' midfielders.

    The Serbian has amassed a sizeable reputation in Portugal but, until he shows his talents in the Premier League, there will continue to be many doubters among English fans.

17. Hull Beef Up Striking Options

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    Hull City have exceeded most expectations thus far in the current Premier League season. However, scoring at just a goal per game, extra cutting edge was a major requirement if they were to ensure survival.

    Steve Bruce was not prepared to hang around and has moved quickly to secure two striking options, spending over £14 million on Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, per Transfermarkt.

    The duo are experienced operators at Premier League level and are well regarded for their work ethic, which should come in useful as Hull continue their fight against relegation this season.

16. Brazilian Football Benefitting from Rule Change

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    All may not be perfect in Brazilian football, but the decision to allow more foreign players in each matchday squad has seen the country's best sides delve into cheaper South American markets for signings.

    Flamengo, for instance, would appear to have been the biggest winners thus far, securing the capture of Ecuador central defensive giant Frickson Erazo and skilful Argentine Lucas Mugni, per Brazil's Lancenet.

    Botafogo have also done well to claim the signing of Paraguayan international striker Pablo Zeballos, while Argentine Juan Carlos Ferreyra also joins from Olimpia (PAR). Libertad left-back Miguel Samudio is also heading to Brazil with champions Cruzeiro.

    It is the recruits from outside South America which carry the biggest weight, though, with Dario Conca returning to Fluminense from Guangzhou Evergrande, while Alvaro Pereira and Dorlan Pabon both strengthen Sao Paulo.

15. Rennes Bolster Ranks as Ligue 1's Big Movers

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    With PSG and Monaco spending money for fun, the odds were always stacked in favour of either of the high-flying duo emerging with the biggest progress from the current window. While they have both been active, however, it is hard to argue against Rennes having had the best January of any Ligue 1 side.

    Lying firmly in the bottom half of the French top flight, the club needed to act firmly and have done so in fine style with the captures of forwards Ola Toivonen and Kamil Grosicki already this month.

    However, it got even better for the Breton side with the news that France Under-21 striker Paul-Georges Ntep had turned his back on moves to England to sign for the club, per Sky Sports.

    With their firepower bolstered, Rennes will be hopeful of moving up the league over the remainder of the season and can look forward to an eventual healthy profit if Ntep continues his steady progress of recent times.

14. Asia Ups the Transfer Ante

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    Guangzhou Evergrande's success in the 2013 AFC Champions League was a major event for Chinese football, not just for the win itself but for the effect it has had on Evergrande's rivals.

    The country and, as a result, the league has become steadily more wealthy in recent years. However, Evergrande's success would appear to have made other clubs in China believe that they too can replicate the success, as well as making China a more attractive destination to foreign players.

    Shandong Luneng's work in the transfer market has been most eye-catching, with Sao Paulo forward Aloisio and Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo having arrived at the club this month.

    Japan's Cerezo Osaka, too, made waves with their capture of Diego Forlan, while Yakubu and Lucho Gonzalez have both headed to Qatari side Al-Rayyan.

    With Evergrande in pursuit of Alessandro Diamanti, as covered by Forza Italian Football, will it be they who steal the headlines once more?

13. Inter Mess as Pressure Mounts on Thohir

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    The deal that never was. Inter Milan and Juventus had been all set for a swap of assets, with Fredy Guarin swapping the San Siro for Turin in exchange for Mirko Vucinic only for fan pressure to see the move collapse.

    Juventus were not impressed and, per the Guardian, general manager Giuseppe Marotta told a press conference:

    The main reason we called this press conference was the lack of respect shown towards two serious, professional footballers. My being here is a necessary act to protect Juventus and the professionals who have been treated unfairly.

    Erick Thohir bought Inter last year and boasted earlier this month that the club could attract players like Argentine Lionel Messi, per Goal.com's Miles Chambers.

    Thus far, though, the only transfer activity at the club this January has been the failed player swap and the possible outgoings of Ishak Belfodil and Mauro Icardi. Thohir's words are ringing hollow for the time being.

12. Everton Bring in Attacking Reinforcements

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    Everton have been performing remarkably well under manager Roberto Martinez this season, despite possessing one of the smaller squads in the top half of the Premier League.

