For some football fans, the off-season is the part of the calendar that they look forward to the most, as that can only mean one thing: It’s time for transfers! Over the next weeks and months, the biggest names will be linked with the biggest clubs, with speculation set to go into overdrive.

We all know that some transfers turn out well for all parties involved, but there are plenty where at least one of the clubs, or even the player, are left wondering what might have been had they made a different decision while at the negotiating table.

GOAL is here, then, to ensure you know who did the best out of every massive deal before the ink is even dry on the contracts. Throughout the summer window, we will be grading every done deal as it happens, letting you track the big winners – and losers – of transfer season.

Check out our latest grades below, and let us know what you think in the comments section…

  • Jordan Henderson Liverpool 2023-24Getty Images

    July 19, Jordan Henderson (Liverpool to Al-Ettifaq, £12m)

    For Liverpool: The end of an era. With Henderson as captain, Liverpool won it all. Granted, his days as a guaranteed starter were over, arguably even before the summer arrivals of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, but it’s somewhat surprising that Jurgen Klopp has sanctioned the sale of a man who embodied the coach’s values and work ethic, particularly so soon after the departure of another of his standard-setters, James Milner. At the end of the day, though, Liverpool have secured a fee for Henderson that no other club would have dreamed of paying for a 33-year-old reserve midfielder. Grade: B

    For Al-Ettifaq: A noteworthy purchase more because of what Henderson represents than his – not insignificant – talents as a player. Al-Ettifaq have signed one former Liverpool captain to play under another. At the very least, their exploits next season are likely to arouse interest on Merseyside, as Reds will be curious to see how Henderson fares in Steven Gerrard’s midfield. Henderson can still play, though, as he proved during England’s 2022 World Cup campaign, and he will bring a lot of professionalism and passion that should benefit Al-Ettifaq enormously. With this move, the Pro League has also proven that it has sufficient cash to make moral considerations disappear. If it’s possible to convince even Henderson to move to Saudi Arabia, then no player is unobtainable. Grade: B+

    For Henderson: A shocking end to a hitherto admirable career. Henderson was by no means adored by rival fans and players, but he was one of those rare figures who was respected throughout the English game. This decision, though, has already provoked a huge amount of controversy, not least because Henderson has been considered an ally of the LGBTQA+ community. Henderson really shouldn’t be singled out as a mercenary or made a scapegoat, given many other players have made financially-motivated moves like this. It’s an individual’s choice at the end of the day and the ‘politics in sport’ debate is far bigger than Jordan Henderson. From a sporting perspective, he also had a fight on his hands to hold on to a starting spot at Liverpool next season, but he’s spent his professional life defying the odds, so it’s genuinely surprising that he’s opted to take the money and run away from everything he previously stood for. Grade: F

  • Josko Gvardiol RB Leipzig 2023Getty Images

    July 19, Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig to Manchester City, £87m)

    For Leipzig: Confirmation of their status as the best club in the world for developing young talent. Leipzig signed Gvardiol from Dinamo Zagreb in September 2020 (but let him stay in Croatia for the remainder of the season) and paid €16m (£14m/$18m) for his services. It may not sound like much by modern standards, but it was a significant investment in a teenager. It paid off handsomely, though, with Gvardiol having just become the most expensive defender in football history. The fans are understandably concerned by Gvardiol’s departure, given Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai have also left the club this summer. But if Leipzig have proven anything over the past few years, it’s that they know how to keep churning out quality players. Grade: A

    For Manchester City: A serious statement of intent. It’s not actually easy strengthening the strongest squad in world football, but that’s exactly what City have done with the addition of Gvardiol. The fee is historic, but it’s not as if hefty price tags or Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations have ever held City back before. And besides, the Croatian has absolutely everything one would want in a modern centre-back: he is big, strong and excellent on the ball. In short, Gvardiol is the perfect player for Pep Guardiola. Grade: A

    For Gvardiol: A significant step up in class but one he’s absolutely ready to take. The thing most people will probably remember about Gvardiol’s 2022 World Cup campaign is the youngster being schooled by the master, Lionel Messi, but it really shouldn’t be forgotten that, in Qatar, Gvardiol underlined why he is regarded as the game’s next great centre-back. He is still only 21 years of age, the competition for starting sports at the Etihad is intense and it could take him some time to adapt to Guardiola’s demands, but it is actually terrifying to think just how good Gvardiol could become under the Catalan’s tutelage. Grade: A+

  • Riyad-Mahrez(C)GettyImages

    July 19, Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City to Al-Ahli, £30m)

    For Man City: A fantastic return on a player who had been reduced to the role of a big-game bench-warmer by the end of last season. Mahrez clearly has the talent to continue playing at the very highest level, but he had slipped down the pecking order at the Etihad because of Bernardo Silva’s sensational form and Jack Grealish belatedly proving himself worthy of a starting spot, resulting in the Algerian failing to see a single minute of game time in either the FA Cup or Champions League final. So, City will be absolutely ecstatic that they have managed to recoup half their original outlay on a 32-year-old winger who had become surplus to requirements. Grade: A+

    For Al-Ahli: Another big-name signing. Al-Ahli had already snapped up Edouard Mendy and Roberto Firmino, and it’s not difficult to see Mahrez combining brilliantly with the latter. Mahrez is undeniably in decline – there’s a reason why City are willing to let him go and replace him with a younger model – but as he proved during the Premier League title run-in, he still has sufficient pace and, more importantly, trickery to run riot in Saudi Arabia. Grade: A

    For Mahrez: The right time to leave City. Getting back into Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up would not have been easy and Mahrez was never going to be content with spending another season in and out of the side. With offers from top European clubs thin on the ground, it’s not really surprising that he’s accepted Al-Ahli’s offer. After all, there was little left for him to achieve in England, having won a treble, as well as Premier League titles with two different clubs. In that context, a money-spinning move to Saudi Arabia was the inevitable outcome. Grade: B

  • 20230719_Romeu(C)Getty images

    July 19: Oriol Romeu (Girona to Barcelona, €8m)

    For Girona: A small but not insignificant profit on a player they only signed last summer for just over €5m. And Girona have, at least, already managed to sign Yangel Herrera from Manchester City on a permanent transfer, after his loan spell at the Estadi Montilivi last season. Still, Romeu’s exit is undoubtedly a blow. He was a hugely influential figure, on and off the field, playing all but two of Girona’s 38 Liga games last season. The midfielder will be missed. Grade: C+

    For Barcelona: Another reminder that the Catalans remain strapped for cash. Barca, remember, have just lost Sergio Busquets, arguably the greatest holding midfielder in history, and the one thing that took the edge off his exit was the fact that he is 35, and clearly on the wane. However, they’ve replaced him with a 31-year-old who wasn’t good enough for Barca the first time around and subsequently failed to make the grade at Chelsea too. But we all know why Barca are still forced to occasionally shop in the bargain bin. Their financial problems haven’t gone away and, when it comes down to it, this is not the worst deal. They’ve spent very little money on a stop-gap solution that knows the club inside out and should provide adequate cover in the middle of the park. Questions will be asked, though, if a proper Busquets replacement isn’t signed soon… Grade: C
    For Romeu: A fairy-tale finish to his career. Given how his career has panned out since leaving Camp Nou for Chelsea in 2011, Romeu would never have dared to dream that he would eventually end up back at Barcelona. So, expect him to relish every second of his return. Indeed, there will arguably be no more motivated player in Xavi’s squad this season as Romeu looks to make the most of one of the most unexpected transfers in recent football history. Grade: A+

  • onana(C)Getty Images

    July 18: Andre Onana (Inter to Manchester United, £44m)

