There’s nothing quite like the January transfer window to get football fans all of a flutter and journalists sharpening their quills (or applying Deep Heat to their typing fingers).
This special time offers interest to punters as well of course, and with one big-name transfer on average per winter it pays to sniff out the value early.
The upheaval at Real Madrid continues at pace – dictatorial president Florentino Perez has removed manager Rafa Benitez and replaced him with Zinedine Zidane – and one of the key issues that has arisen from this is the place that Gareth Bale will occupy in the pecking order at the Bernabeu.
It is well known that the Welshman wants a more focal role in the side – preferably playing through the centre – but with Karim Benzema, Isco and occasionally Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly ahead of him it will be interesting to see how long the 27-year-old guts it out in a wide position.
Speculation over Bale’s future is set to be given added spice by the reports that Real are interested in signing Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. He is 7/1 to join Manchester United in this window (and 1/16 to stay at Real), and it may be that a summer move is more likely.
It’s no secret that Hazard has been unhappy at Chelsea this term, and that has been highlighted not only by his demeanour but his inconsistent performances too. For the PFA Player of the Year of 2014/15 to struggle so badly suggests that a move could reinvigorate his career.
Had Jose Mourinho still been at charge at Stamford Bridge no then a transfer for the Belgian would have been more likely; the pair had a high profile falling out earlier this campaign. But with the happy-go-lucky Guus Hiddink now in charge, Hazard will perhaps be in a better place.
Nevertheless, he’s relatively short at 8/1 to join either PSG or Real this January, although in truth a summer move is more likely given his price tag.
It’s no surprise to anyone that one of European football’s hottest properties is the subject of intense transfer hype, but this has been lent weight by a couple of incidents in the past week or so.
Firstly Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive went on a bizarre rant that his club ‘is not dependant on one player’, and then the fully-fit Aubameyang missed a training session on Tuesday of this week.
There may be nothing in that of course, but the 27-goal striker is as short as 4/ to join Arsenal; who are crying out for competition for Olivier Giroud and who have their best chance of winning the Premier League title in years.
Only Romelu Lukaku and Jamie Vardy have netted more times than 14-goal Odion Ighalo so far this season, so there’s no surprise that the 26-year-old is being linked with a move away from Watford in January.
The favourites to land his signature are Atletico Madrid at 7/1, although a move from the likes of Arsenal (16/1) or Manchester United (9/1) is likely to turn the Nigerian’s head. The lure of European football could well seal the deal, and Ighalo would surely be happy to take on the role of ‘squad man’ at a top four club at this stage of his career.
Alternatively he might stay loyal to the Hornets, and that can be backed at 1/10.
A complete lack of form and a breach of club discipline has all but sealed Saido Mane’s exit from Southampton.
Eagle-eyed punters will remember the fervour with which Manchester United courted the Senegalese international in the summer, and while the Metro is reporting that the Saints have issued the classic cliché of the ‘hands off warning’, as we all know money talks.
If the Red Devils make an offer they can’t refuse then Mane will surely jump at the chance to join the Old Trafford club. At 7/2 he looks the best bet of the bunch.
The much protracted saga of ‘John Stones to Chelsea’ was the hottest transfer story of the summer, and given the Blues’ defensive woes so far this season that speculation could well become more intense in the coming weeks.
The player was keen on the move, and Everton seemed positive enough about it had their £25 million asking price been matched. If Guus Hiddink comes in with a bid in that region then it would be a surprise if Everton turned it down.
We know that Stones was a Mourinho target, but at 11/1 this transfer could still have legs.