B/R Football Ranks: 10 Potential January Transfers That Just Make Sense

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 14, 2019

TURIN, ITALY - MAY 19: Mario Mandzukic of Juventus attends the awards ceremony after winning the Serie A Championship during the Serie A match between Juventus and Atalanta BC on May 19, 2019 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

There's nothing like an international break to give you some fresh perspective.

The pause allows clubs to dial down on their off-field business—particularly transfer shortlisting and planning—working off what they've learned during an illuminative first few months of the campaign.

Some clubs are in impeccable shape and look capable of something special; others are in a dire state and will be ever so thankful the January transfer window is creeping up on the calendar.

Here, B/R Football Ranks 10 potential realistic January transfers that just make sense—that's for the buying club, the selling club and the player. They're ranked on how high-profile a move they would be if they transpired.

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10. Federico Fernandez, 30, Centre-Back

Newcastle United to Monaco

NANJING, CHINA - JULY 17: Federico Fernandez of Newcastle United during the Premier League Asia Trophy 2019 fixture between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre on July 17, 2019 in Nanjing, China. (Photo by Robbie
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Monaco's decline since their thrilling run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2016-17 has been sharp. They avoided relegation last season by just two points and they're back in trouble again this term in 16th place.

Their issues are myriad, but the easiest one to fix is at centre-back. With Kamil Glik in rapid decline and Jemerson playing poorly and out of contract next summer, reinforcements here are clearly needed.

There are players out there who could give Monaco an immediate lift and go on to anchor the defence for several years to come. One of the most attainable and attractive options is Federico Fernandez, who has totalled just 23 Premier League minutes this season with Newcastle United—but that shouldn't be used as a measure of his quality.

The Argentinian, once a World Cup final starter and still featuring for his national side, is a dependable centre-back who just happens to be stuck in the only strong position group the Magpies have.


9. Keita Balde, 24, Forward

Monaco to Sevilla

Monaco's Senegalese forward Keita Balde celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between AS Monaco and Stade Brestois at the
VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

Usually when clubs are struggling with relegation it's because they lack firepower, but you can't accuse Monaco of that. In fact, they're completely overbooked when it comes to strikers and could even afford to lose one.

Look at the list: Islam Slimani, Wissam Ben Yedder, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Henry Onyekuru, Stevan Jovetic, Keita Balde and Pietro Pellegri. Even for a team playing two up front it's a bit much.

The odd one out here may prove to be Keita Balde, who, at 24, has talent and re-sale value. With the Slimani-Ben Yedder partnership clicking, there's not much of a route to minutes for him. He has just one Ligue 1 start to his name this season.

If he's considering his options, Sevilla should be in the hat for potential destinations—be it permanently or on loan. The Andalusian club's only real issue is scoring goals, with summer signing Luuk de Jong looking wildly off the pace already, and Balde could alleviate that.


8. Sander Berge, 21, Genk

Genk to Tottenham Hotspur

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Sander Berge of KRC Genk looks on during the UEFA Champions League group E match between RB Salzburg and KRC Genk at Red Bull Arena on September 17, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

It's always worth looking to Genk when searching for young talent. Any side that has seen Kevin De Bruyne, Kalidou Koulibaly, Thibaut Courtois, Divock Origi and Yannick Carrasco (among many others) pass through its ranks is clearly doing something right.

The Belgian club currently boast an incredible nucleus of young talent spearheaded by Sander Berge, a 21-year-old Norwegian midfielder who was linked heavily to Arsenal in 2017, per TalkSport, but is now really coming of age and starting to look ready for a big move.

A towering midfield presence at 6'5", he sits at the base of midfield, balances the formation, is comfortable receiving the ball under pressure and moving away from it thanks to some great feet, and he breaks up play really well, too.

He fires off the occasional excellent pass, but what really excites is when he opens up and slaloms forward, looking like peak Nemanja Matic at times.

There are plenty of clubs who could do with securing his signature and building around him, with Tottenham seemingly the most obvious candidate. With Mousa Dembele gone and both Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama struggling for fitness and form, a fresh, talented body in the centre of midfield would go down a treat.


