Just to show how powerful the Premier League has now become financially, by the end of this past window Chelsea alone had spent more on transfers than the entire gross transfer expenditure of every single club in the German Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 combined.
Now although these numbers are of course stratospheric, spending lots of money on transfers is never a sure-fire indicator of future success. Statistically speaking more than 50% of transfers over £10 million fail, according to research provided by Liverpool’s outgoing head of research Ian Graham, and you only need look at the top 10 transfers in Premier League history to see proof of the mixed success rate of big money transfers over the years.
Nonetheless, the financial might of the Premier League now allows even the smallest clubs in the league to compete for players all over Europe, and that is what some have done this January to try and maintain their Premier League status, as well as the clubs higher up the division signing players to try and achieve loftier goals.
Let’s look at eight January signings that caught the eye, from the British transfer record to the more low-key but no-less eye-catching deals further down the table…
Enzo Fernandez (Benfica to Chelsea)
After a lengthy, drawn out transfer saga finally concluded on deadline day for a British record £107 million fee, Enzo Fernandez immediately went about showing everybody why Chelsea were so desperate to secure his signature with a thoroughly impressive home debut against Fulham.
Despite only being 22 Fernandez put in a dominant performance in a deep-lying midfield role, making seven interceptions and distributing play excellently with his excellent range of short and long passing.
Winning a World Cup is bound to give any player confidence, and Fernandez was indeed one of the best midfielders in Qatar. But the way he immediately took to life in the Premier League, wanting the ball and assuming responsibility despite only having joined Chelsea a few days earlier, bodes really well for the future. A potential star who could transform Chelsea’s ailing midfield.
Pedro Porro (Sporting CP to Tottenham Hotspur)
Tottenham Hotspur were desperate for upgrades to their defensive department this January and after much back and forth between themselves and Sporting CP, finally managed to sign Pedro Porro on a £5 million loan deal with obligation to buy in the summer for £39m.
Porro is a full-back whose ability to get forward and operate as more of a right wing-back will suit manager Antonio Conte’s formation and tactical style perfectly.
Previously on the books at Manchester City, Porro never made an appearance for Pep Guardiola’s side, settling for loan moves to FC Girona and Sporting CP before the move to Lisbon was made permanent. This season Porro has six assists and two goals in the Portuguese league in 14 appearances and his dribbling and crossing ability have stood out, including against Spurs who he faced in the Champions League group stages.
Porro will compete for places with Emerson Royal, and could quickly establish himself as an important part of Conte’s tactical setup.
Benoit Badiashile (AS Monaco to Chelsea)
Arguably the man of the match against Fulham, Benoit Badiashile is another player who has come from Ligue 1 that seems perfectly suited to Premier League football.
A left-sided centre-back with fearsome physical attributes – strong, quick, aggressive in the duels and able to read play fairly well for such a young player, the former AS Monaco man has almost coasted through his first few games for Chelsea. He looks like he has been playing for the club for years.
Though curiously left out of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League squad for the knockout stages, the 21-year-old has already displaced the experienced Kalidou Koulibaly to cement his place in Graham Potter’s team.
A staggering 94.5% pass completion success rate and 22 interceptions in his first three Premier League games shows this is a player who could develop into one of the best defenders in Europe.
Kamaldeen Sulemana (Stade Rennais to Southampton)
A relatively low-key, end of window arrival to England, there is no doubt that if he continues along his current trajectory Kamaldeen Sulemana is going to be a name Premier League followers wil be talking about for a long time to come.
The Ghanaian winger thrived in Denmark at FC Nordsjælland where he became one of the best players in the league before leaving for a Danish record fee to Stade Rennais in France. While in France, his insane speed and one-v-one dribbling skills saw him up there alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar as one of the most prolific and successful dribblers in Ligue 1 – some achievement for a player so young.
Sulemana made a handful of appearances at the World Cup but at only 20 is still establishing himself. His stock is rising rapidly.
“He will be one of the best players in the world,” says Tom Vernon, the man who helped discover Sulemana through the esteemed Right to Dream academy in Ghana. Sulemana is that good he could end up closely following the trajectory of another Ligue 1 to Southampton wide forward: Sadio Mane.
Tete (Olympique Lyonnais to Leicester City)
Having moved to Ligue 1 after the cancellation of his contract at Shakhtar Donetsk, Tete was quite an inconsistent player in France at times, but did show glimpses of his quality and that exciting combination of energy, dynamism and speed that he brings in forward areas.
His impact at Leicester City however has been immediate. The Brazilian scored on his debut against Aston Villa and completed more dribbles in his first ever Premier League game (4) than he did in all but one of his 17 games in Ligue 1 for Lyon this season.
He will offer cut and thrust and a dangerous counter-attacking threat for Leicester, a side who have often looked laboured and devoid of ideas this season so far.
Dango Ouattara (FC Lorient to AFC Bournemouth)
A brilliant start to this season in France saw Dango Ouattara fast-tracked from a player with real potential to one ready to go straight into the starting XI of a Premier League club.
The 20-year-old African gem hit six goals and six assists in 18 games for FC Lorient, helping carry them up the table in Ligue 1 with some outstanding performances. This prompted Bournemouth to swiftly pay £20m for his services.
Ouattara is a player who first came to my eye during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, where he was hugely impressive for a resurgent Burkina Faso side that made it to the semi-finals. Ouattara can play across midfield, predominantly as a wide player but also centrally if required, is quick-witted, sharp, intelligent and has an eye for goal.
He has already started games for the Cherries, grabbing an assist on his debut.
Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk to Southampton)
Paul Onuachu scored a total of 85 goals in 134 appearances for KRC Genk in Belgium, earning a move to the Premier League where he will battle to help keep struggling Southampton in the division.
At 28 years old and making such a big step up, the move could be seen as a gamble. These days it is quite rare to see a player move in his late 20s as many clubs think about resale value. Onuachu has little of that, so this is a deal the Saints need to work immediately. At roughly £15 million the fee is not extortionate, and Southampton know what they are getting: a 6ft 7in physical forward who will look to bully opponents and provide a much-need focal point upfront.
According to Southampton’s website, in moving to England Onuachu becomes the tallest player in the Premier League. “It had to be now or never” the player himself commented on moving to England.
It is a risk for a player who has predominantly spent his career in Denmark and Belgium, but if he can use his height to get on the end of a few of the fantastic set-piece deliveries of James Ward-Prowse and score some goals, the deal could prove worthwhile. He is a potential difference-maker.
Illia Zabarnyi (Dynamo Kyiv to AFC Bournemouth)
Highly-thought of around Europe, young central defender Illia Zabarnyi is a full international for Ukraine who offers good recovery pace, distribution and defensive strength.
In times gone by, such a promising young talent would surely opt for a bigger club than Bournemouth. However, some smart scouting on their part together with the increasing financial might of the Premier League, even at the lower end of the table, saw the south-coast club swoop in to sign the 20-year-old for a fee of £20 million.
There is optimism from many that Zabarnyi could go on to become a world class player in the future. The signing went under many people’s radars but it could well turn out to be one of the most shrewd deals done anywhere around Europe in January.