With the winter transfer update on the horizon (expected early March), it’s time to start thinking about how the game will change when it comes. As the January transfer window has now slammed shut (except in China), I’ve put together a list of 11 teams worth starting a career with following their mid-season wheeling and dealing that will come in the update.
Hull City – Not many teams are brave enough to sell arguably their two best players in the middle of a relegation battle, but that’s just what Hull did. Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore departed in January for West Ham and West Brom respectively. In their place, the Tigers signed the likes of Lazar Markovic and Kamil Grosicki to add some flair, classy defender Andrea Rannochia to provide stability at the back, and Oumar Niasse to add some potency up front. Certainly worth a look at post update.
Aston Villa – Nine players in and seven players out – it’s safe to say that Aston Villa did not have a quiet January. Out went the likes of Jordan Ayew, Aly Cissokho and Ashley Westwood, but they were more than adequately replaced with players such as Neil Taylor, Scott Hogan and Henri Lansbury. If Villa had a full season with their current squad, they would no doubt be favourites for promotion – why not give it a go?
SV Darmstadt – Darmstadt are rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table, but they have made some intelligent January signings to try and drag them away from the relegation zone. In have come the hugely experienced Hamit Altintop and Sidney Sam, while they have also managed to get the highly-rated Patrick Banggaard to try and shore things up at the back.
Las Palmas – One player does not make a team, but when the team concerned is Las Palmas, and the player concerned is Jese, then that one player can make a huge difference. The Gran Canaria-based team pulled off something of a coup by encouraging former Real Madrid superstar Jese to return to them on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. It’s worth starting a new save as the island side just to build a team around him.
AC Milan – I had a tough time picking between AC Milan and Genoa for this list, but plumped for the former Italian champions. They sent FMM favourite M’Baye Niang out on loan to Watford, and replaced him with Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and young Argentine Lucas Ocampos, both on temporary deals. They both certainly have the quality to make a big impact in Serie A.
Besiktas – Turkey has often been a league for former greats to go try and revive their careers, and Besiktas have continued that tradition by welcoming former Premier League stars Demba Ba and Ryan Babel into their ranks during January. Ba comes back to Europe following a stint in China, while Babel arrives from Spanish club Deportivo, and they will be hoping to help Besiktas secure the Super Lig title. Can you do the same?
Marseille – Arguably the biggest saga of the January transfer window was that of Dimitri Payet, and it almost seems natural to include his new club, Marseille, on this list. The South Coast club signed their former hero, along with former France captain Patrice Evra, to try and boost them up the table. Was Payet right to return ‘home’? Why not give it a go and find out?
KRK Genk – I’ve included Genk on this list not because of the players they’ve bought, but the players they have lost. The club still find themselves in the top six, but have seen highly rated winger Leon Bailey move to Bayer Leverkusen and central midfield powerhouse Wilfred Ndidi depart for Leicester City in return for large sums in the January window. While they have used some of that money to strengthen across the squad, as we all know - quantity doesn’t always replace quality.
Benfica – It seems a bit odd to include a club the size of Benfica on this list, but they are another side that were weakened in the January window by the loss of key players. Young winger Goncalo Guedes left for Paris Saint-Germain in a big money move, while Braga recalled Brazilian Danilo and Adel Taarabt went out on loan to Genoa. They did, however, keep hold of Victory Lindelof, so all is not lost, and they have plenty of potential in their ranks.
Kilmarnock – I think it’s safe to say that Kilmarnock aren’t one of the most fashionable clubs in the Scottish Premier League, and they currently sit in no-man’s land in midtable. They lost key striker Souleymane Coulibaly to Egypt in January, but made a number of astute loan signings including former hero Connor Sammon , highly-rated goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and promising midfielder Kristoffer Ajer to try and preserve their top-flight status. Those signing certainly provide a solid base on which to start a career.
AZ Alkmaar – It may seem strange to include a team that only made two signings on this list, but those two signings could prove to be enough to push AZ into the European places. Dutch international Tim Krul cut short his loan at Ajax to join them, while Norwegian defender Jonas Svensson came in to provide support to a somewhat leaky defence. Key signings can make or break a season and AZ fans will be hoping for the former.
Let me know what you think - do any of these take your fancy?