There is no doubt about the most unusual clause of this transfer window. Internazionale signed Robin Gosens on loan from Atalanta with an obligation to buy him for €25m (£20.8m) when they score their first goal of 2023. But perhaps the most interesting theme of the month was what it showed about clubs who have a clear strategy and those who do not.
This was a typical January window, with slow weeks followed by a crazy final few days, but whereas some clubs moved late and had real moments of panic, others had an obvious plan. Aston Villa did good business relatively early by bringing in Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City are also examples of clubs with a policy.
Chelsea decided not to make a panic buy at left-back even though Ben Chilwell is out for the season. They wanted Emerson Palmieri back but there is no recall clause in his loan with Lyon so they decided to continue with the current squad rather than sign a player they only want for six months and maybe create a problem.
City taking Julián Álvarez from River Plate for £14m was a smart strategy with an eye on the future and United were also looking ahead. They did not include buy options when they loaned out Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek and Amad Diallo because they want whoever the manager is next summer to decide whether they want to keep those players.
Similarly, United did not buy a midfielder even though they were offered opportunities such as Denis Zakaria, who went to Juventus from Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara. They preferred to carry on with this squad and keep the funds for the manager in the summer.
The club turned down a lot of money from Newcastle for Jesse Lingard on deadline day, too. Newcastle were prepared to pay a big sum after missing out on Hugo Ekitike, and Lingard told Ralf Rangnick again at lunchtime on Monday that he wanted to leave, but the situation with Mason Greenwood meant United decided to keep him – even though the 29-year-old will go as a free agent in the summer.
Newcastle then tried to sign Dele Alli in the final hours, after a deal was agreed between Everton and Tottenham and the player had started his medical. The answer from Alli’s side was clear, though: he was not going to change his mind. A big reason was that he had been waiting for a move all month and there had been no real interest from Newcastle, whereas Frank Lampard quickly showed he wanted him when he got the Everton job.
Lampard was a big reason why Van de Beek went to Everton. If Vítor Pereira had been appointed the Dutch midfielder would have joined Crystal Palace. An agreement was in place and there had been a positive conversation with Palace’s manager, Patrick Vieira, but Lampard made Van de Beek a priority and was calling him all the time during negotiations. Money also played a part, with Everton paying a loan fee and 100% of the wages, whereas Palace were able to pay 85% of the wages and no loan fee.
Deals falling through are part of transfer business but it was unusual to see Bruno Guimarães’s Newcastle move almost collapse three times. First, Lyon changed the price from €40m to €50m and Newcastle were furious. Then there was a disagreement over the payment of agent commissions. And finally there were big complications over the medical because the player had to fly from Ecuador to Belo Horizonte. The signing is a real achievement for Newcastle because Arsenal and Juventus had started talks to buy Guimarães this summer.
But maybe the most incredible signing belongs to Liverpool with Luis Díaz. Tottenham were really close to buying him – they made a €35m bid and a representative from Spurs was flying to Portugal to negotiate with Porto. But when Liverpool heard, they jumped in. Jürgen Klopp had Díaz as a top priority for the summer and didn’t want to miss out. They put an offer of €40m plus €20m in add-ons on the table and sealed the negotiations unbelievably quickly.
Within 24 hours everything was done, including sending people to South America for the medical, and Spurs were furious. Liverpool couldn’t quite get a deal done for Fulham’s Fabio Carvalho on deadline night but they will be back soon to find a solution because he is another one Klopp really wants. Liverpool have a plan – and they usually execute it.