Just when the holiday shopping frenzy has finally settled down, when the wrapping paper and ribbons are back in the closet, along comes soccer’s midseason Winter Transfer Window, a 31-day international shopping spree during which English Premier League teams alone are likely to spend upwards of $250million on new players.
The window opened this weekend in most countries and will close between Jan.30 and Feb.2. During this month-long period, players seeking more playing time will try to get moved and teams will try to snag promising prospects before they get too expensive.
Here are some players who could be finding new homes:
Ron Vlaar, Aston Villa: The Dutch defender is said to be on the shopping lists of Arsenal, Manchester United and Napoli.
Saido Berahino, West Brom: This 21-year-old rising English star scored seven goals in nine games and bigger teams took notice, including Tottenham and Liverpool.
Wilfried Bony, Swansea: One reason Swansea is in the top half of the EPL standings is this forward, and he will likely be snagged by a higher-profile team. Among those reportedly interested are Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Joel Campbell, Arsenal: The Costa Rican forward shined in the World Cup, but doesn’t get as much playing time with his club team. Look for him to be sold or loaned. Same goes for Germany’s Lukas Podolski, who is rumored to be headed to Inter on loan from Arsenal.
Speaking of Inter, don’t be surprised if Mario Balotelli winds up there after disappointing so far at Liverpool.
Petr Cech, Chelsea: The veteran goalkeeper has been replaced in the starting lineup by Thibaut Courtois, but other clubs would love to have Cech in the net. Among those said to be interested are Arsenal, PSG, Roma and Real Madrid.
Sami Khedira, Real Madrid: He could stay until the end of the season, or the German star could wind up with Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal before next season.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Bayern Munich: He scored a hat trick for Switzerland in the World Cup and would like to do more for his club team. Liverpool and Napoli are among his suitors.
Lucas Silva, Cruzeiro: One of the best young Brazilians, this 21-year-old midfielder is on Real Madrid’s radar.
Krystian Bielik, Legia Warsaw: One of the hottest young players in the world is this Polish wunderkind, who turns 17 on Sunday. The midfielder is in the midst of a bidding war between Arsenal and Roma.
Other up-and-comers who could get picked up: Evan Diman, 19, Indonesia; Gaston Pereiro, 19, Uruguay; Lucas Romero, 20, Argentina.
▪ Remember the name: Speaking of potential future stars, keep your eye out for news about 17-year-old Gedion Zelalem, who has been playing in Arsenal’s youth system and became a U.S. citizen last week.
Zelalem was born in Berlin to Ethiopian parents and moved to the United States with his father in 2006 after his mother died. He played for clubs in the Washington area and was discovered by Arsenal’s U.S. scout, Danny Karbassiyoon, in 2011.
He has played for the German under-15, under-16 and under-17 teams, but because he has not played for the senior team he is eligible to play for the United States. Look for him to be in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s mix over the next World Cup cycle.
▪ Gerrard to MLS? Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, 34, announced he will be leaving the club in June. He retired from international soccer a few months ago and now says he is playing his last season for Liverpool, a club he has been with since 1998. He played 700 games for Liverpool and has scored 180 goals.
He said he will not sign with another EPL team and that he is looking for a new experience. There are reports he would consider joining the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, following the footsteps of former English star David Beckham.
▪ Wedding bells: U.S. women’s national team standout Alex Morgan got married on New Year’s Eve to Serrando Carrasco, a midfielder for MLS club the Houston Dynamo. The wedding was in Santa Barbara, California. Morgan was one of 29 players named Friday by U.S. World Cup coach Jill Ellis for a three-week training camp in Carson, California. Others include Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Christine Rampone, Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger and Hope Solo.
English Premier League: Chelsea and Manchester City (46), Manchester United (37), Southampton (36), Tottenham (34).
La Liga: Real Madrid (39), Barcelona (38), Atletico Madrid (35), Valencia (31), Villarreal (30).
Serie A: Juventus (39), Roma (36), Lazio, Napoli, Sampdoria (27).
Ligue 1: Marseille (41), Lyon (39), PSG (38), ASSE (36), Monaco (32).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (45), Wolfsburg (34), Bayer (28), Monchengladbach and Schalke (27).
On the tube
Sunday: Valencia vs. Real Madrid (11 a.m., BeIN Sport USA), Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona (3 p.m., BeIN Sport USA).