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Biggest ever summer transfer window closes: Who made the best signings?

Biggest ever summer transfer window closes: Who made the best signings?
Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Ben Kelly
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In partnership with Media City Qatar. The transfer window has now closed around the world until January.

The 2023 summer transfer window closed last week after clubs from the world’s biggest leagues were locked in an 80-day race to secure new signings.

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A report from Transfermarkt claimed this summer was the biggest ever, with total transfer investments surpassing €7.5bn. FIFA rules dictate that clubs must now wait until January 2024 before officially registering any new players.

The main story of this summer was the spending of the Saudi Arabia Pro League. They spent over €750m over the course of the window. Players such as Neymar and Karim Benzema moved to the Middle-East to be part of the project. Signing some of the greatest players on the planet is a sight we need to get used to in the future according to transfer reporter Ben Jacobs. He told us that the Saudis are ambitious and thinking long term.

“This is a project being controlled by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Sport. The country’s Public Investment Fund, who are also the owners of Newcastle United, are playing a big part too. I’m told there is £17bn allocated between now and 2030 for this project, specifically for transfers and wages. And all of these things fall under the strategic aim of sport within the broader government vision, which is known as vision 2030.”

Amr Nabil/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Cristiano Ronaldo was the first high-profile name signed for the Saudi projectAmr Nabil/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Many big names from the Premier League moved to the Saudi Pro League, but there were big deals within England and across Europe too. The British transfer record fee was broken on more than one occasion. Early on, we saw Declan Rice swap West Ham for Arsenal in a £105 million deal. But in August that sum was topped again, as Chelsea beat Liverpool to the signature of Brighton star Moises Caicedo. The Blues paid £115 million for his services. They have now spent over £1 billion on transfers in 18 months.

“It all seemed very simple at first,” Jacobs continued, “Caicedo wanted Chelsea and Chelsea wanted Caicedo.”

“But as time went on, Chelsea didn’t feel like Caicedo was worth what Brighton valued him. So I think Liverpool sensed a window of opportunity. Then they made a bid of £111 million which Brighton were happy to sell for. But as always with transfers, it’s not just about the money between the clubs. It’s about the player too. Caicedo made it very clear that we would prefer Chelsea.”

“Eventually, Chelsea did up their bid to £115 million, and the deal was done. But it was, for sure, some of the most dramatic hours of the window.”

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Caicedo has had a mixed start to life at ChelseaKirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Chelsea’s rate of spending has meant they also had to offload some players. They loaned Romelu Lukaku to AS Roma, and sold another eight players. Their turnover of squad members since the arrival of new owner Todd Boehly in February 2022 has been staggering.

Liverpool still managed to overhaul their midfield despite missing out on Caicedo. They replaced the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho by signing World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and experienced Japanese midfielder Waturo Endo. Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch were also signed from the Bundesliga.

“I think, all in all, things look really healthy for Liverpool,” football writer Ryan Sidle told us.

“Obviously Mac Allister has Premier League pedigree and I think Endo is an excellent signing, bringing with him lots of experience. They’ve strengthened their defensive midfield and key attacking positions. I think they’re in a better spot than how they started the summer.”

These days, fans are kept in the loop with transfers at almost every stage. But for the players involved, the process can be quite stressful. Former Spain midfielder Gaizka Mendieta was involved in several high-profile transfers during his career. He told us that upon leaving Valencia in 2001, he had quite a few options on the table.

“When I decided to leave there were some offers, but we didn’t know exactly which team it would be. It took nearly a month to get the move done, so it was quite stressful.” Gaizka told us.

“We knew there were two or three teams in Italy and of course a few offers in Spain. In the end, I knew Lazio were the team and I’m glad it got sorted in the end.”

TOM HEVEZI/AP
Mendieta also played for Middlesbrough later in his careerTOM HEVEZI/AP

A feature of this year’s record breaking transfer window has been the enormous prices paid for superstar footballers. The fees themselves have attracted attention and created pressure on players to prove their worth. But stars like Rice, Szoboszlai and Bellingham have already made a big impact at their new clubs. Players, fans and investors will all be hoping this success continues far beyond the summer of 2023.

Journalist • Ben Kelly

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