Bargain Bucket – Who is available on the cheap this transfer window?

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They always say players are more expensive in January.

Well, whoever “they” are just aren’t looking in the right places.

With the January transfer window open for business and begging clubs to give her a whirl, we take a look at some players who could be of assistance to clubs with a smaller budget.

Two things to remember. First, cheap moves and loans are infinitely more difficult to predict than big-money transfers.

Due to the much larger pool of clubs which could be in play for a cheap transfer, loan, or free, the ability to predict where players on this list will end up – or even if they will move at all – is a longshot at best.

Second, there are loan limits, and the rules are often foggy.

Without further ado, let’s plunge into the January transfer window edition Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with…

LOANS, FREE TRANSFERS, AND BARGAINS

(alright, nobody’s leaving on a free in January, but I had to try)

1. Younes Kaboul, CB – Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)

Frozen out by former manager Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham’s 27-year-old center-back has played just three Premier League matches so far, and it doesn’t look much better from here on out.

Kaboul has struggled severely with injuries the past year and a half, currently on his way back from a hip problem.  But with Jan Vertonghen, Vlad Chiriches, and Michael Dawson all ahead of the Frenchman, his prospects for playing time don’t look in the near future.

If new manager Tim Sherwood doesn’t completely want to part with defender depth given their injuries at that position, he could be available on loan.  If Sherwood decides he’s dead weight, he could leave on a cut-rate deal, with his contract expiring this summer.  AC Milan are rumored to be involved, but defending is needed around the Premier League’s bottom half as well.

2. Filip Djordjevic, ST – FC Nantes (Ligue 1)

The 26-year-old Serbian is hitting the prime of his career, and it seems now is a better time than any for Nantes to sell and sell high.

Djordjevic cooked up 20 goals in Ligue 2 last season, earning Nantes their first trip back to Ligue 1 since 2008.  But he didn’t stop there.

This season, the poacher has continued his stellar form, striking for eight goals in 19 league appearances, helping the newly-promoted side to their current position of seventh in the Ligue 1 table.

Premier League rumors have surfaced involving both Hull City and Crystal Palace, and at a cut-price cost of approximately £2-3 million ($3.3-4.9 million) he could be the crown jewel of any low-budget wish list if he can translate his French league success to England.

Oh, and did I mention his contract expires this summer? Bid away.

3. Aron Johannsson, FW – AZ Alkmaar (Eredivisie)

source: Getty Images
American Aron Johannsson is making plenty of noise in the Eredivisie and attracting attention around Europe.

Bring out your USMNT links! A bargain bucket wouldn’t be complete without this scorching-hot youngster, who at 23 is blasting his way past Jozy Altidore in the Alkmaar record books.

With Celtic the clear frontrunners, a £2.4 million ($3.9 million) price tag for 18 Eredivisie goals (32 altogether) would certainly turn heads.

(MORE: Aron Johannsson’s move to Glasgow edging closer?)

However (there’s always a catch!), Eredivisie stars have a history of not translating successfully to more physical leagues such as the Premier League.  Look no further Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz.  The £11 million ($18 million) feather in Martin Jol’s cap proved to be one of the biggest flops in recent memory and a big reason Jol ended up without a job at Craven Cottage.

And then there’s always Altidore himself, who is yet again struggling to find the back of the Premier League nets, albeit not all of that is his doing. *shakes fist at Sunderland midfield*

4. Joleon Lescott, CB – Manchester City (Premier League)

The Premier League hasn’t seen much of the sport’s biggest forehead this season, with Lescott making just seven starts under Manuel Pellegrini.  Lescott has been hard done recently by the emergence of Matija Nastasic and the arrival of Martin Demichelis.

Much like Kaboul, being the club’s fourth-string option at a position that often sees iron men hold down the fort isn’t a preferable situation.  At 31 years old, Lescott also has an expiring contract, but is more likely to head out on loan whereas it would seem Kaboul is set for a transfer.  Some rumors also have Lescott taking a pay-cut to push through a move to Swansea.

5. Viktor Fischer, LW – Ajax (Eredivisie)

Am I mad? Putting one of the most talented and talked-about teenagers in the world into the Bargain Bucket? What’s gotten into my head?

