Fresh after the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 days of the January transfer window so far has pulled out some crackers. With Coutinho already staking a claim for the headline transfer of 2018, who should the top five realistically sign based on strengths, weaknesses, and a lot of statistics.
Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Levante was as close as you could get to a competitive testimonial for Javier Mascherano. The Argentine, who has played a bit-part in Ernesto Valverde’s plans, has all but agreed a move to China. A superb player in his prime, and still more than competent nowadays, he is 33 years-old and Barca will have been eyeing up a replacement for some time. With rumours circulating that Manchester City are interested in Samuel Umtiti, that gives the club two reasons to look at bringing in another centre-back to partner stalwart Gerard Pique. Thomas Vermaelen has proved a decent back-up, but the last thing Barca will want is to come out of the January transfer window with just one regularly playing centre-back.
Suggestions: Fabian Schar, Aymeric Laporte
Now, there is a case to be made that Atletico don’t need a winger with the squad depth in the area. In fact, with Diego Costa coming home and hitting the ground running with a goal and red-card, some will think Diego Simeone’s transfer business is done already. However, Simeone may already have depth in the area, but the success of these players has been limited. Vitolo has scored one goal in nine, Nico Gaitan has scored zero in six, and Yannick Carrasco has scored three in 13. Angel Correa has also now been shifted to the wing to make space for the Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann partnership. As a result, its likely some wide players will be leaving the capital either in January or summer, with Carrasco already being strongly linked to Inter Milan. With the news that Dries Mertens’ buyout clause is incredibly only at €28 million, Simeone would be wise to invest.
Suggestions: Dries Mertens, Manuel Lanzini, Julian Draxler
Valencia are arguably the team with the least need to invest in January. The chemistry of the team has been their main strength, with no glaring weakness at any position. At goalkeeper, Neto has been a inspired replacement for Diego Alves, helping the team to concede only 18 goals so far. The only argument is that there is no real competition for the spot, even a young, hungry goalkeeper would be the ideal pressure needed for Neto to take his performances up another level. Despite having an impressive season, there is still some doubt whether the Brazilian has the quality for a team who want to cement themselves in Spain’s top four.
Suggestions: Ruben Blanco, Bartlomej Dragowski
How the mighty have fallen at Real Madrid. One of the best sides in modern football at the end of last season, they now sit fourth, partly due to the striker being chronically out of form. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have managed six goals between them domestically, unheard of given the astronomical standards of the two, particularly Ronaldo. Borja Mayoral is, without doubt, a major up-and-coming talent, but the 20 year-old has some huge boots to fill and for a club like Real, results need to start coming fast. With Ronaldo pretty much untouchable, Zinedine Zidane now has a bold decision to make whether to have faith in Benzema or go all out and replace him. Harry Kane has been linked over and over, but the Spurs man has repeatedly said he sees himself staying in North London.
Suggestions: Harry Kane, Mauro Icardi
Vincenzo Montella was always going to have a baptism of fire with a derby against Real Betis as his first game. A 5-3 loss will be a wake-up call to the new manager and some winter arrivals and departures are inevitable. Watching the derby, Betis exposed the full-backs, and whilst one game doesn’t define a team, the full-backs do look like the weakness. Sebastien Corchia has been solid since his arrival, but looks just that level below what Sevilla need if they want to be challenging for Champions League places instead of Europa League regulars.
Suggestions: Elseid Hysaj, Cedric, Rick Karsdorp