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Transfer Grade: Harry Maguire to Mancester United for Record £80 Million ($100M USD) – UPDATED GRADES

Chops August 2, 2019

UPDATE: It’s finally officially official. Harry Maguire sets the transfer record for a defender at £80 million.

The Deal

Who: Harry Maguire
From Where: Leicester City
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £80 million
Grade for Leicester City: B+
Grade for Manchester United: C+

Harry Maguire to Manchester United Overview

Is Harry Maguire the best center-back in the world?

Manchester United think so.

The Red Devils continue their off-season rebuild today by finally nabbing Leicester City center-back Maguire.

This is a tough one to grade for many reasons–and now having two weeks to digest the potential deal since it was first reported, we have new thoughts. Let’s just dive into it.

Who is he?

Maguire, 26, is a highly-regarded English national player and anchor in the back for Leicester City.

After coming up through Sheffield United as a youth, Maguire went to Hull City in 2014. Hull did something right in identifying defensive talent that year, as Maguire was signed with the world’s best left-back Andy Robertson (seriously, who was Hull’s lead scout there? 👏👏👏).

Seriously wtf

Maguire came to Leicester in 2017. He was a standout for England in the 2018 World Cup. He’s now the most expensive center-back in the world.

Is the price fair?

Frankly, no.

United (reportedly) paid almost double his transfermarkt value (listed at £45m last month). While it seems like *everyone’s* value is inflated this transfer period, of the notable transactions, Maguire has the biggest disparity.

Who was the highest paid defender before Maguire? That would be PFA Player of the Year, FIFA 20 cover boy, and Ballon D’or likely finalist Virgil van Dijk. VVD is the best center-back in the Premier League at worst, and the top #4 in the world at best. Just 18 months ago, Liverpool paid a then record fee of £75m for him.

He was worth every penny.

But to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle, “Harry, you’re no Virgil van Dijk.”

WhoScored is not the end-all-be-all but here’s a look at how Maguire compares to VVD:

  • VVD has a significantly higher ’18-19 overall rating than Maguire in the Premier League (7.44 to 7.01).
  • VVD is more durable (38 domestic games to 31).
  • VVD is more prolific using his massive noggin for goals (4 to 3). He also chipped in two assists to Maguire’s 0.
  • VVD is a more accurate passer.

Sure, nobody is actually debating if Maguire is better than VVD. He’s not. But at that price–he should be in the same relative universe. He’s not.

Having said all of that…VVD has shown how transformative a world-class center-back can be. Maguire will not make Manchester United worse. He’ll improve their backline. More on that in the next section.

But back to that price.

The only other club with reported interest in Maguire was Manchester City. And that was awhile ago. If that’s the case, who was United bidding against? The just bent over and took it from Leicester.

In one summer, United made world record transfers for right-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and center-back in Harry Maguire. Neither are the best in the Premier League at their respective positions.

And they paid around £130 million for them.

This has to work. If United make the top 4 and qualify for the Champions League, fans of the Red Devils (and United’s board) won’t care. If they miss out…there will be blood.

What impact should we expect?

Manchester United finished sixth last campaign. They gave up 54 goals (and that’s with David de Gea between the sticks!).

Those 54 goals are 10 more than City and Liverpool combined. It’s also more than any of the other Big 6 last year. It’s more than the 7th-9th placed teams: Wolves (46), Everton (46) and Leicester (48).

So yes, along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United’s defense will improve. It can’t get much worse.

Maguire will help both defending and attacking set pieces as well.

However, United were already the best at winning aerial duels in the Premier League last season. So that wasn’t necessarily an area of needed improvement.

2018-19 Aerial Duels Won

United also had a reported £100m summer transfer budget. They will likely have to jettison Romelu Lukaku now. The Belgium is much-maligned at Old Trafford, but he’s a better goal scorer than he’s given credit. United will lose some offensive fire-power as a trade off.

The Grades

With two weeks of hindsight, this is less tricky now to grade.

Manchester United (C+): Did United get a proven player in his prime? Yes. Will Maguire help stabilize United’s leaky defense? Yes. Was United bidding against anyone else? No. Did they pay too much? Yes. Will it matter if they sneak into the top 4? No.

