The January transfer window is an intriguing time of the year for football fans. Excitement and despair build as the domestic league table begins to take shape, while clubs scramble to secure reinforcements in a bid to seize control at the summit or propel themselves out of relegation danger.

Whichever end of the league ladder a club occupies, the January transfer window can provide a timely opportunity to rejuvenate an insipid squad. Clubs are able to offload deadwood to make way (in the squad and the wage bill) for signings who can be the difference between achieving and falling short of season objectives.

However, there is a catch with the January transfer window. Clubs tend to demand an inflated fee to allow their players to depart midway through the season and, such is the anxious nature of the winter period, buying clubs are usually willing to oblige.

New signings often feel an immense pressure to perform at their new club and the task becomes even more daunting when one arrives at the halfway point of the campaign. Think of Fernando Torres; his high-profile move to Chelsea and subsequent inability to find the net seemingly landed a terminal blow to his confidence.

Another issue with signing a player in the new year is avoiding the cup-tied rule. Any club partaking in a cup competition can be affected by this, but it’s especially problematic for the bigger sides given their involvement in the ever-competitive UEFA Champions League.

But for all the negatives associated with the winter period, many clubs and players choose to utilise this provision. The January transfer window in 2016 is unlikely to be any different, with a host of big names linked with moves across Europe.

Here are the top 20 players most likely to move in January.

20. Branislav Ivanovic

shutterstock_Branislav Ivanovic

Calls for Branislav Ivanovic to make way for new signing Abdul Rahman Baba in the Chelsea back line have been growing louder around Stamford Bridge. The Serbian has endured a dire start to the 2015-16 campaign, finding himself caught out of position and left for dead by opponents he would have shackled in seasons gone by. The old adage ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ certainly applies to Ivanovic, but the 31-year-old could find himself surplus to requirements should his disastrous performances continue much longer.

19. Daniele Rugani

via 90min.com

via 90min.com

After neglecting to bring in a single outfield player during the summer transfer window, Arsene Wenger could be the victim of inflated winter transfer prices come January. The Arsenal boss is supposedly willing to table a £13m bid for Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, who is yet to crack the first eleven to date this campaign. The Gunners are low on top-quality options in the center of defence and will be desperate to snap up some reinforcements during the winter period.

18. Andrea Ranocchia 

via BigStockPhoto.com

via BigStockPhoto.com

Everton and Tottenham Hotspur are expected to battle it out for the signature of Inter Milan defender Andrea Ranocchia during the January transfer window. The Italy international has fallen behind Joao Miranda and Jeison Murillo in the pecking order at the San Siro, giving rising to speculation he could hand in a transfer request in preparation for winter. Once the captain of the Nerazzurri, Ranocchia would be a good fit for the Premier League and a welcome reinforcement for whichever club manages to secure his services.

17. Jose Gaya 

shutterstock_Jose Gaya

It’s no surprise Manchester United has been linked with a host of left fullbacks following the terrible injury Luke Shaw suffered on day one of the Champions League group stage. Valencia defender Jose Gaya is supposedly Louis van Gaal’s ideal candidate to provide cover for the England international, even though the club would have to pay out the £36.1m release clause in his contract. The 20-year-old Spaniard is one of the most promising talents in his position, so it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if United elect to break the bank.

16. Thiago Alcantara 

via talksport.com

via talksport.com

Former Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara has been hit by a series of injuries since joining Bayern Munich in July 2013, but his struggles haven’t slowed his bid to carve a permanent place in the starting eleven. The Spaniard has enjoyed a promising start to the 2015-16 campaign and rekindled interest from the Premier League, namely Manchester City this time around. Manuel Pellegrini reportedly wants to bring the 24-year-old to the Etihad should attempts to sign Paul Pogba fall through in January.

15. Yacine Brahimi 

via newafricanmagazine.com

via newafricanmagazine.com

Chelsea is said to be interested in signing FC Porto star Yacine Brahimi during the January transfer window despite the glaring £44.1m release clause in his current deal. The Blues are no strangers to paying big money for players they don’t desperately need, but the Algerian is likely to be a sound investment regardless of his hefty price tag. Jose Mourinho could use a fresh face or two to stimulate some desire among his first-team players, many of which have looked bereft of confidence so far this season.

14. Demarai Gray 

via touchlinetalk.com

via touchlinetalk.com

Demarai Gray has long been the subject of Premier League interest and it will only intensify as the January transfer window approaches and his release clause drops to £3.5m. Liverpool and Bournemouth both attempted to prise the teenage winger away from Birmingham City during the off-season, but he opted to stay put. More top-flight clubs are swoop for Gray during the winter window, which could potentially force the youngster to make a tricky decision over the coming months.

13. Saido Berahino 

via youtube.com

via youtube.com

Saido Berahino has come within touching distance of finalising a move away from West Bromwich Albion during each of the last two transfer windows. Tottenham Hotspur reportedly offered the Baggies around £23m in exchange for the England Under-21 striker only to be turned away a matter of hours before the deadline passed. The incident certainly stirred up Berahino, who remains a West Brom player, and it’s widely expected he will again rush for the exit door at The Hawthorns once the January window opens.

12. Edinson Cavani

via arsenalfantv.com

via arsenalfantv.com

Reports suggest Edinson Cavani is unhappy with life in France and will do everything possible to force through a move to Arsenal come January. Paris Saint-Germain fork out one of the biggest wage bills in world sport, so money is unlikely to be the cause of unrest. One can only assume the Uruguayan, who has been forced to play wide in a front three with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lucas Moura, is eager to join a Champions League club where he will be the main man in attack.