    For Inter: From a purely economic perspective, a Beppe Marotta masterclass. Inter signed the former Ajax goalkeeper on a free transfer last summer, meaning this sale is pure profit. The plan now is to replace him with Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin and possibly a veteran shot-stopper like Yann Sommer – all for a fraction of the fee. It’s hard to quibble with that kind of business acumen, but Inter’s willingness to sell their No.1 offers just further evidence of their now annual need to balance the books by selling at least one key player – hammering home the point that until their Chinese owners resolve their financial problems, they will not be able to truly compete with Europe’s elite in the transfer market. Grade: A-

    For Manchester United: A long-overdue acquisition of a ball-playing goalkeeper. There is simply no denying that David de Gea, for all his faults, came to his team’s rescue time and time again over the past few years. He was so often the last line of defence – literally – and earned United countless points with miraculous saves. De Gea, though, does not fit the mould of the modern goalkeeper. He is not very good with his feet. Onana, by contrast, is outstanding, as he proved with one sensational pass after another in the Champions League final against Manchester City. There will be some concern over the fact that he was booted out of Cameroon’s World Cup squad for disciplinary reasons last November and seriously upset Ajax by leaving on a free transfer just a few months after returning from a doping ban that the club had stood by him throughout. But Erik ten Hag has worked with Onana before so he knows exactly what he’s getting. For that reason, this should prove a rare win for United in the transfer market. Grade: A

    For Onana: An opportunity to cement his status as one of the very best goalkeepers in the world. With all due respect to Serie A, it just does not attract the same level of attention as the wonderfully well-marketed Premier League. Onana can gain a whole new level of recognition for his sensational shot-stopping – and pin-point distribution. The pressure will be intense – several great goalkeepers have flopped at Old Trafford down through the years – and he will make mistakes simply because he takes so many risks. But Onana has both the skill and sell-belief to thrive at the ‘The Theatre of Dreams’. Grade: A

  • Kim Min-jae(C)GettyImages

    July 18: Kim Min-jae (Napoli to Bayern Munich, €50m)

    For Napoli: An almost complete disaster. Granted, Napoli have made a sizable profit on a player they only acquired from Fenerbahce last summer for €18m, but the insertion of a release clause has cost the club dearly. The South Korean proved himself worth far more than €50m (£43m/$55m) during a stunning debut season in Serie A in which he achieved the seemingly impossible by immediately filling the void left by Kalidou Koulibaly. For that very reason, Napoli wouldn’t have wanted to lose Kim after just one year at the Maradona. So ignore the capital gain here; the bottom line is the Partenopei are losing one of the pillars of their Scudetto-winning team – and for nowhere near market value. Grade: D-

    For Bayern Munich: An absolute steal. Bayern’s problems in central defence were brutally exposed by Manchester City in the Champions League, with Dayot Upamecano proving an absolute liability. So, landing a tough, ball-playing centre-back like Kim – despite intense competition from the likes of Manchester United – is a huge boost for the Bavarians. Kim should form a formidable partnership with Matthijs de Ligt, the kind that could support a serious crack at next season’s Champions League. Grade: A+

    For Kim Min-jae: A move of mixed emotions, one imagines. Kim had already become a cult hero in Naples and the hope was that Luciano Spalletti’s thrilling team would be even better placed next season to win the Champions League. However, the coach’s shock departure has probably made leaving slightly less painful, given the chaos it created. Kim will also be looking forward to moving to Munich, given not only is he set for a bumper pay-rise, he’ll also be part of a team that could be further reinforced by the arrival of Harry Kane. In that context, signing for Bayern over United is looking like the right decision. Grade: A-

  • Declan Rice Arsenal 2023-24Getty Images

    July 15: Declan Rice (West Ham to Arsenal, £105m)

    For West Ham: A wonderful windfall. West Ham have secured a pure-profit, British-record fee for a player that they signed as a teenager following his release by Chelsea – and immediately after he helped them win a first major European competition for nearly 60 years. And maybe the best thing about the transfer is that no objective observers are really quite sure if Rice is worth the money. It’s essentially the dream deal for any mid-level club. Grade: A+

    For Arsenal: A colossal coup. Arsenal went up against the financial might of Manchester City and it was the Premier League champions who blinked first in the bidding war for Rice’s services. In that sense, this is a hugely significant transfer for the Gunners. Having re-established themselves as a major force on the field last season, they have now sent a message to their rivals off it. Whatever one may think about Rice’s fee, or his limitations as a player, he is undeniably one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League and represents a serious upgrade on Thomas Partey. Rice was Arsenal’s primary transfer target for a reason – and despite competition from Pep Guardiola’s treble-winners, they’ve got their man. If he helps them end a two-decade title drought next summer, he’ll be considered value for money. Grade: A

    For Rice: The right call. He would have been guaranteed titles at the Etihad but he’s guaranteed game time at the Emirates – which is precisely what he needs at this stage of his career. We know that Rice has the makings of a truly world-class midfielder; he underlined that at Euro 2020. But he quickly became a very big fish in a small pond at West Ham. He was repeatedly lauded as the next big thing while occasionally poor performances were overlooked. There will be no hiding place now, though. He is the most expensive British player in football history and, as Jack Grealish will attest, dealing with that title isn’t easy. Rice, though, should slot seamlessly into Mikel Arteta’s exciting young side, given he has the talent and temperament to become a future Arsenal captain. Now, he just has to prove it. Grade: A

  • Jurrien Timber Arsenal 2023-24Getty Images

    July 14: Jurrien Timber (Ajax to Arsenal, £35m)

    For Ajax: A bitter blow to their backline. Timber has been a regular in the Ajax starting line-up for the past two-and-a-half years and was absolutely outstanding during their 2021-22 title-winning campaign, at the end of which he was voted Eredivisie Player of the Season. The Amsterdam outfit are renowned for churning out one tremendous talent after another, and while the fee is not exactly pittance, replacing such a talented and versatile ball-playing defender will not be easy. Grade: B-

    For Arsenal: A smart signing. Arsenal’s lack of defensive depth was brutally exposed towards the tail end of last season, with the loss of William Saliba to injury effectively killing their title challenge. The arrival of Timber, then, means Mikel Arteta will now have a third top-drawer centre-back competing for a starting berth, as well as an excellent option at right-back. The Spaniard wants as many multi-purpose players in his squad as possible; in Timber, he’s just procured another one. Ruud Gullit is among those who doubts whether his compatriot has the requisite strength and stature to cope with the physicality of the Premier League, but the fact that Timber was wanted by former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag at Manchester United will only add to the sense of satisfaction around the Emirates right now. Grade: A-

    For Timber: A timely step out of his comfort zone. Timber is only 22 but he has been tipped for big things for quite a while. Virgil van Dijk, for example, says his international colleague is a better player than he was at the same age. The Liverpool ace also acknowledged his fellow centre-back needs to continue to develop, but he should be given time to do exactly that at Arsenal. His weaknesses are obvious: he can sometimes be outmuscled by big No.9s, while he’s not great in the air, with Wesley Sneijder recently claiming that “he loses every header”. But it’s not as if Arteta won’t be aware of such things and he’ll feel that Timber’s strengths – his pace, poise and passing – will make him an extremely useful member of the squad. The one thing to watch, though, will be Timber’s minutes. He’s previously stated that his next move would be influenced by the likelihood of regular game time, so it will be fascinating to see if he gets enough to keep him happy next season. He’s being viewed as Saliba’s understudy, but Arteta has surely convinced him to move to north London by promising a bigger role than that?… Grade: B

  • Christian Pulisic AC Milan 2023-24Getty Images

    July 13: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea to AC Milan, €20m)

