PARIS – While Premier League clubs have been relatively subdued in the January transfer window, Germany has led the way on the continent with a record spending spree in the Bundesliga, including Borussia Dortmund's signing of Erling Braut Haaland.
German clubs set a new record of €196 million (S$296 million) on transfers in this window, smashing the previous best mark of €100 million set in the 2016/17 season.
Like in England and Scotland, the transfer window closed in Germany, Spain, Italy and France on Friday evening, but the most notable deals in Europe happened before January began.
Haaland, the 19-year-old Norwegian prodigy, agreed his move from RB Salzburg in late December. He has scored five goals in just two appearances for his new club.
“The market is limited, the supply of players is limited and the willingness to let someone go is also limited,” claimed Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc.
However, they got their man for an initial transfer fee of around €20 million, not including other payments built into the deal.
Fellow German title contenders RB Leipzig have also splashed out on a promising young talent, recruiting Spanish under-21 star Dani Olmo from Dinamo Zagreb for a similar fee.
Hertha Berlin, who have ambitions under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, spent around €41 million in the last few days on Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek from AC Milan and Brazil under-20 forward Matheus Cunha from RB Leipzig.
The capital club also splashed €25 million at the start of the week on French midfielder Lucas Tousart from Lyon.
BARCELONA, ATLETICO MISS OUT ON STRIKER
In Spain, meanwhile, the window has proved something of a damp squib for La Liga's leading clubs.
Real Madrid and Barcelona stayed relatively quiet, and the more interesting deals were done elsewhere, including Paco Alcacer moving to Villarreal from Dortmund, and maverick former France international Hatem Ben Arfa surprisingly arriving at Valladolid.
Both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid failed in their pursuit of a striker. Indeed, Barca spent the start of the new year preoccupied with changing their coach, as Quique Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde in the dugout.
The Catalans did want Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno but negotiations broke down, while Atletico's hopes of signing Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Germain also ended in disappointment.
Instead Atletico – 10 points behind La Liga leaders Real and with just 22 goals scored in 21 games – have brought Belgian winger Yannick Carrasco back for a second spell as he joins on loan from Chinese outfit Dalian Yifang.
PSG HOLD ON TO CAVANI
Atletico had been prepared to pay up to €15 million for Cavani, but even that amount could not persuade PSG to part with a striker who is out of favour and will be out of contract at the season's end.
“We never wanted to sell him but there was a time when we were studying offers,” PSG sporting director Leonardo said on Friday.
“I don't think six and a half years at a club can be wiped out in just two weeks of talks.”
Cavani signed for PSG in 2013 and has gone on to become their all-time leading scorer with 198 goals, but he has played second fiddle this season to on-loan inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi.
PSG, for once, have not spent any money in this transfer window, with Lyon and Monaco – both off the pace in Ligue 1 – the busiest clubs in France.
ZLATAN BACK WITH A BANG
In Italy, Inter's recruitment strategy has raised eyebrows, with Antonio Conte's side raiding the Premier League to sign Christian Eriksen from Tottenham Hotspur and bringing in both Ashley Young and Victor Moses on short-term deals.
Germany midfielder Emre Can left Juventus to return to the Bundesliga on Friday and signed for Dortmund.
But the really eye-catching move was confirmed in late December, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now 38, made his return to AC Milan as a free agent on an initial six-month deal.
“I'll fight together with my teammates to change the course of this season. I will do everything to make it happen,” he said on arriving.
Milan were in the bottom half when he joined and had just been beaten 5-0 by Atalanta. They are unbeaten in six games since, winning their last five to climb up to eighth in Serie A and reach the Italian Cup semi-finals, and the Swede has scored twice.