Well, here’s my thinking. Fischer (pictured, top) has been close to a household name for the better part of two years now.  At just 18 years old, the young Dane bagged 10 Eredivisie goals in 23 appearances last season for a Champions League side.  That got people’s attention.

Now, at 19, Fischer is having what we in the media like to call a sophomore slump (3 goals and 4 assists in 18 appearances).  With an asking price of around £7 million ($11.5 million) likely to scare away many, I’m not so convinced Ajax wouldn’t like to send him out on loan for the rest of the season. Especially considering his dip in form this year surely cooling rumored summer interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Roma.

A short-term loan deal would serve multiple purposes for both parties.  With Ajax in the lead of a very hotly contested Eredivisie title race, they can’t exactly afford to weather many more below-par matches from their best young talent. Sending him out on loan would not only possibly give him a fresh start to boost his confidence, but also give other clubs a good look at what he can do in another league.

Think of it as a sales pitch. If Fischer performs well at, say, a Cardiff City or Swansea City, then many other Premier League clubs with deeper pockets would unquestionably come calling, and his price would skyrocket.

6. Cristian Tello, LW – Barcelona (La Liga)

With just two starts (10 appearances) in Spain’s La Liga, it’s no surprise Barcelona’s 22-year-old starlet is looking for minutes elsewhere before making a run at breaking into Gerardo Martino’s first team.

Reports are abound that Liverpool has jumped on the opportunity to give Tello more playing time, but that doesn’t mean it’s the Reds or bust. It would be shocking to see Barcelona allow him to leave on anything other than a loan, but with Liverpool reportedly trying to convince them to give him up permanently, someone else could swoop in.

7. Kevin De Bruyne, AM – Chelsea (Premier League)

source: Getty Images
With pressure from his national side, Kevin De Bruyne is openly seeking more playing time before he is able to break into Chelsea’s first team.

Jose Mourinho wants £25 million for the young Belgian. Any clubs have that laying around somewhere for a 22-year-old who has made three league appearances this year? Bueller?

Didn’t think so.

Cue the loan sharks.  And with both De Bruyne himself and Belgium manager Marc Wilmots pleading for more time on the pitch, a loan is certainly in order.

8. Fabio Coentrao, LB – Real Madrid (La Liga)

With Ashley Cole struggling to stay fit and Branislav Ivanovic recently ruled out for a significant amount of time, Jose Mourinho is rumored to be in the market for a left-back.

Enter Fabio Coentrao and his paltry four La Liga appearances this season with Real Madrid.  Carlo Ancelotti would no doubt prefer to keep the 25-year-old’s future under his control, so a loan could be in order for the Portugese international.

Chelsea isn’t the only club in need of a left-back of Fabio’s quality though.  Tottenham Hotspur are in desperate need after a long-term injury to Danny Rose left them exposed at the position, and Everton’s left-back situation could be thrust into clout if Leighton Baines leaves for Manchester United.

9. Urby Emanuelson, LW/LB – AC Milan (Serie A)

Expiring contract alert! With AC Milan sure to make plenty of changes this January to make a desperate attempt at improving their horrific Serie A positioning, Emanuelson may be one of those.

The 27-year-old is out of a contract this summer, and having already been somewhat successful in the Premier League at Fulham on loan last year, he has been open about looking for another shot at the English top-flight.

With his Serie A form dipped this season (alongside many of his teammates) and his contract situation the way it is, the £6 million ($9.8 million) Dutchman could be available for significantly less.

10. Thomas Ince, ST – Blackpool (Championship)

The longer he stays at Blackpool, the more his price seems to increase, leaving him already barely at bargain status.  Unfortunately for his club, they can’t hold onto him forever.  His contract expires at the end of this season, and that may cause the 21-year-old to finally make his way to the Premier League after years of rumors.

At 21, Ince’s numbers didn’t turn as many heads as they did last year, but they’re still enough to intrigue those in the top flight.  He’s got seven goals and six assists from play out on the left wing.  With Blackpool last year, he played in 44 of their 46 league matches (started 42 of them) and bagged 18 goals and 14 assists.

The Championship club, coached by his father Paul Ince, will want to fetch a price in the range of £6-7 million for him or maybe more, but so far all that tag has done is cause Premier League clubs to balk, and the last thing they’ll want is to let him walk come summer. Due to that, he could be available for cheap if Blackpool believe he’ll walk at season’s end.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga