The January transfer window is a precarious time for many clubs. Sir Alex Ferguson was renowned for doing almost no business during the January window, as it is often a time when teams get desperate and fees become inflated. For smaller clubs, although they can demand greater than usual fees for their top players, no club wants to have their best player poached midway through a campaign, with little time to find a replacement.
The press and media adore transfer windows, providing minute-by-minute coverage, often of mind-numbingly tedious deals. As a result, they have to give some credence to more exciting rumours and potential moves. While massive moves and season-defining moments are often talked about in the January window, they rarely actually happen, with most clubs preferring to wait until the summer to make their major deals.
It can be very difficult then to sort the fact from the fiction when it comes to the January window, but that is what we are attempting to do. This is a list of major deals that have not seemingly been plucked from the sky, but actually seem to have some substance behind them. Here are the top 15 potential January transfer window deals:
15 Nigel de Jong to L.A. Galaxy
Netherlands international Nigel de Jong began the transfer window being linked with a move to Premier League high-flyers Leicester City, but the Foxes recently denied any reports linking themselves with the player. Since then, a new front runner has emerged in the race to snap up the fiery defensive midfielder. The former Ajax and Manchester City man has barely featured for AC Milan this season, and aged only 31, he still has plenty of football left in him.
Having failed to retain their MLS title in 2015 and having seen Omar Gonzalez and Juninho leave the club, the Galaxy are keen to re-strengthen, and de Jong is reportedly right near the top of their list of targets.
14 Victor Valdes to Anyone
Victor Valdes has had a nightmarish time since joining Manchester United in 2015. The three-time Champions League winner and five-time Zamora Trophy winner arrived at Old Trafford with off the back of more than a decade as Barcelona's first choice goalkeeper. The move was originally intended to be something of a goodwill gesture, as Man United offered Valdes the chance to rehabilitate from his knee injury whilst he repaid them by serving as a backup once fully fit.
However, after the Spaniard refused to play in a reserve game, Louis van Gaal placed him on the transfer list, and things have turned sour since then. A move to Besiktas fell through in the summer and Valdes is free to join any team who will meet his wage demands on a free transfer this January.
13 Marouane Fellaini to Serie A
Manchester United's combative midfielder Marouane Fellaini always seemed like a questionable piece of business by manager David Moyes, who forked out in the region of $40 million for his former player. Despite having proven effective at times, Fellaini has often looked clumsy and out of his depth, prompting the team to play in a more direct and long ball approach. Manchester United are not actively seeking to sell the Belgian, but with interest from Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan, should a sizeable enough offer come in, one wouldn't rule out Fellaini leaving in this window.
12 Nolito to Arsenal/Barcelona
One of the most talked about transfers of the January window, both in the build-up and during, is Celta Vigo forward Nolito. Capable of playing as either a left winger or as a striker, Nolito has 8 goals in 10 games this season, and such form has prompted the interest of both Arsenal and Barcelona. The Gunners looked poised to make a move at the start of their window, but since their interest has died down, Barcelona are reportedly happy to wait until the summer to make the move. This one could have quietened down then, but should panic set in for either Arsene Wenger or Luis Enrique towards the end of the window, a January move for Nolito could come alive once more.
11 Saido Berahino to Another Premier League Team
The Saido Berahino transfer saga rolls on. One of the Premier League's most talked about transfers in the summer, West Brom held firm as Tottenham tried to prize away their most starred asset. His stock has fallen somewhat this season, with only three goals in 15 games, and manager Tony Pulis saying of him earlier in the season, "He's lucky to be on the bench, never mind starting. He's a smashing kid but lets himself down at times." West Brom seem more willing to sanction a deal now then they did in the summer, with Pulis confirming that there was interest from five clubs; Newcastle, Spurs and Stoke are believed to be three of the interested parties.
10 Antoine Griezmann to Chelsea
Heavily linked with Chelsea while Jose Mourinho was at the helm, reports of Antoine Griezmann making a move to Stanford Bridge this January have died down since Mourinho left the club and was replaced by Guus Hiddink. It remains to be seen how Chelsea will treat this transfer window, whether they will flex their financial muscles or wait it out until the summer. With Atletico currently top of La Liga while Chelsea languish in 14th in the Premier League, both sides may want to hold off on a deal until the summer.
9 Simone Zaza to West Ham/Crystal Palace
Juventus striker Simone Zaza has been heavily linked with both West Ham and Crystal Palace this window, despite only joining Juve in 2015. The athletic forward joined the Italian giants from Sassuolo last year, but hasn't been given the opportunities he would have liked, playing only eight league games, behind Mario Mandzukic, Paolo Dybala and Alvaro Morata in the pecking order.
