Changing Goalposts: Reviewing The January Transfer Window

By Sam Hudspith

News • Feb 2, 2023

Changing Goalposts: Reviewing The January Transfer Window

With the January transfer window now over, we look back on some of the most significant deals.

Keylor Navas' arrival at the City Ground provided some belated excitement in what has otherwise been a fairly quiet transfer window for top flight goalkeepers across Europe. 

The market opened on a chilly New Year's Day, with temperatures in London barely surpassing five degrees Celsius. The first rumours of the open window had begun to swirl with regards to Hugo Lloris' future at Tottenham Hotspur, but it northwards that the inaugural move of the January market occurred. 

Eddie Howe had recalled goalkeeper Martin Dubravka from his loan spell at Manchester United, leaving the Red Devils back once again in the transfer pool for another goalkeeper. Some questioned why Tom Heaton wasn't automatically ascending to the number two shirt, but Erik ten Hag deemed another shot-stopper necessary. 

A decade ago, Jack Butland to Manchester United would have hypothetically been a transfer of great significance for English goalkeeping. It would have made the headlines as a deal that could mark the beginning of a career of potential European dominance for Butland with a Sir Alex Ferguson side leading English football. 

But that was ten years back, and things didn't quite work out that way. Butland's arrival at Old Trafford was to provide cover for David De Gea, who, for the first time in what seems like years, remained largely out of the headlines in terms of the Spaniard leaving the club. 

Instead, it was Leeds' Illan Meslier who gained the early trophy for the Premier League goalkeeper whose name appeared the most in rumours comprising Europe's elite sides. First Bayern Munich and then Chelsea, the Frenchman was replaced as the papers' chosen one for a big move by Brentford's David Raya later in the window. Spain's number two reportedly attracted attention from Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Manchester United according to reports mainly from the Telegraph

A cross-London move for Seny Dieng of QPR has been touted in recent weeks by The Guardian, should Raya opt to up sticks in the summer. 

On the continent, Australian Mathew Ryan confirmed his exit from FC Copenhagen after just six months at the club on January 10th. He moved to the Eredivisie to link up with AZ Alkmaar on a deal until the end of 2023/24 season. Four days later, Stoke's 22 year old Joe Bursik linked up with Scott Parker at Club Brugge in Belgium after falling down the pecking order at the Bet365 Stadium.

You can't help but think that Stoke have missed a trick here. Jack Bonham, recruited two summers ago from Gillingham, has done a job so far for Alex Neil's side, but Bursik's potential has not been lost on the goalkeeping community across England. The fact that Stoke immediately dipped back into the market to secure the signature of young Wolves goalkeeper Matija Sarkic on loan begs the question: why not trust one of the club's own, already proven in the Championship?

As Bursik pointed out himself in an interview with the Independent, ‘there was a lot of chopping and changing for what I felt was minimal reason (under Michael O’Neill). It’s pretty hard for a young player loving life in the Championship’.

But it would take some time for one of Europe's big guns to make a significant goalkeeper move. Borussia Monchengladbach's parting with club legend Yann Sommer on the 19th January marked this, with the Swiss number one signing for Bayern Munich to replace Manuel Neuer - in the short term at least. broke the first comments on the move from Monchengladbach's goalkeeper coach Fabian Otte, who described it as “obviously a big miss [for Monchengladbach] as he’s one of the top goalkeepers in the world at the moment and was incredibly important for our goalkeeper group”. 

“However, for the club now, it's about starting a new chapter", Otte added. “it will be great to see the other goalkeepers in our department grow and develop in their own unique ways”.

Sommer was replaced instantly by fellow Swiss goalkeeper Jonas Omlin, who arrived from Ligue 1 side Montpellier. Sommer's fee was reported to be around £8 million, with Transfermarkt reporting that Omlin moved to Monchengladbach for more or less the same fee. A four year deal (until 2027) was agreed between the French and German sides. 

