Every summer, the transfer window opens for football (soccer) clubs across Europe. Thus ensues three months of swirling wild rumors, drawn out transfer sagas and massive amounts of money swap hands as some of the best players from around the world trade one club for another. This summer was expected to be a dull edition; however, as coming off a second consecutive season of financial hardships following the advent of COVID, funds were expected to be tight. But, boy, were we in for some entertainment. Some of the biggest names in the sport ended up in pastures new for astronomical fees, while other megastars saw their clubs hold them hostage. There has never been such an entertaining window in living memory. So, who moved clubs, who stayed, what were the insane fees banded about and how was the landscape of European football changed for the years to come?
The face of “Mes que un club,” Lionel Messi himself, has left the Camp Nou for the Parc de Princes. In the conclusion to one of the most entertaining sagas we’ve seen off the field in decades, Barcelona CF’s financial mismanagement finally caught up to them in the form of the loss of their best ever player. Regarded as the greatest to ever play the sport, Messi was unable to be resigned by Barca at the end of his contract in July, as despite a hefty pay cut of over 50 percent, La Liga’s financial restrictions coupled with Barca’s over 1 billion euro debt (yes, that is billion with a “b”) meant he could not be registered with the club. Paris Saint-German swooped immediately, and in what felt like a matter of seconds, Messi went from on the verge of staying to being announced as a PSG player. This follows his demand for an exit in the summer of 2020 as he was outraged at the very same mismanagement of the club by then President Joan Laporta. I must admit, it didn’t feel right to see the GOAT pull on a jersey other than the famed Catalan blue and red, but this is the world we live in now.
Messi’s closest rival for the title of GOAT, Ronaldo sealed a return to the club where he made his name for only 15 million euros. Despite being 36 years old, an age when most players are retired, Ronaldo is still going strong having finished as the top scorer in Serie A last term with Juventus, and has since scored three goals in his first two games at United, making them look like genuine title contenders. A quick prediction: Ronaldo will score at least 27 league goals this season and carry United to the Champions League quarter finals at a minimum.
PSG weren’t finished with the acquisition of Leo Messi, however. In what is possibly the most impressive window in history, they managed to secure Achraf Hakimi, Europe’s best right back, for a cut-price fee of 60 million euros from cash-strapped Internazionale, Real Madrid’s best center back Sergio Ramos, Liverpool midfield stalwart Georginio Wijnaldum and Italian goalkeeping sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma all for free, as well as rising right back talent Nuno Mendes from Sporting CP on a loan for the season. This is in addition to existing stars like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria. If this team can figure out how to gel and get their new star-studded front three to do any sort of defending, they’ll win the Champions League at a canter.
Per the usual, City’s Qatari owners were up their old trick of spending exorbitant amounts of money, spending 100 million British pounds to sign English starlet Jack Grealish from mid-table Premier League side Aston Villa. This move looked nailed on from the second it was announced, with Villa needing the money to fund their own summer spending spree and City being the richest club on the planet. Grealish got his dream move to play in the Champions League, and Aston Villa will have no financial worries for years to come. What money couldn’t buy for the Cityzens, however, was Tottenham’s star striker Harry Kane. Chairman Daniel Levy is notorious for playing hardball, insisting Kane was not for sale for any price. Usually this is just a tactic to obtain an extortionate fee from the right buyer, but not this time. City bid 160 million pounds for Kane, a fee that would have made the top three of all time by some distance, but Levy didn’t budge. Kane remains at White Hart Lane, while City’s search for a striker ended fruitless.
In what was by far my favorite move of the summer, the club I support, Chelsea FC of London, resigned former player Romelu Lukaku from Internazionale for 97.5 million pounds, the seventh most expensive fee in history. Admittedly this transfer was embarrassing for Chelsea, who had sold him to Everton for a mere 28 million pounds in 2014, making the judgement he wasn’t good enough for the club’s ambition to win the Champions League. Now, he returns as the Blues seek to win the Premier League for the first time since 2017 and retain their European crown from last season. He scored on his debut against Arsenal (who doesn’t, am I right? Sorry Arsenal fans) and has also bagged a brace against Aston Villa since. He currently sits on four goals so far this season and looks nailed on to hit 30 in all competitions if he stays healthy, or so the experts say. I certainly hope they’re correct.
In another damning blow against Barcelona’s finances, they agreed to loan French striker Antoine Griezman back to Atlético de Madrid a mere two years after they spent 120 million euros on him, making him the fifth most expensive player of all time. This came as the club sought to decrease their wage bill, with Griezman said to have been earning around the equivalent of 350,000 euros a week at Barca. He has since been replaced by former Newcastle and Sevilla flop Luuk de Jong, with Barcelona fans everywhere in disbelief of the state of their club. Atlético, however, managed to secure a player who made his name with them and knows the system of manager Diego Simeone like the back of his hand. They also signed promising playmaker Rodrigo de Paul from Italian side Udinese, and Hertha Berlin’s best player, Matheus Cunha, who can play as a no. 10 or on either flank. They look set to retain their La Liga title, barring some magic from returning manager Carlo Ancelotti at city rivals Real Madric CF. There were, of course, a number of other massive moves across the continent. Bayern managed to sign a trio from closest league rivals RB Leipzig in the form of center back Dayot Upamecano, midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, and manager Julian Nagelsman. Their center back David Alaba did leave for free to Real Madrid however. Elsewhere, the saga of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United finally settled itself as he moved for 85 million euros, ageless goal machine Edin Dzeko left Roma for Internazionale to replace Lukaku and has since scored four in the league, and Tottenham secured promising youngster Bryan Gil from Sevilla. This season ought to be entertaining like no other before it.