Transfer window: Grading every big signing from Europe’s top clubs


The coronavirus pandemic has made the transfer window very different from usual. After months without football, Europe’s top leagues have now announced the dates for the start of their summer windows, while a coordinated Oct. 5 end is expected.

The start of the Champions League mini-tournament in mid-August throws another spanner into the works, too. Some players have already decided that they will move before the start of the competition, thus robbing their current club of a player to use in the knockouts (see Timo Werner). Others will stay on and will only leave once their club’s participation in the competition is over.

That said, a number of top deals have been agreed so far, so here are the grades. The most recent write-ups are at the top; each day is in order of highest price. If you don’t see a grade for a major deal that has been completed, check back later. All fees are reported unless confirmed with *.

TBC (will be completed after Champions League)

Barcelona grade: B-
Juventus grade: B+

If the Barcelona spreadsheet could get an A+, it would. This deal was entirely driven by ensuring that Barca received the €70m they needed to balance the books. ESPN revealed in May the Catalan club needed to pocket that amount before June 30 based on a revenue plan drawn up at the start of the season which banked on receiving €124m in player sales. And they did. But they just sold a 24-year-old with massive potential and swapped him for a 30-year-old they don’t need.

Juve definitely get the better end of the deal here. Moving Pjanic on was something they clearly wanted to do this summer, and they signed Arthur for effectively €12m. Plus a potential €10m in add-ons.

– Lowe: Arthur for Pjanic was a business move but for the wrong reasons

Juventus grade: B+
Barcelona grade: B-

Pjanic arrives for €12m less than Arthur, which makes sense given his age, but it’s a deal that definitely suits Juve more than Barca. The Bosnian is a fine player and should be comfortable in Barcelona’s midfield but you have to question whether the club brought him in for the right reasons.

Juve won’t see the €60m, plus another €5m in add-ons, in their bank account as it will be swallowed by the Arthur fee. But they did well to move on a 30-year-old for a 24-year-old at a net cost of just €12m.



Gab Marcotti explains why Nathan Ake is a “Pep player” and believes Man City will sign another defender.


Bournemouth grade: B
Man City grade: B+

Given Bournemouth’s relegation, there was very little they could do to keep their best defender. Ake deserves to play at the highest level and the club weren’t going to stand in his way. What’s slightly surprising is that it’s City who have landed him, while Chelsea opted not to use their £40m buyback clause, despite needing defensive reinforcements of their own.

City have got themselves a proven Premier League performer for a decent fee, given the numbers floating around for the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Dayot Upamecano are twice what they are paying for Ake. At 25, they’ll see he has plenty of time to develop and, though he will have to hit the ground running to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s style, he has all the attributes to be a success.


Valencia grade: D
Man City grade: A

Only six months ago, Torres was being linked with moves in the region of his €100m release clause, but his expiring contract and the COVID-19 pandemic have seen that price drop considerably. Once it was clear that the 20-year-old winger was keen to move on, Valencia did what they could to get the best deal. But losing one of their top young prospects for so little (even if you include the add-ons) won’t feel great.

City, however, will be delighted. They needed a replacement for Leroy Sane when he joined Bayern earlier this summer and Torres is perfect. A young player with bags of potential, pace and skill, he should develop well under Pep Guardiola’s wing and won’t be immediately upset about the lack of playing time that City’s stocked attack will bring.


Lille grade: A
Napoli grade: B+

At 21, Osimhen has time to grow and his 18 goals in 38 games for Lille this season suggest he has plenty of potential too. The Nigerian struggled to get his career off the ground early on at Wolfsburg, but a move to Belgian side Charleroi reinvigorated him and now he’s considered a top prospect.

The one caveat is that Osimhen has really only impressed for one (not quite full) season in Ligue 1. Manchester United and Chelsea were reportedly keen so Napoli have done well to land a player who could be leading their attack for the next decade, but €70m, plus another €10m in add-ons, is a lot to pay for such a young player.

Lille get almost top marks for making such a huge profit from their €12m investment, while Napoli also score highly for landing a good young striker — though parting with that amount of cash in the current climate is a risk. It’s crazy to think that Borussia Dortmund might be letting Jadon Sancho leave for less…


Birmingham grade: B
Borussia Dortmund grade: B+

The tried and tested route to first-team football for a teenager in Germany has another graduate. Bellingham had a choice between moving to Manchester United, or heading for a new challenge in Europe, and he followed the lead of Jadon Sancho before him in making the Bundesliga his new home. It’s a gamble for player and club, but all signs suggest that the 16-year-old could become a top midfielder if he continues his current level of development.

Birmingham have a hefty sum to reinvest in their squad and would be silly if they didn’t include some kind of sell-on clause too. Bellingham could very well become the next Sancho and be worth four times as much in a few years.


Man City grade: C+
Bayern Munich grade: A

At some point, having a host of world-class forwards was going to come back to haunt Manchester City. After arriving for £37m from Schalke 04 in 2016, Sane was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in City’s 2017-18 Premier League title win but wasn’t able to recreate that form. After much speculation, a €100m move to Bayern fell through last summer when the winger suffered a torn ACL in what would have been his final game for the club.

With a contract expiring in 2021, City have at least made a profit and got a decent fee for a 24-year-old (plus a 10% sell-on clause) who still has a lot to give. But there will be sense of disappointment at the club about why he chose not to sign a new deal.

Bayern got their No. 1 target for half the fee they were willing to spend last year, and will be very happy. Sane is the perfect replacement for the departed Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery and should shine back in the Bundesliga — meaning they can expect to pay the €11m add-ons that will be due.


