The official January transfer window was introduced to football by FIFA back in the 2002-03 season. It’s not as busy as the traditional summer window, but still sees millions of dollars worth of transactions each and every year, with the occasional star player being moved. The window enables clubs to fill newly discovered needs or replace injured players while in the middle of the European season. This list deals with 15 current or former players who have made the most impact at their new clubs after changing teams in the winter transfer window.
It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best 15 players to move in January, but they’ve all helped their sides on the pitch either immediately or in the long run. Many of them have helped their squads win league titles and cups, as well as winning individual awards. Even though the English Premier League is traditionally the busiest in January, we’re going to start off by giving the Chinese Super League a bit of recognition as the league is slowly acquiring star players and becoming competitive.
15. Odion Ighalo – Watford to Changchun Yatai
“Odion who?” you may be asking. The 28-year-old Odion Ighalo is a Nigerian international striker who was sold from English Premier League club Watford to Changchun Yatai of the Chinese Super League for £20 million in the winter of 2017. It’s no wonder the player jumped at the chance, since he’s reportedly making £190,000 a week with his new club.
Ighalo has played for Udinese, Granada and Cesena in the past and joined Watford in 2014 when the club was in the second-tier Championship League. He scored 20 goals for the Hornets and helped them earn promotion to the Premier League. After 39 goals in 99 appearances with Watford he was on his way to China for a good return. Admittedly the Chinese League is easier than the top European divisions, but there is a fair share of elite players there. Ighalo has become one of them with 15 goals and seven assists in his first 22 outings.
14. Oscar – Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG
You’ve definitely made some type of impact on your new team if you’ve been transferred for an Asian record £60 million, scored on your debut, added three goals and 12 assists in 22 league games and started a brawl and received an eight-game suspension and fine. All of this has happened to 26-year-old Brazilian international attacking midfielder Oscar since being transferred from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG of the Chinese Super League in 2017.
He’d won a pair of Premier League titles, the Europa League and a League Cup at Stamford Bridge between 2012 and 2017, but decided to try his luck in China and secure financial secure for his family at the same time. Oscar has set up numerous goals for his teammates in his first 40 contests in all competitions with Shanghai and has chipped in with nine goals himself.
13. Julian Draxler – Vfl Wolfsburg to Paris Saint Germain
He’s still only 24-years-old, but German international midfielder/winger Julian Draxler is already starring for his third major European club. Draxler played with boyhood club team Schalke from 2011 to 2015 and then moved to fellow Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in the summer of 2015. He scored just eight times in 45 appearances and wasn’t happy there. Fortunately for him, Paris Saint Germain paid £30 million for his services in January of 2017 and he was on his way to France.
Draxler had an instant impact in Paris with 10 goals in 25 outings in all competitions and appeared to be much happier. He scored on his competitive, league, and Champions League debuts with PSG as well as in the French Cup Final. Draxler has struggled slightly this season with two league goals in 10 matches, but his overall haul of 12 goals in 39 outings and his age bode well for the future.
12. Christophe Dugarry – Bordeaux to Birmingham FC
It was January 2003 when French international striker Christophe Dugarry showed up on the doorstep of Birmingham FC for manager Steve Bruce. It didn’t matter that he was just on loan from Bordeaux in his homeland as he became an instant hero and legend. Birmingham was in relegation trouble at the time and managed to stay afloat in their first ever Premier League campaign due to Dugarry scoring five times in the team’s last six games of the season.
He had saved the club millions of pounds and was signed to a permanent deal a few months later. The Midas touch soon left the European Championship and World Cup winner, though, and the former AC Milan and Barcelona player scored just once in 15 games the next season before hanging up his boots at the age of 33. Dugarry’s impact in 2003 saw him inducted into Birmingham FC’s Hall of Fame.
11. Memphis Depay – Manchester United to Olympique Lyonnais
There’s no question Dutch international forward Memphis Depay would like to forget his horrible stint with Manchester United between the summer of 2015 and January 2017. However, he was a Golden Boot and Dutch League winner in 2014-15 in Holland before moving to Old Trafford and he’s played well since leaving.
