For one month every four years, the soccer world gets consumed. It develops World Cup tunnel vision, an unwavering focus on the grandest event in sport.
Or at least fans do. Not clubs. They’ve been busy. Busy preparing for the coming season, which is mere weeks away. And most importantly, busy operating in the transfer market.
European clubs are, once again, on pace to smash records. Those in the world’s top five leagues have already spent $3.4 billion, already three times as much as they did in an unusually active January window, and almost two-thirds of the way to last summer‘s all-time high-water mark.
Just how much has already happened? Well, there are several transfers worth over $30 million, and at least one or two over $40 million, that don’t even make our list of the top 25 deals of the summer so far.
That list is below to get you caught up. It doesn’t include moves like Kylian Mbappe’s from Monaco to PSG, which was struck last year, but structured as a loan with an obligation to buy this summer. (Douglas Costa to Juventus is a similar example.) And only officially completed deals make the list, so Alisson’s impending move to Liverpool is excluded. But everything else?
It’s all in the admittedly subjective and unscientific ranking below …
25. Paulinho, Barcelona —> Guangzhou Evergrande | loan (option to buy)
Yes, Barcelona had just bought Paulinho from Guangzhou last summer. Yes, it appears to now be selling him back for a profit. And yes, the whole situation is strange and sketchy. It’s a major on-field development, though – Paulinho was integral to Barcelona’s more conservative setup last season.
24. Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City —> Liverpool | $17.7 million
Jurgen Klopp called it a “no-brainer.” Stoke’s relegation activated a release clause in Shaqiri’s contract, and Liverpool took advantage. The Swiss winger is unlike anybody else the Reds have. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. And it remains to be seen whether he’ll enthusiastically accept a bench role – which he’ll have to do, because there’s no way he’s breaking into that front three.
23. Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus —> PSG | Free
Buffon left Juventus after 17 remarkable years. He’ll make one or two final runs at the Champions League with PSG. He’ll presumably become the first-choice starter immediately, but there are questions about his ability to cope with the modern game into his 40s.
22. Sokratis, Borussia Dortmund —> Arsenal | $23.1 million
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is his full name, and he’s apparently the answer to Arsenal’s defensive woes. But the Greek center back could be in for a rude awakening if he underestimates the size of the task.
21. Clement Lenglet, Sevilla —> Barcelona | $40.5 million
Paying $40 million for a 23-year-old left-footed French center back when you already have a 24-year-old left-footed French center back locked in as a starter seems … questionable. But Barcelona clearly thinks it’s good value for money, and the Catalan club might be right.
20. Joao Cancelo, Valencia —> Juventus | $46.4 million
Juve’s replacement for Stephan Lichtsteiner, who’s off to Arsenal on a free.
19. Justin Kluivert, Ajax —> Roma | $19.7 million
Kluivert might not make an immediate impact. But he’s 19. He’s one of the top teenage attackers in Europe. Roma’s $20 million capture of him is a coup.
Oh, and if you recognize the name … yes, he’s the son of Patrick.
18. Vinicius Junior, Flamengo —> Real Madrid | $52.6 million
Another young stud who could turn into the next Neymar, or could turn into nothing. The 18-year-old Brazilian winger arrives in Madrid with so much talent, and yet so many unknowns. He’s been considered the top teenage prospect in South America for some time, though, and given the price tag, Real Madrid are obviously fairly confident in stardom.
17. Felipe Anderson, Lazio —> West Ham | $43.8 million
West Ham has spent over $100 million already this summer! What is going on?!? Its eclectic attacking mix now features Felipe Anderson, Marko Arnautovic, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini, Robert Snodgrass, Chicharito and … wait for it … Andy Carroll. All managed by Manuel Pellegrini.
Just watch, though, Michail Antonio is still somehow going to find his way into the starting striker role.
16. Jean Michael Seri, Nice —> Fulham | $32.7 million
Newly-promoted Premier League clubs are spending $32 million on players. Let that sink in for a second
Seri, by the way, very nearly joined Barcelona last year. That he’s now a Fulham player is remarkable. A central midfield partnership of the Ivorian and Tom Cairney is awfully enticing.
15. Lautaro Martinez, Racing —> Inter Milan | $26.3 million
Martinez, a 20-year-old striker, was probably the best U-21 player in South America over the past year, and very nearly made Argentina’s World Cup squad. The main question at Inter: Will he be countryman Mauro Icardi’s backup, partner or replacement?
14. Alvaro Odriozola, Real Sociedad —> Real Madrid | $46.3 million
This is an interesting one. Odriozola, 22, burst onto the scene at Sociedad and became one of the most sought-after youngsters in Spain. But he’s a right back. And Real Madrid already has one of the top-three right backs in the world, Dani Carvajal. Carvajal, by the way, is 26, one of the youngest of Real’s first 11. You’d think Los Blancos would have wanted to spend their money elsewhere. But we’ll see how the rest of the summer plays out.
13. Lucas Torreira, Sampdoria —> Arsenal | $34.7 million
Arsenal fans waged war with Arsene Wenger for years over his refusal to sign a proper defensive midfielder. Now that they have one, they’re over the moon. But asking Torreira, a diminutive 22-year-old Uruguayan, to step right in at the base of a top-six Premier League midfield might be a bit unfair. Have patience, Gooners.
