Once again, men’s soccer clubs around Europe spent an incredible amount of money to sign players in the summer transfer window, breaking multiple records.
According to Deloitte, Premier League clubs’ gross spend of £2.36 billion was almost £440 million higher than the previous record (£1.92bn) set last summer, while (with the exception of Spain’s LaLiga) gross transfer spend increased in all of Europe’s top leagues as well.
Saudi Pro League clubs played their part and paid £245m to sign players from the Premier League, so can we expect the same in January? Usually the monthlong window is a little slower, but January 2023 saw Premier League clubs spend a record £815m — 90% higher than the previous record of £430m in 2018.
Here are grades for all the major confirmed summer transfers in the men’s game, with each day’s moves listed in order of highest fee.
All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk (*).
Man City: C+
West Ham: A
City spent around £45m to sign Phillips from Leeds United in 2022 but it hasn’t worked out. The England international hasn’t played and Pep Guardiola seemed genuinely sad he couldn’t offer him more chances. They will want a permanent deal in the summer.
A great deal for West Ham, who have landed a replacement for Declan Rice, who will be keen to showcase his skills ahead of Euro 2024. A no-risk loan deal that can only have positive implications.
Moscardo broke into the Corinthians first team only six months ago so it’s a decent transfer fee for his services, given his lack of exposure. The 18-year-old stepped into central midfield during a tricky time for the club and has shown experience beyond his years. They will certainly feel his absence.
A holding midfielder in the style of Arsenal’s Declan Rice, Moscardo should settle well at the club as there are a number of Brazilians in Paris already. PSG have loaned him back for the rest of the season but they have needed a player in this position for a while and it will be interesting to see how one of the top young prospects in the game develops.
River Plate: C
Manchester City: B+
The 18-year-old attacker is highly rated and will remain at River Plate until next January before moving to City. Still, for one who has gathered quite so much attention, the transfer fee feels on the low side.
Echeverri has signed a deal until June 2028 and will likely move on loan to one of City’s many feeder clubs (possibly Girona) before he ever gets near the City first team. But if he can have anywhere near the impact of Julian Alvarez then it will be a superb deal.
Boca Juniors: C-
One of the most exciting prospects in all of South America, Barco left Boca for what seems a relatively cheap fee due to a release clause of $10m in his contract. The Argentine giants will be fuming that they couldn’t get him to sign new terms before moving him on.
Brighton have done it again. The livewire 19-year-old left-back is versatile and seems a perfect fit for Roberto De Zerbi’s style as he will be given license to roam forward from deeper areas and showcase his brilliant dribbling. Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid all showed interest in Barco before, so Brighton did brilliantly to persuade the youngster that he would develop better with them.
Al Ettifaq: D-
Henderson, 33, made waves when he moved to Saudi Arabia and will now question whether it was worth it. He’s played 19 times and has reportedly yet to be paid any of his £350,000-a-week salary. It’s also a bad look for the Saudi league that he’s left inside six months and has had his contract terminated.
Famed for their youth system, Ajax need a bit of experience to help the youngsters’ development. He can still offer something and the Eredivisie could be a good place for him to reignite his career.
Man United: C+
After an impressive performance vs. Burnley earlier this season, it seemed like Hannibal might get his chance. But he’s been sent on loan until the end of the season and Sevilla have an option of a permanent deal set at €16m plus €4m in add-ons. He could be yet another young prospect who couldn’t make it at Old Trafford.
Sevilla can offer him more regular minutes and he turned down Tunisia’s call-up to the Africa Cup of Nations this month to sort out his club future. He might prefer LaLiga’s style of play but he will need to impress quickly to earn a future contract.
Chelsea recalled him after he spent the first half of the season on loan at Union Berlin in Germany, where he made 17 appearances and scored in the Champions League group stage against Napoli. It’s probably better for him to gain Premier League experience, but the Blues have yet to see much from him.
Burnley need something if they’re going to avoid relegation. There’s not been anything to suggest Fofana will light up the Premier League but it’s worth a low-risk effort.
Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella and Levi Colwill are all ahead of Maatsen in the left-back pecking order at Chelsea, so it’s clear he has no future at the club and a move seems best for all concerned. However, the Blues lose marks for only sending him on loan when they really wanted a permanent deal after a £31m move to Burnley fell through last summer.
