January transfer window
Previewing the January transfer window: which Americans could be on the move?
December 21, 2021
THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW will soon be upon us and a bunch of Americans could be on the move – both within Europe, also moving from domestic leagues to abroad. Here are a look at some players we thing could be on the market.
Of course, it’s important to note that not all players will move. This isn’t a comprehensive list either as some names will pop up unexpectedly. We've also already seen some announced moves like Chris Mueller to Hibernian and Kyle Duncan to Oostende. But here is a look at some players we thing could the subject of transfer interest for the January window.
This is the big fish in the pond regarding a potential move. The FC Dallas forward was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year for 2021 and that was a no-brainer. The El Paso teenager scored 13 goals for FC Dallas along with three big World Cup qualifying goals for the U.S. national team. While he struggled a bit towards the end of the season for Dallas and also with the U.S. team in November and the December friendly, he still has huge potential to make a big move.
Dallas is surely not going to sell him for cheap and will be looking for something north of $13 million. With COVID adversely affecting the budget for a lot of teams in Europe, the market his smaller for unproven players like Pepi. Only a few teams can afford him and there are several good forwards to be had.
It’s a tricky situation. Dallas wants to get paid. Pepi wants to move, but needs to move to a place where he can play. The U.S. national team needs Pepi to play. In a World Cup year, the need to get this decision right for all parties is magnified. There is also the potential that perhaps Pepi remains in Dallas through the summer when more teams could have a better understanding of their budget and Pepi would at least be playing heading into the March qualifying window.
There is genuine interest in Pepi and a lot of the many reports with clubs like Ajax are accurate. But, there is also a lot of moving parts to consider.
It’s been a tough season for John Brooks who is in the last year of his contract with Wolfsburg. He’s been benched for long stretches, including most of December, and BILD recently ran a negative article about him with information that sounded like it came from within Wolfsburg, directly or indirectly.
Brooks, 28, has a huge salary north of $3 million per year and the BILD could be public negotiation from Wolfsburg, or it could be a way to usher him out the door in January. In the last year of his contract, his transfer price isn’t that high right now.
He’s a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on his game he is a very good central defender. Someone will take a chance on him, and Wolfsburg is playing so poorly (with or without Brooks in the lineup) the time might be right for all parties to go their separate ways.
By any standard, James Sands had a great year. In 2021, the 21-year-old from Rye, New York won the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team and won MLS Cup with NYCFC. In both finals, against Mexico and Portland respectively, Sands was sharp over separate 120-minute outings.
Sands has the versatility to play both defensive midfield and central defense but in 2021, he did well in both. He has also played his way onto the edge of the U.S. national team but is just outside of the main group.
With NYCFC having won MLS Cup, his value has never been higher, and he has accomplished everything he can domestically. It seems like the time for him to try something else and NYCFC should be open to selling him. It would look good for the club’s academy players to be willing to sell a player who has severed the club well.
Where is a realistic landing place for Sands? He might be able to do well in the lower portion of the Bundesliga. The Eredivisie is difficult for its high minimum salary requirements for non-EU citizens. Belgian teams make a lot of sense given the fewer non-EU restrictions, but do those clubs have money to spend? The Championship might also be a good option and he could probably obtain a work-permit.
To state the obvious, it hasn’t been a good situation for Reynolds at Roma under Jose Mourinho. The club was even willing to let him join the U.S. national team for a rare December camp. Reynolds probably won’t transfer less than a year into his move to Roma but a loan, perhaps a long 18-month loan, seems like it would make sense. With a long loan, an option to buy could be justified since teams will know what they are getting.
Reynolds could stay in Italy for a loan, but a loan to Germany or, more likely, Belgium makes the most sense. Reynolds was only a starter for FC Dallas for three months before his transfer to Roma at the tail of 2020. He didn’t play much in 2021. He still needs a lot of coaching for his development and there is also a lot of rust having not played much in over a year. He has a high upside but is very much a longer-term project. The first step is to get out of Roma, even for a loan (the longer, the better).
Reggie Cannon was close to leaving Boavista last summer but a move to Fulham was not completed in time. It only makes sense that another attempt at a move could be in the works and his situation isn’t much different from last season. He’s had a few good games (including his most recent game) for Boavista but has been in and out of the lineup for most of the past few months. He’s also dealt with an injury.
With the uncertainty of COVID continuing, more teams in Portugal would love to sell non-essential players for cash. Cannon would probably like to move on as well and put himself into a more secure and better spotlight as he’s losing ground in the national team player pool.
Like most non-EU dual citizen American players, Germany, the Championship, Belgium seem like the safest bets.
Earlier this week, Will Forbes reported a pending transfer that Auston Trusty was going to transfer from Colorado to Arsenal (two teams with common ownership). Whether such a move happens, it makes sense that he would have interest as an athletic, left-footed central defender. Trusty, 23, is coming off a very good season for Colorado which he helped to a first-place regular season finish in the Western Conference. After a few mixed seasons which saw him depart Philadelphia for Colorado, Trusty got his career back on track in 2021. As a teenager, he was rated to the point where he was one of the rare youth players who made both a U-17 and U-20 World Cup team.
