2022 Winter Transfer Window: Grading the Biggest Deals in January
The dust has settled and the transfer window has come and gone.
Yes, the winter transfer window had a flurry of late deals that will help shape the latter part of the season. Teams upgraded, a few downgraded and a large number just stayed put and watched the action go down.
Several big-name players were on the move at this midpoint of the European season, some of whom will try to resurrect their careers in new uniforms while others are taking the step up with added expectations.
Let's examine some of the biggest moves of the window and toss grades for both clubs involved and the player in question. We will base this on the quality of the deal for each and how it will impact success for all parties going forward. We shall begin with the most expensive deal that went down in January.
Juventus Buys Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina for $92 Million
Arguably the hottest name on the market was Fiorentina's Serbian goal scorer as the 22-year-old had been banging in goals with regularity in Serie A and got his pick of whom he wanted to join. Breaking onto the scene during the 2020-21 season, Dusan Vlahovic contributed 21 goals and three assists in 37 league matches as Fiorentina's main striker. He continued that fine form in the first half of this campaign with 17 goals and two assists in 21 games.
Filling the massive void left by Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, and taking his famed No. 7 in the process, Vlahovic was a player that Juventus needed after its disappointing start to the year. The winners of nine consecutive Scudetti prior to last season when Inter took their crown, The Old Lady are currently toiling in fifth place with the fewest number of goals scored (34 goals in 23 matches) among the top nine sides and have hopes of securing a Champions League place as a top priority this season.
Not exactly what you'd expect from the best supported club in all of Italy.
Enter Vlahovic, the prototypical No. 9 who will lead the line and provide the true focal point for Max Allegri's attack. While he may have left on not the best terms with Fiorentina, the 6'3" forward will continue to tear up Serie A with his fluid runs and lethal finishing.
If Juve and Paulo Dybala reach an agreement on a new contract, that pair could create a classic small-and-tall striker combo with a variety of tactical approaches, especially given Dybala's multifaceted attacking abilities.
The move, on the outside feels like something of a lazy one given Vlahovic is staying in league and isn't yet "testing" himself in the Premier League, or even La Liga, but for all parties involved directly, this is a win-win and one that should get Juve back in punching distance of reclaiming the Serie A title.
Juventus Grade: A
Fiorentina Grade: B
Vlahovic Grade: B+
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Signs for Barcelona on a Free Transfer from Arsenal
The saga is finally over.
After a protracted divorce from Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a new club, and it's La Liga giants Barcelona. Cast out from the Gunners squad after a string of behavioral issues, the former club captain was able to offer himself around Europe and landed on Barca as his destination.
The details of this move are a lot to comprehend, but in short, he gave up 18 months of $405,000-a-week on his Arsenal contract to be considered a free agent, to then sign with Barcelona through 2025. He becomes the latest wearer of the armband in the red half of North London to jump ship to Catalonia and in doing so joins a hodgepodge Barca attacking unit, not to mention an intriguing set of financials.
Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite, Luuk de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Reads like a FIFA computer-controlled career mode squad. That is what manager Xavi has to work with, as well as a number of up-and-coming youngsters. Is it enough to catch Madrid atop the La Liga table? Definitely not. To squeak into the Champions League come the end of the season? Quite possibly.
For Arsenal, there was really no way back for Auba within its ranks, so clearing his massive salary off the books with an eye on a striker acquisition in the summer is probably the best scenario. Could his goals have helped down the stretch? Yes, absolutely. But there's no guarantee he'd have the discipline or the approval of manager Mikel Arteta to make them happen. The outs far exceeded the ins this window, though, and the squad was already pretty thin. Quite the gamble.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out, but the 32-year-old Gabonese seems to have got what he wanted out of all of this.
Barcelona Grade: B-
Arsenal Grade: C+
Aubameyang Grade: A-
Luis Diaz Joins Liverpool from FC Porto for an Initial $50 Million
The reinforcements are coming for Liverpool, and Luis Diaz's signing is certainly a signal of intent from the Reds entering the second half of the season.
At 25, the Colombian is coming into his own lately and seems good value for the hefty price tag that Liverpool paid for him. An incisive winger, he will fit nicely into Jurgen Klopp's attacking style that utilizes a bludgeoning mentality with relentless forward play. He's got the tools to fit in alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and could end up acting as a full-on replacement for one of them in the seasons ahead if the unthinkable were to happen.
With Diaz reportedly rejecting an offer from Tottenham, Reds fans have another reason to welcome him to Anfield. He was the only addition to the squad during the transfer window, and that should suit Klopp just fine given his returning swath of players for the title run-in that lays ahead.
As for Porto, it's another outgoing player that has been developed by the club. Not everyone is thrilled by the decision, particularly at this point of the season, but the finances at the Portuguese club haven't been great and the funds are necessary. Very necessary, it seems.
Don't be surprised to see Diaz have a Diogo Jota-esque transition into the Liverpool squad starting in the very near future.
Liverpool Grade: B+
Porto Grade: C
Diaz Grade: B+
Tottenham Adds Dejan Kulusevki and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus
This is a two-parter here for Tottenham. It was very active in the transfer window with the a pair of additions from one of Antonio Conte's former clubs and a whopping four departures who didn't exactly fit the Spurs bill.
Firstly, Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur are excellent players. Young, moldable and hungry, they should both bring excellent qualities to the squad that's currently experiencing a number of growing pains under the new Italian boss. Kulusevski has shown flashes of excellence in Turin, but with Vlahovic's addition, the opportunities to shine may be limited the second half of the season.
His loan could be made permanent should he provide the output that would cause Spurs to trigger the buy option, and he should get the chances to do so. Bentancur, a straight purchase, will have slightly more pressure to perform and blend into a squad struggling to lock down a midfield identity in recent months. Working primarily as part of a trio in the midfield at Juve, the Uruguayan will be able to pick up where an often disappointing Tanguy Ndombele left off.
On that, and more shortly, but do Spurs really get much better with these two in versus who they saw out the door? As of now, few are convinced when you consider they missed out on a number of targets.
Juve having added Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria will feel as though they upgraded at both spots and will be pleased with the business it was able to pull off this January.
Tottenham Grade: C
Juventus Grade: B+
Bentancur and Kulusevki Grades: B
Tottenham Sends Ndombele, Lo Celso, Gil on Loan and Sells Alli
Spurs waved goodbye to Tanguy Ndombele ($70 million signing), Giovani Lo Celso ($37 million signing) and Bryan Gil ($28 million signing) on loan to Lyon, Villarreal and Valencia, respectively, while giving away Dele Alli to Everton on a free. The quality in this quartet is undeniable. The production on the pitch, outside of Alli, was really not.
The frustrations will be there for Tottenham fans but so will the trust in Conte and his methods. It's obvious that Kulusevski and Bentancur were more his type of players (or Director of Football Fabio Paratici's type) and the club will move on. It definitely seems like a waste of talent and a bungled few years since the highs of 2019. Just ask former manager Mauricio Pochettino.
What happens next? Best case, the squad continues to galvanize under Conte and has a strong finish to the campaign, with European football being the primary goal. Overall, the recruitment absolutely needs to be better, despite more unrest at the club.
The outgoing players get fresh starts away from the dysfunction and will hopefully kick the dust off and get back into the form that warranted such lofty price tags in the first place. Particularly Alli, who has stagnated in North London and gets a new start at Everton playing under one of the best English midfielders of all time in Toffees new boss Frank Lampard.
Tottenham Grade: D+
Lyon, Villarreal, Valencia and Everton Grade: B+
Ndombele, Lo Celo and Gil Grade: B
Alli Grade: A-