January Transfer Window ’18 – The Highlights

Who doesn’t love a transfer window? African players were hot commodities this time around, and with the inflated transfer fees seemingly continuing to rise, the money exchanged for players’ services ensured that some eye-watering fees were paid for the continent’s biggest talent.

So who caught the eye during all the dealings?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal, (£56 million)

Aubameyang celebrates his move. Credit: arsenal.com
Aubameyang celebrates his move. Credit: arsenal.com

One of the biggest moves of the window, as the Gabonese star finally got his move away from Germany. Despite fluttering his eyelids at Spanish giants Real Madrid for the past two years, who reportedly turned down the chance to bring the striker to the Bernabeu, the 28 year-old ended up in London, potentially breaking the transfer record for an African player in the process (read more about that here!).

Arsenal fans were delighted with the capture of a new star striker after protracted negotiations, with the move causing a transfer merry-go-round – the Gunners offloaded Olivier Giroud to rivals Chelsea to allow Michy Batshuayi to replace Aubameyang at Dortmund.

The attacker made his debut against Everton, chipping in with a goal – a sign that he will make a fluent start to his Premier League career.

He is joined in the Premier League by fellow Gabonese international Didier Ndong, who re-enters the top-flight with a loan deal at Watford. Marco Lemina, another international team-mate, is currently at Southampton.

Cédric Bakambu – Villarreal to Beijing Guoan (Potentially £70.5 million, currently £35.3 million)

Cedric Bakambu
Cédric Bakambu notched 9 goals in 15 league appearances for Villareal this season

Despite a few Premier League clubs sniffing around the Congolese striker, it seems he chose the riches of China instead. However, there is a seemingly unlimited amount of confusion surrounding the deal – with almost every aspect of the move under question.

Back in May last year, the Chinese FA proposed a rule that saw any transfer fee for a foreign player to be immediately taxed by 100%. Guoan reportedly believed there was a loophole – if they gave the transfer fee to Bakambu to pay for his own release clause, as is common with most big transfers in Spain, then they could not be taxed.

As such, there has been radio silence from all involved since. One thing is for certain – Bakambu is no longer a Villarreal player, after stumping up the €40m to active his release clause.

Despite being pictured training and playing a friendly with his new side, there has been nothing official to confirm the deal – which could still potentially rise to a record fee for an African player.

With a contract worth reportedly £16m a year, Bakambu will be hoping his future is made clear sooner rather than later.

 

Naby Keita – Red Bull Leipzig to Liverpool (£57 million, potentially rising to £66 million)

Naby Keita on international duty for Guinea. Credit: Mohammed Yattara
Naby Keita on international duty for Guinea. Credit: Mohammed Yattara

Okay, okay this deal was already agreed last summer – so to claim it as a January transfer isn’t really appropriate. However, Keita was another story this window, as Liverpool looked to bring forward the deal to bring the Guinean international to Anfield, after talisman Phil Coutinho left for Barcelona for £142m.

The Reds looked to splash some of that fee on the early arrival of Keita, and despite Leipzig refusing to budge from their position, the scenario rumbled on all the way to the end of the window.

There were strong rumours that a £13m fee had been previously arranged should the Merseyside club want to fast-track the deal – but, unfortunately for Jürgen Klopp, there was no truth in the reports.

When announced, Keita’s free would have broken the African transfer record (a common occurrence), taking the crown from fellow Liverpool players Mo Salah (£37.8m) and Sadio Mane (£37m), who also held the record at the time of their transfers.

And that’s just the base fee – if Leipzig qualify for European football, the fee rises to £66m.

But Leipzig will keep the Guinean until June, when he will finally join Liverpool.

Samuel Eto’o – Antalyaspor to Konyaspor (Free Transfer)

Samuel Eto'o is introduced to his new fans. Courtesy of Konyaspor.
Samuel Eto’o is introduced to his new fans. Courtesy of Konyaspor.

He’s played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, won the Champions League (twice) and has been named African Player of the Year four times.

He’s accumulated over £70 million in transfer fees, but for the fifth move in a move, he’s switched clubs for nothing.

He’s now onto his twelveth senior club, Konyaspor, who announced they had signed the 36 year-old with a Game of Thrones title sequence inspired tweet, which you can catch below:

 

Andre Ayew – West Ham United to Swansea City (£20.5 million)

Andre Ayew during his first stint on the South Welsh Coast.
Andre Ayew during his first stint on the South Welsh Coast.

It’s not every day you have a transfer packed with so many nice little coincidences – but there were quite a few with this Deadline Day switch.

Swans broke their club transfer record to bring the Ghanaian winger back to the club, somehow making money off the deal, after they sold the attacker to West Ham in August ’16 for £21m.

The deal means Andre links up with younger brother Jordan, who was also a Deadline Day move last January.

