With much of the £8.4bn in TV deals still remaining and the completion of Paul Pogba’s £90m transfer to Manchester United last summer setting a benchmark, the 2017 summer transfer window promised to be one where inflation drove fees to dizzying new heights. For the teams with a bottomless pit of capital, the window looked to be an opportunity to flex one’s muscles but for clubs with less monetary weight to throw around it was also a window that put greater emphasis on bargains, scouting and of course the modest, yet ubiquitous loan deal. Throughout the summer months, the transfer window bubbled away nicely, buoyed further by the kinetic energy of the rumour mill. But only in the last few days of August, as it often inevitably does, did the transfer merry-go-round threaten to boil over into desperation, panic and frenzied overspending. Here at the Galleon, we’ve highlighted the key moments, the winners and losers and what it all means for the season ahead.
The trickledown effect of the 9-figure transfer fee
The world record £198m fee for Neymar sent a tsunami-sized ripple through the transfer window, doubling the previous record set by Pogba’s transfer the previous summer. Having lost one of their key players, Barcelona looked to replace Neymar with Ousmane Dembele as well as swooping for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho as a long-term replacement for the ageing Andres Iniesta. With nearly £200m available, and these two players being talked about in the same breath as Neymar and Iniesta, coupled with the inflation, the potential fees skyrocketed. Dembele eventually signed for £97m and Liverpool rejected three bids for Coutinho, the largest coming in at £118m.
As for Paris Saint Germain, the recipients of Neymar, their business didn’t end there. On deadline day, PSG finally landed Monaco wunderkind Kylian Mbappe on a loan deal with the inevitable option to buy next summer for £167m. With Neymar’s signing, the loan deal for Mbappe allows PSG to bypass the jurisdiction of the Financial Fair Play rules. But even with the Neymar deal alone, PSG are mounting a serious challenge of UEFA’s resolve. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out when UEFA inevitably investigate the finer details of PSG’s transfer activities.
‘However, with Vincent Kompany’s proneness to injury and John Stones still failing to live up to his £50m fee, City still look vulnerable in defence – especially while their three new full backs are still bedding in.’
As for the bigger picture, it’ll both be fascinating and worrying to see how Europe’s biggest clubs respond to these eye-watering fees; at this rate, the likes of Barcelona and PSG are threatening to leave their competition behind unless they respond with similarly extortionate fees.
The Top 7: Manchester and Everton flourish; Arsenal flounders
It’s always hard to read Manchester’s enigmatic managers and if they choose to hide behind a conceit of dissatisfaction when probed about their respective summer acquisitions, the print still shows happy reading whether you bleed blue or red. City broke the record transfer fee for a defender in signing Kyle Walker for £52m as well as signing two other full backs: Real Madrid’s Danilo and Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy. Mendy’s teammate Bernardo Silva also made the switch to the Etihad and is already proving a worthwhile addition. City have also looked to put the Joe Hart to debacle to rest; the £35m signing of Benfica’s Ederson looks to provide Guardiola with the composed ball-playing keeper he craves. However, with Vincent Kompany’s proneness to injury and John Stones still failing to live up to his £50m fee, City still look vulnerable in defence – especially while their three new full backs are still bedding in.
United have brought less in but the signings have been impressive nonetheless. With add-ons, Lukaku’s final fee could eclipse the Premier League record fee set by Pogba last summer. The signing of holding midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea will also add stability to an attack-heavy midfield as will the purchase of long-time target Victor Lindelof, who will form a formidable centre back pairing with Eric Bailly. The re-signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, once again on a free, could prove crucial in the latter half of the season should the striker recover from his cruciate knee injury in time.
Everton are the surprise package out of the supposed ‘big 7’. Ronald Koeman has revitalised the team’s spine with Jordan Pickford in at goalkeeper, Michael Keane in at centre back and Ajax captain Davy Klaasen and Gylfi Sigurdsson strengthening an already promising midfield. The return of Wayne Rooney will add experience and goals but you can’t help but feel that Everton still look light up front having failed to replace Romelu Lukaku.
