What a difference a year makes. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, football clubs have taken some drastic steps to reduce their spending in the January transfer window, and as a result, the big moves that drive interest in the game at this time of year are nowhere to be seen. January is traditionally a quieter time than the summer window, but, influenced by the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic, the figures make difficult reading.
In January 2020, according to transfer tracking website Transfermarkt, Premier League clubs spent just over €242m on 88 arrivals; in January 2021, the difference is clear, with spending of just €71m on 35 arrivals. Europe is a similar story with German Bundesliga clubs (€196m in 2020 vs. €41m in 2021), Spanish La Liga clubs (€152m vs. €32m), Italian Serie A (€215m vs. €61m) and French Ligue 1 clubs (€124m vs. €26m) all doing the same.
The transfer window can throw us some surprises -- Odion Ighalo joined Man United on deadline day in January 2020, after all -- so there might be a few things to catch the eye. However, it might be only loan deals, swaps or free transfers this month, so if you've come for news of €100m deals for Borussia Dortmund pair Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly or Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, you're likely to be disappointed. Even Barcelona legend Lionel Messi is deferring the decision over his future until the summer. That said, plenty of top teams have some serious needs ahead of the most grueling stretch of the season.
What does deadline day hold? Who are the players available for a bargain, and what do the top clubs in Europe still need to do? *All fees via Transfermarkt
Deadline Feb. 1: Bundesliga (noon ET) | Serie A (2 p.m. ET) | Premier League (6 p.m. ET) | La Liga (6 p.m. ET) | Ligue 1 (6 p.m. ET)
What are the top storylines for the elite clubs in Europe?
- Money is tight. There have been fewer than 20 deals in Europe's "big five" leagues with transfer fees attached this window. Loan moves and free transfers have been top of the agenda.
- Liverpool need a centre-back after an injury to Joel Matip and are set to land Preston North End defender Ben Davies, sources have told ESPN.
- Arsenal are chasing a backup left-back to Kieran Tierney. Southampton's Ryan Bertrand, Marseille defender Jordan Amavi and Crystal Palace's Patrick van Aanholt are under consideration. They could also let Ainsley Maitland-Niles leave on loan.
- PSG want to sign Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli on loan. But Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is wavering over allowing a player previously so influential at the club to leave. Tottenham will also need to sign a replacement if they let him go.
- Barcelona and Real Madrid have no money for signings. They may need to strengthen after some poor form this season, but both Spanish giants look handcuffed until the summer.
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Which players could still get a move before the deadline?
Dayot Upamecano: With a reported €42m release clause that comes into effect in the summer, the RB Leipzig defender will likely stay put this month. However, all of Europe's top clubs are after him, and it's possible one (Chelsea or Liverpool?) might try to steal a march on their rivals with an early move.
Dele Alli: After being a central player under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, Alli's star has fallen under Jose Mourinho. Now nothing more than a backup, the midfielder needs to move on, and PSG are keen to reunite him with Pochettino on loan.
Christian Eriksen: Having joined Inter Milan only a year ago from Tottenham, the 28-year-old midfielder was told he can leave the club, but he could now be set to stay; his injury time free-kick to defeat rivals AC Milan in Tuesday's Coppa Italia quarterfinal could have given him a new lease of life. Arsenal were keen in November before they signed Martin Odegaard, but now a return to Spurs for Eriksen is possible if they move on Alli and work out a deal.
Edin Dzeko: The 34-year-old was linked with a return to Manchester City, as well as to rivals United, but a swap deal between Roma and Inter Milan, with Roma landing Alexis Sanchez on loan too, was discussed.
Joshua Zirkzee: Bayern Munich's young striker hasn't been getting much game time, which is tough to do when Robert Lewandowski is ahead of you in the pecking order. A loan move to Everton or Parma has been reported by Sky Germany, with Parma looking the most likely to land him.