7. Elseid Hysaj, 25, Right-Back

Napoli to Roma

FROSINONE, ITALY - APRIL 28:  Elseid Hysaj of Napoliahead of the Serie A match between Frosinone Calcio and SSC Napoli at Stadio Benito Stirpe on April 28, 2019 in Frosinone, Italy.  (Photo by SSC NAPOLI/Getty Images)
SSC NAPOLI/Getty Images

"Hysaj will probably leave in January, seeing as his contract is running down,” his agent told Rete Sport last week (h/t Football Italia).

It was a surprise the Albanian didn't leave in August, what with Napoli recruiting Giovanni Di Lorenzo to compete with Kevin Malcuit at right-back. Hysaj is now one of an unsustainable collection of three.

Roma and Atletico Madrid were two of the clubs competing for him then, and while both addressed their issues in that position via different methods, Roma's need for Hysaj has resurfaced.

Davide Zappacosta, who was loaned from Chelsea to cover Alessandro Florenzi, tore his ACL earlier this month, leaving them one body short in defence.

There's an argument that Hysaj, still only 25, is a better right-back than current incumbent Florenzi anyway.


6. Youcef Atal, 23, Right-Back

OGC Nice to Tottenham Hotspur

Nice's Algerian defender Youcef Atal  vies with Dijon's Gabonese defenderr Bruno Ecuele Manga during the French L1 football match Nice (OGCN) vs Dijon (FCO) on September 21, 2019 at
YANN COATSALIOU/Getty Images

While some have debated the decision to sell Kieran Trippier in the summer in revision (due to his improved form in Spain), the decision still holds up.

What should have happened after that, though, is Spurs should have bought another right-back who manager Mauricio Pochettino actually feels comfortable leaning on. They didn't.

Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters are both options, but Spurs found themselves with Moussa Sissoko at right-back against Brighton & Hove Albion in their last outing, the fourth different option trialled so far this term. Nothing's quite sticking at the moment, so a look to the market makes sense.

Youcef Atal of OGC Nice is the player they should have bought during the summer, and they'll get another chance in January. The Algerian can seemingly play in every wide role on each side, but as a dribbling, right-footed presence, he would suit Pochettino's template nicely from right-back.


5. Dani Olmo, 21, Winger

Dinamo Zagreb to Leicester City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Dani Olmo of GNK Dinamo Zagreb reacts to a tackle from Joao Cancelo of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Manchester City and Dinamo Zagreb at Etihad Stadium on October 01, 2019 in Man
Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Right now, Leicester City look like the true third-best team in England. While Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea attempt to sort themselves out, the Foxes have put together an excellent squad, have a clearly defined style and are beating teams easily.

There's only really one potential weak point you can identify: winger. Manager Brendan Rodgers has a fair few at his disposal but not one of them seems to have entirely convinced him.

Dani Olmo will likely be on the market this winter after failing to secure a move in the summer. He was not happy about that, per Sportske Novosti (h/t Marca), and unless Dinamo Zagreb are in the Champions League round of 16, there'll be little to stop him pushing for an exit again.

There's no doubt Leicester can afford his circa €40 million price tag (thanks to the Harry Maguire sale) and could really use his services on the flanks.

A smooth dribbler with good vision for passes and a knack for hitting the box at the right time to score, he would add an extra level to the team and help in the chase for a top-four finish. 


4. Javi Martinez, 31, Centre-Back/Defensive Midfielder

Bayern Munich to Manchester City

MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 05: Javi Martinez of FC Bayern Muenchen looks on during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at Allianz Arena on October 5, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has been roundly criticised for not replacing Vincent Kompany over the summer, but surely few saw the crisis in which they find themselves in coming: Aymeric Laporte out for half a season and Nicolas Otamendi showing the worst form of his Premier League career.

Unlike last season, when City found themselves seven points behind Liverpool but always felt likely to chase the gap down, the eight-point difference between them this time around doesn't feel so closeable—unless Guardiola acts and signs a centre-back.

