While there is a break in the European football leagues to allow players time to compete for their countries, the transfer window has now come to a close. With the English Premier League easily surpassing their previous transfer spending record of $1.1 billion, only time will tell whether the clubs that spent the most received appropriate value in terms of team performances. With television rights increasing the revenues of the EPL teams, some managers and owners felt that by loosening the purse-strings they could improve their standings over last season. In some cases, new managers were brought in to make an immediate impact upon their teams, and the transfer window seems to offer the teams with enough cash the possibility to do just that.
With the summer transfer window now closed, which teams got the most bang for the buck?
Manchester United- While their cross-town rival Manchester City were the most active last year, new manager Jose Mourinho was active early and decisively this summer. United has already spent close to $200 million in this window, and would have spent more had they been able to unload surplus players Marcos Rojo and Sebastian Schweinsteiger. While only three games into the season, new players Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are major factors with United having garnered nine points in three matches. The swagger is back at Old Trafford, and the transfer window has helped the fortunes of this storied team turn around.
Chelsea FC– While new manager Antonio Conte did not arrive in North London until after his Italian national team was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Euro competition, he began work one week later in earnest. While he quickly agreed to loan out surplus players like Juan Cuadrado and 37 other Blues, he turned his attention to returning this mid-table club last season into a team that could compete for the top spot in the EPL. His earlier signings of striker Michy Bayshuayi and defender N’Golo Kante were doubled with last day transferees Marcos Alonso from Fiorentino and David Luiz, returning to Chelsea after two seasons at PSG. While the final transfer cost still has not been made public, expect the Blues to have spent north of $150 million in the current transfer window. With three victories in their first three matches, look for Chelsea to make a push for a Champions League spot in their current campaign.
Leicester City- After winning the top spot in the EPL last season against 5000-1 odds, what do you do for an encore? With the squad’s best players being tempted by better offers from other teams, Leicester somehow managed to retain their nucleus. Some players received new contracts with hefty raises, while others showed loyalty towards management for seeing them through an earlier downturn in their play. Jamie Vardy, for example, was courted by Arsenal for weeks. While most thought he’d agree to play for the Gunners, the Foxes produced enough of a counter-offer to retain their star striker. With all the other top squads in the EPL looking to improve from last season, Leicester City realized they need to do the same. Being thin up front, they purchased center forwards Islam Slimani from Sporting Lisbon and Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow for a combined $68 million. The Foxes also shored up their midfield, purchasing Nampalys Mendy from Nice and Bartosz Kapustka for an additional $30 milliion. While these transfer fees pale in comparison to other EPL squads, this is a small market team who have easily broken their own transfer fee records. After garnering four points in the first three matches, manager Claudio Ranieri is hopeful that his team can quickly jel as a unit and emerge into a top contender again this year.
Arsenal– With Arsene Wenger completing his second decade as manager for the Gunners, his aversion to building a team through the transfer window is well-known. But with little silverware garnered in his recent campaigns, the Gunners fan base has lost patience with the Frenchman. While proclaiming his disdain for the high transfer costs earlier this summer, apparently Wenger had an epiphany that perhaps the transfer window can help the Gunners. Arsenal purchased Granit Xhaka, Lucas Perez and Skodran Mustafi alone and set the Gunners back $105 million. With four points earned in their first three matches this season, Wenger and company have taken a roll of the dice, and nothing short of winning the top spot in the EPL will suffice.
Liverpool– One word-Balotelli. Since signed by Liverpool for a transfer fee of $21 million in 2014, Super Mario’s team presence has been a disaster for the Reds. Whether on their roster or on loan (as he was to AC Milan last season), his best years seem to have ended in 2014. With a free transfer to Nice, Balotelli will start with a clean slate. More importantly, Liverpool is now free of a major distraction. Well played, Jurgen Klopp, well played.