Several well-known football players and a lot of unknown men have moved teams this summer. There have been some big and small moves that will enable clubs to challenge for domestic league titles and European cups. In contrast, there will be several transfer moves that don’t come off. Supporters will be left with questions over why their clubs made the poor purchases they did this time next year.
The Premier League, in particular, closed its transfer window two days prior to the league’s kickoff. The early closure means clubs won’t be forced into panic purchases in the remaining days of the window being open. Premier League teams spent £1.26 billion this summer, which was the first down year in spending the league has seen in some time. Last summer, the Premier League spent £1.4b billion on new players.
If the early closure of the transfer window means less spending and fewer panic buys, the shorter transfer windows may be adopted by other top leagues around Europe. At the moment, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and France’s Ligue 1 will close their transfer windows on August 31.
20 Best: Atletico Madrid – Thomas Lemar
Thomas Lemar was one of the hottest properties in world soccer in the summer of 2017. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain were all linked to the French player’s signature. During Monaco’s Ligue 1 title winning 2016-17 season, Lemar scored nine goals and tallied 11 assists in 34 matches. He declined last season, however, scoring just twice and assisting 10 goals. A lot of that had to do with Monaco selling their top stars following its title win. While the clubs who were previously linked to Lemar withdrew their interest, Atletico Madrid splurged on the winger to the tune of £63 million. His addition will accent stars Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann, and company. Atletico Madrid has what it takes to win the La Liga title this season and Lemar could play a big part.
19 Regret: Manchester City – Riyad Mahrez
It isn’t often that a club pays £60 million for a backup player. In fact, there is a belief that Riyad Mahrez will be a third choice a winger once all of Manchester City’s stars return from their summer holidays. The winger was close to joining Manchester City last January, but when the club didn’t pay Leicester City’s valuation, he went on strike. There is no guarantee Mahrez won’t sulk on the bench if he doesn’t get to play regularly. Although Mahrez started Manchester City’s first match of the Premier League season, he could find himself on the bench sooner rather than later. He played just 60 minutes in the Citizens’ win over Arsenal. For the most part, he was non-existent on the pitch. Once substituted, he didn’t appear to be very happy as he walked off the pitch.
18 Best: Valencia –Michy Batshuayi
Michy Batshuayi has got little respect from Chelsea since arriving at the club in 2016. Despite scoring 19 goals in 53 matches, Chelsea has loaned out the striker in each of the last two seasons. Batshuayi tallied nine goals in 14 matches in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund in the second half of last term. The German club tried to bring him back to the Signal Iduna Park, but Chelsea decided to loan Batshuayi to La Liga’s Valencia instead. Valencia was one of La Liga’s most exciting teams last season. Los Che finished fourth in the league and qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2015. Batshuayi will play alongside strike Kevin Gameiro, giving Valencia a potent attack.
17 Regret: Watford – Gerard Deulofeu
Gerard Deulofeu is another former Barcelona academy graduate the Catalan club has castoff. Deulofeu has had stints at Everton, Sevilla, AC Milan, and Watford previously. This summer, the Hornets made Deulofeu’s loan from last spring a permanent move. The problem with the 24-year-old Deulofeu is he always plays well when he initially joins a new club. Deulofeu was brilliant at Everton on loan in 2013-14 only to be regarded as a bust when he returned on a permanent deal in 2015. The Spaniard shone early at AC Milan following his time at Everton, only to burn out as time wore on. A return to Barcelona last season saw Deulofeu play 10 times before being loaned out once more. Watford will hope he can shine brightly again, but history doesn’t bode well for the winger.