Yves Bissouma: The Brighton midfielder has been being closely followed by Liverpool, sources told ESPN's Julien Laurens; manager Jurgen Klopp views him as a potential replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, who is out of contract in the summer. If Wijnaldum does move before the window shuts, then £30m might land them Bissouma, though Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea and Real Madrid also have been linked.
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Any U.S. players being linked in Europe?
Chris Richards: The Bayern Munich and United States defender is set to join Hoffenheim on a six-month loan move, a source has told ESPN's Tom Hamilton. The move will allow Richards to play under former Bayern reserve team boss Sebastian Hoeness again, who is now in charge of Hoffenheim.
Bryan Reynolds: Roma are set to sign the FC Dallas right-back, sources have told ESPN's Tom Hamilton. The 19-year-old has drawn interest from Juventus and Club Brugge, but Roma are now in pole position. Roma have agreed to a deal that would bring Reynolds to Italy originally on loan, but have an obligation to sign the player for €7m plus add-ons, sources say.
Aaron Long: The New York Red Bulls and USMNT centre-back was linked with a loan move to Championship side Reading a few days ago, but sources told ESPN's Jeff Carlisle that he's now on the radar of Liverpool. Long, 28, was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2018 and could be a cheap option for Jurgen Klopp, though a loan move to an unnamed Championship club has been rejected.
Chris Gloster: The PSV Eindhoven and USMNT youth international left-back has drawn interest from Newcastle United, a source told ESPN's Jeff Carlisle. But any move to the Premier League side would be subject to Gloster obtaining a U.K. work permit, and it seems like that won't happen; instead, he could join Danish club SonderjyskE (who have U.S. owners) or stay at PSV.
DeAndre Yedlin: The United States right-back is set for a move to Galatasaray from Newcastle United, sources have told ESPN's Tom Hamilton. Yedlin, 27, is to travel to Turkey for his medical after both clubs agreed to a fee to sign him.
Paul Arriola: Swansea City are interested in adding the D.C. United winger to their squad on loan, sources have told ESPN. The Championship side have already snapped up Jordan Morris on a loan deal from the Seattle Sounders and have returned to America with interest in another U.S. star. Sources said there is a "50-50" chance of the deal happening before Monday's deadline, with Swansea and D.C. United in discussions.
Caden Clark: The New York Red Bulls midfielder is set to move to RB Leipzig in January 2022, despite playing less than 400 minutes in the first team to date. The Athletic reports that the 17-year-old will move for around $3m, but will stay on loan in New York for a year.
How about free agents?
Diego Costa: Incredibly, the former Chelsea striker is being linked with Manchester City after terminating his contract with Atletico Madrid. With Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero struggling for fitness, Costa would certainly do a job, but according to Sid Lowe the 32-year-old would need to "pay a €15m penalty if he moves to a team in La Liga or the Champions League."
Samir Nasri: The former Arsenal and Manchester City playmaker has been without a club since leaving Anderlecht last summer. He will need to prove himself again, at 33, with AC Milan reportedly keeping an eye on him.
Neven Subotic: After terminating his contract with Denizlispor, Subotic is available at a time when a number of top clubs are looking for a backup defender. At 32, he still has a few years left at the top despite some injury issues and could be of interest to many managers, including his former boss at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp.
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Some players have contracts running down, will they move?
Eric Garcia: Manchester City don't want to let him go for nothing next summer, but Barcelona have no money to sign the 20-year-old defender, so he might have to wait unless PSG or Arsenal swoop late, or until the Catalan club somehow works out a deal. The player himself is willing to play for free, but will City let him depart?
Georginio Wijnaldum: Similar to the above, if he doesn't sign a new deal at Liverpool then Wijnaldum looks likely to leave for Barca in the summer. He's very unlikely to move, however, as Liverpool would need a midfield replacement and Barca have no cash unless they get creative.
Florian Thauvin: With his future at Marseille looking bleak, the 28-year-old midfielder has received reported interest from Tottenham, Leicester, Napoli, Milan, Roma and Sevilla. It looks like he could be allowed to leave this month.
