Frantic summer window slams shut
An historic transfer market for the ages drew to a close last night as the greatest two players of this generation both switched clubs. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – 34 and 36, respectively – were each on the move as they prepare to etch new chapters into their eminent legacies.
As July & August came and went, so did yet another exorbitant European summer transfer season. Two 9-figure deals went through as Premier League clubs laid out an accumulative €1,3billion, €100-million less than summer 2020.
The most extortionate transfer splurge came during the 2017/18 season where PL clubs invested €1,6billion in the summer and €500million in January, a total sum of €2,1billion on signings.
Now in 2021 several rising and high-profile players – particularly a host of whom recently shone on the international pulpit – secured moves in recent weeks and months to some of Europe’s elite clubs. Towards deadline day yesterday, many a team still had business to conclude ahead of what is yet to be a most captivating nine months of club football.
Teams who fell agonisingly short in last season‘s UEFA Champions League – namely Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – went all out in the market in their respective attempts to go one step further this year.
Few have ever endured a summer spree quite like PSG did these past few months, as Mauricio Pochettino's Parisians attained the services of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gini Wijnaldum & Gigi Donnarumma all on free transfers, and bought Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan for €60million.
With Messi and Ramos possessing four Champions League winner’s medals apiece, together with the craft of Neymar and elegance of Kylian Mbappé, Pochettino unquestionably has all the tools necessary to go one better than reaching the UCL Final with Spurs in 2019.
Man City meanwhile forked out €118million (£100M) to sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. The 25-year-old has 12 caps for England and is now the most expensive British footballer in history.
City’s crosstown rivals Man Utd conducted unusually shrewd business as they acquired two marquee signings early on, buying Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane for a combined €125million (£107M).
United later sanctioned a homecoming for Cristiano Ronaldo, costing an initial €15million (£13M), twelve years after the Portuguese superstar left the Red Devils for Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of €94M (£80M).
European champions Chelsea re-signed Romelu Lukaku for a whopping €115million (£98M), seven years after the Blues sold the Belgian striker to Everton for €35million. On deadline day Chelsea loaned in Spanish midfielder Saúl Níguez from Atlético Madrid.
Prior to Lukaku’s return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won their second title in less than a year under Thomas Tuchel at the helm. Tuchel’s blue army lifted the UEFA Super Cup after they defeated Europa League winners Villarreal, on penalties, at Windsor Park in Northern Ireland.
Last week Thursday UEFA held the main draw for the '21/22 Champions League group stages.
During the draw ceremony in Istanbul, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho was awarded the UEFA Men's Player of the Year.
Jorginho’s club team-mates Edouard Mendy and N’Golo Kanté also scooped accolades for Champions League Best Goalkeeper and Best Midfielder, respectively.
Kanté was pronounced man of the match in the UCL Final in May, as the Blues triumphed over Man City, 1-0, in Porto.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel took home the UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year award, whilst Borussia Dortmund attacker Erling Haaland was named UCL Best Forward, and Man City‘s Rúben Dias claimed the prize for UCL Best Defender.
Champions League holders Chelsea have been grouped with Juventus, Zenit and Swedish outfit Malmö in Group H, whilst runners-up Man City face a tough obstacle in Group A with Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.
Liverpool find themselves in the Group of Death with Spanish champions Atlético Madrid, Porto and AC Milan all in Group B. Man Utd were placed in Group F and prepare to meet Europa League holders Villarreal, Italian side Atalanta and BSC Young Boys.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona were paired together in Group E.
Real Madrid have two dates booked with Inter Milan in Group D.
The road to the Final in St Petersburg, Russia on 28 May 2022 begins with Matchday 1 on 14/15 September.
During the off-season UEFA announced the annulment of the away goal rule across all of its club competitions with immediate effect.
As the summer transfer window slammed shut late last night, a plethora of central defenders were on the move in recent weeks with Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Man Utd all splashing the cash on defensive reinforcements.
