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January transfer window: Grading every big signing from Europe's top clubs

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Can Arsenal still attract the best players to the club? (2:13)

Ahead of their Carabao Cup semifinal against Liverpool, Ale Moreno dismisses the idea that Arsenal can attract the best players to the club. (2:13)

The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact football's finances, but unlike recent times, the January window is open as normal for Europe's top leagues. (Find out when each league's window opens and closes here.)

Clubs across Europe in Italy's Serie A (€550 million), Germany's Bundesliga (€415m), France's Ligue 1 (€375m) and Spain's LaLiga (€295m) spent a lot less over the summer, but the Premier League went big and splashed €1.1 billion on players, according to Deloitte. January is usually a quiet month, but will global events see some different strategies for the top sides?

Here are the grades for all the major deals. The most recent write-ups are at the top; each day is in order of highest price. If you don't see a grade for a major move that has been completed, check back later. All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk.

Jan. 20

PABLO MARI
Loan

Arsenal: C+
Udinese: B-

Mari hasn't covered himself in glory since arriving at Arsenal in 2020. The 28-year-old centre-back has barely played this season and made only 16 appearances last campaign, so it's understandable that the club would want to find him regular game time. His long-term future does not look secure, though.

Udinese will be happy to have landed a defender on the cheap to help them try to turn around a poor start to the season. The club are in 14th place after five wins from 21 games in Serie A so far this season and need to get things back on track. Mari might not be the man to do it, though.

Jan. 14

DAVID NERES
€15m ($17.6m)

Ajax: C
Shakhtar Donetsk: A

Neres was tipped to become one of the top young wingers in Europe after some blistering performances in the Champions League. But, with Mohamed Daramy and Steven Berghuis taking up the positions on the flank, Ajax didn't see a need to keep him around. However, the €15m fee they got was a lot less than the €40m being talked about a few years ago, so they perhaps held on to him for too long.

Now 24, the Brazilian needs a fresh start, and Ukraine's top side can offer that. They are well known for providing a home for Brazilian players and already have 10 on the books, so he should feel at home, and his skills will surely light up the league.

JESUS CORONA
€3.5m ($5m)

FC Porto: C
Sevilla: A-

Mexico international 'Tecatito' had made it clear that he wasn't going to sign a new contract at Porto, so the best the club could do was to get a fee for him in January. The versatile winger scored 31 goals and had 69 assists in 286 appearances with the Portuguese side, so he will be missed.

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui managed Corona at Porto and made his signing a priority. The fee is minimal for an experienced international who can play down the wing or at full-back. Chelsea and some other bigger clubs had been sniffing around, so the LaLiga side did well to land him.

NANI
Free

Venezia: B

Venezia gained promotion to Serie A for the first time in 19 years this season and have already set about making some big-name signings. Former Man United and Orlando City star Nani follows Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Cuisance to the club in what can only be seen as a coup. Venezia will have a battle against relegation on their hands, but have two quality players to help them now. Nani is 35, but he has shown in MLS that he can still make an impact.

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1:17

Is Chris Wood the striker to save Newcastle?

Gab and Juls discuss Newcastle's decision to sign Chris Wood from fellow relegation candidates Burnley.

Jan. 13

CHRIS WOOD
£25m ($34m)

Burnley: B-
Newcastle: B

A fee of £25m, which was reportedly his release clause, is pretty good for a 30-year-old. Wood has hit double figures for goals in the Premier League for the past four seasons, and the club didn't want to see him depart. Especially to a club also likely to be involved in the relegation battle.

Newcastle needed a striker after the injury to Callum Wilson and paid what was needed. Yes, it's probably a bit much, but the New Zealand international has a good record and excellent aerial ability, which should see him make the most of the Magpies' crosses into the box.

LUCAS DIGNE
£25m ($34m)

Everton: D
Aston Villa: B+

Digne fell out with Everton boss Rafael Benitez and his last appearance for the club came on Dec. 1, so it was no surprise to see him move in January. The way his time at Everton ended wasn't good for the club's PR, and it turned out to be unnecessary anyway when Benitez was sacked in mid-January after a 2-1 defeat at Norwich.

Villa reaped the rewards and got a player who counts PSG and Barcelona among his former clubs. The left-back will certainly bring an extra dimension to the Villa defence, and it's another canny signing.

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1:21

Will Philippe Coutinho's return to the Premier League be a success?

Craig Burley examines how Aston Villa and Barcelona could benefit from Philippe Coutinho's loan move.

