Grading the Top 8 Summer Transfer Window Signings so Far
The summer transfer window is not yet officially open, but the biggest teams around Europe are already hard at work closing in on their preferred transfer targets, with some signings already completed.
While plenty of clubs will be hunting around for that bargain capture, a lucky few are able to splash out serious money before getting any back in, such as Barcelona finally signing Neymar after years of speculation.
Here we take a look at the eight biggest signings of the summer window so far, with some criteria applied to give each one a grade.
First, only transfers which have been confirmed as completed are considered. Next, the reported value of the transfer is weighted against a subjective view of the quality of the player, what he has shown at his previous club and how much difference he might make to his new team.
The potential mid-to-long-term value of the signing is also accounted for, along with potential resaleability and the possibility of recuperating part of the initial outlay of the signing. Finally, the competition(s) a player is moving from and to will be taken into account before giving the final grading for the transfer overall.
Fernando Llorente to Juventus
This was one of the earliest-announced transfers; Juventus confirmed back in January that they were going to sign Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao on a free transfer at season's end.
Obviously in terms of value for money Llorente doesn't have to do much to come off as a bargain, large wages notwithstanding.
He'll certainly bring a different type of threat to a Juve attack which currently contains the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic, and it will be interesting to see how Llorente adapts to a different league and culture at age 28, and with having played very little football during the past season. Llorente started just four league games for Bilbao this season after it emerged he would not renew his contract.
Grade: C. Llorente is talented and has proven himself a goalscorer over time, but he's not going to make such a difference that Juventus will suddenly become a real challenger to win the Champions League, and they were already the best team in Italy without him. Having said that, signing him on a free transfer is a great bit of business.
Radamel Falcao to Monaco
£50 million apparently only buys you the third highest-rated forward in Spanish football these days. Then again, considering who the other two are, it's not all that bad.
Radamel Falcao was targeted by the biggest and the best this summer, but in the end he's gone to France and perhaps one of the few teams who were willing to stump up the hefty fee Atletico Madrid were demanding, with the BBC confirming his move to Monaco recently.
A Copa del Rey trophy, Champions League football next season and the adulation of 41,000 fans on average every week have been swapped for a newly promoted Ligue 1 side, a probable direct comparison with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a weekly basis and an average attendance of just over 5,000 last term.
Is it the right move for Falcao? Only time will tell. Monaco will hope for a top-two finish in Ligue 1 next season, meaning just a year's delay to compete in the Champions League for the striker, but teams in more competitive all-round leagues would have taken him this summer too.
For Monaco, of course, it's a step-up from their current forwards, as it would be regardless of who they had other than an elite handful, but they'll have to prove quickly that they can merge massive funds with actual, sustainable success for the players to remain for long.
Grade: C. For a 27-year old, £50 million is an awfully high price to pay, even if he is one of the world's best. Monaco will get three years or so of top class performances from Falcao, if he stays that long, but they'll recoup very little back afterwards. On the other hand, if he gets them into the Champions League, they'll say he's been worth it. For the player, he could have done much better.
Neymar to Barcelona
First the facts: Neymar has signed for Barcelona in a deal worth a reported £49 million according to the BBC, with the Brazilian signing a five-year contract. It brings to an end one of the longest-running transfer rumours at the top of the world game, and means Neymar himself comes under pressure to have a good season ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil next year.
As Neymar is coming from such a different league in terms of tempo and tactics, it will arguably be more of a case of adapting to different defensive techniques, rather than the level of quality competition he faces on a weekly basis, though this should be a step up from the state championships as well.
Will Neymar have the desired impact? Barcelona must be certain he will. He'll likely operate from the left of their attacking trio, meaning he'll have to be better than David Villa, Cristian Tello or Alexis Sanchez to justify his place in the team.
Then, he'll have to be significantly better than them to justify his huge price tag.
Listen to his fans and they'll tell you that Neymar has all the talent in the world to be a match-winner against the very best opposition. Listen to his critics and they'll say "Name-mar" is overhyped, overrated and about to be labelled one of the most expensive flops of all time.
Grade: C. Neymar will do well this coming season, well enough to win his place in the team and give optimism for future—but worth £50 million? For that, he'll have to immediately run Messi and Ronaldo close for best in the world. And he won't.
Fernandinho to Manchester City
Manchester City didn't complete any of their priority signings last summer, and it arguably cost them a better shot at the Premier League title. This summer, they seem to be determined not to make the same mistake, having confirmed the signing of Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernandinho Luiz Rosa.
Fernandinho joins City for around £30 million, quite possibly the biggest incoming deal in the Premier League of the entire summer despite it being one of the first.
At 28 years of age, Fernandinho should be right in the prime of his career, and the powerful central midfielder will be expected to have an immediate impact on City's centre of the park. Having signed Fernandinho to a four-year contract, there will be little for City to expect to recuperate if he remains at the club for three or more years, with him already being over 30 by that time.
