Well, what a transfer window that was! January 2024, we will never forget it. A series of football players were transferred — in exchange for money — from one club to another. It really was memorable.
In many ways, it was completely different to all the windows that have gone before it.
Although then again, there was a surprise twist no one saw coming when Chelsea broke the British transfer record to sign Brighton’s Julio Enciso for £140million.
New Chelsea boss Frank Lampard spoke of his delight as Enciso put pen to paper on a 17-year contract with the option of an 18th.
“We’ve signed so many Brighton players we’re thinking of wearing blue and white stripes,” Lampard wisecracked, before adding: “No, but seriously, he’s a fantastic player and we can’t wait for him to help us try and finish in the top half.”
It was a busy window for the Blues who also loaned out Moises Caicedo to Manchester United, sold their most promising academy graduate to a mid-level Premier League club for £40million and signed a player from the Bundesliga you have never heard of for £70million. However, they did fail with a late bid for the Amex Stadium.
Chelsea had actually seen off late competition for Enciso from Liverpool, whose last-minute bid of £139million was flatly rejected.
Enciso was said to be keen on a move to Anfield but Jurgen Klopp instructed the club not to bid any higher, reportedly saying: “The day that £140million bids are football, I’m not in a job anymore.”
Elsewhere Manchester United made a late move on deadline day to bring in a striker after the unforeseen struggles of £72million striker Rasmus Hojlund.
After being released by Nottingham Forest, Chris Wood moved to Old Trafford on a short-term deal and was handed the No 7 shirt previously worn by Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and George Best.
When it was put to manager Erik ten Hag that signing Wood wasn’t befitting of United’s glorious history and traditions, the Dutchman pointed to previous January signings Odion Ighalo and Wout Weghorst (combined goals in their 29 United league appearances: 0) and said he was following the club’s heritage to the letter, before having to cut his press conference short as part of the decaying Old Trafford roof was caving in.
United, whose only other January addition was Phil Jones on a free transfer, tried in vain to move on £80million defender Harry Maguire and his near-£200,000-a-week wages. In a desperate attempt to trick Maguire into leaving, United blindfolded the defender and put him in a chauffeured limo while telling him he was going to Arsenal. When Maguire later removed the blindfold and realised he was at West Ham’s training ground, he stormed off in a huff.
England boss Gareth Southgate reassured Maguire that his ever-present place in the national side would remain unaffected, citing the 30-year-old’s form for United’s under-21 side in the EFL Trophy as being “good enough for me”.
As for who won the window, journalists and pundits alike were unequivocal in their praise of Brighton’s business. “They’re a model club,” every single person in the world said.
The Seagulls made a profit of £300million in January but refused to spend big on first-team replacements for the departed Enciso and Kaoru Mitoma, despite the team sitting just two points behind leaders Manchester City.
Instead, Brighton’s two additions were an 18-year-old midfielder from the Bolivian third division and a 20-year-old right-back from Garrison Gunners in the Isles of Scilly Football League. Chelsea are reported to be monitoring their situations with an eye on a possible summer move.
The biggest Premier League sale came not from Brighton but from Newcastle United, whose promising, young left winger Matt Ritchie moved to Al-Ittihad for £200million.
Figures on both sides of the deal insisted Ritchie had been valued fairly, with one senior source saying: “We just can’t wait to see Ritchie line up for Newcastle this weekend. No wait, I mean Al-Ittihad. Hang on which club am I supposed to be working for again?”.
Everton also went big with a signing involving the number 200, specifically the £200,000 they paid Stoke City for striker Dwight Gayle. The fee represented the entirety of Everton’s January budget and meant the club had to cut costs elsewhere, with beleaguered manager Sean Dyche agreeing to stop starching his white shirts to save a few pennies.
Ritchie’s Newcastle sale was a league record fee, while Nottingham Forest broke a record too with the addition of seven right-backs, six of them from Brazil, as part of a recruitment drive that saw 41 players move to the City Ground and 39 leave.
And finally, across Europe the most high-profile transfer involved Barcelona who struck a deal to loan Victor Osimhen from Napoli with an obligation to buy. Barca president Joan Laporta contacted a senior Napoli official with the message “we’ll give you €300million next summer, honest”, followed by the wink emoji.
However, after announcing the loan signing of Osimhen and holding a press conference to unveil the 25-year-old, Barca were shocked to discover they couldn’t afford to register him with La Liga.
(Top photos: All Getty Images)