05 February 2020, by: Zach Lowy

Which Clubs had the Best January Transfer Window?

It has been one of the most eventful January transfer windows in recent times. Clubs like Sheffield United and Leeds United punched above their weight to sign Sander Berge and Jean-Kévin Augustin, while other clubs, who best remain nameless, panicked and made desperate, late moves. Some teams didn’t have any business whatsoever.

Whatever the case, several teams overhauled their squads this window with some shrewd, aggressive business. Here are BET Central’s Top Five January transfer windows across Europe’s Top Five leagues:

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Inter Milan

The Nerazzurri faithful will feel hard done for failing to complete deals for Arturo Vidal and Olivier Giroud, but overall, Giuseppe Marotta engineered a cheap yet impressive makeover of the Inter Milan squad this transfer window.

To reinforce the wingback positions, Ashley Young joined from Manchester United for €1.5 million, and Victor Moses joined on a six-month loan with a €12 million option to buy. Despite being turned into a laughing stock over the last few years, Ashley Young is still a reliable leader who can play on either flank and be counted on to stay fit.

Kwadwo Asamoah’s knee issues have turned him into a liability, and Cristiano Biraghi isn’t any better. Young will almost certainly start as the left wing-back, and Moses, who excelled under the role at Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, could give Antonio Candreva a run for his money on the right.

They brought in around €40 million for two players who had no place in Conte’s attack (Matteo Politano and Gabigol) and used it to buy one of the most coveted players on the market. Christian Eriksen, whose contract was set to expire in July, eschewed a summer move to Real Madrid to instead join Inter for €20 million. The Danish playmaker will add plenty of dynamism and creativity as Inter gear up for their first Scudetto race in nine years.

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Bayer Leverkusen

Sometimes, it’s quality over quantity. Bayer Leverkusen snapped up River Plate’s Exequiel Palacios just days after his team lost a heartbreaker to Flamengo in the 2019 Copa Libertadores Final. They paid a mere €16.5 million for the Argentine midfielder, a bargain given how much he has already achieved at 21 years old.

Real Madrid were previously close to signing Palacios, only for a last-minute injury to cause the deal to be scrapped. Instead, Leverkusen gets an all-action midfielder who has been key to Marcelo Gallardo’s River side. He’ll make a nice replacement for Charles Aránguiz, who looks set to leave after his deal expires this summer. With a nonstop engine, lung-bursting runs into the box and a tactical intellect beyond his years, he’s a shrewd signing for Leverkusen.

Sporting director Simon Rolfe managed to attract another gem, this time on deadline day, when he secured the transfer of Edmond Tapsoba for €18 million plus €7 million in add-ons. Having played for Vitória de Guimarães’s B team last season, Tapsoba became a starter in Liga NOS this season under manager Ivo Vieira.

A physically imposing, ball-playing, goalscoring centre back is very rare, but Tapsoba has it all. He fills a problem area in the squad and will polish his skillset under Peter Bosz before making a big-money move to the European elite. While he does need to improve certain facets of his game like his anticipation and positioning, he’s a tremendous young defender who will only get better in Germany.

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Fiorentina

With Fiorentina mired in the bottom half of the table following a miserable start to the season, new owner Rocco Commisso got out his chequebook and oversaw some shrewd additions in the January window. They reinforced three areas on a jam-packed deadline day: attack (Christian Kouamé), midfield (Sofyan Amrabat, Alfred Duncan and Kevin Agudelo), and defence (Igor Julio). Along with Patrick Cutrone, who arrived during the start of the window, few teams in Europe had as busy of a window as Fiorentina.

If Kouamé can bounce back from his ACL rupture and return to his top levels, Fiorentina will make a massive profit on the €11 million they paid Genoa for him (Genoa retained a 10% sell-on clause). The Ivorian is a rapid, intelligent forward who can play across the attack, link up with teammates, and finish in the box.

Overall, a positive, clear-cut window from Daniele Pradè in his return to Tuscany.

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Atalanta

Today, Atalanta are playing the most breathtaking football in Italy, are fighting for a second straight qualification to the UEFA Champions League football, and are preparing for a Champions League duel against Valencia. Not too shabby for a club with the 13th-highest budget in Italy.

If Bologna triggers their buy option on Musa Barrow, then Atalanta will have brought in €48 million this month (potentially rising to €57 million) on two players who have made a combined total of one start for them last year — Dejan Kulusevski and Barrow.

This is a testament to not only the shrewd scouting department’s ability to spot diamonds in the rough but their wisdom to select the perfect development plan for each talent and watch their investments grow. Atalanta managed to bring in €48 million this month for two fringe players, or in other words, €12 million more than their annual budget.

To prepare for a packed schedule that will see them attempt to fight off the likes of Roma and Milan for top four while simultaneously trying to mastermind a Cinderella Story in Europe, Gabriele Zamagna and Giovanni Sartori made some smart additions in the window. They brought in Lennart Czyborra, who could be a long-term replacement for superstar left wing-back Robin Gosens. Like Gosens, Czyborra is a German left-back who played at Heracles Almelo right before heading to Bergamo.

They also brought back Mattia Caldara from his nightmare spell at Milan. Caldara was an important part of Atalanta’s initial success under new manager Gian Piero Gasperini, starting in the middle of Gasperini’s back three. He remained a starter for two seasons before joining Milan, yet after a bizarre, injury-laden 18-month spell that saw him make just two starts for the Rossoneri, he’s back home and ready to play football again. To put the cherry on top, Atalanta have 18 months if they want to sign Caldara for a fee of €15 million, a period in which Milan will foot the bill for part of Caldara’s wages.

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Espanyol

With the club dead last in the league, Espanyol president Chen Yansheng had no other choice but to make some major signings in the January transfer window.

Espanyol’s defence has been a leaky mess all season, and to rectify this, they triggered the €9 million release clause of Getafe’s Leandro Cabrera. The Uruguayan had become a defensive juggernaut for José Bordalás’s side, and with €8 million summer signing Fernando Calero failing to convince, Espanyol needed a leader like Cabrera to plug up the holes in the back.

As damning as the Pericos’ issues in defence have proven, Espanyol’s woes in the other box hasn’t made life any easier for them. They have paid the price for failing to adequately replace Borja Iglesias, who departed for Real Betis last summer for €28 million. Iglesias scored 17 goals in La Liga last season to fire the club to Europa League qualification, yet Espanyol could do no better than sign the meek Jonathan Calleri on loan as a replacement.

They made a huge step towards solving those issues with the club record signing of Raúl de Tomás. Last season, De Tomás scored 14 goals on loan at Rayo Vallecano, who were relegated to the Segunda after finishing 20th. He earned a summer move to Benfica, but was played out of position by manager Bruno Lage and failed to convince. The Madrid native left Portugal to join the ranks at Espanyol, and he’s currently scored three goals in three games for them.

Under the stewardship of new manager Abelardo, a stronger, more resilient shape is taking root. Espanyol have taken points from Barcelona, Villarreal, and Athletic Club since the turn of the new decade. De Tomás will reunite with €10 million winter signing Adrián Embarba, who played alongside him at Rayo, as the two look to revive the club’s attack and rescue them from relegation.

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