The 2024 January transfer window did not reach the heights of the summer, or even the previous January, as clubs around Europe did little business.
While England’s Premier League teams spent a record €2.79 billion during the summer window and €842 million in January 2023, Transfermarkt reveals that figure to be around €121m this month.
In Europe’s other top leagues, it was a similar story. It is fair to say the transfer bubble has burst due to new financial regulations and a lack of available options.
Indeed, in France’s Ligue 1 (€192m), Italy’s Serie A (€101m), Germany’s Bundesliga (€82m) and Spain’s LaLiga (€86m) clubs also spent less. And Saudi Arabia’s Pro League dropped from summer deals totalling €949m to just €23m in January.
So, despite the general lack of business, who did well? And who did poorly?
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Despite failing in their quest to land a defensive midfielder, the German champions still enjoyed a positive window. The signing of right-back Sacha Boey is particularly exciting, as the 23-year-old has been solid for Galatasaray since joining the club in 2021 and impressed in the Champions League. Defensively tidy, consistent and enthusiastic going forward, the €30m new arrival should boost Bayern’s right flank considerably.
The capture of Eric Dier, on an initial loan from Tottenham, also offers coach Thomas Tuchel experience and versatility at the back. As a bonus, Bayern also managed to fast track the signing of Granada winger Bryan Zaragoza — his €15m arrival was already agreed for the summer — right before the deadline.
Third in the LaLiga table, Atletico may not have gone for quantity in the transfer window, but they ended up with quality. To the surprise of many, they signed highly rated midfielder Arthur Vermeeren from Antwerp in what was a well-executed operation.
The Belgium international had been linked with almost every elite club around Europe, with a transfer fee mooted to be between €35m-€50m, but the 18-year-old suddenly turned up in Madrid and signed for an initial €22m (plus €5m add-ons). While Vermeeren might not stroll straight into the starting XI, Atletico have nonetheless secured one of Europe’s most coveted teenagers.
Add in the signings of defender Gabriel Paulista and goalkeeper Horatiu Moldovan, and the club should be well placed to challenge in the second half of the season.
Spurs did well to land a new centre-back given the lack of options this month. At €25m from Genoa, Radu Dragusin was the most expensive Premier League signing of the window and was good value given his obvious potential.
Also, although he’s still looking for his first goal for the club, Germany striker Timo Werner — a loan signing from RB Leipzig — has brought energy and vivacity to Spurs’ attack with an assist in each of his first two league appearances.
Dortmund may be slightly underperforming in the Bundesliga, where they sit fourth, but they can look back on some fine transfer work. Chelsea loanee Ian Maatsen has been outstanding in his first three games, with the left-back creating an assist in the 4-0 away win at FC Cologne.
The same can be said for returning fan favourite Jadon Sancho. Though the England winger has been reintroduced carefully, due to his lack of playing time at Manchester United over the past months, he has proved productive already with two assists. Indeed, having returned to the club he left in 2021 for €85m, he looks a completely different player to the forlorn, confidence-stripped figure he cut in the Premier League.
SOUTH AMERICAN TEENAGERS
Striker Vitor Roque finally arrived at Barcelona. Though his €40m move from Atletico-PR was agreed last year for him to join in the summer of 2024, it was brought forward after an injury to Gavi. The 18-year-old Brazil international took little time to make his mark for Barcelona by scoring a glanced header two minutes after coming off the bench in the 1-0 win against Osasuna.
Manchester City pounced for River Plate’s exceptionally talented forward Claudio Echeverri, who was a standout performer at the recent under-17 World Cup — though his arrival in Manchester is not due before the end of the year as he returned to his former club on loan.
Brighton beat out competition from City to sign Boca Juniors’ left-back Valentín Barco for around €10m. The 19-year-old had been on the shortlist of many top European teams and the Premier League club have landed themselves a star of the future.
Meanwhile, another hot prospect from the South American scene was signed by PSG for €20m. Gabriel Moscardo, a defensive midfielder from Corinthians, has attracted rave reviews for his performances in the Brazilian Serie A and the 18-year old was snapped up before returning to his former club on loan.
Clearly, in the absence of transfer market value in Europe, some of the continent’s top clubs have turned to South America for bargains.
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With transfer windows becoming a bi-yearly event in their own right — and expensive signings being celebrated like a long-awaited trophy — this one turned out to be pretty disappointing for most hungry supporters.
Though arguably a healthy sign, the rigid 10-point penalty handed out to Everton — and possibly soon Nottingham Forest, too — has undoubtedly brought an air of prudence to Premier League spending, seeing it drop from €1bn in January 2023 to around €100m this time.
This also staves off the trickle-down effect that oils the wheels of several European leagues (and, in turn, restricts investment further down the pyramid.) While January brought the transfer activity back to the levels of the COVID-19 pandemic year, there’s no reason to believe things won’t bounce back in the summer.
Languishing in upper mid-table of the Premier League, some transfer activity was both needed and anticipated at Old Trafford. Instead, as the club is awaiting the 25% minority investment of Sir Jim Ratcliffe to be ratified by the league, while also facing financial challenges, no new faces showed up at Carrington.
Sending €85m signing Sancho on loan to Dortmund is also a defeat for the club. As much as Sancho didn’t figure in manager Erik ten Hag’s plans due to their very public disagreement, having to practically give up on such a talented player is not a good look. And Anthony Martial’s injury alongside Marcus Rashford’s disciplinary issues, means they really have very few options up front.
SAUDI PRO LEAGUE
Following the relentless summer splurge that reached around €800m, the Saudi Pro League failed to set the transfer market alight in January.
With the exception of Marseille left-back Renan Lodi joining Al Hilal for €23m, the free-spending, ambitious league only saw the arrival of loan signings and free transfers — which makes for quite a contrast compared to last summer.
Furthermore, the league has also experienced some trouble in hanging on to its most high-profile stars. Jordan Henderson has already left Al Ettifaq for Ajax, former Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema wants to depart Al Ittihad just a few months after arriving, while Al Nassr defender Aymeric Laporte has been vocal about his (and others’) discontent.
West Ham winger Said Benrahma looked set to move to French side Lyon on loan before the deal collapsed at the last minute.
Incredibly, Lyon then released a statement and accused the club of “incomprehensible behaviour” and a “lack of respect.” They insisted they had done all the admin, but that “West Ham had never launched the slightest technical procedure on its part, despite the repeated reminders from the OL and continuous mutual telephone communication.”
So now the 28-year-old Algeria international is stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be and won’t able to leave until July. When he does, it’s unlikely to be for a move to Lyon.