It’s really about the price and the quality. Zero’ing in on Maguire when there are other center-backs in the Premier League of similar age and quality at half the price (Fabian Schär comes to mind) would’ve been a better use of funds.

Leicester City (B+): For Leicester, this is complicated. But I’ve ticked up their grade from a C+ to a B+. They stuck to their guns and took advantage of a desperate United.

There was noise about Maguire wanting out of Leicester. Ok, that’s a fair reason to move him if true. Here’s the thing though: are we so sure that Leicester wouldn’t have been better than United this year if Maguire stayed?

Leicester ended 2019 strong, closing the year right behind Liverpool and Manchester City in form. As we’ll write in our Premier League previews, this is the year someone will displace a Big 6 club for European qualification. Leicester was our most likely candidate to do so. There’s still a week to re-invest that money (and to be fair, they have been spending already). For fans of the Foxes, I hope they do.

If they don’t, they just handed their likely biggest obstacle to a top 6 finish an asset that might keep them out of European football.

Still, £80 is more than they’d receive in any scenario save making a finals run in the Champions League. They did well to extract maximum value with only one team making a serious bid.

Transfer Grade: Arsenal Sign Nicolas Pepe for £72 Million ($89M USD)

Chops July 31, 2019

Who: Nicolas Pepe
From Where: Lille
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: £72 million ($89M USD)
Grade for Arsenal: B
Grade for Lille: A

Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal Overview

So much for that supposed £45M ($55M) transfer budget!

Arsenal wasn’t expected to do much this summer. Instead, they’ve done some really smart business and strengthened their squad.

Nicolas Pepe tore up Ligue 1 last year. On one hand, that’s like saying you’re the prettiest girl on the Isle of Man. On the other, no one denies how talented Pepe is.

Pepe won’t solve Arsenal’s defensive issues (we like 18 year-old center-back William Saliba, but it may take a year of growth and adjustment before he makes an impact and that’s after he spends another year with St. Etienne on loan). With new arrival Dani Ceballos, as well as existing menaces Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal may score so much now that their defense doesn’t matter.

Who is he?

Pepe, 24, was one of the most sought-after players of the transfer window. He was linked to many major clubs, including Liverpool in the Premier League.

Pepe is fast. He’s very skilled and has a nose for the goal. Pepe tallied 22 goals and 11 assists for Ligue 1 runner-up Lille last year.

The Ivory Coast international was by any metric (or in this case, WhoScored) one of Ligue 1’s top performers last year.

Is the price fair?

For a team that reportedly wasn’t going to spend much, Arsenal backed up the Brinks truck for Pepe.

As we did with the Moise Kean to Everton transfer, it’s worth looking at Joelinton to Newcastle for £40m and Luka Jovic to Real Madrid for €60M. And for that matter, Sebastien Haller to West Ham for £45 million.

Most would agree that Pepe is the better player of the four listed above. But is he £25 million+ better than Haller?

Arsenal paid a premium for Pepe. The good news for the Gunners is he’s just entering his prime and if he ends up a perennial Gold Boot threat, nobody in Emirates Stadium will be complaining.

What impact should we expect?

Arsenal have whiffs of 2017-18 Liverpool now.

That squad played heavy-metal football to its most extreme degrees. However, defensive woes (at least until Virgil van Dijk arrived) and goalkeeper issues kept Liverpool from reaching their full potential. Arsenal have that same vibe now, assuming no further transfers in occur.

Pepe is going to form a terrifying trio with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Yes, PEA and Lacazette are both getting long in the tooth and may start dropping off in quality–but both are still elite goal scorers. Combine their veteran savvy with Pepe, and wow.

As indicated by his assist tally, Pepe is wonderful at weaving through balls. He will open up nearly as many scoring opportunities as he’ll finish himself. Liverpool will rue not signing Pepe. He’s exactly the type of player they needed to compete for multiple trophies.

