January transfer window preview: 45 names to know as the market opens

Mesut Ozil (left) and Alexis Sanchez (right) have six months left on their contracts at Arsenal. (Getty)

Most transfer rumors are nonsense.

Before you dive into coverage of the 2018 January transfer window, which is just days away, that’s the first rule to learn. So we’ll begin part one of our winter market preview with a quick lesson – a case study in stupidity, featuring Luis Suarez, Tottenham and a Spanish media outlet called Don Balon.

It begins with a lone paragraph in a brief story in Spanish. Don Balon mentions that Spurs have set their sights on Suarez, which may or may not be true. British tabloids turn that one sentence into “TOTTENHAM WANT SUAREZ” headlines, at which point it officially becomes a transfer rumor. Misleading, irresponsible British tabloids are validation in that sense.

But the rational among us, the ones who prefer to use our brains, step back to consider the merit of the rumor. Suarez literally makes more than twice as much money per year as any Tottenham player. There is no chance he moves to Spurs in the foreseeable future, even if Harry Kane departs. All it takes is 30 seconds of consideration to realize a rumor is hogwash.

All of that is a necessary preface for a story about transfer rumors – which this is. Below are 45 names you’ll be hearing over the next month if you follow coverage of the window. The list doesn’t include Neymar, or Paulo Dybala, or Antoine Griezmann – players that will be the subjects of rumors, but won’t be on the move in January. Griezmann, for example, is a Barcelona target, but likely won’t be Catalonia-bound until the summer. It also doesn’t include Virgil van Dijk, who has already been announced as Liverpool’s newest signing.

The following is a look at the players who may or may not have new clubs by February. The ones who, when their names flash across your TV, computer or mobile phone screens over the next month, might merit your attention. Some of the inclusions are based on availability. Some are based on interests. All 45 will be in the news at one point or another.

1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund — A walking transfer rumor who we’re contractually obligated to include on any list like this one. But chances are he doesn’t move in January.

2. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool — Liverpool hasn’t given any indication it will sell, but Barcelona’s pursuit is ongoing.

3. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal — One of two star Arsenal attackers on expiring contracts.

4. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal — The other. Both Sanchez and Ozil appear set to leave as free agents next summer. If that’s the case, January represents the last chance for Arsenal to recoup a transfer fee for either.

5. Naby Keita, RB LeipzigAlready heading to Liverpool in the summer, but there are occasional reports that the Anfield outfit is trying to accelerate the timeline of the deal to bolster its midfield immediately.

6. Leonardo Bonucci, AC Milan — Of all the players on this list, the unlikeliest to move in January. Bonucci just signed with AC Milan from Juventus this past summer. But Milan is a dumpster fire, and there have been reports that the Italian center back already wants out.

7. Thomas Lemar, MonacoSummer move to Arsenal fell through on deadline day. Will likely jump to a bigger club at some point over the next 18 months.

8. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Manchester United — Jose Mourinho apparently doesn’t rate him. Others should, and still do. His lack of playing time at United has led to exit rumors.

9. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio — PSG is reportedly readying a nine-figure bid. Manchester United has also been mentioned as a potential suitor for the 22-year-old Serbian midfielder. It appears he’ll make a leap up the European ladder at some point, it’s just a question of when.

10. Alex Sandro, Juventus — Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all reportedly interested, but Juventus has no reason to sell – outside of a potential exorbitant offer.

11. Gianluigi Donnarumma, AC Milan — The 18-year-old goalkeeper extended his contract through 2021 this past summer, but he and his agent are reportedly trying to annul the contract because, they claim, Donnarumma was pressured into signing it. Those reports, interpreted as the talented young Italian keeper trying to engineer his exit, have caused Milan fans to turn on him. They recently unveiled a banner that called his brother a “parasite,” and read, “It’s time to leave … our patience with you is over!” Needless to say, there’s a chance Donnarumma does leave. PSG is reportedly interested.

12. Leon Goretzka, Schalke — Out of contract come June. Schalke reportedly wants to make the 22-year-old midfielder the highest-paid player in club history, but Premier League clubs can still offer more.

13, 14, 15, 16. Julian Draxler, Javier Pastore, Angel Di Maria and Hatem Ben Arfa, PSG — Before the Parisians can think about buying, they must sell to ensure they comply with Financial Fair Play. They have an incredibly bloated squad. None of the four wingers/attacking midfielders listed here starts regularly, and all could do so at 95 percent of top-flight European clubs. Three of the four also have legitimate World Cup dreams, so it’s in their best interest to play. Pastore and Ben Arfa are the most likely to leave, but any of the four realistically could.