    For Chelsea: A huge loss on their original investment. Chelsea, remember, paid a whopping £58 million ($74m) to sign Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund in 2019, but the injury-prone and inconsistent American never came close to justifying that fee. Consequently, they were left with no option but to sell the winger for a knockdown price. Even then, though, there was frustration that Pulisic refused to join Lyon, who had offered slightly more money than AC Milan, because he had his heart set on a switch to San Siro. Still, at least another well-paid reserve has been removed from the wage bill. Grade: C+

    For AC Milan: A timely boost. Things are not going well for Milan right now. The fans are furious following the sacking of club legend Paolo Maldini and subsequent sale of Sandro Tonali, and they will only be appeased by the kind of signings that will clearly strengthen Milan’s threadbare squad. Pulisic undoubtedly fits the bill. He may not be an elite-level player but, Rafael Leao aside, he is more talented than any other winger/attacking midfielder currently at Milan. The one concern: can he stay fit long enough to belatedly realise his potential? Grade: B+

    For Pulisic: A badly needed transfer. It’s been clear for some time now that Pulisic needed to get out of Stamford Bridge, where he was never going to become a regular starter. He’s also chosen well. For all their internal issues, Milan are undeniably a bigger club than Lyon and are in dire need of an upgrade on the likes of Ante Rebic, Alexis Saelemaekers and Junior Messias. The fact that Leao plays in Pulisic’s preferred position is only a minor issue – because game time is guaranteed. Indeed, Pulisic may even be deployed as a No.10 given Charles De Ketelaere could be offloaded this summer, after a disastrous debut season in Serie A, while Brahim Diaz has returned to Real Madrid. All things considered, San Siro, the Scala of calcio, provides Pulisic with the perfect stage on which to prove himself. Grade: A

  • Sergej Milinkovic-Savic Lazio 2022-23Getty Images

    July 12: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio To Al-Hilal, €40m)

    For Lazio: An exit that seriously stings. The Sergeant was such a loyal and popular servant to the club, and integral to Lazio securing a shock return to next season’s Champions League. He will be sorely missed. But, at the end of the day, it was clear that Milinkovic-Savic was going to leave the club this summer – his contract was due to expire next year – and club president Claudio Lotito has managed to find a buyer willing to meet the asking price. The fans are rightly furious with ‘SMS’ for leaving but they are majorly relieved that he hasn’t been sold to a Serie A rival. In that sense, Lazio have made the best of a bad situation. Grade: B+

    For Al-Hilal: Arguably the best signing made by a Saudi side this summer. Milinkovic-Savic is still only 28 and he is coming off the back of a fine season in Serie A. He’s undoubtedly got at least another couple of great years left in him and he should prove the most dominant midfielder in the Pro League, especially as he’ll have Ruben Neves alongside him. If Al-Hilal – who have already strengthened their defence with Kalidou Koulibaly – can now bring in a world-class attacker, they should start the new campaign as title favourites. Grade: A+

    For Milinkovic-Savic: A desperately disappointing end to his hopes of proving himself a world-class player. He’s long been good – we knew that as far back as 2018, when he was being linked with the likes of Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid. The question was, though, whether Milinkovic-Savic was truly great. Sadly, we’ll never know, with the Serbia international set to spend his remaining peak years in Saudi Arabia when he could – and should – have spent at least one more season playing Champions League football. Still, at least he’s going to earn plenty of money… Grade: D

  • Vitor Roque Barcelona GFXGetty/GOAL

    July 12: Vitor Roque (Athletico Paranaense To Barcelona, €35m)

    For Athletico Paranaense: Rapid reward for a serious show of faith in a teenager. Athletico only signed Vitor Roque last April – and for a club-record €4.4m (£3.7m/$4.5m). They’ve now agreed to sell him for roughly eight times that figure, which can’t be considered as anything but good business. Even better, they’ve ensured that Vitor Roque will remain at the club until the conclusion of the current campaign, which is a huge boost, with Athletico in the midst of another serious assault on the Copa Libertadores, after finishing as runners-up last year. The one regret? Maybe that they didn’t manage to set that buy-out clause a little higher. Grade: A-

    For Barcelona: Quite the coup for the cash-strapped Catalans. Barca’s financial situation has been well-documented at this stage. Progress has been made in terms of repairing the damage done by the Josep Maria Bartomeu era, but there’s still a long way to go before Barca are back signing superstars. However, this is a fine signing, given Xavi’s squad was in dire need of an understudy for Robert Lewandowski, who showed signs of slowing down last season, and in Vitor Roque they’ve acquired one of the most promising young strikers in the world despite intense competition for his signature. Grade: A

    For Vitor Roque: A daunting but exciting challenge. Vitor Roque has been touted as the new Ronaldo for some time now, which is unsurprising given he is a pacy forward who made his breakthrough at Cruzeiro. However, he is nowhere near that level right now and is probably more comparable in style to Sergio Aguero. How he deals with moving to Barcelona at such a young age will obviously be key to his hopes of success at Camp Nou, but the pressure of being Athletico’s most expensive player clearly hasn’t hindered him in any way and arguably the best part of this deal is that he’ll get another six months of top-flight football under his belt in his native Brazil before then getting the chance to learn from Lewandowski, one of the great modern strikers. Grade: A+

  • Lucas Hernandez PSG 2023-24Getty Images

    July 9: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich to PSG, €50m)

    For Bayern: One half of a transfer-market masterstroke. They’ve managed to bring in Kim Min-jae, a Serie A title-winner coveted by Manchester United, and essentially pay for his arrival with the departure of one of most injury-prone players on the planet. They’ve strengthened their defence by removing its weakest link. Outstanding work. Grade: A+

    For PSG: A massive gamble. We know that Lucas Hernandez is a good, versatile defender when fully fit – but when has he ever been ever fully fit?! He’s 27 years of age and he’s never played more than 27 league games across a single season in his entire career. He managed just 84 starts in four years in Munich. PSG have demonstrated an unusual and admirable level of prudence during the summer window so far, but this is quite the risk. Hernandez is capable of playing at both full-back and centre-back, he could prove an inspired signing – and we sincerely hope he does. But his 2022 World Cup ended in tears and, sadly, this transfer easily could too. Grade: D

    For Hernandez: A serious stroke of luck. Hernandez should feel blessed that anyone was willing to pay such a fee for his services, let alone the champions of France. He should relish returning home and the hope must be that he finally gets a break from the fitness problems that have plagued his career. If he does, he might finally show why Bayern were willing to pay €80m to bring him to Munich in the first place. Grade: A

  • Manuel Ugarte PSG GFXGetty/GOAL

    July 7: Manuel Ugarte (Sporting CP to PSG, €60m)

    For Sporting CP: The Portuguese club may feel that they could have got even more money for a player that was so keenly pursued by both Chelsea and PSG. Both clubs were more than willing to meet the €60m (£52m/$64m) buy-out clause in Ugarte’s contract and, in the end, the race for his signature was decided by the size of the salaries on offer. In an ideal world, Sporting would have kept the Uruguayan for another season, given they only finished fourth in the 2022-23 Primeira Liga, but his sale will at least significantly soften the financial blow of missing out on Champions League football. Grade: A-

    For PSG: Not a shirt-selling, superstar signing but precisely the kind of player they need. Ugarte is young, hungry and talented. He may not have featured for Uruguay at the 2022 World Cup but, at club level over the last year in particular, he has shown himself to be a defensive midfielder of real promise. He offers very little going forward but is a fantastic ball-winner and has a real edge about him. He really could develop into quite the intimidating and influential presence in the PSG line-up. Grade: B+

    For Ugarte: PSG is obviously a shambles of a club. There is undoubtedly a danger of Ugarte becoming a victim of the constant state of chaos at Parc des Princes. One certainly wonders if it’s really the ideal venue for a young player to learn how to conduct himself on and off the field. Let’s also remember that the identity of the next PSG manager is not yet known, only adding to the uncertainty surrounding Ugarte’s chances of success. However, there is clearly an opportunity here for him to lock down a regular starting spot in a team crying out for his kind of attributes. Indeed, his mere arrival hints at a long overdue change in direction in terms of the club’s priorities in the transfer market. Grade: B

