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

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas