Watching the clock wind down to the deadline in a state of relative ease, I found myself thinking about what clubs (other than Liverpool) had the most intriguing transfer windows this summer. I decided to jot down some of my reflections and see what clubs everyone thinks made the biggest and most intriguing splashes.
My top 3:
Southampton – The Saints’ squad that produced an impressive 8th place finish last year was gutted by big clubs – Liverpool, Manchester United, & Arsenal – taking several of their best players. Despite losing leaders, goals, and young talents to the aforementioned clubs, Southampton reinvested the significant fees they received to sign a bunch of interesting players. Most promising so far has been Dusan Tadic to take over Lallana’s creative responsibilities in attacking midfield, notching an assist against Liverpool and looking bright all around. To produce goals until their leading goal scorer Jay Rodriguez returns from injury, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long were brought in to replace the departed Lambert and Osvaldo. On deadline day, they also secured young attacking talent Sadio Mane from Red Bull Salzburg, a highly rated winger with pace that should give them an option not currently in the squad (scouting report). Defensively they signed two center backs, one time Liverpool target Toby Alderweield from Spanish champions Atletico and Romanian international Florin Gardos, with the hope that one of them will seize the important role vacated by Lovren’s departure. They also did us a favor by taking decidedly mediocre Ryan Bertrand on loan to replace wonder kid Luke Shaw. Finally, the Saints attempted to upgrade their goal keeping by bringing in Celtic keeper Fraser Forster to replace Artur Boruc.
I am high on the Tadic and Mane moves giving them strong attacking options. I am less convinced Pelle and Long will knock in the goals consistently, but once Rodriguez is fit I think the Saints attack will be nearly as strong as it was last year. Plus, I expect Ward-Prowse to continue improving and providing better service as the season develops, further improving the attack. I don’t know anything about Gardos, but I expect Alderweireld to step in to the starting lineup and be fairly solid, though I am not convinced he will offer everything Lovren did for the squad last season. I am interested to see how Forster performs in a much tougher league, especially since I didn’t think Boruc performed poorly last season.
Valencia – New ownership, led by Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, has taken over the club and brought in sweeping changes to put their stamp on the club. The biggest change appears to be a "buy as much young talent from Benfica as possible" strategy, apparently taking advantage of Lim’s friendship with Portuguese agent Jorg Mendes. From the Portugese club they have acquired forward Rodrigo Moreno (loan with option to buy), midfielder Andre Gomes, and fullback Joao Concelo (fortunately we acquired Lazar Markovic before Valencia got their hands on him). They also made a double swoop of Manchester City talents, new boy Bruno Zuculini on season long loan, and striker Alvaro Negredo on a loan with an obligation to purchase at the end of the year.
Owner Peter Lim reportedly attempted to purchase Liverpool before FSG’s bid proved successful, but in Valencia he is taking on another project with significant debt saddling the club. Watching what transpires could be a peek into ‘what might have been’ for Liverpool. In addition, the club clearly has an eye to bring Valencia back to a level that is competitive with the top 3 clubs in La Liga, and seem to be doing it by investing in young talent and making good use of the loan system to get there. It’s a long term project, but hopefully it is successful and provides more competition for Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga.
Hull – The Tigers performed a complete makeover to their attacking corps by offloading Shane Long and adding several former rumored Liverpool targets: Abel Hernandez (record fee), Hatem Ben Arfa (loan), Gaston Ramirez (loan), and former LFC youth product Tom Ince. In midfield they signed Jake Livermore permanently after a successful loan spell last year, acquired veteran Robert Snodgrass from Norwich, and added all around West Ham stalwart Mohamed Diame on deadline day. The headline defensive acquisition was Michael Dawson, former teammate of Livermore at Tottenham. Besides the mentioned players, Hull made a few more signings that I am not familiar with, maybe more knowledgeable readers could fill in the gaps in the comments?
Fitting Hernandez, Ben Arfa, Ramirez, and Ince in with incumbent attackers Aluko, Sagbo, and former Everton striker Nikica Jelavic will be an experiment worth watching, especially now that their foray into the Europa league has ended prematurely with a loss in the playoff round. There will be far less opportunity to rotate the squad, and frankly it may be bloated at this point. Perhaps it’s Bruce’s attempt to make head seem slightly less big and fat by comparison? In any case, I am intrigued to see how Hull is able to integrate all of the new faces on a team, especially now that it seems to have the talent to make a push up the table to a safer position from their lowly 16th placed finish last year.
My honorable mentions:
Atletico Madrid – Lost Diego Costa to Chelsea, but signed Mario Mandzukic (replaced by Lewandowski at Bayern), Antoine Griezmann (offloaded from Real Sociedad) and Alessio Cerci (from mid-table Italian club Torino) to try and pick up the goal scoring slack. Defensively they signed one time LFC target Guilherme Siqueira to replace Felipe Luis’ void at left back as he also made the move to Stamford Bridge. They also purchased Benfica keeper Jan Oblak after Chelsea decided to keep Thibaut Courtois in the club rather than loan him back to Atletico, as had been the case the previous two seasons where he was arguably the top keeper in La Liga. Can they all integrate successfully to continue challenging Madrid and Barca? I harbor some doubts, but I also have faith in Simeone to make it work.
Barcelona – The main storyline here is that Barcelona are buying for 3 windows – this one and the following two in which they have been banned from making further acquisitions due to rule breaking regarding youth transfers. The headliner purchase is obviously the suspended Luis Suarez, but they also finally took the window reinforce defensively, resigning Mascherano to a new contract and bringing in center backs Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal and Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia. They also had to address the departure of Victor Valdes, and did so by bringing in Chilean #1 Claudio Bravo and upcoming German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to compete for the starting spot. Finally, they reinforced the midfield with impressive Croatian Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla. Will it be enough?
- AC Milan – Selling their highest valued asset, Mario Balotelli, to LFC for £16m seems a desperate move to raise funds in a dire financial situation. The former giants of world football are relying on loans and free transfers of semi-notable names in the hope they will regain some of their form and push the club back up from mid-table. A two year loan for Fernando Torres is the real eyebrow raising move, but they also brought in his Chelsea teammate Marco van Ginkel on season long loan. Former PSG teammates Jeremy Menez and Alex arrived on free transfers too. Among other moves, they also acquired keeper Diego Lopez from Real Madrid on yet another free transfer. I seriously doubt the project will go over well this year, and frankly I don’t see how it can be successful long term without great fortune in the development of their youth players or the introduction of new ownership in the future.
What are your thoughts on which clubs had the most interesting transfer windows? Any that I didn't mention here?