Transfer List 2013: James, Higuain, Marquinhos, Fellaini & Gotze – Hit or Miss?

VOTE: In the first part of our look back at last year’s biggest deals, we assess the players ranked 10 to six and ask you to tell us whether their respective moves were a success

By Mark Doyle

From a footballing perspective, 2013 will perhaps be as well remembered for Gareth Bale becoming the first €100 million footballer as Bayern Munich’s historic treble success.

Real Madrid’s decision to break the transfer record to sign the Welsh winger from Tottenham made headlines the world over and his performances in the Spanish club’s famous white shirt continue to be scrutinised on a weekly basis.

Therefore, on the eve of the launch of the Goal Transfer List 2014, we have decided to take a look back at the top 10 deals of last year and see how those involved have fared in interim.

Below, in the first part of our 2013 review, we count down from 10 to six and invite you to vote via Twitter on whether the transfer was a success or a failure …

Radamel Falcao was Monaco’s statement signing of the summer of 2013, with the arrival of James Rodriguez from Porto relatively low-key by comparison – despite the €83.7m outlay (€45m transfer fee and an additional €38.7m in wages, taxes and agents’ fees).

However, whereas Falcao struggled for form and fitness in France, his fellow Colombian excelled, playing a key role in Monaco’s second-place finish in their first season back in Ligue 1. Indeed, James created more goals than any other player (12) and also contributed nine himself.

After achieving superstar status with his sensational goalscoring exploits at Brazil 2014, the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner joined Real Madrid for a reported €80m, allowing a suddenly prudent Monaco to make an approximate €35 million profit on a player that had helped them secure a return to the Champions League.

After allowing Edinson Cavani to join Paris Saint-Germain on July 16 of last year, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis knew that he needed a marquee replacement to appease his club’s concerned fans. Just 11 days later, the film producer pulled off a major coup by acquiring Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid.

Not only did the Partenopei beat off competition from Arsenal to land the prolific Argentina international, they only also managed to sign ‘El Pipita’ for a fee of €37m. Thanks to the money earned from the Cavani deal, De Laurentiis was able to offer Higuain a contract worth €5.5m a year, which was €1m more than the Uruguayan’s annual wage at the San Paolo.

Higuain has not scored at the same rate as Cavani, who averaged 0.75 goals per game in Serie A, but the River Plate product has netted 24 times in 47 games (0.51), thus establishing himself as a firm fan favourite at the San Paolo.

It may seem strange to say of a year in which the transfer record was broken, but Marquinhos’ move from Roma to Paris Saint-Germain was arguably the most extraordinary deal of 2013. The Brazilian’s talent is beyond dispute, having proven himself one of the classiest centre-halves in Serie A during Roma’s 2012-13 campaign.

However, PSG’s decision to pay the Giallorossi €31.4m for him was utterly remarkable given he had only played a grand total of 44 professional games. In addition, the French champions handed the youngster a five-year contract that nets him €5m per year.

Marquinhos has made just 33 appearances for PSG (six as a substitute), scoring three goals in the process, but has yet to nail down a regular starting berth, with the subsequent arrival of compatriot and fellow defender David Luiz from Chelsea having hindered his first-team chances.

Marouane Fellaini was expected to follow David Moyes to Manchester United as soon as the former Everton boss was confirmed as Alex Ferguson’s successor at Old Trafford in the summer of 2013. However, no move materialised before the expiration of the Belgium’s €27.85m buyout clause at the end of July and the deal appeared dead. United, though, were subsequently unable to land any of their primary midfield transfer targets, resulting in a deadline-day move for Fellaini.

The former Standard Liege starlet cost United just under €100m in total, with the decision to pay a transfer fee of €32.4m for a player that they could have signed just over a month previously at a reduced rate causing most consternation among the United faithful.

Fellaini’s performances during his first season at Old Trafford (no goals in 21 appearances in all competitions) failed to dispel the belief that the 27-year-old had been a ‘panic buy’ but he is, at least, enjoying something of a renaissance new Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal.

The most controversial transfer of 2013 was undoubtedly Mario Gotze’s switch from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich. BVB found the loss of a precociously talented academy product to their greatest rivals tough to take, but there was nothing they could do about it, with the Bavarians having agreed to meet the Germany international’s €37m buyout clause.

However, what infuriated Dortmund was the fact that the details of Gotze’s departure were leaked to the press ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Real Madrid. BVB blamed Bayern, sparking a feud that still shows no signs of abating.

While relations between the two have steadily worsened over the past 18 months, Gotze’s performances have incrementally improved. The versatile attacker may be on hefty €10m a year after tax but he has, after a slow start to his Bayern career, proven himself one of the most valuable and versatile members of Pep Guardiola’s starting XI, while at the same time underlining his status as a superstar-in-the-making with his winning goal in the final of the 2014 World Cup.

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Benitez: Higuain must become a leader at Napoli

The Argentine has scored freely since his arrival from Real Madrid last year but the Partenopei coach wants more from the forward

Rafael Benitez has urged Gonzalo Higuain to prove that he can be a real leader of men and inspire Napoli to victory over AC Milan on Sunday.

Higuain has established himself as a fan favourite at the San Paolo, having hit 24 goals in 46 Serie A games since joining the Partenopei from Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 for €37 million.

