The transfer window, in terms of signing players, may have slammed shut for Premier League clubs a few weeks ago, but teams across the rest of Europe are still able to do business now. The four other major footballing leagues in Spain, Germany, France and Italy have until September 2nd, whilst others remain open even longer than that.
Whilst there have been some very well-documented deals this summer, from Harry Maguire’s £80 million move to Manchester United to the gargantuan deal which saw Joao Felix join Atletico Madrid as Antoine Griezmann departed for Barcelona. There are some pretty significant deals that don’t seem to have garnered much media attention, here in the UK at least, and today we turn our attention to those transfers and look at them in a bit more depth.
Here are our 7 big summer transfers you may have missed:
7. Steven Nzonzi to Galatasaray
We start with a loan deal, but a pretty significant transfer and one which doesn’t seem to have attracted much interest outside of Italy, France and Turkey at least. A terrific central or defensive midfield enforcer, Nzonzi is big, athletic, good on the ball and rarely wasteful in possession. The former Stoke City Player of the Year is a Europa League and World Cup winner, and he joined Roma from Sevilla for a potential €30 million last summer.
That’s a hefty fee for a then-29 and now 30-year-old, but Nzonzi’s performances in Andalusia warranted it. After a bright start, being named as man of the match on his debut, Nzonzi’s time in Rome began to sour as the season meandered on. Reports suggest the Italians were keen to balance the books this summer, and Nzonzi was identified as a potential player who could be offloaded. One or two underhands tactics were involved in convincing the Frenchman that he should leave the Italian capital, such as delaying his salary payment and making him train away from the first team.
Even after a less than spectacular season in Serie A, I must admit I’m a little surprised Nzonzi didn’t land a better club than Galatasaray. The Turkish giants haven’t reached the knockout stages of the Champions League in five years, and Nzonzi will partner fellow loanee and last season Fulham flop Jean Michael Seri in the middle of the park. As mentioned, it is only a loan move for Nzonzi, but it’s a significant deal and a real coup for Galatasaray as far as I’m concerned.
6. Dani Alves to São Paulo
Sao Paulo's player Dani Alves gestures during the Brazilian Championship football match against Ceara at Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 18, 2019. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA
Sao Paulo were being talked about as potential relegation candidates and as a club in crisis not long ago, but following the arrival of a couple of key veteran signings, the mood at the Estadio do Morumbi has been transformed. In addition to the signing of Alexandre Pato in March, Sao Paulo brought in international right-backs Juanfran and Dani Alves this summer. Both could have made this seven as transfers some people might have missed, and both have made big impacts in their first few games.
It is the Spaniard Juanfran who has taken up his traditional right-back spot in the Sao Paulo side, whilst Alves has been given a free role in midfield, combining defensive and playmaking duties. Alves has always been a very industrious, attacking and creative player, and this new role appears to suit him down to the ground. Nevertheless, he is still Brazil’s first choice right-back, and he reportedly hopes to still represent the country at the 2022 World Cup.
Dani Alves left European football after 17 years on the continent this summer, after PSG were seemingly happy to let him go with his two-year deal having run its course. He won the Player of the Tournament award as Brazil won the Copa America over the summer though, and the 36-year-old certainly would have had his pick of many top clubs had he wished to remain in Europe. A fairytale transfer to Sao Paulo, the club Alves supported as a boy, fulfilled a lifelong dream for the Barcelona legend though. He scored the only goal of the game on his debut in a 1-0 win, and his arrival has come as a huge boost to now title hopefuls Sao Paulo.
5. Junior Firpo to Barcelona
Barcelona made some big moves in the transfer market this summer, most notably with the additions of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid and Frenkie de Jong from Ajax, two deals alone which cost the club a reported €195 million. A transfer that lurked a little in the shadows of those two, perhaps, was the arrival of Junior Firpo - better known simply as Junior - for an initial €18 million and a potential €30 million from Real Betis.
What makes Junior’s lofty fee notable is the fact that for a 23-year-old he hasn’t actually played a great deal of football, or top level senior football I should say. Although he looked excellent at times last season, he was out injured for a couple of months and only actually made 24 La Liga appearances in what was essentially his breakout campaign. He played 14 league games the season before last, and prior to that he was playing for Betis B in the third tier of Spanish football.
Having said all that, there is good reason why Barca were willing to part with a potential €30 million for the attack minded full-back, and he could well prove to be Jordi Alba’s long-term replacement there. Junior is incredibly quick, excellent on the ball and can put sumptuous deliveries into the box for Barca’s many talented forwards. A recent tweet by Barcelona involving Junior following their 5-2 win against his former club Betis drew a fair amount of media attention, but perhaps the transfer did not, and that’s why he features in this seven.
4. Mario Balotelli to Brescia
President of Brescia Calcio Massimo Cellino and Mario Balotelli show the Brescia Calcio jersey during Brescia Calcio Unveils New Signing Mario Balotelli on August 19, 2019 in Brescia,...
A remarkable transfer story that, at least as someone who works in football media, I didn’t think received a great deal of coverage was Mario Balotelli’s transfer to Brescia. Although Balotelli was born in Palermo, he moved to Brescia, where his adoptive parents lived and indeed still live at the age of two. As such, Brescia are Balotelli’s boyhood club, and like Dani Alves he made a fairytale move to the Lombardy outfit this summer.
