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Biggest Soccer Transfers in the 2021 January Window

| February 3, 2021 9:10 am PDT
Biggest January Transfers in 2021

Due to the current economic situation, the 2021 January transfer window was unusually quiet.

With many of Europe’s top clubs not carrying out any business at all – and loan deals dominating the market – we didn’t really see any big-money moves this year.

In the EPL, for example, the total of incoming transfer fees hit a nine-year low. Said Benrahma’s switch from Brentford to West Ham was the biggest incoming deal in England – and that was only £20m.

However, there are still plenty of transfers to discuss.

Join me as I rate the biggest European moves from the 2021 January transfer window.

Amad Diallo – Atalanta to Manchester United

  • Deal type: Permanent
  • Transfer fee: £18.90m

In terms of transfer fee, Amad Diallo was the biggest EPL arrival during the January transfer window.

The highly-rated winger arrived at Old Trafford, having made just five senior appearances for Atalanta, although his record at youth level speaks for itself.

Team Appearances Goals Assists
Atalanta Primavera 46 13 15
Atalanta U17 41 23 6
Atalanta U19 6 1 3

The 18-year-old has already started making headlines in England. On his debut for Manchester United U23, Diallo contributed two goals and an assist in a 6-3 victory over Liverpool, with his second strike coming via a cheeky Panenka penalty.

For now, Diallo is likely to stay with United’s U23 side. But if he continues to put in dazzling performances, it will surely only be a matter of time before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promotes him to the first team.

My verdict: One for the future (3/5)

Ozan Kabak – Schalke 04 to Liverpool

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £0.99m

With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Moel Matip all expected to miss the rest of the season through injury, Jurgen Klopp was left with little choice but to bring in defensive reinforcements.

As well as signing Ben Davies from Preston North End, Liverpool made a late loan swoop for Ozan Kabak – a 20-year-old Turkish center-back from German side Schalke.

Valued at £22.50m by Transfermarkt, the youngster already has 77 senior club appearances under his belt, along with seven international caps. Of course, he is no van Dijk. But this feels like a super smart move by the EPL champions.

With Schalke staring Bundesliga relegation in the face, I’m sure that Kabak will feel pretty lucky to have been able to jump ship before the inevitable happens.

Midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have deputized admirably in Liverpool’s backline this term, yet Kabak offers Klopp a completely different dimension in defense.

My verdict: Shrewd business by Liverpool (4/5)

Moussa Dembele – Lyon to Atletico Madrid

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £1.35m

Moussa Dembele has been linked with a move away from Lyon for what feels like forever. The goal-machine has established himself as one of Europe’s hottest forwards over the past few years, and now he belongs to one of Europe’s top clubs.

Well, almost. The Frenchman has joined Atletico Madrid on loan for now, although the deal is likely to be made permanent at the end of the season.

After scoring 51 goals in 94 games for Celtic, the 24-year-old has bagged 45 goals and 13 assists in 108 appearances for Lyon. With numbers like that, a move to an elite club was never too far away.

With Luis Suarez scoring goals for fun and Joao Felix beginning to fulfill his potential, Dembele will have to bide his time under Diego Simeone. But as Atletico charge towards the La Liga title, he is bound to be given opportunities to show what he can do.

My verdict: It’s time for Dembele to prove himself at the highest level (3/5)

Martin Odegaard – Real Madrid to Arsenal

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £1.80m

Martin Odegaard has always struggled to settle at the Bernabeu, hasn’t he?

The Norwegian prodigy moved to Real Madrid back in 2015, when he was only 16. However, he has since made just 11 first-team appearances for Los Blancos, spending time on loan at Heerenveen, Vitesse, and Real Sociedad.

After shining at Sociedad, it looked as though Odegaard was ready to return to Madrid. But having failed to break into Zinedine Zidane’s side this term, he has joined Arsenal on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

Competition Appearances Goals Assists
La Liga 31 4 6
Copa del Rey 5 3 3

In my opinion, this is an ideal move for both parties.

Odegaard is clearly a supremely talented player; he has just struggled to make a name for himself at Real Madrid. I can see him playing an important role for the Gunners throughout the second half of the season.

My verdict: A good deal for everyone concerned (4/5)

Sebastien Haller – West Ham United to Ajax

  • Deal type: Permanent
  • Transfer fee: £20.25m

It’s fair to say that Sebatian Haller’s West Ham career never really got off the ground. The giant striker arrived at the London Stadium for a club-record fee (£45m) back in 2019, yet he only managed to score 14 goals in 53 outings.

For whatever reason, Haller failed to adapt to the EPL. Unfortunately for the Hammers, they ended up making a hefty loss on the player, with Ajax paying just over £20m to acquire his services.