Liverpool fans will no doubt be pleased by new club record transfer Mohamed Salah and Chelsea prospect Dominic Solanke on a free transfer. Additionally, the signing of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig for £55m will break the fee set by Salah when he arrives next summer and the deadline day acquisition of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will also add a new dimension in midfield and attack. However, the failure to sign their most important target Virgil Van Dijk will prove highly problematic even if Liverpool luckily avoid injuries to an already questionable backline.
‘It’s a modest but impressive showing from Spurs. They’ve balanced the books, maintained the team chemistry and held onto their most important players.’
Chelsea’s transfer window was hit and miss. Alvaro Morata is an adequate replacement for outcast Diego Costa, as is Tiemoue Bakayoko for Nemanja Matic. However, deadline day panic signings Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta may fail to meet expectations. Chelsea have improved slightly on their squad but the pressure is certainly on those marquis signings to acclimatise quickly.
Tottenham stealthily added to arguably the most complete squad of the top clubs prior to the window opening. Early on it looked as if Spurs would fail to make any signings but as the window drew to a close, they adequately replaced outgoing players. Serge Aurier replaced Kyle Walker for £23m, a bargain in the current market. Ajax prospect Davinson Sanchez broke Spurs’ club record fee at £42m, providing a better replacement for the outgoing Kevin Wimmer. And finally, Fernando Llorente’s deadline day move will offer a different attacking option for Spurs, who have looked frail up top when Harry Kane has been missing. It’s a modest but impressive showing from Spurs. They’ve balanced the books, maintained the team chemistry and held onto their most important players.
‘Despite being relatively green, Silva clearly has pulling power based on his first British transfer window.’
Arsenal easily had the worst window of the top teams. Club record signing Alexandre Lacazette and free transfer Sead Kolasinac provided early excitement but they proved to be the end of Arsenal’s outlay. Gabriel, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs departed whilst Arsenal made a deadline day charge for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar as a replacement for the possible outgoing of Alexis Sanchez. Even with Sanchez staying, Lemar would’ve done much to appease Arsenal fans should he have made the move to London. Defensively Arsenal still look bare and Sanchez’s mental state could play a big part in the games to come having seen a move fail to materialise.
Swansea, Watford and West Bromwich Albion are the best of the rest
A number of the smaller teams have made some surprisingly outstanding signings (Jermain Defoe to Bournemouth and Stoke landing Kurt Zouma and Jese Rodriguez) but it’s Swansea, Watford and West Bromwich that have really navigated the uncertain waters of the transfer window with aplomb. Swansea lost their two best players in Sigurdsson and Llorente but the return of Wilfried Bony and loan signing Bayern Munich starlet Renato Sanchez are good replacements. In addition to these two marquis signings, Swansea will be bolstered by Sam Clucas, Las Palmas’ Roque Mesa and Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham on loan.
Watford’s positive summer started with their new manager Marco Silva, who impressed during his short stint at Hull last season. Despite being relatively green, Silva clearly has pulling power based on his first British transfer window. A British midfield trio, Nathaniel Chalobah, Will Hughes and Tom Cleverley, join the ranks as do Burnley’s Andre Gray and promising Brazilian Richarlison for a combined outlay of just over £50 million. Loan signing Andre Carrillo will also add flair in midfield.
West Bromwich’s window was a fruitful one. The signing of Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig is a major coup, Jay Rodriguez will offer more options up top especially as his fitness improves with game time and Kieran Gibbs and experienced holding midfielder Gareth Barry will further stabilise the backline. But it’s the club’s marquis signing that’s a real statement of intent. Grzegorz Krychowiak signed on loan from PSG having found his opportunities limited at the French club. With two Europa League titles and a La Liga Team of the Season inclusion to his name, Krychowiak is certainly a contender for signing of the summer for West Bromwich.