Given the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the January transfer window was surprisingly busy as clubs made midseason moves to try to strengthen their sides.
According to Transfermarkt, the Premier League (€335 million) spending was actually the second-highest in history, with Liverpool's move for FC Porto winger Luis Diaz (€45m) and Newcastle's signing of Bruno Guimaraes (€42.1m) leading the way. Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa also parted with a decent amount of money, while Man City sealed a deal for River Plate's Julian Alvarez (€17m) and sent him back on loan until the summer.
Clubs across Europe in Italy's Serie A (€175m), Spain's LaLiga (€75m), France's Ligue 1 (€66m) and Germany's Bundesliga (€62m) spent a total of €378m, with Juventus making a €70m splash to land Dusan Vlahovic and Barcelona paying Man City €55m to bring in Ferran Torres.
While it did take Juventus a few weeks to get going, once out of the blocks their execution in the transfer market was nothing short of masterful. Not only did the Turin giants sign the joint Serie A top scorer Vlahovic from Fiorentina for €70m (plus another €10m in add-ons) ahead of their rivals, but they also landed highly rated defensive midfielder Denis Zakaria for a reported €5m as his contract with Borussia Monchengladbach only had five months left to run.
If that wasn't enough, Juventus made use of their relationship with Tottenham managing director Fabio Paratici to find a new home for winger Dejan Kulusevski (loan with a €35m obligation to sign permanently) and midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur (€19m), while sending Aaron Ramsey on loan to Scottish side Rangers.
Vlahovic, though, was the signing of the window and Juve did incredibly well to figure out a way to land their No. 1 target. Only time will tell if it was viable considering they could miss out on qualifying for the Champions League next season.
From being on the verge of financial ruin, unable to register players for LaLiga as a result of salary cap constraints, to signing brilliant forward Ferran Torres from Manchester City for €55m, represents a dramatic turn of events for the Catalans. With debts of €1.4 billion hanging over them, Barcelona won't be properly out of the woods for some time, but the capture of the 21-year-old Spain international is a massive boost.
The return of La Masia product Adama Traore on loan from Wolves adds directness and speed from wide areas, the return of 38-year-old Dani Alves brings leadership to the dressing room, whereas a free transfer for Arsenal striker Aubameyang sees a proper goal threat up front after the sad retirement of Sergio Aguero. Two months ago, hardly anyone, apart from president Joan Laporta, could have seen Barcelona coming out of the January transfer window with such an improved squad. Only the failure to move on winger Ousmane Dembele was a sore point (more on that later), though they did manage to finally get Philippe Coutinho's wages off the books with a loan to Aston Villa.
Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Tripper (€15m) was a fairly conservative, but sensible signing who will offer quality as well as leadership on and off the pitch, whereas €30m Burnley striker Chris Wood -- despite an unconvincing recent goal scoring record -- is familiar with the demands of a Premier League relegation fight. The same can be said for versatile Brighton defender Dan Burn (€20m) who will give manager Eddie Howe useful options in defence.
The €42.1m capture of Bruno Guimaraes from Lyon, however, might be closer to the profile of player that the fans would expect more of in the future. The Brazil international is a mobile defensive midfielder who is safe in possession, good at winning duels, and is a creative passer able to pick out runners from deep. In fact, with his ability to organise the midfield, the 24-year-old might prove to be the missing link that improves their chances of staying in the Premier League.
MLS and USMNT
MLS has found a fine balance between their ever-improving sporting product and running a smart business operation. First United States international striker Ricardo Pepi joined Augsburg from FC Dallas in a €17m deal, making him the most expensive departing teenager in the history of the league. He was then followed by Orlando City centre-forward, and Pepi's international teammate, Daryl Dike, who joined West Brom for €7m.
On Deadline Day, relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld announced the signing of 20-year-old left-back George Bello from Atlanta United FC, while Colorado Rapids defender Auston Trusty will join Arsenal in the summer. The Gunners have also agreed a summer deal to bring in USMNT and New England Revolution keeper Matt Turner.
MLS also announced the arrival of Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne at Toronto FC, which is nothing short of a spectacular coup. The 30-year-old Italy international is still in his prime and with his technical quality, intelligence and sheer pedigree he should prove to be a great addition to the league when he joins in July.
The return of the Denmark international is without any doubt the most universally welcomed move of the January transfer window. Nearly eight months since suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch during a Euro 2020 group stage match against Finland, Eriksen -- who was unable to carry on his Serie A career with Inter Milan after having a cardioverter defibrillator implanted as the device is not permitted in Serie A -- has now been given a wonderful opportunity to play in the Premier League by Brentford. The former Spurs midfielder will add vision, intelligence, vast experience and his trademark set-piece ability to help the Bees build on their decent debut season in the league.
While the Gunners are sixth in the Premier League and have shown signs they could challenge for a place in Europe next season, one might have expected the club's technical director Edu to have an ace up his sleeve in January. Instead, the club signed no-one -- except agreeing summer deals for Trusty and Turner -- and let a number of squad players leave, namely Calum Chambers (Aston Villa, free), Pablo Mari (Udinese, loan), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Roma, loan) and Sead Kolasinac (Marseille, free).
Letting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Barcelona) leave for nothing on Deadline Day without signing a replacement was a massive gamble. Mikel Arteta clearly felt he couldn't work with the former captain and his €375,000-a-week contract was ripped up, but the squad looks incredibly thin and Arteta's only striking options, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, are both out of contract in the summer. Arsenal's goal threat (they only scored once in the whole of January) will now have to come from young attacking midfielders or wingers such as Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard. And fans will be hoping there are no injuries.
Widely tipped to leave Barcelona in January after a public row over his new contract, the France winger could face a five-month wait in the stands until his deal runs out in the summer. Barca paid €105m (rising to a potential €145m) to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 but Dembele has never fulfilled his potential and was linked with a host of clubs including PSG, Man United, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Creative attempts to keep the player on new terms were in vain, while the player turned down a move to the Premier League on Deadline Day, sources told ESPN. With many words exchanged between the parties in the process, it's hard to see a way back for supremely talented 24-year-old who is as injury prone as he's mercurial.
Lingard, who is yet to start a Premier League game for Manchester United this season, was heavily tipped to leave Old Trafford as West Ham and Newcastle tried to land him. Instead he still finds himself in Ralf Rangnick's squad as the board blocked his move after they let Donny van de Beek join Everton on loan instead.
With just five months left on his contract, Lingard now faces the challenge of getting enough playing time to either resurrect his United career or to attract offers from elsewhere. As much as Lingard is still an excellent Premier League player, he may end up looking back on a wasted year come the end of the season.
Having let Van de Beek (Everton, loan) and Anthony Martial (Sevilla, loan) leave and with Mason Greenwood out of action for an undetermined period after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault, United did look in need of one or two late signings.
In addition to the non-existent attacking reinforcements, especially in the wide areas, the club also failed to address some of their obvious, long-standing shortcomings in the squad. An upgrade in the central midfield department (No. 6 or No. 8) never arrived, neither did a top quality full-back on either side. With fourth place in the Premier League still to play for, the lack of mid-season investment may come back to haunt them.