The winter window is renowned for its pitfalls with clubs often taking more risks than in the summer months, a desperation to address flaws mid-season often leading to panic buys and calculated gambles.
Securing a star name in the January window is notoriously difficult but can help transform a season, and following the opening of the transfer window we’ve decided to look back at some of the best mid-season signings in Premier League history.
Here is the Premier League’s best ever January transfer window XI:
Goalkeeper: Martin Dubravka
The least heralded name on this teamsheet with superstar signings amongst goalkeepers uncommon in the winter months, though Martin Dubravka has proven a fine acquisition since signing for Newcastle in 2018.
Rafael Benitez’s search for a new shot-stopper landed at Sparta Prague and the capture of the relatively unknown Dubravka on an initial loan deal, the Slovakian international impressing sufficiently to earn a permanent move to St James’ Park.
The 31-year-old was named as Newcastle’s Player of the Season during his first season with the Magpies and has been a reliable presence between the sticks, winning plaudits for his consistency.
Injury has seen him lose his place in the side of late with Karl Darlow currently excelling, but Dubravka remains an impressive option and will be confident of reclaiming his place as number one.
Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic
Chelsea beat off a host of competition from the continent to sign Serbian powerhouse Branislav Ivanovic from Lokomotiv Moscow during the 2008 winter window, though the defender had to overcome a difficult start before cementing his place as a firm fans’ favourite.
Ivanovic failed to make a single appearance during his first six months with the west London side before earning a regular role, winning admirers for his full-blooded commitment and forging a reputation as one of the Premier League’s best right-backs.
Ivanovic spent nine years at Stamford Bridge and made 377 appearances in all competitions, winning three league titles and the Champions League amongst his honours, in addition to scoring a stoppage-time winner to secure the Europa League in 2013.
Everton’s £60,000 capture of stalwart Seamus Coleman also deserves a mention here.
Centre-back: Nemanja Vidic
Another player plucked from the Russian Premier League mid-season, Nemanja Vidic was a name that struck fear into Premier League forwards throughout much of an illustrious career at Manchester United.
Vidic took time to settle as he adjusted to the demands of English football, though developed into one of the greatest defenders the division has seen, forming an iconic centre-back partnership with Rio Ferdinand during the last of Sir Alex Ferguson’s great sides.
The Serbian became just the third player – after Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo – to twice be named as the Premier League’s Player of the Season, following his performances during title-winning seasons in 2009 and 2011.
Those success were part of five Premier League winners’ medals the defender would win at Old Trafford, alongside three League Cups and the 2008 Champions League.
On this day in 2006, Manchester United completed the signing of Nemanja Vidic from Spartak Moscow.
He gave them his all 😳
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 5, 2021
Few footballers have ever been as revered on the terraces, Vidic’s uncompromising style and willingness to run through proverbial brick walls earning him hero status from the Red Devils’ faithful.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool were forced to embarrassingly withdraw their interest in Virgil van Dijk during the 2017 summer transfer window, only for Jurgen Klopp to reignite the Reds’ interest mid-season with the German convinced the Southampton centre-back was the man to fix his side’s defensive shortcomings.
Klopp’s patience was rewarded and then some following a transformative impact from the Netherlands international, whose club-record fee of £75m proved money well spent following Liverpool’s successes of recent campaigns.
Van Dijk has helped the Merseyside outfit to two Champions League finals – winning the latter – and a first Premier League title in 30 years, whilst the Dutchman was named as the PFA Player of the Year following his imperious performances during the 2018/19 campaign.
Van Dijk became just the third defender to win the prestigious individual accolade in the Premier League era and has established himself as arguably world football’s finest defender since arriving at Anfield.
Left-back: Patrice Evra
Signed in the same transfer window as the aforementioned Vidic, it’s fair to say Manchester United struck gold with the acquisitions of the defensive duo in 2006.
Evra endured a difficult start and was memorably substituted at half-time during a Manchester derby debut, before winning over the doubters with a series of brilliant displays at left-back.
The former Monaco man won five league titles and the Champions League during a hugely successful period with the club, captaining the side on occasion and enjoying huge popularity with his extroverted passion for the Red Devils.
Amongst the greatest left-backs of the Premier League era, Evra made 379 appearances for United before winning a further two league titles after moving to Juventus.
Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Perhaps the most contested position on the team-sheet with the likes of Javier Mascherano, Nemanja Matic and Clint Dempsey unfortunate to miss out, though we’ve opted for a player who has quietly announced himself as one of the league’s leading enforces.
Leicester have rarely missed when it comes to recruitment in recent years and their capture of Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi ranks amongst their very best, the £17m signing from Genk having starred as the destructive presence in the Foxes’ engine room.