Real Madrid are reeling from the departures of their first-choice centre-back pairing of Ramos and Varane, but Los Blancos did not directly replace either one or the other in the market. David Alaba signed at the Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer.
Real Madrid's only other addition came in the shape and form of a prodigious French player, but not the one they had their sights set on for the bulk of the transfer season. Despite making several bids worth up to €160M–€200M for PSG's Mbappé, Madrid's sole purchase was midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, 18, who joined from Stade Rennais for €31million.
Atlético Madrid loaned in their former player Antoine Griezmann from Barcelona, two years after selling the French attacker to La Blaugrana for €120million. Atlético have obligation to buy Griezmann for €40million in June 2022.
Bayern‘s two new acquisitions both joined the Bavarians from RB Leipzig as French defender Dayot Upamecano and Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer were bought for a combined €60million, reuniting with former Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann.
Inter Milan received €175million for the sales of Lukaku and Hakimi and replaced the pair with low-cost replacements. Bosnian centre-forward Edin Džeko signed on a free transfer and Dutch wing-back Denzel Dumfries arrived from PSV for €12million.
Juventus brought in midfielder Manuel Locatelli on a two-year loan with obligation to buy thereafter for €35m from Sassuolo. Italian forward Moise Kean rejoined La Bianconeri on a two-year loan deal from Everton.
Jose Mourinho's Roma bought Tammy Abraham from Chelsea for €40million. Abraham’s deal in the Italian capital contains a buy-back clause meaning the English striker could return to Stamford Bridge for €80million in June 2023.
From 2016 to 2019 there were as many as 9 nine-figure deals that took place as Paul Pogba, Neymar, Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé, and Eden Hazard each secured themselves a transfer valued in excess of €100M.
Courtesy of the global pandemic, last year saw the first summer window since 2015 in which there were zero transfers worth 9 digits, before Grealish and Lukaku were both on the receiving end of moves worth eye-watering sums in 2021.
With clubs recovering financially from last year's bedlam, this summer's top five transfers were worth a cumulative €438million (Grealish €118M; Lukaku €115M; Sancho €85M; Hakimi €60M; Ben White €60M), whereas the top five deals in summer 2020 totaled €325million (Kai Havertz €80M; Victor Osimhen €70M; Ruben Dias €70M; Timo Werner €55M; Mauro Icardi €50M).
With the transfer season now over, the tortuous marathon that is the '21/22 football season takes its first turn with an international break for the first time since the postponed Copa América and Euro 2020 Finals concluded in July.
Euro holders Italy are 34 games unbeaten stretching back to 2018 and are one away from equalling the record for the longest spell of international matches without tasting defeat (35, Brazil 1993 – 1996; Spain 2007 – 2009).
The Azzurri face Bulgaria, Switzerland and Lithuania in 2022 World Cup Qualifying in the coming days.
Sweden battle Spain on 2 September, before Belgium tackle Czechia on 5 Sept, and England travel to Poland for a clash on 8 Sept.
In the latest FIFA World Rankings, Euro winners Italy and Copa América champions Argentina each climbed two spots to 5th and 6th, respectively.
Brazil and France traded places in 2nd & 3rd, while Mexico and USA both creeped into the top 10.
Top 10 transfers summer 2021:
🏴J. Grealish, 25, Aston Villa – Man City, €118M*
🇧🇪R. Lukaku, 28, Inter Milan – Chelsea, €115M*
🏴J. Sancho, 21, Dortmund – ManUtd, €85M
🇲🇦A. Hakimi, 22, Inter Milan – PSG, €60M
🏴B. White, 23, Brighton – Arsenal, €60M
🇫🇷D. Upamecano, 22, Leipzig – Bayern, €42M
🇫🇷I. Konate, 22, Leipzig – Liverpool, €40M
🇫🇷R. Varane, 28, Real Madrid – ManUtd, €40M
🏴T. Abraham, 23, Chelsea – Roma, €40M
🇦🇷E. Buendia, 24, Norwich – Aston Villa, €38M*