January transfer window: Premier League hits and misses after £3bn spent in 20 years

128461382 hitsandmisses


Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho
Luis Suarez was a winter hit for Liverpool, but Philippe Coutinho’s January move to Barcelona didn’t work out

Love it or hate it – the January transfer window has now been a central part of the football calendar for two decades.

Introduced by English football for the 2002-03 campaign, after Fifa made the decision to limit permanent moves during the season to a one-month period, the window has never been short on drama.

After a slow start to the 2003 winter window, it finally burst into life on a deadline day which featured Jonathan Woodgate’s move from Leeds United to Newcastle United for £9m.

A total approaching £3bn has been spent by Premier League clubs in the winter transfer window.

BBC Sport looks back at some of the most memorable hits and misses over the past 20 years.


Patrice Evra – (Monaco to Manchester United)

Patrice Evra

Year signed: 2006

Fee paid: £5.5m

Year left: 2014 (to Juventus)

Manchester United’s chief executive at the time, David Gill flew to Monaco to clinch the deal and he’ll be glad he did as the French defender went on help the Reds win five Premier League titles.

Patrice Evra made 379 appearances and as well as Premier League success, he helped the club win the Champions League in 2008, three League Cups and the Club World Cup.

Riyad Mahrez – (Le Havre to Leicester City)

Riyad Mahrez

Year signed: 2014

Fee paid: Undisclosed fee reported to be around £450,000

Year left: 2018 (to Manchester City)

Leicester ended the Algerian’s first season as Championship winners and returned to the Premier League for the first time in 10 years.

Two seasons later, Riyad Mahrez was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year during Leicester’s surprise Premier League triumph in 2015-16, and scored a total of 48 goals in 179 appearances for the club.

In the summer of 2018, Manchester City broke their club record at the time to sign the winger from Leicester for £60m – not a bad profit.

Luis Suarez – (Ajax to Liverpool)

Luis Suarez

Year signed: 2011

Fee paid: £22.7m

Year left: 2014 (to Barcelona)

During the 2013-14 season, Luis Suarez was involved in 43 goals – 31 goals, 12 assists – which was more than any other player in the top five leagues, and finished what would be his final season with Liverpool as the Premier League top scorer and winner of the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards.

After a controversial time at Anfield, where he served two bans, the striker left for Barcelona in the summer of 2014 in a £75m deal. He scored a total of 82 goals in 133 appearances for the club.

Clint Dempsey – (New England Revolution to Fulham)

Clint Dempsey

Year signed: 2007

Fee paid: Reported £2m

Year left: 2012 (to Tottenham Hotspur)

Clint Dempsey scored 50 goals for Fulham in 184 league appearances for the club, and played a pivotal part in the Cottagers’ Europa League runner-up campaign in 2009-10, scoring a chip against Juventus in a memorable match that saw them reach the quarter-finals. He went on to make history by becoming the first American to appear in a major European final.

In 2012, Tottenham agreed a £6m fee for Dempsey, however, the midfielder did return to Fulham in 2014 on loan from Seattle Sounders.

Nemanja Matic – (Benfica to Chelsea)

Year signed: 2014

Fee paid: Reported £21m

Year left: 2017 (to Manchester United)

Nemanja Matic returned to Chelsea from Benfica in 2014 having been sold in 2009 and won two Premier League titles with the Blues.

In 2015, the midfielder was named in the PFA’s Premier League team of the year. According to Opta, he averaged nearly four tackles, made more than two interceptions and won eight duels – a 50-50 contest – per 90 minutes over the 2014-15 campaign.

Seamus Coleman – (Sligo Rovers to Everton)

Seamus Coleman

Year signed: 2009

Fee paid: Reported £60,000

Year left: Still at club

There can’t be many better ‘value for money’ signings than Seamus Coleman, who has become a mainstay in Everton’s defence for more than a decade. In 2021, the now 34-year-old Irishman signed a one-year contract extension to keep him at Everton until 2023.

A consistently high performer for the Toffees and a fan favourite, he was named in the 2014 PFA Team of the Year.

Branislav Ivanovic – (Lokomotiv Moscow to Chelsea)

Branislav Ivanovic

Year signed: 2008

Fee paid: Undisclosed fee

Year left: 2017 (to Zenit Saint Petersburg)

Branislav Ivanovic played 377 times for Chelsea over a nine-year spell. He won the Champions League, Premier League twice, FA Cup three times and League Cup, and scored the winning goal in the 2013 Europa League final.

When the defender joined Russian Premier League side Zenit St Petersburg in 2017, former Chelsea captain John Terry paid tribute to Ivanovic, describing him as a “legend” in an Instagram postexternal-link.

Nemanja Vidic (Spartak Moscow to Manchester United)

Nemanja Vidic

Year signed: 2006

Fee paid: £7m

Year left: 2014 (joined Inter Milan on free)

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told MUTV at the time of the deal: “Good defenders win you things.” He wasn’t wrong.

Nemanja Vidic captained United to their historic 20th top-flight title in 2013 – his fifth at the club. Playing 300 games, the Serb also helped United win the Champions League in 2008, as well as three League Cups. He was also ever-present during a record-breaking run of 14 consecutive clean sheets in the 2008-09 Premier League season.

Bruno Fernandes – (Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United)

Year signed: 2020

Fee paid: £47m with add ons

Year left: Still at club

In Bruno Fernandes’ first year at Manchester United, he scored 28 times in all competitions and also provided 17 assists, which meant his total goal involvement of 45 was better than any top flight player in that period.

That quality saw Fernandes win four Premier League Player of the Month awards in 2020 – the first man to take the accolade four times in a calendar year. Though his goalscoring has since slowed, the Portuguese remains an important player in Erik ten Hag’s side.

Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk

Year signed: 2018

Fee paid: £75m

Year left: Still at club

Eyebrows were raised at the amount Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil van Dijk in 2018 – a world record £75m at the time – but the Dutch centre-back has been worth every penny with his assured performances in defence.

Since joining the Reds, he has won the lot including the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup along with the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup. He was also voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2018-19.


Fernando Torres – (Liverpool to Chelsea)

Fernando Torres

Year signed: 2011

Fee paid: £50m

Year left: 2014 (to Atletico Madrid)

After moving for a then British record transfer fee, Fernando Torres scored his only goal in the remainder of the season for Chelsea in April 2011.

Despite a tough start, the striker was part of the Blues’ Champions League-winning team in 2012. He also won the FA Cup and scored in their 2-1 win against Benfica in the Europa League final in 2013.

The striker scored a total of 45 goals in 172 games at Chelsea, way below his 81 in 142 games at Liverpool.

Andy Carroll – (Newcastle to Liverpool)

Andy Carroll

Year signed: 2011

Fee paid: £35m

Year left: 2013 (to West Ham United)

Andy Carroll was signed to replace Torres and in his first full season at Liverpool, he won the League Cup but his time at Anfield was ultimately short-lived.

With the arrival of Brendan Rodgers as manager and a new style of play, Carroll’s return of just six goals in 44 league outings for Liverpool saw the striker loaned to West Ham. They later completed the permanent signing of Carroll for what was a club record at the time of £15m.

Alexis Sanchez – (Arsenal to Manchester United)

Year signed: 2018

Fee paid: Swap deal with midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Year left: 2020 (to Inter Milan)

Alexis Sanchez was given the number seven shirt, and was famously announced on the club’s Twitter accountexternal-link with him playing ‘Glory, Glory Man Utd’ on a piano.

Despite scoring on his home debut, the Chilean forward completely failed to recapture the form he showed so often during his time with the Gunners. He played 45 games for United, scoring just five goals and winning no silverware.

Afonso Alves – (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough)

Afonso Alves

Year signed: 2008

Fee paid: In excess of £10m

Year left: 2009 (to Al Sadd)

Middlesbrough broke their club transfer record at the time to sign Afonso Alves and the Brazilian initially impressed, scoring twice against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw and grabbing a hat-trick against Manchester City in an 8-1 rout on the final day of the 2008-09 season.

However, the striker struggled in his final season on Teesside, scoring just seven goals in 33 appearances and was injured against Newcastle, which forced him to miss the final two games of a season in which the club were relegated from the Premier League.

Guido Carrillo – (Monaco to Southampton)

Guido Carrillo

Year signed: 2018

Fee paid: £19m

Year left: 2020 (joined Elche on free)

After Southampton paid a then a club record £19m for Guido Carrillo, he only made 10 appearances for the Saints and failed to score for the club.

He was soon loaned out to Spanish side Leganes in the summer of 2018, where he spent the following season on loan too. In 2020, Carrillo joined Elche CF on a free transfer after an agreement was reached to terminate his contract with the Saints.

Christopher Samba – (Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR)

Christopher Samba

Year signed: 2013

Fee paid: £19m

Year left: 2013 (to Anzhi Makhachkala)

Defender Christopher Samba signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the R’s and was reportedly earning about £100,000 a week.

The Congo-Brazzaville international’s high wages caused issues with some supporters, with Samba telling them to “get over it” following their defeat by Fulham in April 2013. He conceded a penalty from which Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring, then lost the ball to the Bulgarian striker, who scored again.

Samba made 10 appearances that season, but could not help Rangers avoid relegation from the Premier League and by the summer of 2013 he was back with Anzhi.

Jean-Alain Boumsong – (Rangers to Newcastle United)

Jean-Alain Boumsong

Year signed: 2005

Fee paid: £8m

Year left: 2006 (to Juventus)

Jean-Alain Boumsong was a French international at the time of his move but after a mixed couple of seasons, he proved unpopular among a large section of Magpies supporters. After turning out a number of poor performances, he found himself behind Craig Moore, Steven Taylor and Titus Bramble in the centre-back pecking order.

The Frenchman joined Juventus in the summer of 2006.

Philippe Coutinho – (Liverpool to Barcelona)

Year signed: 2018

Fee paid: £142m

Year left: 2022 (to Aston Villa)

A player who could feature as both a hit and a miss, after his successful stint at Liverpool following an £8.5m transfer from Inter Milan in January 2013.

However, the Brazilian’s move to Barcelona five years later – in one of the most expensive transfers of all time – goes down as a miss.

Despite winning two league titles, by the time of his exit, Coutinho languished in the shadows at Barcelona after suffering from injury and criticism from fans.

He won the Champions League in 2020 while on loan at Bayern Munich but the German club decided not to sign him permanently. He ended up scoring a total of 26 goals in 106 appearances during his time with the Spanish side.

Savio Nsereko – (Brescia to West Ham)

Savio Nsereko

Year signed: 2009

Fee paid: £9m

Year left: 2009 (to Fiorentina)

Savio Nsereko, who reportedly signed for a then club record £9m fee, failed to live up to expectations during his time at Upton Park and couldn’t find the net in his 11 appearances.

The Ugandan-born German attacker didn’t last long and in the summer of 2009 moved to Serie A.

Oumar Niasse – (Lokomotiv Moscow to Everton)

Oumar Niasse

Year signed: 2016

Fee paid: £13.5m

Year left: 2020 (later joined Huddersfield Town on free)

Oumar Niasse signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Everton and would ultimately see that contract out but the Senegal forward only scored 12 goals in 65 league appearances for the Toffees.

Following loans with Hull and Cardiff, Niasse left Everton on a free in the summer of 2020.


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