Dortmund needed a left-back after the exit of Raphaël Guerreiro to Bayern last summer and should be able to offer Maatsen a chance. He is still only 21 and could thrive at the club.
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Man United: D-
The very fact Man United are even having to send Sancho out on loan means they will get a low grade. Whatever has gone on with manager Erik ten Hag, surely they could have found a way to reintegrate him back into the squad? A loan move is a solution, but it’s a sad one for a player of such potential and United will continue to pay around half his £300,000-a-week salary.
Dortmund were able to bank €85m for Sancho’s transfer in 2021 and now they get him back on loan. The 23-year-old winger should be able to get back to his old self in familiar surroundings and the move is relatively low risk for his former club.
RB Leipzig: C+
Leipzig spent a cool €30m to re-sign Werner in 2022 and his two goals in 14 games this season are a world apart from his first spell when he bagged 95 in 159. The club still made a decent profit after moving him on to Chelsea for €50m in 2020, so it’s not all bad. But they wouldn’t have expected him to struggle enough for a loan spell.
Tottenham need a backup striker, but it’s tough to see why they were impressed by they saw from his time at Chelsea (23 goals in 89 games). A loan deal means it’s low risk, his pace could be useful for the Ange Postecoglou system and it’s a good move a player who needs game time ahead of Euro 2024 if he wants to get into the Germany squad. But it feels very much like a stop-gap solution, and those don’t usually work out.
Man City: C-
Colorado Rapids: A
Steffen signed for City for $7m from Columbus Crew in 2019 and made only 21 appearances in between loan spells at Fortuna Dusseldorf and Middlesbrough. The USMNT international could never unseat Ederson as No. 1 and a move is best for him, given he is still only 28.
The Rapids have landed a great deal. Steffen was left out of the U.S. squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by coach Gregg Berhalter and a move to MLS, where he will be playing regularly, should put him back into the national team conversation.
Athletico Paranaense: A-
The 18-year-old scored 28 goals in 80 appearances during his brief time in the first team — with 21 of those goals coming in 44 matches in 2023 before an injury limited his involvement. Athletico couldn’t keep hold of him once a big European team came in and they landed a very decent fee for his services.
Barca have gambled by parting with so much money given their financial situation, but they clearly see something of Luis Suarez in the young Brazilian forward. It’s hard to grade his transfer given he’s only 18, but if he reaches his potential then Barca will consider this a bargain.
Benfica know how to do a deal. Ramos came through the youth ranks so the €65m is all profit and they could net another €15m in performance-related add-ons. Yes they have missed his 46 goals in 106 games, but Santos’ Marcos Leonardo looks like he could be a decent replacement.
Three goals and one assist from 18 games isn’t stellar form, but PSG are clearly preparing for the possible exit of Kylian Mbappe and the 22-year-old Portugal international has bags of potential. He will need to start hitting the net with more regularity though, if the move isn’t to be deemed a flop.
Sao Paulo: A
The Brazil under-20 international has been linked with a host of clubs, so Sao Paulo were always going to struggle to keep him. A fee of €20m seems decent, especially considering he’s a centre-back.
PSG needed some depth in defence and he’s got plenty of potential, while he can learn a lot from Marquinhos, who was key in his decision to move to Paris.
Man United: C-
Eintracht Frankfurt: B+
Another example of a big United transfer gone wrong. Van de Beek signed for €45m from Ajax in 2020 and seemed like he could be a perfect fit for Ten Hag, having played under him before. But it didn’t work out.
Frankfurt have done a good deal here and will pay United a minimal loan fee and cover the majority of Van de Beek’s wages. An option to sign him permanently sits at €11m, which is affordable, and he is the type of player who could impress in the Bundesliga if he gets his confidence back.
Clearly not a part of Ange Postecoglou’s plans, Lloris has been out of the picture for six months despite being club captain last season. With a contract until the summer, Spurs did the decent thing to let the 37-year-old go for nothing midseason, but it’s a sad end to his 11-year career in north London.
LAFC won’t get too many years out of Lloris but France’s most-capped player (with 145 appearances) can still offer something and his experience will be of great use.
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