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We asked what you wanted to know with the January transfer window now open and the questions for our team of writers came thick and fast.
From who will go for Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix or Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, to which clubs are skirting around financial regulations, you want to know what business your club are primed to do this month.
In fact, there were so many questions that this is only part one — look out for part two later this week.
Let’s dive in…
Is there any validity to the Arsenal and Joao Felix rumours? — Jason B
Yes. Like Manchester United, Arsenal are interested in the possibility of signing Felix. They acknowledge that they lack depth in the attacking line, especially with Gabriel Jesus out injured. Joao Felix is seen as someone who could provide a quality option in a variety of positions.
The in-form Martin Odegaard offers a precedent for Arsenal taking a promising La Liga player on loan and kick-starting their career.
The issue here is cost. Atletico Madrid are currently believed to be seeking a €21million package (£18.6m; $22.5m), comprising a €15million loan fee plus €6million gross salary. At the moment, Arsenal consider that too high a price to pay for a loan.
If Felix is still looking for a move at the end of the window, and club and player are prepared to reduce their demands, then a deal looks more achievable.
Arsenal’s reputation has flipped 180 degrees in a matter of months. If they do shock the football world and lift the PL trophy ahead of the all-powerful City, do they become a viable option for Jude Bellingham this summer? — Rich E
It’s easy enough to see why Arsenal fans might ask about Bellingham: young, athletic, English and hugely talented, he is a perfect fit for this project. He’s also a pretty good fit for this team — it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to envisage him lining up as one of Mikel Arteta’s twin attacking No 8s.
It goes without saying that Bellingham is admired by Arsenal’s recruitment department. The issue here is twofold: there’s the price, and the competition.
Read more: What is the transfer window? When does it end? How do transfers work?
Dortmund believe that Bellingham is worth as much as €150million. Even with a return to Champions League football, a transfer fee of that size — plus the associated salary — would stretch Arsenal’s financial capacity.
Then there’s the fact that every other European giant will have considered a bid to sign the England international. Securing a player like Bellingham involves a lengthy wooing process, and front-runners like Liverpool and Real Madrid have been following his case closely for some time. Other elite clubs are also positioning themselves to bid for the player next summer.
Even if, hypothetically, Arsenal lift the Premier League title and then turn their sights to Bellingham, they would effectively be pursuing the player from a standing start. They would have to overtake other suitors who’ve been in line for some time, and convince Bellingham and the people around him that their offer was the most compelling. Up against teams with recent success in the Champions League, that would be difficult.
Never say never in football, but were Arsenal to enter the fight for Bellingham, they may find themselves considerable underdogs.
How did Liverpool manage to get Cody Gakpo at €42million when his market value is €60million? He had a phenomenal World Cup so I would imagine paying a premium (€70/80million). Did PSV miss out on a potential €35/40million extra? Especially since a few reports indicated Man Utd were interested too — Prasanna P
The question is really: who decides a player’s market value? Ultimately, it is whatever clubs are willing to pay and, in this case, Liverpool’s package — £37million ($44.5m) potentially rising to £44million with add-ons — was the highest offer for Cody Gakpo.
In the summer, clubs like Southampton were offering around €30million for the player — until Leeds United came in with a deadline-day offer of €43million. This time around, Chelsea considered him at around €40million and Manchester United, despite discussing Gakpo at length before Christmas, did not ever make a bid.
So, for a club like PSV Eindhoven who needed to sell this month, Liverpool’s offer represented a very good deal, and the player was happy to be joining a top team, too. The fact that the negotiations were conducted very swiftly over Christmas was an added bonus.
Which clubs are in danger of breaching financial fair play rules and which clubs have the most room to spend FFP-wise? — Dorgoth12
In September, UEFA announced that Chelsea, Leicester City, Manchester City and West Ham United were asked for further financial information and had been told they would be “monitored closely”.
The Premier League clubs playing in Europe, however, were deemed to be within FFP limits, with UEFA noting “exceptional COVID deductions and consideration of historical financial results” as a factor in their decision.
However, UEFA’s signal that they will be taking a close look at those clubs’ future financial results, coupled with the impact from COVID-19 no longer being taken into account, could lead them to tread carefully.
This season will be the last under UEFA’s current FFP rules as they are due to change next year.
In short, clubs will be limited to spending a set percentage of their revenue in a calendar year on transfers, agents’ fees and player wages. The limit in 2023 will be 90 per cent before dropping to 80 per cent in 2024 and 70 per cent from 2025 onwards.
The Premier League’s rules are different, with clubs allowed to lose a maximum of £105million over a rolling three-year period, but allowances have been made for the impact of COVID-19 recently, too. Everton posted three successive annual losses of over £100million and cannot afford another splurge, even after selling Richarlison last summer.