16 Best: Wolverhampton Wanderers – Joao Moutinho
Joao Moutinho may be the best-kept secret in soccer. The midfielder spent the last five seasons playing for France’s Monaco. During his time with the club, Monaco never finished outside the top three. In 2016-17, he helped lead the French club to the Ligue 1 championship and the Champions League semifinals. Newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers paid a mere £5 million to acquire the midfielder and it could prove to be the best deal of the summer. Moutinho may be 31-years old, but the midfielder is one of the best passers in world soccer. In Wolves’ season opener against Everton, he played 85 minutes and completed 92.2 percent of his passes. Mourinho will be at the heart of Wolves’ attack all season as he brings experience to the young team. Wolves’ ability to sign a player of Moutinho’s skill level and experience shows just how mighty the money is in the Premier League.
15 Regret: West Ham – Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere has long been called the best technical soccer player from England and his passing and ball control have long been praised. Yet for all the praise and positive words said about Wilshere, he has done little in his career to show he is a top-class player. Much of Wilshere’s career has been spent on the sidelines due to injury. He did feature in 167 Premier League matches for Arsenal during his Gunners’ career. There, Wilshere tallied eight goals and registered 20 assists. The midfielder is often been compared to Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli. Yet, the Tottenham man has done far more in his Premier League career in fewer matches. In 107 matches, Alli has tallied 38 goals and 29 assists. Wilshere may have signed on a free transfer, but West Ham took a punt on signing him.
14 Best: Everton –Richarlison
Richarlison arrived at Watford a year ago as a nobody. When the Hornets splurged £11.2 million on the winger, it raised eyebrows as many believed Watford had been taken to the cleaners. Under manager Marco Silva the player shined. However, once Silva was dismissed as manager, Richarlison suffered under Javi Gracia. Now, the pair has been reunited at Everton, who paid a £35m fee for the player that could rise to as much as £50m. In his Everton debut, Richarlison scored twice against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Unfortunately, the Toffees defense let in two goals to nullify Richarlison’s hard work. Everton lacks high-quality strikers, so expect Richarlison to score more than the five goals he tallied for Watford. Everton could return to the elite level of the Premier League, but other top teams around Europe could come calling for Richarlison next summer.
13 Regret: Barcelona – Arturo Vidal
Arturo Vidal has been a world-class central midfielder for years. He first burst onto the scene in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. A move to Juventus in 2011 showed the world just how good Vidal was at the time. After winning multiple Scudetti with the Bianconeri, Vidal moved to Bayern Munich in 2015 and won three Bundesliga titles. He joined Barcelona in early August in a deal that could reach €21 million. Now 31, the aging central midfield will be counted on to break up play and win the ball for Lionel Messi and company. Barcelona will still be one of the best teams in Spain, but the addition of another aging player won’t help the club long-term. Vidal joins Barcelona to replace the failure that was Andre Gomes, who cost Barcelona €35m just two summers ago.
12 Best: Real Madrid – Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He proved his worth at Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, and this summer he became the highest profile signing for Real Madrid. Courtois has a lot of pressure on his shoulders as the new Madrid No. 1. As a former goalkeeper for city rivals Atletico Madrid, Courtois may have to win over Los Blancos supporters’ love. He has the talent and abilities to do it. Courtois kept the third most clean sheets in the Premier League last term (15). The Madrid new boy’s clean sheet figure was eight better than the club’s starting goalkeeper last season. Keylor Navas will backup Courtois, but could still be moved at one point The club now has Courtois to keep out the goals. Now, Madrid needs to find someone to score them.
11 Regret: Inter Milan – Radja Nainggolan
Radja Nainggolan was another of Roma’s star players to be sold off in the last two summer transfer windows. Nainggolan joined the likes of Mohamed Salah and Alisson to leave the club, but unlike the other two, his departure was timed perfectly by the Romans. Nainggolan signed for Inter for €24 million plus Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo both going to Roma. Although a critical player for Roma and one of the best box-to-box midfielders over the last five seasons, Nainggolan’s performances declined last term. He scored just four goals in 31 games as Roma slipped to third in Serie A. It was his lowest output since 2013-14 when he joined Roma on loan and played just 17 matches. Roma’s willingness to sell to a direct rival in Inter shows just how much the club felt Nainggolan has declined.
