THere are some great moves this summer and we’re not even in August. The continent’s most prestigious sides have spared no expense in their bid to land Champions League winners Real Madrid. The Spanish champions beat Liverpool in the final in Paris in May to win their third Champions League title in six years. With the strength of his rivals, he wasted no time in increasing his group.
Big-money arrivals come in the form of Aurélien Tchouaméni, the 22-year-old Frenchman who joins from Monaco. Real Madrid is preparing to take out the old guard in their field. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are all in their 30s, so the bed is important in a new generation. With Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga already at the club and Tchouaméni signing for €100m, Carlo Ancelotti has most of Real Madrid’s back midfield in place.
Antonio Rüdiger adds to the team’s defensive ranks, having joined on a free transfer. Chelsea were understood to keep Rüdiger, but they were restricted by the 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 will provide cover and further competition for David Alaba and Éder Militão at the heart of the defence.
Rüdiger is not the only high-profile centre-back to leave Chelsea for Spain this summer, with Andreas Christensen moving to Barcelona. After finishing 13 points behind their fierce rivals last season, Barcelona are on a mission. Xavi’s appointment in November brought much-needed stability to Camp Nou and the board were more than willing to back him in the transfer market.
Despite their financial problems, Barcelona have been busy this summer. Franck Kessié also arrived on a free transfer, joining from Milan, and the club spent on Raphinha (€58 million) and Robert Lewandowski (€50 million). Chelsea were after Raphinha, but the Brazilian had his heart set on a move to Barcelona, who eventually got their man. The 25-year-old will provide stiff competition on the right to Ousmane Dembélé, who has extended his stay at the club until 2024. Barcelona are also close to signing Jules Koundé, another Chelsea target, from Sevilla for €50m.
Lewandowski headlines the team, ending his 12-year stay in Germany. The 33-year-old scored 35 goals for Bayern Munich last season and picked up a European Golden Boot. With the ring of attacking talent already in Xavi’s hands, Lewandowski should tear La Liga apart as Barcelona look to not only overtake Real Madrid as the best in Spain, but beyond the quarter-finals for just the second time in the last eight. make the final more. seasons in the Champions League.
Bayern wasted no time in replacing Lewandowski. Following in his footsteps will not be easy, but the German champions will be confident they have secured his successor in Sadio Mané. The 30-year-old scored 16 Premier League goals last season – not quite the level of Lewandowski – but he shone in a central role for Liverpool as they reached the Champions League final and won two trophies.
Even after winning the Bundesliga title, Bayern moved to strengthen themselves, signing two players from Ajax. Noussair Mazraoui adds to Julian Nagelsmann’s options at right back, easing the burden on Benjamin Pavard in the process, while Ryan Gravenberch will give them an extra driving force in the middle of the park. Signing a new center back was a priority for Nagelsmann when Niklas Süle left for Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern spent big instead.
Bayern brought in Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus for €80m, meaning three of their four record signings have been centre-backs. De Ligt struggled for consistency at Juventus, although working under three different managers in his three seasons at the club did not help as he tried to adapt to a new league in a new country. In addition, Juventus essentially repaid the fee they paid for the Dutchman in 2019.
They used that money for good. Bremer came in as De Ligt’s replacement, with the Brazilian moving to the city from Torino. Bremer made more interceptions (105) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so Juve boss Max Allegri now has a new center back ready to step up and ease the pressure on the Juventus goal.
Most of their business this summer, however, has been on the free market, where the Old Lady dominates. Paul Pogba has returned to the club after his Manchester United contract expired, despite tearing his meniscus and facing several months on the sidelines. Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi have all departed, with Ángel Di María arriving on a free transfer to bolster their attacking ranks.
Paris Saint-Germain 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 prized Reims forward Hugo Ekitike on an initial loan, while defender Nordi Mukiele and striker Vitinha are also players with room to develop from the superstar signings.
Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have also strengthened their squads for the upcoming campaign, the former perhaps more so. Julián Álvarez arrived in Manchester after the end of his loan with River Plate. City agreed a £14m fee for the 22-year-old striker in January and he would be keen to leave.
Their main addition is goal machine Erling Haaland, signed from Borussia Dortmund. City scored more goals (99) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so the prospect of Haaland leading the way for the Premier League champions is daunting. Kalvin Phillips comes in as Fernandinho’s replacement in the middle of the park and City are still chasing another left-back, notably Marc Cucurella, after Oleksandr Zinchenko left for Arsenal.
Liverpool’s need for a new striker turned out to be more of a demand than a need. Mané’s decision to join Bayern effectively forced Liverpool to make a move for Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan scored 26 goals and provided four assists for Benfica in the Primeira Liga last season and his four goals in a pre-season game against RB Leipzig gave a taste of what is to come from the 23-year-old. Youngsters Fábio Carvalho, who joined from Fulham, and Calvin Ramsay, who signed from Aberdeen, will offer something different for Jürgen Klopp. Carvalho is a genuine No.10 and Ramsay will be a solid understudy for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
The difference between second and third in the Premier League last season was a massive 18 points, so Chelsea have a lot of work to do if they are to embark on a sustainable title run. Center back Thomas Tuchel is a priority this summer, although they have let go of De Ligt and Koundé. Chelsea have announced the signing of Kalidou Koulibaly, the towering centre-back who arrived from Napoli for £33.8m. Koulibaly has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time, and that transfer has finally gone through.
In attack, Raheem Sterling is the dedicated forward that Tuchel wanted 12 months ago. The England international replaces Romelu Lukaku who returned to Inter. There is still a lot of work to be done at Stamford Bridge, but fans will be hoping Todd Boehly flexes his financial muscles and brings in the players Tuchel needs.
What is clear is that European football powers have strengthened in key areas. Real Madrid has every chance to defend the Champions League crown, having added Tchouaméni and Rüdiger. That said, Barcelona cannot be counted out as they try to build on last season’s embarrassing group stage exit – nor can Bayern Munich, even after Lewandowski’s departure. City will be hoping Haaland can fire them to the continental glory they desire in what promises to be one of the most competitive Champions League campaigns for some time.