Friday, September 05, 2014

Grading the Transfer Windows of Top Teams in Europe

A staggering $835 million pounds was spent by the teams in England over the summer transfer window. That follows 760 million pounds last term and 610 the year before. To put this in perspective, only 265 million pounds was spent in 2003-04. Among the signings was the record-breaking sum paid for Angel di Maria, who moved from Real for 59.7 million. Speaking of Real, they signed two World Cup stars, but let Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso leave, begging questions about the distribution to the impressive front line. And Barcelona took the troubled Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez from Liverpool for 65 million (or 75 according to Liverpool) to pair up with Neymar and Messi.

Looking club by club, United spent slightly over 150 million pounds (though some say the total is closer to 200 million – a staggering 18 percent of the total for the league), Liverpool was second at around 115, then Chelsea around 80, Arsenal a little less and then Southampton at 57 or so (though they sold much of the team earlier in the summer). Comparing this to the other major leagues, La Liga spending was slightly over 400 million pounds, the Bundesliga 250 or so and Ligue 1 close to 100 million (there were no figures on Italy). So lets take a look at some of the biggest clubs in Europe and how their summer spending went (I am going to ignore Italy, though Juve will be happy to keep most of their stars and add some talent in forward, Napoli did some decent business, both Milan teams added some stars and Roma lost and gained – maybe in equal measure) …


Since the Abramovich era started, Chelsea have often been charged with overspending on players to essentially buy silverware, particularly the coveted Champions League crown they finally claimed two years ago. But one thing the Russian Plutarch cannot be charged with is wasting money (except on that now silly decision to sign Fernando Torres for 50 million pounds). This summer, Chelsea needed a world-class striker, a creative midfielder and a left back. And without much effort or fanfare, they signed all three quickly. Then they needed a backup striker after Torres went to AC Milan on loan, and two days later Lois Remy was theirs. Chelsea added Fabergas for 30m, Diego Costa for 32, Filipe Luis for 16, Remy for a steal (8m) and old hero Drogba on a free (they also signed Mario Pasolic for an undisclosed fee). And they got rid of aging players whose form had dropped including Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Samuel Eto’o, among a list of other misfits (how they got 50m for David Luiz only PSG will ever understand). This was the best business done in the world and makes the team the clear early favorites to win the title, and maybe compete for the Champions League crown. A+

Real Madrid

Real Madrid brought in two of the superstars from last summer’s World Cup, German Toni Kroos (20m) and electrifying Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez (63m), leaving them with four of the seven biggest transfers in history (joining Kaka, Ronaldo and, of course, Bale). While adding to an exciting lineup that already includes two of the best players in the world, Ronaldo and Bale obviously, questions remain about the sales throughout the summer. First they let exciting young prospect Morata leave, then the La Liga leader in assists last term Angel di Maria (after Ozil departed a year earlier), before selling midfield rock Xabi Alonso to Bayern. Ronaldo is apparently less than happy with the moves, and many wonder how Javier Hernandez will do with those surrounding him, though he will probably be the backup to Benzema. Fears already existed around the back four and we saw that come to fruition as they blew a two-goal lead against Sociedad last weekend to lose 4-2. They did replace Diego Lopez with Navas in goal, but also let Casemiro go out on loan. B-/C+


The Reds lost their star player, Suarez, but had a lot of money to spend, and arguably spent it well. There are still some questions on the defensive end, but they’ve added talent across the pitch. They bought Lallana (23m), Lambert (4m) and Lovren (20m) from poor Southampton, signed attackers Markovich (20m), Balotelli (16m) and Origi (10m) and defenders Moreno (12m) and Manquillo (loan). There are some strong signings there to complement the team that came oh-so-close to winning the title last term, particularly picking up Balotelli as a striker, Lallana in midfield and Moreno and Lovren in defense. Liverpool will miss Suarez, but might find more balance across the squad, particularly with the steady improvement of Sterling, Sturridge and Henderson. And in case they will miss the distractions Suarez elicited from week to week, Balotelli should be a good stand in. B+/A- (losing Suarez is tough)