Joshua King: Manchester United were keen on King this time last year, but their interest fizzled out and the Bournemouth forward was relegated at the end of the season. Now Burnley, West Ham and West Brom are offering him a way out.
Not until the summer
David Alaba: The one player they all want. Unable or unwilling to agree a new contract at Bayern, the 28-year-old defender has his pick of Europe's elite clubs. He'll move on a free transfer, most likely to Real Madrid, though there could be a few twists and turns along the way before he decides.
Sergio Ramos: Manchester City are closely monitoring Ramos' situation at Real Madrid with an eye to signing him as a free agent, sources told ESPN's Rodrigo Faez, while PSG have also reportedly made him an offer. Ramos will turn 35 in March, but he's still top class and it looks like he might move on.
Lionel Messi: The world will be watching and waiting for Messi's decision this summer. He won't move before then, and he might even sign a new deal depending on who wins the club's presidential elections in March, but Man City, PSG, various MLS sides including NYCFC, and Newell's Old Boys are in the running should he want to go.
Sergio Aguero: Linked with Barcelona as a possible replacement for Messi, Man City's all-time leading scorer might move away from the Etihad. He'll have his pick of clubs, but at 32, he's a little young to be thinking of his retirement at former club Independiente.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu: Gab Marcotti wrote about the trio at the start of the month, and Milan need them all if they are to maintain their challenge for the Serie A title this season.
What do the big teams still need?
INS: Amad Diallo (£19m, Atalanta)
OUTS: Ethan Laird (loan, MK Dons), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (£1.75m, Bayer Leverkusen), Jesse Lingard (loan, West Ham), Tahith Chong (loan, Club Brugge), James Garner (loan, Nottingham Forest), Facundo Pellistri (loan, Alaves)
After the arrival of 18-year-old Amad Diallo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still thinks he is two or three players short, but new arrivals -- likely to include a centre-back and a forward -- will have to wait until the summer. Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero have been given permission to talk to other teams and could leave before the deadline. Facundo Pellistri has gone on on loan to Alaves as he has been restricted to U23 games since signing in the summer, Jesse Lingard has gone on loan to West Ham, but the club have rebuffed enquiries for Donny van de Beek. Sources told ESPN that Manchester United are prepared to wait for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, while Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho will remain a target. -- Rob Dawson
OUTS: Liam Millar (loan, Charlton), Adam Lewis (loan, Plymouth)
A centre-back has been mooted all window long, with Alaba and Upamecano in the conversation, and now an injury to Joel Matip will see one arrive. Lille centre-back Sven Botman has been on the radar of a string of clubs in England, including Liverpool, sources told ESPN, while Ajax's Perr Schuurs has also been considered. But Klopp had to get creative with a lack of funds available and worked out a £2m deal for Preston North End defender Ben Davies, sources have told ESPN.
Brighton midfielder Bissouma is being closely followed by Liverpool, sources told ESPN, with manager Klopp tracking him as a potential replacement for Wijnaldum, who is out of contract in the summer. Derby County wonderkid Kaide Gordon, 16, has also been linked. -- Mark Ogden
INS: Filip Stevanovic (£7m, Partizan Belgrade)
OUTS: Morgan Rogers (loan, Lincoln), Mix Diskerud (undisclosed, Denizlispor), Daniel Arzani (loan, AGF)
Manchester City are resigned to losing centre-back Garcia to Barcelona, either before the deadline for €3m or in the summer for free. Pep Guardiola has done his best to convince the 20-year-old to sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium, but Garcia has been clear in his desire to return to Spain and it will happen eventually. Guardiola says he is not expecting any new arrivals this month, but there will be focus on bringing in an established centre-forward in the summer -- whatever happens with Sergio Aguero's contract, which expires in 2021. -- Rob Dawson