Newcastle have no intention to spend themselves into trouble with the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations either as they want to continue improving the squad year on year as opposed to going all out in a particular window.
Is the talk about Newcastle being restricted by FFP a smokescreen? — Sidney S
It is not a smokescreen — or at the very least those inside the club are adamant it is not.
Darren Eales, the CEO, is especially conscious of Newcastle leaving themselves breathing space within the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations to be able to keep spending year on year. He recognises that their revenue — particularly through commercial channels — must expand significantly before they can consistently match the outlay of the so-called Big Six clubs. Wages, in particular, are a medium-term concern and Newcastle are reluctant to massively expand their salary expenditure until their income has grown.
I caveat all of the above by stressing that similar previous messages about cautious spending heading into windows have proven ill-founded once Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Newcastle’s chairman and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), has become directly involved in transfer discussions.
For example, the club-record deal for Alexander Isak was only sanctioned once Al-Rumayyan had been on Tyneside for the 3-3 draw with Manchester City in August. Perhaps a similar scenario could unfold this month, too.
I’ve read that under the new FFP rules, the transfer fee of any signing of a 21-year-old or younger player can be written off under “youth development”. Hence, a Chelsea signing of Enzo Fernandez who doesn’t turn 22 until January 17 actually wouldn’t count against their FFP cap — Eric S
That is not true, unfortunately. Transfer fees, regardless of player age, are not able to be written off under “youth development” or any other exemption within financial fair play. In the example you cited, Enzo Fernandez would need to be accounted for in Chelsea’s books as any other transfer would.
Any ideas on who Leeds may look to to fill the humongous striker void at the club? Also, given Jesse Marsch has moved to 4-3-3 and Klich looks to be leaving, is another CM now on the agenda? — Ashley P
For a couple of years now, almost every transfer window has involved someone phoning me about Che Adams at Southampton. Leeds’ interest there goes back to January 2020 and while it feels as if the fire has gone out of that one somewhat, his contract is up in 2024 and to the best of my knowledge there have been no meaningful discussions about a new one. He’s somebody who Leeds thought would work for them in the past.
The links to Coventry City’s Viktor Gyokeres are also interesting, although Mark Robins made it very clear over the weekend that he had no interest in letting Gyokeres go in this window. He’s strong and pretty quick, he’s second-top scorer in the Championship and there’s a history in England of Premier League clubs gambling low-level fees on those sorts of forwards.
We are signing Wober and just wondering, is he going to be our new left-back or will he come in instead of Koch/Coops and partner Struijk in central defence? Also, are we going to sign another defender and a forward? If being greedy a central midfielder would be ideal too — Darren S
Leeds are set to unveil Max Wober, the Red Bull Salzburg defender, after finalising a deal and putting him through a successful medical.
My understanding is that he’s the left-back they were looking for. He’s more of a hybrid player — regarded as a left-sided centre-back predominantly but used as a left-back by Salzburg this season — so he’ll provide competition for both Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper.
A forward remains on the agenda and while Leeds haven’t indicated that they’ll go after a central midfielder in this window, they’re clearly going to be a player down if Mateusz Klich leaves for DC United.
In the end, I expect the decision on that move will be down to Klich. It’s a good opportunity. He’d be looking at a three-year contract so if he decides the time is right, it would be very hard for Leeds to stand in his way. He hasn’t played enough this season.
How likely are United to get a striker in this window? Is Memphis being discussed? He seems the best of the bunch out there — Parth S
Erik ten Hag is pushing for a new centre-forward to boost his attacking options after losing Cristiano Ronaldo but after the summer overspend, Joel Glazer is reluctant to dip once more into the club’s credit facility. A loan is the most likely solution although, as ever, results may apply a certain pressure to United’s co-owner. If the team gets closer to title contention, or alternatively drops out of the top four, then Glazer may make money available — as happened when United signed Bruno Fernandes in January 2020 following a traumatic sequence of losses.
Memphis Depay will come under consideration, given he only has six months left on his Barcelona contract and should be available for a modest financial commitment. Talks were held last summer, although they were pushed more by Depay’s side. Joao Felix has also been discussed but Atletico Madrid’s asking price far exceeds United’s valuation.
The club’s prospective sale could yet change the dynamic, but noise around a takeover is quiet at present and all indications are that any investment would come in the summer anyway. It is possible United go through January without making a signing.
Are Manchester United looking to raise money this window? Seems players like Williams, Tuanzebe and Jones don’t have much of a future — Tom H
The players you listed, Tom, will be available but Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones have been injured, so finding a club willing to take a chance this month will be difficult.
Brandon Williams has only recently returned too but has value as a good, young full-back.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka could yet be sold, despite putting in two good performances back to back. Several clubs have expressed an interest.
