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Indirect Kick: Who has emerged as a winner in January transfer window

The January transfer window is always one of the most exciting and anticipated months for fans of Europe’s top soccer clubs. It is a chance for teams to get stronger to make a push for a league title, or try to save the season from ending up in relegation.

As is the case in every transfer window, there is usually a great deal of surprise and controversy. Whether a player makes a shocking move, an expensive one or a combination of the two, analysts and fans alike take to debating which team is a winner and whose move was the biggest surprise.

With the window only halfway shut, there have already been some expensive and wise moves made by some of the big name clubs in Europe. Some of the moves made have been a combination of season savers, strengthening acquisitions and an attempt to find the missing piece for a title run.

At the midpoint of the action in the transfer window, the team that has done the most to benefit themselves is Italian Serie A side F.C. Internazionale Milano, commonly referred to as Inter Milan. Currently sitting in ninth place of the Serie A with 25 points, directly behind fellow tenants of the San Siro AC Milan, Inter rests in the midst of a disappointing season. Having only won three of their last 10 games in the league, a move was necessary to spark the Nerazzurri offense.

Inter did just that, acquiring Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri from FC Bayern Munich for a fee equal to $15 million. Shaqiri shined at the summer’s FIFA World Cup, recording a hat trick for Switzerland against Honduras as well as earning Man of the Match honors for that game and his team’s tilt against Ecuador.

However, this current season with Bayern Munich has not met expectations for Shaqiri, only scoring twice in 15 caps in all competitions. Never seeming to fall into favor with Bayern, a move had been in the works for quite some time. Shaqiri is set to make his debut at Inter following the international break.

That has not been all for Inter so far, acquiring star player Lukas Podolski of Germany on loan from Arsenal. Coming off a season plagued by injury and disappointing individual performance in the World Cup, a fresh start is just what Podolski required.

Perhaps best known for being the first German in over 30 years to miss a penalty kick back in 2010, Podolski has scored. Managing only 12 caps with Arsenal this season, Podolski openly told the press in November, including Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph, that he was “not happy with the situation at the moment.” However, he is still a capable, yet out-of-favor goal scorer who fits well with Arsenal, so the Gunners loaned him out to Inter until the conclusion of the season.

Podolski made his debut with Inter on Jan. 6 as a sub and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 victory over Genoa in his second appearance five days later. With the acquisition of Podolski on loan and Shaqiri on a permanent basis, the push is on for Inter as the team looks to secure at least a shot at UEFA Europa League Qualification for 2015-16.

Another team who absolutely necessitates a spark is surprisingly Borussia Dortmund, currently sitting in 17th place out of 18 in the German Bundesliga. A club who won the league in 2012 and was edged out in the final of the UEFA Champions in 2013 is on the verge of falling to the second division of German soccer.

Despite having an incredibly loyal and supportive fanbase and being just three points from 12th place in a crowded bottom half of the table, Dortmund can rescue themselves. The acquisition of Slovenian Kevin Kampl from FC Red Bull Salzburg for $12 million could spark a rise to the top.

Kampl made 31 appearances for RB Salzburg this season, registering 11 goals. Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said, per a statement on the team’s website after the signing, that “Kampl is a versatile attacking-midfielder … His style of play fits in perfectly with [Dortmund’s] own.” The German side has a strong base of elite caliber players who could potentially make a run at a top-five finish, despite the shaky start.

With the influence of Slovenian international Kampl, a necessary spark may be provided for Dortmund to rise up from the relegation zone. A similar case can be made for Inter Milan. With Shaqiri and Podolski in the lineup, Inter could be able to make a chase for a top-five spot in the Italian Serie A.

With blockbuster deals already being made, many teams are seizing the opportunity to inspire and strengthen themselves in order to make a push for glory in the second half of the season. Only time will tell if these moves will be wasteful or beneficial, but teams will be scrambling to make a move before February, when the window slams shut until summer.

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