They call it “silly season” for a reason, you know.
The January transfer window closes this week, marking the end of the wildest and most hectic few weeks of business in the footballing calendar. For every rumor that makes sense, there are 10 that simply couldn’t turn out to be true.
Here are 11 of the craziest from 2019’s month of madness.
Giuseppe Rossi (back) to Manchester United
Rossi – endurer of an injury-ravaged, 14-game spell as a youngster at Manchester United in the mid-2000s – trained under OIe Gunnar Solskjaer this month, sparking speculative reports that he could rejoin the club. Given Rossi’s desperate struggles for both form and fitness, that would have been nothing short of charity from United. The manager soon dismissed such talk, emphasizing that Rossi was training with a view to earn a move elsewhere in Europe. Still kind of charity, then.
James Rodriguez to Arsenal
Arsenal need many things: midfield anchor reinforcements, a long-term replacement for Petr Cech (Bernd Leno’s longevity in the position is far from assured), and titanium armor for their defenders. One thing they don’t need, yet, is another luxury piece, no matter how prestigious that piece may be. James would be an attractive proposition to most teams in the world, but talk of him moving to the Emirates was severely shortsighted, particularly as the gargantuan wages of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil remain on the books.
Gary Cahill to Arsenal
With Sokratis being the latest Gunner on the stretcher, and in the absence of the aforementioned titanium, Arsenal need fit and able defenders. So it’s a good thing the reported interest in Chelsea spare part Cahill hasn’t come to fruition, then. The 33-year-old has played 561 minutes of football this season, and, even when he’s not injured, can be beaten for pace by glacial melt. His arrival would have been subtraction by addition for Arsenal. Reported interest from Fulham seems to make more sense.
Carlos Vela to Barcelona
Vela had a sparkling debut season for Los Angeles FC, but it’s debatable whether his talents would have transferred quite so seamlessly from Major League Soccer to Barcelona. Factor in that Vela hasn’t played competitively since LAFC’s season ended on Nov. 2 and it seemed unlikely the former Real Sociedad star would be the man the Blaugrana chose to fill the void left by the departed Munir El Haddadi.
Mario Balotelli to Newcastle, West Ham
A name likely to be mentioned in transfer rumors until – or, even beyond – his retirement, Balotelli’s Nice exit was long forecasted after spats with head coach Patrick Vieira, and he ultimately moved two hours down the south coast to Marseille. Before that, though, he had been linked with both Newcastle and West Ham. Shame, as his inflated wages and even more inflated ego, inconsistent fitness and form, and persistent attitude problems would have been just the tonic for the beleaguered Premier League pair.
Gabigol to West Ham
Another striker link for West Ham. Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa, dubbed the next Neymar a couple years ago, has seen his career stall somewhat since joining Inter in 2016. He scored just once in 10 games before being loaned to Benfica and Santos, the latter serving as the home to his rejuvenation, as he scored 27 times in 53 games. It was perhaps due to that play that Gabigol was linked with a bizarre move to east London in December. Ultimately, he stayed in Brazil with another loan at Flamengo, while West Ham’s need for attacking reinforcement was somewhat tempered by Marko Arnautovic’s much-leveraged contract extension.
Assorted waning center-backs to Juventus
Once it became clear Medhi Benatia was leaving Juventus, myriad names were proposed as replacements, including Martin Skrtel, Branislav Ivanovic, and Bruno Alves, each of whom would have made zero sense. Skrtel and Ivanovic are long past their best and playing in Turkey and Russia, respectively, while Alves, 37 years old and less mobile by the year, is on the fast track only to retirement. Juve ultimately elected to bring back the versatile Martin Caceres, who not only knows the club from two previous spells but, at 31, is a young up-and-comer as far as Juventus defenders go.
Yaya Toure to Celtic
This looks entirely random until you remember that Toure’s older brother, Kolo, ended his playing career at Celtic and remains in Glasgow as part of the coaching staff. The younger Toure was reportedly open to a move to Parkhead after leaving Olympiacos but manager Brendan Rodgers shot down talk of the move just days after it initially surfaced. Shame, really, as the notoriously temperamental Ivorian would have made for entertaining watching in Scotland.
Toby Alderweireld to PSG
If you want a touted move that makes little sense for a variety of reasons, this is it. Alderweireld has been linked with a move away from Tottenham for years, but a January 2019 transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was one rumor too far. Whether it’s because of the French champions’ depth at center-back (Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe, Thilo Kehrer, Stanley Nsoki), the fact Daniel Levy will never sell his prized center-back in a January window, or that Alderweireld has missed just two Premier League games all season in an otherwise injury-hit team, take your pick – it just doesn’t make any sense.
Andy Carroll to Tottenham
Tottenham’s current striker situation consists of Harry Kane’s injured ankle, Fernando Llorente’s one Premier League goal in 18 months, Vincent Janssen’s disappearing act, and … well, that’s it. Unsurprisingly, talk of dipping into the winter market for a new center-forward has intensified, but links to Carroll provide little more than mirth. The West Ham man combines injury woe with inconsistent scoring and doesn’t so much solve the problem as provide another shining example of it. Add in that the Hammers would loathe selling to their London rivals, and this is a non-starter.
Reece Oxford to FC Dallas
From the “new Bobby Moore” in 2016 to an afterthought in 2019. Oxford, West Ham’s youngest-ever senior player, has fallen by the wayside after an underwhelming loan spell in Germany and zero first-team squad appearances this season. He was linked with a host of MLS clubs including FC Dallas, but a switch to North America at the age of 20 would have been a surprising move for a big talent yet to prove much in his homeland. A reported move to Championship outfit Nottingham Forest seems more logical.
Sometimes, though, the weird rumors become reality. Here are three of our favorites.
Kevin-Prince Boateng to Barcelona: Few predicted the nomadic 31-year-old would be the man Barca opted for over Vela, but then the Catalonians love a weird signing (shouts to Paulinho, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, and Jeremy Mathieu).
John Mikel Obi to Middlesbrough: Fresh from showing he still has something to offer for Nigeria at the World Cup, the former Chelsea anchor left China to return to England with Championship side Boro.
Ashley Cole to Derby County: Cole reunited with former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard at Derby before immediately announcing he will retire at the end of the season. He’s still in great shape, but it’d be fair of Rams fans to be wary.