From the defender sold on for over 40m to the best striker outside of the top four, Sean Cole on the best under-the-radar winter buys
Act in haste, repent at leisure tends to be the way with the January transfer window. Under pressure to push deals through in a seller’s market, plenty of expensive mistakes are made at this time of year.
We’re all familiar with the difficulties faced by Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres among others, but what about those often-forgotten signings and surprise hits who bucked the trend?
John Stones (Barnsley to Everton, 2013)
Over recent years, Barnsley have earned a reputation as one of the country’s finest producers of promising young defenders. Alfie Mawson, James Bree and Mason Holgate all earned their stripes at Oakwell and left as teenagers, following in the footsteps of John Stones. On the last day of the 2013 January transfer window, Stones was sold to Everton for £3m.
He was gradually eased into the Toffees' first team and didn’t make his Premier League debut until September that year, but soon earmarked himself as a confident, ball-playing centre-back. Stones was sold on to Manchester City for £47.5m in the summer of 2016, briefly becoming the second-most expensive defender in history.
Andres D’Alessandro (Wolfsburg to Portsmouth, loan, 2006)
Harry Redknapp has always had a strange knack for getting the best out of talented wastrels. Known more for his man-management skills than tactical insight, 'Arry's relaxed approach has helped to coax impressive performances out of wayward players like Ravel Morrison, Paolo Di Canio and Rafael van der Vaart.
His promotion-winning Portsmouth side was based around the creativity of an ageing Paul Merson, and when they were in danger of dropping out of the top flight three years later, he called on the enigmatic Andres D’Alessandro.
One of several signings during a manic January transfer window, the Argentina international pulled the strings to drag his side away from danger – Pompey won six of their last 10 games. He also scored a superb goal against Charlton in a brief but productive loan spell.
Sebastian Larsson (Arsenal to Birmingham, 2007)
Before the relationship between the two clubs soured following Martin Taylor’s leg-breaking challenge on Eduardo, and Arsene Wenger’s subsequent criticism of the Blues defender, Arsenal would regularly lend some of their best young players to Birmingham.
In the 2006/07 season, as Steve Bruce’s side returned to the Premier League at the first attempt, Nicklas Bendtner, Fabrice Muamba and Sebastian Larsson were important members of the squad.
Larsson’s move was made permanent in January 2007 for £1m and the midfielder impressed with his tireless work ethic, pinpoint crossing and set-piece expertise in over 200 appearances. He also helped to beat his former club in the 2011 League Cup Final, securing just the second piece of major silverware in Blues history.
Danny Drinkwater (Manchester United to Leicester, 2012)
Like so many others, Drinkwater had made it all the way through the Manchester United youth system only to find his path to the first team blocked. During a few loan spells he’d proven himself in the Championship as a midfielder capable of dictating play and driving teams forward.
In January 2012, after a successful stint at Barnsley (and a particularly good display against Leicester), he joined the Foxes for an undisclosed fee. After a patchy start, Drinkwater was eventually a key figure in their promotion to the Premier League and then helped the Foxes to an unthinkable title win under Claudio Ranieri. England caps and transfer speculation followed, which led to a £35m move to Chelsea in September 2017.