11. Alexandre Lacazette 

via foot-sur7.fr

via foot-sur7.fr

Alexandre Lacazette was always bound to grab the attention of the biggest clubs in Europe following his remarkable 27-goal haul in Ligue 1 during the 2014-15 campaign. The France international opted to stay put at Lyon over the summer, but with the likes of Chelsea misfiring in front of goal so far this season, his club should be prepared for a bid or two during January. The Blues are said to be keeping tabs on the striker, along with Liverpool and Arsenal.

10. John Stones 

shutterstock_John Stones

Rumours of John Stones joining Chelsea covered the back pages for much of the summer transfer window and the newspapers are set for move of the same following reports the west Londoners will offer close to £40m to land the Everton defender in January. The player allegedly requested to leave Goodison Park during the offseason before Chelsea had no less than four bids turned down. Perhaps seeking an heir to 34-year-old John Terry, Jose Mourinho is odds on to return for Stones during the winter transfer window.

9. Kolo Toure 

shutterstock_Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure has few reasons to remain at Liverpool much longer. The former Arsenal and Manchester City defender has little to no chance of breaking into the Reds’ back four, an area of the squad Brendan Rodgers would be wise to address during the January transfer window. With this in mind, Toure is likely to be used as a makeweight to sign up a couple of new defenders during winter. The 34-year-old Ivorian still has something to offer on the pitch, though, and will likely head for the MLS or a similar division.

8. Martin Odegaard 

via worldsoccertalk.com

via worldsoccertalk.com

On the exceptional occasion a 16-year-old signs for Real Madrid, it would be an usual decision to leave him fighting to break into the first-team. Martin Odegaard has been doing just that since arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu in January 2015, but surely his development can only be aided by a temporary move beyond the star-studded confines of the La Liga giants. Rafael Benitez has already indicated he wants to send the Norwegian on loan for the 2016-17 season, but that sentiment is likely prick up clubs’ ears in hope of securing a move in the looming January window.

7. Ezequiel Lavezzi 

via nigerianobservernews.com

via nigerianobservernews.com

Once a key player at Paris Saint-Germain, Ezequiel Lavezzi has been pushed out of the starting eleven following the arrival of Angel Di Maria. With regular minutes hard to come by at the Parc des Princes, the Argentine, now 30-years-old, is understandably keen to move on and savour the remaining years of his career. Arsenal is believed to be interested in snapping up the winger, while Liverpool is in the market to replace Raheem Sterling.

6. Nicolas N’Koulou 

via thehardtackle.com

via thehardtackle.com

If Chelsea fails to capture John Stones in the January transfer window, word has it the Blues will settle for Marseille centre back Nicolas N’Koulou instead. Although his contract will expire in August, the Cameroonian would command a fee of around £7.2m should he be allowed to depart this winter. N’Koulou, only 25-years-old, is capable of operating in the heart of defence or central midfield, which would make him a useful addition to Jose Mourinho’s plans.

5. Ashley Cole 

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

AS Roma didn’t top the list of likely destinations Ashley Cole would go after his Chelsea contract expired in June 2014. The former England international signed for the Serie A giants a few days after becoming a free agent, but elected to cut short his two-year deal in August 2015 given his limited first-team opportunities. Cole is once again unattached, but could make his way back to the Premier League or perhaps the MLS come January.

4. Gaston Ramirez 

via footie.co.za

via footie.co.za

Since arriving on English shores in August 2012, Gaston Ramirez has never truly been able to cope with the intensity of Premier League football. The Uruguayan produced a handful of impressive displays for Southampton during his debut 2012-13 season, but the onset of persistent injuries halted his momentum and crippled his career. Ramirez is still on the books at St. Mary’s, but Saints manager Ronald Koeman is reportedly keen to see the back of him as soon as January rolls around.

3. Charlie Austin 

via thesportbible.com

via thesportbible.com

It must be gut wrenching for a striker to score 18 league goals for his club only to be relegated the following season. That’s the position Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin is in right now and a handful of Premier League suitors are well aware he could be tempted to return to the top-flight. Newcastle United are reportedly keeping a very close watch on the England international, who was essentially trapped at Loftus Road at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign after the club slapped a £15m price tag on him.

2. Emmanuel Adebayor 

via nofi.fr

via nofi.fr

Emmanuel Adebayor has rarely looked settled since trading Arsenal for Manchester City in July 2009. Having failed to make an immediate impact at the Etihad, the lanky striker was loaned to Real Madrid then Tottenham Hotspur, and would eventually join the latter on a permanent basis in August 2012. Adebayor’s troubles continued at White Hart Lane for three seasons before the club decided to terminate his contract in September 2015. The Togo international is currently a free agent, with Aston Villa, Newcastle and West Ham reportedly circling.

1. Victor Valdes 

via 101greatgoals.com

via 101greatgoals.com

Victor Valdes is nearly certain to leave Manchester United in the next transfer window having fallen out with Louis van Gaal when he allegedly refused to play in a reserves game. The goalkeeper has found himself at the bottom of the pecking order between the sticks at Old Trafford despite joining on a free transfer less than a year ago in October 2014. Liverpool and Chelsea are reportedly keen to pounce on the unsettled 33-year-old, who has been told he has no future with the Red Devils.

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