Every off-season a big name is sold in European football – often even two or three. From Tottenham selling Gareth Bale to Porto moving James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho to Monaco, players are sold for huge sums of money. While the players sold have profound impacts at their new clubs, the bigger impact comes from the raft of players brought in to supplement the selling squad. Generally, a team will reinvest a large chunk of the cash in a similar player to the one sold. They then fill in other team needs with the remaining money. Here’s how some of Europe’s elite have fared at it recently.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Players Sold: Gareth Bale
Players Bought: Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela
When: 2013/2014 Summer Transfer Window
If you’re looking for an example of how to poorly spend oodles of money, you’ve come to the right place. Of all seven acquisitions, only Eriksen showed well. If anything, the additions bogged down Spurs’ roster. Depth can be perceived as a good thing, but in north London, it wasn’t.
Of all the new talent, Lamela was the player to fill Bale’s boots. Despite being blessed with immense pace and the ability to take players on, the Argentine struggled to adapt. In the end, the team wasn’t able to find a player who could come close to reproducing even half of Bale’s talismanic output. Hence Spurs finished the year, once again, in a Europa League place.
Going forward, most of these players are young enough to contribute and live up to their potential, but right now, the sales have to be looked at as widespread failure.
Players Sold: Luis Suarez
Players Bought: Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lorven and Divock Origi and Mario Balotelli
When: 2014/2015 Transfer Window
Sadly, Liverpool sold the player with the most bite on the team. Ok, I kid, but Luis Suarez’ bite nearly cannibalized any chance of a move – alright, too much. But in all seriousness, Suarez is gone. Liverpool sold him to Barcelona, and has brought in a contingent of quality players to improve on a team that finished second in the Premier League. None of them will be like-for-like replacements for the Uruguayan, after all no one can replace his production, but all will be useful. Former Southampton defender Dejan Lorven will greatly improve a defense that was perceived as Liverpool’s greatest flaw last season. Two other former Saints, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, will provide Brendan Rodgers with the tactical flexibility to use a multitude of different lineups. Other signings, such as Emre Can and Lazar Markovic, will give Rodgers even more options when it comes to picking a starting XI. The signing of Balotelli will have the most immediate impact. His goalscoring and technical ability will play well next to Daniel Sturridge. No one can fill Suarez’ boots, but if you had to pick a player to come close, it would be Balotelli. These signings also give Liverpool much needed depth – something that will be key with the team expected to contend on the domestic and European fronts.
The season has only just started, but right now these signings look like a success.
Players Sold: Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez, Christian Atsu and Nicolas Otamendi
Players Bought: (Among others) Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, and Juan Quintero
When: 2013/2014 Summer Transfer Window
Porto may be the best club in the world in terms of finding talented players, turning them into impact performers and then selling them for a massive sum of money. This money is then spent finding younger talent, and the cycle continues. The Portuguese giants have been at this for a long time, with players such as Radamel Falcao, Hulk and Fredy Guarin all following the previously outlined path.
Last season’s transfer window was no different as the team sold two of its star players, Moutinho and Rodriguez, to Monaco. They then took that money, along with the cash received in the sales of Atsu and Otamendi, and invested it in the future. In came young, impact players such as the Mexican duo of Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes, as well as rising star Juan Quintero. It won’t be long before these players are sold for large fees themselves, but that’s Porto’s model. And so far, it has worked.
Herrera, Reyes and Quintero aren’t close to the level of Moutinho and James, but they have potential. Regardless, Porto should be given the benefit of the doubt. This strategy has worked for them in the past, who’s to say it won’t work again? For now it has to be looked at, both financially and in terms of the future, as a success for Porto.
Club: Atletico Madrid
Players Sold: (Among others) Diego Costa, Adrian and Filipe Luis
Players Bought: (Among others) Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, Jan Oblak and Guilherme Siqueira
When: 2014/2015 Summer Transfer Window
Somewhat similar to Porto, Atletico also has a tradition of selling top players, replacing them with younger talents and eventually selling the latter. Atleti usually does this with strikers, and they did it again. Following in a line of hit men that includes the likes of Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres, the defending Spanish champs sold Diego Costa to Chelsea and brought in former Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic as his replacement.
It should be noted that not only did Madrid lose Costa, Adrian and Filipe Luis, they also lost David Villa on a free transfer and watched Thibaut Courtois return to Chelsea.
Considering Atletico lost a massive chunk of a team that came close to winning a treble, their transfer activity has been superb. To replace Courtois they brought in a promising young keeper in Oblak as well as Miguel Moya, a cost-efficient La Liga veteran who will provide ample cover should Oblak initially struggle to adapt.
The team also brought in Siqueira to replace Luis and perhaps made their most inspired signings up front, where they reinvested funds made from their player sales to bring in two of Europe’s best attacking talents, Croatian striker Mandzukic and budding French superstar Griezmann. These signings will ensure that Atleti doesn’t endure a drop off after having such a fine season last year. Right now, these signings have to be looked at as a massive success.
From England to Portugal, teams are smartly redistributing cash received from impact players and turning it into multiple signings. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but at the end of the day key players are sold and replaced with cheaper players. So it goes in Europe. So it goes.