ASN can confirm the report although no deal is done. Such a move would likely entail an immediate loan. Whether he stays in England will depend on whether or not he gets a UK Work Permit.
Daryl Dike, 21, has been first-team professional for only 18 months. In that time, he has scored 28 goals in 4277 minutes at the club level (he’s also scored three goals for the U.S. national team). That is an outstanding start to a professional career.
He had a great loan to Barnsley but faded a bit towards the end of the Championship season. After some rest, and then a subsequent recovery after a shoulder injury he suffered at the Gold Cup, Dike continued to impress at the end of the 2021 season with Orlando.
Dike will eventually be in Europe full time, but him moving this window seems like it could go either way. Among all the options, another loan to England would make the most sense. He’s done well there, and a bunch of Championship teams could see him as part of the solution to a promotional campaign. Then it will come down to Orlando including an option to buy and it would probably be more realistic than last year.
It’s been a wild month for Sergino Dest. He got a new manager in Xavi and then there were reports that Barcelona was going to work with Dest intensely on tactics. Then there was another report that the club would look to sell him along with three other players in January. Then he was dropped from a lineup in La Liga. After Barcelona was bounced from the Champions League, Dest picked up an injury and Xavi said that he was missing games due to the injury and not because of transfers.
The news is all over the place. So, what makes sense?
Barcelona needs cash and, in normal times, Dest would be seen as an asset that could generate some much-needed money. But there are fewer teams that can spend money right now. Barcelona wants to start a rebuild and Xavi wants to build the team in the way he sees fit – as opposed to getting the team he inherited to work. Barcelona isn’t going to win La Liga this year and finishing in the Champions League spots is also an uphill climb. What would hurt the rebuilding effort is making rushed and poor decisions – and unloading Dest in a buyers’ market could be costly.
I think Dest could be sold, but Barcelona isn’t going to be quick to unload him either. If they don’t get a high price, they’ll wait until the summer. If Dest moves, it’s going to be to a big club that can match or exceed what Barcelona paid for him (€26 million). It's a numbers game right now.
There have been rumors for most of the season linking Weston McKennie with moves – most commonly to a wide variety of Premier League teams. After his disappointing dismissal from the U.S. national team camp in September, the rumors became more prevalent. That made sense.
But McKennie has responded very well since then. He’s played well, there have been no negative reports about him off-the field, and he serves a purpose under Max Allegri’s system. Juventus won’t win the scudetto, but the club is in the knockouts of the Champions League and McKennie could serve a purpose in those games adding physicality and energy.
This isn’t to say Juventus won’t entertain offers, but I still think he stays. He serves a role on the team under Allegri and he’s not easy to replace. McKennie might be a perfect fit for a number of Premier League teams, but it is just as likely (or more likely) that Juventus doesn’t see the need to sell him.
One of the most important players on the national team, Tyler Adams has seen his minutes decline at RB Leipzig in what has been a disappointing season for both Adams and the club. On top of that, Jesse Marsch was fired, and Adams lost a manager who was familiar with him dating back to his days with Red Bulls II in USL.
Leipzig is probably going to want to make a lot of changes to the current squad. There have been rumors linking Adams to teams – Arsenal being one, but there have been other teams mostly in the Premier League. It’s possible but the likely bet is that he remains through the season.
As for if he does move, he is likely to have a wide variety of suitors in each of the top five leagues.
Djordje Mihailovic, 23, recently had a career revival in his first season in Montreal and he looked like the promising player many expected prior to his ACL tear at the tail end of the 2017 season.
In 2021, Mihailovic scored four goals and added 16 assists – the second highest total in the league behind Carles Gil. He has an EU passport and recently trailed with Bologna in Serie A – which might drum up some interest. But even if he doesn't go to Bologna, it seems like by letting him train in Italy, Montreal is open to explore a sale.
Bassett, 20, missed out on the U-20 World Cup due to COVID cancelling the tournament but he went on to have a nice season anywhere. The young Colorado Rapid homegrown was a key contributor to the team which finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season. He recently earned his first cap with the full national team and scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina.
He’s wanted to make the move abroad for awhile but has been patient in making sure it’s the right opportunity. In the summer, he turned down a move to Benfica because it was mostly a move that would have started him off at the reserve level.
Colorado is a club that will sell if the price is right and the club did well to sell Sam Vines to Royal Antwerp in August. Bassett won’t be held back but will a club step to the plate and make a real offer that both pays Colorado a fair sum and offers Bassett a real shot at first team minutes?
Caden Clark’s story is well known. He has been with the New York Red Bulls but earlier this year was signed by RB Leipzig (and promptly loaned back to New York for the remainder of the season). A lot has changed in the meantime. Clark’s minutes with New York haven’t been consistent since his appendectomy over the summer and Leipzig has had a disappointing season that has already resulted in head coach Jesse Marsch’s dismissal.
Clark is set to train with Leipzig in January before returning to the states for a camp with the U.S. U-20 team – which will likely be a key player this cycle.
