For many, one of the best things about the Christmas period is the January sales that follow. Shoppers spend the preceding two months buying presents, only to find the very same items they bought are cheaper post 25th December. Alas, the same rules do not apply in football. Today’s transfer market is seeing prices pushed up to record new levels and with the January transfer window on the horizon this trend is only set to continue. Real Madrid has kicked things off with the protracted £20m transfer of Lassana Diarra. The question remains, will any of Serie A’s finest be following suit?
If they do, it certainly won’t be at the sort of fees the Spanish champions are currently quoted as paying for Diarra. Italian clubs simply do not have the financial muscle to spend that sort of money on a single player in January. That is not to say they cannot, or will not spend large amounts, but realistically fans of the big Serie A clubs should expect a maximum figure of around £12m-£14m on a player, if any of them decide to spend in the first place. Other clubs will not be looking so expectantly ahead to the window, as they fight to keep hold of their key players.
Milan have already made their first acquisition, buying yet another Brazilian, this time in the shape of 24-year-old centreback Thiago Silva, in addition to the loan signing of David Beckham. Rossoneri fans will be only too pleased to see a young defender arrive and provide cover in a position where they have looked increasingly shaky this season. However, he will not be able to play until next season as the club have already filled their quota of non-EU players. This means that il Diavolo have not actually solved the problem of their defence, as their new signing will only be training with the club until the summer. This would explain the subsequent links to Andrea Dossena, Leandro Rinaudo and Fabio Cannavaro, all of which would be able to play immediately should they arrive. It is highly unlikely any of this trio will come to Milan mid-campaign. Napoli centreback Rinaudo has the best chance, though the club are currently chasing a Champions League spot, meaning the likelihood of selling an important member of their squad to one of their direct rivals is slim.
Juventus are another club being linked with defenders. The long-term injuries to Dario Knežević and Jorge Andrade have left the Bianconeri with only three recognised centrehalfs in Olof Mellberg, Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrottaglie. Jonathan Zebina, another who can play in the centre of defence, is also out injured. William Gallas was instantly linked with the club the moment he was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy, though that particular story has now died down somewhat and whether or not the Bianconeri defence needs reinforcements is debatable. Unsurprisingly, Legrottaglie recently stated he did not feel that defenders need to be brought in, citing their current record in Serie A as evidence. Coach Claudio Ranieri does already have a number of options available to him. Zdeněk Grygera, norminally a rightback, can play comfortabley in the centre, while Hasan Salihamidžić can fill in at full-back. This should be enough to see them safely through a tough second half of the season, barring another unfortunate injury crisis.
A more important area for La Vecchia Signora that perhaps needs addressing is the centre of midfield. While plentiful in number, the current crop of central midfielders lack the guile, quality and all-round creativity needed to make a difference at the top level. As hard as players like Momo Sissoko, Cristiano Zanetti, Christian Poulsen and Claudio Marchisio will work, they are unlikely to be unlocking defences in the near future with a display of pinpoint passing to split an opposition’s centrebacks. Germany seems to be where the club’s wallet is heading, with Brazilian Diego constantly linked with the club for nearly a year now, expect that to continue into the January window. Bastian Schweinsteiger, of Bayern Munich, was linked for some time too until reports that his girlfriend did not want to move to Italy scuppered any potential deal. Bayer Leverkusen’s Renato Augusto is the latest to be linked, yet he only joined the German outfit earlier this year.
Either way, the team needs an injection of creativity, especially if it is to compete in the latter stages of the Champions League. 36-year-old Pavel Nedvěd and 34-year-old Alessandro Del Piero cannot shoulder the burden on their own, especially with Mauro Camoranesi either injured or infuriatingly inconsistent. Claims made by President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli that the club will not be spending in the transfer window may not be what the tifosi want to hear as the Turin outfit continues their pursuit of honours this year.
One club that seemingly have not ruled out spending is Inter, Serie A leaders by six points. Strikers appear to be on Tactician José Mourinho’s wish list with Didier Drogba still being linked with a move to join his former boss. The fact he is currently sitting on the Chelsea bench only adds fuel to these rumours. If the Nerazzurri were to acquire a striker, then one must surely leave. Six strikers are on the books of the Milan giants: Victor Obinna, Hernán Crespo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Julio Cruz, Adriano and Mario Balotelli. There simply cannot be space for a seventh. Adriano’s current problems have been well documented, and moves to Chelsea and Flamengo have been mooted. Marcio Braga, Flamengo President, ruled out a loan move for the Brazilian – which leaves Chelsea and the interesting possibility of a swap deal involving the aforementioned Drogba. It would certainly benefit both parties – Mourinho gets to work with a player he admires, whilst also getting rid of one who in his view seems to be causing problems and Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari does not lose a striker as he is getting a top class replacement who he is widely known to still admire.
Further down the league, the emphasis seems to change to clubs attempting to keep their players in January, rather than adding to their squads. Genoa’s star striker Diego Milito has been linked with a move to Inter, yet their primary aim should be to add some goals from midfield. With Thiago Motta the only midfielder to have scored this season and that was just on the one occasion, the team are becoming too reliant on their Argentine striker, with only Giuseppe Sculli offering any sort of secondary goal threat. Franco Semioli has been linked with Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, as well as Lecce, another side who need to take the pressure off their strikers and add goals from other areas, especially if they are to avoid relegation.
Udinese has what appears to be the biggest fight to keep hold of their players. With a number of highly rated and very talented players in their squad, the Zebrette’s poor league position is only going to encourage bids from other clubs looking to take advantage of their plight. Gökhan Inler was rumoured to be a target for Arsène Wenger at Arsenal in the summer, and with key midfielder Francesc Fàbregas out for 4 months, they may be tempted to make an earlier-than-planned move for the young Swiss maestro. Defender Cristián Zapata also reportedly attracted interest from the London club in the summer, with Chairman Franco Soldati apparently turning down an offer in the region of £10m. With the William Gallas saga still lingering, the French Tactician may decide on a double raid on Pasquale Marino’s squad.
A positive note for the club came in the form of Antonio Di Natale this week, who has supposedly commit himself to the club until the summer, meaning one less potential departure for the Friuli boss to worry about. That will barely take away the pressure Marino will be under to keep hold of, or replace as the case may be, his best players, and the same situation will exist for many other Coaches in Serie A. The spirit of goodwill just simply does not exist in the cut throat world of football, and the January transfer market.