12. Radja Nainggolan, Roma —> Inter Milan | $43.2 million
This is Monchi and Roma playing moneyball. Getting $43 million for a 30-year-old whose game depends on physicality is great business. That said … Nainggolan was vital at the Stadio Olimpico last year. And on the other side of the deal, if the Belgian midfielder has two or three great years left in him, Inter seems to have fortified its roster really well. Speaking of which …
11. Stefan De Vrij, Lazio —> Inter Milan | Free
Remember this? In a way, Inter has already more than gotten value for money.
10. Arthur Melo, Gremio —> Barcelona | $46.4 million
A lot of skill. Even more hype. You don’t have to search too hard to find Barca fans dubbing Arthur the next Xavi or Iniesta. Let’s slow down a bit, though. The 21-year-old is talented, but it takes a lot more than talent to become a central midfield fixture at Camp Nou.
9. Fabinho, Monaco —> Liverpool | $52.3 million
Versatility is the key word here. The 24-year-old Brazilian could play in Jordan Henderson’s role, or alongside Henderson, or at right back. He’s not quite an elite player, but he’ll give Klopp options. And heck, maybe he’ll develop into a world-beater under the mad scientist.
8. Emre Can, Liverpool —> Juventus | Free
Liverpool supporters seem unperturbed by his departure. Given the replacements, perhaps with good reason. But I really think this is going to be a case of a club and a fan base not knowing what they had until he’s gone. Can should be excellent at Juventus if he can stay fit.
7. Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City —> Manchester City | $78.5 million
For the second time in six months, City broke its club transfer record for a rotation player. Of course, it doesn’t have any holes, so it can make luxury signings. But it now has four top-drawer wingers and (often) only two spots for them.
Mahrez, of course, understands this. “There’s a lot of players,” he told Yahoo Sports Wednesday on City’s preseason tour. “But for a big club, the goal is to win everything.” Rotation and depth – quality depth – are therefore necessary.
Asked what areas of emphasis have been for him in early training sessions, Mahrez said Pep Guardiola wants him “to be more defensively aggressive.”
6. Fred, Shakhtar Donetsk —> Manchester United | $57.1 million
The 25-year-old Brazilian, who’s mobile but better on the ball than off it, seems like a great fit alongside Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic if Jose Mourinho wants to go to a true midfield three. But it’s getting crowded in there. Is there no longer room for Jesse Lingard? There certainly isn’t for Ander Herrera or Scott McTominay. And Marouane Fellaini still looms, literally.
But Mourinho now has more options than he did last year. Fred doesn’t overlap too much with anybody previously on the roster.
5. Leon Goretzka, Schalke —> Bayern Munich | Free
4. Thomas Lemar, Monaco —> Atletico Madrid | $68.9 million
Not only did Atleti get a playmaker who fits in its 4-4-2 … the Lemar deal was reportedly a factor in convincing Antoine Griezmann to stay, which might be the second-biggest transfer news of the summer thus far.
3. Jorginho, Napoli —> Chelsea | $65.9 million
Chelsea has its conductor to partner the imperious N’Golo Kante. Jorginho, a Brazilian-born Italian, might be the second-best deep-lying playmaker in the world after Toni Kroos.
Oh, and he arrives at Stamford Bridge with his former boss, Maurizio Sarri. Antonio Conte is out. The Blues, in other words, just got a lot more exciting.
2. Naby Keita, RB Leipzig —> Liverpool | $69 million
If gegenpressing ruled the world, Klopp and Keita would get a royal wedding before the latter’s first game at Anfield. These two were made for each other. Here’s more on Keita from last summer, when the Reds locked up the deal a year in advance.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid —> Juventus | $117.5 million
OTHER NOTABLE MOVES
Bernd Leno, Bayer Leverkusen —> Arsenal
James Maddison, Norwich City —> Leicester City
Ricardo Pereira, Porto —> Leicester City
Jannik Vestergaard, Borussia Monchengladbach —> Southampton
Mohamed Elyounoussi, FC Basel —> Southampton
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal —> West Ham
Andriy Yarmolenko, Borussia Dortmund —> West Ham
Issa Diop, Toulouse —> West Ham
Raul Jimenez, Benfica —> Wolves (loan)
Alex Meret, Udinese —> Napoli
Fabian Ruiz, Real Betis —> Napoli
Simone Verdi, Bologna —> Napoli
Javier Pastore, PSG —> Roma
Paulinho, Vasco De Gama —> Bayer Leverkusen
Abdou Diallo, Mainz —> Borussia Dortmund
Thomas Delaney, Werder Bremen —> Borussia Dortmund
Alassane Plea, Nice —> Borussia Monchengladbach
Salif Sane, Hannover —> Schalke
Mark Uth, Hoffenheim —> Schalke
Yuri Berchiche, PSG —> Athletic Bilbao
Gerard Moreno, Espanyol —> Villarreal
William Carvalho, Sporting CP —> Real Betis
Ibrahim Amadou, Lille —> Sevilla
Santi Cazorla, Arsenal —> Villarreal
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