Top 10 Transfers of the Winter Window 2011

by Andrew Ryan

Before anything, I'd like to clarify that these are indeed my opinions and should not be taken as fact in any way. I deemed importance of players as to what was needed at their position for their new clubs, the overall impact they have on the game, and the efficiency of the price negotiated for them. Individual explanations are posted below.

(1) Fernando Torres (Liverpool FC -> Chelsea FC) for 58.5 Million Euros.

A stunning move that left the Liverpool faithful disheartened and angry signaled a possible power movement in a Chelsea team that had become very stiff as of late. Competition up top with the multitude of Chelsea striker options will allow Torres to blossom in the face of competition and elevate his game to the next level. Aside from the pure playing quality of the player, this transfer is ranked number one for two other reasons: the effect the last two weeks have on his image and the effect the transfer had on the policies of several EPL teams on the final transfer day. Torres' innocent, youthful image suffered greatly when he left a fanbase that celebrated him as their chosen one to turn to their rivals like a rat jumping from a sinking ship (that appears to be rising again!). The large amount of money invested into Torres by Abramovitch helped Liverpool gain two new stars and gave the lower EPL teams a significant jolt of money.

(2) Edin Dzeko (VfL Wolfsburg -> Manchester City) for 32 Million Euros.

As I am an avid fan of the Bundesliga and the style of attack played in the league, Dzeko has got to be one of my favorite currently active world-class strikers. His strength and poise in the upper third are unmatched in Southeastern Europe. Dzeko carries the entire team of Bosnia & Herzegovina from essentially irrelevant to a decent threat to some top-tier European National Teams. He scored 66 goals in 111 games at Wolfsburg even after being second choice to Grafite during their title-winning season. Dzeko will be a great complement to the myriad of options available on City and should help them solidify their place in the Champions League climes of the EPL.

(3) Luis Suarez (Ajax -> Liverpool FC) for 26.5 Million Euros.

Liverpool fans must have been on one of the most extreme emotional rollercoasters in the history of football over the last few week, the up-and-down situation with Suarez had began several days before the Torres disaster. In the end it appears that the Torres compensation brought in one of the better young options in world football. Suarez will provide the capabilities needed at a good price for a young player and should become a star of the EPL within a few years.

(4) Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria -> AC Milan) for 2.5 Million Euros.

I will admit that I do not watch the Italian league for a variety of reasons I will not get into, but Cassano caught my eye 6 or 7 years ago when he played for Roma. He showed a style of play quite unique to the Seria A and was quickly picked up by Real. After suffering through several years of the bench at the Bernabeu, he was shoved off to the much less illustrous Sampdoria Genoa. Milan will provide him with a new stage to shine and even though he is entering the autumn of his career should give the Rossoneri some depth at their offensive skill positions. His arrival signaled the departure of a former Ballon d'Or winner (see below for details!).

(5) Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven -> FC Barcelona) for 3 Million Euros.

I'll confess that I absolutely love Afellay and this little snippet will be highly biased towards that. His style of play can only be described as a magnificent cross of spanish style and dutch strength. Afellay is reaching the upper limit of a "young player" but still has some time to develop, especially working alongside Messi and the rest of the Joga Bonita Club at Barcelona. Look for him to shine in the coming years and guide the Dutch youth resurgence.

(6) Andy Carroll (Newcastle United -> Liverpool FC) for 42.5 Million Euros

He may be overpriced but he's definitely not amiss at Liverpool, a team that is in the process of completely being overhauled. His youthful stly,e and aggressive play should partner well with Suarez and provide the Reds with some extended attacking options over the average performer David N'Gog. Carroll's price comes from the fact that players of his nationality have become far and few between, especially at striker and he should find himself in the national team on a consistent basis fairly soon.

(7) Mark van Bommel (Bayern München -> AC Milan) at no cost.

