Once again, men’s soccer clubs around Europe spent an incredible amount of money to sign players in the summer transfer window, breaking multiple records.
According to Deloitte, Premier League clubs’ gross spend of £2.36 billion was almost £440 million higher than the previous record (£1.92bn) set last summer, while (with the exception of Spain’s LaLiga) gross transfer spend increased in all of Europe’s top leagues as well.
Saudi Pro League clubs played their part and paid £245m to sign players from the Premier League, so can we expect the same in January? Usually the monthlong window is a little slower, but January 2023 saw Premier League clubs spend a record £815m — 90% higher than the previous record of £430m in 2018.
Here are grades for all the major confirmed summer transfers in the men’s game, with each day’s moves listed in order of highest fee.
All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk (*).
Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella and Levi Colwill are all ahead of Maatsen in the left-back pecking order at Chelsea, so it’s clear he has no future at the club and a move seems best for all concerned. However, the Blues lose marks for only sending him on loan when they really wanted a permanent deal after a £31m move to Burnley fell through last summer.
Dortmund needed a left-back after the exit of Raphaël Guerreiro to Bayern last summer and should be able to offer Maatsen a chance. He is still only 21 and could thrive at the club.
Man United: D-
The very fact Man United are even having to send Sancho out on loan means they will get a low grade. Whatever has gone on with manager Erik ten Hag, surely they could have found a way to reintegrate him back into the squad? A loan move is a solution, but it’s a sad one for a player of such potential and United will continue to pay around half his £300,000-a-week salary.
Dortmund were able to bank €85m for Sancho’s transfer in 2021 and now they get him back on loan. The 23-year-old winger should be able to get back to his old self in familiar surroundings and the move is relatively low risk for his former club.
RB Leipzig: C+
Leipzig spent a cool €30m to re-sign Werner in 2022 and his two goals in 14 games this season are a world apart from his first spell when he bagged 95 in 159. The club still made a decent profit after moving him on to Chelsea for €50m in 2020, so it’s not all bad. But they wouldn’t have expected him to struggle enough for a loan spell.
Tottenham need a backup striker, but it’s tough to see why they were impressed by they saw from his time at Chelsea (23 goals in 89 games). A loan deal means it’s low risk, his pace could be useful for the Ange Postecoglou system and it’s a good move a player who needs game time ahead of Euro 2024 if he wants to get into the Germany squad. But it feels very much like a stop-gap solution, and those don’t usually work out.
Man City: C-
Colorado Rapids: A
Steffen signed for City for $7m from Columbus Crew in 2019 and made only 21 appearances in between loan spells at Fortuna Dusseldorf and Middlesbrough. The USMNT international could never unseat Ederson as No. 1 and a move is best for him, given he is still only 28.
The Rapids have landed a great deal. Steffen was left out of the U.S. squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by coach Gregg Berhalter and a move to MLS, where he will be playing regularly, should put him back into the national team conversation.
Athletico Paranaense: A-
The 18-year-old scored 28 goals in 80 appearances during his brief time in the first team — with 21 of those goals coming in 44 matches in 2023 before an injury limited his involvement. Athletico couldn’t keep hold of him once a big European team came in and they landed a very decent fee for his services.
Barca have gambled by parting with so much money given their financial situation, but they clearly see something of Luis Suarez in the young Brazilian forward. It’s hard to grade his transfer given he’s only 18, but if he reaches his potential then Barca will consider this a bargain.
Benfica know how to do a deal. Ramos came through the youth ranks so the €65m is all profit and they could net another €15m in performance-related add-ons. Yes they have missed his 46 goals in 106 games, but Santos’ Marcos Leonardo looks like he could be a decent replacement.
Three goals and one assist from 18 games isn’t stellar form, but PSG are clearly preparing for the possible exit of Kylian Mbappe and the 22-year-old Portugal international has bags of potential. He will need to start hitting the net with more regularity though, if the move isn’t to be deemed a flop.
Sao Paulo: A
The Brazil under-20 international has been linked with a host of clubs, so Sao Paulo were always going to struggle to keep him. A fee of €20m seems decent, especially considering he’s a centre-back.
PSG needed some depth in defence and he’s got plenty of potential, while he can learn a lot from Marquinhos, who was key in his decision to move to Paris.
Man United: C-
Eintracht Frankfurt: B+
Another example of a big United transfer gone wrong. Van de Beek signed for €45m from Ajax in 2020 and seemed like he could be a perfect fit for Ten Hag, having played under him before. But it didn’t work out.
Frankfurt have done a good deal here and will pay United a minimal loan fee and cover the majority of Van de Beek’s wages. An option to sign him permanently sits at €11m, which is affordable, and he is the type of player who could impress in the Bundesliga if he gets his confidence back.
Clearly not a part of Ange Postecoglou’s plans, Lloris has been out of the picture for six months despite being club captain last season. With a contract until the summer, Spurs did the decent thing to let the 37-year-old go for nothing midseason, but it’s a sad end to his 11-year career in north London.
LAFC won’t get too many years out of Lloris but France’s most-capped player (with 145 appearances) can still offer something and his experience will be of great use.