10 Best: Liverpool – Alisson Becker
Liverpool finally got its man this summer. The Reds had been desperate to sign a new goalkeeper for years and Alisson Becker finally arrived this summer to take the starting position. The keeper featured at the World Cup helping his country to the quarterfinals. His performances for Brazil came on the heels of his first season as Roma’s starting goalkeeper. Alisson finished the Serie A campaign with 17 clean sheets, second-most in the league. Alisson gives Liverpool a highly capable shot-stopper who is commanding in goal and excellent with his feet. Alisson can organize Liverpool’s mistake-prone defense and keep the team from conceding cheap goals. Alisson cost Liverpool £56.25 million, the most paid for a goalkeeper until Chelsea paid £72m for Atheltic Bilbao shot-stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
9 Regret: Real Madrid – Vinicius Junior
Vinicius Junior burst onto the world soccer scene in May 2017 when Real Madrid paid £40.5 million to acquire him from Brazil's Flamengo. Vinicius was just 16-years old when the deal was brokered. The move finally became official this summer when Vinicius turned 18. Now with Real Madrid, Vinicius will have a lot of weight on his shoulders at the Santiago Bernabeu. It won't help that Los Blancos sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus during the transfer window. It was reported in July that Real Madrid would allow Vinicius to play with Real Madrid Castilla (the club’s B team) when he isn’t getting enough minutes with the first team squad. The club wants him to develop into a world-class player, but this summer’s chaos at the Bernabeu may see Vinicius turn into the next Robinho rather than the new Ronaldo.
8 Best: Juventus – Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus may have already won the Champions League. The group stage may not begin until September, but the Bianconeri signed the best player in world soccer. Juventus was already one of the top teams in Europe and should have no trouble winning another Serie A Scudetto. The acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo makes Juventus even better and it weakens Champions League rivals Real Madrid. Despite being 33, Ronaldo takes great care of his body and is married to the game. Although defenses in Italy will be more difficult to break down than those in Spain, Ronaldo will still find space and cracks at the back. With over 570 career goals, Juventus supporters can expect Ronaldo to add to that total this season. After Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus, it took just 24 hours for the club to sell $60 million worth of his jerseys. It will probably be the best transfer of 2018, on and off the pitch.
7 Regret: West Ham – Felipe Anderson
Felipe Anderson burst onto the soccer scene in 2014-15 when scored 10 goals in 32 matches for Lazio. Those numbers decreased in each subsequent season in the capital of Italy, but it didn’t put West Ham off of spending £36 million on him this summer. It was a steep fee for the 25-year-old as he has consistently shown inconsistency during his career. Anderson missed 20 games for Lazio in all competitions last term due to a torn abductor muscle. He did play 21 times in Serie A for Lazio scoring four goals and collecting seven assists. He only played 90 minutes six times for Lazio in his final season, which should be a worry. His Premier League debut for West Ham didn’t go to plan as the Hammers were hammered (pun intended) by Liverpool 4-0. Anderson gave the ball away too easily the few times he touched it and was substituted after just 62 minutes. Not a great sign for West Ham’s club record transfer signing.
6 Best: Liverpool –Naby Keita
Naby Keita signed for Liverpool in the summer of 2017, but the deal didn’t become official until July 2018. Signed from Germany’s RB Leipzig for a total of £57 million, Keita has shown in his early career at Anfield that he is the real deal in the center of the pitch. Liverpool is so high on Keita that the club gave him the No. 8 shirt. Last worn by club legend and former captain Steven Gerrard, the No. 8 shirt isn’t just given out to anyone at Anfield. Keita has already fit right into Liverpool’s midfield three like he has been playing at the club for years. He has an engine that won’t shut off and is the perfect complement to Jordan Henderson. Keita’s box-to-box play allows Henderson to sit deep and pick forward passes to keep Liverpool’s attack going.