It goes without saying that West Ham supporters won’t be pleased to learn that Haller has already notched up two goals and four assists in his first six Eredivisie matches.

On the flip side, the Hammers managed to turn Said Benrahma’s temporary deal from Brentford into a permanent switch, while Jesse Lingard has joined on loan from Man Utd.

Still, the Haller transfer sticks out like a sore thumb.

My verdict: Poor business by West Ham (2/5)

Dominik Szoboszlai – Red Bull Salzburg to RB Leipzig

  • Deal type: Permanent
  • Transfer fee: £18.00m

This transfer was always going to happen, wasn’t it?

At one stage, it felt like just about every major club wanted a piece of Dominik Szoboszlai. I mean, the midfielder racked up 12 goals and 18 assists last season, making him one of the most sought-after commodities in the European game.

But considering Salzburg and Leipzig’s Red Bull ties, Szoboszlai was always likely to move to Saxony.

The 20-year-old moved to Leipzig right at the beginning of the transfer window, but due to an injury, he is yet to make his debut for his new club.

Time will tell whether or not he will be able to make the step up from the Austrian Bundesliga to Germany’s top flight. If his record at Salzburg is anything to go by, I think he will do just fine.

My verdict: His time will come (3/5)

Morgan Sanson – Marseille to Aston Villa

  • Deal type: Permanent
  • Transfer fee: £14.22m

Following the success of players like Emi Martinez, Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz, and Ollie Watkins, there is no denying that Aston Villa’s recruitment has been second to none in recent times.

I’m expecting Morgan Sanson to make a similar impact at Villa Park.

Generally operating as a defensive midfielder, Sanson made over 150 appearances for Marseille, chipping in with 25 goals and 22 assists during his four-year stay in Southern France.

Villa had to pay Marseille just over £14m for the former France U21 international, which turned out to be the third-highest incoming EPL fee this year. But Sanson can pick up where he left off in Ligue 1, he will be worth every penny.

My verdict: A great addition to Aston Villa’s midfield (4/5)

Luka Jovic – Real Madrid to Eintracht Frankfurt

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £0.90m

Luka Jovic has returned for a second loan spell with Eintracht Frankfurt after failing to live up to expectations at Real Madrid.

18 months ago, Los Blancos paid in excess of £50m to sign Jovic. Having produced a measly return of two goals and two assists in 32 games, the Serbian forward has been sent back to Germany to rediscover some form.

There is no doubting Jovic’s ability. However, his confidence was clearly very low in Spain. Hopefully, he can find his feet in the Bundesliga and return to Spain with a new-found spark.

My verdict: This feels like a backward step for both Jovic and Real Madrid (1/5)

Takumi Minamino – Liverpool to Southampton

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £0.50m

Another player who has struggled to get game-time following a high-profile transfer, Takumi Minamino, will be hoping that he can thrust himself back into Jugen Klopp’s’ thoughts by proving his worth on loan at Southampton.

The Japan international joined Liverpool from Red Bull Salzburg during the 2020 winter window but failed to make the desired impression at Anfield.

He only managed to contribute four goals and two assists in 31 games for the Reds, with the majority of his opportunities coming outside of the Premier League. Having been limited mainly to FA Cup and EFL Cup matches, Minamino will be looking for a fresh start with the Saints.

I don’t think that Minamino’s time with Liverpool is over for good, so I can see this loan move working in his favor. He is bound to be given plenty of chances at Southampton, providing him with more opportunities to impress his parent club.

My verdict: This move makes sense for all parties involved (3/5)

Fikayo Tomori – Chelsea to AC Milan

  • Deal type: Loan
  • Loan fee: £0.50m

I’m slightly surprised that Chelsea has allowed Fikayo Tomori to leave for AC Milan.

Last season, it felt as though the English defender was destined for a long career at Stamford Bridge. But now, Milan has been given the option to sign him on a permanent basis at the end of his six-month loan deal.

In my eyes, this is an excellent opportunity for Tomori.

AC Milan has led the Serie A title race for much of the season, meaning the youngster is set to gain heaps of valuable top-flight experience in Italy. The club is also one of the favorites to win the Europa League.

If Tomori adapts well to Serie A – and life in Italy – he could become a very important player for the Rossoneri.

My verdict: Chelsea’s loss is AC Milan’s gain (4/5)


Sure, it was by no means the busiest January transfer window in history. But as usual, there was plenty of business carried out.

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad to Wolves), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal to West Brom), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli to Marseille), and Papu Gomez (Atalanta to Sevilla) are just a few more players who recently switched clubs.

Sami Khedira’s move from Juventus to Hertha Berlin was one of the more bizarre deals to happen this year, although it gets nowhere near the strangest soccer transfers of all time.

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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