Giannelli Imbula – FC Porto to Stoke City – £18.3m – Kishan Vaghela (Deputy Sport Editor)
The January transfer window is well renowned as a period when an ideal player may not be available. However, Stoke City may have found theirs in the form of Giannelli Imbula, the club’s new record signing, after he completed a deadline day move from FC Porto.
The 23-year-old embodies the Potters’ ‘old’ style of play, a physically strong and imposing central defensive midfielder, yet his excellent technique and confidence on the ball is more reminiscent of the side under current manager Mark Hughes. These characteristic were evident at Olympique de Marseille, the team he represented 76 times, earning him comparisons to Patrick Vieira and Claude Makélélé, before his £15.1m move to the Portuguese champions seven months ago.
However, Imbula found opportunities difficult to come by at the Estádio de Dragão due to the form of teenager Rúben Neves, 24-year-old Danilo Pereira and 26-year-old André André.
The transfer fee paid for the Belgian-born defensive midfielder, who has only featured internationally for the France U21’s, surpasses Stoke’s previous record of £12m for Xherdan Shaqiri.
Imbula will hope to make more of an impression than Marco van Ginkel, whose loan at Stoke was terminated prematurely, allowing the 23-year-old Netherlands international to join PSV Eindhoven, on loan from Chelsea, for the rest of the season.
Nevertheless, Imbula certainly has all the attributes to settle and impose himself on the Premier League.
Jonjo Shelvey – Swansea City to Newcastle United – £12m – Elliott Charles
Joining Newcastle for £12m, Jonjo Shelvey was one of Swansea’s most impressive players in their outstanding season last year when they finished eighth, with some notable performances earning him a call up to the England team. He will certainly provide creativity, something Newcastle so crave and lack in midfield, and having now racked up 178 first-team appearances in his career at the age of just 23, Newcastle are in line to get the best years out of this talent. With Euro 2016 fast approaching, Shelvey will be desperate to justify his worth and earn a place on the flight to France, and Newcastle will certainly hope this can bring about some inspired performances.
Furthermore, with an increased number of English players now in the squad, Shelvey may prove to be someone who the Geordie fans can identify with, and some magic moments in his opening two games for Newcastle are undoubtedly an exciting preview of what he can offer this team in need of a spark to avoid relegation. For England’s sake, let’s hope it’s a partnership that works.
Benik Afobe – Wolverhampton Wanderers to AFC Bournemouth – £10m (reported) – Nick Friend
After losing Callum Wilson so early on in Bournemouth’s first foray into English football’s top table, it was a case of needs must for Eddie Howe as 2016 arrived, bringing with it the January transfer window. Goals win games and, quite simply, without Wilson and Max Gradel – another unfortunate long-term absentee, the goals had dried up. Glenn Murray, snapped up in August to ease the burden, leads the club’s goalscoring charts with just five Premier League strikes. And with a burgeoning quiver of creative options including new signing Juan Iturbe, it was not as if the Cherries’ strikers were feeding on scraps.
In Benik Afobe, Bournemouth have a genuine poacher – pace, power, precision and the composure in front of goal of a man who netted a goal every two games for Wolves. The early signs are good, with Afobe – a similar player to Wilson, scoring twice in his first three appearances for the club. Such a ratio between now and May will virtually guarantee that the big boys are returning to Dean C
ourt next season. After the rotten luck that has denied Howe the services of Wilson, Gradel and then-record-signing Tyrone Mings, he will be praying that his new frontman can stay fit and make his £10m fee appear a steal.
Steven Naismith – Everton F.C. to Norwich City – £8.5m – Kieran Moriarty (Sport Editor)
Much like the player himself, this deal has gone under the radar. Although he may not be a glamorous signing, Steven Naismith might just be the pragmatic striker Norwich City need in their struggle to stay in the Premier League.
For a team who lack firepower up front (despite what a recent 5-4 result may suggest), Naismith fits the bill perfectly. He has honed a natural striker’s instinct in his four years at Everton, where he was incredibly effective as a back-up striker but never trusted with the responsibility of being the leading man. Considering Everton’s ongoing travails, it seems ludicrous that they have parted ways with a squad player whom possessed the ability to grab a goal out of nothing and decide games, a quality which the Toffees have been desperately lacking all season.
Perhaps my opinion is distorted by my allegiance to Chelsea, a club whom Naismith often plundered several goals against to condemn them to defeat. However, I do believe Everton’s loss is Norwich’s gain. At £8.5 million, it cannot be said that Naismith is a bargain. However with so much at stake financially for clubs this year in view of the huge increase in TV revenue which will commence next season, it is a gamble that is definitely worth taking for the Canaries.
As proven on his debut against Liverpool, Naismith has an eye for goal and will finish if he is given the chances and a run in the team.
Andros Townsend – Tottenham Hotspur to Newcastle United – £12m – Henry Clare
Andros Townsend’s move to the North East makes so much sense for both parties.
After exploding on to the scene with a sensational goal on his England debut back in October 2013, things have stalled for Townsend. Having worked so hard to establish himself in the first team, he quickly fell out of favour at Spurs, and the situation reached a low point last November when he became embroiled in a heated touchline debate with the club’s fitness coach.
However, there’s no doubt that Townsend still has bags of potential, and St James’ Park might just be the place for him to realise it – a run of starts is just what the 24-year-old needs to regain his confidence.
Goals have been hard to come by for Steve McClaren’s team, and Townsend’s pace and directness might just be what Newcastle have been missing this season.
In an age in which English players are hugely overpriced, £12 million for a prospect like Andros Townsend could prove to be an absolute bargain.
Charlie Austin – Queens Park Rangers to Southampton F.C. – £4m – Taha Hashim
When Charlie Austin finished his debut Premier League season with 18 league goals and an England call-up alongside another non-league prodigy in Jamie Vardy, it seemed a simple matter of time that a club would snap him up to continue his exploits in the top flight.
However, while Vardy has gone on to make history, Austin has had to bide his time in the Championship with QPR, waiting patiently for his return. The fact that Southampton have snapped him up for a sum of £4m pounds represents an absolute bargain for a team that have been struggling for some firepower up front, with Graziano Pellè and Shane Long not providing the consistency of other forwards in the league.
If they are to challenge for European places, Austin’s composure in front of goal could be significant for Koeman’s men, while Austin himself may have an eye on a plane to France for this summer’s European Championship. Austin has scored prolifically at every level he has played at, and if his winning goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford is anything to go by, Southampton may have struck gold.
Photograph: All via Wikimedia Commons