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Top 10 transfers of the window so far

In truth, this has been something of an underwhelming January transfer window – but across Europe, there have been a few interesting moves, particularly with some promising youngsters being snapped up by ambitious mid-table sides.

Here’s a rundown of ten intriguing signings so far this month…

Victor Valdes, Manchester United (free agent)

victor valdes

Top Premier League clubs are increasingly keen to recruit experienced goalkeepers as their back-up, with Petr Cech, David Ospina and Willy Caballero all experienced internationals but playing second fiddle for most of this campaign.

Valdes is another in that mould, and with David De Gea the Premier League’s most outstanding goalkeeper this season, there’s little chance of the former Barcelona man securing a permanent first-team place just yet. However, he’s set to make his debut in the FA Cup tie at Cambridge this weekend, and with Real Madrid hoping to sign De Gea ahead of next season, Valdes could be United’s next number one. An underrated keeper who grew into a fine shot-stopper, particularly in one-on-one situations, he could be perfect once Louis van Gaal gets United playing more proactively.

Enzo Perez, Benfica to Valencia

Perez was a promising player for Benfica, but last summer’s World Cup saw his reputation grew dramatically almost overnight, when he replaced the injured Angel Di Maria for Argentina’s semi-final and kept his place for the final.

He’s an entirely different type of midfielder, however – much less explosive, more cautious with his movements, and since moving to Valencia he’s become even more defensive. In Valencia’s hugely impressive 2-1 win over Real earlier this month, Perez was superb on debut, sitting solidly ahead of the three-man defence, free of marking responsibilities and told to simply mop up any danger. At €25m he didn’t come cheap, but he already looks value for money.

Elijero Elia, Werder Bremen to Southampton (loan)

In truth, Elia seems like yesterday’s news. He was tipped to have a big impact at the 2010 World Cup, a tournament where he appeared in the final as a substitute for the Netherlands. Since then, his career has stalled somewhat worryingly, with an ill-fated move to Juventus and prolonged run of terrible form back in Germany.

His signing hardly hit the headlines, yet the winger has already been extremely useful. He excelled in Southampton’s win at Old Trafford in an unusual, advanced left-sided forward role, then hit a brace during Southampton’s 2-1 victory at Newcastle last weekend. Ronald Koeman has worked wonders with the Saints this season, but reviving Elia’s career – should this good form continue – might be his most surprising achievement yet.

Alessio Cerci, Atletico to Milan

Cerci is one of football’s most confusing players, his form oscillating between entirely unplayable, and entirely underwhelming. He developed from a frustrating winger at Fiorentina into a reliable goalscorer at Torino almost overnight, but failed to replicate that form for Atletico – where Diego Simeone simply didn’t seem to trust him tactically.

Cerci is more at home in Serie A, in a slower paced league where speedy wingers are rare – which means opponents often aren’t very good at containing them. He’ll bring genuine width to Pippo Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 system, and like new teammate Jeremy Menez, might find himself revitalised back in Italy.

Pierre Hojbjerg, Bayern to Augsburg (loan)

pierre hojbjerg

In Marti Perarnau’s acclaimed diary of Pep Guardiola’s first campaign at Bayer, Hojbjerg emerges as a somewhat unlikely star – someone Guardiola immediately took to, spending considerable periods instructing him in a positional sense, confident he had the potential to grow into a top-class central midfielder. Bayern have plenty of other options in that position, however, and Hojbjerg has therefore been sent out on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

In truth, his playing time has been so limited that we’ve seen less of Hojbjerg than we learnt from Perarnau’s book, and it will be interesting to see him assist Augsburg on their impressive push for European football. However, Daniel Baier and Markus Fuelner have been performing solidly this season, so the young Dane will need to make an instant impression to retain his place.

Wilfred Bony, Swansea to Manchester City

Bony was the Premier League’s top goalscorer in 2014, a fine achievement considering he was playing for a midtable side, albeit one with a very well structured and creative midfield. A move to Manchester City will see the Ivorian subject to more scrutiny, however, and as City’s fourth top-class forward he’ll need to impress quickly.

Smaller than you might think – 6’0 – and not entirely pacey, Bony is a more intelligent player than given credit for, and provides good link-up play in addition to guaranteeing goals. He’ll fight with Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic for the second centre-forward role – essentially, it’s all about who makes the best partner for Sergio Aguero.

Matija Nastasic, Manchester City to Schalke (loan)

Nastasic’s demotion at Manchester City has been somewhat bewildering. The Serbian made a superb start to his City career and was a regular alongside Vincent Kompany during Roberto Mancini’s final campaign, but Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t seem to like him at all, playing Martin Demichelis ahead of him last season, then signing the very raw Eliaquim Mangala.

Nastasic has barely had a chance – his final City game was the Community Shield – but he’s surely a guaranteed starter at Schalke. It will be interesting to see whether he can pick up from where he left off – he’d appeared one of Europe’s most promising young defenders, and it would be a shame if 18 months of little football has harmed his development.

Kevin Kampl (Red Bull Salzburg to Dortmund)

In the relegation zone at the midway point of the Bundesliga, Dortmund desperately need some renewed energy – and Kampl could be the right man for the job. He’s excelled in a high-tempo Red Bull Salzburg side, albeit in the relatively weak Austrian Bundesliga, but has the versatility, intensity and creativity required to play in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield.

Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkitarayan are still troubled by injuries, while Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on international duty for the next couple of weeks. With Dortmund’s situation looking increasingly perilous, Kampl might need to make an immediate impact.

Joaquin Correa (Estudiantes to Sampdoria)

It’s something of a shame that Serie A no longer signs genuine top-class players, and instead concentrates on developing promising youngsters before selling them on. Javier Pastore is a good example, and it’s easy to see something of Pastore in Correa. A tall, slender Argentine attacking midfielder, Serie A could be the perfect environment for him to thrive.

Considering Correa has also been likened to Juan Sebastian Veron – a former Sampdoria midfielder himself, who Correa played alongside for Estudiantes – it’s difficult not to get excited. €8m represents a big gamble for a club like Sampdoria, but Correa looks tricky, purposeful and very creative, so he could prove worth the money.

Matt Grimes, Exeter to Swansea

Hardly the biggest name on this list, but Grimes is a highly talented player who fits Swansea’s playing style perfectly. It’s tough to judge League Two players in Premier League terms, but then Swansea are a club who kept the same central midfielder – Leon Britton – throughout their rise between those divisions. Grimes is in a similar mould – not physically commanding, but intelligent with his use of the ball. He’s a busier player than Britton, and more ambitious with his distribution.

Swansea have something of an injury crisis in midfield at the moment, and therefore while Grimes has clearly been recruited to develop into a fine player in the long run, we might see him in Premier League action sooner than anticipated.

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January 21st, 2015 by Michael Cox

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