Houllier the happiest after a frantic January

Aston Villa's manager wins the award for best dealing but Everton's David Moyes comes bottom of the class
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The Independent Football

Smartest wheeler dealer

Gérard Houllier (Aston Villa)

Mentions in dispatches to Ian Holloway, Mark Hughes and Owen Coyle, for who they kept and who they signed, but the "Harry Redknapp award" goes to Houllier. Darren Bent was expensive, but virtually guarantees 15-20 goals a season. Jean Makoun is an experienced, powerful midfielder, cheap at £6m, and loanees Kyle Walker and Michael Bradley very useful additions.

Houllier also shipped out potentially disruptive influences in John Carew, Stephen Ireland and Steve Sidwell. In addition, by persuading Randy Lerner to invest on this scale, Houllier killed speculation over his future.



Worst window

Alan Pardew (Newcastle) & David Moyes (Everton)

Steve Bruce never did find a striker to replace Darren Bent but £13m Asamoah Gyan can play as a lone striker until Danny Welbeck is fit and Bruce has strengthened in midfield. Pardew has only Shola Ameobi, Leon Best and Nile Ranger to fill in for Andy Carroll. Stephen Ireland comes without guarantees of mental or physical fitness.

As for Moyes. Everton's poverty was underlined by Harry Redknapp thinking he could prise away Phil Neville for £250,000 then £500,000. Moyes kept his captain but lost Steven Pienaar, only signing two unknown teenagers.



Best value

David Wheater (Middlesbrough-Bolton, £2.3m)

It is not so long ago that Wheater was being called into the England squad and there's no reason to suspect he will not feature again. Owen Coyle has got a solid and experienced (180 appearances) defender who is young enough (24 this month) to have a good resale value. Coyle will now be able to bed Wheater in, ensuring he has cover if Gary Cahill is sold in the summer.

Pienaar, for £3m, is also a good deal even if the South African looks in need of a good summer off.

Biggest gamble

Andy Carroll (Newcastle-Liverpool, £35m)

Carroll has been in court more often than he has played for England, and has made 25 starts in the Premier League. Barcelona paid £1m less in the summer for David Villa, who had scored 35 goals in 54 internationals and won the World Cup. But if Liverpool paid £20m over the odds for Carroll it is partly balanced by the excessive fee received for Torres. The 22-year-old does have huge potential, but there are no guarantees.



Most inflammatory

El Hadji Diouf (Blackburn–Rangers, loan)

Short of Celtic pitching up at Ibrox with Joseph Ratzinger up front there could hardly have been a more inflammatory signing for the weekend's Old Firm derby. Diouf last made an impact in Glasgow when he spat at a Celtic fan while playing for Liverpool. He was fined by the club, banned by Uefa, and found guilty of assault by the courts. That was in 2003, but Diouf has not exactly avoided controversy since.



Most underwhelming

Mauro Formica (Newell's Old Boys-Blackburn, £3m)

Ronaldinho... Beckham... Formica. Steve Kean has done well in bringing in Roque Santa Cruz and Jermaine Jones on loan, but Formica is not exactly the marquee signing Blackburn were trumpeting. Since Ossie Ardiles paved the way, Argentine players have often disappointed in England, even Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo struggled and Formica's pedigree is more Mauro Boselli or Facundo Sava.

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