As the summer transfer window continues to inch toward its conclusion – as early as next week, in some European leagues – we look at the clubs that have been responsible for the best business thus far.
Honorable mention: Borussia Dortmund
7. AC Milan
Notable signings: Gonzalo Higuain (potential €54-million fee), Mattia Caldara (swap deal with Leonardo Bonucci), Pepe Reina (free transfer), Ivan Strinic (free transfer), Alen Halilovic (free transfer)
Hamstrung by financial restraints in the aftermath of Yonghong Li’s ignominious tenure, AC Milan needed to get creative this summer to strengthen a squad that had the skeleton of a potential Champions League contender but lacked a few key pieces.
New sporting director Leonardo did just that.
Bonucci’s public plea to return to Juventus gave the Rossoneri little leverage, but Leonardo turned a sticky situation into a huge win, flipping the central defender back to the Old Lady for Higuain and Caldara.
Related: Why the Bonucci-Higuain-Caldara deal makes sense for Milan and Juventus
Milan now has the marquee striker they desperately needed – on a crafty payment plan – and one of the best young center-backs in Italy. Things are looking much brighter at the San Siro for both the present and future.
Notable signings: Aleksandar Mitrovic (reported £22-million fee), Jean Michael Seri (undisclosed fee), Andre Schurrle (two-year loan deal), Alfie Mawson (reported £15-million fee)
Back in England’s top flight for the first time since 2014, Fulham aren’t messing around this summer.
Awash with cash – we’re talking about the Premier League, after all – the Cottagers made one of the most stunning moves of the window when they nabbed Seri from Nice. The dynamic Ivorian had been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United before Slavisa Jokanovic’s side swooped in, seemingly out of nowhere, to sign him.
Mitrovic returns to Craven Cottage on a permanent basis after leading the charge to promotion last season – the bustling Serbian striker found the net 12 times in 20 appearances in the second half of the campaign. Mawson, meanwhile, could quietly go down as one of the window’s more shrewd moves.
Notable signings: Arturo Vidal (reported €30-million fee), Malcom (€41-million fee), Clement Lenglet (€35.9-million fee), Arthur (potential €40-million fee)
After recent summers rife with questionable moves that suggested a lack of a coherent plan – see: Alcacer, Paco – Barcelona finally seem to have figured out the transfer window once again. And the answer is simple: let Serie A clubs do all the legwork, then hijack their deals at the last minute.
The Blaugrana did exactly that in swiping both highly touted winger Malcom and perennial winner Vidal, arriving on the scene late after it seemed the two were destined for Roma and Inter, respectively.
Outside of the Chilean box-to-box warrior, the Catalan club’s signings were made with an eye to the future; both Malcom and Brazilian midfielder Arthur are just 21, while defender Lenglet, brought in from Sevilla, is 23.
Notable signings: Alisson (initial £56-million fee), Naby Keita (reported £55-million fee), Fabinho (reported €45-million fee), Xherdan Shaqiri (reported £13-million fee)
Replace the admirable, yet mistake-ridden Loris Karius with a brilliant shot-stopper who is also comfortable with his feet? Check. Upgrade in midfield, both from an attacking and defensive perspective? Yup. Add some depth up front so Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane don’t need to play every single minute in 2018-19? Right again.
Jurgen Klopp and Co. have put themselves in position to legitimately threaten Manchester City for the Premier League crown after some flashy offseason moves. Yes, the Reds have spent a boatload of cash, but each of their four marquee additions addresses obvious needs in the squad.
Keita, who, technically, was signed last summer, looks likely to prove the best deal of the bunch; the former RB Leipzig midfielder, still only 23, could take the Premier League by storm.
Notable signings: Cristiano Ronaldo (€112-million fee), Bonucci (swap deal with Caldara), Emre Can (free transfer), Joao Cancelo (€40.4-million fee), Mattia Perin (initial €12-million fee)
Juventus pulled off the shock of the summer with the addition of Ronaldo, and while that monstrous deal rightfully garners much of the attention, the Bianconeri have bolstered elsewhere, too.
Juve upgraded their two most pressing areas of need from last season, bringing in Emre Can to add some energy and bite to a stagnant, immobile midfield. Joao Cancelo, meanwhile, has arguably been the Old Lady’s best player in preseason, showing why the Italian champions were willing to splash just over €40 million for a full-back after playing the waning Stephan Lichtsteiner and oft-injured Mattia De Sciglio on the right side last season.
The return of Bonucci, still one of the game’s best defenders, after a one-year hiatus signifies the club’s intentions: it’s all about capitalizing on the here and now, and capturing that elusive Champions League title.
2. Atletico Madrid
Notable signings: Thomas Lemar (reported €65-million fee), Rodri (reported €20-million fee), Gelson Martins (free transfer), Santiago Arias (undisclosed fee)
As always, Atletico Madrid are going about their business with little fanfare – this, despite one of the most opulent deals of the window in the form of French winger Lemar. It just wouldn’t feel right if Diego Simeone and Co. garnered too much attention. That’s not the Atleti way.
Lemar and Martins provide an abundance of speed and creativity out wide – and the Portuguese arrived on a free transfer, which never hurts. Rodri, 22, figures to be a fixture in central midfield for many years to come at the Wanda Metropolitano, while Arias offers a direct replacement for Inter-bound Croatian Sime Vrsaljko.
The Rojiblancos need to fill out a squad that is a little thin from a pure numbers perspective, but their moves should catapult them into legitimate title contention after finishing 14 points back of Barcelona last season.
1. Inter Milan
Notable signings: Radja Nainggolan (initial €38-million fee), Stefan de Vrij (free transfer), Kwadwo Asamoah (free transfer), Vrsaljko (loan with an option to buy), Lautaro Martinez (€20.2-million fee)
Inter have, quite simply, had a fantastic transfer window, loading up with a combination of high-profile deals and clever free transfers. Nainggolan is the big addition and will be an immediate force in central midfield, covering every blade of grass and contributing at both ends of the pitch.
De Vrij, Asamoah, and Vrsaljko round out the backline alongside incumbent behemoth Milan Skriniar, while Martinez is a long-term investment at just 20 years old.
Crucially, Inter have also kept hold of prolific captain Mauro Icardi, whose name is always at the forefront of transfer rumors in Italy.
And there may be one more (seismic) move to come.
Multiple reports suggest Inter have legitimate plans to pry superstar midfielder Luka Modric from the clutches of Real Madrid. If this window has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is impossible.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)