Breaking Down Soccer’s Wild Transfer Window

People always talk about how the NBA offseason is pure entertainment, and for good reason. Superstar players seem to be on the move every summer, making for some crazy headlines throughout the slower summer months. While it’s not uncommon to see some high-profile moves across the pond, this summer seems to have a new headline every week, with some of the best players of all time joining new teams, multiple $100 million transfer fees, and more than a little bit of drama between rival teams.

Legends on the Move

Seeing the two players who have dominated the sport since the early 2000’s has easily been the biggest headline of the summer. Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer request came out of nowhere, and as of Thursday it seemed like Man City was set to bring in CR7. Then Friday morning, it was announced that City was out, but Man United was swooping in to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. Even at 36 years old, Ronaldo is still one of the best players in the world right now, and it seems fitting that he comes back to finish out the prime years of his career with the club where it all started.

Lionel Messi’s time in Barcelona coming to an end came as a shock to everyone, especially since it was announced just weeks before that the player and team had agreed to terms on a new contract. But with Barcelona dealing with some financial difficulties after years of huge payrolls and reduced income because of COVID, they were forced into letting Messi leave. With Messi available on a free transfer, Paris Saint-Germain swooped in almost immediately to bring Messi to France and reunite him with Neymar.

Free Transfers

Speaking of Messi moving for free, how about PSG picking up multiple free transfers this summer? They started the summer by signing former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, then grabbed former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos on a free transfer just a week later. PSG still wasn’t done, and managed to grab goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma for free just days after he backstopped Italy on their run to becoming Euro 2020 champions. Of course, Messi was the highlight of their summer transfer window, but the fact that PSG was able to snag multiple star players without having to spend a transfer fee is something truly incredible.

Barcelona also picked up a couple of free transfers this summer, which is great for them since they clearly don’t have a bunch of money to be throwing around. They signed Memphis Depay from Lyon, brought back Eric Garcia after a few years away at Man City, and also brought in Sergio Aguero after his long stay with Man City.

Big Spenders

There was a lot of money being thrown around by the top teams England this summer, with Man United, Man City, and Chelsea all breaking the bank to bring in some star players. The Red Devils were the first team to make a big splash when they announced the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund for €85 million. Sancho was given limited playing time during the Euros, but in those few minutes he showed why he’s worth the large price tag. Now with United, the 21 year-old will be a featured part of their attack which includes fellow England international player Marcus Rashford, the newly-signed Ronaldo, and Anthony Martial.

Not to be outdone by their rival, Man City went out and spent €100 million on Jack Grealish. Another key player for England at the Euros, Grealish became a star with Aston Villa over the last few seasons and it was time for him to move on to a larger club. While Grealish hasn’t had much of an opportunity to prove on a big stage that he is worth the price that City paid for him, it’s tough to argue that he isn’t worth the fee. It’ll be interesting to see how Grealish handles the pressure that comes with being an expensive player in big games.

Trying to keep up with what the other top teams in England have been doing, Chelsea decided they wanted to bring back a familiar face. It cost them €115 million, but Chelsea reunited with Romelu Lukaku, who was first at the club from 2011 until 2014. Despite basically writing a blank check to Inter Milan to sign Lukaku, it’s pretty clear that he wasn’t the club’s first choice this summer. Chelsea was heavily rumoured to be interested in Erling Haaland, but Dortmund wasn’t willing to let him leave yet. After an up and down first season for Timo Werner, Chelsea seemed desperate to sign another striker. While Lukaku is definitely among the best in the world, the price tag to sign him was very steep.

What Could Have Been?

Man City was very interested in bringing yet another England star to their club this summer, and were willing to spend over €100 million to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham. You’d think a team would have a hard time saying no to an offer that big, but Tottenham chairman Dan Levy wouldn’t even answer the phone to listen to the offers that Man City was trying to present. Imagine hitting decline on a €125 million phone call? Whether you want to call it stubborn, petty, or just normal Premier League business, it meant that Harry Kane would have to wait for his chance to leave the Spurs.

Tottenham wasn’t the only one turning down huge offers for star players. Rumours were swirling that Kylian Mbappe wanted out of PSG, and Real Madrid jumped at the chance to sign the French striker. The Spanish club made three bids for Mbappe, the first being rejected immediately, their second offer of $200 million also being rejected, and then their final offer of $236 million not even being acknowledged by the French club.

The last line in that tweet is what makes this decision from PSG even more confusing. Mbappe can leave after this season if he really wants, leaving PSG without a striker and without that $236 million Real Madrid was offering. I get trying to hold on to star players, but at a certain point you have to do what’s best for business and I don’t see any way that missing out on over $200 million is the right decision.

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