Félix, Griezmann: hits and misses among 2019's biggest transfers
Two of last year's biggest transfers involved Barcelona and Atletico Madrid - but has either been a success?
Saturday should have seen Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and pit Antoine Griezmann against his old club once more.
Griezmann left Atleti for Camp Nou in the second most expensive transfer of the previous close season, his €120million move eclipsed only by Joao Felix, the man bought to replace him.
Neither player has exactly enjoyed a resoundingly triumphant season, which is an affliction to hit many of the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2019.
We look at each of those players and whether their signings have, until now, been a hit or a miss...
JOAO FELIX: Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€126m)
Benfica and Portugal's golden boy scored in pre-season victories over Juventus and Real Madrid to give Atleti fans reason to believe the post-Griezmann future was bright.
However, just six goals in 28 competitive appearances later, doubts have been growing as to whether the 20-year-old forward will ever truly suit Diego Simeone's system.
ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona (€120m)
9 - Joao Félix has made nine shots vs Villarreal, more than any other Atlético's player without scoring in a #LaLiga game away from home since at least 2003/2004 season. Foolish#LaLigaSantander #Atleti #AtleticoMadrid pic.twitter.com/uB8gvtRJ7q— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 6, 2019
Griezmann vowed to stay at Atletico in 2018 only to change his mind a year later, and his performances for Barca are in keeping with a man not quite at ease in his surroundings.
Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez better his goal involvements for the Blaugrana in LaLiga this term (eight goals and four assists), while he is second only to Messi for chances created (26), but fans were entitled to expect more from the club's latest mega-money forward.
EDEN HAZARD: Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m)
Chelsea fans feared the worst when their star man was lost during a transfer embargo, but things have hardly gone swimmingly for Hazard at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Injury problems have restricted him to just nine starts and a solitary goal and assist in LaLiga. He has also only created 14 chances, as many as James Rodriguez (who has started just four league games) and Lucas Vazquez (who has started six).
HARRY MAGUIRE: Leicester City to Manchester United (€87m)
138 - Eden Hazard completed 138 dribbles in the Premier League last season (138/224), more than any other player in the competition. Magic. pic.twitter.com/FGEHutUk06— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 2, 2019
The world's most expensive central defender might not be thought of as the world's best, but that should not detract from his impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.
He leads the way for duels won, aerial duels won, blocks and interceptions among United defenders in the Premier League this season, helping them to eight clean sheets. Oh, and he's already been made club captain.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT: Ajax to Juventus (€85m)
4 - Harry Maguire has scored four goals from outside the box in his club career, with all four coming in different competitions (FA Cup, Premier League, League One and the EFL Trophy). Leather. pic.twitter.com/4RtFaMv7mq— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 26, 2020
The most coveted centre-back of the window after Ajax's remarkable Champions League run, De Ligt delivered a dreadful performance on his Juventus debut in a 4-3 win over Napoli.
He has won the most aerial duels and has the pass success rate of any Juve defender to feature more than five times in Serie A this term, but there are already doubts about his long-term suitability to Maurizio Sarri's side.
LUCAS HERNANDEZ: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m)
4 - Matthijs de Ligt is the fourth teenager to score in a Champions League semi-final, after Nordin Wooter (1996, Ajax), Obafemi Martins (2003, Inter Milan) and Kylian Mbappé (2017, Monaco). Colossus. #AJATOT pic.twitter.com/FleS9Iq1zQ— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 8, 2019
Bayern smashed their transfer record to sign defender Hernandez, but injuries have made it difficult to assess whether the money will prove to be well-spent.
A knee problem in September was followed by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for nearly four months, meaning he has started only nine games in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions.
NICOLAS PEPE: Lille to Arsenal (€80m)
17 - Lucas Hernández won 17 duels vs @FCBayern in December 2016 (0-1 in the #UCL group stage), more than any other single game in all competitions in his career ever. Serial pic.twitter.com/aRcublhICU— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 27, 2018
Pepe was something of a symbol of Unai Emery's problematic final few weeks in charge as he struggled badly to find form for the Gunners.
He has certainly shown signs of improvement in 2020 – only Mesut Ozil (38) has created more chances in the league than Pepe (34) for Arsenal – but fans will have hoped for more from their record signing.
FRENKIE DE JONG: Ajax to Barcelona (€75m)
50 - Nicolas Pepe has become the first player to successfully dribble past Virgil van Dijk in the Dutch defender's last 50 appearances in the Premier League, since Mikel Merino in March 2018 for Newcastle. Beaten. pic.twitter.com/B1oRZMciOB— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 24, 2019
Another Ajax star who became coveted by clubs across Europe last year, De Jong opted for Barca and immediately became a regular in midfield.
He has not quite adapted to life in LaLiga - Ernesto Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's arrival as coach did not help - but, in turbulent times for the club, he looks to be a safe bet as the beating heart of Barca for years to come: he had created more chances (24) than any other Barca midfielder this term and only Sergio Busquets has more recoveries and interceptions.
RODRI: Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (€70m)
93.9% - Against Athletic on his LaLiga debut, Frenkie de Jong completed 93.9% of his passes (62/66), the best passing accuracy of any player in the game. Calm. pic.twitter.com/uTvZFk4Gy3— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 20, 2019
Manchester City's record signing has proved a smart bit of a business given midfield-anchor supreme Fernandinho has spent much of this season in defence.
Rodri has attempted more passes (1,996), recorded a better passing accuracy (92 per cent) and more recoveries (181) than any other City midfielder in 2019-20. He looks very much at home in Pep Guardiola's system.
ROMELU LUKAKU: Manchester United to Inter (€65m)
178/188 - Rodri attempted 188 passes tonight versus West Ham, completing 178 of them - both are Premier League records since detailed collection began in 2003-04. The entire West Ham team completed 169 passes. Orchestrator. pic.twitter.com/3VL1fCpaLN— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 19, 2020
Lukaku's move to Inter seems to have been that rarity in modern-day transfers: a deal that has worked out well for everyone concerned.
United's attack is taking the more fluid shape Solskjaer wants, Antonio Conte at last got the forward he tried to bring to Juventus and Chelsea, and Lukaku has looked in the form of his career, with 17 goals and two assists in Serie A as part of a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez.
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