Football clubs braced for risky January window
The start of the new year means the opening of the January transfer window and an opportunity for English Premier League clubs to once again flex their financial muscle.
The window opens in England on Saturday and clubs in Europe's richest league are likely to once again be the busiest in the market, but January is rarely the best time to do business.
A year ago the biggest moves saw Manchester City sign the Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Bony from Swansea City for £28 million (38 million euros; $41.3 million) and Chelsea bring in Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina for £26.1 million.
Fast forward 12 months and Bony has struggled to settle as a back-up to Sergio Aguero to City while Cuadrado has already returned to Italy, joining Juventus on loan.
Making signings in the January window, which closes on February 1, may be a risk, but the new broadcasting deal due to come into effect next season means just finishing last in the Premier League in 2016-17 will be worth £99 million (134 million euros; $145.9 million).
That means clubs battling to avoid relegation from England's top flight, or competing for promotion and the associated riches, will be ready to spend big in the winter window, while teams at the top of the table could be ready to spend even more than usual.
While Manchester City are being linked in the English press with a move for Schalke 04's talented young Germany winger Leroy Sane, Arsenal will look to spend to improve their chances of a first title since 2004.
"I'm already busy and I said already one month ago we are a bit short to deal with all the competitions we face, especially in midfield. We will be busy, yes," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa and other strugglers have their cheque books at the ready in a desperate attempt to strengthen their squads and beat the drop.
"We are looking to add to the squad but I will not go into details with specific clubs or players," was all Norwich City manager Alex Neil would reveal, although he is being strongly linked with Everton's Scotland forward Steven Naismith.
- Barcelona back in business -
Elsewhere, transfer activity is likely to be modest, although the giants of the Spanish game may make some moves when the window in La Liga opens on Monday, January 4.
Barcelona can finally register players again as a year-long FIFA-imposed transfer ban comes to an end. That means the defending European champions can hand debuts to Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, who were signed in the summer from Sevilla and Atletico Madrid respectively.
In Italy, the window also opens on Monday, while in Germany clubs can start doing business as early as New Year's Day and Eintracht Frankfurt have already announced the signing of the Hungarian Szabolcs Huszti, who returns to the Bundesliga after a spell in China.
German sides will be braced for moves from England, with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp being tipped to return to his homeland as he tries to strengthen his squad and Schalke director of sport and communications Horst Heldt insisting Sane does not want to go and will not be leaving.
One man who is more likely to leave Schalke in January is Joel Matip, the Cameroon international defender who has also been linked with a move to the Premier League.
French clubs have become used to approaches from wealthy Premier League sides and they are bracing themselves for more of the same with Marseille goalkeeper and captain Steve Mandanda -- out of contract in the summer -- among those being targeted.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has already admitted that "not much" will happen at his club in a window that he says is "not a good thing."
Other French sides would agree, with Angers, who lie third at the season's halfway stage, having already lost goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle to Belgian side Club Brugge and prepared for bids for other key players in the coming weeks.
© 2016 AFP