With just over two weeks until the 2014 market closes, how are Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea and Europe's biggest sides faring?COMMENT
By Ben Hayward, Miles Chambers, Carlo Garganese and Stefan Coerts
The summer transfer window is whizzing by and numerous clubs claim to have completed their business already, while others are still rooting around for bargains as the main European deadline approaches on September 1.
But who's sitting smug with their top targets securely in the bag, making their rivals drool with jealousy? And who's made wince-worthy moves or are watching their meticulously-planned hopes being torn to shreds by misfortune or misplaced loyalty?
Goal takes a look at the most notable winners and losers in La Liga, the Premier League, Serie A and beyond with just two weeks left before the window slams shut.
WINNERS: Real Madrid
So far, so very excellent for Real Madrid in the transfer window. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti has brought in one of the world’s best midfielders in Toni Kroos, who was a key part in Germany's World Cup success. The tension seen in the goalkeeping position last season has been alleviated somewhat after Diego Lopez left to join AC Milan, but Keylor Navas - one of La Liga's standout performers last season - has arrived from Levante to provide competition for captain Iker Casillas.
Still to sort out are the futures of midfield outcasts Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria, but the signing of the World Cup’s best young player, James Rodriguez, adds further freshness to an already outrageous forward line. If rumours of a Radamel Falcao move this summer prove to true, the European champions might just have the strongest (and certainly the most expensive) squad in their illustrious history.
Barcelona will need to adapt to a new coach, new players and possibly even a new formation this season as Luis Enrique toys with the idea of using three at the back. At long last, two central defenders have been brought to Camp Nou, but Thomas Vermaelen is currently injured and Jeremy Mathieu is 31 in October. For the money spent, the Catalan club surely could have done better.
Ivan Rakitic looks a good acquisition in midfield, but players from outside La Masia struggle to adapt to Barca’s playing philosophy, so that could take time to work out. The side's marquee signing, Luis Suarez, is banned for four months and misses the first eight games of La Liga which could come back to bite Barca. In goal, meanwhile, Claudio Bravo is prone to mistakes and Marc-Andre ter Stegen is still very young. Add in their fruitless and frustrating pursuit of Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado and the jury is very much out on Barca’s dealings this summer.
What a difference a summer makes - earlier in 2014, manager Jose Mourinho was claiming Chelsea were the little horses in the Premier League title race while now he's proclaiming a decade of English domination at Stamford Bridge. Although 10 years might be over the top, certainly the Blues are the early favourites to topple Manchester City as champions this season following a transfer window which has seen an already strong squad burst at the seems with quality.
Thibaut Courtois returns after three outstanding years at Atletico Madrid, where he matured into one of the best goalkeepers on the planet. Mourinho has brought two of the Belgian's team-mates along with him to Chelsea; star Spain striker Diego Costa and formidable Brazilian left-back Filipe Luis. One of the coups of the summer was the return to London from Barcelona of former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who will form an enticing partnership with Nemanja Matic. Expectations are high and the pressure will be intense, but that's the way Mourinho has always liked it.
Everything looked rosy for Southampton at the end of 2013-14 when Mauricio Pochettino guided the club to eighth place - their highest-ever Premier League finish. But money talks and Saints fans were soon facing the grim reality of modern football when you're not a big club; cashing in on success. Pochettino was quickly poached by Tottenham but it's the graveyard of transfer departures which could haunt the prestigious south coast club.
Top talents Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren joined Liverpool for around €61m in total, Luke Shaw left for Manchester United as the most expensive left-back of all-time, while Calum Chambers was hoovered up by Arsenal, who have a history of mining Southampton's youngsters (see Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain). Incoming signings Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic, Fraser Forster, Shane Long and Saphir Taider represent a big downgrade on the proven team that was torn apart. It could be a rocky ride in 2014-15 for new coach Ronald Koeman.
In truth it has been a miserable summer for Italian clubs in terms of incoming transfers, with Serie A moving further behind the big-spending Premier League and the Clasico giants in Spain. But two clubs who can be happy with their work in the market so far are Roman duo Roma and Lazio. The former overpaid on Juan Iturbe, but have strengthened their squad and thus far retained their star players. If Mehdi Benatia and Kevin Strootman remain when the window shuts, they will do well in the Champions League.
