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The January transfer window ended Thursday, producing some brisk business in the soccer world.
As opposed to several previous years, when the January window saw little in the way of meaningful activity, the positive financial outlook for many big teams triggered some key moves that sent cash hurtling around the sport's international marketplace.
The jury is still out on many of the speculative moves that did (or didn't) go through, but that didn’t stop us from identifying the big winners and big losers from the month that was.
Winner: Nicolas Anelka
Anelka can be moody and awkward, and he never seems to stick around at any club for too long. So why does he keep getting handed fat contracts?
It is because he is one of those rare commodities in soccer – a natural-born finisher – and that is exactly why Chelsea bought him from Bolton Wanderers to help ease the strain of Didier Drogba's absence at the African Cup of Nations.
This is possibly Anelka's final chance to prove himself as a genuinely elite world class striker, one who can keep his nerve during the crucial closing weeks of a season. If he flops at Chelsea, then he will keep bouncing around from club to club, earning loads of money but losing credibility all the while.
Loser: Brad Guzan
The Chivas USA goalkeeper has been firmly on the radar of a string of European clubs for months, and a lucrative switch looked inevitable. Negotiations with Glasgow Celtic were almost complete when Aston Villa jumped to the front of the pack with a late bid. However, the British Home Office had different ideas and denied him a work permit, as he had not played the required number of international games.
So it is back to Chivas USA for Guzan and the final year of his contract, after which – work permit pending – he can finally earn a big contract in a major European league.
Winner: Eddie Johnson
Payday arrived for Johnson, thanks to his move from the Kansas City Wizards to Premiership strugglers Fulham.
While his salary of nearly $900,000 a year with the Wizards was hardly paltry, he is now enjoying more than twice that in west London while rubbing shoulders with the posse of fellow Americans at the club. More importantly, he has a chance to prove himself against some of the best in the world and potentially take his game to a new level.
Loser: Nery Castillo
If it were not for some untimely bad luck, the Mexican winger could have ended up in the winners column.
In an era where the greed of players is an unpleasant part of the European game, Castillo paid several million dollars himself in order to allow his loan deal from Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester City to go through. That gesture immediately endeared him to coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and City fans, but Castillo broke his shoulder in his first home appearance and was stretchered off after 32 minutes.
Winner: New England Revolution
Prior to the start of the transfer window, New England appeared more susceptible to raids from Europe than any other club in Major League Soccer. However, except for the departure of Andy Dorman to Scottish side St. Mirren and Pat Noonan's departure to Aalesund in Norway when his option was not picked up, coach Steve Nicol has kept all of his most important players together.
A bid for Taylor Twellman was rebuffed (see below) and there were no unsettling moves aimed at prying away key figures Shalrie Joseph or Michael Parkhurst.
Loser: Taylor Twellman
With Johnson and others having moved on from MLS, the Revolution striker is finding it hard to control his frustration.
After several years of trying to gain eligibility to play in England, he was finally awarded a work permit, only for the Revs to knock back an offer from Championship side Preston North End that could have been worth up to $3.5 million.
New England feels it has been fair, having handed Twellman a lucrative new contract a year ago that makes him one of the league's biggest non-designated player earners. So the Revolution's stance is unlikely to shift.
Winner: D.C. United
The reigning Supporters' Shield holder has been busy in the offseason, and coach Tom Soehn should be pretty happy with the moves that the club's hierarchy pieced together.
The collapse of a hideously expensive and potentially calamitous bid for Juan Sebastian Veron was no bad thing, and the $1 million transfer of Troy Perkins to Valerenga in Norway provided welcome funds in exchange for a solid but not irreplaceable goalkeeper.
Then the new arrivals started flooding in from South America. Heading up the list is United's first designated player, Argentinean midfielder Marcelo Gallardo, who could become one of the biggest stars in MLS.
United is already looking very strong for the 2008 campaign.
Loser: Maciej Zurawski
The unfortunate and out-of-favor Polish striker nearly had everyone convinced he was about to sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy. I mean, he was so insistent that a transfer was on the verge of completion that you just wanted to believe he was set to leave his tough times at Celtic behind and swap it all for life in the Californian sunshine.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter was that the Galaxy never had any intention of including him in their plans, and he ended up in the unglamorous surroundings of mid-table Greek first division side Larissa. Ouch.