The Grades

Arsenal (B): Hats off to Arsenal. They’re going for it. Only get docked a letter grade because of the price. They paid a premium that will be hard to recoup. All of the pressure is on them to make a top 4 finish this year.

Added bonus for Arsenal is this will likely pressure Manchester United to overspend on Harry Maguire.

Lille (A): They got maximum value. Hate to see a club that made an unexpected and impressive run lose their key player, but they were paid handsomely.

Transfer Grade: Barcelona Sign Antoine Griezmann for €120 Million

Tyler Everett July 12, 2019

The Deal

Who: Antoine Griezmann
From Where: Atlético Madrid
To Where: Barcelona
For How Much: €120 million (with a €800 million release clause)
Grade for Barcelona: A
Grade for Atlético Madrid: A

Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona Overview

Finally, the wait is over.

But not without plenty of drama and intrigue.

As soon as Antoine Griezmann announced in mid-May that he was out the door at Atleti, Barcelona became the immediate favorite to land the Frenchman. Griezmann is one of the best forwards in the world, and at 28, he’s squarely in his prime.

He’s also a great fit on a team that probably would have won the Champions League if not for a meltdown in the second leg of the semifinals.

If there was one thing Barcelona was missing the last two seasons without Neymar, it was a consistently reliable third option up top alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez. Ousmane Dembélé has not been able to stay on the field. Philippe Coutinho (as we’ve mentioned here on High Press Soccer once or twice) did not fill that role. None of Barcelona’s young forward prospects appear ready for such a role, either. As good as Suárez remains, he is 32 and beginning to show signs of his age.

Who is he?

Griezmann needs no introduction at this point. He’s been the best-known player in La Liga outside Barcelona and Real Madrid for some time now.

With at least 15 goals and eight assists in each of the last three seasons, he’s carried a bigger share of a top European team’s offensive load than anyone other than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His success the last few years is particularly head-turning considering the lack of help he’s had up top at defensive-minded Atleti. It’s a scary thought to consider what Griezmann is capable of alongside Messi and Suarez – does Barcelona once again boast the world’s best attacking trio?

He’s also a proven commodity for the reigning World Cup champs. In terms of hype, Griezmann (and everyone else in the tournament) took a backseat to Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba in Russia. Griezmann, however, still scored four goals (tied for the second-most behind Harry Kane’s six) and tallied two assists for the champs.

At Euro 2016, Griezmann piled up six goals to win the Golden Boot and added two assists. He and Eden Hazard will — barring something completely unforeseen — be the best players to change teams this summer.

Is the price fair?

*copies and pastes what we said about the fee for Hazard*

OK fine, I’ll put it in different words, but the same logic holds true whether you’re talking about Hazard, Griezmann or any other star in their prime.

Yes, the €120 million fee is exorbitant at first glance (and shield your eyes from the €800 million release clause!). But no, it’s not unreasonable.

Consider that similar, if not more, will be spent on players like Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus?) and has been spent on Atléti’s new #7 João Félix. Any team would be thrilled if those players become even 70-80% as productive as Griezmann.

The only two possible red flags with a 28-year-old making a move after so much time in one place are injuries and fit. The former is hardly a concern with a player as durable as Griezmann over the years. And in terms of fit, he’s upgrading his surroundings, dramatically, by moving to one of the best offensive teams in Europe. It doesn’t hurt that he’s linking up with the greatest player we’ve ever seen.

Is anyone in soccer in a better spot than Griezmann, who will be playing alongside Messi for his club and Mbappe for his country for the next phase of his career?

What impact should we expect?

With Hazard as the exception, for most of the players we’ve graded, this section has been where we wonder how much playing time they’ll get.

With Griezmann, the question is whether he’s the difference for his new team between an embarrassing UCL flameout and a European trophy. Griezmann alone does not make Barcelona the favorite to win its first Champions League title since ‘15. However, he’s a massive addition at his team’s biggest position of need. He also adds the athleticism that an aging roster needs more of this upcoming season.

The Grades

No need to over-complicate this. Barcelona gets an A for getting a potentially transformational player in his prime. He’s the perfect player to lead the transition from Suárez and pair with Messi as he begins to age (if he ever does actually age).