But it is rivals Lazio who have done the best business in Serie A, albeit at a lower level. The Biancocelesti signed the highly rated centre back Stefan de Vrij, who enjoyed a fantastic World Cup with Netherlands, and also snapped up Marco Parolo and Dusan Basta, as well as prolific Nantes striker Filip Djordjevic on a Bosman. Most importantly, they kept hold of their three star men; Miroslav Klose, Antonio Candreva and wonderkid Keita Balde Diao. They could return to the Europa League this season.
It has been a tumultuous summer for Juventus, who lost the inspiration behind their three-year Scudetto winning streak - Antonio Conte - with the much-maligned Massimiliano Allegri his replacement. The Bianconeri have completely failed in their objective of signing a top class winger who would allow them to switch seamlessly to a 4-3-3 formation, missing out on both Cuadrado and Alexis Sanchez - the latter of whom was very buyable before the World Cup.
CEO Giuseppe Marotta has brought in the likes of Alvaro Morata, Patrice Evra, Roberto Pereyra and Romulo, but none of these players will improve the first XI. At best Juve have moved sideways, but with Andrea Pirlo and the defence a year older - and Conte gone - they have possibly moved backwards. The chance to close the gap on the European elite, barring a late coup, has been lost and even their domestic dominance may be under threat from Roma. And disappointment could yet turn into disaster if Arturo Vidal leaves.
|REST OF EUROPE
WINNERS: Borussia Dortmund
Every season you will hear pundits suggest that this summer Jurgen Klopp may have to watch his awesomely assembled talent disperse across the continent. But every summer Borussia Dortmund defy the odds, shedding one star player (this time time Robert Lewandowski to Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich) but holding on to every other key man. Losing your main striker to your biggest title rivals might look bad at first glance, but BVB's comfortable victory over Pep Guardiola and Co. in the DFL-Supercup shows that they are far from disillusioned at Signal Iduna Park.
It helped that Dortmund knew Lewandowski was going in January, allowing them to lay down plans to replace him without entering panic mode. Cue the signing of two forwards in stellar form; 2013-14 Serie A top goalscorer Ciro Immobile and Bundesliga breakthrough Adrian Ramos. Young Germany prospect - and new World Cup winner - Matthias Ginter provided much-needed defensive bolstering, while midfielder Nuri Sahin's permanent return from Real Madrid was the icing on the Schwarzgelben cake.
When Monaco went on a mega-money spending spree in the summer of 2013 after being promoted to Ligue 1, it looked like Paris Saint-Germain might have some serious contenders for the French championship. Finishing runners-up helped bolster the train of thought that Monaco were Europe's next super-club. However, since the final game of last term, it all seems to have fallen apart at the Stade Louis II. The harsh sacking of Claudio Ranieri raised a few eyebrows but it is this summer's transfer business which has set off alarm bells.
Losing World Cup wonderkid James Rodriguez to Real Madrid for an estimated €80m need not have been a catastrophe if owner Dmitry Rybolovlev had invested it back into the squad, but this has not transpired. Instead they have moved for flops like Maarten Stekelenburg on loan and sold top goalscorer Emmanuel Riviere for less than €8m. Star striker Radamel Falcao continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid, too. Whether or not billionaire businessman Rybolovlev has already burst his Monaco bubble remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the Monte Carlo-based outfit are unlikely to challenge PSG this season.
Feyenoord always knew that it was going to be a difficult summer for them, with several players expressing their desire to move to a bigger league at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. Few fans would have expected to see four key men leave before the start of the new season, however. Daryl Janmaat departed for Newcastle United, Stefan de Vrij joined Lazio, Bruno Martins Indi signed with Porto and Graziano Pelle followed head coach Ronald Koeman to Southampton.
The Eredivisie giants signed experienced defenders Khalid Boulahrouz and Luke Wilkshire, while they also secured the services of promising winger Bilal Basacikoglu from Heerenveen. But the Rotterdam outfit’s fans are by no means satisfied with their transfer activity so far as they have yet to sign an adequate replacement for Pelle. Strikers such as Bas Dost, Duvan Zapata and John Guidetti have all been heavily linked with a move to De Kuip, but Feyenoord have been unable to lure any of them to Rotterdam.