At the stroke of midnight on February 1, the January transfer window of the 2016-17 Premier League season was closed shut. While it started sluggishly, it proved to be another month of grandiose spending for England’s top-tier clubs: No less than £216m was spent on transfers, as clubs race to sign players that they believe would bolster their squads and better their chances in the second half of the campaign.
At the turn of the decade, the Premier League saw more and more money come their way in terms of revenue from TV rights and sponsorship deals. With the huge influx of cash, Premier League clubs have since then spent billions of pounds during the winter transfer window in an effort to find that extra edge in the race for the title, or to get their hands on that one player that would help them beat the drop.
While there remains no solid, numbers-backed evidence that buying players in January leads to better chances in the league, here are the top 5 winter transfer signings from the last decade who made an instant impact at the clubs they joined, signifying that there may well be some method to the madness that clubs do during the winter transfer window.
5. Clint Dempsey – New England Revolution to Fulham, 2007
The 2006-07 season was not a year to remember for Fulham or its fans. The club recorded only eight wins throughout the whole campaign. After six seasons, it was almost a certainty that the Cottagers’ stay at the top-flight of English football was about to end. Until then manager Chris Coleman brought in Clint Dempsey.
The United States international didn’t really have much of an impact during his first couple of months at the club. But Dempsey cemented his status as a Fulham favourite in May of 2007. In Fulham’s penultimate match, Dempsey scored the winning goal against giants Liverpool. The win upped their table points tally to 39, four points clear of the relegation zone with one game left to play – effectively sealing safety from the drop.
4. Gary Cahill – Aston Villa to Bolton Wanderers, 2008
The beginning of the 2007-08 season proved to be a tumultuous time for Bolton Wanderers. They had won only four of their first 20 matches, conceding an alarming 31 goals. Then manager Gary Megson knew he had to act quickly or his club will surely be relegated.
After a bit of scouting, Megson brought in defender Gary Cahill from Aston Villa, in an effort to plug a leaky Bolton defence. Cahill proved to be a brilliant piece of business for the Trotters. With their new centre-back in the heart of defence, Bolton went on to secure top-flight safety and finish the season in 16th.
The fact that Bolton were relegated during the 2011-12 season after they sold Cahill to Chelsea in, ironically, the winter transfer window, proved just how important Cahill was to the Trotters.
3. Edin Dzeko – Wolfsburg to Manchester City, 2011
When Roberto Mancini arrived at Manchester City in 2009, he was tasked with bringing the club immediate glory in the form of a Champions League place or a cup win – which he failed. His second season seemed destined for the same fate until he brought in Edin Dzeko in January of 2011.
Dzeko would then play an important role in Manchester City’s rise to the top of English football during the 2010-11 campaign. In his FA Cup debut, he saved the club from being kicked out of the competition by lowly Notts County in the fourth round, earning a draw. He then scored again in the replay to hand City the win. City would eventually win the FA Cup that season, their first major trophy in 35 years. They also finished in 3rd in the league, earning them a Champions League place.
2. Nemanja Matic – Benfica to Chelsea, 2014
Many found it to be a poor piece of business that Chelsea are spending £21m to bring back Serbian international Nemanja Matic to the club after they agreed to let him go for virtually nothing four years prior as part of a deal to purchase David Luiz from Benfica back in 2010. But the trusty midfielder would soon prove his doubters wrong.
Utilising Nemanja Matic the backbone of a patented midfield trio, then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho catapulted the Blues up the table, sending them with reach of the title. Matic’s role in Chelsea’s roar to the top was underlined by his Man of the Match winning performance against Manchester City in 3rd February, ending City’s unbeaten run.
Unfortunately, Chelsea would miss the opportunity to win the league title in 2014. Better late than never, though, as the club went on to clinching a domestic double through winning the league title and the league cup the season after.
1. Luis Suarez – AFC Ajax to Liverpool, 2011
The 2010-11 season didn’t particularly start well for Liverpool – they had won only one of their first eight matches and looked impotent against relatively easy opponents like Stoke, Wigan Athletic and Birminham City during the first half of the campaign. After 20 games, the Merseyside giants found themselves struggling in the bottom half of the table – an unacceptable showing for a side of Liverpool’s calibre.
Then manager and Kop legend Kenny Dalglish then came in and made one of the most iconic Liverpool signings in history. On January transfer deadline day 2011, he brought in Luis Suarez. In his league debut, he scored in Liverpool’s 2-0 win against Stoke. The Uruguayan would then go on to become an integral part of Liverpool’s revival that year, scoring four goals and notching five assists which saw them reverse their fate and finish a decent seventh.
Suarez would go on and score 81 more goals for the club before moving to Barcelona in 2014.