We select five brilliant buys made during the current January Transfer Window…
1. Jose Fonte to West Ham
West Ham completed the signing of former Southampton captain Jose Fonte for just £8m, according to The Guardian.
He skippered the Saints for three years and made more than 250 appearances for the club in total, helping them to back-to-back promotions and winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley. Fonte has been signed to bolster the Hammers defence, and to provide leadership qualities which the club are lacking.
West Ham’s need for a new centre-back was increased after the announcement that Angelo Ogbonna was out for the rest of the season, with a knee injury.
Eight million seems a very good price in modern day football, but this is because of his age. West Ham will get no more than two or three seasons out of the 33-year-old, however defence is an area where experience is hugely beneficial.
Last season, the Portuguese international was 8th in the league for the amount of defensive actions.
Anyone watching West Ham’s defensive form of late, including conceding five goals against Manchester City in the FA Cup third round, will know his service is needed if the club wants to maintain its vision of becoming a contender for European qualification.
The Hammers have conceded four or more goals against City, Arsenal, Manchester United, West Brom and Watford already this season. Fonte will bring a great deal of defensive stability in his arrival, as he has done so for Southampton in his many years. Partnered with the resolute Winston Reid, the pair should renew faith in the Hammers back line, and remove the defensive mishaps of late. They should be a great defensive partnership for the club going forward. Fonte’s partnership with Virgil Van Dijk at Southampton was consistently solid, and linking up with Reid should be no different.
The central defender has also had recent success at Euro 2016, winning the tournament with Portugal. Part of the country’s success was down to the reliability of its defence, particularly Fonte and Pepe’s consistency during the tournament.
Although Pepe took many of the plaudits, Fonte was integral throughout.
2. Lee Grant to Stoke
The 33-year-old – who had been on loan at the Bet365 Stadium – has penned a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Potters after a permanent move from Derby Country was agreed for a fee of £1.3m, per BBC Sport.
Filling in for the injured Jack Butland was always going to be tough after a superb season last year. But, goalkeeper Grant has played excellently between the sticks, especially in a spectacular display acquiring Stoke a point versus Manchester United in a 1-1 draw.
After Grant’s signing, Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “He has shown outstanding form on a consistent basis and we’re delighted to have reached an agreement with Derby to make his transfer permanent.”
Grant has kept six clean sheets so far this season – the sixth best tally in the league, only behind the likes of world-renown goalkeepers such as Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris, David de Gea and Petr Cech, as well as Fraser Forster in goal for Southampton who are always defensively sound every single season. Grant has played fewer games than those above him in the rankings, featuring in just 17 league games so far, with those above him playing at least 20.
The English shot stopper has only conceded 20 goals so far this season, one less than Manchester United’s, David de Gea, and two less than Arsenal’s, Petr Cech.
3. Morgan Schneiderlin to Everton
Everton confirmed the signing of midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin from Manchester United on Thursday, with the Frenchman penning a four-and-a-half-year deal at Goodison Park in a deal worth £20m initially, as reported by The Sun.
The Toffee’s are solid defensively whether it be a four or five-at-the-back formation which manager Ronald Koeman uses. The signing of Schneiderlin will give Everton that extra bit of quality, previously lacking in their defensive midfield position.
Also, there is now an opportunity for Koeman to rest and rotate his defensive midfielders, such as the ever-present Gareth Barry, exciting young prospect Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye when back from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Everton boss Koeman was delighted to have got his man, telling the club’s official website: “He’s a strong character. I worked with him for one season at Southampton, and he’s a midfield player who can play in different positions in the midfield. He’s also a fast player, he’s a clever player and he’s a personality.”
The Frenchman is a high-quality player, and will be a major asset for Everton, with his superb defensive qualities and broad passing range. Given that Everton have been heavily reliant on the Barry, having another player who is defensively capable and strong on the ball will be a real boost to the Toffees.
4. Tom Carroll to Swansea
Swansea City picked up former Tottenham midfielder Tom Carroll for around £4.5m, so say The Express.
The signing of Carroll fell under the radar and those who saw the news were left underwhelmed when the signing was announced. However, his performance in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Liverpool suggested he could be a contender for Bargain Buy of the Window.
Swansea have suffered from a lack of tempo and energy in several performances this term. Carroll, however, was able to get the ball moving against Liverpool, and by finding pockets of space he allowed his team to create attacking opportunities.
When the game was tied at 2-2, Liverpool were piling the pressure on, but young Carroll was determined to get forward and his extremely quick feet got him passed two Liverpool defenders, which eventually led to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winner.
The 24-year-old played like the tricky midfielder Swansea have been looking for since Joe Allen left the club. He looked rather accomplished in the centre of the park during his second Swansea debut. That run, alongside the inch-perfect cross into Fernando Llorente for his second goal, showed the promise of a superb signing.
5. Saido Berahino to Stoke
Stoke signed striker Saido Berahino from West Brom on a five-and-a-half-year deal for an initial fee of £12m, possibly rising to £15m, according to Sky Sports.
With the current climate in modern day football, huge sums of money are being thrown about, so £12m for a talent with the calibre of Berahino has got to be worth the risk.
A lack of match fitness may cause some concern, but Mark Hughes has suggested that we shall see him introduced into the team as soon as possible.
Berahino can add a fresh dimension to Stoke’s attack, adding pace which is in short supply among current frontmen Peter Crouch and Jon Walters.
Mark Hughes told Stoke Sentinel: “He gives us lots of options. He’s a player that can play off the shoulder. He can play with a partner. He can play as one of three. If he gets a chance, more often than not will take it.”
In the 2014/15 season, Berahino scored 14 goals in 32 starts for the Baggies at only 21 years old. If he can find this sort of form for his new club it will prove to be a superb signing by Hughes.