Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi spotlight busy European soccer transfer window; England’s Premier remains premier

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The transfer window saw legends Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) on the move. Messi went from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, and Ronaldo went from Juventus to Manchester United.

“The craziest transfer market ever,” stated Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, the most credible source when it comes to soccer transfers. Everything goes through him. Having reported over 30 key transfers this summer, Romano couldn’t sleep, and neither could soccer fans around the world as they stayed tuned in to see where their favorite players would end up. Little did they know this transfer window would be one for the books. With Romano’s Twitter page constantly trending, fans witnessed moves from Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and many more. All these changes will have a major impact on this European soccer season, and The Torch is here to summarize it all.

Serie A (Italy): This summer was filled with international soccer. In the European Championship, Italy came out on top beating England on penalties, taking its second ever Euro’s trophy. This Italian team was filled with stars who made a name for themselves at the summer tournament and looked for a bigger challenge in their club careers. Midfielder Manuel Locatelli was one of them, and he completed a transfer to Italian giants Juventus for a $44M fee. Defender Alessandro Florenzi also looked for a change of scenery, joining AC Milan on a loan transfer.

Other stars headed to the Serie A are Italian forward Moise Kean, also going to Juve, but on a loan transfer; English forward Tammy Abraham, going to Roma on a $40M fee; striker Edin Dzeko, moving to Inter Milan on a free transfer; and Olivier Giroud, another striker who joined the Italian league, but this time it was AC Milan who picked up the goalscorer on a free transfer. AC Milan also brought in goalkeeper Mike Maignan for $14M and defender Fikayo Tomori for $32M. Hakan Calhanoglu, who played for AC Milan last season, joined their city rivals Inter Milan on a free transfer.

Premier League (England): Despite coming out with the loss at the Euros, England still had the biggest win of the summer through another lens. The English Premier League saw it’s biggest change in recent years, with the most European transfers surrounding it. Being the league that spent the most money, the Premier League has distanced itself from other leagues and sit comfortably on the throne of best soccer league in the world. Not only do they hold the most valuable players and 11 of the 30 most valuable clubs in the world, but they also are the most competitive league, being so well balanced compared to the others. Overall, the biggest winners of the transfer window were the English Premier League and its fans.

Captain and starting striker of the English team Harry Kane had a busy summer as well himself, being linked to a move from his current club Tottenham Hotspurs. Manchester City was his go-to destination, as he stated he wanted to win trophies. Reports suggested City was ready to offer $180M for Kane, but the Spurs weren’t willing to sell their superstar.

With Kane returning to the team for at least one more season, the Spurs look to compete for trophies in order to convince their striker to stay for years to come. They started by bringing in new coach, Nuno Espírito Santo, the Portuguese coach who formerly coached another Premier League side, the Wolves. Santo has been busy in the office being a key factor in the acquisitions of Christian Romero on loan from Atalanta, Emerson Royal for $27M from Barcelona, and Bryan Gil in a swap sending Erik Lamela and $29M to Sevilla.

Manchester City’s failure to purchase Kane didn’t stop them this summer though, as they completed the transfer of Kane’s international teammate Jack Grealish. Being the most expensive transfer of the summer, Grealish’s former club, Aston Villa, was paid nearly $140M. 

Grealish’s departure left Aston Villa without their star player, but with a load of money. This money was very well spent, replacing Grealish with five different players that can help get the job done: Emiliano Buendía, Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, Axel Tuanzebe and Ashley Young. Even with the acquisition of five players, Villa maintained a net profit of $30M.

The European champions also made some additions to their already star-studded squad. After the takeover of head coach Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea has been on a tear winning the club’s second ever Champions League, and having statistically one of the best defences in the Premier League. The club broke the bank this summer to bring striker Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge. After leaving in 2014 for a $39M fee, Lukaku became one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Previously on the Italian side Inter Milan, Chelsea brought Lukaku back for a $126M fee. On the last day of the window, Chelsea also brought in Saul from Atletico Madrid on loan to enforce their midfield.

Surprisingly, the biggest spenders of the transfer window were Arsenal. Bringing in 23-year-old defender Ben White from Brighton was a move that could really help Arsenal’s defensive struggles, but it left fans wondering if the team is heading in the right direction spending nearly $65M on a defender who hasn’t proven to be at the same level as other top players going for the same price. This, plus other questionable signings, left Arsenal at a total balance of negative $148M for the summer, spending the most out of any team in Europe, $182M while receiving just $34M.