Ndidi has finished in the Premier League’s top two tacklers in each of his three full seasons at the King Power Stadium, offering the perfect platform for Leicester’s attacking stars to flourish further forward.
The 24-year-old forms part of a side seeking Champions League football this term, though may just command a place amongst Europe’s elite next season even if Brendan Rodgers’ side fall short.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Last season’s marquee arrival of the winter window and one of the best January signings the Premier League has seen, there have been few players who have made as instant an impact as Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United.
The Portugal international had impressed in his homeland at Sporting Lisbon but there were perhaps few who anticipated the effect he would have at Old Trafford, leading the Red Devils to a 14-game unbeaten run following his debut to secure Champions League football.
Fernandes’ has produced at a remarkable rate for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side with a staggering 33 goal involvements in just 30 league appearances, breaking Frank Lampard’s all-time record for goal contributions from a midfielder in a calendar year.
Bruno Fernandes in the Premier League:
◎ 30 appearances
◉ 19 goals
◉ 14 assists
Incredible numbers for a midfielder. pic.twitter.com/8c6rhDZ1a0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2021
Just two players – Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi – have been directly involved in more goals than Fernandes across Europe’s major leagues since his debut, the brilliant Bruno firmly established amongst the Premier League’s best.
Right-wing: Wilfried Zaha
Crystal Palace’s most exciting academy graduate was destined for bigger things when moving to Manchester United in 2013, though the move failed to work out and the winger returned to Selhurst Park in a bid to restore his confidence.
Palace signed the winger on an initial loan deal before making his return permanent for a fee of just £6m in the 2015 winter window, with Zaha having been an irreplaceable figure to the Eagles’ hopes of success ever since.
The Ivorian – on occasion – has won games for Palace singlehandedly and has been the key factor in keeping the club in the Premier League for several seasons, his mix of scintillating speed and bamboozling footwork tormenting opposition defences.
There has rarely been a transfer window that the talismanic 28-year-old has not been linked with a move away and the current window will be no different, PSG amongst the clubs reportedly considering a move for a player whose talents have far outgrown his surroundings.
Riyad Mahrez – signed by Leicester whilst the Foxes were still in the Championship – misses out on that technicality.
Left-wing: Philippe Coutinho
Brendan Rodgers was still shaping his Liverpool side when he made the double addition of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge during the 2013 January window, two additions that would instantly improve the Reds’ prospects and turn them into title contenders.
Coutinho was a raw but talented technician after signing from Inter Milan in a bargain £8.5m deal, before developing into one of the Premier League’s most exciting talents and a player capable of producing spectacular moments of magic.
The Brazilian’s flawless close control and penchant for sensational strikes from distance made him box-office viewing during his time on Merseyside, Coutinho twice named as the Reds’ Player of the Season.
He scored 54 goals in 204 appearances over a five-year spell before moving to Barcelona in search of the silverware that had eluded him at Anfield, his £142m move to the Camp Nou the highest-ever January transfer window deal.
Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may be going through a difficult period at Arsenal at present but there is no doubting the forward’s influence since signing for the Gunners, wasting little time in making his mark as one of the division’s most feared forwards.
Aubameyang signed in a club-record deal from Borussia Dortmund and scored on his debut against Everton, netting 10 times in his first 13 league appearances in a rapid adaptation to the demands of the Premier League.
His first full season delivered a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot, before finishing as runner-up for the accolade last season after becoming the fastest Arsenal player to 50 goals in the division – reaching a half century four games quicker than Thierry Henry.
Forward: Luis Suarez
Deadline day in the 2011 January transfer window remains one of the most iconic in Premier League history, a frenzy of activity seeing Liverpool and Chelsea break British transfer-records to secure new strikers.
Fernando Torres decision to leave the Reds for Stamford Bridge saw Liverpool sign Andy Carroll in an absurd £35m club-record deal, though the same evening also brought the arrival of Luis Suarez – one of the club’s best purchases of the Premier League era.
Suarez had starred in the Eredivisie with Ajax before making the step up to England’s top tier, scoring on his debut for the Merseyside club and impressing with his all-action displays.
ON THIS DAY IN 2013: Luis Suarez scored four world class goals in a single match, against Norwich. 🔥
Poor John Ruddy must have hated facing him! 😂
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 4, 2020
After a solid if unspectacular start in terms of goals he burst into life during the 2012/13 campaign, hitting 30 goals in all competitions before reaching stratospheric heights the following season.
Suarez was named as the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year after winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 31 goals in just 33 appearances, firing Liverpool to a runners-up finish before leaving for Barcelona in a £75m deal.