Nine of the best January signings in the rest of Europe: Morata, Piatek, Martins
It was a relatively quiet January transfer window in England, but a number of intriguing transfers took place around the rest of Europe.
The majority of Europe’s superclubs, both in England and abroad, settled for relatively low-key additions, but that didn’t stop some of the clubs in the tier below making a number of astute signings.
We’ve taken a look at nine players in the rest of Europe’s big five leagues away from England to have made a big impact since joining their new clubs in January.
Alvaro Morata – Atletico Madrid
The return of the prodigal son has seen Morata do much better at his boyhood club Atletico than another wantaway former Chelsea striker, Diego Costa, who has scored just four goals in 29 league appearances since returning in 2017. Frequently missing through injury, Costa will now miss the remainder of the season after receiving an eight-match ban.
Morata, on the other hand, has got his head down and developed a fruitful on the pitch with Antoine Griezmann. He’s scored six goals in 13 La Liga appearances and will surely make his loan deal permanent if it’s possible, though Chelsea’s imminent transfer ban could prove a stumbling block.
He would’ve scored more – and Atletico might have knocked Juventus out of the Champions League – were it not for some marginal VAR calls.
Alvaro Morata now has more league goals this season for Atletico Madrid than for Chelsea
6️⃣ Goals pic.twitter.com/T7r03zh0HH
— Goal (@goal) April 24, 2019
Wu Lei – Espanyol
More than 50 million people in China reportedly watched Espanyol’s derby against Barcelona, more than double the amount that watched El Clasico.
This is due to their new Chinese international signing Wu Lei. Some had been sceptical that he’d be signed for purely marketing reasons, but he’s proving the doubters wrong. He’s already made 13 appearances, scoring twice and providing one assist from the wing.
Vicente Iborra – Villarreal
The experienced La Liga midfielder returned to Spain in January after failing to make much of an impact at Leicester.
Coming into Villarreal’s midfield alongside Santi Cazorla, they’ve taken control of the Yellow Submarine and have helped ease their relegation worries, although they’re not quite safe yet.
Krzysztof Piatek – AC Milan
Arguably the biggest breakout star in Europe this season, Piatek has hit the ground running at two clubs already this season and is currently battling it out with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella at the top of Serie A’s goalscoring charts with 21 to his name.
The striker scored 13 goals in his first eight appearances at Genoa, who couldn’t hold on to such an overnight superstar past January. The Polish international made the switch to Milan in a €35million and started off just as brightly there, with seven goals in his first five league starts.
Lucas Paqueta – AC Milan
Piatek wasn’t the only shot in the arm Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan received midway through the season.
Paqueta, the 21-year-old Brazilian wonderkid, is off the mark in Serie A, scoring his first goal against Cagliari in February, while he also netted his first goal for his country against Panama over the international break.
Not afraid to try flicks and tricks, expect Paqueta to make Milan a lot more exciting in coming seasons.
Tyler Adams – RB Leipzig
He may have missed the last month due to injury, but Adams has already proved why he is one of the USA’s hottest prospects with his performances for RB Leipzig, who he joined from New York Red Bulls.
The 20-year-old defensive midfielder has made nine appearances in Bundesliga and has yet to taste defeat.
In Adams’ most recent outing, the 5-0 victory against Hertha Berlin, he showed both sides of his game with an industrious display breaking up the opposition’s attack before laying on Yussuf Poulsen’s hat-trick goal with a superb pass.
Luis Muriel – Fiorentina
La Liga just didn’t seem to suit Muriel. Whereas he averages a goal just over every three games in Serie A, that record dropped to a goal every five games in his 18 months at Sevilla.
And so the forward returned to Italy in January by joining Fiorentina on loan, making an instant impact. The Colombia international scored four goals in his first four appearances for La Viola and later went on another run of scoring in four consecutive appearances.
Muriel rejected a move to AC Milan to join Fiorentina, and reports suggest his loan move is likely to be made permanent for a €15million fee.
“I’m a man of my word, I showed it by accepting Fiorentina’s offer,” he told Corriere dello Sport. “Milan and the Viola offered me the same guarantees, but when I made my decision I didn’t look at the table: I gave my word to the Viola and I stuck by it.”
Mario Balotelli – Marseille
Nice saw the best and worst of Balotelli. He led the line brilliantly for them, rebuilding his reputation with 33 goals in his first two seasons. But he soon became disinterested, and by January his coach Patrick Vieira just wanted rid of the striker.
Terminating his contract in January, he was allowed to complete a long-touted transfer to Marseille, who have desperately lacked a goalscorer. Early signs are promising; he scored in his first five games at Stade Velodrome, including a memorable volley against Saint-Étienne, famously uploading his celebration to his Instagram story, and has a total of eight goals in 10 starts and two substitute appearances.
Score a goal, celebrate on Instagram Story from pitchside… A football first? 🤯
How can you not love Mario Balotelli… 😂 pic.twitter.com/5UifFUnUWQ
— BT Sport (@btsport) March 3, 2019
Martins’ decision to join Atletico Madrid from Sporting Lisbon in the summer proved disastrous, with the winger making just one La Liga start under Diego Simeone.
The Portugal international was parachuted in on loan at Monaco after Thierry Henry had been sacked with the French outfit desperately trying to stave off relegation.
Martins has regained the kind of form he displayed at Sporting which saw him regularly linked with a move to one of the Premier League’s top six, scoring three goals and providing another assist as Monaco have moved three points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand.
Reports in Spain and France suggest his switch to the principality will be made permanent in a €32million deal in the summer.