  • Milan Skriniar PSG 2023-24Getty Images

    July 6: Milan Skriniar (Inter to PSG, free)

    For Inter: An avoidable shambles. Beppe Marotta has earned plenty of deserved praise over the years for picking up free transfers, but losing Skriniar for nothing does not reflect well on him – or his employers. There are obviously two sides to every story – and the player’s agent has copped plenty of flak for his conduct during this long, drawn-out affair – but the fact of the matter is that Skriniar’s future should have been resolved two years ago. Either get him to commit to a new contract then or immediately sell him for a sizable fee. In the end, Inter left it too late and have been punished, failing to make a single cent on a world-class centre-back who captained the club. It’s telling that while the fans were left divided by the news that Skriniar had signed a pre-contract agreement with PSG in January, the ultras accepted his decision after speaking with him directly. They were obviously upset he had opted to leave but they knew that his exit was really the club’s fault. Grade: F

    For PSG: One of the best signings they’ve made in years. Yes, there will be concerns over the back injury that saw Skriniar miss the final five months of last season, but the PSG medical team will have done their due diligence, while the man himself says he’s already back at 100 percent, pointing to the fact that he’s just come through a couple of international games without any problems at all. Skriniar, then, should quickly become a key figure in Luis Enrique’s back-line. He has absolutely everything you would want in a centre-back: he is big, strong, good on the ball and a real leader. On his day, he is one of the best players in his position in world football – and he’s just arrived at the Parc des Princes on a free transfer and with his best years still ahead of him. Grade: A+

    For Skriniar: A tough decision. It’s clear that he was very happy in Milan, both on and off the field. He initially struggled to come to terms with playing in a back three, but quickly established himself as one of Inter’s best players and most influential characters. It shouldn’t take him long to do likewise at PSG, where his qualities should perfectly complement those of Marquinhos. Skriniar evidently felt a little bit let down by Inter, who tried to offload him last summer at a time when he was still looking to extend his stay at San Siro, but a big pay-rise and the chance to be a part of Luis Enrique’s exciting PSG project should help him forget all about what he described as a “difficult” six months. Grade: A

  • Marco Asensio PSG 2023-24Getty Images

    July 6: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid to PSG, free)

    For Real Madrid: This might not be anything like as big a blow as Karim Benzema leaving Los Blancos, but it is a setback. Sure, he’s not a regular, but it’s not easy finding a player of Asensio’s quality willing to spend so much time sitting on the bench. Madrid even acknowledged the Spaniard’s “outstanding conduct” during their parting statement. Madrid did their best to hold onto the winger – or at least persuade him to sign an extension so as to avoid losing him for nothing. Talks had been going on since last December, but Asensio has decided to depart in search of starts and leaves a significant void behind him at the Bernabeu. Grade: D

    For PSG: A shrewd signing by Luis Campos. Free transfers aren’t always free hits, simply because of the salaries involved. PSG know that better than most clubs, having been burned by Lionel Messi and Gini Wijnaldum in recent seasons. However, while Asensio has been given a decent pay packet – a reported €10m (£8.5m/$11m) per annum – this looks like a low-risk move that could pay off handsomely. After all, we’re talking about a player that scored 12 goals in each of his final two seasons in Spain, despite being in and out of the team. Grade: B

    For Asensio: A potential game-changer. Asensio could easily have accepted Madrid’s offer and spent the remainder of his peak years at the Bernabeu, playing only occasionally but picking up a decent pay packet and probably a few more winners’ medals. So, while PSG is hardly the most original or daring choice, he does at least deserve credit for trying to test himself elsewhere. There is, however, an obvious concern that depending on what other moves PSG make in the market this summer, Asensio could still end up warming the bench again next season. Grade: B+

  • Arda Guler Real Madrid 2023-24Getty Images

    July 6: Arda Guler (Fenerbahce to Real Madrid, €20m)

    For Fenerbahce: Burned by the buy-out clause! Guler didn’t attract attention from Europe’s top clubs solely because he is a talented teenager – the fact that he was available for just €17.5m (£15m/$19m). Now, it’s widely believed that Madrid won the race for his signature by agreeing to pay an ever so slightly higher fee – and give Fenerbahce a 20 percent share of any future sale – but there’s no denying that the Super Lig side have been short-changed by the existence of such a paltry buy-out clause. Grade: D

    For Real Madrid: Two causes for celebration. Firstly, they’ve landed one of the most promising players in Europe, a prodigiously gifted and versatile attacker that has an impressive amount of experience – at both club and international level – for one so young. Secondly, they’ve beaten bitter rivals Barcelona to the signing of ‘The Turkish Messi’. Guler may not go straight into Carlo Ancelotti’s starting line-up, but he clearly has the ability to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo by becoming a key player for Real’s rejuvenated team. Grade: B+

    For Guler: A dream come true. At just 18 years of age, he’s joined the most successful club in European Cup history and will be surrounded by a plethora of superstars. Just think of what he will learn in training sessions alone! However, the obvious question is, just how much game time will he actually see? A loan move appears likely – and arguably essential – if he is to continue on his currently rapid rate of progress. So, patience will be key. It’s imperative he avoids growing frustrated by an initial lack of minutes and is humble enough to accept a temporary move away from Madrid. Grade: A

  • Mason Mount Manchester UnitedGetty Images

    July 5: Mason Mount (Chelsea to Manchester United, £60m)

    For Chelsea: Another unwanted player off the payroll. The way in which Mount has plummeted down the pecking order at Chelsea is puzzling. At one point, he looked like the kind of homegrown hero they’d build a new, winning team around. Yet last season he scored just three goals and spent the majority of his time on the bench. So, whatever one thinks about Mount’s attributes as a player, as soon as he became expendable, it was important to secure as big a fee as possible for him before he entered the final year of his contract. Chelsea have done exactly that, getting £60m for a player that was – rightly or wrongly – surplus to requirements. Job done. Grade: B+

    For Manchester United: A somewhat strange choice. Mount is capable of fulfilling a variety of roles between the midfield and the attack, and versatility is always useful. He’s also a very hard worker, which is why he’s proven so popular with many of his managers. But he’s not a generational talent, he’s not a game-changer, and he doesn’t appear to be exactly what United need right now. Mount should certainly prove useful, but while the price is not astronomical, it’s certainly not value for money, especially when one considers what Liverpool and Spurs have paid for Alexis Mac Allister and James Maddison, respectively. Grade: C

    For Mount: A glorious chance to get his career back on track. Mount didn’t just lose his place in the Chelsea starting XI last season, he also lost his spot in the England squad. This transfer, then, is a very badly needed change of scenery. Getting into the United line-up won’t be easy, at least not in his preferred position, with Bruno Fernandes very much the main attacking midfielder at Old Trafford. But, given the money involved, Erik ten Hag clearly feels that Mount can add something to his side – most likely as a No.8 – and that’s all that matters right now. Grade: A

  • Roberto Firmino Ahli 2023Al Ahli Twitter

    July 4: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool to Al-Ahli, free)

    For Liverpool: Sorry to see Firmino leave but grateful for all the memories. Jurgen Klopp could no longer guarantee the Brazilian starts but he clearly wanted to keep one of his greatest servants for at least another year – and one can understand why. The 31-year-old may no longer be the indefatigable force of nature he once was, but he would have made for one hell of a rotational player, as underlined by the fact that he still chipped in with 13 goals in his final, injury-interrupted season. There will also be some regret that he wasn’t under contract, given Al-Ahli probably would have paid over the odds for Firmino, as Saudi teams have already done with several other big-name players on the wrong side of 30 this summer. As it is, they’ve lost a club legend for nothing. Grade: C

