Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man City... Europe’s elite ready themselves for new season
European clubs are reinforcing their ranks in search of more silverware with Haaland, Darwin, Mané and the renewal of Mbappé all big plays.
Although Real Madrid have, somehow, almost turned winning the Champions League into a routine in recent years, the truth is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Spanish teams. Clubs in the big European leagues have reinforced their ranks with signings with a month and a half to go before the summer market closes and three of those competitions - the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A - have already spent much more than the amount invested by LaLiga clubs.
Let’s have a quick glance around some of those clubs looking to maintain their hold at the top of the game, and others trying to push their way higher...
They have made the big splash of the summer by taking Haaland for the 60 million of his release clause, plus 30 million in commissions to his father and agents. No surprise, of course, that his salary is now the highest in the history of the Premier League. A necessary signing for an already impressive City, some say, who did not have a pure number nine and who with the Norwegian will be able to dominate the opposing area even more. With the first target secured, players may arrive for other specific positions: Cucurella, from Brighton, is being eyed for left-back and Kalvin Phillips, from Leeds, to complete the midfield.
The response to the signing of Haaland by City was the signing of Darwin Núñez from Benfica, for whom The Reds paid a sum of up to 100 million including variables. It remains to be seen how they will digest the departure of Sadio Mané to Bayern, an icon in this brilliant era with Klopp in the dugout. They have also signed young talents such as Carvalho, brilliant at Fulham, and Ramsay from Aberdeen in Scotland. It remains to be seen what happens with Salah, though, and a possible departure of the Egyptian would definitely activate the change of the guard and bring in another star. What this club has shown like no other is that often very decent players arrive, before being transformed into world beaters.
The change of ownership has somewhat delayed their transfer plans. So far no deals have been made, apart from the return of loan signings Broja and Gallagher from Southampton and Crystal Palace respectively. The most imminent move should be Lukaku’s loan back to Inter. Once that space opens upfront, new owner Todd Boehly will be looking for a big replacement. At the moment, the most talked-about signings are in defence, with Koundé and De Ligt the most likely candidates. The option of Gabriel Jesus was being considered for the attack, although other options are now being explored.
The club is moving well and quietly, as expected since Paratici took over as sporting director. He has signed a midfield dynamo in Bissouma from Brighton for 30 million, and two experienced players have arrived for free in the form of winger Perisic and back-up goalkeeper Forster. Antonio Conte knows what he is doing. However, he is missing an attacking player who can complete a dream attack alongside Son and Kane. Brazilians Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison were in the mix - although one of them has gone to a neighbour - with these the type of signing that could really boost Spurs.
Losing the Champions League place in the last two rounds of last season’s Premier League is taking its toll. Although the Gunners want to fight for the likes of Raphinha, the fact that they can only offer them Europa League works against them. The signing of Gabriel Jesus for 52 million and that of Fabio Vieira, Porto’s left-footed 35 million signing shows intent. Less proven is Marquinhos, the youngster signed from Sao Paulo. Arsenal continue as they have been for a while, with a lot of promising ideas, quite a bit of money spent, but most likely just a little off the rest.
A big club in more trouble than ever or a sleeping giant. The big debate is what will happen with Cristiano Ronaldo, who expects Champions League football and a team that can pay him what he needs. The most important change at Old Trafford is in the dugout, though. Ten Hag has arrived from Ajax and with him a new project has begun in which emblematic players such as Pogba, Cavani and Mata will no longer be there. A lot of names being touted around, as always, although De Jong and Antony are the clearest targets to reinforce the midfield and the forward line. They will have to spend a lot of money to become great again... and the others know that when it comes to negotiating. Another false dawn?
One of the big winners so far in the market. Spent 50 million and signed three good players: Mané (32), Gravenberch (18.5) and Mazraoui (free). The next one should be Laimer from Leipzig. Their next moves will depend on what happens with Lewandowski. The club insists they don’t want to sell him, but a good offer and the player’s desire to leave could make them rethink. And watch out for Gnabry, who is in a similar situation. There are still some things to come. There is talk of a centre-back, another midfielder and maybe one more striker.
An extraordinary summer, despite losing Haaland. Haller has been signed, but not made official, a replacement of real guarantees, and they have also made sensible, nice and cheap signings in Adeyemi, Özcan, Süle and Schlotterbeck. Particularly interesting is the Germanisation of the team, including the all-powerful Bayern, from whom they have snatched the first-choice centre-back Süle. There may be a few more players coming in for the defence (Raum?), but the feeling is that they have done their homework early and well, and that with this squad, plus what they had, they can stand up to Bayern more than in the last few years.
Their big move was to renew Mbappé. Everything else will follow, including changes to the sporting organisation and the bench. The name of the new coach has yet to be announced, although it looks like it will be Galtier. The signings of the Luis Campos-Antero Henrique pairing will not be as bombastic as with Leonardo, who will also leave. Portuguese duo Vitinha and Renato Sanches, who will be the first to arrive, should be announced this week. The big money will be spent on Inter centre-back Skriniar. In the absence of any of their megastars leaving - the option is Neymar - the rest will be the same as last year, with a special focus on the new boss of everything: Kylian Mbappé.
A lot of unfinished business in their first summer ahead of defending a Scudetto that took so long to win back. The first moves for Renato Sanches have not been fruitful in the face of the emergence of PSG as a competitor for him. Ibrahimovic’s renewal is also up in the air, a subject of central interest in Milan. Marco Asensio is a dream, but it all depends on Madrid’s willingness to let him leave. Milan’s strategy of recent years will be repeated: young, mid-range players with the ability to improve, just what has made their best player, Rafael Leao, stand out. Keeping him for another year could also be considered a success.
They are very much awaiting a change of pace in the forward line, Lukaku and Dybala could arrive, although neither of the two is definitively tied down. We will have to see what impact this would have on important players in the squad such as Lautaro Martinez. Although it was not his wish, PSG’s offer of 60 million for Skriniar might make them agree to transfer the Slovakian centre-back. The departure of Perisic, a key player for Inzaghi playing as a left winger, forces Inter to look for a replacement. No official signings have been made yet, but there are moves underway and they are having an impact. Inter want to regain a Scudetto that was snatched from them by their city rivals and neighbours last season.
Their big move could be Pogba. The Frenchman is close to returning to Turin six seasons after leaving and for free, when he left for Old Trafford for 100 million. It would be a great deal, although it remains to be seen how well he can perform on his return. There are important departures, especially Morata, Dybala and Bernardeschi, which practically force Juve to make signings in attack. The most important one came last winter, when Vlahovic landed. Di Maria has been in the orbit and lately Neymar has been offered. It would be a real bombshell...
As you can see, there’s plenty of movement going on, a still a lot of time to spend much more. We’ll keep our eye on all the developments...