Ranked: The best moves of the winter transfer window so far

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English midfielder Dele Alli moved on a free transfer to Everton in what was one of the biggest moves of the deadline day of a thoroughly action-packed winter transfer window. The window shut down at 11 pm GMT for Premier League teams though it is still open for other leagues such as the Bundesliga and Serie A so one can expect further activity down the line.

The winter transfer window is usually slower than its summer counterpart with teams being reluctant to let their big players go with so little time to replace them. The 2021/22 window, on the other hand, seems to be bucking that trend.

The record fee of the winter window last season was 22.5 million Euros paid by Ajax for West Ham’s Sebastian Haller. This sum has already been exceeded seven times this season with transfers yet to come, showing that teams have stepped up their spending and are perhaps finally managing to negate the strain of COVID-19 on their finances.

Usually winter transfers are a mark of teams panicking due to not being able to get their required targets in the summer. The current list of transfers, however, shows that not only are teams spending more but they seem to be spending smarter too.

1. Dusan Vlahovic: Fiorentina to Juventus for 81.6 million EurosOn the face of it, spending in excess of 80 million Euros on a 22-year-old Serbian striker seems like a huge risk for Juventus especially considering the 209.9 million Euros of debt that they racked up last season. What this assumption fails to account for is the seemingly limitless potential that the Serbian possesses as he has already scored 17 goals in 21 league starts for Fiorentina and also has the distinction of equalling Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of most goals in a calendar year in Serie A, having hit the back of the net 33 times in 2021.

This goal-scoring quality is especially needed for Juve as their top scorer is the perennially-injured Paulo Dybala who has netted just seven times with the team struggling to generate opportunities as a whole, averaging 14.6 shots per game, which is just the sixth best in all of Serie A.

While Vlahovic’s considerable tally is boosted by penalties, his performances remain impressive. Despite his youth, he has become the talisman for Fiorentina whose second top scorer is left-back Cristiano Biraghi with four goals. Goals are not the only thing that the Serb adds as he uses his considerable 6’3″ frame to dominate in the air while bringing a defensive work-rate as well, working hard to shut down the opposition.

Vlahovic’s smart movement in the box and mature decision-making in front of the goal ensure that his goal-scoring exploits are transferable to any club, and it seems like Juve have secured their striker position for at least the next 10 years.

2. Arthur Cabral: Basel to Fiorentina for 14 million euros

From Vlahovic we go to the man to whom Fiorentina have turned to replace the young Serbian in the form of 23-year-old striker Arthur Cabral. While the Brazilian played in the Swiss league, which is a comparatively weaker league to Serie A, his output has been tremendous as from only 17 starts, he has racked up 14 goals.

The league is not the only place where he has impressed though, as he has scored five goals in six games in the Uefa Conference League while also scoring eight goals in the qualifiers for the competition, showing that he can replicate his form in outside competitions.

Not only are the number of goals impressive, the quality is even better as the Brazilian has a flair for scoring impressive goals ranging from bicycle kicks to long shots from 35 yards out showing that he’s more than just a simple goal poacher.

Like Vlahovic, Cabral is physically imposing at 6’1″ and 86kg but he’s not a typical lumbering giant as he’s technically skilled with decent speed. This combined with his physicality and penchant for the spectacular gives defenders headaches as they cannot cope with his unpredictability for a full 90 minutes.

While this transfer has gone under the radar, it’s undoubtedly one of the shrewdest pieces of business of this transfer window as Fiorentina replaced their star striker with another budding young talent while not even spending one-fourth of the 81.6 million Euros they received from Juventus.

3. Bruno Guimaraes: Lyon to Newcastle for 42.1 million Euros

Midfield has long been a problem area for Newcastle as they have lacked the ability to control games in that area as they average a paltry 37.8 per cent possession. Which is why the signing of Guimaraes is such a smart decision as the Brazilian defensive midfielder is one of the best young deep playmakers in world football averaging an impressive 88 per cent pass accuracy.

These passes are not just simple backwards or sideways passes either as Guimaraes has an extremely large passing range having shown incisive through balls as well as accurate long balls and diagonal switches in his locker.

Bruno’s skillset is well rounded as he averages 3.4 tackles and interceptions combined alongside 1.8 completed dribbles per game to go along with his passing wizardry showing a combo of silk and steel that the Newcastle engine room has been crying out for.

The best part about signing the 24-year-old Brazilian is that he’s the sort of player who could have easily plied his trade for the top clubs in Europe having been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. This kind of shrewd scouting combined with riches of Newcastle’s controversial owners could see them becoming a footballing superpower in the coming years.

4. Philippe Coutinho: Barcelona to Aston Villa on loan

It is a testament to the rise of Aston Villa that they can now attract a player of Philippe Coutinho’s stature to the club. Two seasons ago the club barely escaped relegation, finishing 17th and escaping the drop zone by only one point. But now they have established themselves as a solid mid-table club and importantly they possess a bright young manager in Steven Gerrard, who played a large part in convincing the Brazilian to sign.

Coutinho is not just someone who has been signed for his name value as he provides a lot of what the Midlands club lost after their star player Jack Grealish departed to Manchester City with his combination of attacking flair, playmaking ability and dribbling, replicating the kind of individual brilliance that Grealish used to provide.

The Brazilian attacking midfielder is known for his signature move of cutting in from the left wing and scoring a long range strike. Even though defenders know this is coming they just can’t stop it showing how hard it is to defend Coutinho when he’s on form.

This transfer does have a caveat though as Coutinho has flamed out at Barcelona but he’s an extremely talented player with experience playing in the Premier League having plied his trade for Liverpool. In Coutinho’s last half season in the Premier League he scored seven goals and six assists in just 13 starts, showing he’s worth taking a leap of faith in.

Even if this transfer does not work out, Villa are not obligated to make the transfer permanent although Coutinho has already impressed scoring in his debut match. This is the kind of recruitment that could turn Villa from a mid-table side into one that occupies a spot in the top six.

5. Kieran Trippier: Atletico Madrid to Newcastle United for 15 million Euros

Newcastle United are currently slated for relegation occupying the 18th spot in the Premier League Table but with acquisitions they have made it is hard to bet against them not staying up. While Newcastle have recruited smartly so far, out of their three signings none are as well travelled or decorated than Trippier.

The 31-year-old right back has more experience at the highest levels of the game than the rest of the squad combined, having appeared in the Euro 2020 finals as well as having won the Spanish League trophy last year. Crucially for a leaky Newcastle backline, Trippier is an astute defender as well but where he really shines is in his delivery as his crossing technique makes him a threat both in open play as well as set pieces, recording six assists in the league last season — an impressive tally for a defender.

Trippier also has a considerable engine as he has played for extremely demanding managers in Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino whose style of play requires high stamina. The fact that these managers trusted Trippier to be their right back shows that he can handle the two-way duties of a modern fullback easily. While Trippier may not be a long-term signing due to his age, the price of the move as well as the quality of the player makes this an extremely sensible transfer.

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