That wasn’t all for the Premier League though, Leeds United signed Daniel James from Manchester United for $18M, West Ham signed Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma for $39M, Everton brought Demarai Gray back to England from Bayer Leverkusen for a $2.5M fee, and 6-times European champions Liverpool signed defender Ibrahima Konaté from RB Leipzig for $44M.

Although most Premier League teams had an above average transfer window, the winners of it all were Manchester United. United is now the third most valuable club in the world, and they also made themselves favorites for multiple titles with their additions.

Jadon Sancho’s transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United had been one in the making for the past two transfer windows. United had been constantly trying to bring the English sensation to the Premier League but were never successful, always falling short on negotiations. But, following a $100M fee, German club Dortmund finally let go of their star, completing the third most expensive transfer of the window.

Not only did United acquire Sancho, but they also brought along two stars who have proven to compete at the highest level. First, it was four-time Champions League and World Cup winner Raphaël Varane, defender from Real Madrid, for $44M. Acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo on the last few days of the window was the cherry on top of it all, though. The 36-year-old is not only a soccer legend, but a United legend as well. Ronaldo played at United in the early phases of his career from 2003 to 2009, and now rejoins the Red Devils to complete his already luxurious career. Ronaldo joined United on a $27M fee from Juventus.

Ligue 1 (France): Ronaldo wasn’t the only legend on the move though. Lionel Messi has had an undecided future for the past year, not knowing if he will continue or not with FC Barcelona, the club he had been with for the past 18 years. After almost leaving Barcelona last transfer window, Olympic Heights senior Torch staff writer Christopher Santos wrote in an article posted Sept. 22, 2020, “The soccer world will have to wait one more year to see if Messi finally leaves Barcelona.”

That year has passed and we finally have figured out Messi’s future. Although Messi’s desire was to leave the club last year, there was a change of mind this year with the Argentinian’s wishes to actually remain with the club. Messi had already agreed on a wage cut and was ready to sign the contract, but due to the Spanish League’s regulations, Barcelona was financially not able to keep the legend.

Messi had a very successful 2020/21 season, winning the Copa Del Rey with Barcelona, and most importantly, winning the Copa America, his first ever international trophy with Argentina, taking a huge weight off of his shoulders. Messi and Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in Brazil’s home stadium, giving Messi one of the most important trophies of his 16 year career. Following his successful year, Messi is the favorite for the best player in the world award, the Ballon D’or. This would be the Argentinian’s record breaking 7th Ballon D’or, and he will hope to achieve this feat at his new club Paris Saint-Germain, who signed the legend on a free transfer.

“PSG had the best transfer window of all time,” stated OH junior soccer player Jacobo Palacio. “It’s not everyday you get the G.O.A.T. on a free transfer, and all the other signings they made. They’re definitely winning the Champions League this year.”

Those “other signings” referred to are the supporting cast PSG acquired to put around Messi. PSG already had one of the strongest squads in Europe with the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria, but additions such as Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Gianluigi Donnarumma, all on a free transfer, Achraf Hakimi for $70M, and Nuno Mendes for $48M, helped pushed them over the bar as not only Europe’s most valuable team but also favorites for multiple titles this year. 

Other teams around the French League, Ligue 1, also reinforce their squad. Current Ligue 1 champions Lille brought in midfielder Amadou Onana on a $7M fee in order to help them stop PSG’s super team and repeat their title from last year. Lyon also made a move signing veteran defender Jérôme Boateng, and Olympique Marseille brought in Brazilian midfielder Gerson for $28M.

La Liga (Spain): Messi in Ligue 1 will be extremely fun to watch, but it leaves us wondering what the Spanish League, La Liga, will look like now that their main star is gone. Messi alone brought many viewers to La Liga, and rates will certainly drop this year. But, the three Spanish giants, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Real Madrid are still must-see TV.

