January signals that the first half of most European soccer leagues is finished. Once January hits, the transfer window opens for European teams looking to sell and buy players. and for some of these teams, the January transfer window cannot come soon enough. Fans of these faltering teams have been anxiously crossing off each game as they watch in horror while their team falters due to lack of quality players, injuries, or both. To these fans, the only hope of revitalizing the dying domestic campaign of their favorite team is through the insurgence of fresh blood into their squad. However, the problem with the January transfer window is that it’s a sellers market, not a buyers market. Those teams with a plethora of disposable players know that there are teams out there desperate for a new player, if only to show their fans that they are committed to spending money to improve the squad, and they take advantage of that desperation.
This desperation drives up the price of players beyond what they are actually worth. Hence, you have moments like when Liverpool pays €35 million for Andy Carroll in a desperate bid to replace Fernando Torres who they had just oversold to Chelsea for €50 million . The disaster of this sale brilliantly illustrates the problems with the January transfer window. Chelsea needed a top quality striker so they overpaid for a striker who had been under-performing. Then Liverpool, now flush with cash and having sold their best striker, felt the need to make purchases in the transfer window to demonstrate their “commitment to winning.” So they overspent on a player who’s price had been driven up by Liverpool’s desperation for a high-profile signing. Liverpool paid €12 million less for Luis Suarez in the same transfer window and now he’s a world-class striker for Liverpool and Andy Carroll is currently on West Ham and has scored only a few goals amidst consistent injury problems.
There are benefits to signing players in this window, as it can result in a team picking up a player who can truly improve their squad and improve their record in the second half of the season as the signing of Luis Suarez demonstrated. However, the odds are not in favor of the team looking to buy players. Too many teams are looking to make signings to improve their squad before it’s too late and too few teams are looking to sell quality players. These teams with quality players don’t want to lose their best players in the middle of the season and hurt their title/Champions League chances. Therefore, there’s only two types of players up for grabs; players who are surplus to requirements or players who’s contact runs out at the end of the season. The players who are surplus to requirements are usually surplus to requirements for a reason and incapable of providing the impact the teams buying them are desperate for. Although there may be a player of Juan Mata’s or Toni Kroos’ ability who is available available because he is surplus to requirements, the odds are he will be very overpriced. The best deal out there in the January transfer window is when teams are trying to sell a player before he becomes a free agent in the summer. However, this is more rare during the January transfer window and a much more common occurrence in the summer.
Fans will always cry and complain when their teams do not make big January signings. They think that the January transfer window works like the summer transfer window but it does not. A lot less players are on the auction block and they cost a lot more money. Many teams can ruin the summer transfer funds by being overly aggressive during the January transfer window. This is not to say that big signings cannot be made in January. Instead, it must be recognized that those quality players are like gold hidden in a bucket of fools gold. A team cannot just grab any player, pay him a a lot of money, and be successful. They have to carefully inspect the available players and make a frugal and informed decision out of who would provide them the most value. If they cannot find that player then they have to walk away. Sometimes walking away proves more “commitment to winning” then splashing money on a player who empties the teams coffers.