10 Big Storylines to Watch in the January Transfer Window

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJanuary 1, 2019

10 Big Storylines to Watch in the January Transfer Window

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    The most exciting part of any new year is the January transfer window—a time when fans are given fresh hope that their side sign a quality player to turn around their campaign or push them closer to glory.

    Because of its timing, midway through the major European season, many elite sides shy away from doing big business. Panic buys are rarely a good idea and even spending cash on a proven star can prove tricky if they do not bed in quickly.

    Loan deals will be most commonplace, but some big names will be involved in deals—and that's what keeps us on the edge of our seats, TV remote in hand and finger on the laptop's refresh button.

    Here's an early look at some of the business going on behind the scenes...

Pulisic's English Dream to Come True

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    One of the biggest names to agree a transfer in January will be Christian Pulisic. Chelsea are so far the only club willing to meet Borussia Dortmund's £45 million valuation for the USMNT star, and German publication Bild reported that he will be allowed to make the move despite a contract until 2020.

    His dream of playing Premier League football looks likely to come true, but any agreement will not see an immediate transfer, as Dortmund are adamant he sees out this season and then moves on in the summer.

    Sources at Chelsea say there is confidence a deal can be completed, even though other clubs can still come forward and match their offer at this stage. Liverpool seem to have dropped their interest, as Jurgen Klopp feels his side have moved on to a point where it would be difficult to for the winger to get into the setup. Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United have all had an eye on the situation but have not made their intent known.

    Dortmund want to find a Pulisic replacement straight away—and are likely to recruit from a fellow Bundesliga outfit.

Hazard on the Move

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    Eden Hazard continues to be linked with one of the biggest transfers in football, but it's his brother who is set to agree a high-profile move first.

    Dortmund have been preparing for Pulisic's departure, and the No. 1 target to fill his role is 25-year-old Thorgan Hazard.

    He has been in sensational form for Borussia Monchengladbach this season, scoring nine times, and recruitment staff from BVB have seen enough to convince them he fits in with the philosophy of head coach Lucien Favre, who is also a big admirer.

    There is still progress to be made in terms of agreeing a fee, and Gladbach will insist the player cannot make a move until the summer. But that would tie in perfectly with Pulisic's exit.

    Chelsea (his former club) and Tottenham have also shown interest, but Dortmund are leading the chase right now.

    As for Eden Hazard—linked with Real Madrid—Chelsea are unconvinced he wants to stay with them but do not expect any announcement from him soon. They know there's a high chance he will also move on next summer.

Hudson-Odoi Fancies German Getaway

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    One of the most exciting talents to emerge from Chelsea's academy this century, Callum Hudson-Odoi can barely get a game. 

    Considered too good to be progressing with players of his own age group, yet not trusted enough to play for the first team. It's a frustrating time for 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi, and sources close to the player admit he is genuinely tempted to leave.

    He has been tracked by three Bundesliga clubs—Bayern Munich, Dortmund and RB Leipzig—and after seeing the way Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson have settled on German soil, he's tempted to go abroad to make his name in the pro game.

    It's Bayern who lead the way, with Sky Sports News reporting that an offer in excess of £20 million has already been knocked back. Sources have indicated to B/R that Bayern officials have already spoken to the player's family with promises about how he would be integrated quickly into the first-team lineup.

Chelsea Eye Arnautovic as Higuain Back-Up Plan

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    Chelsea's front line needs a boost as there is a loss of faith in Alvaro Morata from manager Maurizio Sarri. 

    Gonzalo Higuain has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, and there is a chance he moves from AC Milan, where things have not been going well.

    But Chelsea also have interest in West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic.

    He has been impressive in a central role this season, scoring five times before suffering a hamstring injury at the start of December, and it is felt his link-up play would work well in the team's style of football.

    He is now returning to fitness, and Chelsea plan to test West Ham's ability to hang on to him by lodging their interest. There is hope the player would have his head turned by such a move, yet there is also an expectation that the Hammers will do everything they can to stop him from leaving.

    He's important to Manuel Pellegrini's team design, and of all the front men the one they really want to keep hold of. Javier Hernandez is wanted by Valencia, but the striker the club would be most open to selling is Andy Carroll.

Decision Time for De Jong and De Ligt at Ajax

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    While Eredivisie is on winter break, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt are pouring over offers from the continent's biggest clubs.

    De Jong has been scouted by Manchester City, PSG and Barcelona regularly over the past year, but the English club are no longer in the frame, with insiders citing his £65 million valuation as one of the main issues. Barca and PSG are not deterred by the price tag, but it is the Spanish club that are in pole position.

    They believe they have convinced De Jong to join by using two main selling points: One is the chance to play alongside Lionel Messi while the superstar is still in his prime; the other to become part of a unique connection between the two clubs—as legendary figures Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff made similar moves from Amsterdam to Barcelona. 

    City had been interesting to him because of Pep Guardiola's style of football, though there was also a question of whether the club will maintain that DNA after he leaves.

