THE January transfer window in England has traditionally been a case of hype before substance, with most fans' expectations for change either ignored or left disappointingly short of what was imagined.
Most serious transfers are traditionally made during the summer window, where targetted acquisitions are planned and costed by clubs who are looking to fit a specific and exciting talent into the manager and club's longterm plans.
Shopping in the January window is almost seen as a sign of weakness or amateur naivety by a manager or a club. It's as if it's an admission that your summer plans have not worked out and you are now desperately scanning the bargain bin in the New Year sales in order to save your season and your backside.
The January market is alright for sides in the nether regions desperately seeking someone that can save them from relegation. It's not really for clubs with serious title ambitions. They spent their cash in the halcyon days of summer when they knew exactly who and what they wanted from the Grade A players available in the shop window.
It's not to say that gems are not unearthed in January, but they are on the rare side as most sought-after players were picked up months earlier. The January window can be summed up for me in the 2011 acquisitions by Kenny Dalglish in Liverpool of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Flush with the £50m they had got from Chelsea for Fernando Torres, they were still, nonetheless, left in the awkward position of being short a frontman and so were eager to replace their talismanic Spanish striker. The solution was two-fold. Andy Carroll from Newcastle and a relatively unknown Uruguayan striker from Ajax, Luis Suarez.
Looking back at it, it is hard to imagine that Carroll was then seen as the real talent of the two. A recently capped English international it increased his value immensely and he was seen in some quarters as the solution to Liverpool's long hunt for a Premier League title. Suarez was the top-scorer in the Dutch league but was not rated. Carroll cost Liverpool £35m and Suarez £26m. Three years and 69 goals later, Liverpool sold Suarez to Barcelona for £65m. Carroll moved to West Ham a year earlier, with only six goals to his name, for just £15m. It just seems that January purchases rarely turn out to be what they first appear.
This month's transfer parade may well see a similar sketchy collection of sales and misadventures but this season is not playing out like other years is it?
For one, the quick turnaround from last season into this season has seen no rest period for the players and the resulting fixture congestion has seen an excessive number of injuries across the league. The scale of injuries has seen sides struggle to put their mark on a title-run. Indeed, just seven points separate the side between 10th and first place in the table, as each contender rises and falls soon as they are mentioned as title pretenders it seems.
Should the Premier League sides break from tradition and decide to turn this January transfer window into a Black Friday bargain hunt, then there is also the unusual circumstance of several big-name players on the market who are out of contract this year and are free to talk to other clubs this month.
Some of the most notable names include Sergio Aguero at Man City, Mesut Ozil at Arsenal, Gini Wijnaldum at Liverpool and Jessie Lingard at Man United, Oliver Giroud at Chelsea, Eric Garcia at Man City, and Johnny Evans at Leicester.
Former Premier League stars like Memphis Depay at Lyon, Angel Di Maria at PSG, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan at AS Roma are also on the market.
Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid is now available too, as is David Alaba at Bayern Munich, Florian Thauvin at Marseille, Julian Draxler at PSG, Hakan Calhanoglu at AC Milan and Jerome Boateng at Bayern Munich.
And if all comes to all, and you have the cash to pay his wages, one Lionel Messi is now running out of a contract this summer and he might be the perfect negotiation candidate this January. Although, that does little for your hopes if you are in trouble this season.
The financial constraints of the pandemic mean that clubs are slow to confirm big-pay contracts to stars on the wrong side of 30 and as a result, we have all these stars ready to leave home without the anchor of a huge transfer-fee to weigh them down.
So, unlike the January windows of old, we may actually see some genuinely interesting power grabs at the start of this year.