    For Al-Ahli: Another top transfer. After signing Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Chelsea, Al-Ahli have now landed another Champions League winner in Firmino, who should prove a big hit in Saudi Arabia. The forward has never relied too heavily on pace, so age shouldn’t be a concern, nor should the fact that he can’t press like he once did, given the intensity of the Pro League is nothing like that of the Premier League. Firmino’s never been outrageously prolific either, as his role has often been to create space and goals for others, but his incredible intelligence and ingenuity should see him hit the back on a regular basis for Al-Ahli. Grade: A

    For Firmino: A well-earned and well-remunerated break from the rigours of elite-level football. Few attackers have ever worked as hard – and for such a sustained period of time. In that sense, it’s unsurprising that he’s elected to accept the insane amount of money he has been offered to drop down a few levels. But while Firmino wouldn’t have been guaranteed game time at any top European club, it’s still a shame that links with the likes of Barcelona and Inter came to nothing, as it would have been nice to see such a class act playing at the very highest level for a little while longer. Grade: B

  • Marcelo Brozovic Nassr 2023Al Nassr Twitter

    July 3: Marcelo Brozovic (Inter to Al-Nassr, €18m)

    For Inter: A necessary evil. A fully-fit Brozovic is quite clearly one of Inter’s best players, as he proved in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Istanbul, where he was arguably the best player on the pitch. But the fact of the matter is that Inter have financial issues and they deemed €18m for a 30-year-old midfielder that had injury issues last season too good to turn down. That money will now go some way towards signing a younger replacement. Brozovic will undoubtedly be missed – he wasn’t just a great player, he was immensely popular with both the fans and his team-mates – but needs must as far as the Nerazzurri are concerned. Grade: B

    For Al-Nassr: Not the sexiest signing from a PR perspective – but hugely significant all the same. Al-Nassr boasted in a celebratory social media post that they had acquired someone that everyone wanted, and while that’s not strictly true, there’s no denying that several elite European sides were interested in the Croatia international, most notably Barcelona. So, this deal is far more meaningful for Al-Nassr – and the Saudi Pro League in general – than snapping up an ageing superstar on a free transfer. In Brozovic, they’ve got their hands on a world-class player still close to something resembling the peak of his powers. Cristiano Ronaldo will definitely be happy to have him on board! Grade: A

    For Brozovic: A serious step down but a massive pay-rise. Brozovic’s love for Inter was obvious. In an ideal world, he would have remained in Milan. But economics decided otherwise. Obviously, his preference was to move to Barcelona, where he would have made for a fantastic replacement for Sergio Busquets, but, again, financial restrictions prevented the Catalans from matching Al-Nassr’s offer. At that point, Brozovic and his representatives focused on getting as much money out of the Saudi side as possible, and they’ve done an excellent job in that regard, securing a three-year deal worth a reported €100m. So, while it’s a real pity for Brozovic as a player, it’s a massive boost for his bank balance. Grade: C+

  • Sandro Tonali Newcastle 2023-24Getty Images

    July 3: Sandro Tonali (AC Milan to Newcastle, £60m)

    For Newcastle: Yet another sensible and shrewd signing. Indeed, when it comes to state-sponsored clubs and squad-building, Newcastle are pretty much the anti-PSG. It is, of course, a sizable fee, but Tonali is a 23-year-old Italy international coming off the best season of his club career to date, with the all-action midfielder playing a pivotal role in AC Milan’s run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. He has both the character and quality to excel under Eddie Howe. Grade: B+

    For AC Milan: An absolute disaster – at least from the fans’ perspective. Tonali grew up supporting the Rossoneri and, after a slow start to his San Siro career, he established himself as arguably their most important player. Yes, even more important than Rafael Leao, given his role within Stefano Pioli’s side. Obviously, the owners will point to the fact that they are making a massive profit on a player signed for just €27m two years ago – but unless those profits are immediately reinvested into the squad, the fans are going to be furious. Because by selling Tonali, RedBird Capital Partners have essentially ripped the heart out of the team – just a couple of weeks after ripping the heart out of the club by sacking Paolo Maldini as technical director. Grade: D-

    For Tonali: A fascinating transfer at a key moment in his career. The word is that Tonali didn’t want to leave Milan and was effectively pushed out the exit door by RedBird, and that obviously doesn’t bode well. However, he’s getting a serious payrise out of this deal and should also relish the physical aspect of Premier League football. In that sense, this is a move that could elevate Tonali’s game to a whole other level, and Italy may end up benefiting in the long run. Given the money involved, he will be under intense pressure to hit the ground running, but it’s not hard to see Tonali thriving alongside Bruno Guimaraes. Grade: B

  • Dominik Szoboszlai Liverpool 2023-24Getty Images

    July 2: Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig to Liverpool, €70m)

    For RB Leipzig: Mixed emotions no doubt. A talented team that has just won back-to-back DFB-Pokal trophies, as well as qualifying for next season’s Champions League, is now in danger of being ripped apart, with Christopher Nkunku having already left for Chelsea and Josko Gvardiol being courted by Manchester City. But, at the end of the day, this is the Red Bull business model – and it most definitely works for them. They’ve just received a club-record fee for a player they signed from sister club Red Bull Salzburg for €20m in 2021 – and that money is likely to be put to good use. Indeed, Leipzig have proven time and time again that they are one of the best clubs in the world when it comes to identifying and nurturing young talent. Szoboszlai is just the latest example of that fact. Grade: A

    For Liverpool: Another major step towards challenging for trophies again. It became painfully clear last season that the Reds needed to rebuild their entire midfield, but they’re now well on their way to doing precisely that -and for roughly the same price as Jude Bellingham – by cleverly following up the shrewd signing of Alexis Mac Allister by triggering the release clause of another classy and versatile midfielder that is only going to get better in the coming years. Szoboszlai hasn’t come cheap and Liverpool have been burned before when it comes to paying big money for a highly regarded RB Leipzig midfielder (Naby Keita is arguably the most disappointing signing in the club’s history), but the Merseysiders have now got their hands on a Newcastle target that can pass, dribble, shoot – and run all day. In theory, Szoboszlai should prove perfect for Jurgen Klopp’s technically and physically demanding brand of football. Grade: A-

    For Szoboszlai: An incredible opportunity to develop into a world-class attacking midfielder. Anfield is obviously a high-pressure environment and the fee could weigh heavily around the Hungarian’s neck. But each and every time the 22-year-old has had to step up in class, for both club and country, he’s done so with impressive composure – and relative ease. Former Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch always said that Szoboszlai was as talented as Erling Haaland. We’re now about to find out if he was right. Grade: A+

  • Nicolas Jackson Chelsea 2023Getty

    July 1: Nicolas Jackson (Villarreal to Chelsea, £32m)

    For Villarreal: Pure profit on a player with a lot still to prove. The youth academy product only officially became a member of the senior squad last August and definitely wouldn’t have commanded such a lofty fee had it not been for a scoring spree at the tail end of last season, which saw Jackson net nine times in eight Liga games. It’s never easy letting go of a homegrown hero, but Villarreal will be counting their blessings here, not least because Bournemouth were only offering £20m for Jackson when injury intervened and scuppered a proposed January transfer to the Vitality Stadium. Grade: A

    For Chelsea: Another unexpected signing. Jackson fits in with the club’s new policy of buying young players of great potential, and it was clear to anyone who watched the versatile winger last season that he had the makings of a fantastic player. After all, he’s known as ‘the Senegalese Neymar’ because of his wonderful dribbling skills. But Chelsea are essentially gambling on that sensational finish to 2023-23 being more than just a purple patch in front of goal. It’s a small stake by the Blues’ standards, but a gamble nonetheless. Grade: B

