The mere existence of the January transfer window in world football has been a subject of debate for some time now. Some say it helps improve teams and revitalize struggling players mid-season, others such as Arsene Wenger say it should be removed completely. Regardless of your opinion, the January window has been shown to have a huge impact on a team’s fortunes as well as on a players' – both for good and bad reasons.
Some players who make a move to another club mid-season can breathe life back into both their own career as well as their new club’s fortunes, whereas other players have moved for big money in January and failed to meet expectations. In this top 10 list, we’ll be focusing on the 10 men who have switched clubs in January for the biggest transfer fees in history, regardless of how successful or disappointing the end result was.
For many players, this January transfer window is especially crucial, as many of them will want to explore their options in an effort to stay in the thoughts of their national team’s manager for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. This window has already seen Juan Mata move from Chelsea to Manchester United and Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic move back to Chelsea, as well as two major MLS signings in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley for Toronto FC. The January window is a polarizing one, but it’s an opportunity for clubs to give fans something to be excited about at the midway point of the season.
These 10 men are all big-time players who have taken the plunge and agreed to suddenly switch clubs halfway through the season. Even with varying results for each individual, it’s obvious that the January window can have almost as much of an impact as the one in the summer. Let’s take a look.
10 Luis Suarez (Ajax to Liverpool - $38.7 million)
Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez has built up quite the bad boy reputation over his career – what with biting Branislav Ivanovic, allegedly racially abusing Patrice Evra, etc. – but it’s safe to say his behaviour on the pitch is overshadowed by his incredible footballing ability. Following his $38.7 million move from Dutch heavyweights Ajax to Liverpool in 2011, the Premier League has turned out to be a perfect venue for the technically gifted Suarez to realize his immense potential. While he has yet to win a league or European title at Anfield, Suarez is enjoying the best season of his career thus far – an example of January transfers paying off in spades.
9 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax to Real Madrid - $39.5 million)
After outgrowing the Eredivisie back home with Ajax, Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar took a gigantic leap up to La Liga, signing with Real Madrid for $39.5 million in January 2009. However, he failed to make the impact many had hoped he would with Los Merengues, scoring only eight goals in 20 games for the rest of that 2008-09 season in Madrid before signing with AC Milan that summer. Huntelaar has since joined German side Schalke 04, which has thus far turned out to be much more enduring, and has seen the prolific Dutchman churn out goals with far more frequency than he ever did in Madrid or Milan.
8 David Luiz (Benfica to Chelsea - $43.7 million)
While some argue that he’s better off as a defensive midfielder as opposed to a centre back, David Luiz has nonetheless proven himself an important player for club and country. The Brazilian signed with Chelsea from Portuguese side Benfica for roughly $43.7 million in January 2011. So far, it’s paying off: he’s become a regular starter in the Brazilian national squad after moving to Stamford Bridge – a huge role given the country is hosting the World Cup this summer – and has been a fixture in Chelsea’s starting XI alongside either John Terry or Gary Cahill, winning the Champions League and Europa League with this being only his fourth season at the club.
7 Willian (Shakhtar Donetsk to Anzhi Makhachkala - $51.1 million)
A certified starlet in the Ukranian league, Brazilian winger Willian took the plunge and signed with free-spending Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala on deadline day in January 2013. His stay in the war-torn Dagestan city was brief: Willian scored only one goal in 16 games with the club before being transfer listed alongside Anzhi’s entire squad that summer due to serious financial troubles and business restructuring. He ended up signing with Chelsea this past summer, and is hoping to land himself a place on Brazil’s World Cup squad come June. As for Anzhi, their heavy spending ended up coming back to bite them and they are currently sitting dead last in the Russian league standings.
6 Christian Vieri (Lazio to Inter - $52.7 million)
Breaking a transfer world record is bound to set high expectations for a player moving to a new club. For Christian Vieri, that’s exactly what happened when he moved to Inter from Lazio for roughly $52.7 million in January 2000, and his move paid off handsomely. Despite not capturing any hardware for the Nerazzurri during his time there, Vieri enjoyed five goal-filled seasons at the San Siro – including his second Italian Footballer of the Year Award in 2002, as well as being the Serie A’s top scorer in 2002-03 – before switching to city rivals AC Milan in 2005 as he was reaching the twilight of his career.
5 Edin Dzeko (VfL Wolfsburg to Manchester City - $53.5 million)
Despite enjoying a prolific career at Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko still had to prove he could make a big impact with a big club. After moving to Manchester City from Wolfsburg in January 2011 for about $53.5 million, Dzeko has proven exactly that: he’s staved off competition in the striking positions over recent years at the Etihad Stadium, and has a Premier League title under his belt at City. With his Bosnia-Herzegovina competing in this summer’s World Cup, Dzeko has now got to prove that his club form can translate to his national team on the world’s biggest footballing stage.
4 Andy Carroll (Newcastle United to Liverpool - $59.3 million)
After a pretty strong but by no means exceptional last two seasons with Newcastle United from 2009 to 2010, Andy Carroll made a January 2011 switch to Liverpool for a gargantuan $59.3 million following the Reds’ sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea (more on him later). The gamble backfired: the long-haired English striker scored a disappointing 11 goals in 58 appearances during his time at Anfield, and switched to West Ham United in August 2012 initially on loan, but would later sign there permanently. Carroll has since struggled with injuries with the Hammers and his chances with the English national team have come only sporadically.
3 Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain - $60.9 million)
One of the next great youngsters in Brazilian football’s pipeline, Lucas Moura signed with big-spending Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain in January 2013 in the hopes of realizing the massive potential he’s had ever since he was a teenager at Sao Paulo. So far, that hasn’t turned out to really be the case, as Lucas has seen his form be somewhat disappointing at the Parc des Princes. He’s still got time to justify his $60.9 million transfer fee, but he’s got to pick up his form quickly for Luiz Felipe Scolari to have no doubts about his place at the World Cup in his home country this summer.
2 Juan Mata (Chelsea to Manchester United - $65.5 million)
Seeing as this transfer only happened just recently, it’s far too early to tell whether or not it will be a success or a flop for the Red Devils. Regardless, David Moyes broke the bank – and Manchester United’s transfer record – to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea in the hopes of salvaging their disappointing season, for a fee of $65.5 million. As Mata himself was struggling to even get playing time under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, this move is one he surely hopes will re-energize his career as he strives to solidify a place on Vicente del Bosque’s ridiculously deep Spanish midfield at the World Cup.
1 Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea - $84.8 million)
Once upon a time, Fernando Torres was one of the most feared strikers in world football with Liverpool, finishing in third for the Ballon d’Or in 2008 as well as third for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award that same year. However, he started to lose form considerably during the 2010-11 season, and Liverpool responded by controversially selling him to Chelsea in January 2011 for a whopping $84.8 million. Reds fans responded harshly by labelling him “Judas”, and although he’s won a Champions League title at Stamford Bridge, Torres has yet to even come close to justifying that absolutely monstrous transfer fee.