Summer break has come to an end, as fall is fast approaching with La Liga, Serie A and the Premiership once again taking center stage. Clubs had until August 31 to make their final moves to strengthen rosters, so this might be an opportune time to take stock of the 20 most relevant transfers of the 2010-2011 season.
1. JOSE MOURINHO taking charge of Real Madrid – though technically not a transfer, as he negotiated his own exit from Inter where he won everything in play, Mourinho has undertaken the challenge of restoring Real Madrid to its past glory. A perfect project for Mourinho in Madrid, where he already has a great core group of players to work with, is most likely to turn the La Liga championship battle between Madrid and Barcelona into the world’s greatest attraction. His arrival in Spain has proven to be every bit as exciting as anticipated, with signs of a more cohesive and spectacular brand of Real Madrid. Mourinho’s impact is already in effect around the players, the club and the league.
2. DAVID VILLA and JAVIER MASCHERANO to Barcelona. If David Villa’s arrival in Catalunya was a formality, Mascherano’s was a triumph for the Argentine who had forced Liverpool’s hand uncomfortably and whose exit left a bitter taste on Merseyside. Villa’s arrival from Valencia for €40m will bolster an already dynamic offense orchestrated by Xavi, Messi and Iniesta. Villa and Messi will combine for at least 60 goals this year and will probably compete for the Pichichi – Spain top goalscorer trophy. Mascherano is a brave warrior and will fit well both within the team and with Guardiola’s tactics, although Sergio Busquets already occupies the defensive midfield position. Mascherano might not be an automatic selection at the outset, but he will assert himself within a couple of months. Fabregas will arrive next year to complete the dream Barca midfield.
3. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC to Milan. Ibra’s departure from Barcelona after just one year can only be attributed to his presence and personality. How can Barca spend $66 milion just one year ago and let him go effectively for nothing, as he is technically loaned out this year with Milan holding the option to buy Ibra for $30 million at the end of the season. This was a great coup for Milan. Ibra was highly effective in Serie A and scored 21 goals in his lone Barca season, one that was considered a flop. Was might have been correct to make a deal for him, but Barca got severely ripped off in failing to secure Huntelaar and a proper fee in exchange. Guardiola could not stand Ibra and iced him out, just as he had done with Samuel Eto’o, who went on to have great success with Inter.
4. YAYA TOURE to Manchester City. This move is most notable for the obscene amount of money YaYa Toure, a good but not even close to great player, Man City have paid for this man. Barcelona gets €29 million, while Toure gets $300,000 per week. Ludicrous numbers for YaYa Toure, who has a big physical presence but seems slow and unfit early in City’s season.
5. MAROUANE CHAMAKH to Arsenal for FREE. Another massive coup by Arsene Wenger, who was able to persuade the former Bordeaux hitman to come to Arsenal when he could have chosen just about any club in the world. Chamakh will do well in England and will complement Arshavin and van Persie perfectly.
6. ROBINHO to Milan. Another Milan coup, absolute steal at €18m just one year after Manchester City paid Real Madrid three times that. Robinho, like Mascherano, hated living in England and refused to return to Manchester even as he had re-asserted himself at the World Cup as one of the world’s great talents. Let’s see how Ronaldinho can play together with Robinho and Ibrahimovic.
7. MARIO BALOTELLI to Manchester City. After weeks of negotiations, Man City and Inter agreed on his transfer fee long after Balotelli reached personal terms with his new club. This deal might work out for both clubs, as Man City did not overpay considering Balotelli’s upside. Roberto Mancini got his man, Inter got free of a talented player that caused them legitimate headaches with his unpredictable laziness and admiration for Inter’s ultimate rival, Milan.
8. DAVID SILVA to Manchester City. “El Chino” takes his game to Manchester after seven years at Valencia. The talented winger did not play a major role in Spain’s triumph in South Africa but will hope to justify his €30m price-tag by helping Man City qualify for the Champions League.
