Biggest winners & losers from Premier League winter transfers
It was indeed a one-off Premier League winter. Soaked with suspense, drama and lots of cash floating here and there. Six clubs smashed their transfer records. Three, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, were top sides.
Liverpool began the crazy trend with Virgil van Dijk's signing. Only days later, it let Philippe Coutinho join Barcelona for another record fee. Attention then switched to Manchester. Alexis Sanchez was allegedly made the Premier League's highest-paid player. City and the Gunners' respective club-record deals for Aymeric Laporte and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rounded up the spending spree.
With the dust now settled, it's time to take stock of all the dealings. Who made out like a bandit? Who was held up at gunpoint? Here are our winners and losers.
For the first time in a long while, Arsene Wenger actually got it right in the market. Unlike the recent past, the Frenchman had a clear blueprint heading into the winter break. Get rid of some dead wood; tie down either Sanchez or Mesut Ozil. Or both. Then go all out for glamour signings. He muddled up the order a bit, but checked all the boxes.
Arsenal recouped almost £60 million from Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin's respective sales to Chelsea, Everton and Valencia. That's good business for your fringe players. Although he lost Sanchez, he found Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Another bargain. The Armenian will have a friendly face with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's arrival. Finally Ozil has singed a contract extension. Some think Jonny Evans or another defender was the most critical piece, but Arsenal looks formidable again.
Sanchez and Mkhitaryan
Two frustrated figures unsure of their futures before the winter dawned, both were engulfed in diverging scenarios. Wenger wanted Sanchez to stay at all cost. Mourinho would have had door-to-door salesmen flogging the Armenian's wares in Kidderminster if he'd thought it would work.
At least Wenger came around to accepting the Chilean's departure. City seemed his most likely destination but United showed up with a tantalising proposition. As Marlon Brando would put it, an offer the Frenchman couldn't refuse. Mkhitaryan was dangled in a straight swap deal. Wenger happily agreed terms.
On paper, the deal seems perfect for both players. At United, Sanchez is guaranteed Champions League football as well as a huge pay package. Mkhitaryan, on the other hand, now finds himself where he's more valued and trusted, as well as being reunited with old strike partner Auba.
The winter began superbly for Riyad Mahrez. He scored and created as Leicester City thrashed Huddersfield 3-0 on New Year's Day. He repeated the feat in subsequent games. Evidently, the Algerian was enjoying his football once again.
Things then took an unexpected turn when City registered an interest. Mahrez skipped training and handed in a transfer request to force his way out of the King Power. In the end, the deal fell through. Mahrez finds himself at a crossroads with no one to give him directions. It isn't an unfamiliar terrain for the 26-year-old. He tried the same trick to end up at the Emirates but only wound up with egg on his face. Some people don't learn.
Mahrez isn’t all alone. As a matter of fact, Ibrahim Amadou's case should provide some solace for the Algerian. After travelling by train to London, the 24-year-old's dream move to Crystal Palace crashed at the last hurdle. Like Mahrez, he had asked to leave his club, Lille. He was ultimately disappointed.
The French side reportedly changed its mind after failing to recall his replacement, Xeka, from a loan spell at Dijon. Shades of Alexis and Man City in the summer. A long trip back to northern France awaits the Cameroonian.