Tthere have been some big moves here this summer and we’re not even in august. The continent’s leading teams have spared no expense in their pursuit of Champions League winners Real Madrid. The Spanish champions beat Liverpool in the final in Paris in May to clinch their third Champions League title in six years. With their rivals strengthening, they have wasted no time in adding to their squad.
The arrival of big money comes in the form of Aurélien Tchouaméni, the 22-year-old Frenchman who hails from Monaco. Real Madrid are preparing to bring out the old guard in midfield. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are in their 30s, so it is vital to provide a bed for a new generation. With Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga already at the club and Tchouaméni signed for €100m, Carlo Ancelotti has most of Real Madrid’s other midfield in place.
Antonio Rüdiger moves up the defensive ranks of the squad, having joined on a free transfer. Chelsea were understandably keen to keep Rüdiger, but were constrained by the financial sanctions imposed during Roman Abramovich’s time at the club. The 29-year-old is one of the best defenders in the game and will provide additional cover and competition for David Alaba and Éder Militão in the heart of defence.
Rüdiger is not the only high-profile goalkeeper to leave Chelsea for Spain this summer, with Andreas Christensen moving to Barcelona. After finishing 13 points behind their fierce rivals last season, Barcelona are on a mission. Xavi’s appointment in November brought some much-needed stability at Camp Nou and the board were happy to back him in the transfer market.
Despite their financial problems, Barcelona have been busy this summer. Franck Kessié has also arrived on a free transfer, joining from Milan, while the club have also shown interest in Raphinha (€58m) and Robert Lewandowski (€50m). Chelsea pursued Raphinha, but the Brazilian had his heart set on a move to Barcelona, who eventually got their man. The 25-year-old will provide stiff competition on the right wing for Ousmane Dembélé, who has extended his stay at the club until 2024. Barcelona are close to signing Jules Koundé, another Chelsea target, from Sevilla for €50m.
Lewandowski is the favorite of the squad, having ended his 12-year stay in Germany. The 33-year-old scored 35 goals for Bayern Munich last season to pick up another European Golden Boot. With a wealth of attacking talent already at Xavi’s disposal, Lewandowski should tear up La Liga as Barcelona look to not only leapfrog Real Madrid as Spain’s best, but make it beyond the quarter-final stages of the second time with eight. seasons in the Champions League.
Bayern wasted no time in bringing in a replacement for Lewandowski. It won’t be easy to follow in his footsteps, but the German champions will be confident that they have a successor in Sadio Mané. The 30-year-old scored 16 goals in the Premier League last season – not quite at Lewandowski’s level – but played a key role for Liverpool as they reached the Champions League final and won two trophies.
Even after entering the Bundesliga title, Bayern have made moves to strengthen, signing two Ajax players. Noussair Mazraoui boosts Julian Nagelsmann’s options at right-back, easing the burden on Benjamin Pavard in the process, while Ryan Gravenberch will give them an extra driving force in midfield. Nagelsmann’s priority was to sign a new centre-back when Niklas Süle left for Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern spent a lot on his replacement.
Bayern brought in Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus for €80m, meaning three of their record four signings were centre-backs. De Ligt has struggled for consistency at Juventus, although working under three different managers in his three seasons at the club has not helped as he tries to adapt to a new league in a new country. However, Juventus essentially repaid the fee they paid for the Dutchman back in 2019.
They have put that money to good use. Bremer has come in to replace De Ligt, the Brazilian crossing the city from Turin. Bremer made more interceptions (105) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so Juve head coach Max Allegri now has a new centre-back prepared to increase the pressure on the Juventus goal and to alleviate.
Most of their business this summer, however, has been on the free market, where the Old Lady are masters. Paul Pogba has returned to the club following the end of his contract with Manchester United, although he has been sidelined for several months with a torn meniscus. Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi are all gone, with Ángel Di María arriving on a free transfer to bolster their attacking ranks.
Paris Saint-Germain have let Di María leave and appear to be taking a different approach in the transfer market under new sporting director Luis Campos. The French champions beat Newcastle with the signing of highly-rated Reims forward Hugo Ekitike on an initial loan, while defender Nordi Mukiele and forward Vitinha are also players who have room to develop rather than superstar signings.
The Premier League’s dominant pair, Manchester City and Liverpool, have strengthened their squads for the upcoming campaign, perhaps even more so with the former. Julián Álvarez has arrived in Manchester following the end of his loan spell with River Plate. City agreed a £14m fee for the 22-year-old striker in January and will be scoffing at it.
The main back machine is Erling Haaland, who signed from Borussia Dortmund, they added a lot. City scored more goals (99) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so the prospect of Haaland leading the charge for the Premier League champions is terrifying. Kalvin Phillips arrives as Fernandinho’s replacement in midfield and City are still in the hunt for another defender, notably Marc Cucurella, following Oleksandr Zinchenko’s move to Arsenal.
Liverpool’s need for a new striker was greater than desire. Mané’s determination to join Bayern has forced Liverpool to move for Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan scored 26 goals and provided four for Benfica in the Primeira Liga last season and his four-goal haul in a pre-season game against RB Leipzig gives a taste of what is to come from the 23-year-old. Teenagers Fábio Carvalho, who has joined from Fulham, and Calvin Ramsay, who signed from Aberdeen, will offer something different to Jürgen Klopp. It is a real No. Carvalho is 10 and Ramsay will be the understudy for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back.
The gap between second and third in the Premier League last season was a massive 18 points, so Chelsea have a lot of work to do if they are to mount a sustained title challenge. Central back reinforcements are a priority for Thomas Tuchel this summer, although they missed out on De Ligt and Koundé. Chelsea have made a statement by signing Kalidou Koulibaly, the towering goalkeeper who arrived from Napoli for £33.8m. Koulibaly has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time, and that move has finally come to fruition.
In attack, Raheem Sterling is the selfless striker Tuchel wanted 12 months ago. The England international replaces Romelu Lukaku, who has returned to Inter. There is still a lot of work to be done at Stamford Bridge, but fans will be hoping Todd Boehly flexes his financial muscles and signs the players Tuchel wants.
What is clear is that European football powers have strengthened in key areas. Real Madrid have every chance of retaining their Champions League crown, following the additions of Tchouaméni and Rüdiger. That said, Barcelona cannot be counted out as they try to build on last season’s embarrassing group stage exit – and neither can Bayern Munich, even after Lewandowski’s departure. City will be hoping Haaland achieves the continental glory they seek in one of the most competitive Champions League campaigns in recent times.