Transfer window winners and losers
He's gone. For now.
Mario Balotelli's transfer from Manchester City to AC Milan was the highest-profile move involving a Premier League team in the January window. For that, the Premier League is a slightly duller place.
But he wasn't the only notable transfer, or transfer story, in the window.
Biggest bargain: Demba Ba
A snip, at 7 million pounds, especially by Chelsea standards. That's less than one-sixth of what Roman Abramovich paid for Fernando "he-works-hard-out-on-the-wing" Torres.
What made Ba even more valuable is his familiarity with the Premier League: An easing-in period isn't required given he joined from Newcastle and not another European league.
-- Video: Beckham to PSG For now, though, Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez is intent on trying to unlock Torres a la their days together at Liverpool. Torres started as the lone striker in Chelsea’s previous two games, despite Ba netting three goals in his first four Blues starts. It was good business by Chelsea but not the move a sizable proportion of its fans really wanted: Benitez out.
Top sulk: Peter Odemwingie
Or, as he has been dubbed on Twitter, Peter Odemwhinger.
Hey, Peter, there was nothing wrong with you wanting to go to QPR. You’re 31, nearing the end of your career, and earning a reported £20,000 more per week would tempt anyone. But just be honest. Baggies fans would have respected you more.
Money was, of course, the key factor.
So, Odemwingie wanted to play for Harry Redknapp? He would have wanted to head to QPR on those wages if Steve Kean (sorry, Steve, I had to mention someone) was the boss. Why else would a player want to leave a club realistically guaranteed a spot in the Premier League next season for one that has a good chance of getting relegated?
But Odemwingie has company. See Loic Remy. Remy's deal did go through. Odemwingie, who was at QPR's headquarters Thursday in anticipation of a deal, faces a long four months at West Brom.
The jury is out on: Daniel Sturridge
The Reds needed a forward in support of Luis Suarez in the summer but left it too late, missing out on Clint Dempsey after letting Andy Carroll sign on loan with West Ham. All they were left with was the inexperienced, unproven Fabio Borini.
Liverpool swooped early in the January window for Sturridge, and the signs are encouraging: He has scored three goals in five games since exiting Stamford Bridge. But then, Sturridge always seems to have success when joining a new club. Maintaining form is the issue.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is due for a decent signing following the arrivals of Borini, Joe Allen and the already departed Nuri Sahin.
If Rodgers sticks with the same starting formation he employed against Arsenal on Wednesday – using Sturridge as a lone striker and shifting Suarez to the wing – it’s a gamble. Suarez was doing fine up the middle.
The player we’ll miss most: Balotelli
It was "always him."
While Balotelli’s attitude left his manager visibly frustrated at regular intervals, Roberto Mancini had it right when he said of the striker this week: “For me he was not a problem. For me Mario was like another one of my children. You can be upset with him sometimes, but afterwards he is a lovely lad.”
The fires, bibs, darts, undershirts, giving away cash, showing up at women’s prisons and surfacing at the unveiling of a manager in another country.
Who will fill the tabloid pages in England like Balotelli?
On the pitch, City might miss Balotelli’s occasional moments of brilliance. The Citizens were blanked by QPR Tuesday, with Carlos Tevez not scoring in the league for an eighth consecutive outing.
City now has three proven strikers. (John Guidetti hasn’t played a minute in the Premier League.) The team they are chasing for the title, Manchester United, has four.
Top wheeler and dealer: Harry Redknapp. Who else?
Unsettled? Unloved? Experience in the Premier League, preferably in a relegation scrap? 'Arry wants you.
So long as Redknapp doesn’t dish out the cash from his own pocket, he won’t worry about overpaying for players. Chris Samba was coveted by several Premier League sides before he left for mega-rich Anzhi, but £12.5 million is excessive for his services.
Did we mention his weekly wages will be a reported £100,000?
In landing Samba, Redknapp replaces one former Blackburn defender – Ryan Nelsen is off to coach in Toronto – with another. Tal Ben Haim, not particularly a fan favorite in his latter days at Portsmouth, quietly signed in the first week of January.
Redknapp, too, tends to add flair from abroad, and Remy, the French international striker, bypassed the French revolution at Newcastle in favor of Loftus Road. He is, however, streaky.
If Rangers don’t survive the drop, let’s see how many of the new arrivals, who include midfielder Jermaine Jenas, stick around.
More needed doing in: North London
Tottenham added another (potentially impressive) body in midfield in German international Lewis Holtby. It won’t make up for the loss of holding midfielder Sandro, who was having a fine season, in the short term. At least Spurs have a similar player to Sandro in Scott Parker.
Call it surprising that manager Andre Villas-Boas didn’t push harder for a striker, given the health of Jermain Defoe and performance level of Emmanuel Adebayor, who appears to play his best when seeking a new contract or a move to another club. A deal for Brazilian Leandro Damiao never materialized.
Not that Arsenal, behind Tottenham and Everton in the race for fourth, fared much better. Relying on Olivier Giroud up front, at this stage, is risky, and if they're playing Theo Walcott as the sole striker, a proven right winger is lacking. (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains hit-and-miss.)
The Gunners did snare a left back in Spanish international Nacho Monreal from Malaga, and he should be given every opportunity to become the first choice once the oft-injured Kieran Gibbs recovers from a thigh injury.
Staying for now: Asmir Begovic
Stoke’s attempts to sign sought-after keeper Jack Butland from Birmingham meant the club knew Begovic, the current No. 1, would most likely be leaving later this year. It’s not outlandish to suggest Begovic has been the league’s best keeper this season, and with the goalkeeping situation uncertain at both Manchester United and Liverpool – one Spaniard isn’t very good and the other apparently wants to return to Barcelona if Victor Valdes moves on – the Bosnian international could become the regular at Old Trafford or Anfield next campaign.
How refreshing was it to see Butland, a senior England international at the age of 19, reject Chelsea? He felt playing time was more important than the larger pay packet and picked Stoke instead.
Instead of sitting on the bench at Chelsea for potentially a season or two, he’ll play on loan at Birmingham for four months and become the No. 1 at Stoke when Begovic no doubt bids adieu in the summer.
They needed to do more at: Aston Villa
Villa manager Paul Lambert clearly isn’t keen on Darren Bent. Why not, then, sell the England striker and spend the proceeds on a new player or two?
Villa badly needs experienced heads in the lineup but instead signed 22-year-old midfielder Yacouba Sylla from Ligue 2 Clermont Foot and brought in little-known winger - in England, anyway - Simon Dawkins on loan from Tottenham. Dawkins spent 2011 and 2012 with San Jose.
“The manager is building a dynamic and young team here,” Sylla told Villa’s website. The building will continue in the Championship if Villa’s fortunes don’t change soon.