We've barely even dipped our toes into the 2020 summer transfer market—technically, some countries' windows are yet to open, given the delays the coronavirus pandemic has brought to football—and yet big-money moves are being completed left and right.
Savvy clubs who plan smartly for the future have used the time since the January window closed to look ahead, hash out deals in advance and secure some fantastic talent. Eight €20 million-plus deals have already been struck, meaning the futures of some seriously high-profile names have already been decided.
Here, we've assigned a grade to the top 10 most expensive deals struck through July 8. Loans that have been made permanent (either automatically or courtesy of an option exercised) have not been included, nor have deals secured in January that were planned to take place this summer. The players are listed in ascending price order.
Hwang Hee-Chan, Forward
Red Bull Salzburg to RB Leipzig, €10 million
It wouldn't be a summer transfer window without an internal Red Bull transfer taking place, and after Timo Werner's move to Chelsea, Leipzig have added Salzburg's Hwang to their ranks.
He can't directly replace Werner's 34 goals this season, but he can step in as a hardworking, powerful dribbling presence who can see a pass and contribute on the scoresheet. He's perfectly attuned to Leipzig's style of play, having cut his teeth at an affiliated club, so his transition should be immediate.
Transfers of this nature are extremely unlikely to fail—Hwang is an absolute known quantity within the Red Bull ranks—and he's the latest example of the clear pathway from Austria to Germany, one Konrad Laimer, Dayot Upamecano, Marcel Sabitzer, Amadou Haidara and more have taken.
Martin Terrier, Forward
Lyon to Stade Rennais, €12 million (rising to €15 million)
The transfer business happening at Lyon this summer has raised a few eyebrows, and the departure of Terrier is one example as to why.
Terrier has never fully hammered out a proper place in Les Gones' XI, but he has flashed brilliance here and there and has the sort of silky smooth feel to his play that draws you to the edge of your seat. If and when it all clicks and he turns in consistent showings, his ceiling is undoubtedly higher than some of those Lyon are opting to keep instead of him.
Able to play off the left or up front in a support role, the 23-year-old has a varied blend of skills: He's got decent speed, great close control, can carry the ball and also ping it over long distances, plus deliver a nice set piece.
The man who took Terrier to Lyon, Florian Maurice, is now technical director at Stade Rennais and has bet on his talent a second time. It's a bet well worth taking at €12 million.
Corinthians to Benfica, €20 million
Benfica's title defence is crumbling—they're six points off FC Porto and manager Bruno Lage resigned last week—so you can sympathise with fans who have opted to look to the future rather than focus on the present.
Pedrinho is that future. Signed in March for €20 million, he's now made the move across the Atlantic, taking a familiar route to Brazilians looking to step into European football.
He's a nicely rounded player, capable of dribbling and carrying the ball but also letting loose from range and threading a pass. He's fast, but not overly so, with his technique shining more brightly than his physical attributes.
Able to play on either wing or centrally, he'll offer whoever the next Benfica manager is plenty of versatility, as well as a spark the club clearly needs.
Sao Paulo to Ajax, €16 million (rising to €28.8 million)
With Hakim Ziyech on the move, Ajax found themselves in the market for a forward and with cash to burn. And the deal they've struck for his replacement, Antony, is a big one; if all the bonuses are met, it's the biggest (incoming) deal in Ajax and Eredivisie history, per De Telegraaf (h/t Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Antony is a sweet technician, full of tricks and swerves, appearing to have the ball on a string as he weaves through traffic and tackles. He's perhaps guilty of overdoing the skills and repeated beating of men, but he's young, effervescent and gifted; he'll be honed in the Netherlands.
He complements those technical skills with rapid pace, with his burst and acceleration able to take him away from markers. He looks like Miguel Almiron mixed with Neymar in transition, with his boyish looks and shaved hair playing into that comparison!
There'll be an adjustment period for Antony in Europe, naturally, and like Pedrinho, he looks noticeably lightweight at this stage, but the Eredivisie is a nice midpoint for him to acclimatise.
Hakim Ziyech, Midfielder
Ajax to Chelsea, €40 million (rising to €44 million)
It's quite incredible that Ziyech spent so long at Ajax—particularly after he was so influential in that fairytale Champions League run in 2018-19—but it was Chelsea who came to their senses and bought him for what seems an extremely fair fee.
In Ziyech, the Blues get a silky playmaker, a gliding dribbler and a masterful passer. That left foot of his must have been dipped in gold as a child; once you've seen him wrap it around the ball, you don't forget it in a hurry.
He complements that with a consistent goal threat and an impressive off-the-ball work rate—born from playing in Ajax's high-pressing system—and moves to England in the absolute prime of his career.
If there's one minor concern it's that his spindly frame is likely to take a beating in what is a physical Premier League, but given he doesn't hold on to the ball for lengthy periods (like Eden Hazard did at Stamford Bridge), he should be able to negotiate some close defensive attention well enough.