    For Jackson: A meteoric rise. Jackson has just 35 Liga games under his belt, and only 12 goals, so there is an obvious concern that he will become another victim of Chelsea’s scattergun approach to player recruitment. However, he had no doubts over accepting a move to Stamford Bridge, believing himself ready and able to prove himself in the Premier League. The hope will be, though, that he’s now viewed as the immediate solution to Chelsea’s goalscoring problems, as that would be an awful lot of pressure to place on a 22-year-old with so little experience operating as a No.9. Still, time is on his side, as he’s signed an eight-year contract with the Blues! Grade: A

  • James Maddison Tottenham 2023-24Getty Images

    June 28: James Maddison (Leicester City to Tottenham, £40m)

    For Leicester: A sad but well-managed exit. Leicester did well to hold onto Maddison in January but relegation made his sale both inevitable and necessary. The Foxes clearly wanted to wrap this deal up as quickly as possible, appearing utterly uninterested in sparking a bidding war between Spurs and Newcastle that could have dragged on for weeks. They had a reasonable fee in mind and, unsurprisingly, it was met rather promptly, thus allowing Leicester to focus on restructuring their squad for next season as soon as possible. One could argue they could have tried to squeeze a few more pounds out of Tottenham, but they’ve done right by the player, while still managing to do right by themselves. Grade: B+

    For Tottenham: A very smart signing. When one considers that Chelsea are demanding more than £60m for Mason Mount, Spurs have done incredibly well to snap up Maddison for just £40m. England internationals do not usually come that cheap, even in circumstances such as these. Furthermore, Maddison has far more credit in the bank than Mount, given he’s been one of the better attacking midfielders in the Premier League for the best part of five years, and even during last season’s struggles at Leicester, he still managed 10 goals and nine assists. He should, therefore, prove an excellent addition to a Spurs side looking for a No.10 – and a much better buy than Mount. Grade: A

    For Maddison: A chance to take his game to another level. Even if Leicester hadn’t gone down, this summer still would have felt like the right time for Maddison to move on, as it’s long been clear that he has the talent to play for one of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’. Spurs are obviously in a state of flux – again – and Maddison would undoubtedly be disappointed to see Harry Kane leave soon after his own arrival, but, for all their flaws, Tottenham are offering him a big stage on which to showcase his skills. One also imagines that Maddison will seriously enjoy playing under the attack-minded Ange Postecoglou, who afforded similarly-skilled players plenty of creative freedom within the exciting side he constructed in his previous post at Celtic. Grade: A-

  • Kai Havertz Arsenal 2023-24Getty Images

    June 28: Kai Havertz (Chelsea to Arsenal, £65m)

    For Chelsea: An unexpected bonus. It was genuinely surprising that Arsenal were willing to offer an initial £50 million ($64m) for a forward with a record of 19 goals in 91 Premier League games – so for Chelsea to have got an additional £10m ($13m) plus add-ons out of their London rivals is outstanding work by the club’s much-maligned transfer negotiators, who are overseeing a badly-needed summer clear-out. Havertz may have scored a couple of huge winners for the Blues, in the Champions League and Club World Cup finals, but it would be impossible to portray his three seasons at Stamford Bridge as anything other than desperately disappointing. And yet Chelsea have essentially made their money back on a player who will not be missed whatsoever – just remarkable. Grade: A+

    For Arsenal: A gamble that appeared to come out of nowhere. There had been talk that a desperate Real Madrid might resurrect their interest in Havertz after being left in the lurch by Karim Benzema, and while that was surprising, it at least made sense, in that Carlo Ancelotti has a void in his team that now needs filling. But why on earth do Arsenal want Havertz? Where is he going to play? Is he really better than any of their current forwards (Leandro Trossard included)? Are they handing over a guaranteed £60m ($76m) for a reserve? It’s not like he’s only struggled at Chelsea either; he’s been dreadfully underwhelming for Germany too. Honestly, unless Havertz suddenly rediscovers the form that made him one of Europe’s hottest prospects at Bayer Leverkusen, he could prove a colossal waste of cash. Grade: D

    For Havertz: An incredible chance to kickstart his career. It’s difficult to see him walking into Arteta’s starting line-up, but we know that Havertz is gifted. There’s a reason why he’s continued to pique the interest of the likes of Madrid and Bayern Munich despite his sub-standard showings in west London. Lothar Matthaus, remember, once compared him to Zinedine Zidane and tipped him to win the Ballon d’Or. So, the potential is there. But there can be no more excuses now, given the size of the fee involved. Arsenal have made a hugely significant investment in Havertz, who will be under intense scrutiny from day one at the Emirates. He has to deliver. His end product simply must improve. Otherwise, it’s difficult to see him ever getting another chance at a top club. Grade: A-

  • Mateo Kovacic Manchester CityManchester City

    June 27: Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea to Manchester City, £25m)

    For Chelsea: A deal that just makes sense. Kovacic is a fan favourite thanks to his undeniably impressive work-rate and some memorable moments over the years, most notably that goal against Liverpool in January 2022. However, even the most ardent supporter would concede that Kovacic never delivered world-class performances on a consistent basis – which, let’s face it, has been the story of his career. At the end of the day, he is 29, has just one year left on his contract and while we’re not talking about massive money here, his exit will go a little way towards helping Chelsea ease their Financial Fair Play (FFP) concerns. Grade: B

    For Manchester City: A pretty shrewd signing. Kovacic certainly isn’t good enough to command a regular starting spot in Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side – his passing is surprisingly poor at times, while he offers little going forward – but he should prove a fine rotational player. The Croat certainly has the right mix of technique and tenacity to do a job in the middle of the park for the Premier League champions and will doubtless enjoy playing in a far stronger side than the one he is leaving. Grade: B+

    For Kovacic: This must feel like winning the lottery for a player who has failed to live up to the hype he generated after breaking into the Dinamo Zagreb team as a teenager. Back then, we thought we were looking at the new Zvonimir Boban and even the man himself said Kovacic could go on to have an even better career. However, he’s not got close to that level. At Inter, nobody could quite figure out his best position, and it was a similar story at Real Madrid. As already mentioned, he enjoyed some good times at Chelsea, but certainly not enough to suggest that he warranted a move to the treble winners. Christmas really has come early for Kovacic. He may not play every week, but he’ll see more game time than Kalvin Phillips and will almost certainly add to his trophy haul. Grade: A

  • GundoganGetty Images

    June 26: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City to Barcelona, free)

    For Manchester City: A sad day. In Ilkay Gundogan, City are losing a legitimate club legend, a versatile midfielder who repeatedly proved himself a big-game player. Indeed, as team-mate Kyle Walker noted, by the end of Gundogan’s seven-year stay at the Etihad, he had developed a reputation for turning into “prime (Zinedine) Zidane during the last few months” of every season. City did their utmost to convince the Germany international to stay for one more season, with the option of another, but Barca’s offer of a guaranteed two-year contract, coupled with a salary increase, proved decisive. Obviously, the treble-winners have already brought in Mateo Kovacic to strengthen their midfield, but the Croatian isn’t anywhere near as multi-talented, influential or decisive a player as the outgoing Gundogan. Grade: C

    For Barcelona: A fantastic addition. Gundogan will turn 33 in October but, as he underlined during City’s glorious 2022-23 campaign, he remains a world-class player, one that never stops working and carries a constant goal threat. With Sergio Busquets having just left Barca, Gundogan will also a restore some much-needed experience to Xavi’s midfield. There are understandable concerns over whether he is ideally suited to the coach’s diamond midfield, but if Gundogan has demonstrated anything in recent years, it’s that he’s one of the most adaptable players in the game today – and Barca have got him on a free. Grade: B+

