After years of rising fees and ever increasing salaries, the transfer market has slowed down this summer. But as the clock ticks toward the Aug. 31 deadline for registering transfers, clubs will speed up proceedings, and more will materialize.
Paris Saint-Germain is responsible for most of the action this summer, signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Silva, and Marco Verratti in a bid to buy itself into the European elite.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is celebrating a long awaited Champions League victory by spending heavily. Chelsea’s midfield is boosted by the arrivals of Belgian star Eden Hazard from Lille, Brazilian prodigy Oscar from Inter, German playmaker Marko Marin from Werder Bremen, and Israeli veteran Yossi Benayoun from Arsenal.
However, the club has been shedding forwards. Didier Drogba followed Nicolas Anelka to Shanghai Shenhua, while Salomon Kalou returned to Lille. So unless manager Roberto Di Matteo is prepared to trust the inconsistent Fernando Torres or the inexperienced Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku, a marquee signing is necessary up front.
Sir Alex Ferguson has finally acted on Manchester United’s lack of creativity in midfield by signing Shinji Kagawa. Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid, the club hasn’t had a world-class playmaker.
Neighboring Manchester City, which has inflated the transfer market with seemingly unlimited flows of Arab cash, has been surprisingly quiet this summer. But a pair of higher caliber full-backs is necessary in order be a stronger force in Europe. Surely Sheikh Mansour’s ambitions go higher than Gael Clichy and Micah Richards.
Brendan Rodgers has been entrusted with bringing Liverpool back into the Champions League. Lacking funds from the lucrative European competition, Rodgers’ options are limited.
The only notable signing so far has been striker Fabio Borini from Roma. But reinforcements are badly needed in midfield, with Stewart Downing clearly not up to standard and a lack of alternative options.
Written off for dead last summer after the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the usually parsimonious Arsenal has brought in Ligue 1 top scorer Olivier Giroud and the German national team’s Lukas Podolski.
This shows that manager Arsene Wenger is anticipating the departure of Robin Van Persie, who has refused to sign a contract extension. Arsenal may be saved by the economic slowdown in Spain, which could discourage Barcelona or Real Madrid from hiring such an expensive player.
Barcelona has signed Spanish international left-back Jordi Alba from Valencia, but the club has made it clear that it will save money this year. Still, it would take astronomical sums of money to displace Lionel Messi, Xavi, and other stars of the world’s most feared side.
So now, the club is looking for bargain-priced bench warmers, and might be content to stick to the youngsters from its academy.
Real Madrid is in a similar position to Barcelona, after having broken the bank to sign Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, and others. The closest thing to a weak link in Real Madrid’s lineup is right-back Alvaro Arbeloa, but there are no obvious upgrades on the market.
In Italy, Milan is undergoing a badly needed renovation. After becoming something of a retirement home for geriatric footballers, this summer is the turning point. Contract expirations cost Gennaro Gattuso (age 34), Gianluca Zambrotta (35), Mark Van Bommel (35), Alessandro Nesta (36), Clarence Seedorf (36), and Filippo Inzaghi (38), their jobs.
So now, it’s time to rebuild. And rebuilding doesn’t mean selling one’s two best players. But that’s what the club decided to do, sending Ibrahimovic and Silva off to Paris Saint-Germain.
Internazionale would do well to take a leaf out of Milan’s book, and dispose of some its aging population. Like Milan, renewal is necessary for just about every position.
Both teams should place heavy emphasis on midfield, an area where they are consistently inferior to their faster European rivals.
Juventus and Borrussia Dortmund, champions of Italy and Germany, will take advantage of their newly gained standing abroad. Instead of supplying talent for the European elite, they can start consuming. Juventus badly needs a left-back while Borrussia Dortmund lacks a striker to play alongside Robert Lewandowski.
One of the characteristics of all great coaches is the ability to adapt and move on. The transfer window is an opportunity for managers to dispatch players whose use has expired and identify those who will be useful in the future.
Over the next few months, we will be able to differentiate the coaches who have been ahead of the curve from those who wasted opportunities. Although the murky world of transfers is far from the glamour of the pitch or the discipline of the training ground, success in that aspect is every bit as crucial.