From Atlético’s perspective, they got the full post-July 1st €120m and have already wisely re-invested it on Griezmann’s replacement. They earn a long, drawn-out, painful A as well.

Transfer Grade: Manchester United Land Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50 Million ($63M USD)

Chops June 27, 2019

Who: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
From Where: Crystal Palace
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £50m
Grade for Manchester United: A-
Grade for Crystal Palace: B-

Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United Overview

Manchester United march on with their summer overhaul as they’re set to make their second signing: Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

AWB has been linked to Man U for a couple of months. United’s backline was anywhere from bad to atrocious in 2018-19. Targeting defensive support was a top off-season priority. Man U land one of the more talented and well-regarded defenders on the market.

With AWB and the Daniel James signing, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues reshapings his squad younger and potentially more dynamic.

Who is he?

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21, is regarded as one of the top young right backs in England.

Called up to Crystal Palace’s first team in 2017-18 (7 appearances), he made 35 EPL appearances last campaign. His WhoScore rating places his in Trent Alexander-Arnold territory, although for completely different reasons.

Where TAA is an offensive fulcrum who led Liverpool in assists last year, AWB is a defensive force. He excels at tackling, intercepting, and blocking and rarely makes mistakes. At 6’0, he’s strong on aerials too.

He’s got room though to grow into more a TAA player too. Wan-Bissaka is an excellent dribbler / penetrator, but is a poor at passing / crossing. His 73% pass success rate has room for improvement. If his passing improves (he had just 3 assists last campaign), he can jump-start counters with penetrating dribbles into the attacking third.

Is the price fair?

At first, it felt like a “Manchester United tax” was assessed here. Wan-Bissaka has just over 40 top flight domestic caps to his credit. He’s a right back. That’s a steep price.

However, United didn’t really overpay that much given the current market. Initial reports pegged the deal at £55m. New reports suggest the deal is closer to £50m with only £45m up front. Transfermarkt lists AWB’s value at £35m. It’s an over-pay, yes. But it’s not horrible.

Assuming Wan-Bissaka continues to perform at a high-level defensively and improves his servicing on through-balls and crosses, this is a great price. He’s 21. He’ll improve.

Ultimately, United get a top 4 EPL right-back before he hits his prime. That’s a smart investment.

What impact should we expect?

Without question, AWB is one of the top young players on the transfer market.

Wan-Bissaka is an immediate upgrade defensively over an out-of-position Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian. Yes, United need a capable center-back as well. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.

While United will see immediate defensive improvements on the right side, they’d be wise to invest in AWB’s offensive development. He’s a skilled penetrator, and gradual progress on his servicing will eventually aid the attack. If OGS wants to build more from the back, AWB is a piece that will serve that goal.

If Man U don’t sell Romelu Lukaku or Paul Pogba, this deal means they only have another £35m-ish to spend. So make no mistake, Wan-Bissaka needs to make an immediate impact. He’s nearly half the budget.

The Grades

Still, we give Man U an “A-” for the deal. For the price, it would’ve been wiser to have targeted a center-back who could steady the whole defense. However, they landed one of England’s top transfer targets and didn’t overspend for him. If you’re a United fan, you have to be encouraged with OGS’ purchases so far. He’s going young. He’s going for players who remind him of teammates from Man U’s glory years.

For Crystal Palace, the “B-” is for not leveraging Manchester United’s desperation to land young building blocks for an extra £5-10m. Could they have struck a deal for, say, £35m, but getting a loan back for one more year of his service? United wasn’t coming at this from a position of strength. They could’ve gotten more.

Transfer Grade: Manchester United Sign Daniel James for £15m

Chops June 7, 2019

Who: Daniel James
From Where: Swansea
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £15M
Grade for Manchester United: B
Grade for Swansea: B+

Daniel James to Manchester United Overview

Of all of the moves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was speculated to make under his first transfer period with Manchester United, this, uh, wasn’t one of them.

That doesn’t mean that this isn’t the type of move OGS should be making.

Getting a talented young winger at a low cost, in fact, is the exact opposite kind of move that Man U has been making in recent years.

