Sancho, Phillips, Torres: 10 players who need a transfer in January


The January transfer window is right around the corner, and there will be certain players across Europe hoping it can bring a change of fortunes for them. Whether they’re seeking to refresh their careers or make a run at a Euro 2024 or Copa América squad next summer, or they simply know they’ll never play another minute under their current managers, there’s a whole host of top players who may feel the need to switch things up.

Here are 10 players who should be desperate for a move this winter.

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Kalvin Phillips, Manchester City

It’s tough to know who is more desperate for Phillips to make a January transfer: the player himself, or England manager Gareth Southgate.

The midfielder has played a lowly 393 Premier League minutes since joining City from Leeds United for £45 million just 18 months ago, prompting Pep Guardiola to apologise publicly for being unable to visualise a role for him in his team.

This is a player England have leaned on consistently — he won Player of the Year in 2021 — but with so few minutes in the tank, it’ll be hard for Southgate to visualise a role for Phillips in his team for Euro 2024 too.

Jadon Sancho, Manchester United

Any player who has been told to train and eat separately from the first-team squad clearly needs pastures new. That’s the case with Sancho at Man United, whose career at Old Trafford looks to be over after he fell out with, and publicly criticised, manager Erik ten Hag.

Like Phillips, the England winger has both a career and a Euro 2024 squad spot to worry about, although Sancho’s international situation is far more dire as his last call-up was back in October 2021.

Who knows how close Sancho is to the player who delivered 78 combined goals and assists across three seasons with Borussia Dortmund — but surely someone will take the plunge and find out? Even on loan?

Noni Madueke, Chelsea

Despite the remarkable number of injuries Chelsea have suffered this season, Madueke has not been given the chance to make a proper run in the first team.

Whether that speaks to a lack of faith from manager Mauricio Pochettino is unclear, but the raw details are clear: He has played just 123 Premier League minutes this season; he’s stuck behind Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Cole Palmer on the depth chart; and now Christopher Nkunku is set to enter the attacking rotation, things look bleaker still.

Madueke is one of the best dribblers in the league and needs to get back on the pitch and develop — either at Stamford Bridge or somewhere else.

Sergio Gómez, Manchester City

In the wake of full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko leaving for Arsenal in summer 2022, signing Gómez made perfect sense: He’s the same converted midfielder/hybrid full-back style player, is left-footed and could step into the void.

But in the past 18 months, City have moved away from that model of full-back, now preferring to choose between centre-backs Nathan Aké and Joško Gvardiol for the spot on the left.

Perhaps a 2024 Guardiola tactical tweak will bring Gómez back into contention, but right now there’s no role for him to play. Even a loan might be handy to ensure the 23-year-old’s development doesn’t stall.

Reiss Nelson, Arsenal

We are a long way past the time Nelson’s breakout and potential promise thrilled us — that was back in the 2019-20 season, when he started seven Premier League games and came off the bench in 10 more.

Incredibly, he hasn’t started another one since, only ever getting full runouts in Europa League games or, most recently, a Champions League tie that meant nothing.

Nelson is now 24. There comes a certain point where players simply need to play, and he might well be at that point. Unfortunately, because of the presence of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli on the wings, that probably isn’t going to happen at Arsenal.

Hugo Ekitike, PSG

PSG were reportedly unhappy with Ekitike’s refusal to leave the club during the summer window — either to Eintracht Frankfurt or clubs in the Premier League. Since then, he has played a miserable nine minutes of first-team football. If it wasn’t crystal clear back then, it is now: There’s no future for Ekitike in Paris, with Randal Kolo Muani and Gonçalo Ramos firmly ahead of him in the pecking order.

Still just 21, and brimming with potential, this could be a shrewd transfer for any club in need of a mid-season boost of firepower. He compliments strong finishing with impressive technical ability and pace.

Thomas Lemar, Atlético Madrid

Where has Lemar’s career gone? A Ligue 1 winner in that glorious Monaco side of 2016-17, starring alongside Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappé and Fabinho; a 2018 World Cup winner with France. But for the past few years, he has been stuck on the bench at Atleti.

Lemar is just one name on a long list of talented technicians who simply haven’t convinced manager Diego Simeone and, with a contract until 2027, this nightmare isn’t coming to a natural end any time soon.

Ferran Torres, Barcelona

At surface level, Torres’ involvement with Barcelona this season looks OK. He has started roughly half the available LaLiga and Champions League games and scored three goals in each competition.

But there does seem to be a lack of belief in him, though; since signing him for the forward line from Man City for €55m in January 2021, the Blaugrana have consistently signed more players to either compete with him or replace him. In 2024, minutes will be harder to come by than ever — especially as Brazilian wonderkid Vitor Roque is entering the picture in January.

Deciding to leave a club like Barcelona is never easy, but Torres is exceptional and could star consistently for so many other top teams.

Stefano Sensi, Internazionale

Inter signed Sensi permanently from Sassuolo in 2020 for €25m, after a spell on loan, but despite his obvious talent, they’ve struggled to find a role for him in the first team.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, the midfielder has taken in loans with Sampdoria and Monza to find some regular game time and, as we head into January, he should be yearning for another move — either temporary or permanent.

The number of Serie A minutes he has played this term (28) matches his age, which is not good. Sensi is an entertainer with the ball at his feet; we just need to see it more.

Eric Dier, Tottenham Hotspur

Sometimes you get a hint that your manager doesn’t trust you. For Dier, that hint came when, after losing regulars Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven to suspension and injury, manager Ange Postecoglou opted to play two full-backs at centre-back rather than give him a runout.

Despite much upheaval in his position, Dier has just one Premier League start to his name this season, with all signs pointing to a lack of compatibility between his and Postecoglou’s style. If Postecoglou is here to stay, Dier probably isn’t.

He has been linked with a reunion with former Spurs boss José Mourinho at Roma and, a bit more fleetingly, a romantic return to his first club Sporting CP.

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