Ayew bros
The Ayew brothers on international duty. Credit to Lad Media.

It was at Marseille where the pair first played alongside each other, but since then the brothers have shared a pitch at club level before – facing off against each other in 2015, when Jordan scored for Aston Villa against Andre’s Swansea side.

The Ayews are a footballing family – older half-brother Ibrahim plays in Gibraltar and has been capped by the National side, whilst uncle Kwame Ayew enjoyed a journeyman career around Europe.

The Patriarch of the family, Abedi “Pele” Ayew, father of Jordan, Ibrahim and Andrew, is revered by many, after winning the Champions League with Marseille and the African Cup of Nations with Ghana.

As a whole, the entire family has a shared total of 227 caps for Ghana between them. What a gene pool!

You can read more about the Ayew’s here.

Despite the feel-good stories surrounding the deal, an awful story also arose from the affair – as reports came out that West Ham’s transfer policy meant they would not sign any more African players. Since then, Director of Player Recruitment Tony Henry has been sacked but an in-depth investigation by the club has begun, as well as an FA probe.

Riyad Mahrez 

A dejected Mahrez after losing the Community Shield final in 2016. Credit to Alex Broadway/ Getty Images Europe.
A dejected Mahrez after losing the Community Shield final in 2016. Credit to Alex Broadway/ Getty Images Europe.

Picture this.

It’s coming to the end of the transfer window, and after what seems like non-stop speculation since you helped your team pull off the unthinkable and win the Premier League two years ago, runaway league leaders Manchester City are seriously interested after their winger is struck down with a lengthy injury.

You’ve already put in a transfer request during the last window; just like now, the club stood firm under pressure from bigger clubs clamouring or your signature.

But this is something else – it’s not Arsenal, but the best team in England, who have Champions League football – the pinnacle of a footballer’s club career – on offer.

They’ve still got the chance of winning four cups, so you know there is the potential of game-time and glory – as well as a lot of money. You hand in a transfer request at your club, and sit tight, waiting for the businessmen to thrash out a deal.

However, there’s a hitch – there’s a huge discrepancy between how much Leicester City want – up to £95 million – and how much your admirers are prepared to pay – £60m. It looks like for another window, you’re stuck.

What’s worse, international team-mate Islam Slimani has his request for more game time met with a loan away.

What do you do?

You going to force a move no matter what now, so you start skipping training. That’ll show ’em.

Riyad Mahrez had a hectic end to the window, but as always, he didn’t go anywhere. In an inflated market, Leicester were right to want megabucks for their star – but it remains to be seen if Mahrez can be tempted to play for the Foxes again.

Ali Gabr – Zamalek to West Brom (Loan deal, £500k up front with £2.5m optional permanent fee)

Ali Gabr holds his new shirt aloft during his unveiling. Credit: WBA
Ali Gabr holds his new shirt aloft during his unveiling. Credit: WBA

 

Egyptians are in vogue at the moment in the Premier League, as the stellar displays of Mo Salah at Liverpool and Ahmed Hegazy of West Brom have shown. Hegazy himself made a move this window – the Baggies turning his loan deal into a permanent move, stumping up  £5 million to keep him at the Hawthorns.

Gabr
Hegazy (Left) and Gabr (Right) celebrate a goal for Egypt with Prem rival Mo Salah.

After their first successful foray into the Egyptian Premier League, they’ve picked up Hegazy’s defensive partner on international duty, Ali Gabr, on a loan deal from Zamalek.

With a first World-Cup for the Eagles in almost three decades on the horizon, a boost to their pair’s chemistry could make all the difference in a tricky but definitely negotiable group for the North African side.

Achraf Bencharki – Wydad Casablanca to Al-Hilal – (£4.5 million)

Achraf Bencharki
Bencharki on international duty with Morocco

The Moroccan playmaker was busy making his first appearances for his country at the Championship of African Nations last month when Al-Hilal started chasing his signature.

Despite the interest in the young midfielder, Bencharki remained focused on his side’s goals as the host nation have reached Sunday’s final.

There was confusion and controversy surrounding Bencharki’s continued eligibility for the competition – the rules strictly state only domestically based players may be picked to play.

However, that little scare was overcome and Bencharki looks set to start against Nigeria in the final.

At the same time his move away from Morocco for £4.5 million is the biggest ever fee received for player in the Moroccan league system.

January has been full of action for the 23 year-old, after being named in the CAF Team of the year, for his exploits during Wydad Casablanca’s winning run to the CAF Champions League final, which they also won.

That was our picks for the most interesting deals and sagas surrounding African stars this window, but there were plenty more transfers of African talent.

If you’d like to see a full list of all the deals involving African players in Europe, click here!

Last updated 04/02/18 17:00 GMT

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