    For Gundogan: The perfect way to wrap up his career at the very highest level. Gundogan has clearly been tempted by Barcelona for some time now, and it’s easy to understand why. For all of the Catalans’ economic issues in recent years, Camp Nou remains one of the greatest stages in world football. He should enjoy himself performing alongside Pedri & Co. – no matter what role he’s asked to play. He’s also managed to secure exactly what he wanted – a lucrative, two-year contract with the option of a third – while at the same time leaving City on excellent terms. In that sense, things couldn’t have gone any better for Gundogan. Grade: A+

  • 20230621_koulibaly(C)Getty images

    June 25: Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea to Al-Hilal, £20m)

    For Chelsea: Another significant step towards reducing the size of the squad – and the wage bill. On the face of it, making an approximate £13m loss on a player that only joined last year is a bit of a blow, but the truth of it is that Chelsea have done well to procure such a fee for a 32-year-old centre-back coming off a dreadful campaign. In that sense, the emergence of Saudi Arabia as such a major player in the transfer market has been a godsend for a club looking to offload ageing stars on high salaries. Grade: A-

    For Al-Hilal: A second high-profile signing inside a week, following the arrival of Ruben Neves from Wolves. It’s not quite as impressive a coup as signing a Portugal midfielder with his best years still ahead of him. But, when fully fit and on his game, Koulibaly is one of the most dominant defenders in world football. It’s certainly not difficult to imagine him bossing centre-forwards in Saudi Arabia. Grade: B

    For Koulibaly: Evidence of just how far he’s fallen over the past year. He left Napoli a club legend and widely regarded as one of the game’s very best centre-backs. With this move, though, it now seems certain that he’ll only be remembered as a great defender in Italy and his native Senegal, which is a little saddening. Koulibaly really was a colossus at his peak but it feels like he left it too late to test himself in England. To make matters worse, he picked the wrong time to leave Napoli, who won a historic Scudetto with him. Still, he’s now set to make millions in Saudi Arabia… Grade: D

  • Ruben Neves Wolverhampton WanderersGetty Images

    June 23: Ruben Neves (Wolves to Al-Hilal, £47m)

    For Wolves: A big boost in terms of balancing the books. It was clear for some time that Wolves were open to letting Neves leave for the right price. The problem was that while there was always interest in the midfielder’s services, it never materialised into concrete bids. Given their need to address some FFP concerns, Wolves were, therefore, delighted to receive such a lucrative offer from Al-Hilal. The key now, of course, is what percentage of the transfer fee Julen Lopetegui will be able to invest in his squad. It will also be fascinating to see if Matheus Nunes follows his fellow Portuguese out of Molineux. Losing two highly-rated midfielders would obviously hit Wolves hard but, right now, it’s hard to see Neves’ sale for £47m as anything but an excellent deal for the cash-strapped club. Grade: A+

    For Al-Hilal: Quite the coup. Al-Hilal have seen the two sides that finished above them in last season’s Pro League make some serious waves in the transfer market in the past six months, with Cristiano Ronaldo joining Al-Nassr in January, and N’Golo Kante ready to join Karim Benzema at Al-Ittihad. Neves obviously doesn’t have anything like the same profile as those three legends of the game, but his signing is hugely significant in that he is only 26. His best years are ahead of him, and he is now set to spend them in Saudi Arabia. Grade: A

    For Neves: On the surface, a puzzling decision by a player approaching his prime. Clearly, he’s going to earn a fortune plying his trade in Riyadh. But this is a guy who was talking about his desperation to play in the Champions League less than a month ago: “Me and my family love it here, but in football you have to follow your main goals.” At that time, playing in the Pro League certainly didn’t seem like one of them. So, what changed? Obviously, the cash helped convince him, but Neves probably also realised that his dream move to Barcelona simply wasn’t going to happen, certainly not this summer anyway, and that no other elite European side would be willing to meet Wolves’ asking price. Indeed, there’s long been the perception that Neves is a good player, but not a great one. And this transfer suggests that maybe he’s accepted that now, thus making it easier to agree to a move that will effectively see him become the Pro League’s answer to Oscar, the former Brazil international who sensationally quit Chelsea to join Shanghai Port during the Chinese Super League boom six years ago. Grade: F

  • N'Golo Kante Al-Ittihad 2023-24Getty Images

    June 20: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea to Al-Ittihad, free)

    For Chelsea: A tough one to take. When fully fit, N’Golo Kante is a ball-winning machine, the ultimate back-line protector and an under-rated offensive force. The problem is, he’s been beset by physical problems for the past couple of years, resulting in the 32-year-old making just seven Premier League appearances last season. In that sense, his exit is not exactly a major setback as his decline has been obvious. But the Blues did want to keep Kante. Even as recently as February, they thought a contract extension was close. Instead, they’ve lost the midfielder for nothing, which always stings. Grade: C

    For Al-Ittihad: Another headline-grabbing addition. Just a few days after sealing a sensational swoop for Karim Benzema that caught nearly everyone by surprise, including Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, the newly-crowned Saudi Pro League champions have snapped up another fantastic Frenchman, who should, in theory at least, add quality, dynamism and experience to their midfield. However, there are more question marks over this particular deal. Is Kante really worth a reported €100m (£86m/$112m) a season, given his incessant injury problems? He may be a well-liked character but he’s not exactly a sponsor’s dream, so one wonders how much value Al-Ittihad are actually going to get out of Kante if he’s not fit to feature regularly. Grade: B

    For Kante: One hell of a payday at a concerning moment in his career. Kante is already a wealthy man but he’s essentially ensured that neither he nor his family will ever have to worry about money again with a lucrative contract that reportedly includes commercial deals and an investment portfolio. However, this decision effectively confirms what we all feared the few times Kante actually managed to play last season – that he is finished at the very highest level. Grade: B-

  • Christopher Nkunku Chelsea 2023-24Getty Images

    June 20: Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig to Chelsea, £53m)

    For RB Leipzig: Further evidence of their shrewd recruitment strategy. Nkunku was picked up from Paris Saint-Germain four years ago for just €13 million (£11m/$14m) and has now been sold for nearly five times that figure. The problem now, of course, is how to replace a player that both scores and creates goals, but if Leipzig have proven anything over the past decade, it’s that they know how to find and nurture young talent. Nkunku is just their latest success story in that regard. Grade: A

    For Chelsea: A decent bit of business by the Blues – at last. Chelsea’s new owners have quickly earned themselves a reputation as the worst transfer market operators in world football, having overpaid for one player after another during one of the biggest – and most reckless – spending sprees the game has ever seen. However, while nobody can possibly know how Nkunku will fare when placed in the cauldron of chaos that is Stamford Bridge, this undoubtedly has the makings of a great deal. Obviously, he had some injury issues last season, while he’s still not netted in 10 appearances for France. However, while £53m is a significant sum of money, it’s not a bad price at all for the best player in the Bundesliga in 2021-22, as well as last season’s joint-top scorer. Let’s put it this way: Todd Boehly & Co. have paid far more for a lot less over the past year. Grade: A-

    For Nkunku: Nkunku obviously wanted to test himself in what he believes is the toughest league in the world – he made that clear in his first comments as a Chelsea player – and he has the pace and power to thrive in England. However, is Chelsea really the right club for him? It’s far too early to say, given they’re an unknown quantity right now. The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino feels like a step in the right direction and the hope is that he will take Nkunku’s game to a whole other level, just as he did with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min at Spurs. However, it’s still not entirely clear where the very versatile Nkunku will be deployed. So, while his signing cannot be construed as anything other than a positive given Chelsea are crying out for a goalscorer, it remains to be seen if his obvious world-class potential is realised in west London. Grade: B

