Rated! Europe’s biggest winners and losers from the summer transfer window… so far
For years, Juventus have come so close to winning the European crown. In the past four seasons, they’ve finished as runners-up twice, and in the past two campaigns it was Cristiano Ronaldo who knocked them out. Now the Old Lady have Ronaldo’s powers – Champions League final goals, bicycle kicks, cold-blooded penalties and all.
Signing Ronaldo was a massive achievement, even for a club like Juventus who needed a superstar to push them over the edge. Upgrading Gonzalo Higuain to Ronaldo was an easy decision, and now Max Allegri’s team is two deep (at least) in virtually every position. They’ll be able to feed CR7 plenty of goals, especially after retaining Douglas Costa.
Getting Emre Can for free was pretty handy too, while fans should be able to forgive the returning Leonardo Bonucci once they see his first goal-saving tackle. All eyes on a tremendously exciting Juve team this season.
Loser! Real Madrid
In a vacuum, if you separate the Ronaldo sale, Real Madrid’s summer was actually quite fun: they got Thibaut Courtois for a bargain €35m, purchased a fine right-back in Alvaro Odriozola, officially brought over Vinicius Jr. and secured another Brazilian prodigy in Rodrygo. But, as the famous saying goes, when you sell the greatest player in club history who could win you shiny trinkets almost single-handedly, you are... erm, a loser.
Meanwhile, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (we’ll get to them) have all made promising upgrades, and Real haven’t been able to replace Ronaldo in a difficult summer market where any suitable replacements are already tied down.
Maybe there’s a sense of collective energy ready to be unleashed under Julen Lopetegui, who will no doubt deploy Marco Asensio as a false nine on occasions as he did with Spain. There is enough youth in this team to be excited about the long-term fruits, but the immediate transition without a pure goalscorer may be tough – particularly if Gareth Bale doesn’t stay fit and healthy.
This year might be the ultimate redemption of president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Barcelona extended the contracts of Leo Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto, gazumped Roma for Malcom, and replaced Paulinho and Andre Gomes with Arthur and Arturo Vidal.
Barça also added Clement Lenglet, one of the most underrated central defenders of La Liga last season, as insurance for Pique and Samuel Umtiti. They now have proper depth to build on their relatively successful 2017/18 campaign.
Loser! Sporting CP
After a disastrously bizarre and inhumane saga fuelled by a small group of idiotic fans and volatile board, the exodus at Sporting continued. They lost Gelson Martins and Rui Patricio for free, and also had to sell William Carvalho to Real Betis for just €20m. There will be more changes coming.
Winner! Atletico Madrid
What a window for Diego Simeone, who can’t complain about not having enough spending power anymore.
Diego Costa will love playing with Thomas Lemar – a winger who can feed the striker with crosses but also do the defensive work that Simeone asks of him. Atleti also snapped up Sporting’s Gelson Martins – on a free transfer – who can do damage on the opposite flank while rotating with Vitolo, and provide Antoine Griezmann with occasional rest.
Bringing in Martins and Lemar eases the pain of unexpectedly losing Yannick Carrasco mid-season, but team-mates were apparently getting frustrated with the Belgian’s tunnel vision anyway, and now the team has even more versatility with their new arrivals.
We haven’t talked about Atleti’s best signing yet: Rodri. The 22-year-old morphed into one of the best defensive midfielders in Spain last season at Villarreal, is currently the closest thing to Sergio Busquets stylistically, and will read the game as an anchor while contributing much more than Gabi did offensively. He was a steal at €22m.
Liverpool’s transfer window wasn’t cheap, but it should pay off for them. The Reds finally got Naby Keita, brought in a proven anchor in Fabinho, and rectified their goalkeeping issues by signing Alisson. It’s difficult to envisage anything other than improvement from last season with the depth that Liverpool have in midfield now.
Last season, heavy injuries to Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain meant that Jurgen Klopp had to regularly field a midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum. Not an end-of-the-world scenario, given the success Liverpool enjoyed in Europe with those three players, but having Fabinho and Keita in the mix now means that Klopp won’t have to sweat on his midfield selection if something goes wrong.
It’s almost blasphemous to label any Monchi-led team as losers in a transfer window. That they’re in this list is possibly cruel, given that losing Malcom to Barcelona was completely out of their control. After the Brazilian turned his plane around, Roma president James Pallotta tried to match the Catalans’ last-second offer – but there was no salvaging the situation.
Roma also lost Alisson and Radja Nainggolan (or, depending on how you look at it, cashed in on both for a combined €100m – great business), and overspent on Javier Pastore, who aged 29 hasn’t played a significant amount of minutes since the 2014/15 season.
But as Monchi does so brilliantly, he brought in a plethora of young talent on low-risk deals – including the very promising and insultingly quick Justin Kluivert. Long-term, Roma are in good hands.
It wasn’t a busy transfer window for Chelsea, but there’s a case to be made that such relative inactivity was no bad thing. Eden Hazard has flirted with Real Madrid for months now – openly and unapologetically stating his desire to play at the Bernabeu. But Chelsea didn’t even entertain dangling him in front of Florentino Perez and set their price high. Keeping him is a win, especially given the impossible task it would take to replace him.
Throw classy midfielders Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic into the mix, and you have a summer victory. No one knows how to use Jorginho the way Maurizio Sarri does, and having the Italy international’s brains at the base of midfield to help organise Chelsea’s press and attacking flow will make it really difficult for opposing teams to have an efficient build-up plan.
Losing Thibaut Courtois and replacing him with an inferior goalkeeper for twice as much money was an unfortunate negative, but the Belgian’s behaviour ultimately had the Blues over a barrel.