So, the January window for European clubs to make midseason transfers is only about half over, but there has been plenty of drama and surprising moves both touted and completed in the first two weeks or so. This week I’d like to take a look back at some of the moves we’ve seen thus far and what they could mean for both player and club moving forward into the back half of the 21-22 season.
Phillipe Countinho to Aston Villa (Loan)
We start off with a stonking coup by Aston Villa, as they have managed a 6 month loan deal for megastar Phillipe Coutinho from Barcelona. The Brazilian playmaker has long been an outcast at the Camp Nou, but this does not diminish the feat Villa have pulled off. Coutinho cost Barca 142 million pounds back in 2018, and rightly so: he was among the best creative midfielders in the world at that time. But it never quite worked for him at Barcelona, where he had to play second fiddle to Lionel Messi for three years, and as such never justified his transfer fee. In 4 seasons, he managed only 17 goals for the Blaugrana as he lost confidence and form. But he has been given a lifeline by Villa, who have ambitions of pushing for European qualification. The most likely pulling force is manager Steven Gerrard, a legend with whom Countinho played several seasons in his younger years at Liverpool. He grew into the superstar he is under the tutelage of Reds legend Stevie G, so perhaps the chance to reunite with his old mate is what brought him to the Midlands. Regardless, I think fans in general are excited to see if Countinho can rediscover the old magic that lit up the Premier League for years in the 2010s. A good move for both parties.
Lucas Digne to Aston Villa, 25 million pounds
Villa are having some window, as shown by the fact they also managed to bring in one of the best left backs in the Premier League for a relatively cheap fee in the end. Digne had spent a few seasons at Everton with great personal success. He has been a consistent figure in the top 5-10 players in the league in terms of crosses and accurate crosses per game, and is a leading figure in chances created for the Toffees as well. However, as Everton’s form has slumped this season under Rafa Benitez, manager and player have has a monumental fallout, leading to Digne’s departure. Villa were first on the scene, signing the 28-year-old Frenchman up on a permanent deal for a 25 million pound fee. Given he would have gone for 40-50 million a year or two ago and is still in his prime years, this is a spectacular signing by the Villains. They look to be capable of doing some damage in the second half of this season.
Chris Wood to Newcastle, 25 million pounds
This move I am a little more skeptical of. The New Zealander has been a consistent goal threat for former club Burnley for years now, regularly hitting 10+ league goals to keep the club in the Premier League. But he has only 3 goals this season so far, and is now in his 30s. Newcastle desperately need goals, yes, but it feels as if there were better options available. This signing is a safe bet: Wood will most likely get 5-10 goals in the second half of the season, as he tends to come on strong after the winter period. I believe at one point last spring he scored 8 in 8 league games. He is also a very technical finisher. But Newcastle do not create many chances, and Wood is not one to make his own goals by any means, so his return may suffer. He is also not a particularly long-term option at 30 years old, and has reached his ceiling; the chances he ever hits 20+ league goals in a season are minute at best. This is a C+ signing at best, but if it keeps Newcastle from going down, then it will surely look much better come the end of the season.
Krzysttof Piatek to Fiorentina, loan
Piatek originally came to prominence at Genoa, where he scored 13 goals in 19 matches in half a season. He has struggled since, however, as the goals dried up at AC Milan, and then never returned at Hertha Berlin. Now back in Italy, this may be Piatek’s last shot with a big name club if he is to stay at the top level of European football. But the signs are good to begin his career in Florence, as he scored on debut in the Italian Cup this past week. Fiorentina are a good destination for him as well. They are still involved in multiple competitions, and star man Dusan Vlahovic needs a backup so he isn’t run into the ground playing every match and ends up injured. Further, La Viola play a very attractive style of soccer, which creates plenty of chances for a penalty box poacher like Piatek to score plenty of goals. He will get enough minutes to make an impact, and have plenty of chances to score and build his confidence. Watch this move as a sleeper for best signing of the January Transfer Window.