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With a quiet January transfer window now complete, theScore ranks the 10 best moves made across the game’s top leagues.
10. Gift Orban ➡️ Lyon
Details: Signed from Gent for reported €12M fee
There were some concerns when Gent signed Orban in January 2023. His scoring record of 20 goals in just 21 starts was clearly impressive, but that was in Norway’s second tier. Those reservations were soon forgotten as he amassed nine goals and two assists over 10 Belgian Pro League appearances and struck five times in five Conference League outings. His productivity has since slowed, but €12 million for an intensely competitive 21-year-old striker could prove extremely fruitful business for Lyon. Orban’s outgoing personality should also be a welcome addition to the dressing room.
9. Timo Werner ➡️ Tottenham
Details: Signed on loan from RB Leipzig with reported €17M option to buy
Like many transfers in the January window, bringing in Werner presented a low-risk deal for Tottenham. If it works out, €17 million is an affordable sum for a forward of Werner’s pedigree. The German was largely ineffective over his first two appearances but was much better in his third outing, setting up Destiny Udogie and Brennan Johnson for goals in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Brentford. His incredible work ethic and pace, paired with Ange Postecoglou’s ability to instill belief in his players, could make this a great move for both parties.
8. Said Benrahma ➡️ Lyon
Details: Signed from West Ham in deal worth up to €20.4M
Lyon fought for this one, and it should pay off. After battling some administrative issues, the Ligue 1 side completed the deal a day later than expected, announcing Benrahma had joined on an initial €6-million loan deal that could become permanent for another €14.4 million. It’s a low-risk move that should enliven Lyon’s struggling attack. Benrahma’s a functional system player who can break games open and change their pace with the flick of a foot. Though he started just five times for West Ham in the Premier League this season, he hasn’t lost those progressive traits.
7. Marcos Leonardo ➡️ Benfica
Details: Signed from Santos for reported €18M fee
You just know Benfica are onto something here. They always are. Leonardo arrives from Santos in a deal that could look like a bargain in the years to come. Despite playing for one of the worst Santos sides in its 111-year history, the 20-year-old still managed to score 26 goals in 66 league appearances. He’s an old-school striker who loves to hang in the penalty area, and if Benfica can provide him with the right service, he’ll have no issues doubling that goal-scoring return.
6. Tommaso Baldanzi ➡️ Roma
Details: Signed from Empoli for reported €15M fee
The deal for Baldanzi is perfect in nearly every sense. Roma get a long-term replacement for Paulo Dybala without breaking the bank or running further afoul of Financial Fair Play regulations. The future Italian international also satisfies the club’s long-held preference for central attacking midfielders. Baldanzi even idolized Dybala during his formative years at Empoli. He could’ve waited to go to a club fighting for trophies, but he’ll get far more playing time at Roma, especially if Dybala’s injury issues persist.
5. Adam Wharton ➡️ Crystal Palace
Details: Signed from Blackburn Rovers for reported initial £18M fee
Crystal Palace are no strangers to fishing in the EFL. They plucked the thrilling double act of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise from the Championship, and it took an impressive loan spell at Swansea City to convince the Eagles to sign Marc Guehi from Chelsea. Wharton is the next to join that contingent. The 19-year-old will bring some much-needed solidity to the midfield, but his admiration of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Rodri hints at how much he treasures possession. He displays so much composure while he instigates attacks from the base of midfield.
4. Valentin Barco ➡️ Brighton & Hove Albion
Details: Signed from Boca Juniors for reported $10M fee
Tipping a player that Brighton & Hove Albion bought to shine usually works out, right? For a modest fee, the south coast club has acquired a cocksure 19-year-old who can play in any position down the left and also appeared across the midfield for Boca Juniors. Barco is a slippery operator, regularly dribbling past opponents and becoming difficult to track down once he’s wriggled free, and he’s constantly trying to ignite attacks with probing passes. It might take time for him to be a regular in Roberto De Zerbi’s lineup, but this signing should be yet another example of the Seagulls’ South American scouting network striking gold.
3. Jadon Sancho ➡️ Borussia Dortmund
Details: Signed on loan from Manchester United
Sancho is back at Dortmund – albeit temporarily – after leaving for Manchester United for around €85 million in 2021. The winger had a much-documented spat with Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag, and it’s difficult to envision a route back into the first team while the Dutchman’s in charge. By contrast, Sancho has been given a warm welcome in Germany, with club executives claiming he has no disciplinary issues and is in fine condition after being frozen out at United. It seems Sancho is in an ideal environment to revive his career.
2. Claudio Echeverri ➡️ Manchester City
Details: Signed from River Plate for reported £12.5M fee
Manchester City continue to bet on young talent during the January transfer window. Highly rated midfielder Echeverri follows in the footsteps of Julian Alvarez as the latest under-23 South American to sign for, if not necessarily join, the Premier League champions in the winter. Like Alvarez, whom City also signed from River Plate, Echeverri has been sent back to his boyhood club on loan for the year, allowing him to continue his development in a controlled environment. He’ll then arrive in Manchester in January 2025. City continue to hit the right note, never panicking while other clubs scramble for that elusive extra oomph to end the season.
1. Arthur Vermeeren ➡️ Atletico Madrid
Details: Signed from Royal Antwerp for reported €18M fee
At just 18, Vermeeren already boasts plenty of experience. He played more minutes than any other player in Belgium’s top flight over 2023 and even captained Royal Antwerp during this season’s Champions League group stage. The midfielder has already won the Belgian league, cup, and super cup, too. Vermeeren might lack some physicality – and that weakness might not seem ideal when he’s going to play under the combative Diego Simeone – but he has a Koke-esque knack of progressing play while producing more interceptions, blocks, and clearances than the Atletico Madrid veteran. An €18-million deal is a bargain for someone who could become one of Europe’s leading midfielders.
Honorable mentions: Fabio Carvalho (Hull City), Radu Dragusin (Tottenham Hotspur)