As the Sommer saga drew out in the middle of the month before the inevitable was confirmed, a series of young goalkeepers were on the move in and around the Premier League. Ellery Balcombe was recalled by Brentford from his loan spell at Crawley before heading straight back out of the door to Bristol Rovers. The other Bristol (of the Championship variety) allowed 21-year-old summer signing Stefan Bajic to return to his native France on loan, joining Valenciennes after failing to make an appearance for the Robins. 

Arsenal and Chelsea both had young goalkeepers in and out of the club on the 16th, with Arthur Okonkwo joining Austrian side SK Sturm Graz and Luca Bergstrom returning from Peterborough United back to Cobham. After signing a new contract at the Amex, 18 year old James Beadle joined Crewe on loan from Brighton - as a replacement for Arsenal's Onkonkwo. 

A flurry of transfers in the women's game also came as the month hit its midway point. Lydia Williams signed for Brighton from Paris Saint-Germain, preceded a few days earlier by Sabrina D'Angelo's move to Arsenal. Khiara Keating joined Coventry United on loan from Manchester City Women, and Leicester City acquired Janina Leitzig from Bayern Munich on loan. 

As the month drew towards its end, Wolves' goalkeeper department saw a new face through the door. In one of the window's more intriguing moves, then-Bristol City's Daniel Bentley agreed a two year deal with the midlands side to provide competition for Jose Sa. Bentley has reliable gloves to fill, with the last man to hold the number two post at Molineux a certain John Ruddy. 

On the South Coast, Darren Randolph joined West Ham United to provide further depth and experience to the Cherries' goalkeeper department. The 35-year-old signed an 18 month contract to work alongside Neto and Mark Travers. If Bournemouth can point to reliability in any department, it is definitely the one working between the sticks; between them, they've collated over 700 senior appearances (albeit most of those outside the Premier League specifically).

Fellow promoted side Nottingham Forest were also plunged into goalkeeping crisis when Dean Henderson pulled up during a 2-0 win over Leicester City. Premier League veteran Wayne Hennessey has filled in for Forest's two Carabao Cup semi-final legs against Manchester United, but manager Steve Cooper felt the need to add more (yes, more) to his squad. 

And that takes us back to the beginning of this article, and a transfer that rivals Sommer's move to Bayern in stature - as well as Bentley's move to Wolves in surprise. Champions League winner Keylor Navas arrived in Nottingham as part of a triple deadline day signing. At face value, Navas is an incredible signing for Forest. Never has been as perennially underrated by fans and pundits, and consistently shafted by managers at the top level for little good reason. 

Navas, who made the statistically best save at the 2022 World Cup from open play according to Goalkeeper-xG data, will likely take the starting spot from Hennessey. However, questions have to be asked about where this leaves Dean Henderson. A fan favourite at each club he's been on loan at, the story has thus far been no different with Cooper's side. So, if Navas performs, will Henderson come back into the side?

It's difficult to see how Cooper can drop the Costa Rican if he performs, in honesty. Not only is Navas a marquee signing for Forest, which makes it symbolically difficult to not start him, it may also be the case that Henderson stays with Forest past the season's close. Whether Navas would sign permanently is up for debate; his contract at PSG doesn't end until the summer of 2024, and his wages would undoubtedly be a financial burden on Forest should they go down.

Likewise, if he finds himself keen to move on from the Parc De Princess, it's unlikely that Navas wouldn't find himself in demand from some of Europe's top sides - and perhaps those on the continent (Navas has never played outside of mainland Europe since leaving Costa Rica, and there are familial implications of moving to the UK permanently, from a holistic perspective). 

But Navas wasn't the last goalkeeper to move into the English game this January - nor the only Forest goalkeeper moving on deadline day. Huddersfield Town completed the signings of both Jordan Smith (from Nottingham Forest) and Tomas Vaclik (from Olympiacos) on deadline day, with the pair adding depth to the Terriers' department after a season ending injury for number one Lee Nicholls. 

The transfer window may well now be closed, but the rumours continue to swirl. Jordan Pickford is being touted as a potential successor to both David De Gea and Hugo Lloris, pending Everton's confirmation (or non-confirmation) of their top flight status by May. He's just one example of some high profile rumours that will undoubtedly continue to gain traction until June, when we'll do it all over again. 

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