Proof that January is foolish time to go window shopping

Ferguson's warning that mid-season transfers are risky and lack value is underlined by recent years

Sir Alex Ferguson made two of his best buys in a January sale, but he was right to argue this week that the transfer window just closed was not worth entering.

Six years ago, Ferguson bought Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra for a combined total of £12.5m. They have subsequently become key figures at Manchester United, but back in January 2006 none of this seemed likely. Evra was hauled off on his debut, a 3-1 defeat against a then-impecunious Manchester City, and spent the following season contesting the left-back spot with Gabriel Heinze. Vidic did not establish himself until October 2006. Which is why Ferguson said this week: "I've never seen it work, a player come in January, sign for big money and settle before the start of next season."

A glance at the major signings over the last four Januarys suggests he is largely correct. The travails of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll are well known. Last year's third-biggest signing, Edin Dzeko, had a woeful spring and, despite a productive start to this season, his form with City remains mixed. David Luiz is settling at Chelsea, but only Aston Villa's Darren Bent and Luis Suarez at Liverpool could be said to have fitted in at their new clubs immediately.

The success of lesser buys was just as patchy. Stéphane Sessègnon is now looking well worth the £6m Sunderland paid Paris St-Germain for him, but it was not until April that he began to show his real form. Another £6m recruit from Ligue 1, Jean Makoun, is now playing in Greece having failed to make an impact at Villa Park.

Previous windows show a similar pattern.Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Asmir Begovic (Stoke) and Victor Moses (Wigan) are now prospering, but they made little impact in their first half-season in 2010.

The prices in the 2009 window reflected Ferguson's other observation: "To go into the market in January you never get full value, people think you're desperate so ask for more." Thus Robbie Keane, Wilson Palacios (both Spurs) and Wayne Bridge (City) moved for £12m each; none could be said to be a success, and the lengths Arsenal went to to register Andrei Arshavin as January moved into February have reaped scant reward. A year earlier, arguably the worst window signing of all was made, Middlesbrough paying a club record £12m for striker Afonso Alves who had a wretched time on Teesside.

The reasons for these failures are many. Often the new signing has not been playing, either through injury or lack of first-team chances. He will thus take time to gain match fitness. Bridge was a classic example when loaned to West Ham last season.

Others have been moved on because they are out of form, such as Queen's Park Rangers' new striker Djibril Cissé, who has not scored in his last 23 appearances for Lazio. Foreign players take time to adapt to England even with the benefit of a full-pre-season, players as good as Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires began slowly. Arriving mid-season, as Sessègnon and Makoun found last year, is doubly demanding.

There have been successes, notably Jermain Defoe who has moved three times in January, and kept scoring each time.

Mark Hughes will be hoping at least one of his buys can replicate Defoe's efforts at QPR after bringing in six players. Spending £9m on two strikers aged 30 (Cissé) and 31 (Bobby Zamora) and earning big wages smacks of short-termism. Add in the commitment to buy Samba Diakité if Rangers stay up and the club pledged itself to spending £15.6m last month.

While Hughes and Everton's David Moyes look to have done well this January it may be the most successful managers will prove to be not the buyers, but the ones, like Alan Pardew at Newcastle and Blackburn's Steve Kean, who managed to avoid being sellers.

For the full list of January moves, go to independent.co.uk/football

January sales: Biggest transfers

January 2011

Fernando Torres, Liverpool to Chelsea, £50m

Andy Carroll, Newcastle to L'pool, £35m

Edin Dzeko, Wolfsburg to Manchester City, £27m

David Luiz, Benfica to Chelsea, £26m

Darren Bent, Sunderland to Villa, £18m (rising to £24m)

Luis Suarez, Ajax to Liverpool, £23m

 

January 2010

Chris Smalling, Fulham to Man U, £10m

Adam Johnson, M'bro to Man C, £6m

Scott McDonald, Celtic to M'bro £3.6m

Younes Kaboul, Portsmouth to Tottenham, £5m

Asmir Begovic, Portsmouth to Stoke City, £3.5m

Victor Moses, Palace to Wigan, £2.5m

January 2009

Nigel de Jong, Hamburg to Man C, £17m

Andrei Arshavin, Zenit to Arsenal, £15m

Jermain Defoe, Portsmouth to Spurs, £15.7m

Craig Bellamy, West Ham to Man C, £14m

Robbie Keane, Liverpool to Spurs, £12m

Wayne Bridge Chelsea to Man C, £12m

Wilson Palacios, Wigan to Spurs, £12m

 

January 2008

Javier Mascherano, West Ham to Liverpool, £18m

Nicolas Anelka, Bolton to Chelsea, £15m

Afonso Alves, Heerenveen to M'bro, £12m

Alan Hutton, Rangers to Spurs, £9m

Jonathan Woodgate, M'bro to Spurs, £8m

Martin Skrtel, Zenit to Liverpool, £6.5m

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'