    De Jong will see through this season with Ajax but is going to agree a move this month, most likely to Barcelona as the club's style and philosophy suits him best.

    Defender De Ligt is also in demand—but his next destination is less clear. He too has had contact from Barcelona, but there is interest from Manchester United, which is suddenly more intriguing than it was at the beginning of December. Juventus are also in the picture.

Any Arsenal Escape Routes for Ozil?

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    He is Arsenal's highest earner, yet boss Unai Emery does not trust Mesut Ozil for the biggest games. At this stage, the club would let him leave—but that's easier said than done.

    His wages of £300,000 a week mean he is difficult to move on. So far there has been some interest shown from clubs in Italy, China and Turkey, but they are not elite clubs and none of the interest has had much substance.

    Turkey could emerge as the most genuine landing spot on a loan deal. 

    Basaksehir are interested, and Ozil has close ties with people at the club, but at this stage they have not put together a clear plan for actually signing him. Fenerbahce and Besiktas would love to have him but cannot cover his wages.

    Representatives of Ozil believe it is unlikely he will leave Arsenal unless a clear strategy emerges soon. The player is happy in London and will not be rushed into a decision at the end of the window.

    Meanwhile, keep an eye on Aaron Ramsey's decision towards the end of the month. He's going to become a free agent in the summer so is in discussions with a host of top teams—and is leaning towards Juventus as his top pick.

Arsenal Still Tempted to Sign Cahill

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    His days at Chelsea are numbered, but his time playing Premier League football in London may not be over yet.

    Gary Cahill will be allowed to leave this month, and it is looking like he will play at Arsenal or Fulham for the rest of the campaign.

    Some sources at Arsenal have been distancing themselves from a move for the defender, but Bleacher Report has learned that he could still emerge as an option to help save their fragile back line.

    Unai Emery knows he has a long-term project on his hands, but Cahill is viewed as a potential stopgap that can help make a smoother transition into next season.

    The club's recruitment staff are still pondering whether to make a formal offer, but the buzz around Chelsea's Cobham training ground on New Year's Eve was that the prospect of him joining Arsenal is a possibility.

    Cahill is keen to show he is still able to play at the highest level, and if Arsenal do not make a move soon it might be too late because Fulham are already declaring their interest.

    Manager Claudio Ranieri aims to recruit three players in this window, and he is convinced Cahill would be a great addition to his struggling side.

Manchester United Look Towards Alderweireld Again

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    It was a failure to land Toby Alderweireld before the end of the summer transfer window that wound up Jose Mourinho ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. Imagine his reaction if they now sign him in January!

    Go back to that last window and you will recall how United instead had focused on trying to sign Harry Maguire but did not get a deal completed, and Mourinho then began the campaign with a defence he felt was not up to scratch.

    He's not at the club now, but figures behind the scenes are working hard on a number of targets—with the aim of deciding which is most attainable.

    Alderweireld remains on the list, according to Old Trafford sources, but Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and De Ligt from Ajax are also on the radar. 

    Temporary boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be less concerned about United's defensive strength than Mourinho was, largley due to the fact he prefers to play on the front foot and has Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic protecting his central defenders.

    United are exploring their options, though, and there is an acceptance that a new face would prove worthwhile in the long term. Who emerges as the main man? We wait to see.

Brahim Diaz Prepares for Madrid Move

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    Manchester City have been in constant contact with 19-year-old Brahim Diaz over his future. They wanted him to sign a new contract, remain patient, and wait for his chance to shine—just as Phil Foden is currently doing.

    However, the player has become restless, and the three Carabao Cup appearances have not been nearly enough to convince him he is close to making a breakthrough at the Etihad Stadium.

    Real Madrid have been monitoring his situation for the past 18 months and in more recent times began pushing through messages of what he could expect with a move to the Bernabeu.

    There will be an opportunity to spark a new generation of glory alongside other players establishing themselves such as Marco Asensio and Vinicius Jr.

    Diaz had his head turned by the interest from Spain to the extent that Madrid now believe they are on the verge of a deal. Sources in Spain told Bleacher Report a six-year contract has been discussed.  

Cairney Needs to Know His Role

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    Fulham no longer play the possession football they became known for under Slavisa Jokanovic, and since Claudio Ranieri took over Tom Cairney has struggled to fit into the side.

    A report from Dave Kidd in The Sun suggested Ranieri wants to swap him for Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey, and sources have confirmed to B/R there is truth to the story.

    The problem for Ranieri is that Newcastle are not willing to lose Shelvey at a time when there is already so much uncertainty around the club and manager Rafa Benitez fears a relegation scrap. The possibility of Cairney looking for a move remains possible, though.

    Earlier in the year he was heavily linked with West Ham as his representatives looked to ensure he makes the most of a key time in his career, and now that he is fighting for game time at Fulham there is the chance of him getting itchy feet again.