The 2019 summer transfer window is not yet closed in every league. However, with Premier League teams unable to sign anyone else, let’s go ahead and look at three of the biggest winners of the offseason in Europe, as well as three teams (and/or leagues) that experienced a summer to forget.
Everett: For me, the three winners are Arsenal, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
Arsenal: This team added one of the most sought-after players on the market in Nicolas Pepe. He is now part of a dangerous attacking trio — Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette combined for 73 goals and 33 assists in all competitions last season — that could (emphasis on “could”) rival Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s as the EPL’s best.
But scoring has not been Arsenal’s problem. Defense has been the issue for the Gunners, who also addressed that area by picking up David Luiz from Chelsea and Kieran Tierney from Celtic just before the deadline.
Barcelona: Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong are two of the biggest additions to any team that was in legit Champions League contention a year ago. The Catalans’ general lack of athleticism and balance in the attack — for the rare games when an opponent keeps Lionel Messi in check — were the two things that kept Barcelona from reaching/winning the Champions League final. They’ve checked both those boxes in a huge way.
Atlético Madrid: Despite all they lost — and there was a massive exodus, which we discussed in our piece grading the Kieran Trippier signing — getting João Félix was a coup that can’t be overstated. They’ve looked amazing in preseason and seem like a much better bet than their crosstown rivals to prevent Barcelona from winning the league for the 9th time in 12 seasons this year.
And if as they hadn’t restocked enough, earlier this week, they paid around €60M/$67M for Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno. He adds attacking depth, and perhaps more importantly, is a big loss for the La Liga team team with the best shot at breaking into the top three.
Chops: Picking three winners this period is tough. A lot of teams deserve recognition. But since Tyler is one of those hardasses that doesn’t believe every kid should get a medal, I’ll narrow it down and say Ajax, Atlético and *cringes* Manchester City.
Ajax: They haven’t (to date) been totally picked apart. As Tyler wrote, keeping Donny van de Beek will be huge. They also extended David Neres through ‘23, a key indicator that Ajax may be looking to retain and build on what they have.
Also, can we stop with the “poor little Ajax” narrative now? Their squad is worth $433M USD. That puts them on par with Leicester City in the EPL. They made a net profit of $140Mish this summer. It’s not like they just sold players. They spent too. Quincy Promes in particular could shine. The Dutch international struggled at Sevilla last year, but he tore it up at Spartak Moscow the previous few years.
Everett: Can’t let there be any mention of Ajax without me chiming in. Edson Alvarez, a 21-year-old Mexican defender with the versatility to play multiple positions, was another nice pickup for this team. Alvarez has already seen significant minutes with the Mexican national team and while he’s hardly a household name, his signing was widely viewed as yet another smart move by Ajax.
Atleti: I agree with Tyler on Atleti. They make the list in part to the degree of difficulty they operated under. Losing key pieces Antoine Griezmann and Rodri should’ve sank them. But they reloaded with a more attack-oriented team featuring 19 year-old phenom Felix. Early preseason results look impressive and as we all know, PRESEASON MEANS EVERYTHING.
Seriously though, things could’ve crumbled at Wanda Metro and they didn’t. That alone is a win.
Manchester City: Fuck them. Moving on.
Everett: My first loser would be Real Madrid. Though they certainly added quality, especially Eden Hazard, they are a hot mess going into the season opener this weekend.
This could be its own lengthy piece, but Zinedine Zidane presumably returned to the Spanish capital last spring under the impression he could jettison Gareth Bale and any other players he didn’t care for. About that. Bale is still around after coming as close as you can to exiting without actually heading out the door. So is James Rodriguez, for now — the window doesn’t close in Spain until Monday, September 2.
To cap a summer of dysfunction, RM is now trying to acquire Neymar. At this exact moment, could there be a worse match of star and manager in the entire soccer world than Neymar and Zidane??
Chops: I agree with you on Real Madrid there. Zidane feels like Mourinho 2.0 right now.
Everett: *speaking of…deletes what I had written about Manchester United after they blitzed Chelsea in their opener*
I was going to rip this squad for overpaying significantly for Harry Maguire and letting Romelu Lukaku walk without replacing him, but if last Sunday was any indication, this might have been my worst take of the summer.
Chops: The biggest loser to me, especially if it leads to their relegation, is Newcastle. They didn’t buy who Rafa Benitez wanted (or at the price he wanted), and he left. Rafa was the kind of quality manager who Newcastle should’ve done anything — and I mean anything — to keep. Now he’s gone, and so is their likely stay in the top division.
I also think Ligue 1 is a huge loser. They’re already the weakest of the “big 5” domestic leagues. They’re basically a 1 club division. The also-rans lost all of their best players, mostly to the Premier League. One club (PSG) has ambition. And they’re in disarray. The rest just dump their promising players and have no chance at competing for a domestic title. Ligue 1 is a joke. Give me the Eredivisie all day long over them.
Everett: I’ll get to Liverpool in a second as my third “loser,” but if anyone thought Ligue 1 was uninteresting last year, they realllly won’t want to watch this league this season. Second-place Lille (with 75 points, 16 behind PSG’s 91) and third-place Lyon were the closest thing PSG had to “competition” a year ago. Lille lost Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal, while Lyon lost captain Nabil Fekir (Real Betis) and rising stars Tanguy Ndombele (Spurs) and Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid). So with or without Neymar, expect PSG to wrap up another Ligue 1 trophy with five or six games to play.
Ok, back to Liverpool. Klopp made it clear that continuity would be his priority (aka no big names were going to be added), but Reds fans have to be frustrated at how little this team did this summer. You had to imagine that at some point, a key piece or two would have been signed to improve depth. It never happened. With Man City in a similar spot as far as a lack of weaknesses in the starting XI, they still added Rodrigo in the midfield and João Cancelo in the back.
Chops, I’ll go out on a limb and say you have something to add here?
Chops: I mean, I’m not going to call Liverpool a “loser” of the summer necessarily, but seriously what the hell.
On one hand, as I’ve said before, Klopp and Liverpool have earned a Belichick / Patriots level of trust and doubt-benefits given. If Klopp believes team chemistry and continuity takes precedence over depth, I’ll drink that Kool-Aid.
On the other hand, BUY ERRRRRYBODY.
In preseason posts and podcasts, I’ve spoken to the fortunate health Liverpool has enjoyed the past two seasons. What happens during game 1? Their irreplaceable goalkeeper Alisson goes down with a calf injury.
Liverpool is competing for 7 total trophies this campaign. When they inevitably play Long Melford or Kirkley & Pakefield (that’s a club, not a law firm) in the FA Cup, it’d be nice to rest all of the top XI and field a team we have 100% certainty will win.
Ok, that’s an extreme example, but if they’re serious about getting “greedy” for more trophies, that requires a top notch squad against a Watford-type club in the Carabao Cup semis, you know?
I think I speak for all Liverpool fans in saying we’d really, really like to win the Premier League this season. And that it’s going to be really, really hard since Manchester City added even more world-class depth to their squad. Now if karma exists, then a FFP violating club owned essentially by a sovereign constitutional monarchy that suppresses human rights (and particularly those of women) shouldn’t win a third straight Premier League title.
But life isn’t always fair.
My hunch is that Liverpool is going to learn very quickly that losing any of their key pieces for any period of time is going to cause some points to be dropped. And as we learned last year, you basically can’t drop any points if you want to overcome City for the Premier League title.
Liverpool had the financial resources and clout to pull in some major signings this offseason. They didn’t. They may still win a trophy or two, but they’ll feel the pain domestically come Spring.
Everett: I knew I shouldn’t have opened that Pandora’s box…