Jan. 11

PHILIPPE COUTINHO
Loan

Barcelona grade: D
Aston Villa grade: B+

"It says a lot about him that he wanted to leave to get more minutes," Barcelona manager Xavi said. "His salary has been reduced. He is a great professional, and he wants to succeed. He was struggling here, and he has looked for a solution." All well and good, but this signing has been a disaster. Coutinho arrived for a potential €160m back in 2018 and has struggled ever since. Barca are even still paying most of his wages for another loan spell, which hasn't helped their financial situation that much.

It's a win-win situation for Villa. The Brazil international has shown with Liverpool that he can perform in the Premier League, and now he's working under former teammate Steven Gerrard. The 29-year-old will fill a creative void for the club, and they have an option to sign him for €40m if they want, or they can just send him back to Barca if he doesn't impress.

Jan. 7

KIERAN TRIPPIER
€15m (£12m, $16.3m)

Atletico Madrid grade: C+
Newcastle grade: A

Trippier has been a key part of the Atletico defence and helped them win the LaLiga title last season, but clearly the club weren't going to stand in his way given his desire to return to England. Where Atletico lose marks is that they valued him at €40m (his release clause) and seem to have accepted a much smaller fee.

After their Saudi-backed takeover, Newcastle have money to spend and they have done well to land a proven performer on the cheap. Trippier is 31, an England international and knows manager Eddie Howe well, so he should settle well. They have definitely strengthened both defence and (due to his set-piece delivery and crossing) their attack as well.

AINSLEY MAITLAND-NILES
Loan

Arsenal grade: C+
Roma grade: B

Maitland-Niles is the type of versatile player who every squad loves to have as he can play in a number of positions: either flank as a full-back or in central midfield. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta managed to persuade him to stay last summer but then didn't really give him a chance in the side, so it's no surprise to see him go. Another loan is a good short-term move, but his long-term future remains very insecure.

Roma can offer him the minutes he wants, but it will be interesting to see how he performs under boss Jose Mourinho. On paper it doesn't seem the perfect match, but Maitland-Niles has a point to prove and his spell in the Italian capital could benefit both clubs.

Jan. 4

BRIAN BROBBEY
Loan

RB Leipzig grade: D+
Ajax grade: C

What a strange move. After leaving Ajax on a free transfer when they signed another attacker (Sebastien Haller) this summer, Brobbey will return after struggling to make an impact in Germany. The 19-year-old has two assists from nine Bundesliga games, but it feels as if he has given up too easily after just six months, and Leipzig haven't seen anything to suggest keeping him.

Ironically, Ajax need a replacement for Haller when he departs for the Africa Cup of Nations in January. Brobbey knows the club, knows the style of play, but it's a bit of a gamble considering how he left. Ajax aren't taking too much of a risk with a six-month loan, but the fans might not be so keen to see him back.

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0:59

Barcelona present new signing Ferran Torres at Camp Nou

Barcelona have signed the 21-year-old forward from Manchester City for a reported 55 million.

Jan. 3

FERRAN TORRES
€55m (£46m, $62m)

Man City grade: A-
Barcelona grade: B+

Just over a year after signing the Spain forward from Valencia for around €23m, City opted to move him on for over double that fee. Pep Guardiola does have a plethora of attacking players in his position, so they have cover, but it seems an odd decision to let him depart midseason. Also, at 21, he was a player who could have represented the future of the club.

With €1.4bn of debt, how Barca managed to come up with €55m to spend on one player is interesting. Evidently it came from a bank loan, which is a road they went down spectacularly badly when signing Antoine Griezmann for €120m from Atletico Madrid in 2019. Barca also can't register Torres until they move some current players off the wage bill, so it seems a gamble. Terrific player, but is he worth it amid Barca's financial woes?

RICARDO PEPI
€17.6m ($20m)

FC Dallas grade: A-
FC Augsburg grade: A

What a 12 months it has been for Pepi. Thirteen goals in 31 league appearances for Dallas and a call-up to the U.S. men's national team that saw him score three goals -- all in World Cup qualifiers -- in seven appearances. Dallas will miss him, but $20m will go a long way in MLS and they couldn't refuse him a chance to shine in Europe.

With their highest position of 12th since 2015-16, Augsburg are used to life in the bottom half of the Bundesliga. A fifth-placed finish in 2014-15 was an anomaly, and relegation battles are the norm over pushing for Europe -- which just makes it all the more incredible how they have landed the 18-year-old. Reports had linked him with Man City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern and, most recently, Wolfsburg. But Augsburg came out on top, and he should develop well with the minutes he will play.