    With injuries having struck with increasing regularity in recent weeks, though, the Spaniard has sought to add depth to his side through the signings of Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore, the latter on loan.

    McGeady, 27, arrives in English football for the first time, having spent his career to date with SPL giants Celtic and Russian side Spartak Moscow.

    Traore also arrives from Russian football, albeit via a brief stop with new owners Monaco who purchased the player from Anzhi Makhachkala. He will now see out the campaign on-loan at Goodison Park as support for Belgian Romelu Lukaku.

11. Sunderland Add a South American Feel

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    Despite his side's improved results since coming in to replace Paolo di Canio, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet simply had to delve into the market this window and he has not disappointed.

    Fiorentina left-back Marcos Alonso arrived on loan as the Premier League's first January move and has impressed thus far, while Argentines Santiago Vergini and Oscar Ustari followed a week or two later to add depth in the centre-back and goalkeeper positions respectively.

    Poyet has, though, left it late to make his big splash in the window with the imminent signing of another Argentine, forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco. Having flown in to the North-East, an announcement should be forthcoming later on Thursday, per the Daily Mail's Colin Young.

    There is still time for another possible addition, with Brighton's Liam Bridcutt cited by the Chronicle's James Hunter as a possible option in midfield.

10. Moyes Not Content as Scouting Tour of Europe Makes Headlines

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    He may have secured the signing of Juan Mata, but Manchester United boss David Moyes would appear not to be content with just one new player if his scouting trips are anything to go by.

    In the middle of the month, Moyes and coach Phil Neville were spotted at grounds far and wide in Europe, with the list of mooted targets enough to fill several Premier League squads.

    Indeed, per the Daily Mail's John Edwards, Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos was the latest player watched by Moyes this past week as the Red Devils seek to rectify their season.

    Whether or not the club do any last-minute transfer business remains to be seen. Moyes, though, will be keen to get one or two deals across the line in time for the rest of the campaign.

9. Fulham Plot Greek Coup in Bid for Survival

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    In terms of shock moves late in the window, Fulham could be set to make the biggest of the lot as Sky Sports report that they have had a bid accepted for highly rated Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou.

    Fulham have lacked fire-power this season, with Dimitar Berbatov's performances not hitting the highs of past campaigns and Darren Bent having failed to live up to his goalscoring reputation.

    Mitroglou's reputation has grown substantially over the past couple of seasons, with the 25-year-old having scored seven goals in the Champions League in that time, plus 14 in 12 Greek Super League games this season.

    If Fulham want regular goals then Mitroglou would seem a decent bet and it would be little surprise to see Rene Meulensteen attempt to bolster his struggling side with more than one player in the coming days.

8. Dani Osvaldo Adds Late Drama to the Window

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    Everything was just going a bit too well for Southampton this season, so it would appear that forward Dani Osvaldo has personally taken it upon himself to shake things up a bit.

    As reported by Sky Sports, Osvaldo is now attracting the interest of Italian giants Juventus, having been suspended by the South Coast side for a training-ground incident involving Jose Fonte.

    The Italy international had not been having the best time of things since his arrival in England, scoring just three times in 13 appearances.

    Following his recent misdemeanour, Saints' attitude towards a January sale has changed and it would appear he could be gone by the end of the week if a good offer arrives.

7. Cardiff Set for Busy Deadline Day?

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    It's not often Cardiff feature twice in a round-up of the biggest transfer window stories, but the club look set to make a significant late splash on deadline day.

    While Manchester United have confirmed that full-back Fabio and winger Wilfried Zaha should be bound for South Wales, the club are also thought to be close to securing Venezuelan defensive midfielder Tomas Rincon.

    Per Sky Sports, Rincon is out of contract in the summer and Hamburg are willing to consider any offer for the player, with Cardiff having made an approach.

    Following the triple Norwegian signing mentioned earlier, as well as that of striker Kenwyne Jones, Solskjaer is wasting no time in forming his own side in the Welsh capital.

6. Toronto Create MLS Shockwaves with Defoe and Bradley Swoops

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    As reported by MLSSoccer.com, Toronto have been the big spenders in the MLS over the winter, capturing national team player Michael Bradley and England's Jermain Defoe from major European sides.