Depay, who will turn 24 in February 2018, joined French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais in January 2017 after leaving United for a potential return of £22 million. The move has definitely helped the youngster get his career back on track, with five goals in 18 games during the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign and 10 goals in his first 25 matches in all competitions so far in 2017-18. Although the Netherlands failed to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Depay’s recent play has seen him solidify his spot in the national side.
10. Gabriel Jesus – Palmeiras to Manchester City
Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus appears to be a good luck charm for Manchester City as the Premier League leaders have lost just once with him on the pitch since acquiring him in January of 2017. The 20-year-old was picked up from Palmeiras in his homeland for a fee of £27 million. He’s already won a league title in Brazil, as well as an Olympic gold medal, and been named Player of the Year in his home country.
Although he’s just 5’9″, he’s managed to score 17 goals and 10 assists in 36 games with City as of January 2018. This includes seven goals in 11 appearances in his first half season and another 10 in 25 so far in 2017-18. His impact was immediate, with a goal and assist in his first ever Premier League start. Unfortunately, he also appears to be somewhat injury prone so far with City.
9. Kevin De Bruyne – Chelsea to Vfl Wolfsburg
Manchester City’s 26-year-old Belgian international midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world right now and one of Chelsea’s biggest ever mistakes. Chelsea acquired the attacker from Genk in 2012 for £7 million and manager Jose Mourinho inexplicably gave him just three Premier League games and nine matches in total to prove himself before loaning him to German side Werder Bremen in 2012/13.
Chelsea gave up on him, but at least made some money by selling De Bruyne to Wolfsburg for £18 million in January 2014. He was named the 2014-15 Bundesliga Player of the Season with 16 goals and 28 assists as Wolfsburg finished runners up in the Bundesliga, qualified for the Champions League, and won the German Cup. De Bruyne scored 20 times in 72 outings with Wolfsburg and added dozens of helpers before Man City bought him in the summer of 2015 for £55 million.
8. Clint Dempsey – New England Revolution to Fulham
Attacker Clint Dempsey will go down in history as one of the USA’s best-ever players, but was basically an unknown when Fulham paid £2 million for him in January 2007 when he was with the New England Revolution of MLS. His first goal for the Cottagers was a huge one, as it was the winner in a 1-0 victory over Liverpool and guaranteed Fulham wouldn’t be relegated in 2007-08.
Dempsey went on to play 232 games for the London side with 60 goals to his name and joined Tottenham in the summer of 2012 for £6 million. Dempsey left a year later to join the Seattle Sounders of MLS and the next international goal the 34-year-old scores will make him the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. with 58. Dempsey’s a two-time Player of the Year and top scorer for Fulham and helped the club reach the Europa League Final in 2009-10.
7. Javier Mascherano – West Ham United to Liverpool
It seems like Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has been around forever, but he’s still relatively young at 33. The Argentine international was just 22 though when he joined Liverpool in January 2007 from fellow Premier League side West Ham. He arrived on loan and then signed later for £18 million. He formed a solid back-four partnership with Spanish international Xabi Alonso and helped the Reds reach the Champions League Final a few months later.
Mascherano played at Anfield until joining Barcelona in 2010 when manager Rafael Benitez left Merseyside. Mascherano turned out to be one of Liverpool’s most reliable players due to his tackling and passing skills and was a huge influence at both ends of the pitch, as he could play in the back four as well as midfield. Mascherano is held in high regard by Liverpool fans even though he scored just twice in 139 games and didn’t win any silverware with the club.
6. Luis Suarez – Ajax to Liverpool
Uruguayan international Luis Suarez was signed by Liverpool in January 2011 from Ajax of Amsterdam. He was known as a prolific scorer, but also a bit of a cheat for diving and his blatant handball against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. He became more controversial as the years went by for forcing the Reds to sell him to Barcelona, continuing his habit of biting opponents and allegedly racially abusing Patrice Evra. Liverpool paid £22.8 million for him, which was a club record at the time.
Suarez had an instant impact at Anfield though and turned the Merseysiders into legitimate league and cup contenders, with a League Cup title to show for it. He led the league in scoring in 2013-14 with 31 goals in 33 games and was named the PFA Player of the Year. His move to Barcelona came in 2014 for approximately £75 million and the 30-year-old is still there. He scored 82 goals in 133 contests with Liverpool, was the club’s top scorer three seasons running, was named Player of the Year twice, and earned a spot on the Premier League Team of the Year twice.