Do you think Newcastle will bite the bullet and invest this January window to possibly push and secure a Champions League spot after going ahead of schedule in terms of the plan set forward by the owners? — Thomas S
That is the internal debate at St James’ Park right now. Eddie Howe is keen to push on from a position of strength, while some members of the hierarchy are more cautious about bringing forward future spending, given that summer windows tend to be more conducive for investment.
In terms of drastically changing their blueprint for growing the club, all the internal messages are that their timeframe has not been altered. Of course they would like to get into the Champions League sooner than expected, but they do not intend to shift course to chase short-term qualification when their grand plan is to be top-four and title contenders in every season. They intend to get there eventually and insist they will not risk long-term success for short-term gain.
With Bournemouth’s takeover and Bill Foley saying he wants to bring in four to five new players, how big of a splash should we expect from those? There have been a few Weston McKennie rumours too — Hamp H
My understanding is that Weston McKennie links are just rumours at this stage. But there is a collective ambition from Bournemouth’s recruitment team to continue signing players in the Marcus Tavernier mould and then sell for a profit. These are typically young, technically sound players who do not cost a fortune with suitable financial structures in place. Nathan Ake is considered by many at the club as the best example of this pathway.
Of course, any club that goes through a billionaire takeover before a much-needed transfer window runs the risk of weakening their position to selling clubs. But Bournemouth’s hierarchy are very aware of the perception others will have of them as one of the Premier League’s nouveau riche and are adamant their approach in the January window will not differ too much from what we have seen already despite the takeover.
Will Chelsea get a backup for Reece James, and if so, will it be a permanent signing or a loan? — Gilbert M
It’s possible that Chelsea sign a backup to James in this window but, based on what we’re hearing right now, it doesn’t appear to be a priority. Benoit Badiashile is arriving to strengthen the defence, they are looking at options for a new central midfielder and they are keen to strengthen the forward line.
Recruiting a new right-back also isn’t easy because high-level players such as Denzel Dumfries will know that James would start over them whenever fit, and lower-level targets aren’t guaranteed to be a meaningful improvement on the options Graham Potter already has.
Is Chelsea’s pursuit of Rice and Gvardiol realistically over once/if they sign Fernandez and Badiashile? — Roko
Let’s take one name at a time. First, Chelsea will retain an interest in Declan Rice even if they end up agreeing a fee with Benfica for Enzo Fernandez. Signing one midfielder this year is the bare minimum. It has been identified as a major weakness, plus there is the very real prospect of Jorginho leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Rice is admired and is expected to be sold by West Ham in the summer. But by signing him and Fernandez, it won’t leave much money for other areas of the squad to be improved.
As for Josko Gvardiol, Chelsea continue to like the player but the price has always been an issue. Perhaps with hindsight the new owners would have completed a transfer last summer but they were perturbed by RB Leipzig raising the asking price when a deal was close. The last sum quoted for him was £77.8million, which is less than what the Bundesliga club will ask for now following his fine displays for Croatia at the World Cup. Plus there is a lot more competition for his signature now.
Badiashile is a cheaper alternative who plays in the same position as a left-sided centre-back. I would be surprised if Gvardiol joins in the summer now because there are other priorities.
What likely approach we can expect from Dougie Freedman, Parish and co.? — Dominic M
Palace’s transfer strategy will likely be in keeping with their overarching recruitment plan which is to build sustainably. The holes in the squad are apparent and failing to strengthen in January at all would be negligent. Chairman Steve Parish did caution that loans will be the priority and that the market is a difficult one.
That is reasonable and Palace would do well to avoid being sucked into spending too significantly but the squad lacks strength in depth and there are few options for the specific roles, particularly in midfield. Therefore it would either force Patrick Vieira to continue with square pegs in round holes, or into changing his tactics — something he is reluctant to do.
But his request for experience does still tally with the recruitment strategy. Experience does not necessarily mean age, Vieira having said that he wants players familiar with the Premier League or high-level competitions abroad. It is more that the players he wants are those who can hit the ground running rather than take time to learn what it takes to play in the Premier League.
Who are possible strikers for Everton to sign? — Viona Y
Manchester United striker Anthony Elanga could be one option, and a loan move for the striker is possible.
Everton made a late attempt on deadline day for Blackburn’s prolific Ben Brereton Diaz but the 23-year-old English-born Chile international appears most likely to leave Ewood Park on a free transfer this summer, when his contract is due to expire.
Coventry’s Gyokeres, meanwhile, is one of the potentially more accessible options still left on the list from the summer, and reports in France have also linked the club with a move for Watford’s Ismaila Sarr.
Everton have already lost out on one target, with Brazilian Matheus Cunha leaving Atletico Madrid for Wolves.
(Top photos: Getty Images)
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