Transfer window winners and losers: Newcastle, Chelsea, Milan impress; Tottenham and PSG don't
The transfer window in Europe is closed, but which clubs came out on top, and which suffered? We break down the winners and losers.
Rafa Benitez must have woken up pinching himself this morning. Squeezing funds out of Mike Ashley tends to require Herculean effort, but Newcastle now have a new club-record signing, and there is every chance that, at around £20 million, Miguel Almiron will provide the kind of value their owner seeks.
Newcastle have been short of playmaking flair for so long, and Almiron, who bewitched Major League Soccer fans in his two years with Atlanta United, should add that in spades. His arrival is significant, as it suggests that Newcastle can finally land the serious targets that can keep them away from the relegation battle, and they might just persuade Benitez to open negotiations for a new contract too.
Given the state of Chelsea's Premier League campaign, it seems counterintuitive to say they have had a good January. But transfer windows are about the long term as much as quick fixes, and on that count, the Stamford Bridge club scored well.
Securing Christian Pulisic's signature from Borussia Dortmund for next season for €64 million was a coup, and it might have been equally significant that they managed to fend off Bayern Munich's €40 million pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi. That one might be back on the table next summer, but they now have at least four months to convince the player of their commitment to his future.
Gonzalo Higuain, signed on a relatively risk-free loan from Juventus, might not have hit the ground running, but it is hard to see him firing blanks for long, and in terms of his finishing, he should be an upgrade on Alvaro Morata, whose loan to Atletico Madrid came as little surprise.
Chelsea might feel they did good business enlisting Higuain, but his replacement at Milan, where the Argentine had been on loan, has wasted little time proving his worth. Krzystof Piatek, 23, arrived for £30.9 million from Genoa and, in only his second appearance, scored both goals in a 2-0 Coppa Italian win over Napoli. The free-scoring Poland international, who was playing in his domestic league for Cracovia only eight months ago, looks like the real deal and could help fire Milan closer to Serie A's top three.
Lucas Paqueta, an extravagantly talented 21-year-old midfielder, arrived from Flamengo for a similar fee after a deal was agreed in the autumn, and while their outlay this winter has been hefty, Milan have spent it on two players who should only get better.
The German club's trusty line of communication with Red Bull Salzburg came good again in the form of Amadou Haidara, an outstandingly multifaceted midfielder who looks a worthy successor to Naby Keita. "There aren't too many players of his age who have so much potential," the RB Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick said of Haidara, a 20-year-old Mali international whose £19 million move was confirmed just before Christmas.
Further intrigue comes in the form of Tyler Adams, who arrives from New York Red Bulls and was pitched quickly into Bundesliga action at the end of January. Adams, 19, looks a tremendous prospect, and Leipzig might now have tied down their midfield for the next few years.
Also arriving is Emile Smith-Rowe, the young attacking midfielder from Arsenal, who signed on loan. Anything he can produce will be a bonus, but RB Leipzig's window has reinforced their reputation as a club intent on developing dynamic young talent.
Spurs have achieved something novel: going two consecutive transfer windows without making a first-team signing.
Mauricio Pochettino's attitude to squad building, preferring to develop from within where possible, is well known, but it is hard not to think they look undercooked as they approach the business end of the season. Harry Kane and Dele Alli are both expected to be out for at least another month, and by the time they are back, Tottenham might well have completed both legs of their Champions League round of 16 tie with Borussia Dortmund as well as Premier League assignments against rivals Arsenal and Chelsea.
It is not a time to slip up, and while the veteran stand-in striker Fernando Llorente squeezed them past Watford on Wednesday, it is asking a lot for him and Son Heung-Min (now returned from the Asian Cup) to provide adequate firepower against top opponents. A canny addition or two would have been welcome this time.
It would be stretching things to call PSG's transfer window a failure, but they enter February with questions hanging over the squad.
Leandro Paredes, who had been sought by Chelsea, was a useful midfield signing from Zenit St. Petersburg -- and a pricey one, at £34.7 million -- but there was frustration in their long-running pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, who chose Barcelona, and they were unable to land Everton's Idrissa Gueye either.
They also find themselves short at the top end of the pitch. Neymar's injury, which rules him out of the Champions League meeting with Manchester United, could prove fatal to their burning ambition at European level, and no replacement has been forthcoming. D.C. United's Luciano Acosta would have been an exciting addition, albeit perhaps for the longer term, but negotiations stalled, and PSG's search for validation through the Champions League might be extended by another year.
Huddersfield sit at the bottom of the Premier League, 12 points adrift of safety, and there was little appetite to throw money at the problem in West Yorkshire. Karlan Grant, an exciting striker who joined for around £2 million from League One side Charlton, has a big future ahead but feels like the kind of arrival to spark a Championship promotion campaign rather than a tilt at survival.
Jason Puncheon, now 32, is a more experienced arrival from Crystal Palace, but the Terriers appear to be planning for life in the second tier. Their headline departure was the most significant move of all: David Wagner, their much-loved manager, departed. His replacement, Jan Siewart, will have to negotiate a steep learning curve over the remainder of the season.
Once genuine Champions League contenders and a creditable fifth in La Liga last season, Villarreal are in the relegation mire, and January provided little real evidence that they will shoot up the table. Vicente Iborra, the experienced defensive midfielder, is a solid arrival from Leicester but hardly a game-changer.
Instead they have pinned their hope on the return of manager Javi Calleja, whom they fired just 50 days previously. He replaces his own replacement, Luis Garcia, under whom an already downwardly-mobile Villarreal plummeted into the relegation zone. Perhaps it will bear fruit, but it betrays a grievous lack of planning and smacks of rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.