5 Regret: Cardiff City – Bobby Reid
Bobby Reid has made a career of being a lower league soccer player in England. Despite 177 matches during his eight-year career, it wasn’t until Bristol City’s 2017-18 Championship season that Reid began scoring goals. Reid tallied 19 league goals last season. It prompted newly promoted Premier League team Cardiff City to part with £10.22 million to sign the 25-year-old. Reid’s one truly good season led to his latest move, but there is nothing in his track record to show he can score double-digit goals again. Before breaking out with 19 goals in the EFL Championship last term, Reid had managed a mere three goal total in a single league season. Cardiff has taken a punt on Reid and if the team is relegated, it will be due to having players that aren’t capable of playing at the Premier League level.
4 Regret: Southampton – Danny Ings
Danny Ings spent three miserable, injury-ridden seasons at Liverpool. Every time the striker appeared ready to score goals and play matches, he suffered yet another injury. Liverpool paid £8 million for the striker and never got their money’s worth due to Ings’ constant injury problems. Ings now arrives at Southampton looking to revitalize his career. At 26, he has the opportunity to shine for a club that had difficulty scoring in 2017-18. Southampton didn’t start the Premier League season very promising, however. The Saints played out a bore nil-nil draw against Burnley. Ings most successful season came while playing for Burnley in the Championship. He tallied 21 goals in 40 matches. He did follow it up with 11 strikes in 35 matches the next season in the Premier League. Since then, Ings has scored three times in 15 games across four seasons.
3 Best: Inter Milan – Sime Vrsaljko
After two seasons and 54 appearances for Atletico Madrid, Sime Vrsaljko joined Inter this summer on loan for a fee of £6.5 million. It seemed an odd move as he had been a solid performer for Atletico during his time with the club. However, Vrsaljko had already spent three successful seasons in Serie A and that played a part in his move to Inter. Vrsaljko may be best remembered by some for being sent off against Arsenal in the first leg of the Europa League semifinal last season. The 26-year-old is coming off of a stellar World Cup in which he was a stalwart at right-back for Croatia. Vrsaljko featured in all eight of Croatia’s World Cup matches. It is often said clubs shouldn't buy a player on the back of a good World Cup. However, Vrsaljko has shown his quality over the years for Genoa, Sassuolo, and Atletico Madrid.
2 Regret: Everton – Andre Gomes
Andre Gomes joined Barcelona for €35 million plus €20m in add-ons in 2016. He only played 46 times for Barcelona during his stint at the club. In 2017-18, he tallied just 628 minutes in La Liga which averaged out to just 39.25 minutes per match. Barcelona has by and large given up on Gomes as the club happily advertised his services to other teams during the summer. Everton took a punt on the midfielder on transfer deadline day on a season-long loan. It cost the club €2.25m to sign him for the season. Based on Gomes’ track record at Barcelona, it is doubtful Everton will get much out of him. Gomes has already been replaced at Barcelona by Arturo Vidal, who was brought in to give Barcelona the steel in midfield the Portuguese defensive midfielder was supposed to supply.
1 Best: Barcelona – Malcom
Twenty-one-year-old Malcom was a relative unknown until this summer. The winger had spent the last two and a half seasons at French club Bordeaux. In 84 matches, Malcom tallied 20 goals and 13 assists. Barcelona took notice of Malcom’s potential and shelled out €41 million on the winger. Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde prefers a 4-4-2 formation rather than the club’s traditional 4-3-3. Valverde will deploy Malcom on the left wing to supply strikers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez with plenty of scoring opportunities. Malcom’s Barcelona deal came at the last minute as the player had nearly signed for Roma. According to the player’s agent, Malcom got revenge on Roma as he snubbed the club after initially verbally agreeing to join them. Malcom decided to snub Roma for Barcelona due to the team previously stopping their pursuit of him at the last minute a few seasons prior.