  • Jude Bellingham Real Madrid 2023-24Getty Images

    June 14: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid, €103m)

    For Borussia Dortmund: Good – but not great. Dortmund have obviously got their money’s worth out of Bellingham, who joined from Birmingham City three years ago for €30m (£25m) and developed into the leader of a side that really should have won this season’s Bundesliga. In that sense, they did well to hold on to the teenager this long, given the intense interest in his services last summer. However, while Dortmund have generated a massive profit on the England international, the feeling was that the most in-demand midfielder in world football would command more than a guaranteed €103m (£88m/$110m), especially when one considers Benfica got €120m out of Chelsea for Enzo Fernandez in January. Grade: B+

    For Real Madrid: Los Blancos are obviously far better transfer market operators than Chelsea (who isn’t, in fairness?) but they’ve done well here to agree a deal with Dortmund that will, at most, rise to €130m (£112m/$140m). That feels like a decent bit of business in the current economic climate, with average players commanding €100m fees. There are no sure things in football, but Bellingham had already been shining in the Champions League before proving himself a superstar-in-the-making with his performances at the 2022 World Cup. He, thus, has every chance of becoming a mainstay in the Madrid starting line-up for the next decade alongside fellow young guys Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni. If he does, that fee really will look like a bargain for Madrid, who, let’s not forget, faced quite the fight for Bellingham’s signature. Grade: A

    For Bellingham: The ultimate step-up in class. Fourteen-time European Cup winners Madrid offer arguably the most prestigious stage on which to perform in world football, but also the most demanding. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Zinedine Zidane have all been booed by the Bernabeu faithful. Bellingham, then, will come under intense scrutiny in Spain and will be under pressure to justify his price tag, while at the same time competing for a starting spot in a team in transition with some high-profile colleagues, including Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Displacing either of those two living legends isn’t easy – just ask Tchouameni! And it’s not as if Kroos has exactly issued Bellingham with a warm welcome… For all his undoubted talent, Bellingham could come to regret this move – at least initially – given he would have been immediately a certain starter at Liverpool… Grade: B+

  • Alexis Mac Allister Liverpool 2023-24Getty Images

    June 8: Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton to Liverpool, £35m)

    For Brighton: There will obviously be a certain degree of sadness among Brighton supporters that one of the key players in their sensational sixth-placed finish in the Premier League is leaving – as well as an undoubted sense of frustration that he has been sold for less than the market value because of the buy-out clause. Mac Allister is also unlikely to be the only high-profile departure this summer, as coach Roberto De Zerbi has lamented. However, this is what Brighton are all out about: making big profits on bargain buys. It’s a business model that has secured European qualification for the first time in the club’s history. To tell the truth, they did well to hold onto him after his exploits in Qatar and while replacing their top scorer for 2022-23 won’t be easy – if anyone can do it, it’s Brighton and their tremendous transfer team. Grade: B

    For Liverpool: A very timely boost after the Jude Bellingham blow. The primary reason for the Reds’ surprising struggles in 2022-23 has long been obvious: an ageing midfield. Jurgen Klopp’s team were in dire need of rejuvenation and, in Mac Allister, Liverpool have acquired a 24-year-old midfielder who is industrious, innovative and versatile – and for ‘just’ £35m. We really could be talking about the steal of the summer here. After all, Mac Allister’s World Cup-winning team-mate Enzo Fernandez cost three times as much! Grade: A+

    For Mac Allister: This feels like the perfect move at the perfect time. He’s improved exponentially over the past couple of seasons, culminating in him playing a pivotal role in his country’s triumphant campaign at Qatar 2022. There is clearly even more to come from Mac Allister as he approaches his prime years, and although he maybe would have preferred to join a Champions League participant, his new boss is capable of taking the midfielder’s game to an even higher level. It also helps when the way is clear for a new signing to walk straight into the starting line-up! Grade: A+

  • 20230607_Messi(C)Getty images

    June 7: Lionel Messi (PSG to Inter Miami, free)

    For PSG: A colossal blow to the brand. At the end of the day, though, PSG had put themselves in a perilous position in relation to Financial Fair Play regulations by committing so much cash to the salaries of three superstar forwards. One of them was always going to have to go this summer and there was no way PSG were giving up Kylian Mbappe, the cornerstone of their entire project, while they still can’t find a buyer for Neymar. In that sense, Messi’s exit was inevitable and the incredible thing is, the fans are happy to see the GOAT leave, given he came to represent everything they hate about their club. So, at least he’s off the books now, meaning PSG can no doubt waste the money saved on some other ill-advised signing… Grade: C

    For Inter Miami: The deal of the century! Inter Miami don’t have a good team. They are presently bottom of the Eastern Conference. It’s not a well-run club either. Phil Neville was allowed to coach the team for more than two years. That tells you everything you need to know about David Beckham and his fellow owners. Yet they’ve still managed to pull off the biggest deal in MLS history – despite intense competition for his services from Saudi Arabia. Is Messi still at the absolute peak of his powers? Of course, not. But he remains an absolute magician, as he proved by inspiring Argentina to victory at the 2022 World Cup just seven months ago. His mere presence is a game-changer for both Miami and MLS. A+

    For Messi: A reasonably shrewd move. Obviously, he could have earned even more money by moving to Saudi Arabia, but he’s still secured himself a sizeable salary for the next few years. The hope was that Messi would have another crack at the Champions League. He said himself he was desperate to win a fifth title – but that clearly wasn’t true. Evidently, his one remaining career goal is to captain his country at the 2026 World Cup, which will be staged in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Joining Miami gives Messi an excellent chance of realising that dream, given the MLS is far less demanding, physically, than any of Europe’s Top 10 leagues, and he will be feeling right at home in the States by the time the tournament rolls around. B

  • Karim Benzema Al-Ittihad signingAl-Ittihad

    June 6: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad, free)

    For Real Madrid: An absolute disaster. Madrid have acknowledged that Benzema had earned the right to leave on his own terms after 14 years of stellar service but, as coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted, the club just “cannot be happy” about the timing of the French forward’s “surprise” exit. Real fully expected Benzema to sign a one-year extension, thus providing them with plenty of time to find a new No.9. He has instead torpedoed those plans, leaving Florentino Perez to pick up the pieces. Madrid have lost a legend for nothing and signing a replacement for anything less than €100m will be nigh on impossible. Grade: F

    For Al-Ittihad: The biggest transfer in the club’s history. Some famous names have played for the Saudi side over the years, including Roberto Donadoni and Bebeto, but we’re talking about the current Ballon d’Or holder here. This, then, is a deal of historic proportions for Al-Ittihad, one which will draw an unprecedented level of attention to the club. From a purely sporting perspective, it’s arguably even bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo joining Al-Nassr, given Benzema clearly still has plenty to offer at the very highest level, as he proved with 31 goals in all competitions during the 2022-23 campaign. He’s going to add a completely new dimension to a team that are just coming off their first Pro League title triumph in 15 years. Seriously, what a coup for Al-Ittihad! Grade: A+

    For Benzema: Well, it very much depends on how you view transfers. Financially speaking, this is obviously one hell of a deal for Benzema. He’s going to earn a fortune by spending two years in Saudi Arabia. On a sporting level, though, it’s a serious step down in quality. But does Benzema care? Clearly not. And that’s understandable to a certain degree. He’s already won it all at club level and, having called time on his international career, there is clearly nothing else motivating him at this stage of his career other than money – of which he is now about to make an obscene amount. In that sense, this is a dream move for him. Still, one cannot help but wonder if he’ll come to regret effectively entering into early retirement. After all, Ronaldo is earning millions in Saudi Arabia but he doesn’t look particularly happy right now, does he?… Grade: B+ — Goal

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