Achraf Hakimi, Wing-Back
Real Madrid to Inter Milan, €40 million (rising to €45 million)
Over the course of two years on loan at Borussia Dortmund, Hakimi has emerged as one of the best young wing-backs in world football. It makes no sense for Real Madrid to cut him loose right now, but Inter are the beneficiaries of one of the biggest figurative ball drops in recent times.
Hakimi to Inter, under Antonio Conte. It just feels so right. Hakimi is essentially Maicon 2.0—or the Moroccan Maicon, if you will—and the thought of him steaming up and down the flank at San Siro next season is mouthwatering.
His blend of directness, raw speed and physicality has made him a transformative presence on the flank; if the ball is at his feet and he has space to move in to, he can chain together a move that will beat an entire team and end in a goal.
He's much more of an attacking presence than a defensive one, but that makes Conte's Inter a perfect fit. His defensive skill set will improve thanks to good coaching, but he'll also be unleashed in a role that's tailor-made to his strengths and weaknesses.
Leroy Sane, Winger
Manchester City to Bayern Munich, €49 million (rising to €60 million)
It all depends on the knee.
If the knee is good to go, then this transfer is a bit of a bargain for Bayern Munich, who have captured one of the fastest wingers in the game—one who still has room to grow at 24 but has also dominated a top European league for two seasons and struck fear into some of the best defences around.
As Bleacher Report's Dean Jones noted, Sane to Bayern was expected to be a €100 million deal at one stage, but with the ACL injury he suffered last August, plus the fact his contract had just a year left to run, City had to accept less in the face of the player's clear intent to make the move.
Sane at his best is a game-changer, a player who terrifies full-backs, shoots with power and hits the byline to create. Given Bayern were happy enough with his recovery to spend on him, it should indicate a full recovery.
That makes this a bit of a steal.
Timo Werner, Forward
RB Leipzig to Chelsea, €60 million
Chelsea shocked the world in June when they moved swiftly and stealthily for Werner, seemingly stealing him from right under Liverpool's noses.
The Reds' loss will most certainly be the Blues' gain; goalscorers with his track record are in short supply, and he projects to fit well both in the Premier League and at Stamford Bridge.
At Leipzig, he's thrived in both a free-ish role as a striker, playing off a big target man like Patrik Schick or Yussuf Poulsen, and as an inverted left forward, cutting in on his stronger right foot.
He can easily perform either role in England, with Tammy Abraham his new Schick/Poulsen, and his speed and directness ensuring he'll be a hit on the flank. Frank Lampard can tweak his role game by game and use his versatility to his advantage, and he'll score loads regardless of where he's deployed.
The B/R Football Ranks podcast chatted to Jesse Marsch this week, who gave an in-depth analysis on Werner—a player he worked with while he was assistant manager at RB Leipzig.
The last two deals on this list are intrinsically linked, and as explained by this informative Twitter thread by Swiss Ramble, one of the primary motivations for it appears to be financial. As a result, we'll leave the reported fees aside in grading these, focusing solely on playing aspects.
Miralem Pjanic, Midfielder
Juventus to Barcelona, €60 million
The first half of what is probably the most high-profile swap deal in history is Pjanic to Barcelona.
The Bosnian has long been regarded as a top-tier midfielder, but this season has shown hints of a decline, struggling to play with his usual assertion and sharpness under Maurizio Sarri.
At age 30, and having played 13 straight seasons of consistent, first-team football, this could be a sign of a Wayne Rooney-esque burnout. It may also be that he, like many others in Turin, struggled to grasp their new manager's philosophy in year one.
Barcelona's squad age profile is already too old for comfort; a spine of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez—all 30-plus—continues to carry them, and last summer's big signing, Antoine Griezmann, is 29.
Adding a 30-year-old to that mix, who basically plays the same position as Busquets, doesn't sit quite right. Pjanic is still class and shouldn't be written off purely because he's had one off season in 13, but at a time when Barca should be looking long-term, they've picked up what feels like another short-term fix.
Barcelona to Juventus, €72 million
Juventus are staring down the barrel of similar squad age-profile concerns, but their half of this swap deal alleviates those a little, rather than compounds them.
Arthur (23) replaces Pjanic (30) and joins Rodrigo Bentancur (23) and Adrien Rabiot (25); at the time of writing, that looks like the Bianconeri's midfield for the future, and it's a good crop.
But there's still a question mark against this deal, as Juve are banking on unlocking Arthur's potential in a way Barcelona failed to do so.
The Brazilian has shown prowess in possession, moves the ball quickly from player to player, and is difficult to dispossess. All of these qualities profile extremely well for "Sarriball," though it should be noted that Arthur has looked far more comfortable in a midfield two than a three, and Sarri (like Barca) uses three.
He doesn't offer much defensive acumen, nor good levels of creativity in the final third. As a linking midfielder, though, he can bypass pressing structures and move the ball cleanly. That alone is not worth the money paid, but Arthur's best years are still ahead of him, and if Juve are looking to invest in potential, they've chosen strong stock.
All statistics via WhoScored.com
All transfer fees via Transfermarkt.co.uk, unless noted otherwise