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Staff Picks: The Worst January 2020 Transfer

So far there have been no blockbuster moves to report from this January transfer window, so let’s continue our retrospective look at last year’s. This time we focus on the failures.

Danny Drinkwater - Chelsea - Premier League
Danny Drinkwater’s career has been in a tailspin since leaving Leicester. Was his January 2020 move to Aston Villa the worst transfer of that window?
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Yesterday we examined the candidates for the best transfer (besides Bruno Fernandes) of the January 2020 window.

Now it’s time to take a look at the flip-side of that coin: Which player was the worst transfer of last January’s window?

Here’s what our staff has to say.


Steven Bergwijn

Mbwana Samatta was definitely a contender; Aston Villa splashed out £10Mil on the Tanzania International. He started life well with a goal on his debut but never kicked on, ending up with one goal in 14 games. He’s currently on loan to Fenerbahçe. Spurs’ attacker, Steven Bergwijn is my choice after being a hyped £25Mil signing from Dutch Champions PSV Eindhoven. He has failed to live up to his price-tag, scoring just three goals and assisting once in 32 appearances (19 starts) for Mourinho’s side.

The Young Dutch attacker certainly has promise and did struggle was some injury problems back in March 2020, but he had time to recover during the COVID-19 break. Since returning he has failed to become a regular feature in a side that relies on Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. Bergwijn does have great raw ability, but Spurs may not be the right fit for him, so he could follow in the footsteps of compatriot Memphis Depay, who also had a disappointing spell in English Football.


Gedson Fernandes

Jose Mourinho’s first signing as Tottenham Hotspur’s manager, Gedson Fernandes, was hailed as one of Portugal’s brightest young talents. But although he was an integral part of his Benfica side under gaffer Rui Vitoria, the player found himself frozen out when Bruno Lage took over in January of 2019.

West Ham and Spurs both recognized Fernandes’ potential and vigorously pursued him, with Benfica ultimately agreeing to release him from his £130M buy-out clause to allow an 18-month loan to Tottenham with an option to purchase.

But after a year in a Spurs shirt, the 22 year-old has played only 62 minutes in the EPL, zero during this campaign. No goals, no assists, and not even a shot on target. Unable to convert his potential into regular playing time, an early return to Benfica within the next few weeks looks increasingly likely.

As Spurs fans like to say about this transfer, it has turned out be be a case of “the wrong Fernandes.”


Danny Drinkwater

Danny is one of the best examples in recent years of a player who achieved so much and fell from grace so quickly.

Part of Leicester’s fantastic title winning side’s midfield, he followed the 2015-16 season by signing a new deal with the club in August 2016. In September the following year the chance to join N’golo Kante at Chelsea was too good to turn down. Injuries and a drop in form saw him struggle to stake his claim in the blues midfield. Maurizo Sarri arrived for the 2018-19 season under whom Danny made no league appearances for the club.

In August 2019, Drinkwater tried to re-launch his career on loan at Burnley. You would think a player of his quality would make a significant impact and help the club move to a new level. A couple weeks into the season, Danny was caught up in an altercation outside a nightclub where he got injured. Unimpressive on his return, he couldn’t get back into a Dyche side built on hard work, teamwork and organisation. He couldn’t create an impact at all and was sent back to Chelsea.

This brings us to January 2020 and a loan deal to Aston Villa. At 29 Drinkwater was still in his prime years, so he had a final chance to get his head together and put himself forward for a spot in England’s lightweight central midfield options for Euro 2020. Just a few weeks later Drinkwater was told to leave Villa after reportedly aiming a headbutt at teammate Diogo Jota.

While there are some strong contenders to the worst January 2020 transfer window signing, arriving at a club on January 7th and being thrown out on March 11th for an altercation with a teammate must win the competition.


Mbwana Samatta

Paul almost went with Mbwana Samatta, and that’s who I’m sticking with. He was one of five transfers that that Villa brought in last January, none of whom worked out (okay, maybe Pepe Reina was a solid backup keeper when they needed him), and two of whom are in this list. No wonder the Villans almost went down!

Samatta came from Belgian side Genk. His 2019-20 season saw ten goals in 28 total appearances. But the real hope came from the season before. In the 2018-19 season, the Tanzanian scored 32 goals over 51 appearances, leading the Belgian league with 20. That’s quite a season by any standard. So one can see why Villa was looking his way. At the time, the Villans were also struggling to find someone up top to score and help them from being relegated.

Samatta started in 11 league games (14 total appearances) during which he scored only once, in his opening game. I’m sure Villa fans were hopeful after that opening goal, but that would be his one and only in the EPL. Aston Villa stayed up, but Samatta found himself loaned out out to Turkish side Fenerbahçe, where he has two goals in seven appearances this season. A good season with Fenerbahçe could see a return to the EPL, but with Ollie Watkins and others now playing well, it seems that Samatta’s chance has passed.


Odion Ighalo

In January 2020 Manchester United was in crisis and in need of a striker following the summer departures of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku. A back injury suffered by Marcus Rashford made reinforcement during the January transfer window even more important.

The who’s who of the footballing world has at one point or another been linked to United. Some players even added MU to their personal social media accounts, causing a further frenzy amongst fans. The fans were salivating in suspense, hoping their club would sign a 30-goal striker they were yearning for.

Days passed with no private jets spotted, no suspicious tinted cars near Carrington, not one sign of any top target. Questions were asked: Is Woodward capable? Or does he lack the ability to complete deals once handled by David Gill? But remember this is United, one of the biggest clubs in the world with the checkbook to match (strengthened by dropping huge wage bills in the form of Sanchez and Lukaku), so the fans still believe and feel the club must buy a striker. But all dreams were smashed on deadline day when the club signed former Watford man Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua.

He will reportedly earn £400,000 weekly wages in China, and United will pick up £250,000 per week of that. Salt to the wound: United is believed to have agreed on another loan fee in the region of £6m with Ighalo’s Chinese parent club Shanghai Shenhua until the end of January 2021.

Odion Ighalo isn’t my choice for lack of ability, which for his wages are questionable none the less; it’s the anticipation during the January window only to learn that the club signed a player from China who is so obscure that hardly anyone remembers that he’d previously played in the Premiership.


Which player was January 2020’s worst transfer?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Steven Bergwijn
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Gedson Fernandes
    (1 vote)
  • 52%
    Danny Drinkwater
    (19 votes)
  • 19%
    Mbwana Samatta
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Odion Ighalo
    (4 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now


Were you an early-adopter of someone from last January’s window, only to have him flop catastrophically? Who gets your vote for the worst transfer of that window? Please take the poll and then share your thoughts in the comments!