Ronaldo ricochet and pricey goalkeepers: European transfer window talking points
With the transfer window now closed, Ian Hawkey looks at the biggest takeaways from the off-season
The Ronaldo Ricochet
No doubt about the headliner from an otherwise rather low-key summer transfer market, with many of the larger deals - Kylian Mbappe’s confirming his move after his loan year at Paris Saint-Germain, for instance - already set up.
It was Juventus’s lavish capture of a 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, on a huge contract with the Italian champions that takes him past his 37th birthday. It was a daring and dynamic move. But the effect on the rest of the market was hardly an avalanche.
Normally, a deal like Ronaldo’s €117 million (Dh499.5m) move from Real Madrid would trip off a domino effect, the money oozing on through the market. Yet Madrid, despite their interest in signing an established high-class striker, only brought in Mariano Diaz, a former Madrid junior, from Lyon for that position.
At Juve, the Ronaldo snowball has rolled a very short distance, essentially back and forth to AC Milan. Ronaldo’s arrival meant Gonzalo Higuain, whose place in the Juventus team was most obviously compromised by the Portuguese, going on loan to Milan.
Defender Leonardo Bonucci then moved from Milan back to Juventus - he had made the reverse journey just a year ago. And the ping-pong continued with the highly-rated Mattia Caldera, a central defender, joining Milan from Juve.
They say Juventus and Milan are deadly rivals. When it comes to business, they are only too happy to share a table.
Great World Cup, not much follow up
The World Cup in Russia was a classic, as entertaining as any of the last half a century. Normally, a month of high-class, or even mediocre-class international football stimulates club football’s big barons.
Witness how Real Madrid typically seize on at least one star of a World Cup summer: they signed Brazil’s Ronaldo after his 2002 heroics; they scooped up the winning Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006; they raided Germany’s young stars - Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira - after they shone in 2010; they signed the top goalscorer, James Rodriguez after Brazil 2014.
This time, they enquired after France’s Kylian Mbappe, but PSG had already made him unsnatchable. The player of the tournament in Russia, Croatia’s Luka Modric, was determinedly chased by Inter Milan. But Madrid established, firmly, they would be keeping him.
Some careers have been relaunched by events in Russia. Like Yerry Mina’s. The giant defender had slipped down Barcelona’s hierarchy, had a fine month with Colombia and is now an Everton player, for over €30m. That’s a profit of almost €20m for a Barcelona who only signed him in January. His value soared not on the basis of the meagre 370 minutes he played in the Primera Liga for the Spanish champions, but rather his three goals in three matches at the World Cup.
Banking on Goalkeepers
The most prized position, by a distance, in this summer’s window, has been that of goalkeeper. From the great Gianluigi Buffon, moving to PSG, at 40 years young and out of contract with Juventus, to major signings by both last season’s Uefa Champions League finalists, Real Madrid and Liverpool, the shifting appreciation of the role and importance of a dominant, and above all a sure-footed keeper is shaping the market.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, 23, set a new record for a fee paid for a goalkeeper on joining Chelsea - who had just sold Thibaut Courtois to Madrid - from Athletic Bilbao, his €80m buyout clause being met and eclipsing the €63m initial fee agreed by Liverpool and Roma days earlier for Alisson Becker.
Buffon’s previous move, from Parma to Juventus, had been the most expensive, at around €33m, for a keeper, for 16 years until 2017.
Richard Jolly: Rise of goalkeeper fees a sign of changes in modern football
The African premium
Is it a coincidence that two out of the top five fees paid for outfield players in this summer window are for African internationals, Riyad Mahrez and Naby Keita?
Thirteen months ago, the Confederation of African Football, CAF, announced their biennial showpiece, the Cup of Nations, would be moving from its January-February slot to June-July. European clubs rejoiced.
The contentious withdrawal from club action, mid-season, of African stars is no longer a setback they have to calculate around. So when Manchester City committed to sign Mahrez, of Algeria, for €60m, or Liverpool to sign Guinea’s Keita for more than €50m they did not discount their value because of a possible absence for a month or so in the season ahead.
Indeed, Liverpool had set up the Keita deal with RB Leipzig a year ago - just after the CAF calendar decision was announced.
Mariano Diaz, 25, returned, just before deadline day, from a year away at Lyon to rejoin Real Madrid, his value upped. He will hope to go better than Alvaro Morata, the last centre-forward to switch back to the Bernabeu after thriving abroad.
But homecomings sometimes do pay off, and Daley Blind, back at Ajax after his spell at Manchester United and Bonucci, again at Juve after his sojourn in Milan, will be among those keeping fingers crossed.
And all of football will wish Santi Cazorla the absolute best with his return to Villarreal, after his long, dispiriting struggles with injury over the later period of his Arsenal career. Cazorla announced himself as a joyous footballer to watch while at Villarreal up until 2011. He was one of the game’s good guys then. At 33, he still is.
Updated: September 1, 2018 03:16 PM