January transfer window: Premier League big-six's greatest ever signings

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk lifts the Champions League trophy

We are often told by the managers of the Premier League's top clubs that the January transfer window simply isn't the best time to buy players.

"Prices are at a premium", "nobody wants to sell right now" and "there just aren't that many players available" are the usual excuses that get rolled out at this time of year, as gaffers try to explain to disillusioned fans why the club aren't addressing obvious gaps in the first-team squad. 

Of course, it's incredibly easy to get carried away throwing money about in the Premier League, and thus the widespread resistance to midseason transfers is certainly understandable. 

But recent history tells us the idea of January signings not proving good value-for-money is actually something of a fallacy. Sure, there's been plenty of winter flops, but every signing comes with risk and there have been some emphatic mid-season hits as well. 

With that in mind, GIVEMESPORT have ranked the 24 best January signings made by big-six clubs since the transfer window was introduced during the 2002/03 season.

24. Maxi Rodriguez - Free, January 2010

It's easy to forget Argentina's long-range specialist from the 2006 World Cup spent two-and-a-half years at Liverpool, but his contributions were pretty solid for a free transfer. During the 2010/11 season he bagged ten Premier League goals, while the following campaign saw a respectable return of four in 12. He was never a key player for the Reds, but provided some great performances nonetheless. 

23. Henrik Larsson - Loan, January 2007

The fact Sir Alex Ferguson realised he could use Allsvenskan's off-season to loan the legendary Henrik Larsson was in itself quite remarkable, let alone the fact the ageing former Celtic and Barcelona striker actually played incredibly well and helped Manchester United clinch that season's title. As far as short-term deals go, this remains one of the shrewdest in Premier League history.

22. Michael Dawson - £6.3m, January 2005

The reason Dawson isn't featured higher in our rankings is because £6.3m was actually a fair bit of money for a young defender back in 2005. Nonetheless, Spurs certainly got their money's worth from the rugged centre-back, who would go on to represent them a staggering 324 times. He also won the 2008 League Cup - the only piece of silverware in the north London club's recent history. 

21. Olivier Giroud - £15.3m, January 2018

By no means a ground-breaking transfer but one that has proved pretty good value for money for Chelsea. Giroud's gone on to average around one goal involvement every two games for the Blues despite very rarely being the manager's first choice, and has a knack of rising from periphery of the squad to perform well just when he's needed most. Having scored 11 times on their way to the 2018/19 Europa League title and helped the Blues win the 2017/18 FA Cup, you really can't argue at just £15.3m. 

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud

20. Nigel de Jong - £16.2m, January 2009

Every successful team needs somebody prepared to leave one in on the opposition, and for Manchester City Nigel de Jong was exactly that man. He joined the club at a time when they desperately needed to turn a squad of talented players into ruthless winners and the Dutchman was a major part of that process, helping City lift the FA Cup and the Premier League before eventually leaving for AC Milan. An absolute warrior who served a vital purpose at the Etihad.

19. David Luiz - £22.5m, January 2011

Very rarely has a centre-back split opinion in English football quite like David Luiz after signing for Chelsea in January 2011. Combining a debonair approach to defending with a lust for the spectacular, the Brazilian has always been nothing if not immensely entertaining. In two stints with Chelsea divided by a spell at PSG, he lifted the Premier League, the Champions League, the Europa League and the FA Cup.

18. Gabriel Jesus - £28.8m, January 2017

An important contributor in Manchester City winning consecutive Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup under Pep Guardiola, but it still feels as though we haven't quite seen the best of Gabriel Jesus - the Brazilian is yet to truly emerge from Sergio Aguero's shadow. At 23, time is definitely on his side, however, especially with Aguero's contract due to expire at the end of the campaign. 

17. Nicolas Anelka - £16.2m, January 2008

A throwback to the good old days when any problem Chelsea faced could be solved by a huge pot of Roman Abramovich's cash. In fairness, quite how Nicolas Anelka ended up playing at Bolton remains a mystery, so when he started the season with ten goals in 18 games, Chelsea quite rightly snapped him up for a reasonably-priced fee. The Frenchman would finish the campaign missing a vital penalty in the Champions League final, although by the end of his time at Chelsea he'd notched up 59 goals and 38 assists in 184 appearances despite often featuring as a substitute.

16. Paul Scholes - Free, January 2012

We can't put Scholes higher on this list because, quite frankly, convincing a footballing legend to rescind his own retirement to alleviate an injury crisis is as much a cop-out as it is a stroke of managerial genius. Nonetheless, Scholes' "second" spell at Old Trafford worked out pretty well - although he couldn't stop Man City from winning the title in 2011/12, both he and Ferguson got the perfect send-off the season after as they lifted the Premier League trophy together for the final time. 

15. Jermain Defoe - £9.45m, January 2004 & £14.76m, January 2009

Incredibly, Defoe signed for Spurs not once but twice during January transfer windows. Despite scoring a respectable 64 goals in 176 appearances during his first spell, Defoe was allowed to leave for Portsmouth in January 2008 - but exactly one year later, Tottenham had realised the error of their ways and re-signed the England international. When Defoe's second stint came to an end, his Spurs total stood at 143 goals and 31 assists in 362 games. And they say you should never go back in football.

Tottenham legend Jermain Defoe

14. Aymeric Laporte - £58.5m, January 2018

Manchester City may have already been well ahead in the title race when they signed Laporte from Athletic Bilbao but having relied upon Nicolas Otamendi for much of the season, it was clear Guardiola needed another option at centre-half. The Frenchman didn’t come cheap but having already helped City to two titles and claimed a place in the team of the season, he’s proving to be worth every penny. 

