Deadline day round-up: Aubameyang set for Barca, Dembele stays and Eriksen makes remarkable return

By Sports Desk January 31, 2022

Arsenal cancelled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's contract to pave the way for the striker to join Barcelona, while Ousmane Dembele remains at Camp Nou following an eventful transfer day across Europe.

Aubameyang had five months to run on his Emirates Stadium deal but was told he could join Barca on a free transfer, which is set to be announced by the LaLiga giants on Tuesday.

Despite some confirmed interest from at least one club in England, and the threat of not playing for the rest of the season, Dembele opted to stay put in Catalonia until at least the end of the season.

Those players were discussed heavily throughout deadline day, but arguably the most remarkable transfer happened early on Monday when Christian Eriksen officially joined Brentford.

It marks a return to the Premier League – and indeed a football pitch – for Eriksen, just seven months after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020 and subsequently being fitted with a heart-starting device.

Newcastle live up to big-spending billing

In their first transfer window under their new ownership, Newcastle United spent more than any side on the continent and rounded things off by bringing in some much-needed defensive options in Dan Burn and Matt Targett.

Boyhood Newcastle fan Burn joined from Brighton and Hove Albion in a reported £13million deal, while left-back Targett will spend the rest of the season at St James' Park on loan from Aston Villa.

But it was not all good news for the Magpies as they missed out on a deal for France Under-20s striker Hugo Ekitike, who is reported to have had second thoughts and decided to remain at Reims. There was also no move for Jesse Lingard.


Tottenham and Juventus the busiest clubs

Antonio Conte was backed by the Tottenham board on deadline day with the arrivals of Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski as part of a double deal with Juventus.

Bentancur is reported to have cost Spurs an initial £15.9m (€19m) on a deal that will run through until the end of the 2025-26 season, and he will be joined in north London by Kulusevski on an initial 18-month loan with the option to buy.

It was not all about incoming activity for Tottenham in the final stages of the window, though, as club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele was returned to Lyon for the rest of the season and Bryan Gil and Giovanni Lo Celso were loaned out to LaLiga sides Valencia and Villarreal respectively.

And in a deal that went through more than an hour after the 23:00 GMT cut-off point, Dele Alli joined Everton in a transfer that could potentially earn Spurs £40m should various clauses be triggered.

Having offloaded Bentancur and Kulusevski, meanwhile, Juve further trimmed their squad by allowing Aaron Ramsey to sign for Rangers until the end of the campaign, with those deals offset by the arrival of Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.


Big boys quiet

Manchester City got a deal over the line for Argentina international Julian Alvarez before loaning the young forward straight back to River Plate, but it was otherwise a relatively quiet day for Europe's elite clubs.

Manchester United's only piece of business on Monday was allowing midfield outcast Donny van de Beek join Everton on loan, while Liverpool let Nat Phillips head to Bournemouth for the rest of 2021-22. The second-tier Cherries also signed Todd Cantwell, recently a target for Liverpool, to bolster their promotion ambitions.

Liverpool had hoped to bring in highly rated youngster Fabio Carvalho from Fulham, but a deal is reported to have fallen through shortly before the cut-off point after terms had already been agreed.

There was no such activity for fellow Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, as was the case for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain – despite links with Dembele – Bayern Munich, Inter, Milan and Real Madrid.

But reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid did manage to strengthen at left-back by bringing in Reinildo Mandava from French champions Lille.


Other notable deals...

Unsurprisingly, Premier League clubs flexed their financial muscles in a final attempt to strengthen before the deadline.

Crystal Palace turned striker Jean-Philippe Mateta's loan from Mainz into a permanent deal and Burnley signed Wout Weghorst from Wolfsburg, who moved quickly to bring in FC Copenhagen striker Jonas Wind as a replacement.

Elsewhere, Deniz Undav put pen to paper with Brighton before being loaned back to Belgian side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. The Seagulls also signed Benicio Baker-Boaitey on loan from Porto with a view to a permanent move.

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    Benzema scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-0 Super Cup triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

    In the process, he became the club's outright second-highest goalscorer, having netted for the 324th time for Madrid.

    That nudged the 34-year-old – who has replaced the departed Marcelo as Madrid's club captain – ahead of Los Blancos great Raul, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (450) ahead of him in the record books.

    Since the start of last season, Benzema has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Madrid. That is a tally bettered only by new Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski (50), when it comes to players from Europe's top five leagues.

    With this year's Ballon d'Or awards taking place prior to the World Cup, Benzema seems a certainty to be in the running for the prize.

    In a pre-match media briefing on Tuesday, Benzema explained that it was not for him to say if he is the world's best, but instead he would leave it up to others to decide. 

    Asked in his post-match news conference if Benzema – who had four shots and created three chances in Madrid's win on Wednesday - could be considered the best player on the planet, Ancelotti was effusive in his reply.

    "I think [he is the best], yes," Ancelotti said. "He is our most important player right now, the most efficient player in the world at this moment.

    "Karim was the most important in the Champions League, even though he did not score in the final, because of his [all-round] game and his goals got us to the final, against Manchester City and Chelsea, against Paris Saint-Germain.

    "He's very important for us. There is no doubt, at the moment, that he is the best player in the world."

    As well as hailing a standout individual in Benzema, Ancelotti - the first coach to win the Super Cup on four separate occasions - said this Madrid dressing room is the best he has worked with in his illustrious career.

    "Yes, absolutely, no doubt about that," the Italian explained. "It is a pleasure to coach this group, it's a healthy atmosphere, good vibes between everyone, winning games and having success helps, but it all about the players."

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    Los Blancos followed up last season's Champions League triumph by beating Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

    David Alaba put Madrid ahead before Karim Benzema moved to outright second in the club's all-time goalscoring charts with a second-half finish past Kevin Trapp.

    Benzema's effort took him to 324 goals in all competitions for Madrid, putting him one ahead of legendary Spain forward Raul and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

    The triumph in Helsinki makes Ancelotti the first coach to win the Super Cup four times, and Casemiro does not think the Italian is planning to stop collecting the silverware anytime soon.

    "I've spoken many times about Carlo Ancelotti, he's a footballing legend," Casemiro, who was named man of the match after a dominant midfield display, told a media conference.

    "I speak with my heart when I say how much I admire him. I think he's 63 now, but he still wants to win.

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    "We don't need to make many changes; we're professional and want to win," the Brazil international said.  

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    "I don't think it will change a player's mentality. In terms of staying fit I don't think it changes much."

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    "We have to continue training well, Ancelotti managed the squad, today we don't contemplate anything else," he told Movistar after the match.

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