Cristiano Ronaldo’s re-arrival on English shores for a paltry £17m has raised temperatures among all Premier League fans to levels last witnessed during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. United fans are understandably ecstatic following a summer of massive spending that also saw multiple Champions League and World Cup winner Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho also join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
With rivals across the division and Europe pulling the purse strings, a pertinent, even fair question has arisen: which club undertook the best transfer business.
1- Paris Saint Germain – A+: Mauricio Pochettino’s moneybags trumped all comers by snapping up Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarruma, Sergio Ramos and Georgina Wijnaldum on free transfers. A significant portion of Messi’s astronomical weekly wages have already been recouped by his commercial appeal with replica shirt sales surprising the club’s Qatari owners. To cap it all, PSG kept Kylian Mbappe from the shackles of Real Madrid. Of course, the success of PSG’s marque signings can only be known in seasons to come if they overcome their Champions League hoodoo. Their 100 percent Ligue One record after five rounds of action implies they mean business.
2- Chelsea – A+: In this era of Uefa financial fair play and Covid induced cash shortfalls, balancing books is nirvana even for club owners as rich as Chelsea supremo Roman Abramovic. £97m power forward Romalu Lukaku is already bulging Premier League nets for the reigning Champions League holders, which implies he has strengthened a collection of players that was notoriously shy in front of goal.
That Chelsea has done this from funds accrued from the sale of academy products Tino Livramento, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abrahams is what earns the west Londoners my A+.
3- Inter Milan – A: Serie A champions Inter Milan have overcome a summer of upheaval which saw title winning coach Antonio Conte quit over the financial difficulties faced by parent company Suning Holdings.
The Giuseppe Meazza Stadium based club has admirably balanced books by selling Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi for a combined €200m. Replacements Eden Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries (brought in for a combined €17m) are already showing that Simone Inzaghi’s side can compete for the Scudetto.
4- Atletico Madrid – A: Honorable mention goes to Atletico Madrid who are showing they can compete for La Liga on one third the budgets of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Atleti’s ability to get Antoine Greizmann back on loan from the Camp Nou just a year after Luis Suarez arrived on a free transfer is evidence the Wanda Metropolitano club are on sound footing. Additionally, Diego Simeone’s La Liga titlists have withstood the vagaries of the Covid induced cash crisis that has forced the Primera Liga to introduce salary caps.
5- Man United B+: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils are only getting a B+ on account of previous failures in the transfer market. United have spent over €500m in five years but are yet to bag a single trophy. Though CR7 is bang on to be a huge hit, against the background of his European output at Juventus, there is no evidence he will end the Old Trafford club’s five-year wait for silverware. Besides, Jadon Sancho already appears like an expensive mistake, with no one sure how he will fit into the team given the amount of attacking talent at Solskjaer’s disposal.
6- Manchester City B: Jack Grealish’s £100m signing from Aston Villa has considerably enhanced Manchester City’s chances of retaining the Premier League title. However, the failure to recruit Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur could come back to haunt Pep Guardiola’s side in Europe, where lack of a clinical finisher is often the hurdle over which City tumble. How well Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres fill the enormous boots vacated by record scorer is the top issue of concern to Guardiola.
7- Crystal Palace + Everton B: Crystal Palace’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in a game in which new recruits Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, Conor Gallagher and Edouard Odsorne starred, shows the Selhurst Park club was correct to let over a dozen players leave.
Rafa Benitez is meanwhile showing his half a dozen immediate predecessors how to challenge for Europe by getting the best of Andros Townsend and Demerai Gray who arrived at Goodison Park for a combined £1.7m – a pittance compared to the annual splurges owner Fahad Moshiri has been partaking in.