With the transfer window closed we're going to take a brief sojourn away from our weekly rankings of who is most likely to win the Champions League to assess the summer transfer business of its leading contenders. We'll return to your regularly scheduled power rankings next week, this one is all about how Europe's top teams faired during the transfer window silly season. Sticking to our top four tiers from the power rankings, here's how some of Europe's biggest sides did in the market over the last few months:
1. Paris Saint-Germain
Much of the fawning congratulation at social media was a little extreme for one of the few clubs who can afford the sort of hyper wages that can snare Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Lionel Messi without paying a fee. After all, there is no such thing as a free transfer. However, one cannot argue that any squad other than PSG's has taken quite the same leap across the pitch.
Impressive though last season's Champions League run was it often felt like the Neymar and Kylian Mbappe show. Now there is quality across this side: yet more world class talent up top, a midfield that does not seem to be entirely reliant on Marco Verratti's fitness and a defense imbued with veteran nous. Whether Mauricio Pochettino can turn that group into a cohesive unit will remain unanswered for some time but no galaxy of stars shines brighter.
The European champions had one hole in their side last season. They addressed it in the most impressive fashion possible with the signing of Romelu Lukaku, even if his return to Stamford Bridge does stand as a monument to Chelsea's inability to spot the talent that is staring them in the face early in their career.
Bringing in Saul Niguez on loan from Atletico Madrid creates perhaps the most formidable midfield quartet in Europe; the same might have been said for Thomas Tuchel's options at center back had Jules Kounde been secured. However he has plenty of options in that spot, as he does across the pitch. That this business was done while also making a profit thanks to sales of Tammy Abraham to Roma, Kurt Zouma to West Ham and a host of other fringe players (some of whom like Victor Moses you'd be forgiven for being amazed were still technically Chelsea properties) is all the more impressive.
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3. Atletico Madrid
Eager to build on last season's title triumph, Atletico have made three high quality additions to Diego Simeone's side with only the increasingly fringe option Saul parting ways. Rodrigo De Paul adds a guile and propulsion to the midfield that Saul likely would not have anyway but it is further forward that this team looks to have taken serious strides.
Matheus Cunha's arrival offers Simeone a player who can beat men with his dribbling and who can draw fouls whilst the return of Antoine Griezmann on loan with a $47 million purchase obligation next season looks to be a coup. If the Frenchman is half the player he was when he left in 2019 then this is a great deal for Atletico, who earned $142 million for him that summer. With Joao Felix still at the club too this ought to be an attack that can go deep in the Champions League.
4. Manchester United
Manchester United ended the window with two signings they greatly needed and one that they probably didn't. Still it helps when the latter is one of the greatest pure scorers in the game. When you have Edinson Cavani on your roster you perhaps can cope without Cristiano Ronaldo but there will undeniably be games that the latter wins for you.
Still their draw with Southampton and underwhelming win over Wolverhampton Wanderers pointed to the fundamental issues at the heart of this United side, which still lacks someone who can assert themselves on the contest in midfield. They will continue to track Declan Rice but could perhaps have done with a more immediate addition to fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's planned 4-3-3.
Though Bryan Gil looks to have been a shrewd addition to the Tottenham squad his loss is mitigated not only by Alejandro Gomez's signing in January but Erik Lamela's remarkable goal scoring form since arriving in Andalusia. That surely won't last but the Argentine does add welcome depth to Sevilla's attacking ranks, which were also swelled by Rafa Mir before Luuk De Jong's departure for Barcelona.
As Sevilla learned in last season's Champions League, Thomas Delaney is a robust operator in midfield who rarely loses his duels. For around $7 million he may prove to be one of the bargains of the window even if the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder is not one for the future ahead of his 30th birthday on Friday.
Preparing for their first Champions League campaign in six years, Wolfsburg have kept the rump of the squad that got them there in place whilst adding scoring options around Wout Weghorst such as Luca Waldschmidt and the returning Maximillian Phillip. Lukas Nmecha could be another, certainly there is a track record of Manchester City prospects coming to the Bundesliga and making good on their talent. Add another highly rated youngster to the mix in Belgian midfielder Aster Vranckx and his compatriot Sebastiaan Bornauw and there is a lot to like about this window.
7. Bayern Munich
It felt like a relatively underwhelming window for Bayern in that they replaced two long term cornerstones of their defense -- Jerome Boateng and David Alaba -- solely with Dayot Upamecano and only added his former RB Leipzig teammate Marcel Sabitzer to their squad. Their starting XI is still of the highest quality but Julian Nagelsmann must know that in key positions he is only an injury or two away from really testing circumstances.
