Since the January transfer window came in for the 2001/02 season, which January transfer stands out for you as the best?
Richard Pike: Both Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidić proved to be excellent winter transfer window additions for Manchester United. However, the January transfer that stands out most for me is Luis Suárez’s move from Ajax to Liverpool. At times during the 2013/14 season he almost single-handedly dragged Liverpool to a title win. Without question controversial, yes, but his statistics and continuous yearly improvement mark him down as the greatest January window signing.
James Foster: Easy, January 2006. We signed not one, but two Old Trafford legends. Nemanja Vidić, one of the best centre-backs the Premier League has ever seen, and the yin to Rio’s yang, joined from Spartak Moscow for £7m. Then the guy that just gets Manchester United: Patrice Evra. I’ve never known a player join a club and have such a love for the place. Even after he left, he lived and breathed United. And now he’s back, all 5’ 8” of craziness.
Ross Kilvington: For me the best transfer in the January window has to be Suárez to Liverpool; great price, and what an impact he had. Notable mention is Vidić for his longevity.
Daniel Taylor: There have obviously been a lot of deals in the January window as clubs tend to panic buy, I think the best one for me was Nemanja Vidić to United. He was what United needed at the time and it took him a while to settle in, but once he did he turned out to be one of the best centre backs in the Premier League. He came with Patrice Evra; another great signing in January by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Would you leave the January transfer window as it is, scrap it or introduce another transfer window system?
RP: I’m not in favour of abolishing the transfer window. January can be a time where players are bombarded almost hourly with endless speculation about their futures when it is evidently clear that their clubs do not want to sell them. Imagine if this was to occur throughout the entire season?
It could represent a way for in-demand players to be tapped up continuously by prospective future employers despite them being told by the player’s current employers that he is not for sale. When the player in question’s head is turned, it could affect his displays for his current employers which means the situation benefits no-one.
JF: I’d leave it as it is for players. I think it’s good that clubs have to plan, otherwise you’d get the big clubs pillaging once they get an injury. I would introduce windows for managers though. I think they should be subject to the same windows as players, might stop some of the knee-jerk reactions and allow sides to get back on track after a blip. It’s been proven time and time again that changing manager gives you an initial bounce, and then more often than not, a return to the previous slump that caused the sacking. The players must be held more accountable.
RK: I would leave the window as it is. It’s great for teams that need to strengthen but they can’t just go out and buy anyone at any given time. I feel some of the elite clubs would abuse that if it ever returned to an open season window.
DT: I think I would leave it as it is. In my opinion another transfer window would be too much and open season transfer window could get messy. It’s controlled now and teams don’t get silly as they know they have a few weeks to complete the deals.
If the January transfer window was to remain in place as it is, would you tweak anything to improve it?
RP: I would make one major change and that is a cap on the number of transfers that can be made by a club in the January transfer window to three. This would include both permanent transfers and loanees. I remember in the 2012/13 winter transfer window Newcastle signed a whole heap of new players. Arsene Wenger then commented that he didn’t believe it was fair that you face up to the possibility of facing an almost completely new squad in the second half of the season.
Unlimited January transfers simply just allow clubs an easy excuse of sacking their managers before the window opens and then bringing in as many new players as possible. Injuries to players should be seen as an opportunity for prospective future stars in reserve and academy sides to be given a chance, or a player to be moved position and be transformed as a result. See Antonio Conte’s transformation of Victor Moses at Chelsea from unwanted winger to star title-winning wing-back.
JF: No changes for me. You know what dates you have to work with, and it’s already difficult enough to get deals over the line. Well if you believe Ed Woodward anyway…
RK: I would shorten it, maybe make it two weeks at a maximum. There is too much speculation and players being unsettled at a vital point in the season. And if a move doesn’t materialise then there could be problems for both player and club.
DT: I don’t think I would change anything as it is working well as it is. You could put a spending cap per league/club, but don’t think it would work in the long run. I think the only thing that may work – but would also cause controversy – would be to limit the foreign players coming into leagues. It would make way for more homegrown players to come through and get their chance.
The January transfer window will likely see a lot of loan deals: what is your opinion on this?
RP: I am of the opinion that there are too many loan signings in football. To me, when a player turns 24 years old, they should not still be getting loaned out everywhere. Lucas Piazón, for example, has recently turned 26 and is on loan at Rio Ave in Portugal: his seventh different loan club in seven seasons. He has made just one first team appearance for Chelsea back in 2012. Piazon is no longer a ‘young prospect’ and his chances of first team games are nil. It is a situation which benefits no one, Chelsea must continue paying a player who they have little intention to ever use.
Likewise, it doesn’t benefit the player to be moved to a new place season-in, season-out. Loans should be the preserve of young players only who need regular game time at smaller clubs to improve. Fewer January window transfers would see fewer loans as clubs would have more manageable squad sizes. A stricter cap should also be imposed on the amount of players allowed out on loan by clubs to stop bigger clubs monopolising the loan market.
JF: I think they’re a great opportunity for clubs to give youngsters game time, and show some respect to the older players who won’t be playing. No one wants to turn up to a job where you know you’re on the way out. Loan deals at least give those guys an opportunity to add value at another side and help add energy to a struggling club or guide the younger lads and potentially bag a final move if they impress.
RK: I feel the loan market is great, especially for lower-league teams or if a team need a body in at short notice to cover injury. My home team play in the lower leagues in Scotland and a loan player coming in during January can make a season.
DT: I think some of these deals are a good fix to help with long-term injuries like Spurs with Harry Kane right now. It is also good for the young players as they get a chance of playing first-team football, but most return to their parent club and don’t play again for a while, at least in a competitive game.
I think for the older players going towards the end of their careers it’s pointless, but could be an advantage for a lower-league side to get experience in their side and maybe help them towards safety or promotion.