Real Madrid grade: D+
Inter Milan grade: A

I’m not overly certain what more Hakimi could have done to prove himself for Real. The 21-year-old impressed during a two-year loan spell at Borussia Dortmund and made himself into arguably the top young full-back in Europe over the past year.

Real just weren’t willing to promise him a starting berth next season, and the Moroccan wasn’t going to sit on the bench behind Dani Carvajal. Congratulations to Inter for a fine deal, at a decent price, having finally broken their recent tradition of signing over-the-hill veterans. This one is a focus on the future and Hakimi should fit well into Antonio Conte’s system.



Jan Aage Fjortoft doesn’t understand Timo Werner’s decision to not play for RB Leipzig in Champions League.


€53m (£47.7m/$59.6m)*

RB Leipzig grade: B
Chelsea grade: A+

There was very little that RB Leipzig could do, given Werner had a release clause in his contract. The German club wouldn’t have wanted to sell, but had no choice and got a very decent profit on a player they signed for around €10m from VfB Stuttgart in 2016.

Chelsea needed a top striker, and they certainly got one. The 24-year-old Germany international has all the attributes to be a success in the Premier League and 110 career goals in 263 games is a great return. Chelsea also get bonus marks for using the £58m sale of Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid (which only goes through this summer, despite being agreed last year) to pay for it.

– Karlsen: Why Werner should settle quickly in Premier League
– Ogden: Why Werner’s move is a warning to Liverpool

Inter Milan grade: A-
PSG grade: A

Inter have done well to get €50m, plus a possible €7m in add-ons, for a player who has scored plenty of goals for them since 2013 but who comes with plenty of baggage too. Icardi and his wife/agent Wanda Nara seem to court controversy in Italy and are never far from the back pages of the papers, with Inter stripping him of the captaincy a few months before sending him out on loan last summer.

PSG reaped the rewards, with the 27-year-old scoring 20 goals in 31 games before the Ligue 1 season was cancelled early because of the coronavirus pandemic. Looking for a long-term replacement for Edinson Cavani, they managed to negotiate down from the €70m buyout clause that was in his loan contract, so can consider themselves to have done good business. But controversy is never far away from Icardi so it will be interesting to see how he gets on in Paris.

Ajax grade: A
Chelsea grade: B+

Ajax have a tried-and-trusted path when it comes to selling their young talent; €40m, plus another €4m in add-ons, is great business for a forward who can be replaced by the next top youth team player next season. At 27, Ziyech was a veteran at the Dutch club given the average age of the squad, and his price had peaked.

Chelsea have plenty of fine attacking talent but needed to replace the departing Willian and Pedro, so moving for a player who impressed a lot in last season’s Champions League was sensible. The fee is manageable and Ziyech’s versatility should give them an added dimension up front too.

Flamengo grade: B
Arsenal grade: B

The Spaniard’s loan spell was always likely to end up being made permanent, as Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has followed the defender since he was at Manchester City. A fee of £13.5m isn’t a lot in the current climate and, at 26, he’s got plenty of room to develop. The issue is that he has recently undergone surgery on an ankle issue picked up last month. How he returns from that will be key, while Gunners fans will also worry about David Luiz‘s new one-year deal and whether the Brazilian’s worst traits might rub off on his teammate.

Flamengo will use the cash, which will go far in Brazil, to rebuild. They will miss the defender’s presence, but have at least had time to adjust.

Schalke grade: D+
Bayern Munich grade: C-

Bayern did well the last time a Schalke goalkeeper moved to the club, but this deal comes at a strange time. Manuel Neuer moved from Schalke for an initial €18m in 2011 and went on to become arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, but the problem is that he’s still No. 1 for club and country at the age of 34.

If Nubel, 23, thought that he might be able to take advantage of delays in Neuer’s new contract talks, that was dispelled when fresh terms were penned until 2023. Make no mistake: Nubel is moving to sit on the bench and will surely grow unhappy with a lack of playing time unless his rival is injured. Schalke lose their captain for nothing; Bayern get an angry reserve. Nobody does well out of this one.



Thomas Meunier explains the excitement behind his move to Borussia Dortmund.

PSG grade: C
Dortmund grade: A

PSG were setting up to lose two of their best full-backs for free this summer, but now that Layvin Kurzawa has signed a new contract, they only have to count the cost of letting Meunier go. In fairness, the Belgian was never the most liked player by the fans and they have plenty of young talent itching to get a chance to shine, like Colin Dagba, but allowing his contract to run down was a mistake.

Dortmund have done it again. Replacing Hakimi once his loan expired was going to be no mean feat, but the 28-year-old Meunier has plenty of gas left in the tank and should settle well in the Bundesliga. And all for nothing.

PSG grade: C
Bayern grade: B+

PSG seem to have trouble persuading their young talent to sign professional terms and now they’ve lost the highly rated Kouassi for nothing. The France under-18 international, a versatile defender who can also play in midfield, made the breakthrough into the PSG first-team but was clearly not convinced of his chances of staying there.

Even though the 18-year-old is unproven, Bayern did well to snap up a hot prospect and should give him the opportunities to showcase his talent.

– Laurens: Why PSG’s academy stars fail to break through

Southampton grade: C
Arsenal grade: D-

Would you hand a four-year contract to a 28-year-old defender who hadn’t played a single game for your club because of injury? Would anyone? Well, Arsenal managed it. It’s a free transfer and the Gunners do need a few experienced heads to weather the storm at the moment, which is why the grade isn’t lower, but committing themselves to Soares for the next four years was just plain stupid.

Southampton have sent the Portugal right-back on loan to Inter and Arsenal in successive seasons, so won’t miss him. But they’ll be annoyed they can’t recoup any of the €6.5m spent on him in 2015.

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