The summer transfer window of 2021 is officially over. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from a window unlike any in recent memory.
Winner: Manchester United
Fans were already stoked when Man United pulled off deals for Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, but the return of Cristiano Ronaldo was the icing on the cake. Ronaldo was reportedly on the way to Manchester City, but a last-second effort from former players and United’s board worked. The Portugal star is returning to the club where his legacy started to grow and should fit in well with a unit capable of winning the Premier League and Champions League this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has constantly faced criticism about the job he’s done at Man United, but he’s weathered the storm for a moment like this. This is reminiscent of the club that won 13 league titles from 1992-93 to 2012-13.
Winner: Paris Saint-Germain
PSG crushed the free transfer market, grabbing Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lionel Messi without paying a cent. The Messi signing ultimately took place due to La Liga clamping down on Barcelona’s wage problems but PSG won’t care how the deal ultimately happened. PSG spent big for Achraf Hakimi, but he’s a good player who’s versatility allows Mauricio Pochettino to implement different styles. The French giants also refused to succumb to Real Madrid’s repeated bids for Kylian Mbappe, despite the player expressing his desire to leave the club. PSG chose the pursuit of a Champions League title over the business of soccer by retaining Mbappe for this season. If the club can convince him to sign a long-term deal, it’ll be a massive win.
If the objective of this summer’s transfers was to the infuse the squad with young talent, Arsenal overpaid for players. If the objective was to bring in top-tier talent, Arsenal failed to do so. Ben White is a talented young defender, but is he worth £50m when Varane and Dayot Upamecano went for around €40m and Kurt Zouma went for £25m? Aaron Ramsdale is a backup goalkeeper the Gunners paid £24m for. Martin Odegaard is a good signing based on last season’s performance but is a slight overpay at €35-40m. Albert Sambi Lokonga and Takehiro Tomiyasu come in for €20m each while in-house youngsters like William Saliba, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles go on loan. Arsenal also surprisingly completely avoided a solid free transfer pool. Spending money doesn’t guarantee results, especially when it’s spent on second-tier talent. Arsenal could find that out the hard way this season.
Winner: Jack Grealish
Manchester City was linked to Ronaldo, Messi and Harry Kane but ultimately decided to break the bank on Grealish in the transfer window. City may have preemptively pulled the plug on its pursuit of Messi and Ronaldo, with Grealish and Aston Villa benefitting from the £100m transfer fee. The midfielder is talented and fits well in a loaded City roster, but the board clearly had the money for Messi or Ronaldo and didn’t go hard enough to land either player. If Man City fails to win the Champions League title this year, it will look back on this transfer window as a huge missed opportunity.
Loser: Real Madrid
Eduardo Camavinga is a nice signing at €30m and David Alaba coming in on a free transfer is nice but this was a disappointing transfer window overall for the Spanish club. Real Madrid had to watch veteran defenders Varane and Ramos go to other clubs and failed three times in its pursuit of Mbappe. The player was willing to join the club and can still do so for free next year, but the delay means more things can go wrong than right from Real Madrid’s perspective. It’s not easy for any club, even a loaded one like PSG, to turn down €200m for a player slated to leave for free. The French club chose the pursuit of a Champions League title over money and Real Madrid has to resort to Plan B.
Loser: Harry Kane
Kane dropped a bombshell ahead of the transfer window, saying he wanted out from Tottenham. The club was expected to land between £100-£150m on a Kane transfer, but it didn’t come. Man City was among the suitors interested, but Tottenham didn’t budge. The English star is one of the best strikers in the world, but somehow didn’t get a move in an otherwise active transfer window. Ultimately, Kane announced he was staying at the club for the season with the hope of a move next year.
Winner: Bayern Munich
Fans usually don’t like when the rich clubs get richer, but Bayern improving at RB Leipzig’s expense will generally be viewed favorably. The German giants basically took Leipzig’s best talents from the backline and sidelines. Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer fill big needs with David Alaba and Jerome Boateng gone, while Julian Nagelsmann is one of the brightest young managers in the game. Bayern didn’t drop €100m on flashy signings, choosing to address needs with talented players while relying on a strong core to remain in form. PSG, both Manchester clubs and Chelsea will grab the headlines when it comes to Champions League odds, but Bayern Munich remains a great value pick at +750 according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Winner: Erling Haaland
Romelu Lukaku went for €115m. Sancho went for €85m. Real Madrid reportedly put up €180m for Mbappe before going as high as €220m. Haaland is coming off 41 goals in 41 appearances last season and the 21-year old is only going to get better. Imagine the transfer fee this talented striker is going to land. Borussia Dortmund has held off on parting with him, but ultimately the club will have to make a move. Club finances are trending in the right direction as well as the pandemic begins to wane, creating the environment for a massive bidding war. Haaland and Borussia Dortmund stand to benefit.