Domestically, it will certainly be a case of stepping up a level or two; Shakhtar walked the Ukrainian league this season and City will want to win England's top flight next year, so though the expectation is the same, the level of competition is not.
Shakhtar also made it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season, which City failed to do for the second consecutive season. His experience in that competition will be one of the factors City look at to help them achieve their goals this coming year.
So how good is Fernandinho? He'll be up against Gareth Barry, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia for a place in the City midfield, presumably with one of those four operating alongside Yaya Toure in the deeper centre-midfield roles.
On the ball he is a reliable passer, has a good range and vision and can quickly cover great distances with the ball at his feet, and his energy and tenacity mean he can cover tracking back, as well as contribute going forward.
He'll have a good impact for Manchester City—but at the price they've paid for him, he simply has to.
Grade: B. Very good player who should give City the best midfield pairing in the league, but a huge sum to pay.
Dani Carvajal to Real Madrid
One of the top right-backs in the German Bundesliga is heading back to Spain, with Real Madrid having exercised their option to re-sign Daniel Carvajal from Bayer Leverkusen this summer.
Real have paid just €6.5 million to bring Carvajal back according to Goal.com, with Leverkusen making a €1.5m profit on a player they had for only a single season.
Carvajal failed to play for Real in his first stint at the club, but will be hopeful of making the right-back spot ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa next term, and with Michael Essien's loan spell ending.
In terms of the fee, of course, it is a low price to pay for what could be a potential international-class player, but Real could also have been playing Carvajal in their team already had they had a little more faith and patience. Essentially, they've had to pay to loan their own player out for a year.
For the player himself it is a step up and the experience of regular top-level game time will serve him well, but is La Liga more competitive than the Bundesliga these days? There will be a single battle for his new team; to overhaul Barcelona and move from second—the lowest Real should finish—to first.
At 21 years of age, Carvajal could be a first choice in the Real Madrid defence for a decade to come. He certainly has the quality to be a regular this season, and in the long term the Spanish side should reap the rewards of this transfer, whether by a much higher resale price or years of quality service.
Grade: B. This is a transfer that should benefit Madrid immensely this year and in the future. Very little risk is involved, with the player having proven his ability elsewhere last season.
James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho to Monaco
Another Monaco deal which is now sewn up is a double-swoop on FC Porto for James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho.
The BBC reports that the double deal is worth £60 million, with the Colombian attacking midfielder Rodriguez worth close to two-thirds of that, and Portuguese central playmaker Moutinho the rest.
The French Ligue 1 side have therefore already spent over £100 million this summer, factoring in the deal for Falcao mentioned earlier.
At 21 years old, Rodriguez is a very talented player and was highly regarded by many other sides in European football, so Monaco has done well to snare his signature on a long-term basis, and he should go on to prove an excellent addition in the long term. On the other hand, they've paid close to £10 million more for him than Bayern has paid for Mario Gotze—therefore he certainly isn't the best value for among those available this window.
Moutinho is 26 years old and was coveted by a number of clubs as well, but perhaps not those from the very top end of European football. As such, it is likely that Monaco were the only ones willing to pay Porto's high asking price—and match some big wage requests, likely as not.
A great passer, very creative and able to bring out the best in others around him, Moutinho will fit in well as a controlling player in a newly assembled side and could quickly prove to be the most important recent addition to the Monaco first team.
Rodriguez Grade: B. He's a talent, and could turn out to be one of the best in Europe at his position, but there are others more proven domestically and in Europe. His price tag will carry a heavy burden, too.
Moutinho Grade: A. If Monaco reach the Champions League, Moutinho might be playing in a more successful side than he could have hoped for outside of Porto, considering the likes of Tottenham, who were credited with an interest. He'll be a stand-out player for them, and is still young enough to move if the club flops.
Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich
Mario Gotze caused uproar in German football when it was announced he was leaving Borussia Dortmund, second in the Bundesliga and runners-up in the Champions League, for Bayern Munich, winners of both those competitions.
BBC reported that the move will cost Bayern £31.5 million, with the German playmaker set for a key role on his new team under manager Pep Guardiola, who is thought to have specifically requested him.
Gotze's ability is unquestioned; he is a great dribbler and creative attacking midfielder who can also weigh in with a few goals—though if he operates as a forward, he'll be expected to add significantly to that side of his game.
Clearly, the competitions he plays in will remain the same, so the main questions are will he improve Bayern? And, is he good value for the money?
At just 20 years of age he's already a phenomenal talent and can certainly get better with more experience and tactical direction, so despite a high cost, Bayern could easily have landed themselves the signing of the summer.
Depending on where Guardiola sees Gotze playing, he could be competing with any of Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller or Mario Mandzukic for a starting role, and who would opt to leave Gotze out of any team?
Grade: A. He's expensive, but one of those talents who are completely worth it. In five years time he could have helped Bayern to the same number of trophies or more, he'll be an even better all-round player and his value could have doubled, into the Kaka circa-2009 realm.