It’s time to tear apart our rankings of the best summer deals.
Although it’s only been three months since most of the following 20 players made their debuts, there are some obvious stuttering starts and blistering beginnings in this rundown.
How has Fulham’s £25-million coup Jean Michael Seri played? Has Thomas Lemar justified his fee at Atletico Madrid? Here, we provide grades and updates on each of theScore’s top 20 summer signings:
20. Ante Rebic – A
Fiorentina to Eintracht Frankfurt for €2 million
Eintracht Frankfurt’s attacking trio of Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic, and Rebic is one the most exciting frontlines on the continent. Jovic, 21, stole the limelight with a five-goal haul against Fortuna Dusseldorf in October, but when it comes to value for money, Rebic’s €2-million move before he starred for Croatia at the World Cup could be the steal of the summer. He has top-scored for Eintracht with 12 goals, maintaining their hunt for Champions League qualification. If they are successful, it would be Eintracht’s first appearance in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost in the 1959-60 final to Real Madrid.
19. Jonathan Bamba – A-
Saint-Etienne to Lille on free transfer
What a coup and significant upgrade from fellow attacker Eder, who left for Lokomotiv Moscow in the summer transfer window. Nicolas Pepe will likely demand the biggest fee when European behemoths come calling in January or next summer – he’s scored 12 and assisted five times from the right flank – but Bamba’s swift impact in northern France won’t go unnoticed. The 22-year-old has been in devastating form down the left, netting on eight occasions and regularly winning possession in advantageous positions.
18. Aleksandr Golovin – D-
CSKA Moscow to AS Monaco for €25 million
The worst part of Golovin’s Monaco initiation came in mid-December when an ugly rake down the back of Nabil Fekir’s leg moments after second-half kickoff resulted in his dismissal. The Russian has followed an excellent World Cup with some abject performances throughout the opening half of the season, contributing little in Ligue 1 action and only once hinting at his talent in a forgettable 1-1 Champions League draw at Club Brugge. Improvement is needed, and fast.
17. Max Meyer – B-
FC Schalke to Crystal Palace on free transfer
Meyer left Schalke under a cloud when he spoke out against sporting director Christian Heidel, but by then he had impressed as a regista under manager Domenico Tedesco. At Crystal Palace, however, the 23-year-old has regularly cropped up on the left-hand side of a narrow, four-man midfield – a position that threatens to expose his lacking speed and doesn’t adequately display his knack of sighting passes through the middle. Roy Hodgson needs to find Meyer’s best position, otherwise, the potential he showed in Germany’s youth teams will never be realized.
16. Giovani Lo Celso – B+
Paris Saint-Germain to Real Betis on season-long loan with option to buy
The strength of Real Betis’ summer business means their current standing of sixth – the position they finished in last season – is quite disappointing. The 11th-hour swoop for Lo Celso was the most impressive acquisition, and that’s a huge compliment given the Seville club also brought in William Carvalho, Sergio Canales, and seldom-used World Cup standout Takashi Inui in the same window. Lo Celso has lived up to his billing, completing more dribbles than any of his teammates while expertly orchestrating transitions from the heart of Quique Setien’s lineup.
15. Sime Vrsaljko – B
Atletico Madrid to Internazionale for season-long loan worth €6.5 million with €17.5-million option to buy
Inter fans must have been elated to see Vrsaljko turn up following his excellent performances at the World Cup in Russia, and anticipated an instant understanding with fellow Croatians Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic in Lombardy. His signing also addressed an area where the Nerazzurri were looking quite thin. Unfortunately, injury issues have restricted the right-back to only eight Serie A starts, but in those outings, he showed his sublime crossing ability and excellent two-way game. He promises to be a vital part of Inter’s squad for years to come.
14. Pablo Maffeo – D
Manchester City to VfB Stuttgart for €9 million
€9 million looked a pinch for Stuttgart – some Manchester City fans were tipping him as serious right-back competition for Kyle Walker in the 2018-19 term – but minutes have been at a premium behind Benjamin Pavard and veteran Andreas Beck, while ankle issues have further compounded Maffeo’s German stay. The Baden-Wurttemberg side is also mired in a relegation battle, with the second leakiest defense and the worst scoring record in the Bundesliga. The conditions aren’t ideal for the 21-year-old’s development.
13. Thomas Lemar – B-
AS Monaco to Atletico Madrid for €70 million
Lemar is easing into Diego Simeone’s stubborn philosophy at the Wanda Metropolitano, and there has been evidence of the unpredictability and speed the Frenchman offers to Atletico Madrid’s counterattack. Considering the three-figure sums that were bandied about when Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur were apparently keeping an eye on Lemar, the fourth-most expensive player of the summer may actually turn out to be a bargain for Los Colchoneros – especially if he helps vault the three-point gap behind table-topping Barcelona when La Liga reconvenes this weekend.
12. Goncalo Guedes – C-
Paris Saint-Germain to Valencia for €40 million
Guedes is consigned to the treatment room until February with a groin issue, further slashing the attacking options for shot-shy Valencia. It’s not as if the young Portuguese winger was particularly influential in that department, though: across 14 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League, he has no goals, one assist, and two fewer key passes than defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin. Guedes’ rapid approach play is a joy, but his end product is often a frustration.
11. Justin Kluivert – C+
Ajax to Roma for €17.25 million
Kluivert told La Gazzeto dello Sport on Sunday he has grown as an adult, is acclimating to the tougher setting of Serie A, and is getting accustomed to living away from his family. His basic numbers are indicative of a gradual transition overseen by under-pressure manager Eusebio Di Francesco – he counts one goal and three assists, but has started only six league matches – and of a player who, at 19, certainly deserves patience. His potential is stratospheric.
