This January transfer window has been relatively quiet in Premier League terms — most managers seeming relatively content with their current squads. There still have been some interesting moves, however — here are five of the most intriguing transfers to have taken place so far.
Gabriel Jesus, Palmeiras to Manchester City (£27m)
Gabriel Jesus has been a name lingering in the background throughout Manchester City’s first half-season under Pep Guardiola — his transfer was arranged in the summer but only completed last week. A 13-minute debut in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham showed the 19-year-old could be the real deal. He had the ball in the net, although the strike was disallowed for offside, and showed a directness in possession that could suit Guardiola’s system well.
Having attracted praise from legendary Brazil striker Romario, who said he’s likely to be Brazil’s next great number nine, Jesus has plenty to live up to. It’s difficult to pin him down to one position, however, as he can theoretically play wide, cutting inside from the left flank, or act as a number ten. His long-term future, however, should be upfront.
City were slightly lacking in options to back-up Sergio Aguero. Kelechi Iheanacho is a promising talent, but Jesus is a potential superstar. He offers pace, dribbling ability, clever movement and scores poacher’s goals too.
And he’s something of a classic Brazilian, mixing a love of trickery with a hardened, aggressive edge to his game. It feels like City, for all their superstars, could do with a real fan’s favourite and someone to really get this season going again. Jesus just might be their saviour
Tom Carroll, Tottenham to Swansea (£4.5m)
Plenty of Tottenham fans seem to disagree, but Tom Carroll has the makings of an excellent footballer. A small, neat and tidy 5-foot-8 midfielder who boasts plenty of footballing intelligence, Carroll’s problem at Tottenham was simply that he found himself with entirely the wrong skillset for the style of football Mauricio Pochettino promotes. This Tottenham side are based upon pressing and physicality, upon players who can run and run. Pure ball-players in Carroll’s mould are unlikely to shine deep in midfield.
Swansea is the right destination for Carroll. After a decent half-season on loan there two years ago, Carroll is returning to familiar territory, and while frequent changes of manager means the old Swansea philosophy based around possession football has become slightly less obvious, they are still a club which appreciate technical talents and should give Carroll time to shine, possibly in the role Leon Britton once made his own.
Carroll is no longer a youngster — he turns 25 in May. But players in his mould, who lack natural physicality, tend to peak later than any other outfielders. Xavi Hernandez, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Scholes’ popularity peaked in their thirties, and while Carroll certainly isn’t in that calibre, he can look to Britton — who worked his way through the divisions before making his Premier League debut at 28 — as an example of a midfielder who became top-class relatively late in his career.
Nathan Ake, Bournemouth to Chelsea (loan return)
Nathan Ake’s move to Chelsea isn’t a transfer in its purest sense — he’s simply returning from a loan spell at Bournemouth — but it’s nevertheless one of the more exciting moves in this January’s transfer window. That says a lot about an unusually quite month for transfers, but also about Ake’s precocious talent.
After all, the vast majority of youngsters Chelsea send out on loan have little chance of ever returning — at the last count, the league leaders had no fewer than 35 players out on loan. But Ake has been specifically summoned by Antonio Conte because of his hugely impressive displays on the south coast. Last season, he impressed throughout a loan stint at Watford, usually at left-back, whereas this season he’s looked increasingly comfortable in the middle at centre-back.
That, of course, theoretically makes him perfect for the left-sided slot in Conte’s back three, and would take Chelsea’s play to the next level. Gary Cahill provides traditional centre-back qualities in that role, but often looks slightly awkward when bringing the ball forward. A trio of Ake, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta would be the most attractive ever assembled in English football.
Inevitably compared to fellow dreadlocked Dutchman Ruud Gullit, Ake is unlikely to reach those heights. He could, however, prove very useful in Chelsea’s title charge.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United to Everton (£20m)
It’s difficult to work out precisely why Morgan Schneiderlin didn’t work out at Manchester United. In his final season with Southampton he was probably the most effective defensive midfielder in the league, prowling the centre of the pitch with menace and recording outstanding ball-winning statistics. For United, under both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, he’s looked subdued and often poor in a technical sense.
A move to Everton sees him link up with Ronald Koeman, the manager who was in charge of Schneiderlin at Southampton for that outstanding season, and he’s likely to set the Frenchman free. Probably playing alongside Gareth Barry or Idrissa Gueye, two players who will sit deep and protect the defence, Schneiderlin will be able to play more of an all-action role.
Purists will be somewhat disappointed Schneiderlin has taken the number 2 shirt, traditionally the number worn by a right-back. But Schneiderlin’s role in the side might not be entirely different from an attack-minded full-back — charging up and down the pitch repeatedly and getting from box to box, albeit from a slightly more central position. He’s and up-and-down player rather than a cultured, wily midfield schemer, and Everton might suit him more than Manchester United.
Jeffrey Schlupp, Leicester City to Crystal Palace (£9m)
Jeffrey Schlupp was one of the forgotten men of Leicester’s incredible title-winning season. Although he started the season as a regular, he was pushed out of the side by the excellent form of Christian Fuchs, and essentially became a permanent substitute. But his demotion from the starting XI was largely about tactics, rather than his own performance.
Schlupp simply didn’t suit the system Claudio Ranieri wanted to play. His defence were extremely narrow and well-organised, with Fuchs effectively acting like a bonus centre-back rather than a conventional left-back. Schlupp, on the other hand, was a primarily attack-minded player who pushed forward whenever possible.
The left-sided midfield slot didn’t suit him either — there, Ranieri liked Marc Albrighton’s tendency to cut inside and cross with his right foot. Schlupp’s energy and drive wasn’t required.
It’s been completely forgotten that in 2014-15, the season of Leicester’s great escape, Schlupp was voted Players’ Player of the Year for his brilliant performances down the left. When afforded a rare start last season, too, he was often very good — he was outstanding in the astonishing 4-0 victory over Swansea during the run-in. Still only 24, Schlupp has plenty of room for improvement, and finally offers a full-back solution for a Crystal Palace side forced to depend upon somewhat basic footballers in those roles until now.