A First Look at the January Transfer Window's Major Storylines
The January transfer window is always a tempting time to strike a deal. It is a period when unhappy players plot desperate escape routes and clubs weigh up whether a new signing is likely to transform their season or prove nothing more than a panic buy.
There were some significant transfers agreed across Europe during the last winter window, as Virgil van Dijk, Philippe Coutinho, Aymeric Laporte, Alexis Sanchez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all made big moves.
So, what should we expect from transactions being lined up for the beginning of 2019?
There are some big changes beginning to open up, with Sanchez, Jerome Boateng, Cengiz Under and Aaron Ramsey among the storylines.
Here, we take an early look at the business that will be making headlines.
United Ditch Alexis Sanchez and Finally Sign a Centre-Back?
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has struggled to find a role for Alexis Sanchez, and the player has become nothing more than a squad player. It's not what he had in mind when he made the move from Arsenal.
In January, we marked out how his final days in north London had been lonely—and a year on, he is once again isolated.
Sanchez has not embraced his new life in Manchester away from the pitch, and that's possibly because he has never felt comfortable on the pitch either. Some sources around the city told Bleacher Report there is a feeling that he regrets choosing Old Trafford over the Etihad Stadium.
Sanchez earns up to £500,000 per week at United, but that is not the only reason he chose the Red Devils. Back home in Chile, they are still regarded as the club to play for.
His arrival rocked the boat. The terms of his deal upset players, including David De Gea, who felt they were more deserving of giant contracts.
Now he is open to leaving the club, and he would not be missed.
In the dressing room, sources say he spends much of his time alone, and when travelling to away matches, he is also quiet. It's part of his personality and not something that bothers him personally, but at a time when United are looking for characters and leaders it has not helped.
Paris Saint-Germain are the club that Sanchez's advisors are reaching out to, but they cannot touch him on the current terms he is on at United. For now, he might be stuck, but both player and club will look to find a resolution to their problem.
One issue United will resolve, though, is at centre-back. Mourinho was spotted on a scouting mission at Belgium vs. Iceland on Thursday, and although he left after 65 minutes, it is thought he was watching Toby Alderweireld.
He wanted the Tottenham Hotspur man last summer and wants the board to pursue him more actively ahead of the next transfer window. To make space for him, either Eric Bailly or Marcos Rojo will be offloaded.
Jerome Boateng Looks for a New Challenge
Jerome Boateng was also one of the men on Manchester United's radar last summer and was open to the move. His club, Bayern Munich, made it clear he would not be allowed to leave—but this time, it is thought they may be more open to business.
Sources close to the player told B/R that he is keen to test himself in a new division and had hoped it may be possible to join Real Madrid.
Antonio Conte outlined him to the Madrid board as his priority signing when he looked almost certain to become their new manager. That never materialised, but Boateng is still expected to find a new club in January.
Bayern are recruiting across the board right now, and a centre-half is among the positions they are looking to bolster for the future.
Aaron Ramsey's Big Decision
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has also been highlighted as a man right at the top of Bayern's wanted list.
A report from The Independent's Jack Pitt-Brooke suggested the German club are confident they are about to agree a deal for the player, who will be out of contract at the end of this season.
However, sources close to Ramsey insist that is not the case, and talk of joining Bayern remains premature.
There is interest in him from across Europe, as well as at home in the Premier League, and Ramsey has always intended to keep an open mind until December.
Bayern are one of the clubs he is going to consider joining, but Real Madrid have had him on their radar for the past two years and have remained interested since it was announced he would not be getting a new contract at Arsenal.
Whether he could become a long-term successor to Luka Modric is debatable, but the 27-year-old has the belief he can succeed at a top Champions League club.
However, interest from almost every top side in the Premier League is no surprise given that he qualifies as a homegrown player, and Manchester United and Liverpool are seen as his most likely landing spots if he opts to stay in England.
Can AS Roma Hold on to Cengiz Under?
Cengiz Under is one of Serie A's most exciting talents, but it is only a matter of time before he is whisked away to play in the Premier League.
It is a place the 21-year-old has dreamed of playing since he emerged as one of Turkey's top talents, and sources have indicated that Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham have all had scouts watching him closely this season. City have the best chance at this stage after they almost captured him last summer.
In the new year, all three clubs are expected to make enquiries as there is a belief that AS Roma are always willing to sell at the right price—as seen with Mohamed Salah, Alisson, Radja Nainggolan and Antonio Rudiger in recent times.
Officials at Roma are adamant they will not sell Cengiz in January unless an astronomical offer is made, but they are open to beginning a bidding war for him to leave at the end of the season.
It means clubs will be encouraged to show their interest in the new year, even though they will be told that talks are aimed toward a summer transfer.
Other Deals to Watch
Declan Rice has emerged as one of West Ham United's best players this season, but agreeing new contract terms has taken time, and that has led to interest from elsewhere.
Tottenham have touched base about the prospect of looking into a deal in the new year for the 19-year-old, who has been keen to remain loyal to the Hammers as he dreams of one day becoming club captain.
Spurs also have an eye on Genk's Sander Berge. The 20-year-old Norway international has been catching the eye for his Belgian club, and scouts from north London know they will need to move quickly if they are to sign him. It is expected he would cost around £15 million, and Fulham are one of the other clubs looking at his impressive stats.
Arsenal are looking into the market for future prospects, and scouts have been full of admiration for Bayer Leverkusen starlet Kai Havertz. The 19-year-old is attracting attention from other Bundesliga clubs too, and his stature grew on Thursday when he impressed in a playmaker role for Germany in a 3-0 win over Russia.
RB Leipzig have a good reputation for picking up talents others are not watching closely, and Nick Powell has emerged as one of the men on their scouting list for the new year. The former Manchester United forward is now at Wigan Athletic and could be a great fit for German football. Celtic are also keen on him, though.