In many ways the move makes sense, but it’s still a little unusual. Between his time at Nice and Marseille in Ligue 1, Balotelli has scored 51 goals in 88 games, a sensational goal scoring record that would have European giants on high alert were it not for Super Mario’s rather notorious attitude and disciplinary problems. Brazilian side Flamengo were pretty much the only other team seriously linked with him this summer though, and I have to say that surprised me.
Balotelli’s homecoming was confirmed a couple of weeks ago, and it looks as though the centre-forward can expect an easier ride from the Lombardy press than he has experienced elsewhere in his career. The Serie A new boys only won promotion last season, but the signing of Balotelli will give them real confidence that they can stay in the division. Balotelli is 29 now, and the move almost certainly saw him take a sizeable pay cut. He will want to be the star for Brescia now though, a big fish in a small pond, and he’ll hope to score enough goals to force his way back into the Italian national team fold.
3. Franck Ribery to Fiorentina
If you’d have said to me back in May ‘where will Franck Ribery be at the start of next season?’, I would have needed at least 50 guesses before I plucked Fiorentina out of thin air. Not quite as unusual as Daniele de Rossi’s move to Boca Juniors or Victor Wanyama’s potential transfer to Club Brugge, but not far off, Fiorentina signed an enormous number of players this summer ahead of Rocco Commisso’s first season as owner of the club, including Kevin Prince-Boateng, but none more high-profile than Ribery.
Once touted as Zinedine Zidane’s heir as France’s talisman, Ribery’s international career never quite lived up to its billing, but his club career has been outstanding. He spent 12 years at Bayern Munich, the majority of which he spent as one of the finest wide players in the world, operating in tandem with the equally brilliant Arjen Robben on the opposite flank. Both Robben and Ribery called time on their Bayern careers last season, but whilst Robben decided to hang up his boots altogether, Ribery - who is a year older than Robben - isn’t done just yet.
Ribery has said that it was his former Bayern team mate Luca Toni who convinced him to join Fiorentina, and personally I thought a return to a club like Metz who won promotion into Ligue 1 last season would have been more likely. Fiorentina finished 16th in Serie A last season, only narrowly avoiding relegation, but they’ll have much loftier expectations this season off the back of a busy summer in terms of transfer activity. Also somewhat surprisingly, Ribery penned a two-year deal in Florence rather than one, meaning he’ll be at the club until he is 38 at least.
2. Renato Sanches to Lille
Renato Sanches of Munich during the match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Hertha BSC at Allianz Arena on August 16, 2019 in Munich, Germany.
A pretty significant signing I would say that didn’t seem to get many people talking here in the UK at least, Renato Sanches became Lille’s most expensive signing of all time last week. Sanches joined Bayern Munich back in 2016 as an 18-year-old in a deal that could have been worth as much as €80 million subject to add-ons. Sanches was widely regarded as one of the finest prospects in world football at the time, having just helped Portugal to glory at Euro 2016.
In the more than three years since, Sanches has added just seven caps to his overall international tally, which is a reflection of how his club form has looked. Following a difficult start to life in Bavaria, Sanches spent the 2017-18 season on-loan at Swansea, where he was totally underwhelming in a struggling Swans side that would ultimately be relegated. He returned to Bayern Munich to play 24 games as the club won a league and cup double last season, making a really bright start to the campaign but also getting a red card in a game against RB Leipzig.
At the start of this season, Sanches publicly declared his displeasure at the lack of game time he was getting at Bayern, a proclamation that was met with a €10,000 fine from the club themselves. Exactly one week later, Sanches was announced as a Lille player, joining the French outfit for a club record €25 million. Lille finished as runners-up in Ligue 1 last season, 16 points behind champions PSG, and they had cash to burn following the sale of Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal. They also brought in Timothy Weah from PSG and Yusuf Yazici from Trabzonspor this summer, and look to be building for the future with some talented young additions.
1. Hirving Lozano to Napoli
A player who I spoke about a lot on this channel in 2017 and 2018, this may be the first time we’ve discussed Hirving - or Chucky - Lozano in 2019. Quick, tenacious and highly explosive, Lozano’s combination of speed and that little bit of aggression has always led me to believe he would adjust well to life in the Premier League. It’s a bit of a shame that he has made a move to Italy then, but he has joined a very competitive club under the guidance of one of the most successful managers in the world.
A prolific right-footed left winger, Lozano made his name with Pachuca in Liga MX, before taking the Eredivisie by storm at PSV. He bagged 40 goals in 74 games in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns, as well as scoring a memorable goal for Mexico as they defeat reigning champions Germany in their opening game of the 2018 World Cup. Lozano’s fine form for both club and country has unsurprisingly led to an avalanche of transfer speculation, with Everton, Manchester United and Chelsea all having been linked since January 2019.
It is Napoli who won the race though, with their €42 million deal to sign the winger being confirmed on August 23rd. Lozano is one of two big money arrivals at the Stadio San Paolo this summer along with centre-back Kostas Manolas, as the club look to not only challenge Juventus for the Serie A title, but also to fend off the advances of a resurgent Inter Milan. It’s certainly a step-up going from the Eredivisie to Serie A, and it remains to be seen whether Lozano can help them in either of those tasks, but I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of his.
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