TThere have been some big moves this summer and we’re not even into August yet. The continent’s most prestigious teams have spared no expense in their bid to usurp Champions League winners Real Madrid. The Spanish champions won their third Champions League title in six years by beating Liverpool in the final in Paris in May. As their opponents became stronger, they added them to their team without wasting time.
The big money arrival comes in the form of 22-year-old Frenchman Aurélien Tchouaméni from Monaco. “Real Madrid” is preparing to move the old guard to the midfield line. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are in their 30s, so bedding is vital for the new generation. With Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga already at the club and Tchouaméni signed for €100m, Carlo Ancelotti has a key part of Real Madrid’s next midfield.
Antonio Rüdiger increases the defensive ranks of the team with a free transfer. Chelsea were interested in keeping Rudiger but were restricted by financial sanctions imposed during Roman Abramovich’s time at the club. The 29-year-old is one of the best centre-backs in the game and he will provide additional cover and competition for David Alaba and Éder Militão in the heart of defence.
Rüdiger is not the only top-class centre-back to leave Chelsea for Spain this summer, with Andreas Christensen joining Barcelona. “Barcelona”, which left 13 points behind its arch-rivals last season, is fulfilling its mission. Xavi’s appointment in November brought much-needed stability to the Camp Nou and the board were more than willing to back him in the transfer market.
Despite their financial woes, Barcelona have been busy this summer. Frank Kessie also arrived on a free transfer from Milan and the club spent big on Raphinha (€58m) and Robert Lewandowski (€50m). Chelsea pursued Raphinha, but the Brazilian moved his heart to Barcelona and eventually got their man. The 25-year-old will provide stiff competition on the right for Ousmane Dembele, who has extended his stay at the club until 2024. Barcelona are also close to signing another Chelsea target, Jules Kounde, from Sevilla for €50m.
Lewandowski, who completed his 12-year career in Germany, is the focus of the team. The 33-year-old football player scored 35 goals in the “Bayern” team last season and won another European “Golden Boot”. With the attacking talent already at Xavi’s disposal, Lewandowski should tear La Liga apart as Barcelona look to not only leapfrog Real Madrid as Spain’s best, but also reach the quarter-finals for the second time in the last eight. Seasons in the Champions League.
“Bayern” will replace Lewandowski without wasting time. Following in his footsteps will not be easy, but the German champions will be confident they have secured his successor in Sadio Mane. The 30-year-old scored 16 Premier League goals last season – not at Lewandowski’s level – but he shone in a central role for Liverpool, who reached the Champions League final and won two trophies.
Even after winning the Bundesliga title, Bayern made moves to strengthen by signing two Ajax players. Noussair Mazraoui inflates Julian Nagelsmann’s options on the right wing, easing Benjamin Pavard’s load in the process, while Ryan Gravenberch will give them extra drive in the middle of the park. After Niklas Süle left for Borussia Dortmund, signing a new centre-back was Nagelsmann’s priority and Bayern spent big on his replacement.
Bayern have signed Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus for €80m, which means three of their four record signings have been centre-backs. De Ligt struggled for consistency at Juventus, although working under three different managers in three seasons at the club did not help as he tried to adapt to a new league in a new country. Nevertheless, “Juventus” returned the fee they paid for the Dutchman in 2019.
They used this money well. Bremer replaced Brazilian De Ligt, who moved across town from Torino. Bremer made more tackles (105) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so Juve boss Max Allegri now has a new centre-back designed to strengthen and ease the pressure on Juventus’ goal.
Although the bulk of their business this summer was in the free market where the old lady was a master. Paul Pogba has returned to the club after the culmination of his Manchester United contract, although he has torn his meniscus and will be out for several months. Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi left, while Ángel Di María arrived on a free transfer to strengthen the attacking ranks.
Paris Saint-Germain have let Di María leave and appear to be taking a different approach in the transfer market under new sporting director Luis Campos. The French champions beat Newcastle to sign highly-rated Reims striker Hugo Ekitike on initial loan, while defender Nordi Mukiele and playmaker Vitinha are also players who have more room to develop than their superstar signings.
The Premier League’s dominant duo Manchester City and Liverpool have also strengthened their squads for the upcoming campaign, the former perhaps more so. Julian Alvarez arrived in Manchester after his loan spell with River Plate ended. City agreed to pay £14m for the 22-year-old striker in January and he will be keen to leave.
Their main addition is goalscoring machine Erling Haaland, signed from Borussia Dortmund. City scored more goals than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues last season (99), so the prospect of Haaland leading the way for the Premier League champions is a daunting prospect. Calvin Phillips comes in as Fernandinho’s replacement in the middle of the park and City are still on the lookout for another left-back, notably Marc Cucurella, following Oleksandr Zinchenko’s move to Arsenal.
Liverpool’s need for a new striker was more out of necessity than desire. Mane’s determination to join Bayern has forced Liverpool’s hand in a move for Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan scored 26 goals and provided four assists for Benfica in the Primeira Liga last season, and his four goals against RB Leipzig in pre-season gives the 23-year-old a taste of what to expect. Teenagers Fábio Carvalho, who joined from Fulham, and Calvin Ramsay, who signed from Aberdeen, will offer something different for Jürgen Klopp. Carvalho is a true number 10 and Ramsay will be a solid back-up for right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The difference between second and third place in the Premier League last season was a massive 18 points, so Chelsea have a lot of work to do to start a sustained title challenge. Strengthening the central defenders is a priority for Thomas Tuchel this summer, although they have missed out on De Ligt and Koundé. Chelsea have announced the signing of centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for £33.8m. Koulibaly has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time and the move has finally come to fruition.
In attack, Raheem Sterling is the dedicated forward that Tuchel craved 12 months ago. The member of the English national team replaced Romelu Lukaku, who returned to “Inter”. There is still plenty of work to be done at Stamford Bridge, but fans will be hoping Todd Boehly flexes his financial muscles and Tuchel signs the players he needs.
What is clear is that the powerhouses of European football have strengthened in key areas. By adding Tchouameni and Rudiger, Real Madrid have every chance to defend their Champions League crown. However, Barcelona cannot be counted out as they look to build on last season’s embarrassing group stage performance – even after Lewandowski’s departure to Bayern Munich. City will be hoping Haaland can lead them to continental glory in what promises to be one of the most competitive Champions League campaigns for some time.