12 January signings that changed their club’s season: Diaz, Haaland…

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Virgil van Dijk and Luis Diaz hug after Liverpool's win against Villarreal, Estadio De La Ceramica, Villarreal, April 2022

The January transfer window is one where clubs may struggle to find value but can bring in players to have an instant impact midway through the season and change their fortunes.

Whether it’s to help win a trophy, qualify for Europe or avoid relegation, the arrival of one player can help turn a season around, and even provide a spark in the cups.

We’ve listed 12 players who joined in a January transfer window and settled instantly, having an immediate impact on their side in achieving their goals.

Luis Diaz

The Colombian winger joined Liverpool from Porto in January, and has lit up Anfield since.

If Liverpool do win the quadruple, his impact will have been a big factor…

Luis Diaz of Liverpool FC celebrate a goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Leg Two match between Villarreal and Liverpool FC at Estadio de la Ceramica. May 3, 2022, Villarreal, Spain.

READ: Luis Diaz’s tears of glory were an ode to his hard-built superspeed impact

Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United struck gold when they paid around £68million for the Sporting midfielder, who hit the ground running, winning back to back Player of the Month awards and scoring 12 times in his first 22 games, helping United finish third in the league.

He has received his share of criticism, but his end product has been world-class since he arrived at Old Trafford.

Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool were on the verge of building a great team with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane tearing the Premier League apart, but were very leaky at the back.

£75million was then spent on Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, and the rest is history.

Liverpool reached the Champions League final within the Dutch defender’s first six months, and despite losing to Real Madrid in Kyiv, Van Dijk transformed Liverpool into a force almost instantly.

Papiss Cisse

A player that ‘the streets will never forget,’ the Senegalese striker formed a deadly partnership with Demba Ba at Newcastle, after joining in January 2012 from Freiburg.

With an astonishing 13 goals in 14 appearances, Cisse helped Newcastle finish fifth, meaning they qualified for the Europa League, and this included scoring two stunners away at Chelsea.

Newcastle's Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba celebrate against Blackburn. St James' Park, Newcastle, February 2012.

READ: The art of goal scoring: A tribute to Ba and Cisse’s time at Newcastle

Diego

We love technically gifted playmakers and Diego was certainly one of the best around.

After expressing his desire to play in the Champions League, the Brazilian traded Wolfsburg for Atletico Madrid in January 2014, and showed off his supreme skill, scoring once in La Liga to help Atletico win the league and once in the Champions League as Simeone’s side reached the final.

He would only spend six months in Madrid, but they were six months of brilliance.

Jermain Defoe

When Jermain Defoe joined Portsmouth in January 2008 he hit the ground running, scoring eight times in his first 12 appearances as Pompey finished eighth in the league.

Harry Redknapp’s side also won the FA Cup, but Defoe was cup-tied from his time at Spurs.

His time at Fratton Park was short but sweet, and he made a deadly impact as soon as he made the trip down to the South Coast.

Andrei Arshavin

Arsenal’s club-record arrival in January 2009, Arshavin became an instant hero when he went to Anfield and scored FOUR goals in one game.

The Gunners would go on to reach the Champions League semi-final that season, and the performances of the little Russian played a big part.

READ: An ode to Andrey Arshavin, Arsenal’s rogue oddball and occasional genius

Bruno Guimaraes

Newcastle United’s January signing also made the move to his previous club in a winter window, joining Lyon in January 2020 from Athletico Paranaense, and he instantly became a star.

Lyon weren’t having the best season domestically, but they shone in the Champions League, knocking Manchester City and Juventus out as they reached the semi-finals, and the Brazilian midfielder starred in this remarkable run.

Guimaraes appeared in every knockout game for Lyon, as they forgot about their domestic woes and went on an incredible European journey which was eventually ended by Bayern Munich.

Pablo Aimar

The Argentinian attacking midfielder first came to Europe in January 2001 when Valencia paid a club-record £13million to sign Aimar from River Plate, and he settled in at Mestalla instantly.

Aimar helped Valencia reach the Champions League final within his first few months, where they were beaten by Bayern Munich after knocking out Arsenal and Leeds United on the way.

He made his Valencia debut against Manchester United in the Champions League, and was instantly praised by none other than Johan Cruyff.

“Now it is evident that he will be a great player. He has it all. Perfect ball control, a great sense of position, he knows where his colleagues are and he has an excellent touch,” the Dutch legend stated of Aimar after his debut.

“As I have said before, he has everything to make a difference in Europe. He is a new star. Even though he is very young and still growing, he is already very good.

“Imagine what he will be like in a few years?”

Andres D’Alessandro

Eyebrows were raised when the Argentine playmaker joined Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth on loan from Wolfsburg in January 2006, with the objective of saving Pompey from relegation.

He did exactly that.

D’Alessandro was spectacular in his 13 appearances, scoring just once but helping his side avoid the drop.

He left as quickly as he arrived, joining Real Zaragoza despite Redknapp’s desire to keep him.

He had a peach of a left foot…

Jesse Lingard

Lingard left Manchester United on loan in January 2021 in search of more minutes in an attempt to revitalise his career, and moved to West Ham.

The Englishman was reborn, scoring nine and assisting five in just 16 appearances, and was the spark West Ham needed.

His goals helped the Hammers qualify for the Europa League, and finish sixth in the table, their highest position in five years.

“It’s been a different experience and I think a new environment is always good. A change can always be good for your mind and it’s been like a refresh and a fresh start for me,” Lingard stated after his loan came to an end.

Both he and West Ham wouldn’t mind another reunion after the major success of his loan spell.

Erling Haaland

The Norway striker has already become one of the best players in the world, and when he joined Borussia Dortmund in January 2020 from RB Salzburg he helped take the club to second place in the Bundesliga.

Replacing Paco Alcacer, Haaland was superb from the very beginning, scoring 13 in his first 15 Bundesliga games, and fired in a rocket against PSG in the Champions League.

Dortmund were outside of the top four before he arrived, but his impact was astonishing, helping them to finish second. An incredible impact from the 19-year-old.

He’s just getting started.


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