July 19, 2024

January transfers to watch: Varane, Mbappé, Solanke, Toney


The January transfer window is now open for the Premier League (check out the official dates across the rest of Europe here) and clubs are attempting to bolster their squads and prevent their best players from being tempted away by rivals.

And although the winter window is generally reserved for clubs who need to make up for poor summer recruitment or those with injury problems, January offers up the prospect of some significant players making a move.

So with the window now open for business, who are the star players likely to be at the centre of transfer interest this month?

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Ivan Toney

Arsenal and Chelsea are both keen to sign the £80 million-rated striker this month and Toney is likely to be the player at the centre of the biggest January deal — if Brentford are prepared to offload him. The 27-year-old’s eight-month suspension for breaching the English Football Association’s betting regulations ends on Jan. 16, but having been free to train for the past four months, he will be fit and ready to play as soon as his ban is completed could slot straight into a new team.

However, with Brentford’s seven-goal top scorer Bryan Mbeumo sidelined until March with an ankle injury, the club may be forced to put Premier League survival ahead of the chance to raise a huge transfer and keep Toney as he has netted 32 goals in 68 top-flight games.

Kylian Mbappé

The chances of the Paris Saint-Germain forward leaving Parc des Princes this month are minimal, but not impossible due to his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Real Madrid are long-term frontrunners to sign the 25-year-old France international and could negotiate an agreement this month for Mbappe to move to Spain the summer.

But Real will be nervous about the prospect of a Premier League club attempting to do the same. With the financial power of English teams, the cost of signing Mbappe as a free agent in the summer, regardless of his wages, would not be beyond the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Jadon Sancho



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Mark Ogden wonders if Jadon Sancho is hoping to outlast Erik ten Hag at Manchester United to earn back a spot in the first team.

Manchester United are desperate to offload Sancho and, having been banished from the first-team squad since a public spat with manager Erik ten Hag in September, the player also wants a swift exit from Old Trafford.

But while his former club Borussia Dortmund are considering a loan move — while there is also some interest from the Saudi Pro League — United stand to make a huge financial loss on the 23-year-old winger, who arrived in a £73m transfer from Dortmund in 2021.

Nobody will come close to matching that outlay, but a loan will also be expensive due to Sancho’s £300,000-a-week wages. A loan move with United subsidising Sancho’s salary is the only realistic outcome.

Conor Gallagher

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has made it clear that he wants to keep the England midfielder, who has started 19 of the team’s 20 league games this season, but Gallagher’s contractual situation means he could be offloaded, with Tottenham, Newcastle and Crystal Palace all interested.

With 18 months to run on his deal, Chelsea could raise around £50m by moving Gallagher on this month, with that money then being reinvested in a striker such as Toney or Napoli’s Victor Osimhen.

As a homegrown player, any fee for Gallagher would be regarded as pure profit and therefore a major boost to Chelsea’s attempts to comply with the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules, so a move would be a financial decision rather than a football one.

Raphaël Varane

Manchester United have not chosen to trigger the one-year option to extend Varane’s contract, which expires in June, so the France defender can agree a summer move to a non-Premier League club this month, or United could attempt to raise funds by offloading him this month.

With injured defenders Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martínez and Victor Lindelöf all set to return to fitness this month, manager Erik ten Hag could sanction Varane’s departure due to interest from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the Saudi Pro League.

Despite being just 30, Varane’s injury record and high wages have prompted United not to offer him a new deal, so a move this month is possible.

Victor Osimhen

The Napoli forward signed a contract extension last month that will extend his stay until the end of the 2025-26 season, but reports in Italy claim that the new deal includes a £120m release clause and a gentleman’s agreement to allow the 23-year-old to move if that clause is triggered.

Arsenal and Chelsea are both long-term admirers of the Nigeria international, who will spend January leading his country’s attempt to win the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.

Napoli want to hold on to Osimhen and his international commitments could help prevent a move this month. But if his release clause is met, a deal could be done.

Kalvin Phillips

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said he won’t block a deal which would see Phillips leave the Etihad this month, after restricting the England midfielder to just a handful of appearances since his £42m arrival from Leeds in 2022.

Newcastle, Juventus and PSG are all interested in the 28-year-old, so Phillips’ move is one of the more likely transfers to happen in January.

West Ham had shown serious interest in Phillips during the summer, but the Hammers have since reinvested the £100m they received from Arsenal for the signing of Declan Rice.

João Palhinha

Palhinha signed a new five-year contract at Fulham after a £55m move to Bayern Munich fell through in the final hours of the summer transfer window.

But despite his new deal, Fulham face another fight to hold on to the Portugal midfielder this month with Bayern still interested and rival Premier League clubs also considering a move.

Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle are all in the hunt for a new midfielder, with varying budgets to get a deal done, but each could fund a move for the tough-tackling 28-year-old this month.

Aaron Ramsdale



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The “ESPN FC” crew discuss Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham and ponder whether Mikel Arteta should pursue a striker in the January transfer window.

Despite signing a new four-year contract at Arsenal in May 2023, goalkeeper Ramsdale has lost the No. 1 spot to Brentford loanee David Raya and risks missing out on England’s Euro 2024 squad if he fails to return to first-team action.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta doesn’t want to offload Ramsdale this month, but if the Gunners receive a substantial offer to sign the former Sheffield United keeper, he could move on.

Newcastle are in the hunt for a new goalkeeper due to Nick Pope facing a lengthy spell out with a shoulder injury, so loan to St James’ Park could be a great solution for all concerned.

Dominic Solanke

The former Chelsea and Liverpool forward signed a new four-year contract Bournemouth in September, but his form this season — 12 goals in 19 Premier League games — has caught the eye of West Ham, while Chelsea and Arsenal see him as a potential alternative to priority targets Toney and Osimhen.

Although Bournemouth are under no pressure to offload players this month, they could make a huge profit on Solanke, having signed him from Liverpool for £19m in 2018.

With coach Andoni Iraola having guided Bournemouth to mid-table, with a 10-point gap to the bottom three, any offer for Solanke would be considered with the club’s Premier League safety at the forefront of any decision.

David de Gea

The former Manchester United goalkeeper has been a free agent since leaving Old Trafford last July, so his future isn’t tied to the opening of the transfer window, but he has been in no rush to find a new club despite summer interest from Real Madrid, Inter Milan and clubs in Saudi Arabia.

The 33-year-old is being considered by both Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, although Man United have flatly rejected speculation of a return to Old Trafford to cover for André Onana while he represents Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Sources have told ESPN that De Gea is waiting for the right offer but, having been out of the game for six months, a return to action this month is increasingly likely.

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