If they aspire to be rivalling the English sides and PSG in the latter stages of the competition, Bayern could have done more.
8. Real Madrid
They deserve credit as much for what they didn't do as what they did. Not signing Kylian Mbappe is generally not as wise a course as signing Kylian Mbappe but if it means paying one of the most sizeable transfer fees of all time for a player you can sign to a pre contract agreement on January 1 then it is by far the better course of action, even if it seems to be PSG's intransigence more than Madrid's shrewd dealings that have led them there.
Away from Mbappe the picture is rather more mixed. Effectively swapping out Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane for David Alaba and Eder Militao (along with the returning Granada loanee Jesus Vallejo) in defense is at best a move that slightly weakens Carlo Ancelotti's defense. Cashing in on Martin Odegaard was probably the right decision when so few other fringe players carried much value in the current market.
Perhaps the most significant addition of the window may prove to be Eduardo Camavinga. With clubs across Europe waiting for his Rennes contract to expire next summer Madrid stole a march to secure him for around $35 million a six year contract. Though he struggled somewhat last season this is still an 18 year old who is already a France international -- he could prove to be a key cog in the Santiago Bernabeu midfield for a decade.
9. RB Leipzig
The powers that be at RB Leipzig have earned the right to be trusted when it comes to replacing outgoing players. Losing Naby Keita and Timo Werner has mostly proven to be, at worst, speed bumps that do not change the general trajectory of the club so why should a scouting system that has spotted so many stars of the future not be able to cope without Upamecano and Konate. Mohamed Simakan is likely to be a shrewd addition in central defense where Josko Gvardiol is also being groomed for bigger things.
In the short term they will feel the pain of losing Sabitzer but you suspect it will soon be eased by the arrival of Ilaix Moriba. Players of his potential simply do not become available all that often and if their own assessment of him is anything to go on it won't be long before Barcelona are ruing the day they lost what was to be a key cog in their future plans.
10. Borussia Dortmund
One almost has to bake in the departure of Jadon Sancho so obvious was it that last summer's saga would be quickly concluded. It is not as if Dortmund did not already have replacements in their squad from Giovanni Reyna to Thorgan Hazard. Add Donyell Malen to the mix and there is plenty of attacking talent to work with.
Most importantly of all might be the addition of a reliable No.1. If former Stuttgart goalkeeper Gregor Kobel proves to be that then the days when Roman Burki and Marwin Hitz proved to be real headaches between the posts will be relegated to an unpleasant memory. The Swiss goalkeeper made over 100 saves in the Bundesliga last season and according to Opta's goals prevented metric he conceded marginally fewer goals than he should have. He could prove to be a crucial addition to Marco Rose's side.
The Europa League winners did not really lose anyone that Unai Emery could not afford to be without and while none of their signings would appear to be particularly transformative there are also a few promising additions who could improve Villarreal over the coming seasons. Juan Foyth looked sufficiently impressive on loan from Tottenham that there was no real question of bringing him back permanently and Boulaye Dia arrives in Spain after an impressive season in front of goal with Reims in Ligue 1.
Most intriguing of all might be Arnaut Danjuma, who finally found form with Bournemouth in the Championship last season. He already seems to have carried that into his new club with a goal off the bench in a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid.
A welcome summer in Amsterdam where none of their best and brightest were picked out of Erik ten Haag's side. The loss of Brian Brobbey for nothing is not ideal but considering what the transfer window can often mean for Ajax it is not great cause for disappointment. Indeed the Dutch champions might have reason to believe they have made an upgrade in attack with the signing of the highly rated young forward Mohamed Daramy from Copenhagen.
Simply bringing back all those players they lost to injury last season should make Liverpool a more effective force whilst adding Ibrahima Konate to their defensive options means that area of the pitch looks far more robust with the Frenchman vying for minutes against Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. The loss of Georginio Wijnaldum has drawn many question marks but the emergence of Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones rather negates its impact.
Jurgen Klopp's biggest cause for concern might be further up the pitch where depth is an issue. At the very least Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will miss time for the Africa Cup of Nations and Roberto Firmino looks set to be sidelined due to a hamstring issue. Diogo Jota can plug the gap for any one of them but he can't for two or more. Liverpool look like they might be a forward light.