Palace in particular are crying out for a top class centre-forward, and the Italian international could be the answer to those problems, although a $30 million valuation could prove a stumbling block.
8 Sadio Mane to Manchester United
A move that has been in the offing for some time now, Ronald Koeman remains determined not to let Sadio Mane leave the club. The Senegalese wide man has been excellent since joining the Saints in 2014 from Red Bull Salzburg, and few were surprised when interest in him arose. Koeman has gone on record as saying should Mane or Wanyama try to push through any deals, he would sooner see them rot in the reserves than let them move on. The Dutchman valued Mane at $90 million when the window opened, and it seems unlikely Manchester United would fork out anything like that figure for the player.
7 Isco to the Premier League/Juventus
A transfer which looked very likely when the window opened but rather less so now is that of Isco to either Juventus or a Premier League club, most probably Manchester City. The gifted 23-year-old Spaniard struggled for game time under Rafa Benitez, in a squad blessed with world class players in his position. However, most sources believe new boss Zinedine Zidane is a big fan of Isco and is much more willing to give him a go. Isco should see a fair amount of game time this month, but if he fails to impress one shouldn't rule out a big-money move away from Madrid, there would certainly be no shortage of suitors.
6 Radamel Falcao to Colombus Crew
How the mighty fall. Perhaps not since Fernando Torres has a players stock fallen quite as dramatically as that of Radamel Falcao. Arguably the best out and out striker in the world in 2013, Falcao is now considered a major flop, after two woeful loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea. The Colombian poacher had undoubted class and ability, but has shown little of either for some time now, and the fact he is being linked with a move to the MLS at the age of 29 speaks volumes. Should his confidence return, Falcao is a world class player, and would be a real coup for Colombus Crew should this deal happen.
5 Stephan El Shaarawy to Bournemouth/West Ham
Another player whose stock seems to have fallen somewhat dramatically in recent times, it is worth noting that Stephan El Shaarawy is still only 23 years of age, given that the player seems to have been around for so long now. That is because the Italian was a young star, who started playing regularly at 18 and was playing internationally at 20. Frozen out at AC Milan over the last couple of years, he spent the first half of this season at Monaco, who didn't take up the option to buy the player permanently. Still available, both Bournemouth and West Ham have been heavily linked with giving El Shaarawy a chance to re-ignite his career in the Premier League.
4 Felipe Anderson to Manchester United
Manchester United could understandably have some trepidation about giving Louis van Gaal an open cheque book, after how some of their summer transfer signings have turned out, but that hasn't stopped them being linked with a number of high-profile signings. The most concrete seems to be that of Felipe Anderson. The 22-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder is currently winning a number of plaudits over in Serie A with Lazio, and made his Brazil debut last year. Lazio reportedly value the player at $54 million, a sizeable investment with van Gaal's future still seemingly on the brink.
3 Alex Teixeira to Chelsea
From one Brazilian attacking midfielder to another, Shakhtar Donetsk seems to be the go-to location for talented Brazilian players to make their name, and Teixeira is another in this long line. Now in his seventh season in Ukraine, the former Vasco midfielder is reportedly ready to test himself in a more competitive league, with the Premier League being his supposed destination of choice.
Chelsea have no dearth of Brazilian midfielders at the club already, and Teixeira could link up with Oscar, Ramires and Willian this January. Shakhtar are reportedly looking for upwards of $45 million, and it is another move which is perhaps more likely to take place in the summer.
2 Leroy Sane to Manchester City
A potential January mega-deal, Leroy Sane has been tipped as a future star of German football for some time now. The 19-year-old began playing for Schalke's first team in 2014 and even won his first cap for Germany in 2015. A naturally gifted attacking midfielder, Sane has scored 9 goals in 34 games for Schalke to date, attracting the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs, particularly Manchester City. Schalke are asking for around $60 million for the teenager, it remains to be seen whether City will meet that figure.
1 Eden Hazard to Real Madrid
The demise of Eden Hazard over the last six months has been rather extraordinary, and unsurprisingly it has coincided with Chelsea's calamitous fall from grace. Considered by many to be third only to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo last season, and worthy of a mention among the very best within the game, Hazard is yet to even score a goal in 21 games this season. Despite his fall, everyone knows just what a good player Hazard is, and there is no way Chelsea would let him go without receiving a hefty price tag for the winger.
Zinedine Zidane has been a long-time admirer of Hazard's. He encouraged Real Madrid to sign him whilst he was at Lille, stating, "He will be a major star in the future. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed." Zidane went one further when he said Hazard excited him more as a player than Cristiano Ronaldo last year, adding , "Obviously, there is Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, both of whom are spectacular, but I like Eden Hazard more." Manchester United have also been linked with the out-of-form Belgium star, who is said to be valued at over $95 million by Chelsea.