January is known to be a time for risky business and unexpected moves in European soccer but some transfers during the winter window just make no sense at all. Having already looked at some of the best January transfers ever pulled off by clubs in Europe, we now turn attention to the stranger ones. While there is no shortage of short-term deals and loans which have raised eyebrows, we have concentrated on the ones that commanded significant fees within the last 10 years and beyond.
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Here is our top five:
No. 5 Alex Teixeira to Jiangsu Suning (2016)
Eight years ago, the Shakhtar Donetsk man was hot property and the Ukrainian giants did everything to keep him out of reach for Liverpool who are no strangers to winter business deals. At the time, Alex Teixeira was not even a Brazil international — he was simply excelling for Shakhtar who mastered the art of exporting the best Samba talents from South America. Imagine the outrage at Anfield then when Chinese Super League money swooped in to take him to Jiangsu Suning for nearly $50 million back in February of 2016 after the Reds had chased him throughout the January. Now 34, Teixeira could have been finishing his storied career in Europe but instead he has been back in his homeland since 2022 with formative club Vasco da Gama after a short Turkish stint with Besiktas. He never did get that Brazilian cap … Paulinho was another who went from Europe to China in a winter window but it was only his approximate $50 million purchase option being activated by Guangzhou Evergrande in 2019 having already been on loan in China from Barcelona.
No. 4 Oscar to Shanghai SIPG (2017)
Brazilians moving to Chinese clubs was a major thing a few years ago and that was never more true than when Shanghai SIPG completed the signing of former Brazil international Oscar from Chelsea after he had fallen out of favor there. Incredibly, the deal was worth in excess of $75 million which blows even Diego Costa’s winter move from Stamford Bridge one year later out of the water. Funnily enough, having survived the Chinese Super League gold rush and subsequent crash, Oscar is still there captaining the club in what is now his seventh year in China with Australian Kevin Muscat having just arrived as head coach.
No. 3 Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid (2018)
More now on that Diego Costa move from 2018 which took him back to Atletico Madrid for over $72 million in the winter of 2018 as part of the Spanish outfit maneuvering their way around a transfer embargo at the time. The Brazil-born ex-Spain international who did also turn out for the Selecao was almost 30 at the time and surplus to requirements by Antonio Conte which meant that Costa was extremely bent out of shape when he arrived back in the Spanish capital which made the amount spent even more staggering. This is, though, the club which engineered Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Nicolas Gaitan joining Dalian Yifang the following month which was part of the same ownership group at the time.
No. 2 Fernando Torres to Chelsea (2011)
That was not even Chelsea’s most bizarre piece of January business, though, given their 2011 exploits in signing Fernando Torres from Liverpool for upwards of $63 million. It never ceases to amaze that despite the Spaniard being remembered for being unplayable at times at Anfield, his greatest success in England came during what is generally considered a flop period for him in London. Torres made more Premier League appearances for the Blues and brought the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League trophies to Stamford Bridge with nothing to show for his vastly superior goal tally with Liverpool. Torres, essentially, is the perfect example of how the Reds were perennial underachievers before Jurgen Klopp’s arrival with some big names winning precious little despite their ability.
No. 1 Andy Carroll to Liverpool (2011)
Torres to Chelsea and the divisive nature of his time in London is only obscured by his replacement in Liverpool, though. Today, Andy Carroll is playing second tier soccer in France with Amiens SC but back in 2011, he was moving from Newcastle United to Anfield for more than $44 million which was a record fee for a British player at the time. He would later go on to publicly admit that he had wished to fail his medical before the move and things took a turn for the worse on the field with a goal drought leading to a loan spell with West Ham United which eventually turned into a cut-price permanent move as the Reds cut their losses with the former England international.