January’s Impact Signings

By | February 5, 2014

The January transfer window always promises headline grabbing deals, but rarely delivers.

Yet, while it’s rare to sign a club-changing player as Liverpool did with Luis Suarez in 2011, it would be foolish to ignore the impact some winter-market players have on their new teams.Below are a few players that could play significant roles for their new teams, both in the short and long term futures.


Long Term Impact Signing:

Juan Mata (Manchester United)

Juan Mata’s sudden move to Manchester United was unquestionably January’s blockbuster transfer. Nevertheless, those who believe his arrival will immediately transform David Moyes’ recent fortunes are sorely mistaken. Chances are the Spaniard would never have been sold to United had that been the case.

Yes, his sale did do much to boost Chelsea’s coffers, and went a long way to assuaging the fears that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations would hinder the club’s European exploits because of its indiscriminate spending. However, Jose Mourinho would hardly have sent the club’s two-time player of the year up north if he believed that in doing so, he would be providing Moyes with a quick fix.

Manchester United’s problems go beyond the need for a creative player, and there is the issue of finding a way to fit Mata into a scheme that already includes Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Moyes rarely deviates from some variation of a 4-4-2, which in all likelihood means that Mata will be pushed to the wings, where he is less influential, and where his defensive liabilities are highlighted.

Still, with the right signings, and with a system that is more fitted to Mata’s strengths – one that will require more defensively minded midfielders to line-up alongside him – there is little doubt that he can become the focal point of United’s future. The big question is whether Moyes will be the man to restructure the squad – and the tactics – accordingly.

Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

One would think that having to pay a hefty price to reacquire the services of one of your former players would be an infuriating bit of business. But that is certainly not the case with Nemanja Matic. Shipped off to Benfica in a swap deal that saw David Luiz become a Chelsea player in 2011, Matic developed into one of the most sought after defensive midfielders in Europe, and sparked a love affair with Mourinho that dates back to the manager’s stint at Real Madrid.

Interestingly, Matic’s stock began to rise after Benfica sold the then invaluable Javi Garcia to Manchester City in 2012. Matic’s size, strength and skill were crucial to Jorge Jesus’ attacking football, which saw Benfica reach last year’s Europa League final in Amsterdam, where the Portuguese club was defeated by the Serbian’s new team.

While the former Portuguese League player of the year has made an instant impact – he was arguably Chelsea’s best player against Manchester City, on Monday – Matic was brought in for the long run, and is perfectly suited for Mourinho’s strategy, which hinges on the presence of two anchor men in front of a back four. With Matic in the squad, the Portuguese won’t need to employ David Luiz in the midfield, and it will also allow Ramires to play on the right wing, when necessary. Matic’s signing will also allow Oscar and Eden Hazard more freedom to attack and relieve some of their defensive responsibilities.

Short Term Impact:

Diego (Atletico Madrid)

The Brazilian’s return to Atletico Madrid will be welcomed by both Atleti fans, and the player himself. Diego played a pivotal role in Atletico’s run all the way to the final of the Europa League in 2012, where the Colchoneros defeated domestic foes, Athletic Bilbao. The Brazilian playmaker can also be credited with helping establish Falcao as one of the best strikers in world football, assisting the Colombian on many of his goals that season.

Back with the less popular of Madrid’s two biggest clubs, Diego improves Atletico’s chances of winning its first league title since the 1995-96 season. This season, the club’s rather surprising league run has relied heavily on a “team first” defensive organization, as well as the scoring exploits of Diego Costa and David Villa. Diego’s skill and vision will go a long way into injecting the kind of creativity that might just carry Atletico past its nemesis, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.

The only knock on Diego is his fiery temper, which derailed his spell with Juventus, and soured his relationship with Felix Magath at Wolfsburg. There were no signs of that during Diego’s first run with Atletico, and the playmaker has professed his adoration for Diego Simeone, whom he has called the best manager he’s ever played under. Still, Atletico are currently a well-oiled machine, and a first XI spot will be hard to crack, which could ruffle the feathers of a player who doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get his way.

The Gamble:

Dani Osvaldo (Juventus)

Football is no stranger to players with attitude problems, but it seems that Italy has a particular penchant for producing extremely talented brats. And in an almost impossible coup, the Argentine-born Italian, Dani Osvaldo has managed to become the worst offender (think of the competition he’s had in Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano).

Osvaldo has had run-ins with teammates and opponents, alike, distracting many from his undeniable talent. During his time at Roma, the forward did almost everything possible to irritate Roma’s fractious fans, including punching then teammate Erik Lamela, and perhaps even worse, fighting over a penalty with Francesco Totti, which he fittingly missed.

His short stay in Southampton was no less mired in controversy, even though Mauricio Pochettino, who managed Osvaldo at Espanyol, believed that the striker had outgrown his temper tantrums, and would finally deliver on his potential. Alas, apart from a few moments of brilliance – especially that goal against Manchester City in December – Osvaldo never delivered, and his training ground bust-up with Jose Fonte pretty much sealed his departure.

This is exactly why his move to Juventus is a gamble for the Italian champions and current Serie A leaders. The fact that the move is not permanent (Juve does have an option to buy at the end of the season) does minimize the potential damage that a player like Osvaldo can do in the locker room, especially considering the heavyweights that currently reside there. Nevertheless, Osvaldo is a special kind of troublemaker, and he has succeeded in destabilizing other clubs regardless of how big the presence of other players was.

To Juve’s benefit, though, Osvaldo made it known that his preference has always been to ply his trade in Italy, and the chance to play for one of the best teams in the continent could appease his prickly disposition. Additionally, with the World Cup around the corner, Osvaldo might realize that he can ill afford to blow an opportunity to represent the Azzurri on the world stage.

Whatever happens, we will be watching.