Another exciting January transfer window has come to a close and, as always, some will be celebrating while others will be heartbroken (especially fans in North London). For teams battling to get into the lucrative Champions League spots, moves made this winter could make a huge difference in June. That also holds true for relegation strugglers like QPR, Aston Villa and Newcastle. This transfer window also had a major impact on North America, as two of Major League Soccer's brightest young players, FC Dallas' Brek Shea and D.C. United's Andy Najar, moved abroad.
Here are the winners and losers of the January transfer window:
Liverpool: After fumbling big time during the summer transfer window, missing out on a relatively cheap deal to sign U.S. international Clint Dempsey, the Reds struck gold in January. In acquiring both striker Daniel Sturridge and attacking midfielder Coutinho, Liverpool signed two players who can contribute in key positions right away and still offer vast potential. This is arguably the first time since the early Rafa Benitez days that the team signed impact players for reasonable fees. Additionally, they actually fit Brendan Rodgers' pass-oriented system. With Luis Suarez continuing his blazing form, there is a small chance that Champions League soccer could return to Anfield next season.
Newcastle: Alan Pardew and top scout Graham Carr pillaged Ligue 1 to boost an ailing Newcastle side that has floundered this season. Though the club didn't directly replace the departed Demba Ba, the Magpies added five players who could have a major impact in the Premier League. The club addressed its poor backline in adding Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, two highly coveted players across Europe. This window could be remembered for the club signing Moussa Sissoko, who will remind many of a young Yaya Toure. Team owner Mike Ashley doesn't usually give Toon fans much hope but in this window, he gave his coaching staff the proper backing to succeed.
AC Milan: Yes, Mario Balotelli is a headcase but anytime you can acquire your country's top young player for 20 million euros and get him to reduce his enormous wages, it should be considered a success. Milan might have been criticized for selling a lot of its big-time players in Zlatan Ibrahomovic and Thiago Silva but the team's blueprint is slowly beginning to emerge. The team wants to focus more on young homegrown talent like Stephan El Shaarawy and Mbaye Niang up front, and Balotelli should blend in nicely with the pair (and hair). While some will question whether or not Super Mario has the desire to succeed after only scoring once in 14 appearances for Manchester City this year, a return to Italy with his favored team should spark the 22-year-old back into top form. Remember, he did single-handedly take out Germany in last year's European Championship.
Queens Park Rangers: QPR signed the type of players that its city neighbor Arsenal should have inked in January. Acquiring top French striker Loic Remy and Senegalese center back Christopher Samba for 22 million pounds is good business for Harry Redknapp. Not sure if the two men will keep Rangers in the Premier League but at least the London club added two blue-chip signings in defense. The only blemish on Redknapp's window was bringing in a Spurs retread in Jermaine Jenas and an unproven player in Andres Townsend. Otherwise, top window for the Blues.
Stoke: Tony Pulis made out like a bandit in signing Brek Shea for only $4 million, a player who should fit in Stoke's ground-and-pound style of play. To put things in perspective, MLS turned down a offer of $6 million from Bundesliga side Schalke for Shea last year. Though the former FC Dallas standout struggled last year -- due to combination of being distracted (he wanted out), fatigue and injuries -- a rejuvenated Shea could spark the Potters up the table. It also helps that fellow U.S. international Geoff Cameron will be there to help the young American settle in the greater Manchester area. In the future, this move or Chelsea's signing of Demba Ba at $11 million could be considered the bargain of the season.
Arsenal: Taking advantage of Malaga's financial struggles once again, Nacho Monreal should be a good replacement for injured Kieran Gibbs but other than that this was a woeful window for the Gunners.
After promising the sun and the moon to the disgruntled fans, it is clear that Arsenal's management has only one thing on its mind: its profit margin. It's understandable that the club wants to remain financially stable as Financial Fair Play kicks into effect in the near future, but there were plenty of bargains to be found in this market.
Ba, one of the elite strikers in the Premier League, was available for under 10 million pounds, and Remy was available at only 8 million pounds. Olivier Giroud might be showing positive signs recently but the club continues to underwhelm with its bench options. To add further insult to injury, Yann M'Villa, a long time target of Arsene Wenger, was available for only 9.6 million pounds and ended up in Russia. For a club that has desperately lacked steel in its midfield, acquiring the French international could have made a huge difference.
With Tottenham looking stronger each game and Liverpool adding big time young players, this might be the season where things unravel and Arsenal could miss the Champions League. If that happens, Wenger could be the unfortunate fall guy.
Major League Soccer: It is great to see that MLS is becoming a reliable feeder league for clubs in Europe but losing Shea and Najar in one offseason is far from ideal for the league. Furthermore, the fact that Juan Agudelo remains in MLS is a bigger issue. He has only one year left on his current contract and could sign with a club for free at the end of June. That would be a disaster for the league, which, according to sources, rejected a $8 million for the 20-year-old striker just a year ago.
Kaka: Oh Ricky! One of the most charitable soccer players in the world, Kaka proved that money is still priority numero uno when he declined a move to AC Milan due to difference of taxes in Italy and Spain. Shocking considering that Milan was willing to pay Kaka's massive Real Madrid salary, but the former Ballon D'Or winner wasn't willing to bend. The Brazilian might insist that he wants to be a part of the Selecao's local World Cup run but his actions appear to indicate otherwise.
Aston Villa: Just when you thought Tom Hicks and George Gillett were the worst American owners in Premier League history, Randy Lerner swoops in and gives both a run for their money. The Villians are a proud club in England but their run in the country's top flight is over. This is 2009 Newcastle and 2010 West Ham all over again. There were plenty of options to turn this around, including Jolean Lescott from Manchester City, who would give the club's adolescent backline some veteran leadership. Nope, thrifty Lerner wasn't having it. Wonder how he'll react when he sees how paltry the Championship TV deal is.
Peter Odemwingie: Talk about EPIC FAIL! The Nigerian striker has brought new lows to the word 'desperate' as he tried to manufacture a transfer that neither West Brom nor QPR wanted any part of. The account of Odemwingie heading to QPR's London offices only to be escorted away by the team's security guards is almost reminiscent of a Family Guy skit. Sure, Odemwingie would have been a good fit in London, but it's not as if he isn't part of a top club currently. West Brom sits 11 places above QPR. His public tweets insulting West Brom's fans were classless and no one will feel sympathy for him when he is booed relentlessly at the Hawthorns. Also, Odemwingie's bank account is about to feel a steep hit with the brutal fines that are sure to be coming his direction. I know F-minus doesn't exist but Odemwingie set a new low on Thursday night.
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