The January transfer window has a reputation for transfers that either go under the radar or are considered overpriced panic buys. It can be two sides of a coin. For example, hardly anyone knew Gonzalo Higuaín when he arrived in Madrid from River Plate as a 19-year-old in January 2007, similarly Nemanja Vidić when he arrived in Manchester from Spartak Moscow in 2006.
On the flip side, the mega-money arrivals of Bruno Fernandes and Virgil van Dijk were mocked, and yet both players completely changed the fortunes of Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively. Admittedly, the inverse can occur, for example, when Manchester United signed Alexis Sánchez on huge wages, and the verdict is still out on Chelsea’s gamble on Enzo Fernandez. Nevertheless, the signings below are three names to keep an eye on following their moves in January.
Marcos Leonardo is a name that should not be overlooked when it comes to discussing the future stars of the game. The young Brazilian striker, who burst onto the scene at the FIFA U20 World Cup last year, had quietly been making a name for himself in Brazil for a couple of years. Since the U20 World Cup, has continued to do so. He scored 13 goals in 30 games for a struggling Santos side was not a bad return last season. However, he flew under the radar of a lot of top teams in Europe, despite initial interest following his five goals in as many games during the World Cup.
He has since been signed by Benfica in Portugal for a reported €18m and even scored on his debut when he came off the bench for the last half hour. Benfica has a history of spotting talent, particularly from South America. Many such players often move on to bigger clubs for large fees. This includes the likes of Ángel Di María, Enzo Fernández, David Luiz and more. Leonardo will certainly be one to watch for the future and do not be surprised to see him move to a big European club in the coming years.
Similar to Marcos Leonardo, Valentín Barco is a young South American talent who began to make headlines during performances at the U20 World Cup, particularly for his impressive appearance off the bench against New Zealand. Barco is a left-back, but is far more suited to playing as a wing-back or even further forward, due to his energetic attacking nature, crossing ability and keen dribbling. The young Argentine is frighteningly quick and excels in the attacking third, and is a highly versatile modern wing-back for any attack-minded team.
Despite very few appearances at club level, Brighton and Hove Albion saw enough to trigger his $10m release clause, as reported by Fabrizio Romano. Brighton, similar to Benfica, have an eye for talent and have had previous success with young South Americans, for example, Julio Enciso and Facundo Bounanotte. Barco has all the potential to reach the very top, and this looks to be the perfect example of an under-the-radar transfer, which, similar to Leonardo above, may go on to be highly profitable for Brighton one day.
Jadon Sancho possesses immense talent that once had him touted as a future world-beater, before his stagnant stint at Manchester United. Nevertheless, the loan move to Borussia Dortmund may prove to be one of the coups of the season, not only for Dortmund but for his parent club Manchester United, as well as Sancho himself. Sancho’s well-documented falling out with United’s coach Erik ten Hag was ugly and unfortunate, not only due to the rather immature nature of the incident, but also due to the player’s talent.
A loan move to Dortmund is perfect. Sancho, who made his name initially at the German club, now has the perfect chance to not only reignite his own career, but also breathe life into Dortmund’s season, and prove his worth to Manchester United. Whether his worth to United proves to be useful on the field or in the market, the necessity for one of the world’s most expensive attackers to regain his form is vital. This move could prove to be monumental, and early signs are good, with Sancho having already grabbed an assist from the bench on his return debut.
Admittedly, this loan transfer has all the hallmarks of financial panic. For example, the need for United’s expensive asset to perform to regain his worth, as well as Dortmund’s gamble on a player who is out of form and demands huge wages. Nevertheless, the potential remains, and time will tell how this move plays out.
The January transfer window is a strange month, in that so many rumours swirl and there is so much promise and hype. Yet, oftentimes very little business of real value gets done. As aforementioned, there are often many under-the-radar signings, low-key loans or buys, which can be back-up, or in some rare delightful examples, cheap moves for future gems.
Elsewhere, moves can be made in financial gambles, do-or-die situations to change the fortunes of a player, club(s) or both. The three names above have all made moves this January, and in the case of all of them, these moves may prove to be the stepping stones to make or break their future career. A risky gamble, but what the January transfer window is all about.