1. Real Madrid
Angel di Maria-£59.7million
Diego Lopez-Free Transfer
It seems rather difficult to say a team who have just signed James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos are losers in the transfer market but bear with me. Carlo Ancelotti moulded a side perfectly last season, the arrival of Gareth Bale saw Angel di Maria move into central midfield, a role within which he excelled, and Madrid went onto lift their tenth European Cup.
This summer Madrid have once again embarked on their policy of signing stars. James Rodriguez arrived at the Bernabeu, following an outstanding World Cup where he led Colombia admirably in Radamel Falcao’s absence.
However with Financial Fair Play a real worry for all clubs Madrid could not sit back and admire their purchase. The books, in one way or another, had to be balanced. The answer was to sell di Maria – the engine of the team.
Despite players and management pleading with Florentino Perez not to sell Di Maria, the president had his mind made up despite having offered the Argentine star a new contract earlier in the summer. It is believed that this was a deal we believe was on such poorly improved terms it may well have been designed to push ‘El Fideo’ even further out of the door.
Madrid have brought in outstanding individuals but I just can’t help but get the feeling that the club has taken a number of steps back with their sales, losing di Maria will leave Madrid with very little energy and incisiveness in the middle of midfield. That was something which characterised their expansive play last term and with the club already having endured a shaky start to the season, there is a feeling that this could be a window the club end up regretting.
2. SL Benfica
Julio Cesar-Free Transfer
Daniel Candeias-Free Transfer
If ever there was a case of having to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear then this is it. Jorge Jesus, after a season where Benfica came within a penalty shoot-out of a quadruple of trophies has seen the majority of Benfica’s star players leave the club whilst the replacements have not been of the same ilk.
Of course it is the business model of Benfica to sign young, talented players and develop them before selling to a wealthier European club for a sound financial profit. This summer, however, Benfica have brought in players who don’t necessarily fit that model.
Bebe has joined from Manchester United after a good spell in the Portuguese League on loan, whist Julio Cesar looks set to try and resurrect his career by playing regular football in an accomplished European league.
You worry where goals are going to come from for Benfica with Oscar Cardozo, the club’s attacking talisman over the years having departed for Turkey. Derley has impressed in Portugal but does he represent the same level of attacking threat?
Samaris is an exciting signing with the attacking midfielder having impressed with Greece at the World Cup. Highly-rated Bryan Cristante will develop over time at Benfica and likely improve the team’s creativity from a deeper midfield position.
Benfica have to once more try and balance domestic football with the Champions League. Although there have been a significant number of players brought into the club, the quality isn’t as high as last year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jorge Jesus cut an increasingly frustrated figure as the campaign progresses.
3. AS Monaco
Carl Medjani-Free Transfer
Eric Abidal-Free Transfer
Nacer Barazite-Free Transfer
Just twelve months on from the arrivals of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and co, it looks as if the Monaco project undertaken by Dmitry Rybolovlev is now coming apart at the seams. Following the billionaire’s expensive divorce settlement earlier this year the feeling is the Russian’s interest in footballing affairs is waning.
The club have not even come close to repeating the expenditure the 2014 summer, but have overseen the expensive departures of a number of their stars as well as leaving many unhappy ones still at the club.
Rodriguez exit is perhaps understandable, after an outstanding World Cup he became Real Madrid’s top target and as we know it is very difficult to turn down a club widely regarded as the best in the world.
Falcao on the other hand was the marquee name brought in last summer to launch the project and the fact he has been allowed to leave just a year on suggests a monumental failure.
Even Champions League football and possibly the largest contract in world football wasn’t enough to keep Falcao happy as the Colombian yesterday headed to Manchester United for at least a season – a team that does not ply their trade in Europe’s most coveted competition.
If the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri was shocking, then the lack of support the new coach Leonardo Jardim has received is even more so. The 40-year old left Sporting Lisbon for Monaco with the idea he was moving a step up on the coaching ladder and that he would be able to work with a higher standard of players and be given a bigger budget – how wrong he was.
Only three players have joined the club since Jardim was unveiled on July 3rd, with the most expensive coming at £7million. Jardim has been left with a severely depleted squad, although still relatively high in quality in some areas but given the club’s start to the season it doesn’t look to be enough.
It is a case of Jardim having the rug pulled from underneath him and at this moment it looks unlikely Monaco will be able to repeat their achievements of last season.