With billions of dollars having changed hands in exchange for the right to buy out players’ contracts from fellow clubs, the bedlam of soccer’s frenzied summer transfer deadline is at an end. Time, then, to sort the winners from the losers, FOX Soccer style: Honorable mention: Bayern Munich (winners) Fiorentina (winners) Juventus (winners) Chelsea (winners) Malaga (losers) Hamburg (losers) Newcastle (losers) Athletic Bilbao (losers)
Ajax Amsterdam (losers)
Ever the producer of talent, it seems to be Ajax’s fate to lose that talent and lack the resources to adequately replace it. In the last days of this window, Ajax lost Christian Eriksen to Spurs and Toby Alderweireld to Atletico Madrid, leaving them down an elite playmaker and central defender. The Amsterdam club signed Lerin Duarte to replace Eriksen but failed in their attempts to bring a slew of Dutchmen floundering abroad back to the Netherlands. Bids for Ola John, Zakaria Labyad and Eljero Elia all failed.
Real Madrid (winners)
Is $130-odd million too much for Gareth Bale? Probably. But then money is seldom a factor when Real chases after a galactico. In fact, one suspects that the dizzying figures only raise the club’s stature and inflates its mythology. Anyway, provided it can find a spot to play him while accommodating Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria, Bale makes Real better. So do young Spanish recruits Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Daniel Carvajal and Brazilian midfielder Casemiro. Total outlay: $214 million. And Real recovered $155 million for surplus midfielders Pedro Leon, Mesut Ozil, Jose Callejon, striker Gonzalo Higuain and defender Raul Albiol. Kaka was released for free, an $85 million write-off on his transfer fee, but his enormous salary is off the books too. Real managed to rejuvenate its squad for a lot less money than it would seem.
Manchester United (losers)
United’s haul for the entire 2 month-long summer transfer window was just one little-known right back from Uruguay, Guillermo Varela, until a few minutes before the transfer window closed. But at length, Marouane Fellaini, Everton’s all-purpose midfielder were signed. It wasn’t a pretty summer for David Moyes' first transfer window as United manager.
The Italians, now under the management of Rafa Benitez and without star striker Edinson Cavani, who was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for $85 million, didn’t waste any time in spending their newfound riches. The aforementioned Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol and Gonzalo Higuain all joined from Real. Pepe Reina was loaned from Liverpool. And in Dries Mertens, Pablo Armero, Rafael Cabral and Duvan Zapata, Napoli unearthed several more good contributors at very reasonable prices. And other than Cavani, the only players of note they lost were Andrea Dossena and Hugo Campagnaro, neither of whom figured to be a starter this year.
Anzhi Makhachkala (losers)
It didn’t take long for Suleyman Kerimov to give up on his insanely ambitious project of building the world’s best club in Dagestan, one of the most destitute and dangerous regions in the world. So this summer, he offloaded Christopher Samba, Joao Carlos, Mbark Boussofa, Igor Denisov, Samuel Eto’o, Willian, Yuri Zhirkov, Lassana Diarra and a slew of other players. The party’s over.
AS Monaco (winners)
Newly-promoted to Ligue 1 and newly-rich thanks to its very own Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco begin splashing its oodles of cash in earnest this summer, in spite of having yet to settle its dispute with the league over whether the Monte Carlo-based club’s players are tax exempt. (Monaco residents are, but rivals reasonably argue that gives the club an unfair advantage, as French player contracts stipulate a net salary, not gross.) The club picked up veterans Ricardo Carvalho, Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan, nabbed goalkeeper Sergio Romero on loan and dropped a cool $170 million on a pair of FC Porto midfielders, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, and Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, perhaps the world’s best at his position.
FC Barcelona (losers)
Can you call a transfer period in which you landed Neymar a failure? Yes. Because what Barca really needed was a central defender or two. Neymar is a nice addition, of course, but Barca’s corps of forwards, already consisting of Lionel Messi, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Cristian Tello, wasn’t as urgently in need of reinforcing as every other line is.
Tottenham Hotspur (winners)
Knowing full well that star winger Gareth Bale was on his way out for a monster sum -- somewhere between $126 million and $132 million, as it turned out -- Spurs beefed up their squad throughout the summer. They said goodbye to some players in American Clint Dempsey and Englishmen Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Steven Caulker and let the contracts of David Bentley and William Gallas run out. Then they replaced them with some very good players, or very promising ones, at least; Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen all arrived in fairly short order. With an already young and talented core in place, the new collective group makes Spurs serious title candidates.
Realistically, Arsenal is a striker, a winger, a holding midfielder and at least one defender away from being a competitor. If not more. So what did Arsene Wenger finally – finally! – splash all that cash he has sitting in his office safe on? Why, a creative central midfielder, of course. Certainly, the decision to buy Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for $$66 million is unimpeachable. But at the same time, he solves a problem that doesn’t exist while real issues remain unaddressed.
Manchester City (winners)
The Sky Blues pulled off the rare double trick of addressing the team’s weaknesses while simultaneously cutting a lot of the bloat out of the payroll; Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz were mercifully at the end of their respective contracts and released; Maicon was shipped off to AS Roma; and Carlos Tevez to Juventus, relieving the club of a chronic distraction. For $141 million, City then poached Jesus Navas as a much-needed long-term solution on the right wing. It also got Fernandinho to help spell Yaya Toure in central midfield, Martin Demichelis as cover at center back and Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo as reinforcements for Edin Dzeko and Kun Aguero up front.