Summer transfer window: Man City, Liverpool among early winners
The summer transfer window across Europe’s top leagues technically opened June 10, meaning we’ve just passed the month mark of clubs doing business. In that time, some of the biggest names in the game have had their immediate and long-term futures sorted, yet there are still more than seven weeks left in the window and some major moves to be made.
Nevertheless, it’s not too early to look at some of the clubs who have benefited the most in that opening month, though, as there’s reward that comes for handling business early. Clubs with a squad that’s either completed or close to completion have that much longer together to fine-tune in preseason, and in turn have that much more of a leg up on the competition.
So with a month of moves in the books, here’s who has positioned themselves the best, and here’s whose summer business still needs to be afforded the time to shake out before it is properly assessed.
Let’s see: Man City added Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips and still stands to profit this summer? Plenty will be quick to point out that City’s bankroll gives the club an obscene advantage in the transfer market, and it’s true of course, but what the club does with that money and how it surgically goes after—and consistently lands—its top targets is admirable. There’s an elite level of strategy and execution that allows the club to make the most of its largesse and plug its need areas with regular precision.
Losing Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling isn’t insignificant, given those are two players who are well versed in Pep Guardiola’s system and have been valuable contributors during this run of four Premier League titles in five seasons. But both were entering the last year of their contracts, and City still managed to extract roughly $110 million for them. Factor in the reported fee that City is set to fetch from Chelsea for seldom-used center back Nathan Aké (in the $50 million range), and it’s another unequivocal success summer in the marketplace for City Football Group. The front end of City’s attack will look markedly different now, and there will surely be an adjustment period, but the club has only fortified its status as Premier League favorite.
If City is winning, Liverpool has to keep pace, right? That’s been the story of their rivalry over the last half decade, and the Reds’ signing of Darwin Núñez is quite a counterpunch to City’s Haaland coup. The Uruguayan striker joins an evolved attack that no longer has Sadio Mané but still features Mohamed Salah, Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota and should be every bit as explosive going forward. The addition of versatile teenage attacking dynamo Fábio Carvalho shouldn’t go overlooked, either, as Liverpool makes finite, albeit significant changes to a loaded squad that should prevent staleness while also ensuring a bright future.
There’s a definitive scene in the baseball movie Moneyball in which the character playing Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) ponders how the team can replace the loss of a core player with monster numbers (Jason Giambi). He concludes that they can’t bring in one player to get the job done, but perhaps they can “recreate him in the aggregate.” Dortmund isn’t replacing Haaland and his immense productivity (62 goals in 67 Bundesliga games, nine goals in nine domestic cup games, 15 goals in 13 Champions League games) with one player. But by signing Eredivisie golden boot winner Sébastien Haller and rising German star Karim Adeyemi, BVB’s attack may not be all that worse off, and in Adeyemi it has a young star to cultivate and then sell at a significant profit, should his current trajectory continue.
Dortmund is dinged some for not commanding the nine-digit transfer fee it would have had Haaland not had a below-market release clause in his contract, but it still managed to reinvest wisely and immediately and should remain just as competitive in the Bundesliga (and lesser-heralded additions of center backs Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Süle shouldn’t be overlooked, either).
Madrid trimmed the fat from the wages that Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Luka Jović and Isco were commanding, added to its midfield treasure chest with the signing of French up-and-comer Aurélien Tchouameni and turned to the free-transfer market to boost its center back depth with Antonio Rüdiger. There’s egg on the face at the Bernabéu following the club’s failure to land Kylian Mbappé after it seemed like an inevitability for 10 months, but it’s hard to really fault a club that just did the La Liga-Champions League double and stands to be in even better shape next season. As long as Karim Benzema can continue aging gracefully while Brazilians Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo continue to improve and impress, the inability to sign Mbappé won’t be as impactful.
Adding Ivan Perišić on a free transfer and Richarlison on a club-record one gives Antonio Conte two more reliable attacking options to complement Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, while midfield workhorse Yves Bissouma was signed at a relative bargain (reportedly $30 million) and could prove to be the most impactful of the bunch.
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More importantly, there’s no Kane drama this summer, and Conte stayed. Instead of another uprooting and transition period, Spurs have the opportunity to build on last season’s top-four success with a deeper squad in the right areas and some continuity to boot.
WAIT AND SEE
The Robert Lewandowski saga is hovering over everything, with the club quite adamant it plans on having the wantaway FIFA Player of the Year run out the final year of his contract, while he couldn’t be clearer about wanting out right now. It has brought in cover in the form of Mané, and his addition (at a relative bargain at $42 million considering his output, even as he hits his 30s), and those of Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui (both from Ajax) put Bayern in fine position regardless of how things play out. The club is also reportedly in talks with Juventus regarding Matthijs de Ligt, and if the Dutch center back winds up joining as well, this could yet wind up being a significant summer in Munich.
It’s impossible to comprehend both Barcelona’s approach to the market and what it is actually capable of pulling off. It apparently wants to sign just about everyone, despite its debt and well-chronicled financial issues, and if it were to hit on its targets, the result would be a squad so imbalanced and so crowded, that it’s hard to see how all could coexist. Nevertheless, Barça is going hard for Lewandowski and Raphinha and is reportedly close to locking down Ousmane Dembélé to a new contract. Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen are in on free transfers, while the club has sold Philippe Coutinho and is set to offload Trincão for relative peanuts (and at considerable losses compared to the fees for which they were bought).
The Frenkie de Jong saga remains a mystery, but were he to be sold, it would at least help pad the balance sheet and finance some of the other moves in the works.
The Todd Boehly, Sp
orting Director experiment is underway, with the new owner coming in and looking to make his mark in a hands-on way. So far, the Blues have offloaded Romelu Lukaku on loan, they’ve lost Christensen and Rüdiger to Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectfully, for nothing, and are reportedly in the process of dealing César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso to Barcelona as well.
Sterling is reportedly on the way, but the center-forward void that Lukaku was supposed to fill has reopened. Meanwhile, the club’s central defense depth chart now contains little beyond 37-year-old Thiago Silva. Links to Raphinha and Neymar make it seem like—as with Barcelona—nobody is off limits for Chelsea this summer, but is it a darts-at-a-dart-board approach, or is there a real vision behind it? Manager Thomas Tuchel is going to need a full deck to compete with the likes of City and Liverpool this season.
Retaining Mbappé is an unequivocal win, as is making left back Nuno Mendes’s move from Sporting CP a permanent one. But what can PSG do to further strengthen its squad to the point that it can be a viable Champions League contender and not one that just looks impressive on paper? Adding Milan Škriniar from Inter would certainly mark an improvement at center back, while the club is also reportedly close to signing Sassuolo forward Gianluca Scamacca to follow the addition of promising Portuguese midfielder Vitinha. They’re the kind of signings that get away from the “bling-bling” approach that club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi chided and make sense from a footballing standpoint if they can be pushed over the finish line.
Adding Ángel Di María and Paul Pogba on free transfers represents good, low-risk business, and with Federico Chiesa still recovering from a torn ACL, Di María could play a very valuable role in the opening months of the season. That said, losing Paulo Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi and Giorgio Chiellini on frees isn’t exactly great business (even if being freed from their wages helps), and if de Ligt is sold, it’ll require a necessary solution to solidify the back line. There are a lot of moving parts in Turin, but it’s not clear if they’ve put the club in a better position quite yet.
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