    Per Transfermarkt, the duo cost the ambitious Canadian franchise around €15 million to recruit, taking up two designated player spaces for the coming season.

    Bradley follows fellow USMNT player Clint Dempsey (currently on loan at Fulham) in returning to North America to ply his trade ahead of the World Cup, while Defoe could still make the England squad in spite of his move.

    Toronto, despite their ambition, have underperformed over the past couple of seasons but will hope that their major inroads into the transfer market will see Ryan Nelsen's side challenge for honours in 2014.

5. Taarabt Heading to Italy

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    Adel Taarabt is a player who excites and frustrates in equal measure.

    Having failed to keep QPR up last term, he joined Fulham on loan.

    Things have not gone as planned at Craven Cottage and he seems to be on the move once again.

    He's not returning to Loftus Road, rather he is heading to Serie A to join AC Milan on a season-long loan—per a report in Metro.

    Taarabt and Mario Balotelli in the same team? The rest of the Rossoneri may not see much of the ball for the remainder of the season.

4. Cabaye Leaves Newcastle for France

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    It could easily have happened last summer. However, Newcastle were able to cling onto their French midfielder at that stage for a further six months.

    On Wednesday, though, the inevitable eventually occurred as Yohan Cabaye departed St James' Park for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal worth £19 million, per BBC Sport.

    Newcastle have two days then to replace the man who has been key to their strong showings over the past two-and-a-half seasons, with Lyon's Clement Grenier the intended target per the Daily Mail's Colin Young and Nik Simon. Montpellier's Remy Cabella, mentioned in the article, is another player linked.

    There was some success for the Toon in the market, though, with long-term target Luuk de Jong joining on loan with an option to buy in the summer.

3. Arsenal Pursue Germany Starlet Draxler

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    Schalke forward Julian Draxler has been linked with Arsenal for some time now, but the speculation has reached new heights this January window.

    Per the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel, the Gunners have flown a delegation to Germany in these final days of the window in the hope of completing a deal ahead of Friday's deadline.

    Draxler, 20, is an excellent prospect and with Arsenal within touching distance of the Premier League's summit, now is the time for the club to gamble in the pursuit of silverware.

    With Mesut Ozil's performances having dropped off of late and Aaron Ramsey now sidelined with injury, Draxler may just be the added impetus needed.

2. Spurs and Liverpool Set for Konoplyanka Chase

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    It wouldn't be a transfer window without a Liverpool saga of some kind and this time around is no different.

    There is likely to be more to play out, with the Reds facing a fight to land Yevhen Konoplyanka—per a report from the Telegraph's Chris Bascombe.

    This could be a hammer blow to the Reds, who saw Chelsea beat them to the signature of Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah.

    Salah is regarded as one of the best prospects in African football at present and a potential global star of the future, with his technique and willingness to take on opponents appealing qualities.

    Liverpool's hopes were dashed, will the same play out with Konoplyanka?

    The Ukrainian winger has been linked with moves to England before, but Bascombe reports that Reds' chief Ian Ayre is now in Kiev attempting to sew up a deal.

    Having been beaten to Salah at the last moment, Liverpool will be keen to tie up the deal with as few complications as possible. News of Tottenham's involvement in the transfer, then, will not be welcomed.

    Deadline day looks set to be busy across the Premier League, but the two-way battle for Konoplyanka may well be the story of the day.

1. Chelsea Sell Mata to Manchester United

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    Jose Mourinho has always had a reputation for making often controversial decisions, but to sell his club's twice Player of the Year to a direct rival is surely the boldest yet.

    Juan Mata is gone, as reported by BBC Sport, and has already made his debut appearance in the red of Manchester United. He may not be entirely match fit, but there were early signs that he will enjoy life at Old Trafford.

    Mourinho may have moved quickly to hijack Liverpool's advances for Egyptian Mohammed Salah, but the talented Basel winger is not yet anywhere near the level of Mata.

    If all turns out well for Chelsea, the Portuguese boss will be rightly heralded for sticking to his guns. He has, though, taken a considerable risk in selling the £37 million attacking midfielder midway through the season.