All three teams made major moves this summer. Barcelona brought three strikers to play at the Camp Nou. Memphis Depay, the 27-year-old Dutchman, was the first of the three, coming on a free transfer from Lyon. Then came 33-year-old Argentinian Sergio Agüero on a free transfer, after playing for Manchester City for the last decade. In the last few minutes of the transfer window, Barcelona pulled off the loan for another Dutch forward. Luuk De Jong from Sevilla. Along with all the forwards, the Spanish giants also brought in 20-year-old Spanish defender Eric García, also from Manchester City on a free transfer.

With the arrival of so many strikers, Barcelona couldn’t keep the full team intact, and this saw Antoine Griezmann leaving on a deal that sent him back to his former club Atletico Madrid. Barcelona bought Griezmann two seasons ago for a transfer fee of $142M, but due to the financial problems the club sold him back to his former club on a loan deal of $11M with an option to buy for $48M. Along with Griezmann, Atletico also brought along Argentinian midfielder Rodrigo De Paul for $38M, and Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha for $33M.

Atletico’s city rival Real Madrid didn’t stand pat this window either. Real Madrid was linked with young superstar Mbappe throughout the last week of the window with both parties interested in a move, but Madrid just couldn’t reach an agreement with Mbappe’s current club PSG. Multiple offers were made for the Frenchman, including one worth $212M, but PSG were determined to keep their man. Real Madrid moved on from Mbappe and purchased a different French youngster, 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga for $34M. Manchester United and PSG were also interested in Camavinga, but the young star ultimately chose Madrid. On a free transfer deal agreed to in January, Bayern Munich’s defender David Alaba also joined “Los Blancos.”

Bundesliga (Germany): David Alaba’s exit from German champions Bayern Munich left a hole to be filled at the center defender spot, but buying players has never been the problem for the nine-time consecutive Bundesliga champions, as they have more money than any other German League teams. Bayern went out and got RB Leipzig’s young defender Dayot Upamecano for $47M. Along with Upamecano, his teammate Marcel Sabitzer also joined Bayern, but for $17M. Both purchases were by request of new Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann, who coached both players at RB Leipzig last year.

RB Leipzig finished second in the Bundesliga last season, finishing over 10 points behind. This infuriated many fans who believe it is financially unfair for Bayern to not only have a much better team, but also purchase the best players from its strongest competition. It is no wonder they have 31 total and nine consecutive Bundesliga titles. There is simply no competition in Germany.

This didn’t stop RB Leipzig from continually improving their squad, however. The Red Bull affiliated club was founded in 2009, and with a huge financial investment, they seem to be the club that will fight with Bayern at the top of German flight. To replace their losses this summer, Leipzig brought in many young promising players, including André Silva from Frankfurt for $25M, Ilaix Moriba for $18M, Josko Gvardiol for $21M, and Angeliño for $20M. Leipzig is hoping their additions can help them finally dethrone the German champions.

The last team not named Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga was Borussia Dortmund, back in 2012. Since then, Dortmund has constantly finished between second and seventh place, but they are looking to add a title to their name this year with the signing of 22 year old Dutch striker Donyell Malen from PSV for $33M. Dortmund also has a world class young striker in their squad, Erling Haaland. Haaland was linked with moves to Chelsea and PSG throughout the summer, but eventually stayed at Dortmund.

By the numbers: All clubs around the world were affected by the pandemic, losing money one way or another. This caused the transfer window not to have as much money flow as compared to the previous seasons. Nevertheless, clubs still went all-out to improve their squad. Around the world, over $4.43 billion was spent, with the above five leagues dominating the charts with a combined $3.60 billion, or 81% of all the money spent.

That being said, here is how the leagues lined up against one another, with the percentage of it compared to the total world spending:

Premier League:  $1.59 Billion, 36%
Serie A:  $678 Million, 15%
Bundesliga:  $499 Million, 11%
Ligue 1:  $475 Million, 11%
La Liga:  $360 Million, 8%
Rest of the world:  $830 Million, 19%

With the transfer window having wrapped up on August 31, we now just have to sit back and get used to faces in new places. While this was arguably the greatest transfer window of all time, we must also keep our eyes open because next year could be even better. 

There is a star studded list of free-agents hitting the market, including Paul Pogba, Mbappe, Pedri, and Leon Goretzka, all who could be on the move. There are also multiple stars who could be looking for new challenges, including Erling Haaland, and Raheem Sterling. The excitement to see where these players could end up is just adding more fire to a season of European soccer that fans won’t want to miss.

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