It’s that time of the year! World football is played over almost ten months starting roughly from August to May of the next calendar year, but it’s make or break period certainly lies in between the holidays — the transfer season. It is also very much true that the winter transfer window also helps teams in changing them from relegation candidates to survivors or top-four sides to title winning squads, but the magic of summer hits different.
It is this time of the year when the slate is clean for experiments and strategies, right from the club management to the coach’s thoughts. It’s this time when teams formulate long term strategies and sit down for zillions of meetings to scout players, talk their valuations and ultimately negotiate to bring them home. This simple but complicated aspect of the pre-season could change the game for the next ten months.
Today, we talk about five such transfers which could change the game, literally, for European football over the course of the next season. Yes, there are signings that much be bigger from a financial point of view but could be ignored by us due to our simple criteria. We are talking about those signings today which could change the look of the club or their brand for years to come.
#5 Dayot Upamecano to Bayer Munich
“Attack wins you games, defence wins you trophies…” This legendary saying by an even legendary figure of Sir Alex Ferguson still holds virtue today. Well, that’s exactly the reason for three of our five top game-changing transfers are those of defenders. Starting with Bayern Munich’s acquisition of French centre-back Dayot Upamecano.
Hailed as the future of French football in terms of defending, Upamecano made headlines for over two years at RB Leipzig. After rumours linking him to Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, it came as a shocker that he chose to follow the path of his coach Julian Nagelsmann to Bayern.
When Bayern won the Champions League in 2020, it was the coming off age of several stars in the squad. But it also meant that many veterans had to make way for younger blood. The biggest loss to Bayern after the 2020–21 season was that of David Alaba. The versatile Austrian who could literally play any position from defence to midfield left a huge void in the team’s defensive aspect.
As Alaba left for Madrid earlier this summer, Bayern have lost someone very integral to their success. In fact, compared to the earlier years, their defensive issues have only risen over the last few years after the departure of Mats Hummels. Upamecano seals their long-term fate easily.
The 22-year-old centre-back is the definition of a modern day defender who is not only among the best in Europe when it comes to tackling and intercepting the ball, but also progressing the ball towards the opponent’s goal. His distinguishing attributes include his dribbling abilities which are usually non-existent in defenders.
Though he might take some time to settle, the Frenchman offers almost 10–13 years of secured back-line presence, especially under his long-time coach Julian Nagelsmann.
#4 Sergio Ramos to Paris Saint-Germain
One might argue that signing Lionel Messi has just ended the debate for Paris Saint-Germain being the favourites to win the Champions League this season. But it’s far from true. The real secret to their summer transfer success lies in the arrival of veteran Spanish centre-back Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid.
Probably the best ever defender to grace the twenty-first century, Ramos is the missing piece of puzzle that the Parisiens needed to contend for the European crown. The Ligue 1 side never missed any attacking threat due to the presence of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi in their squad. The only thing keeping them back from European success, was a defending masterclass — which is exactly what Ramos brings.
The incoming of Ramos also pushes Brazilian Marquinhos in the midfield alongside Gini Wijnaldum, another summer signing from Liverpool. This makes the overall Paris Saint-Germain side almost unbeatable to any side in this world when it comes to attacking threat. This is the important duel impact that the Spaniard’s signing has on the squad. With Ramos in the first team, Paris Saint-Germain now have almost 9 goal-scorers on the pitch at one point of time, incredible!
Another huge game-changing aspect that Ramos brings to the Ligue 1 favourites is his leadership. One can never debate about that fact that the ex-Real Madrid legend is the most influential leader in the modern day game and his aura sets his side apart from any other side in the world.
Ramos might have just won the Champions League for PSG already.
#3 Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea
Big Rom is back home! After signing for Chelsea in 2012 as a youth star, Romelu Lukaku never made the cut for the current European Champions as a first team player. A few stints at Everton and Manchester United led him to Inter Milan where he united with ex-Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, and that made the Serie A tremble. 1.5 years after him signing for Inter Milan, the Scudetto was theirs — Lukaku was an Italian Champion from the blue half of Milan.
Now the destined boy of Chelsea returns to another blue half of an European nation, albeit this time in England. Hailed as the long-time successor to legend Didier Drogba, Lukaku signs for Chelsea at the time when they need him the most — European Champions trying to defend the crown and win some more.
What makes him an even bigger signing is the Blues’ coach Thomas Tuchel’s playing style. Similar to Antonio Conte, Tuchel too implements a back-three with high flying wing-backs and a lone striker to combine it all. Lukaku won the title at Inter last season with the same exact tactics at play.
The 28-year-old alone made 35 goal contributions for Inter Milan last season, and was involved in 60 of 64’s Inter goals from last season, which might just be one of the best individual seasons in the Serie A history. With at least 5–7 seasons left in him, Lukaku already has 192 goals 60 assists to his name.
Additionally, the Belgian forward is tested and proven in the English Premier League — the most dynamic league in the world. With Timo Werner misfiring and Tammy Abraham off to Rome, Lukaku’s incoming is the highlight of Chelsea’s season even before it has begun.
#2 Raphael Varane to Manchester United
It feels strange that Real Madrid have lost both their 3X Champions League winning centre-backs in one summer transfer window. After Ramos left for French pastures, his fellow French-mate Raphael Varane had bigger ambitions and challenges in his mind. The Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford awaited.
As the crowd cheered for the first time in a year at Old Trafford, they expected the Manchester United squad to walk alongside the Leeds United counterparts for the first game of the season. But they were in for a legendary treat. Out walked ‘Champions League Varane’ holding the United home shirt as the fans went wild in the stands at this unusual club announcement.
Like Ramos for PSG, Varane is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle that Manchester United have been trying to solve for the past few years. Their failed Premier League title chases, Champions League oustings and the last season’s Europa League final defeat — all boiled down to poor defensive performances. Not anymore.
Varane ranks among the top-five centre-backs in the current game, and has been at the top for almost the last 5 years at least. He even has a World Cup winner medal to his name, which needs no introduction. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might just be taken seriously after his signing of the Frenchman alongside Jadon Sancho this summer, as the Norwegian coach takes the reigns for his third full season as a permanent manager.
The new Manchester United centre-back would be the perfect fit alongside Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw — all of whom together make the best defensive line of the league without a doubt, only second to Liverpool’s back four. Will Varane have an instant impact and bring United the Premier League trophy that awaits since Ferguson left? This season will be exciting for the Red Devils.
#1 Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain
If we are talking about the top five game-changing transfers of the summer, we have to talk about the transfer of the century, or rather the best transfer in this history of this game. Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain FOR FREE could just be the most handsome transfer business in the history of the sport. Reckoned as the best player to ever grace the sport, Messi reunites with friends Neymar and Angel Di Maria in the French capital.
Messi needs no introduction, nor do his statistics hold any virtue in describing the level of his persona. The six-time Ballon d’OR winner has set close to thirty professional record during his time at FC Barcelona, which might not be broken ever. Especially the 2011–12 season where he scored 50 goals in the La Liga and 91 goals in all competitions for club and country. This remains the best performance in a calendar year by any sportsperson from any sport.
After the financial troubles at Barcelona, Messi was forced to find a different employer this summer. As PSG came knocking, the Argentine couldn’t refuse as the Arab owners agreed his salary terms as well as ensured him the company of the best players in the world like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Angel Di Maria.
Messi is expected to make his debut against Stade Brestois 29 this Friday, which could just set another record for the most watched PSG game in the club’s history. It doesn’t really matter if Messi succeeds or replicates his game in the PSG shirt, his signing alone has put Paris at the top of the footballing map of the world. There will never be another signing of this level, ever.
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