After a long month, the drama is finally over. The speculation, the false rumors, the false starts, they’ve all come to an end. On February 2nd the winter transfer window officially closed across Europe. Players are now locked into their club until July, when the summer transfer window opens up across all of Europe (although in England it opens a bit earlier, midway through June). As the dust settles, fans and analysts alike will be going through the list of trades and the transfer fees to determine who was a bargain buy and who was a rip-off. There’s also the matter of if these players, who find themselves surrounded by a new squad and sometimes in a new league, will be able to adapt to the new style of play and be equally successful.
The list of flops in the history of football transfers is a long, painful and expensive one. On the other hand, there will almost certainly be a host of players who will come into their own and flourish in their new surroundings. It’s not uncommon for a player who is invisible on the field and derided by the fans of his old club to find his mojo and put in extravagant performances for a new squad, all in front of the newly enamoured crowds of his new home, and that’s all part of the fun of watching the aftermath of transfer season unfold.
This year’s winter transfer window was a relatively busy one. Although certain trades fell through, such as the continuously teased Julian Draxler move from Schalke 04 to Arsenal, other transfers that started off as laughable rumours stunned fans everywhere as they came to fruition before our eyes. Today we’ll take a look at the 10 most expensive transfers that took place from around the world last month, in order to see which players the market currently believes carry big price tags.
10 Leandro Damião - €13 million ($17.6 million)
We begin faraway from Europe, in Brazil’s Brasileirão, the country’s premier soccer league. Damião is a Brazilian striker who had played for Sport Club Internacional since 2010. During his tenure there he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, the tournament to determine the champions of South America. After briefly being linked with English club Tottenham Hotspur, and with his relationship with Internacional deteriorating, Damião made the switch to fellow Brazilian club Santos FC. Internacional received a cool €13 million in compensation, and Damião got a fresh start at a new club without leaving his home country.
9 Mohamed Salah - €13.2 million ($17.9 million)
English club Chelsea were by far the most active side this transfer window. Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, quickly went to work buying up talent from around the world. The purchase of Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah from Swiss club FC Basel cost them €13.2 million, but at 21 years of age they’re hoping that in due time Salah will prove to be even more valuable. He won the 2012 award for ‘Most Promising African Talent’ and has been consistently impressive thus far in his career. If he can adapt to life in the English Premier League, and receive playing time under Chelsea coach Jose Mourihno, he may be a dangerous player for years to come.
8 Kurt Zouma - €14.6 million ($19.85 million)
French defender Kurt Zouma was another object of Chelsea’s desires in January. Chelsea snatched him up from St-Etienne for €14.6 million, where he had been playing since 2009, when he was 15. Now 19, the young player must prove to Chelsea fans and management that he was worth the price tag for a somewhat unproven talent. Didier Deschamps, the manager of the French international squad, says he sees Zouma as a potential future captain of France. Zouma will have the chance to live up to his hype as he begins his new life at Stamford Bridge.
7 Hernanes - €15 million ($20.4 million)
Hernanes (born Anderson Hernandes de Carvalho Viana Lima) is a Brazilian midfielder who plays in the Italian Serie A. After almost 4 seasons in Rome with Lazio, he made the move to Inter Milan for a fee of €15 million. The 28-year-old will be looking to capitalize on his move to Internazionale, as the shadow of this year’s World Cup in his native Brazil looms large. With a squad as talented as Brazil’s, he’ll need to put in impressive performances in Italy to justify his place on the national side back home.
6 Konstantinos Mitroglou - €15.2 million ($20.66 million)
English club Fulham landed somewhat of a coup with their purchase of Greek striker Konstantinos Mitroglou for €15.2 million. 25-year-old Mitroglou had been with Greek club Olympiacos since 2007, when he was 18. Although the Greek league gets little publicity outside of Greece, talent scouts and others in the know had been praising Mitroglou’s clinical finishing ability for quite some time. He’ll get an opportunity to ply his trade in front of significantly more international viewers now that he’ll be playing in the English Premier League. Fulham, for their part, have had a horrid season, and have spent the big dollars this winter on Mitroglou in the hopes that he can bring his magic to England and help them avoid relegation.
5 Kevin De Bruyne - €17 million ($23.1 million)
Belgian attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne wanted out of Chelsea. He signed with the London club in 2012, but so far this season had made only 9 appearances under new coach Jose Mourihno. If the reports are to be believed, he himself angled for a transfer in order to get more playing time. The 22-year-old, as most players are around this time of year, has his sights set on the World Cup that will begin at the end of this season. The playing time he was receiving at Chelsea was simply not enough to solidify his spot on the Belgian national team. German side Vfl Wolfsburg were waiting with open arms and a €17 million check. De Bruyne is a young and promising player, and time will tell whether Chelsea made a mistake letting him go, or if they simply know something that the fans do not.
4 José Salomón Rondón - €18 million ($24.5 million)
We leave Western Europe for the time being to focus on the East and the Russian Premier League. Venezuelan striker José Salomón Rondón had been with Russian club Rubin Kazan since 2012. He put in strong performances, which inevitably caught the eye of league mates and Russian juggernaut FC Zenit Saint Petersburg. FC Zenit scooped him away from Rubin Kazan for €18 million, a sum of money that the smaller club simply couldn’t resist. Rondón is already the most expensive player in Venezuelan history, and he’ll be looking to add to his legend with his new employers in Saint Petersburg.
3 Yohan Cabaye - €25 million ($34 million)
French juggernauts Paris Saint-Germain used their considerable financial power to bring one of their own home with the purchase of Yohan Cabaye from Newcastle United for €25 million. Cabaye, a French midfielder, had been with Newcastle United since 2011. After several seasons with Newcastle, he proved to be one of their top players. PSG, who are always on the lookout to add quality French players to their club, took notice. Cabaye will be returning to Ligue 1, where he originally made his name with Lille, but this time will be playing for their rivals PSG. The 26-year-old will now be preparing for the upcoming World Cup in his native France with the most prestigious club in the country.
2 Nemanja Matic - €25 million ($34 million)
We go back to Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s most expensive purchase of the January transfer window. Serbian defender Nemanja Matic made his return to Chelsea from Benfica, to the tune of €25 million. Matic, who had previously been with Chelsea from 2009-2011, was transferred to Benfica in a swap deal for David Luiz. They decided to come back for him, and he returned to London in January. Matic wasted no time in adjusting himself to the new team; he was instrumental in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory against the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City.
1 Juan Mata - €44.73 million ($60.8 million)
We end with what was by far January’s most expensive transfer, and also without a doubt the most shocking. Juan Mata had been Chelsea’s best player for the past 2 seasons, and with Jose Mourihno’s return to Stamford Bridge, many expected Mata to be instrumental to the new coach’s plans. Instead, the Spanish midfielder spent much of the first half of the season on the bench. Mata, like other players on the list, had the World Cup in mind. He wanted to make an appearance on the Spanish national team, and his relationship with Chelsea was jeopardizing that chance. Enter David Moyes and Manchester United. After the retirement of longtime coach Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have gone from being undoubtedly the top team in the Premier League, to languishing in the middle of the pack. New coach David Moyes needed a marquee signing to assure fans that the current state of disarray was transient. Mata presented an opportunity to prove Manchester United was still a place for top talent, and so Moyes swooped in with a €44.73 million deal. For now, only time will tell if Juan Mata can shift the direction of the former champions and lead them back to their winning ways.