Anyone who celebrates this time of year will have just had time to throw away the wrapping paper and stash their weird sweaters in the closet.
Whether they’ve gotten what they wanted or not, soccer fans develop a different kind of lust as January approaches, with the transfer season opening for another month.
A few big names have already been linked to possible moves, with the most obvious being free agent Cristiano Ronaldo following his release from Manchester United.
Deals have already been put in place for January 1, with Cody Gakpo confirmed to be traveling to Liverpool from PSV.
Before the January transfer window chaos sets in, Stats Perform have been looking at some players who could find themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war and end up the first month of 2023 at a new club.
It seemed like an odd thing for Ronaldo to do, but whether he intended or not, the Portugal star effectively ended his relationship with Manchester United when he decided to publicly kick club figures, including manager Erik ten Hag, via an interview with Piers Morgan before the World Cup.
It led to the strange situation of seeing his great rival Lionel Messi lift the World Cup at the same time that Ronaldo didn’t even have a club.
In theory, there should be a lot of queuing to offer him a deal, even if he turns 38 in just over a month. Ronaldo scored 24 goals in 38 games for United last season, and left the club with just four ex-United players with a better Premier League goals-per-game ratio than his own 0.44 (Ruud van Nistelrooy – 0. 63, Andy Cole – 0.48, Wayne Rooney – 0.47 and Eric Cantona – 0.45).
However, with his wage demands and the likely reputational damage caused by the nature of his acrimonious exit from Old Trafford, it doesn’t look like Europe’s biggest clubs are eager to make a move, despite the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea and probably former club Real Madrid apparently in the market for a striker.
It therefore seems likely that Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr could have an uncontested race against him with their signaled mega-coin bid, although Ronaldo needn’t rush any decisions as his free agency status means he can complete a transfer at any time.
Another Portuguese forward likely to play elsewhere by February, Joao Felix is at the other end of his career and needs to find somewhere to deliver on his early promise.
Joao Felix moved to Atletico Madrid from Benfica for €127m in 2019 at the age of 19 having contributed to 22 goals in 26 Primeira Liga appearances (15 goals, seven assists) but, despite short bursts, did not has ever come close to living up to that giant tax in Spain.
The 23-year-old managed 33 goals and 16 assists in 129 appearances for Atletico, but has reportedly fallen out with manager Diego Simeone and is now being offered a string of clubs in England.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Aston Villa are presumably among those agent Jorge Mendes has approached, and all likely have room in their squad for another striker ahead of the second half of the season.
Wherever he ends up, Joao Felix hopes he can finally deliver the promise many saw in him as a teenager and find himself a long-term home in which to thrive.
In theory, most of Europe’s elite clubs should be kicking it right now.
Fernandez joined Benfica from River Plate just at the start of this season for a reported fee of €12m, where he has shone in performances in both his country and in the Champions League.
This earned the midfielder a place in Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina squad for the World Cup and, despite starting the tournament on the bench, he worked his way up to become a key part of the squad that lifted the trophy in Qatar. earning him the title of Best Young Player Award in the process.
Unsurprisingly, the Sharks are now turning and Fernandez – who led all players in touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10) in the World Cup final – could get out of Lisbon quickly.
Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Newcastle have all been credited with an interest, although Benfica agree to mid-season deals as they top the Primeira Liga and with a Champions League round of 16 draw League against Club Brugge coming up, you’d think they’re going to want a huge fee near or above nine figures just to answer the phone.
As with Fernandez, Mudryk is a player who has seen his profile rise rapidly in a short space of time.
Before the start of this season, the 21-year-old winger was courted by the likes of Brentford and Everton, but his performances, particularly in the Champions League, have attracted the attention of those further up the food chain.
Mudryk scored three goals in six games in the Champions League group stage, having also recorded seven goals and six assists in 12 Ukrainian Premier League games before the mid-season break.
Arsenal appear to be the most interested parties before January and have reportedly already submitted a bid, but Shakhtar Donetsk’s alleged demands could be what turns this into a saga.
Suggestions are that Shakhtar want up to €100m (£85m) and could try to exploit Arsenal’s desperation as the Gunners look to hold on to their Premier League title challenge after striker Gabriel Jesus is been ruled out for up to three months due to injury.
Man Utd and any striker
It’s not just players who take part in transfer market sagas, but clubs too, and few do it more often or more spectacularly than the Red Devils.
The drama if they don’t appear to have already begun in January, as United were seemingly beaten at the Gakpo by rivals Liverpool, and alternative names are already popping up in a story that could potentially drag on into the month.
With a Ronaldo-shaped hole in the squad, boss Ten Hag has already said he is looking for reinforcements, stressing he “has to be the one”.
As well as Felix, United have been linked with moves for Goncalo Ramos, Dusan Vlahovic and even former Old Trafford man Memphis Depay.
With reports that Ten Hag may be limited to the loan market thanks to their heavy spending in the previous window and the Glazers’ continued attempts to sell the club, perhaps United will be forced to make a move similar to the one that saw the Odion Ighalo accession temporarily in January 2020.