Jose Mourinho stated on Wednesday that he does not expect Tottenham to do any business before Monday's deadline. Sources have told ESPN that Dele Alli is keen on a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain, but chairman Daniel Levy is wavering over allowing a player previously so influential at the club to leave. Levy plays his hand late in the window so nothing can definitively be ruled out, but Mourinho is content with his squad and the club's longer-term targets -- including a centre-back and a new right-back -- will likely be put on hold until the summer. Harry Winks has been linked with a move to Valencia, though the England midfielder is expected to stay in north London. Mourinho's sparing use of Real Madrid loanee Gareth Bale has also taken several Tottenham players by surprise, sources told ESPN. -- James Olley
New manager Thomas Tuchel will have his own plans, and Chelsea had been keen to sign Rice before the sacking of Frank Lampard, but sources said the 42-year-old was driving the Blues' pursuit of the England international while senior figures at the club had reservations about paying a high fee -- the Hammers demanded £80m last summer -- for a former academy graduate. Chelsea have also been been monitoring the progress of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, sources told ESPN's Julien Laurens, while the club want to keep veteran striker Olivier Giroud until the end of the season despite interest from Inter and Juventus. Young midfielder Billy Gilmour could depart on loan as he searches for game time. -- Mark Ogden
INS: Mat Ryan (loan, Brighton), Martin Odegaard (loan, Real Madrid)
OUTS: William Saliba (loan, Nice), Sead Kolasinac (loan, Schalke), Matt Macey (free, Hibernian), Sokratis (released), Mesut Ozil (free, Fenerbahce)
Arsenal remain hopeful of adding a left-back before Monday's deadline. They have not yet made contact with Southampton over reported interest in Ryan Bertrand and have only minimal funds available; Marseille defender Jordan Amavi has been considered, but no formal offer has materalised as of yet, and they have also been linked with Crystal Palace's Patrick van Aanholt. Ainsley Maitland-Niles could leave on loan, but only if another full-back arrives.
The majority of their business has already been done with Martin Odegaard and Mat Ryan arriving on loan while Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Sead Kolasinac have left the Gunners to help reduce their wage bill. Manager Mikel Arteta will continue an overhaul of the squad in the summer with a centre-back among his priorities once Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers depart while they are expected to try to sign goalkeeper David Raya from Brentford having failed with a bid last summer.
The long-term pursuit of Houssem Aouar is set to be complicated by the Lyon midfielder's desire to wait for interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona to materialise this summer before deciding his next move, while Emile Smith Rowe has made a strong impression after breaking into the Arsenal first team, but talk of a new contract is premature, sources told ESPN. -- James Olley
There is no money for moves, so the club have to turn to youth. There's a vague possibility they might spend €3m on Man City defender Garcia if they can raise it, but with no president or board in place, it's impossible to make a decision. One source at the club told ESPN they hoped to be able to move on Neto and Junior Firpo, the latter of whom is of interest to AC Milan and West Ham United, and that they would also listen to reasonable offers for Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann. But no club has any money to sign the duo. Moves for Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay, or even an unlikely swoop for Aguero, will have to wait until the summer, as will the future of Messi. But a lot will change in five months. -- Sam Marsden
With no money to spend at the Bernabeu, there will be no additions even though Karim Benzema and Mariano Diaz are the only two strikers in the squad. Long term, sources told ESPN, the club is looking to land Kylian Mbappe and Eduardo Camavinga, but they would cost a lot and Madrid have bigger issues right now. A free transfer for Bayern star David Alaba looks likely in the summer, but the future of captain and legend Sergio Ramos is unresolved, with PSG and Man City keen to get him for free too. Luka Modric should sign a new contract, but it seems Lucas Vazquez won't, while centre-back Eder Militao has been linked with a move but should stay this month. Sources told ESPN that Odegaard felt let down by Madrid, as he was not given a chance in the first team before being allowed to join Arsenal on loan. -- Alex Kirkland
