September 1st saw the European transfer window slam shut, bringing an end to an exciting summer that saw many of Europe’s biggest football clubs exchanging players. Some of the biggest names in the game have packed their bags and moved across countries to new teams in new leagues. This week, I’ll attempt to shine some light on a few of the most important moves that took place this summer.
Robert Lewandowski transferred from Bayern Munich to Barcelona for €60 million. Arguably the best striker of his generation, Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski decided this summer that at the age of 34, it was time for a new challenge. He had played in the Bundesliga since 2010, starting his time in the German top flight with Borussia Dortmund before moving to Bayern in 2014. Lewandowski has since become a Bayern legend, scoring 344 goals for the club in 375 games across 8 seasons, winning 8 league titles, 3 DFB Pokals and the 2019-20 Champions League. He also is widely accepted to have deserved the Ballon d’Or in 2020, though the award was not given out that year due to COVID-19.
His move to Barcelona will be exciting for blaugrana fans everywhere, especially considering his hot start to the season and relatively low fee. In his first 4 matches in La Liga, Lewandowski has scored 5 goals. Barcelona have also been drawn into the same Champions League group as Bayern, which makes for a pair of eye-catching showdowns this coming fall.
Antony transferred from Ajax to Manchester United for €95 million. Only a few days before the window closed, an in-crisis Manchester United splashed the cash on Ajax’s Brazilian superstar winger Antony. The player came into the public eye as a result of some stunning performances in last season’s Champions League, and now has seen his stature reach new heights under the lights at Old Trafford. And he got off to the best possible start, scoring on his debut as United thrashed league leaders Arsenal 3-1 at home.
Still, doubts linger about whether or not Antony will be able to cut it in a much more highly paced, physical league. The Dutch Eredivisie is not known for its physicality, and Antony is a rather small man at 5’9” and 140 lbs. Last season at Ajax, he only managed 8 league goals in 23 matches. I have my doubts, but the small sample size available so far is promising.
Darwin Nunez transferred from Benfica to Liverpool for €100 million. Darwin Nunez became the 14th member of the €100 million transfer fee club when he left Portuguese side Benfica for Liverpool in July. This move took place in somewhat of a transfer merry-go-round, as Liverpool’s Sadio Mane left for Bayern Munich to replace Robert Lewandowski, which saw Liverpool open their wallet to bring in Nunez. He certainly looked to be a very promising prospect in 2021-22, scoring 26 league goals in 28 matches and 6 in 10 Champions League games, including one in each leg of Benfica’s quarter final tie against new employers Liverpool. Perhaps these performances are what sold manager Jurgen Klopp on signing the Uruguayan in the first place, as the fee seems very high for a player with only one high caliber scoring season under his belt. And his early performances back up these doubts, with a goal and an assist but also a silly red card through 3 Premier League games. Still, Liverpool very rarely get major purchases wrong, so who am I to doubt that he will be a success?
Chelsea’s defensive rebuild: included purchasing Koulibaly, Fofana and Cucurella for a total of €204 million. In this final entry, I’ll be taking a look at Chelsea’s attempts to rebuild their back line after losing key defenders Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger for free at the expiration of their contracts. In their places, Chelsea have signed Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, Wesley Fofana from Leicester City, and Marc Cucurella from Brighton and Hove Albion. I am personally very conflicted by these moves. Chelsea are my team of choice, and these are three of the best defenders in the world from the 2021-22 season. However, the fees paid are astronomical. Wesley Fofana’s €89 million fee makes him the fourth most expensive defender ever, after a season in which he only played a handful of matches due to a broken leg. Cucurella’s fee of €72 million was €55 million more than Brighton had paid for him only a year earlier, and was certainly inflated by interest from Manchester City. Even Koulibaly, who cost around €45 million, was still a bit of an overpayment considering he is now 31 years old and beyond his peak years. Given that each of these players will be on massive wages as well, I cannot help but think new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has been taken advantage of in his first transfer window. Only time will tell if the fees paid are worth it, but the warning signs are already abundant. Koulibaly has already received a red card, and Chelsea have conceded 3 goals away to a rather poor Leeds United side. As a fan, I hope they come good in the end.