The Citizens' squad is so incredibly stacked, both in terms of talent and depth, you have to be truly world-class to feature on their shortlists. The centre-back one will be a particularly short shortlist, as few boast the level and the playing style required.

A deal for any of the names eligible—we're talking Kalidou Koulibaly or Milan Skriniar—just aren't possible in January, so City may need to think shorter-term for now.

Javi Martinez has been all but shut out of the Bayern Munich team this season (no Bundesliga starts so far) as they've aggressively reloaded with youth. He's had success playing under Guardiola's tutelage before and had a brilliant spell at centre-back for Die Roten when they combined from 2013-2016.

It's a move that would require some sympathy towards Martinez and his career stall on Bayern's part, but it could work wonders for City.


3. Mario Mandzukic, 33, Striker

Juventus to Manchester United

TURIN, ITALY - MAY 19: Mario Mandzukic of Juventus celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Serie A match between Juventus and Atalanta BC at Allianz Stadium on May 19, 2019 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Mario Mandzukic to United is a deal that's been heavily mooted over the past few days, per The Sun. It's one that certainly makes sense for the club and works well enough for the player.

The Croatian is essentially fourth choice at Juventus, stuck behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in the pecking order, and it's clear his time in Turin is up.

An intense, physical and, at times, scary forward to deal with, he'd add plenty to a United squad that seem to lack all of those traits right now.

He's 33, so this is no long-term move, and that goes against the Red Devils' newfound transfer strategy somewhat, but it's a case of needs must. 

United left themselves short on numbers in August after only half-completing their transfer work, and Mandzukic is a character you could allow for in short-term thinking.


2. Florentino Luis, 20, Defensive Midfielder

Benfica to Real Madrid

LISBON, PORTUGAL - AUGUST 10: Florentino Luis of SL Benfica during the Liga Nos match berween SL Benfica and Pacos de Ferreira FC at Estadio da Luz on August 10, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

We've seen a lot of talk over the last few months that N'Golo Kante is one of Real Madrid's principle targets for 2020. In September, The Sun claimed a £100 million move would be made; in October, the Daily Mail reported the interest was still there.

The appeal is obvious. He's arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world and possesses a skill set that would seriously freshen up Los Blancos' midfield.

But while signing Kante is far from a bad idea, his consistent injury issues over the last six months should be a concern. He's played a hell of a lot of games, and the wear and tear may be catching up to him. Is that a risk you want to take when you're talking about nine-figure sums?

Perhaps Madrid would be better served finding the next Kante. It's a term that's overused and liberally attributed to anyone who can cover plenty of distance, but Benfica's Florentino Luis genuinely is worthy of the tag.

He has a voracious defensive instinct that allows him to rack up tackles and interceptions like few others, and his energy and intensity on the pitch is incredible. He'll be a star, and it may be that his next move is also his last.


1. Christian Eriksen

Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur gestures during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Muenchen at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 1, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by
TF-Images/Getty Images

There's no point dressing it up any other way: Losing a player of Christian Eriksen's calibre would be a disaster for Tottenham.

You could also argue losing such a player to a domestic rival would be doubly disastrous, but in certain circumstances, it can be best to let a player go—even when they're as talented as the Dane.

Eriksen's contractual situation plays a part in this because he'll be a free agent next summer. His and Spurs' own issues also play a part, as the uncertainty surrounding so many of the first-team players heading into 2020 is clearly having an effect on performances.

Hanging on just prolongs the uncertainty, and it would allow him to sign for, say, Real Madrid in June for free. A sale in January, though, starts the richly required rebuilding process and nabs some compensation for one of the best midfielders in the world.

He's the sort of presence Manchester United are crying out for in the centre. It might look a step back for some, and the Red Devils' transfer philosophy may have shifted towards young and British; but at 27, Eriksen is in the prime of his career, and he'd transform that side for the better.

It's Real Madrid that Eriksen is being consistently linked with, per Marca, but he's not the player they require. United, on the other hand, need his skill set.

            

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