9. DIEGO and SIMON KJAER to Wolfsburg. Diego returns to the Bundesliga from Juventus after just one season in Italy, moving for €15.5m. Juventus is taking a loss on Diego, going through major revamping at the outset of the Luigi del Neri era. Diego, a good fit in the Bundesliga, is expected to thrive there once again. Simon Kjaer is a quality signing from Palermo. Since he was coveted by a number of clubs in Germany, England and Spain, notably Arsenal and Man United, Wolsfsburg’s capture of the highly rated Danish defender is impressive.
10. MESUT OEZIL and SAMI KHEDIRA to Real Madrid. Mourinho was behind the capture of the two young German internationals who impressed at the World Cup and arrived at the Bernabeu relatively cheaply at a combined €23 million. Khedira will blend well, Oezil will have a lot of competition for playing time.
11. YOANN GOURCUFF to Lyon from Bordeaux for €22 million. Gourcuff is a very talented play-maker that occasionally lacks the confidence to go with it. At his best, he makes the difference in a game. With Lisandro in front of him, Gourcouff will be expected to hit the pinnacle of his career. Plus he is French.
12. JURADO and HUNTELAAR to Schalke. These were two excellent signings by Schalke near the very end of the transfer window. Jurado is a fantastic player and he was behind a great deal of Atletico Madrid’s success last year, an unheralded but consistent performer. Huntelaar might have finally found a home after stints are Real Madrid and Milan did not work out for him. He is still young and talented. Schalke did very well with these acquisitions and did not pay desperate money.
13. MILOS KRASIC from CSKA Moscow to Juventus for €15 million. The talented Serbian winger/attacking midfielder only ever wanted to join the Old Lady, but CSKA and Juve haggled for months until both could agree on a tranfer fee.
14. RICARDO CARVALHO to Real Madrid from Chelsea. Mourinho got to reconnect with one of his favorite players and immediately created a central defensive tandem of Calvalho and Sergio Ramos. Calrvalho is a fearless warrior that will always add confidence and assurance at the back. Chelsea got €8 million for a player they would have lost soon for free, so everyone is happy.
15. NICOLAS BURDISSO to Roma from Inter for €8 million. Deemed surplus at Inter, Burdisso became a regular in Claudio Ranieri’s formation and wanted very much to stay at Roma, turning down an offer from Juventus. He will play along his younger brother, Guillermo, on loan to Roma this year from Rosario Central.
16. LOIC REMY to Marseille from Nice for €15 million. This highly coveted striker arrived in Marseille with some concerns about his heart, but has now been cleared to play as a replacement for Newcastle bound Ben-Arfa. Success at Marseille may pave the way for a future move to the Premiership.
17. RAMIRES to Chelsea from Benfica for €22 million. Ramires is an ok player and a Dunga favorite who had a decent World Cup, but there is nothing flashy about him. Dunga left Neymar and Pato out of his World Cup team in favor of guys like Ramires and Josue, but those selections have been reversed with Dunga’s sacking. Porto must be elated for cashing out so well. Chelsea hope Ramires will replenish a midfield that has seen Deco and Michael Ballack depart.
18. JAMES MILNER for STEPHEN IRELAND and €18 million. Milner is a regular on England’s national side and his move to Man City triggered Aston Villa’s real catastrophe, the loss of manager Martin O’Neill. Ireland is a serviceable midfielder with a strong presence and no place to operate after the arrival of Ya Ya Toure. Overall, a better deal for Man City, for once.
19. ADRIANO to Roma from Flamengo. The burly Brazilian is back in Italy but his problems have not really gone away. Roma will worry about his fitness, injuries and work ethic, but it was a deal with full disclosure.
20. KOLAROV from Lazio to Manchester City for €19.3 million. Another good player signed for too much of the Sheik’s money. Kolarov’s marauding runs into opposition territory will be missed by Lazio, while the City faithful will have to wait for them as the Serb broke his leg soon after arriving at Eastlands.
Other notables: Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez joining the New York Red Bulls have had a big impact in the USA, El “Chicharito” Hernandez moving from Chivas Guadalajara to Manchester United for a reasonable €9.7 million, Rafael van der Vaart landing at Tottenham after being informed by Mourinho that he was free to move on, Pablo Barrera, the exciting Mexican winger to West Ham United, Cesc Fabregas staying at Arsenal and Fernando Torres staying at Liverpool.