He may be old and far beyond his prime but van Bommel has not lost that which made him great over the last decade. He plays in a class that is much more befitting of the rough-and-tough players of the 70s and 80s more so than the Messis and Ronaldos of today. He isn't afraid to take a card for his team or get down and do the dirty work to defend a lead. A great addition to any team, Milan picked up a gem that should give them a few years of consistent midfield play at essentially no cost.

(8) Luiz Gustavo (TSG Hoffenheim -> Bayern München) for 15 Million Euros.

Luiz who? That's right, a relatively unknown Brazilian transfered (quietly) for 15 million euros to Bayern Munich. Van Gaal has had him singled out for several months and this transfer was expected so it was several underreported. Gustavo is a defensive allrounder who can play nearly anything including left back, center back, holding mid, or left mid. Bayern's instability at the left back position will allow Gustavo to shine and the sale of Edson Braafheid guarentees him a significant spot with the Champions League contender. Look for him to take the pressure off of Lahm on the other side as he can shine with his speed and height.

(9) Darren Bent (Sunderland -> Aston Villa) for 22.6 Million Euros.

I'm not particularly a fan of Darrent Bent and Sunderland's definitely been overpaid, but he does do one thing well, score goals. At the end of the day the only measure of a striker's success is the number of goals he scores in any given game and Bent does enough to go down as one of the better "second-class" strikers in the league. He should do well at Villa, a team that is trying to establish itself in the hunt for some international places.

(10) Ryan Babel (Liverpool FC -> TSG Hoffenheim) for 8 Million Euros.

Aside from entertaining fans on twitter, Babel recently impressed on the market with his nifty (and quick) slide to Hoffenheim. The small team from Southern Germany has been looking for a winger for quite some time and apparently found their man with someone who had slowly been playing himself out of Liverpool. 8 million euros is a good price for Babel, who will get his time to recuperate in a decent league before making another run at a top European team.

Just Missed the Cut

David Luiz, Luca Toni

Special Mentions

The following list is a compendium of players I find noteworthy or interesting to the aspects, teams, or leagues in football that I enjoy watching or that have had great backstories and careers.

(*) Ronaldinho (AC Milan -> Flamengo) for 3 Million Euros.

The curtains have fallen on Ronaldinho's career and he's quietly exited the stage. The former Ballon d'Or winner will let his footballing days wind down in his native Brazil and join the ranks of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Romario as the greatest Brazilian players I witnessed growing up.

(*) Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City -> Real Madrid) on a loan.

Adebayor would normally be ranked higher but I figured loans shouldn't really be compared with transfers. He is the type of player that would do well at Real given enough playing time and time to adjust to the system. It will be interesting to see how top-level Spanish defenses deal with someone completely different to the usual forwards they deal with.

(*) Ivan Rakitic (Schalke 04 -> Sevilla FC) for an unknown amount.

Rakitic had been a solid midfielder who prospered at Schalke over the last few years but he had been falling out of Manager Felix Magath's favor. He'll find a new spirit at Sevilla and should help stabilize their midfield and lower the age of the team further. Aside from some fitness issues, Rakitic is a solid, realiable, versatile, and likeable character who can always provide a late spark.

(*) Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04 -> Blackburn Rovers) on a loan.

Similar to Adebayor, Jones is a loan so I figured I'd simply include him to complete some transfers that are of interest to me. Even though he has had some character issues (skipping practice, claiming he doesn't care about his team, etc) I've always had somewhat of a soft spot for Jones because he is of the same nationalities as I am (German-American). I had the pleasure of meeting Jones when he had just made the Eintracht Frankfurt first team in 2002 and, aside from getting an Autograph, was able to observe his half-day's practice session. Even then he impressed with his tackling abilities and passing skills. If Blackburn gets his character issues under control they will have gained a valuable jewel that they should look into securing permanently.

(*) Patrick Helmes (Bayer 04 Leverkusen -> VfL Wolfsburg) for an unknown amount.

Helmes matured for far too long with Cologne and Leverkusen and finally seeks his chance with a decent Wolfsburg team that just lost it's best striker in Dzeko. His style of play matches up well in the Bundesliga and having finally secured a starting position should see him return to the National Team.