However, Benitez wants more from the Argentina international, arguing that the forward must understand that he is not only obliged to put the ball in the back of the net, but also lift everyone around him.

“Gonzalo must understand that he’s our most important player,” the Spaniard is quoted as saying by the Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He must be the leader of the squad and drag all of the lads along with him, which he has the ability to do.”

Napoli are sixth in the standings heading into the Serie A clash, just one place and three points above their hosts.

The Rossoneri are coming off the back of a 1-0 loss at Genoa but Benitez has the utmost respect for the San Siro side and believes their pace up front is a particular threat.

“Filippo Inzaghi’s team have quality and energy in every department,” he added. “They have so many fast players in attack that could put us in real difficulty.

“Beyond the tactical formation, they have so many quality individuals, so it will be an intriguing encounter.”

AC Milan-Napoli Preview: Rossoneri out to bounce back against Benitez's Champions League chasers

Filippo Inzaghi’s men are under pressure again after a 1-0 loss at Genoa and will be desperate for all three points against a side that is also targeting a third-place finish

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez urged his team to avoid making the same mistakes when they face AC Milan on Sunday.

The Naples-based outfit are in good form heading to San Siro, unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions.

But their past three league matches have ended in draws, seeing them slip to fifth in the table.

Benitez is wary of the quality in Milan’s squad, even if Filippo Inzaghi’s men are struggling in seventh.

“The Milan match will be very difficult, as we know they have quality players who can make the difference in a moment,” he told Mediaset after his side’s 3-0 win over Slovan Bratislava on Thursday.

“We have faith in ourselves and know we must avoid the mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

Goals away from home have been a problem for Napoli in the league this season, with just eight in seven matches.

Jose Callejon has netted eight Serie A goals for Napoli this campaign, but the last of those was at the start of November.

With seven goals, Gonzalo Higuain has also been good this season – but he is also goalless in December.

Asked about what his club would do in January when the transfer window opens, Benitez said he was still unsure.

“It’s too early to say,” the Spaniard said. “The president has shown he is active on the market and we’ll see what happens.”

Milan suffered a shock 1-0 loss at Genoa last time out, and Inzaghi will be desperate to see his team improve on that performance.

While Napoli have struggled to score away from home, Milan’s goalscoring issues have been in front of their own fans.

They have just nine goals in seven league matches in front of their home faithful.

Injuries have tested Inzaghi’s side, particularly in defence, as they look to bounce back and stay in touch with the top four.

Napoli 6-2 Hellas Verona: Higuain hat-trick helps Benitez's men to big win

The Argentina forward found the net three times in his side’s thrashing of the Gialloblu at the Stadio San Paolo, which will ease pressure on his coach

Napoli thrashed Hellas Verona 6-2 in Sunday’s Serie A clash to ease pressure on under-fire boss Rafael Benitez.

A hat-trick from Gonzalo Higuain, along with two goals from Marek Hamsik and another from Jose Callejon, was enough to seal all three points, with Verona replying through Emil Hallfredsson and Nicolas Lopez.

Benitez’s men had to recover from a poor start after conceding with only 25 seconds on the clock, after Hallfredsson pounced on a poor clearance from Raul Albiol to drive the ball into the bottom corner.

And the hosts had to wait until just before the half-time interval to draw level, with Hamsik finding the back of the net from close range on the half-volley.

Napoli then took the lead just before the hour mark, with Hamsik again the scorer, after the Slovakia international made no mistake at the second time of asking following a rebound from his own first effort.

They were then pegged back however, with Lopez avoiding the attentions of two defenders before equalising against the run of play.

But just two minutes later Napoli were back in the lead, with Higuain slotting home after a mistake from Hallfredsson.

Callejon then put daylight between the two sides after being set up by Hamsik, before Higuain added another to put the result beyond doubt.

And the Argentina international put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute, sealing his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Dries Mertens had been brought down in the box.

Higuain can make the difference without scoring – Benitez

The under-fire coach is happy with the attacker’s contribution and feels Napoli deserved their win over Sassuolo at the weekend

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez has defended Gonzalo Higuain in the wake of recent criticism and has stressed that the Argentine doesn’t need to score goals to make an impact.

The former Real Madrid striker has yet to find the net in Serie A this term, but Benitez is pleased with the 26-year-old’s contribution.

“Higuain hasn’t scored in Serie A yet, but he can make the difference with assists too,” Benitez told Sky Sport.

“We know that there are many players in this squad who can get goals.”

Napoli beat Sassuolo 1-0 on Sunday to climb to eighth spot in the table after a difficult start to the season and Benitez feels the win was a just reward for their hard work

“I see this as a victory for the team that rewarded our mentality.

“We only suffered for the final 10 minutes. Clearly every victory can help and we proved that we deserved more from this season.

“We were all united and we earned three important points. We worked very well in defence and Sassuolo only created problems with long balls. We were balanced.

“I think we still need to improve, but I am satisfied with this victory. We know that we are a strong club who deserved to win more games this term.”

Meanwhile, Napoli director Riccardo Bigon has insisted that Benitez’s job is not on the line.

“Benitez is a coach with a lot of experience and great achievements. He has won several trophies throughout his career. His results and working methods cannot be put in doubt.”