The best and worst January transfers of all time

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With the January transfer widow wedged open for another couple of weeks, football fans should expect a a smattering of panic buys and last-minute deals as under-fire managers look for the right signing to save their jobs.

Whether it is a prolific goalscorer, combative midfielder or a composed defender, January is about finding a quick fix to launch that final charge at the top of the table, or ensure safety for another crack next season.

While January rarely threatens to send rumour mills into overdrive, it has thrown up some memorable signings over the years. And delivered its share of lemons too. Here are the best and worst signings from football's annual new year sales period. 


Fernando Torres - Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011 - $83.6 million

You wouldn't be laughed out of a sports bar for suggesting this could be the worst transfer of all-time. Torres joined Chelsea as one of the deadliest strikers in world football, but was a shadow of his former self from the day he walked through the doors at Stamford Bridge.

Torres managed one goal in 18 appearances in his debut season, and sadly it didn't get any better for the Spaniard who was stifled by the weight of expectation. 

Chelsea finally cut its losses on 'El Nino', loaning him out to AC Milan in August 2014, before sealing a permanent move to the Italian giant six months later.

Afonso Alves - Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, 2008 – $21.2 million

Middlesbrough fans were licking their lips when their club forked out $21.2 million on Afonso Alves, who had banged in 45 goals in 39 league appearances for Eredivisie side Heerenveen to capture the eye of the English club. 

The dream signing quickly became a nightmare, with Alves managing just four goals in his first full season. Middlesbrough was relegated.

The Brazilian jumped off the sinking ship and signed for Qatari side Al Sadd, while Boro spent the next eight campaigns battling to return to the Premier League.

Oumar Niasse, Lokomotiv Moscow to Everton, 2016 - $22.6 million

Niasse was plucked from obscurity in 2016 when he signed a four-and-a-half year deal on deadline day, and managed just 19 minutes of football in the remaining 13 games of the season.

The Sengalese striker was deemed surplus to requirements by Everton boss Ronald Koeman, who came out publicly saying, "If Niasse likes to play football he needs to leave Everton." The 26 year-old had other ideas and dug his heels in, despite reported interest from Crystal Palace.

Koeman was a man of his word and Niasse has since been exiled to Everton's under-23 side.

Andy Carroll - Newcastle United to Liverpool, 2011 - $59 million

Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool splashed $59 million on injured striker Andy Carroll, on a frenetic deadline day triggered by Fernando Torres's record move to Chelsea.

Carroll had his moments, most notably when he scored the winning goal in the FA Cup semi-final against Merseyside rival Everton, but the striker needed to deliver more than that to justify his lofty price-tag. He managed just six goals in 44 league appearances.

Klass-Jan Huntelaar – Ajax to Real Madrid, 2009 - $29 million

Huntelaar was flying high in the Eredivisie having scored 76 goals in 92 games for Ajax. Real Madrid was convinced, anyway.  

Huntelaar's Spanish siesta was over before he could even unpack - the 33 year-old was shipped off to AC Milan for $25.5 million after half a season under the harsh glare of life at the Bernebeau.


Kevin De Bruyne – Chelsea to Wolfsburg, 2014 - $30 million

The Belgian playmaker signed for Chelsea with plenty of promise in 2012, but failed to hold down a regular first team spot after a successful loan spell at Werder Bremen.

As De Bruyne cut a frustrated figure at Stamford Bridge, Wolfsburg swooped, signing the 25 year-old for $30 million. De Bruyne proved to be worth every cent and Wolfsburg went on to sell De Bruyne to Manchester City, profiting $62 million in a year and a half. 

Phillippe Coutinho – Inter Milan to Liverpool, 2013 - $18.7 million

The one that got away for Inter, Coutinho was touted as the 'future of Inter' when he joined the Nerazzurri as an 18 year-old, but that never came to fruition as the Brazilian struggled for regular playing time.

Inter's trash was Liverpool's treasure and Coutinho joined the Reds in 2013, asserting himself as Liverpool's attacking fulcrum and winning the affection of the Anfield faithful. 

Nemanja Matic - Benfica to Chelsea, 2014 - $35.1 million

A case of second time lucky for Nemanja Matic when the Serbian returned to Stamford Bridge in 2014, three years after his underwhelming first spell at the club.

Matic made an immediate impact, storming the PFA Team of the Year within months of joining as the club took out the Premier League title.

Luis Suarez - Ajax to Liverpool, 2011 - $37.6 million

It was a mixed January transfer window for Liverpool in 2011 as Kenny Dalglish went bust with his $59 million signing of Andy Caroll.

Thankfully his $37.6 million swoop for Luis Suarez did pay dividends as the Uruguayan went on to become one of the club's most prolific strikers before sealing a $109 million move to Barcelona in 2014.

His time at Anfield was riddled with controversy, but there's no doubting Suarez was one of the best January transfers of all-time.

Christian Vieri – Lazio to Inter Milan, 2000 – $57.5 million

Inter Milan smashed the transfer record at the time when it signed Marconi junior Christian Vieri for $57 million.

'Bobo' certainly justified his hefty price tag with 104 goals in 143 Serie A appearances.