Having won the past transfer window with the free transfer of Luis Suarez from Barcelona, Atletico needed to bring in a replacement for Diego Costa and did so with the loan of Moussa Dembele from Lyon. Vitolo could depart, while Lucas Torreira has been a peripheral figure since moving on loan from Arsenal in the summer and Monaco have been interested. The club really wants to renew manager Diego Simeone's contract until 2024. -- Alex Kirkland
Nothing much will happen in January, but Alaba will leave in the summer after failing to agree on a new contract. A replacement could come in the form of RB Leipzig's Upamecano, and they are also tracking Gladbach's Florian Neuhaus to take over from Javi Martinez, who will also depart when his deal ends. A new contract for young star Jamal Musiala is on the agenda, while Bayern remain interested in signing Frenkie de Jong, but sources told ESPN the chances of the Dutch midfielder leaving Barcelona are minimal, despite the Catalan club's financial woes. Young U.S. right-back Chris Richards could move to Hoffenheim on loan. -- Stephan Uersfeld
Keeping their top stars including Sancho, Haaland and Gio Reyna was the priority, and that has been achieved. They have been linked with Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli and Borussia Monchengladbach's Florian Neuhaus, though the latter's €40m release clause is too expensive for Dortmund right now. Mo Dahoud could depart if they get a suitable offer, while sources told ESPN that 16-year-old Julian Rijkhoff will sign from Ajax and be added to the club's U17 side. -- Stephan Uersfeld
OUTS: Jese (Released), Marcin Bulka (loan, Chateauroux)
New manager Mauricio Pochettino wants to sign Alli from Tottenham on loan, and has also been linked with another former player in Eriksen, but the priority for PSG is to get Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to sign new contracts. The club's sporting director Leonardo has said they are interested in signing Messi as his contract with Barcelona comes to an end this summer, while sources told ESPN they have approached Bayern's Alaba and are reportedly keen on Real Madrid's Ramos -- both on free transfers. Wingers Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria should stay until summer, despite links abroad, with Di Maria opening talks over a new contract. -- Julien Laurens
INS: Marley Ake (€8m, Marseille), Nicolo Rovella (€18m, Genoa)
OUTS: Stefano Gori (loan, AC Pisa), Franco Tongya (€8m, Marseille), Manolo Portanova (€10m, Genoa), Elia Petrelli (€8m, Genoa), Nicolo Rovella (loan, Genoa).
Juventus' focus has been on signing players for the future. Sassuolo forward Gianluca Scamacca could arrive for around €25m, while highly rated midfielder Nicolo Rovella arrives from Genoa, but will return to the club on loan. Juve's biggest concern is to bring down the age of the squad with Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo needing to eventually be replaced. Sami Khedira could depart for Hertha Berlin too.
Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi were among the players offered to Manchester United as Juventus looked for ways to put together a deal to sign Paul Pogba early in the window, sources told ESPN's Rob Dawson. But there now seems to be an acceptance that Pogba will stay until the summer. -- Andrew Cesare Richardson
Inter are expected to be quiet as they continue their push for a first Serie A title since their Treble-winning season of 2009-10, but could sneak through a loan swap deal for Dzeko and Sanchez with Roma. Eriksen had been considered a potential outgoing, with director Beppe Marotta admitting in December he was transfer listed, but his last-gasp winner in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday could give him a reprieve; manager Antonio Conte noted after Tuesday's match that the club has been working on a new position for the Denmark international. Inter's priority remains to get striker Lautaro Martinez to sign a new deal, and they have already met with his agent. -- Andrew Cesare Richardson
INS: Mario Mandzukic (Free), Fikayo Tomori (loan, Chelsea), Soualiho Meite (loan, Torino)
OUTS: Andrea Conti (loan, Parma), Leo Duarte (loan, Istanbul Basaksehir), Lorenzo Colombo (loan, Cremonese), Mateo Musacchio (undisclosed, Lazio)
AC Milan have been busy in January, bringing in three players. They would have likely signed Mohamed Simakan from Strasbourg for around €15m had he not been injured, but instead they picked up Tomori on loan from Chelsea. Defender Mateo Musacchio joined Lazio, and Milan have sounded out Barcelona about a move for out-of-favour left-back Junior Firpo, sources have told ESPN's Moises Llorens. New contracts (see above) for a key trio are also on the agenda. -- Andrew Cesare Richardson