14. Manchester City
They aren't the only ones. City probably need a striker less than is widely assumed -- Ferran Torres is doing a job that Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne could too -- but still it is nice to have a player with experience leading the line for a top club. It is also nice to have a player who offers the creative spark of Jack Grealish but Pep Guardiola had a fair few similar players in that position. While others around them have pushed on the English champions are probably standing pat.
Nuno Mendes' deadline day move to PSG was the first major departure suffered by the Portuguese champions this summer. Even that inevitable exit was soothed by bringing Pablo Sarabia in the opposite direction. Though the playmaking winger was often a fringe player in Paris he proved at Euro 2020 that he can excel against top tier opponents and he may yet do it again.
Though Atalanta have replaced the players they have lost it is fair to question whether the additions are of comparable quality. Nowhere is that more apparent than in central defense. They have lost the best defender in Serie A last season in Cristian Romero, who has already looked impressive in a Tottenham shirt, and have replaced him with Juventus loanee Merih Demiral. The Turkish center back is much admired but they will need him to take a sizeable step up to replace Romero.
In goal there is perhaps more clarity. Juan Musso replaces Pierluigi Gollini, who also went to Spurs, and the former Udinese goalkeeper ought to offer an incremental improvement in that position. Last season the Argentine had a 65.8 percent save ratio that is one percentage point above league average whilst neither Gollini nor Marco Sportiello hit that mark.
How to assess the loss of one of the best players in the world when his employer were so ready to see him go? Ronaldo's departure robs Juventus of a top quality finisher and they certainly will not find Moise Kean and Alvaro Morata to be convincing immediate replacements in that regard. Still moving on from three disappointing seasons with their No.7 offers them greater flexibility for the future and has prompted a rebuild that was long overdue.
Manuel Locatelli will bring elan to a midfield that has been a shadow of what it once was and Luca Pellegrini could overhaul the ageing Alex Sandro at left back. Meanwhile if scouting reports on Kaio Jorge are to be believed then Juventus may not need to wait that long to unearth a talismanic post Ronaldo scorer.
18. Inter Milan
In any normal season a summer like Inter's would grab headlines across Europe. Their transformative head coach left when he saw the writing on the wall over the club's finances; he was eventually followed out of the exit door by one of the world's best right sided players (Achraf Hakimi) and strikers (Romelu Lukaku).
To Inter's credit they have made a relatively decent fist of a bad situation, replacing the two players with the experience of Edin Dzeko and Euro 2020 star Denzel Dumfries while also bringing in Joaquin Correa, Hakan Calhanoglu and young center back Zinho Vanheusden. Most of those players know their way around Serie A, as does new manager Simone Inzaghi, but it is impossible to argue that they are not a significantly worse team now than they were when the summer began.
Has there been a more destabilizing transfer window in recent history than Barcelona's miserable few months? They ended last season with an attack built around Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele. Now with the former two gone and the latter injured we could see Ronald Koeman fielding attacks based around the talents of Luuk De Jong, Martin Braithwaite and Memphis Depay. None of them are bad players, the latter looks to be a very good pick up after his Lyon contract expires, but the mighty have certainly fallen.
It's not just losing Messi and Griezmann though. That is like an NFL team losing their star quarterback and receiver tandem. Now imagine them throwing away a first round pick on a song. Barcelona might well have done that with Moriba, unable or unwilling to match the wage demands of one of their brightest young stars.
President Joan Laporta would fairly insist that much of this chaos was bequeathed on him, that there were only hard choices at a club that was spending more just on player wages than it was earning. But that does not change the fact that the summer has been managed appallingly. Failing to get Messi's pen on paper before he officially left on July 1 meant no chance for salary cap shenanigans with his salary. Buying back Emerson Royal only to sell him to Tottenham will not engender confidence in future returning prospects. Agents will not have failed to notice the brutality with which Matheus Fernandes was let go.
This was the summer Barcelona's chickens came home to roost. Two years ago they borrowed from the bank to pay $142 million for Griezmann, a player who always promised to be an awkward, expensive fit with Messi. That heightened the financial problems to such an extent that they then simply had to rid themselves of Luis Suarez, an ageing striker but one with whom their best player had a far greater footballing understanding, to Griezmann's former club. Suarez won the league with Atletico, Messi nearly walked before then reluctantly leaving a year later because Barcelona's finances were in a mess. Then to top it all off Laporta sends Griezmann to Atletico on loan with the promise he will get back a third of what the club paid for him at the end of the season.
In return Barcelona got a 31 year old striker who is not even the best De Jong in their squad.