17. Nabil Fekir, Lyon — Reportedly an Arsenal target if and when Ozil and/or Sanchez move on.

18. Stefan De Vrij, Lazio — Another sought-after player on an expiring contract. Was reportedly a Liverpool target, but the Virgil van Dijk signing could scrap that.

19. Danny Rose, Tottenham — Has had an unsteady first half of the season hindered by injury. That, plus controversial comments on the eve of the season, make links to Manchester United worth paying attention to.

20. David Luiz, Chelsea — Has clashed with Antonio Conte, and Andreas Christensen has been solid in his stead. Conte could choose to move on.

21. Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen — 20-year-old Jamaican winger beginning to light up the Bundesliga.

22. Hirving Lozano, PSV Eindhoven — One of several young wingers, along with Bailey, reportedly on Arsenal’s radar. The 22-year-old Mexican international just moved to PSV this past summer, but has been an instant hit.

23. Malcom, Bordeaux — 20-year-old Brazilian forward who has apparently caught the eye of Man United with an impressive start to 2017-18. Reports suggest any January deal would see him return to Bordeaux on loan until the end of the season.

24. Emre Can, Liverpool — On an expiring contract, with midfield upgrades already on their way to Anfield. Juventus is reportedly keen.

25. Yannick Carrasco, Atletico Madrid — Atletico has reportedly decided it will sell the 24-year-old Belgian winger.

26. William Carvalho, Sporting CP — Constantly linked with English clubs. It’s probably time for the 25-year-old midfielder to move abroad to take the next step in his career, but January might not be the time to take that step.

27. Arthur, Gremio — 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder who is reportedly a target for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Has a €50 million buyout clause that either Spanish giant could trigger.

28. Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United — Mourinho wants to extend Fellaini’s expiring contract. Talks are ongoing.

29. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace — Will be a hot name because he’s been on fire for Palace, but there are no concrete links to Big Six clubs … yet.

30. Ross Barkley, Everton — Just now returning from injury, but Sam Allardyce has hinted that a deal to sell the 24-year-old attacking midfielder might already be agreed upon.

31. Cenk Tosun, Besiktas — Everton has reportedly agreed a fee of £25 million for the 26-year-old Turkish striker.

32. Yerry Mina, Palmeiras — Barcelona has an option to buy Mina next summer, and reportedly will – unless it Javier Mascherano’s departure to China leads the Catalan club to push the Mina deal through in January.

33. Bernard, Shakhtar Donetsk — The 25-year-old Brazilian winger is on an expiring contract, and has said himself that there is “interest from many big clubs in Europe.”

34. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Athletic Bilbao — Real Madrid appears to be Arrizabalaga’s likely destination. The question is whether he heads to the Bernabeu at the end of his Bilbao contract in six months, or in January if Madrid feels it must bring in goalkeeping reinforcements now.

35. Jonny Evans, West Brom — Has been linked with both Manchester clubs and Arsenal.

36. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal — His Arsenal contract is expiring. Both player and club have decisions to make, especially with the World Cup approaching.

37. Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham — Extremely talented 17-year-old left-sided player who has starred for England at youth levels and plays regularly for Fulham. Man United is reportedly prepared to pay at least £25 million.

38. Wendel, Fluminense — Reportedly set for PSG, and could join in January rather than June because of Thiago Motta’s injury troubles.

39. Moussa Dembele, Celtic — Heavily linked with a move to the Premier League – most recently to Brighton. The rumored price is £18 million.

40. Steven N’Zonzi, Sevilla — Has apparently fallen out of favor at Sevilla, and there are rumors of Premier League interest in the former Stoke and Blackburn midfielder.

41. Kevin Trapp, PSG — Trapp’s agent has said he could leave PSG, where he has ceded first-string goalkeeper duties to Alphonse Areola. Liverpool has been mention as a potential destination.

42. Luke Shaw, Manchester United — United reportedly has a club option on Shaw for 2018-19. He hasn’t had many opportunities under Jose Mourinho since his horrific injury. Mid-table Premier League clubs are reportedly interested.

43. Matteo Darmian, Manchester United — Another fullback who has fallen out of favor under Mourinho. A return to Italy seems possible.

44. Pepe Reina, Napoli — Napoli are reportedly ready to move on from the 35-year-old keeper, who is out of contract in the summer. AC Milan are rumored to be eying up Reina as a short-term replacement for Donnarumma.

45. Iker Casillas, FC Porto — In the waning years of his career, but has been linked with a move to MLS – specifically the Chicago Fire – before he calls it quits.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.