If this is a trend on how OGS plans to rebuild Man U, this is a positive first step.

Who is he?

Daniel James, 21, showed promise in the Championship for Swansea this year.

In 38 total appearances across all competitions, James scored five goals and added 10 assists. He particularly shined in the FA Cup against Brentford and Manchester City. He had the fourth highest WhoScored rating for Swansea this year.

The speedy Welsh winger cooled off some later in 2019 (in part due to injury). Regardless, rumored top-flight interest had been bouncing around all year.

James began his youth career at Shrewsbury Town before coming to Swansea. He’s made two national team appearances for Wales, scoring once.

The connection of James to United is also easy to follow. James plays for the Welsh national team under Man U legend, and former OGS teammate, Ryan Giggs. No doubt Giggs’ opinion weighed heavily on OGS’ decision.

Is the price fair?

From a pricing perspective, this is a solid deal for both Swansea and Manchester United.

In February, Transfermarkt pegged James’ value around $3.42M USD. He sold for approximately $19M USD. That’s a good price for Swansea.

Given how clubs are getting smarter on how they’re spending money–and locking players into deals so they benefit from their prime years–
£15M / $19M on a five year deal ensures United see the best to come from James. If he turns out to be a top flight producer, he’ll still be young enough to lock into a second deal that will see him through his prime.

What impact should we expect?

This is harder to figure out, at least in the short-term.

Does this mean United is considering shipping out Romelu Lukaku as has been rumored? Does this mean Man U is considering a full on clearing of the decks and reboot with a youth movement?

It’ll be easier to weigh James’ impact once we know more about the above two questions (particularly the Lukaku one). However, as more of a facilitator then technical finisher, James could provide a boost to the productivity of United gem Marcus Rashford. He just won’t replace the goals Lukaku (in theory should’ve) produced.

The only minor knock I can make on this deal is: if United are looking for more scoring upside, the player with the highest WhoScored rating for Swansea this year was forward Oliver McBurnie. The Scot tallied 22 Championship goals this year to James’ four. His market value of $5.7M isn’t far from James, and McBurnie is just approaching his prime at 23 years of age.

While the move is a great first step by Manchester United of moving away from their bad habits, it just might not have been the right Swansea player. For that reason they get a B instead of an A.

January 2019 Transfer Window Grades

High Press 10 January 31, 2019

The following post will be updated throughout the rest of the week…

With the January 2019 transfer window closing, here’s a look at some of the major transactions and their potential impact.

While individual clubs won’t be graded, it’s hard not to note that the lack of impact signings for Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain given their key injuries would earn failing marks.

Gonzalo Higuain Loan to Chelsea: Chelsea needed an experienced proper striker. Higuain seemingly needed a change of scenery. What could go wrong? While an early 4-0 shellacking by AFC Bournemouth didn’t exactly jumpstart the Higuain era at Chelsea, the loan still makes sense for both sides. Higuain knows Maurizio Sarri’s system, and the move shifts Eden Hazard back out to the wing where he’s most productive. Ultimately, fairly or not, this will be graded on whether or not Chelsea maintain their top 4 position and qualify for the Champions League. We’re still willing to give the benefit of the doubt on this one. B+

Frenkie de Jong Signs with Barcelona: The €75M price of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona at first look seems high, but given the broad interest in him from all the usual suspects, and his age (21), Camp Nou should see value from the deal. Just not immediately, as de Jong won’t join Barcelona until after he completes the season with Ajax. B

Christian Pulisic to Chelsea: There are far more questions though about the American super-star’s move to Stamford Bridge. While the potential to open up the American market was certainly an appeal for Chelsea, the questions remains if Christian Pulisic is really worth that much money?($73.1M USD) Or if Chelsea is the right fit to develop him, after disastrously giving up on Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah so early. Or if he’ll fit with Maurizio Sarri’s system. From Pulisic’s perspective, given the lack of playing time he’s seen at Borussia Dortmund this year, is Chelsea the right fit to get back on the pitch? When there’s lots more questions than answers, that’s usually not a good recipe for a winning grade. C-

Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United: The record-setting Miguel Almiron transfer to Newcastle is a bold move from a historically thrifty club. The speedy midfielder is a good fit for Rafa Benítez’s counter-attacking style, and he should give the Magpie faithful a moral boost simply because, you know, they actually bought someone of quality. B

Denis Suarez to Arsenal: This one has good feelings all around. Suarez rejoins Unai Emery, whom he played with at Sevilla, and who had been pining for some player activity since arriving. While only on loan from Barcelona until the end of season, Arsenal has the option to make the loan deal permenant with the midfielder this summer. A good snag for Arsenal’s top 4 run. B+

Kevin-Prince Boateng to Barcelona: Erm. That was unexpected. Barcelona needed a back-up striker, no argument there. The 31 year-old Boateng comes from Serie A side Sassuolo on a six-month loan deal, with an upfront payment of €995,915 and a permanent transfer option at only €8.1m. If (and that’s still a big if) Boateng can hang at a more elite level than he’s been playing at, this is actually a good value signing for Barcelona. Clubs like Barcelona need to hit on a few of these, and he could serve as a decent role / bit player for them. B

Pity Martínez to Atlanta United: This $17M the Five Stripes spent on Pity was a harbinger of the eventual Miguel Almiron transfer to Newcastle. Whether or not Pity is / would’ve been a better fit for Tata’s system remains to be seen, but this was yet another smart move by UTD (read a good financial breakdown of it all from Dirty South Soccer) to ensure they continue to prosper in 2019. A-

Leandro Paredes to Paris Saint-Germain: With Neymar to miss the his Champions League Round of 16 match-ups against Manchester United, PSG needed to find some creativity and production this transfer window. While Parades is certainly an asset (he was also pursued by Chelsea), the price paid to Zenit St Petersburg to acquire him (€45m) was steep compared to other January window deals. C-

Alvaro Morata loaned to Atlético Madrid: A return home where he started as a youth in their DA could serve Morata well. It wasn’t happening at Chelsea. And while he won’t serve as the primary striker for Atlético, Morata has won major trophies for major clubs (Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea) and scored over 50 goals for them. No real downside here on this 18-month loan. B

Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich: Another win for the MLS here. The highly-regarded Canadian 18 year-old will move from the Vancouver Whitecaps to the Bundesliga giant. Bayern will pay $14M. They’ve scouted him heavily and described him as a “huge talent.” Davies debuted in the MLS at 15 and was the second youngest player to do so in league history (behind Freddy Adu, ruh-roh). A really interesting pick-up for Bayern, adding another speedy winger to its attacking options. A

Cesc Fabregas to Monaco: This is a tougher one to grade. On one hand, Monaco did great–they reportedly paid no transfer fee to Chelsea for the 31 year-old striker, and will only be on the hook for performance-based bonuses. On the other hand, they’re committed to Fabregas for three-and-a-half years and he’s already on the downswing in terms of production. He hasn’t scored in three appearances for Monaco to date. Monaco, a surprising Ligue 1 relegation dweller, needed to do something, yes. Finding quality / hungrier youth might’ve been the wiser move. We’ll split the difference on this grade and land it in the middle. C+

Lewis Morgan loaned to Sunderland: Ok, we have a weak spot for Sunderland now. As your read in our Sunderland ‘Til I Die review, they’re an easy team to pull for now. Any quality and depth is welcome as they try to climb back into the Championship League. This winger from Celtic is a goal hound, and Morgan will reunite with Black Cats boss Jack Ross, who managed him previously at St Mirren. While he wasn’t seeing much run at Celtic, he’ll get a chance to shine for Sunderland on a team (and in a tier) that needs proper attackers. B

Krzystof Piatek to AC Milan: AC Milan isn’t missing Gonzalo Higuain all that much as his replacement, Piatek, netted both goals in his second appearance for the club in their win 2-0 win over Napoli in the Coppa Italian. The 23 year-old  arrived for a relatively modest (in these times) €35m from from Genoa. At 23, the already productive player can grow into his prime at a reasonable cost. A


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