After all the excitement of the January transfer window, Europe’s footballers returned to action last weekend – well, nearly all of them.
The transfer window isn’t a total story of joy, not by a long shot. Several players and clubs are now left to nurse their wounds in the second half of the season since being unable to make the most of the market.
Here, we examine the big losers:
FAILED FOX HUNT LEAVES MAHREZ IN A MALAISE
It has been a week since Riyad Mahrez failed to forced through a dream move to Premier League champions-elect Manchester City and the ramifications continue to be felt.
The Algeria winger has gone AWOL from Leicester City, anger at his club’s exorbitant demands boiling over. He was neither present for his employer’s 1-1 draw with resurgent Swansea on Saturday, nor his suitors’ stumble via the same scoreline on a stormy day at Burnley.
Frustration would only have increased when viewing City’s bench. Manager Pep Guardiola left a spot vacant because of a lack of options – one which the 26-year-old would have filled nicely.
The Foxes have been left in an unenviable position. An asset with eight goals and seven assists in the 2017/18 Premier League has been left to fume, while his renegade actions could cause his transfer value to decrease in the summer.
The Leicester Mercury reported on Tuesday that delicate talks are under way with the player’s representatives to coax him back into the fold, ASAP.
Intriguingly, both sides are set to meet this weekend at Etihad Stadium. It’s set to be tough viewing for Mahrez if he chooses to watch from his mystery location.
7 - Riyad Mahrez has scored seven goals in 22 Premier League appearances this season, one more than he netted in 36 games in 2016-17. Reboot. pic.twitter.com/Ocor50Z53d— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 1, 2018
LACK OF BUSINESS INCREASES MADRID’S REAL PROBLEMS
Real Madrid found a new way to put their fans through the wringer on Saturday, debutant Giampaolo Pazzini coming off the substitute’s bench to secure a memorable 2-2 draw for minnows Levante.
Los Blancos were, once again, a pale shadow of the side which claimed joy in both La Liga and the Champions League last term. Centre-back Sergio Ramos was all at sea in defence, a lack of cohesion saw the team regularly picked apart on the counter-attack and it was another goalless afternoon for the sinking Karim Benzema up top.
Yet, these problems are nothing new in a miserable 2017/18. The decision to stay away from the January transfer window is made ever-more curious by the predictably sorry result and performance.
For a club of Madrid’s standing, mid-season recruits of the right quality are hard to procure. But Manchester United were able to prise Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, with the Gunners drafting in Armenia playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange and also buying prolific Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Deals are there to be made for a club of their resources.
Either embattled head coach Zinedine Zidane was staggeringly intransigent, or president Florentino Perez has already written this season off.
GAMEIRO IS SET TO COLLECT DUST
A spot on the substitute’s bench is where Kevin Gameiro is likely to be seen for the foreseeable future.
January marked both the end of Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban and the return of Diego Costa. Amid all the excitement about the latter’s rescue from the wilderness at Chelsea, spare a moment for his – less celebrated – French colleague.
Gameiro this weekend would not have been surprised to witness Costa played in tandem with Antoine Griezmann. Yet, the unused substitute now appears even further down the pecking order after fellow forward Angel Correa came up with the only goal in victory against Valencia.
This is a sorry situation for the ex-Sevilla star. He has started just one game and been left on the bench three times in La Liga since Costa’s comeback
The Premier League had looked likely to provide an escape route. Crystal Palace, Swansea and Newcastle were all heavily linked with moves for the diminutive front man, but a deal could not be agreed.
With Fernando Torres also collecting splinters, it appears like a closed shop at Wanda Metropolitano for the foreseeable future.
Former Dutch star Ronald Koeman has been appointed coach of the national team and given the Herculean task of restoring the country’s pride after a series of humiliating defeats.
The national football association (KNVB) said in a statement that it had “reached an agreement with Ronald Koeman over his appointment as the Dutch national coach.”
The contract was with “immediate effect” and would include the 2022 World Cup, it added.
The Dutch national team failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup after a disastrous qualifying campaign, which followed on from the failure to qualify for Euro 2016.
Koeman was last in a managerial role at Everton, leading the club to a seventh-placed finish last season but getting sacked in October with the club lurching towards the relegation zone following an alarming dip in form.
Iconic France left-back Patrice Evra took in Dubai’s best views on Monday as he experienced Skydive Dubai.
The non-contracted former Man United and Juventus star trains regularly in the UAE and is known for his hilarious social media posts, which often centre around the famed #MondayMotivation hashtag.
Evra descended from 13,000 feet high above the city’s spectacular Palm Jumeirah and Marina skyline.
Whilst the post is now not accessible via the 36-year-old’s social platforms, check out the screengrab below.