If Clark is deemed to not be in the plans for Leipzig right now, what is the next step? It would either be a return to the New York Red Bulls, a lower-tier in Germany, or Red Bull Salzburg. Salzburg frequently gets mentioned and there is a reasonable case as the club is flying on all cylinders in the Austrian Bundesliga and can afford to give other players minutes. The lower tiers in Germany make sense as long as it is geared towards giving him minutes – which isn’t a guarantee on a loan.
A return to the New York Red Bulls is a distinct possibility and it would be interesting to see if Gerhard Struber has plans to increase his minutes. Such a return would probably only run through the first half of the season followed by a midseason evaluation.
One benefit would be that it would allow him to attend U.S. U-20 camps and take a lead role in that team’s huge qualifying tournament in June.
This is a curious one in American soccer as Robinson is a legitimate U.S. national team player. He’s developed well in Atlanta but earning a move is tricky. Atlanta United is not FC Dallas in terms of transferring player because Atlanta considers its top players valuable (i.e. spending $11 million for Luis Araujo after he helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season). Atlanta is serious about winning and its fanbase is one of the largest in the league. Robinson is a key part of what the team wants to do.
Robinson will soon be 25. So essentially, he will have to be sold as the final product as he has one more deal left in his prime years. He has a lot of things going for him – elite athleticism and a decent reading of the game. A move to a “Big Five” league is certainly within reach – although maybe not the Premier League. But if it’s predominantly midtable teams that are interested, can they meet Atlanta United’s asking price.
While offers may not be in, it’s a safe bet a number of teams are taking a good, hard look at Robinson.
Bello, 19, now has multiple years as a starter for Atlanta United and is a skillful left back. He needs some work with his tactics, but he checks a lot of boxes, and he plays a position of need for many teams. At his age, teams will be betting on his upside – which he has shown to be potentially high.
Atlanta would certainly sell Bello for a less than Miles Robinson and that could open the door for a lot more different clubs – probably outside of the “Big Five” but still at a good club.
Tyler Boyd arrived in Turkey in 2019 with Ankaragucu and was terrific. He made a big transfer to Besiktas but that didn’t really work out. It was followed by loans to mid/lower half teams in the Super Lig where, aside for a few brief moments of solid form, has seen him fail to stand out.
There are rumors that the LA Galaxy could be interested, and that would make sense for Boyd to perhaps continue to be paid well and play with a team that has hopes of winning. It’s hard to see of what his other options would be, and he could do far worse than join the Galaxy.
There are going to be a bunch of names that will be in the rumor mill, but at this point don’t seem like having much of a chance- but again, that could always change.
Brenden Aaronson has seen his same linked with a bunch of really big clubs – one was AC Milan. But Red Bull Salzburg is in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Shipping Aaronson off when the club is at its highest ever moment seems like selling the team, its fans, and Aaronson himself short. These opportunities are valuable and the club would be making a rather big statement that it isn’t serious about competing if it sells off its starting No. 10.
There has been a lot of talk also about Christian Pulisic but the American hasn’t really been able to get going this season at Chelsea due to injuries and COVID. Plus, a team like Chelsea needs depth with COVID ripping through many teams in Europe. Chelsea might eventually sell Pulisic, but a midseason sale during a time of schedule congested and COVID uncertainty seems unlikely – unless a huge offer comes in.
Would BSC Young Boys sell Jordan Pefok? Perhaps. He recently scored four goals in one game and, while he is limited in his skillset, a dominant aerial threat and a powerful target in the box will always attract suitors. It’s hard to see Young Boys asking for a king’s ransom since they’re out of Europe.
In Scotland, Ian Harkes is a player to watch as he is having his best professional season at Dundee United and probably wouldn’t be that expensive. His UK passport would allow him to move to England without the need for a work permit.
In Germany, Taylor Booth is almost certainly going to be looking for a loan to get first team minutes. It seems unlikely he is going to make Bayern Munich’s first team anytime soon but he is good enough to start elsewhere – as he did earlier in 2021 with St. Poelten (which was relegated out of the Austrian Bundesliga). Booth headinig out on loan to a mid-tier league like Austria (again), Portugal, or the 2.Bundesliga, etc. seems like a good bet.
In Philadelphia, Anthony Fontana is out of contract after he declined to sign a new deal with the Union. Unsurprisingly, his minutes declined as the season went along but his career minutes show that he is a productive player. Leaving on a free transfer has its risks since free players are cheap and clubs could simply be taking a flyer on them. But Fontana has an Italian passport and has wanted to try Europe. He could get that chance although it would probably be a low level.
In South America, one player to keep an eye on is Alan Sonora. The New Jersey-born central midfielder has spent his entire career in Argentina and is coming off his best season in 2021 with Independiente.At 23, he is a late bloomer but Independiente is one of the better teams in Argentina. It wouldn’t be surprising to see an ambitious MLS team make a move for him. MLS teams have been actively involved in Argentina for the last five years and Sonora has the benefit of not taking a foreign spot. He also is the same profile of a lot of players from Argentina who have come into the league with TAM money and perhaps that will be floated in Sonora’s direction.