January is usually quiet for transfers, but the Premier League‘s winter spending in 2022 was actually the second highest in history, and over half the money (€335 million, according to Transfermarkt) was splashed by the bottom five clubs: Everton, Norwich City, Newcastle United, Watford and Burnley.
With the break for the World Cup in Qatar and the ongoing economic crisis around the globe, it’s unclear how teams will respond to the various challenges this year, but there have already been agreements for some high-profile signings.
Here are the grades for all the major deals in January 2023. The most recent write-ups are at the top; each day is in order of highest fee. If you don’t see a grade for a major move that has been completed, check back later.
All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk.
Atletico Madrid: B-
When you spend €126m to sign a player, you don’t really expect to be shipping them out on loan. But on the other hand, Felix was clearly unhappy and needed to depart. Plus Atletico extended his contract to maintain his value and bagged an €11m loan fee. It just doesn’t feel like Chelsea is the place to get his career back on track.
The loan fee is very high, while Chelsea need a No. 9 striker and not another forward to add to those they already have. It seems quite a reactive move and one wonders if manager Graham Potter had much of a say in it.
Crystal Palace: B
Man United: B
After moving to Palace in 2020, Butland has slipped behind Vicente Guaita and Sam Johnstone in the pecking order. They won’t miss him, so a loan move is best for all.
After Newcastle recalled Martin Dubravka from his season-long loan at Old Trafford, United needed a new backup for David de Gea, and they don’t come much better than Butland. A former England international, he is still only 29 and should have the fire to try to challenge for the No. 1 spot.
With Badiashile having risen through the youth ranks, Monaco can take the entire profit from his move, but the 21-year-old will be missed in the centre of defence and you wonder if the French club could have held out for a bigger fee.
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Chelsea’s top defensive target had been RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, but Badiashile has potential and comes a lot cheaper. A 7½ year deal is, frankly, a bit strange as contracts of this length rarely work out, but he has plenty of skill and a physicality that could be suited to English football.
Bayern Munich: A
These types of deals are great. Blind is 32, still going strong with the Netherlands national team, and left Ajax Amsterdam by mutual consent last week with six months left on his contract. Bayern needed cover for the injured Lucas Hernandez, and Blind’s versatility gives them a great option, while he can experience a new league. A win for everyone.
Atletico Madrid: A-
Reminder: Barcelona paid €120m to sign Griezmann from Atletico in 2019, then loaned him back to them for two years in 2021. That loan included an obligation to make the deal permanent for €40m in the event he played over 45 minutes in 50% of the games for which he was available … which he did. Legal battles ensued and, eventually, financially stricken Barca cut the fee in half to avoid a saga. Already it was one of the worst deals ever for Barca, and seeing Griezmann shine for France in a new role (advanced midfield) at the 2022 World Cup just adds insult to injury.
Atletico have brought the 31-year-old back on a four-year deal, which is something of a gamble given he hadn’t recaptured his previous brilliance for them while on loan. Still, at least they won’t have to monitor his minutes anymore. If they can get the best out of his newfound midfield abilities, they will be happy counting their €100m profit.
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PSV had a fee of €50m in their minds and director Marcel Brands even went on record a few months ago to say that if Man United had offered that much over the summer, they would have let Gakpo move. But after a stellar World Cup with Netherlands, the club’s valuation stayed the same. It feels like they could have asked for more, even if they could potentially get another €8m in add-ons.
That said, it’s a super move from Liverpool. Not only did they beat rivals United to the punch, but they haven’t spent too much to sign a player with 55 goals and 50 assists from 159 senior games for PSV. He is versatile and has plenty of room to develop at 23 years old. It will be a step up in quality, but Gakpo has the skills to handle it.
Central Coast Mariners: B-
The 18-year-old Kuol rose to prominence when he became the youngest player to represent Australia since Harry Kewell and then landed a spot in the World Cup squad. Such was his rise, he only signed his first professional deal in June, so Kuol has plenty to learn. But he is highly rated and the Mariners weren’t going to stand in his way of a big move.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has already said the forward will be “nurtured and developed in the next couple of years to get him at the right level for the Premier League,” so don’t expect him to have an immediate impact. Indeed, after impressing at the World Cup, the club have already had plenty of loan offers. Very much one for the future.
Atletico Madrid: A
The Brazil striker joined Atletico for €25m from Hertha Berlin in 2021 but failed to find regular first-team football, with seven goals in 54 appearances. His lack of minutes this season saw him miss out on a place in the Brazil squad for the World Cup and it’s no surprise to see him move on. But Atletico need cash and did brilliantly to get such a large transfer fee, albeit one that will be be paid in the summer.
The initial loan deal will “automatically become a permanent deal until 2027, should certain clauses be triggered” and sources said that will cost Wolves €40m, plus another possible €10m in add-ons. It seems an extremely large fee for a player who hasn’t set the world alight in LaLiga, though he is still only 23 and has plenty of potential.
You don’t get many chances to sign a player of Ronaldo’s class, so fair play to the Saudi Arabian side for putting up the kind of silly money that he couldn’t possibly refuse. The 37-year-old will reportedly earn $75m-a-year in wages, but it is a strange place for one of the greatest players of all time to end his career.
If we gave personal grades for a player’s decision then Ronaldo would score low. While he talked about playing until he was 40, competing at the highest level and fighting for trophies, it seems he is now only interested in money (and he has plenty already!) after his time at Manchester United ended badly.