Now that another European transfer window has mercifully come and gone, it’s time to digest what transpired. Here, we pick out the biggest winners – and losers – from the hectic summer market.
Winners: Inter Milan … and Antonio Conte
Inter Milan finally look ready to leave their banter era behind and establish themselves as true contenders for Juventus’ crown once again.
Together with CEO Beppe Marotta, new manager Antonio Conte built a squad rife with players who fit his uptempo system perfectly. Romelu Lukaku looks rejuvenated, Stefano Sensi already appears to be the steal of the summer, Diego Godin will help anchor the backline, and Nicolo Barella is a future star. As for Alexis Sanchez, it’s a no-risk situation. If it works, Conte looks like a genius. If the Chilean truly is on his last legs, then Inter can simply ship him back to Old Trafford.
Crucially, the feisty Italian also succeeded in casting off unwanted personnel – something that countless clubs failed to do over the past few months.
Conte, who strutted into the San Siro with his typical my-way-or-the-highway approach, immediately identified a trio of players he had no use for. It took until the final minutes of the transfer window, but he succeeded in cutting all three of them loose: Ivan Perisic is now at Bayern Munich, Radja Nainggolan is back at Cagliari, and, incredibly, there was a taker for disgruntled former captain Mauro Icardi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain.
Losers: Manchester United
Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are objectively good footballers who make Manchester United a better team. The Red Devils were gouged by the premium that is placed on English talent in the Premier League, but their wonky defense was in desperate need of an upgrade.
The problems, though, lay elsewhere.
Paul Pogba doesn’t want to be at the club and, in the wake of Ander Herrera’s exit, is surrounded by an even thinner crop of midfield talent than he was last season. Has anyone actually seen Fred recently?
The aforementioned departure of Lukaku, even if he wasn’t a perfect fit, puts immense pressure on Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to stay fit and in form all season long. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a monumental task on his hands to avoid a truly disastrous campaign.
Winners: Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid’s brass went into the summer knowing that an overhaul was necessary. Antoine Griezmann wanted to join Barcelona, iconic captain Diego Godin was leaving for Inter, Rodri was the apple of Pep Guardiola’s eye at Manchester City, and the contracts of defensive stalwarts Filipe Luis and Juanfran were expiring.
Rebuilding in one fell swoop seemed a daunting task, and yet, that’s exactly what the Rojiblancos did.
The Griezmann divorce was hilariously messy, yes, but the end result – an enormous cash influx – worked out all the same. The funds, along with those from the opulent sale of Rodri, allowed Atleti to make arguably the biggest splash of the window, forking out €126 million to make Portuguese wonderkid Joao Felix the new face of the club.
Kieran Trippier, Renan Lodi, Felipe, and Mario Hermoso should all help to ensure the historically stingy backline remains solid, while Marcos Llorente, despite some early-season wobbles, should be a fixture in central midfielder for many years to come.
Atletico look poised to challenge for the La Liga title, which is an astonishing statement considering who they’ve waved goodbye to this summer.
Neymar was desperate to return to Barcelona this summer, and PSG were happy to offload a player that, despite his dazzling talent on the pitch, delivers no shortage of headaches to go along with his array of tricks and flicks.
And yet, the two clubs couldn’t find an agreement. After months of negotiating, offers and counteroffers, various payment structures, and a collection of players presented as potential makeweights, the Brazilian remains at the Parc des Princes.
And the worst part? We have to do it all over again next summer.
Winner: Feel-good stories
Draining as the window can be, some truly satisfying developments over the last few months offered a nice change of pace from the constant barrage of absurd rumors and people making bold transfer claims based on the Instagram likes of various footballers.
Mario Balotelli returned to Italy, linking up with hometown club Brescia, and his mother was so moved by the news that she burst into tears. Mats Hummels is back at Borussia Dortmund, and Gianluigi Buffon ended his brief sojourn in Paris to pull on the Juventus shirt once more.
Daniele De Rossi fulfilled a dream by joining Boca Juniors and, on deadline day, Radamel Falcao completed a move to Galatasaray after being greeted at the airport in Istanbul by some 25,000 rabid fans. They love him already, and he’s not kicked a ball for the club yet.
Every now and again, this sport can still make you smile.
Loser: Zinedine Zidane
Gareth Bale 1, Zinedine Zidane 0.
The headstrong French manager wasn’t shy when discussing his plans for the Welshman during the summer, telling anybody who’d listen that he hoped the criminally underappreciated forward would be sold.
“Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that it happens soon,” Zidane said of Bale’s prospective departure for China back in July.
When that move fell apart, it forced the bench boss to pull off a dramatic U-turn. As the season approached and injuries mounted, the tables turned; all of a sudden, Zidane needed Bale.
“The dynamic changes and things change and now I’m going to count on him like everyone else. I said it a short time ago: I’m going to count on all the players that are here,” Zidane said in August, tail tucked between his legs.
Lo and behold, the blistering winger started all three of Real Madrid’s league matches to open the new campaign.
Winners: All of us
It’s over. Praise be.