Because of the European Championships, Olympics, Gold Cup, and Copa America, most European teams have yet to do much business in the transfer window. Traditional powerhouses like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Juventus have made relatively few moves, whilst some smaller teams have been making smart, under-the-radar moves. In this article we’ll look at who has made the best moves in each of Europe’s top five leagues according to UEFA.
Note: This is compared to the depth and quality of the teams. PSG, for instance, have been making waves with their signings but you can argue that because of the depth in the squad, they didn’t need to improve at the positions they did. This also takes into account the practical aspects of these signings: Barcelona have made some good moves but can’t register these players because of the club’s financial situation. These are only transfers confirmed as of July 22nd.
England: Watford FC
Watford earned promotion back to the Premier League after finishing second in the Championship, and have made many moves to improve the quality of the squad.
Despite finishing second in the Championship, Watford were only the league’s sixth highest scorers. Aging striker Troy Deeney struggled with injury problems as did backup Isaac Success, insuring that only one player (winger Ismaila Sarr) finished with more than ten goals. To improve this, Watford have brought in three proven strikers (Emmanuel Dennis of Club Brugge, Ashley Fletcher of Middlesbrough, and Joshua King of Everton) for a combined cost of $4,000,000.
Watford also signed Premier League veteran Danny Rose to improve the quality of the defense, highly rated French midfielder Imran Louza from Nantes to improve the midfield, and invested in youth by signing Mattie Pollock and Manchester City target Kwadwo Baah. They are a much improved squad, and have the potential to easily avoid relegation.
Germany: VfL Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg could be surprise Bundesliga candidates next season. Already with one of the best squads in Germany, finishing fourth to qualify for the Champions League, Wolfsburg have brought in several new players to bolster the squad. Offense was the team’s main priority, with four teams scoring more goals but only one conceding fewer.
Whilst he initially struggled with the team, striker Maximilian Philipp showed promise at the end of the season (including a brace against RB Leipzig) and Wolfsburg chose to make his loan move from Dynamo Moscow permanent. Prior to playing with Dynamo, Philipp played with Bundesliga teams Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg.
Manchester duo Felix and Lukas Nmecha were also brought in to help the offense. The England and Germany youth internationals have showed flashes of talent and their potential could be realized at Wolfsburg. Midfielder Aster Vranckx, signed from Belgian side KV Mechelen, can also help offensively.
Wolfsburg’s most expensive signing so far is Köln defender Sebastian Bornauw. The 22-year old defender was key for the Bundesliga side, starting in all five of their clean sheets. In the ten games that he did not play, Köln won only twice.
Spain: Getafe CF
After finishing in the top eight three seasons in a row since earning promotion – including being two points off a Champions League spot in 2019 – Getafe were looking to take the next step last season. Unfortunately, the Madrid-based side finished 15th (four points away from being relegated) despite only conceding 43 goals. However, Getafe scored only 28 times, finishing with the worst offense in the league. Lionel Messi had more La Liga goals than Getafe.
Unsurprisingly, the theme of Getafe’s transfer window has been to improve the team’s attack. Mexico and Chivas Guadalajara forward Juan José Macías was brought in on loan with an option to buy, having scored twelve goals in the Liga MX the previous year. Atletico Madrid youth forward Dario Poveda also arrived with hopes of bolstering the attack alongside Atletico senior winger and outcast Vitolo. Atletico’s sixth most expensive signing of all time, Vitolo has struggled in Spain’s capital (scoring just seven times in 100 games with only nine assists) but a move to Getafe could help his career.
The rest of the team was also improved. La Masia youth product Carles Aleña’s loan to Getafe was made permanent for just a third of his $16.5 million market value as Barcelona continue their fire-sale. Meanwhile, one of Spain’s best defenses got even better with the arrival of journeyman Stefan Mitrovic, who has played in over 300 games throughout his career.
Italy: AC Milan
For large chunks of the season last year, AC Milan looked like they could potentially win the Serie A. It’s disappointing, then, that they finished four matches behind city rivals Inter Milan despite finishing second. However, with much of Italy struggling financially, AC Milan are taking advantage.
Granted, many key players have left. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Mario Mandzukic, and Hakan Calhanoglu all left for free upon the expiration of their contracts. However, AC Milan have restocked the team with replacements for Donnarumma (Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan) and Mandzukic (Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud).
Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali both had their loan moves made permanent from Chelsea and Brescia respectively, and Brahim Diaz will return on loan again from Real Madrid, this time with an option to buy. AC Milan’s final addition (so far) is Fodé Ballo-Touré, a Senegalese wingback purchased from Monaco to provide depth. The Rossoneri look prepared for next season.
France: OGC Nice
Nice have looked like a team that could challenge for a couple of years now, but have failed to build on their third-placed finish in 2017. Since then, the French side have struggled for European spots and have been forced to depend on unreliable veterans like Hatem Ben Arfa and Mario Balotelli. That could all be about to change, however.
Nice have had a very busy transfer window. Last season, ten Ligue 1 teams scored as many or more goals as the Eaglets, and eight teams conceded fewer goals. To improve the team, Nice have spent money improving both the offense and the defense. Center-back Jean-Clair Todibo was brought in from Barcelona after impressing on loan last season, and Lyon and France youth international left-back Melvin Bard was also signed, both for fees under their market values.
On offense, AZ Alkmaar winger Calvin Stengs was brought in after scoring seven goals and grabbing five assists last year in the Netherlands. Nice bought Stengs for $16.5 million, making him the club’s second largest ever signing. Roma and fellow Netherlands winger Justin Kluivert also comes in, with Kluivert being on loan with an option to buy. Kluivert has yet to fulfill his potential in Rome, so a change of scenery is needed and he can shine in France.
Nice’s biggest addition, however, is a new head coach. Christophe Galtier, three-time French coach of the year, resigned shortly after winning the Ligue 1 title with Lille last year and decided that Nice was his next project. A great coach can make all the difference, and Galtier might be the one to get Nice started.
Whilst there is still another month left in most of Europe’s transfer window, it is important to make signings early for many reasons. Many leagues start within the next few weeks, and a poor start to the season has the possibility of dooming some teams early on. It is also important to not leave business until too late, as panic buys often hinder a team more than they help. Just look at Bayern Munich and Bouna Sarr.
Think I missed a team? Let me know in the comments!
Image Courtesy of Vincenzo.togni, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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