5. Ivan Rakitic – Schalke to Sevilla
One of the best January transfers of 2011 saw Swiss-born Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic leave Schalke for La Liga side Sevilla, especially since he cost just £2.25 million at the time. Rakitic immediately became a regular and favorite of the Sevilla faithful, with six goals in 16 games over the remainder of the campaign. He was effective with both feet and possessed uncanny passing ability. His skills and authority on the ball helped the club win the 2013-14 Europa League when he was the squad’s captain.
Rakitic scored 34 goals in 139 appearances with Sevilla and set up dozens more for his teammates. He actually became too good and Barcelona snapped him up in the summer of 2014 for £16.2 million, where he still plays. Rakitic was named to the La Liga Team of the Year once with Sevilla, as well as the Europa League Team of the Season and hauled in the Spanish Fair Play Award once.
4. Gary Cahill – Bolton Wanderers to Chelsea
English international defender Gary Cahill has enjoyed a new lease on life since moving from Bolton Wanderers to Chelsea for £7 million in January of 2012 and he’s now the club’s captain. Cahill won the FA Cup and Champions League with the Blues just months after moving to London. He’s gone on to add two Premier League titles to his name, as well as a League Cup and Europa League winners’ medal.
Cahill’s steady play at Stamford Bridge has also earned him three nominations to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year and he’s been an absolute steal at his transfer fee. And while Cahill is an excellent organizer and leader in his own end, the 6’4″ centerback also contributes offensively — he’s scored 25 goals for Chelsea as of January 2018.
3. Nemanja Matic – Chelsea to Benfica and Benfica to Chelsea
Serbian international defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic has been moved twice in his career during the January transfer window so far. The 29-year-old originally joined Chelsea in the summer of 2009 for £1.5 million, but was hardly used and sent to Dutch side Vitesse on loan the next season. In January 2011 Matic was transferred to Portuguese giants Benfica where he won a league title and Portuguese Cup, as well as a Player of the Year award.
However, he was on the move again in the winter of 2014 when Chelsea reacquired him for £21 million and was Man of the Match in his first start. In his three-and-a-half-year stint at Stamford Bridge after returning, Matic helped his team win two Premier League titles and a League Cup. He was also named to the PFA Team of the Year for 2014-15. Matic’s former Blues manager Jose Mourinho wanted the player badly at Manchester United and he was sold to the Red Devils in the summer of 2017.
2. Patrice Evra – Monaco to Manchester United
French international defender Patrice Evra joined Manchester United back in January 2006 from French Ligue 1 outfit Monaco and would eventually skipper the side for some time. It was a bit of a bargain, even a dozen years ago, as Evra cost just £7 million. In fact, Sir Alex Ferguson also acquired Nemanja Vidic during the same transfer window to really solidify United’s back four, since both players would become long-time regulars.
Chelsea won the league just a few months after Evra joined, but he would go on to win five English Premier League titles at Old Trafford as well as a Champions League winners’ medal, a FIFA Club World Cup, and three League Cups before the left-back headed to Juventus in 2014. Evra possessed excellent, speed, crossing ability and reflexes to make up for his lack of size at just 5’8″ and was named to the PFA Team of the Year three times.
1. Nemanja Vidic – Spartak Moscow to Manchester United
The 2006 January transfer window was kind to Manchester United, as the club also picked up Serbian international defender Nemanja Vidic from Spartak Moscow to go along with their purchase of Evra. Vidic cost £7.2 million and made an instant impact at Old Trafford, becoming one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most valuable and favorite players. The centerback carried his partnership with Rio Ferdinand for several years and stayed with United until the summer of 2014 when he joined Inter Milan.
Vidic was great in the air and his legendary toughness meant he took no prisoners on the ground. He also chipped in with some big goals on occasion and helped his club win five Premier League titles, three League Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup, and a European Champions League crown. He was also named the Premier League Player of the Season twice and named to the PFA Team of the Year four times. The 36-year-old Vidic, who captained United for three years, retired from football in January 2016 after struggling at Inter.