10. Arturo Vidal – B-
Bayern Munich to Barcelona for €35 million
Vidal’s Barcelona career got off to an inauspicious start. In October, Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde said the Chilean midfielder “lacked respect” after taking to social media to express displeasure over a dearth of first-team action, but Vidal has made the most of his opportunities since that month’s international break. His contributions against Espanyol and Levante in December were predictably overshadowed by Lionel Messi, but Valverde is steadily structuring a three-man midfield with Vidal positioned to the left of Ivan Rakitic and anchor Sergio Busquets. That’s an impressive nucleus.
9. Fabinho – B
AS Monaco to Liverpool for €45 million
Jurgen Klopp appeared reluctant to field Fabinho in the early months after his Liverpool transfer, but the 25-year-old has since established himself as one of his preferred midfielders on Merseyside. The best platform for Liverpool’s attack to thrive seems to be when the Brazilian is partnered with Georginio Wijnaldum in the center, with Fabinho’s vision, positional sense and decision-making regularly standing out. It is staggering that Fabinho was left out of Tite’s squad for last summer’s World Cup.
8. Rui Patricio – B+
Sporting CP to Wolverhampton Wanderers for €18 million following tribunal
Patricio must be delighted with how things have fared since he swapped Lisbon for Wolverhampton. His shot-stopping has saved Wolves on a few occasions, with his elasticity to thwart Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in August a particular highlight. Wolves are eighth in the table, and could climb. The only concern is the Portuguese’s distribution – it’s not especially good, and teams will be encouraged to hassle him with an aggressive, high press for the remainder of the campaign.
7. Mattia Caldara – N/A
Juventus to AC Milan for €35 million
Perhaps the most unfortunate victim of Milan’s injury bug has been Caldara, a ready-made replacement for Leonardo Bonucci. Latest estimates predict a February return for Caldara and, given the severity of his ruptured Achilles tendon, it would be a surprise if he could then rehash his best form from last season’s loan spell at Atalanta. Unfortunately, the 2018-19 campaign looks like a write-off, therefore making it too harsh to grade him at this juncture.
6. Leon Goretzka – B-
FC Schalke to Bayern Munich on free transfer
Some dreadful performances early in Bayern Munich’s season were the fault of an ageing spine – Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller were among the guilty parties – rather than the younger players like Joshua Kimmich and summer freebie Goretzka. The latter, 23, looked more at ease in the weeks before he sat out a pre-winter break trip to Eintracht Frankfurt, forming a promising double pivot with either Thiago Alcantara or Kimmich. When Corentin Tolisso returns to fitness, Bayern will be well-equipped and fairly youthful in the center of their lineup.
5. Jorginho – B+
Napoli to Chelsea for €57 million
There have been a couple of worries here: one, Jorginho’s inclusion means N’Golo Kante is forced to learn a new role as a No. 8, and two, the former can falter when he’s swarmed. However, much of the time Jorginho plays like he’s been in Chelsea’s XI for years, pushing the ball into the strikeforce and calmly twisting away from pressure. Maurizio Sarri is a gifted training-ground coach, so he should be able to tend to the Brazilian’s rough spots while successfully transitioning Kante into a powerful all-rounder. Chelsea fans should be optimistic for the future.
4. Rodrigo – A
Villarreal to Atletico Madrid for potential €25 million
The natural heir to Gabi’s throne was Rodrigo, a former Atletico Madrid schoolboy who was plucked from Villarreal. He’s arguably been Simeone’s best player, blending an industrious frenzy of interceptions and tackles with Saul Niguez in midfield and seldom losing the ball. He’s just 22 and had only made 63 La Liga appearances before he returned to the capital, but plays with the maturity of a footballer seasoned by cup conquests and title tussles. Atleti have conceded 12 goals this season, and it’s no coincidence that Rodrigo wasn’t on the pitch when the first five went in.
3. Benjamin Henrichs – C
Bayer Leverkusen to AS Monaco for €20 million
Monaco’s 2018-19 season has been an unmitigated disaster so far, and it has been difficult for Henrichs to showcase his obvious gifts when he is shoved around various positions in the lineup. True, one of the German’s best attributes is his versatility, but he has cropped up on the left far too often, while Djibril Sidibe has been atrocious in what is perhaps Henrichs’ best role at right-back. The 21-year-old’s tactical and technical ability may eventually see him establish himself as a central midfielder but, for now, his duty as a jack-of-all-trades threatens to hamper his confidence and derail his development.
2. Naby Keita – C
RB Leipzig to Liverpool for €60 million
Liverpool fans had to wait for Keita’s arrival, and have waited even longer since. His eventual unveiling after shifting from RB Leipzig has been followed by sporadic outings – some due to injury, some due to Klopp deeming other players as better options in his midfield – and resulted in fellow summer signings Alisson, Fabinho, and Xherdan Shaqiri outshining him. Klopp does tend to be patient in unleashing his acquisitions, however, so Liverpool supporters should expect to see the best of Keita eventually.
1. Jean Michael Seri – C-
Nice to Fulham for £25 million
It’s harsh to criticize Seri’s football under Slavisa Jokanovic, but recently, he failed to last 90 minutes against Wolves and Huddersfield Town before being benched against Arsenal. Perhaps, for now, he is too much of a luxury player for Jokanovic’s successor Claudio Ranieri while he tightens up the backline, but it will be a criminal waste of Seri’s quality if he remains on the outskirts of the Italian’s plans. The 27-year-old’s high number of key passes and tendency to retain possession in tight spots show what he can offer the Cottagers.