13. Andrey Arshavin - £14.85m, January 2009

After an explosive Euro 2008 with Russia, it was only a matter of time before someone snapped up Andrey Arshavin. Eventually it was Arsenal who took the plunge and they were quickly rewarded as the winger-forward scored all four goals in an incredible 4-4 against Liverpool at Anfield. Arshavin's form continued until the end of his second full season, at which point a consistent supply of goals and assists began to dry up and he was quickly sent back to Zenit. 

12. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - £57.38m, January 2018

He may have struggled for goals recently but 54 in his first two-and-a-half Premier League seasons, while helping the Gunners reach a Europa League final and win an FA Cup, speaks for itself. The big-money swoop for Aubameyang has left Arsenal's squad a little lopsided ever since, however, which - coupled with his recent form - is why he doesn't feature higher in our rankings.

11. Nemanja Matic - £22.5m, January 2014

When Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge he quickly set about injecting some steel into a side that had got far to lightweight under Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo. Bringing Nemanja Matic back to Chelsea was crucial in that process and the Serbian powerhouse went on to win two Premier League titles in his second stint with the Blues. Somehow, the west Londoners even managed to sell him to Manchester United at a profit three-and-a-half years later.

10. Daniel Sturridge - £13.5m, January 2013

Initially deemed something of a punt from Brendan Rodgers, within 18 months Sturridge had forged a lethal SAS partnership with Luis Suarez and almost fired Liverpool to a Premier League title - notching up 22 goals and nine assists during the 2013/14 season. Unfortunately, injuries would soon curtail the striker's career and at the age of 31 he's now without a club.

Former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge

9. Branislav Ivanovic - £10.8m, January 2008

Few knew much about Ivanovic before he turned up at Chelsea, and incredibly it took eight months after arriving at Stamford Bridge for him to make his first-team debut. But once the Serbian international got going, it was clear the Blues had picked up an incredibly physical, no-nonsense defender who perfectly suited their identity of being tough to beat. Ivanovic soon established himself as one of the Premier League's top right-backs and would go on to win three Premier League titles and a Champions League title in west London.

8. Edin Dzeko - £33.3m, January 2011

£33.3m was a lot of money back in January 2011 but within 18 months Edin Dzeko already proved worth it as he helped Manchester City win their first ever Premier League title. Despite initially being branded a major flop, the Bosnian left the Etihad in 2015 with 72 goals and 39 assists in 179 appearances to his name, as well as two league titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

7. Gary Cahill - £7.56m, January 2012

A relatively unassuming addition when Chelsea first brought him in from Bolton, by the time Cahill left Stamford Bridge he'd won every trophy possible with the exception of the Club World Cup and even rose to the rank of captain following John Terry's retirement. Indeed, Cahill outlasted all the big-money additions and fancy-sounding foreign names to become a cult hero in west London and an iconic stalwart during a period of trophy-affluence for the Blues. Not bad for just over £7m.

6. Patrice Evra - £7.2m, January 2006

Evra was quick to establish himself in Manchester United's starting XI and within two-and-a-half seasons had already helped them lift the Champions League. He'd go on to become an Old Trafford mainstay, spending nine seasons at United and in that time emerging as one of the best left-backs in the world. To date, he's made the tenth-most Premier League appearances of any United player.

Former Manchester United star Patrice Evra

5. Philippe Coutinho - £11.7m, January 2013

The fact Liverpool would later earn a £120m profit on Coutinho surely makes him one of the Premier League's greatest ever January signings by default. Before swapping Anfield for Barcelona, the Brazilian racked up a staggering 99 goal involvements in 201 games from midfield. That being said, he never won a trophy with the Reds, who have actually enjoyed far more success since his departure.

4. Bruno Fernandes - £49.5m, January 2020

No January signing in Premier League history has had a bigger transformative effect on a big-six side than Fernandes. He's the combining element that knitted an otherwise largely underwhelming Manchester United side together, just in time to spare Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the axe - United had lost four and won just three of their previous eight Premier League games before the Portuguese arrived at Old Trafford. Nonetheless, Fernandes' impact is yet to be converted into silverware, which is why he misses out on a higher ranking.

3. Luis Suarez - £23.85m, January 2011

In the wake of Fernando Torres' departure to Chelsea, Liverpool had to act quickly and while one of their direct replacements for the Spaniard - Andy Carroll - proved to be a perennial flop, the other remains one of the most feared strikers in Premier League history. Few players have devastated top flight defences quite like Suarez did during the 2013/14 season as he notched up an incredible 31 goals and 12 assists, however it wasn't quite enough to secure Liverpool the title that season. 

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Alexey Smertin - Chelsea

Can you name this obscure former Premier League player?

2. Virgil van Dijk - £76.19m, January 2018

The most expensive January signing in Premier League history but one that’s unquestionably lived up to the price-tag. Before bringing Virgil van Dijk to Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s side were a double-edged sword that could score against but also concede against anybody. The former Southampton man quickly nipped the latter in the bud, helping transform Liverpool into European and English champions. 

1. Nemanja Vidic - £9.45m, January 2006

A relative unknown when Manchester United signed him, Vidic would go on to form an iconic partnership with Rio Ferdinand, help the Red Devils win the Champions League and even serve as captain for the 2010/11 and 2012/13 titles. His no-nonsense approach to defending was the perfect foil for Ferdinand's ball-playing tendencies and the Serbian is now revered as one of the greatest centre-backs in Premier League history.

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