Barcelona started the summer by signing one of the best players in the world, Suarez, and then letting a guy leave who contributed a fair number of goals and assists last term, in Sanchez (though it made sense given the players at their disposal and the need to recoup some cash). They also added a great midfielder in Rakitic (from Sevilla), goalkeepers Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Bravo and defenders Vermaelen, Mathieu and Douglas Pereira dos Santos. It is that last area that is the most troubling, with Mathieu already on the wrong side of 30, Vermaelen a benchwarmer for Arsenal for a season and a half and Santos a largely unknown commodity. Signing one of the best forwards in the word, then adding an exciting midfielder and quality goalkeeper is never a bad summer, but Barca better hope all the signings play well and their aging stars have a couple of years left in them, as they will not be active in the next three windows, after suffering a UEFA ban for malfeasance. B

Manchester City

Strapped by Financial Fair Play, City was less active this summer, but still filled a few holes. It was surprising to see Negredo leave on loan, but this again appears related to FFP. They picked up another quality central defender in Mangala (32m), another rock in the middle in Fernando (12m), a backup keeper that could well supplant Joe Hart (Caballero, 6m) and a quality right back in Sagna (free); as well as a veteran who could help them in the Champion’s League (Lampard, loan). Javi Garcia, Pantilmon, Lescott, Barry and Rodwell, among some other bit players, all left, but none but Negredo, whose form dipped considerably in the second half, will be missed. Given they won the title last season and improved marginally, it was not a bad summer. B (based on need to business)

Bayern Munich

Bayern arguably had a great summer before it ever started, having already signed Lewanowski earlier in the year on one of the best free transfers in the history of world football (while selling Mandzukic to Atletico). He is one of the deadliest strikers in the world and adds an element to the attack arguably missing the past few seasons. Some, including Gardiola, will be sad to see Kroos leave, but the team is simply packed with talent from front to back and added Xabi Alonso to replace the injured Javi Martinez, Benatia for CB and Pepe Reina to back up the best goalkeeper in the world. When you are this talented as a team, you don’t necessarily need to do much and this was neither a great nor a poor window. B

Manchester United

United spent more money than at any time in their history, by a long shot. The question is whether they filled the holes that saw them drop to seventh last season, and only accrue two points in three games so far this term. The biggest signings are obviously di Maria (60m), who is starting to look like one of the best players in the world, Falcoa (loan ~ 12m) and Shaw (31.5m), who many think was ridiculously inflated. They also added Herrera (29m), though fears remain that he is not ready to start in the EPL and needs to get stronger, Rojo (16m), Blind (14m) and prospect Millinkovic (undisclosed). The two defenders are right-side players and there are real fears they are still missing defensive steal in the back and in midfield. That much talent should bring goals, but can they keep enough goals out and what does this mean for Rooney and RVP? Only time will tell, but it certainly makes Van Gaal’s job a complex one from here. B+ (A for talent, C for need)

Atletico Madrid

Atletico won La Liga in an exciting final day draw and then came within a couple of minutes of winning the Champions League. Then they lost some of their best players – with Courtois, Costa and Luis all going to Chelsea, Adrian Lopez to Porto and aging David Villa to the MLS (they also let backup right back Manquillo to Liverpool on loan). But they reinvested the money well, bringing in talented offensive players in World-Cup star Griezmann, Bayern’s Mandzukic and Mexican Jimenez, two new goalkeepers in Moya and Oblak and defenders Ansaldi, Gamez, and Siqueira. It’s tough to lose one of the best goalkeepers and most prolific strikers in the same summer, but Atletico look to have done some good business to keep themselves competitive, beating Real to win the first La Liga trophy of the young season. B+ (tough losses, but nice pickups)


Arsenal did good business early and late, but left two big holes by not replacing backup CB Vermaelen (who departed for Barcelona) or signing the DM they have needed since selling Alex Song two summers ago (and he was available yet again). They picked up the exciting Alexis Sanchez (30m) from Barcelona, replaced Sagna with Debuchy (10m), signed the versatile star-in-the-making Calum Chambers (12m) and a good backup goalkeeper in David Ospina (3m). The summer ended with the rushed signing of Welbeck (16m), who may or may not be the answer to our striker woes, but many will think Wenger came up two signings short. See my longer article on their window here: B-/C+

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund might consider this a good summer simply for keeping their best players, with Reus, Hummels and others slated to go at various times throughout the summer. They did lose Lewandowski, but knew this was coming for over a year. They added some quality players in Immobile from Torino, Kagawa from United (though it will be interesting to see if he can revive his career), Sahin from Real (another returnee looking to improve, though he suffered an early injury), Ginter and Adrian Ramos. Just for not losing those stars, I’ll give them a B-.

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