Sports

Summer soccer transfers: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Esteban Cambiasso was acquired this summer by Leicester City, a signing that surprised fans despite Cambiasso’s leadership and winning mentality. (credit: Courtesy of Ludovic Péron vis Flickr) Esteban Cambiasso was acquired this summer by Leicester City, a signing that surprised fans despite Cambiasso’s leadership and winning mentality. (credit: Courtesy of Ludovic Péron vis Flickr)

The summer soccer transfer window of 2014 has finally slammed shut. Records were set by clubs for the amount of money spent, as the financial superiority of the Barclays Premier League was at full display.

The effects of the Union of European Football Associations’s (UEFA) new Financial Fair Play regulations were also seen, as the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea significantly curbed their spending from previous years to make up for previous losses. So which transfers were on paper the best of the summer? Which ones just do not seem right? And which ones were complete shockers? Let’s take a look.

Best transfers
Chelsea must be given plaudits for its acquisition of striker Diego Costa and midfielder Cesc Fàbregas. For years, since striker Didier Drogba left the club, Chelsea has lacked a go-to goal scorer, especially someone with the temperament and competitive spirit of current manager José Mourinho.

In Costa they now have a striker who matches the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in scoring rate and someone who was instrumental in guiding his previous club, Atlético Madrid, to the La Liga title as well as the Champions League Final. His endless runs, prowess in the air, and inability to accept defeat is exactly what Chelsea lacked in its strikers, and Mourinho has done a good job to rectify that.

Fàbregas has a style of play that perfectly complements defensive midfielder Nemanja Matić and, in that, he does all the things Matić cannot — make intelligent runs, spot key passes, and score important goals.

His performance in Chelsea’s first game of the season against Burnley (which contained an early contender for assist of the season) shows he is exactly the player the team was missing as Lampard aged.

Kudos to Real Madrid for replacing Xabi Alonso by getting one of the best midfielders around in the game today at a paltry 30 million euros. Toni Kroos influences a game the moment he steps on the field, and his vision and work ethic will certainly help the forward line.

Bayern Munich signing Alonso from Madrid also seems to be an astute acquisition, as he provides more than adequate cover for the injured Javi Martínez and enables them to have two experienced pass masters (along with Bastian Schweinsteiger or Phillip Lahm) in midfield at all times.

Among the smaller clubs, Swansea City bringing back Gylfi Sigurðsson to the club is a smart move, as he brings creative flair and midfield goal scoring to a club that lacked it severely without the departed Michu. Leicester City signing Esteban Cambiasso is another acquisition that may raise a few eyebrows but is a great move considering he has the winning mentality that the club desires and leadership in the locker room.

Everton signing Gareth Barry permanently, Southampton signing Fraser Forster, Liverpool signing Dejan Lovren, and Arsenal signing Callum Chambers are other brilliant moves, but certainly not with the impact the ones above are likely to have.

Worst transfers
It’s said that if a club with a championship team stands pat it is likely to fail the next season simply because the teams around it get better. Maybe this, and James Rodríguez’s stunning World Cup performances, were the reason behind Real Madrid signing this attacking midfielder. Now James is a great player, destined to be a superstar. But does Real Madrid really need him?

The club’s last season was highlighted by a lack of balance in the team, as Madrid struggled on defense but was sensational in attack. By selling Di María and signing Rodríguez, Madrid has lost all that they worked for last season, and they will have to work hard to replace Di María, since Rodríguez is certainly not the same player. Defensive reinforcements would have been a much better idea.

Did Luis Enrique even sanction the transfer of Luis Suárez to the club? Suárez arguably may be the third-best player in the world after Ronaldo and Messi, but he happens to play in the same position as Messi or in the same position as another Barcelona forward, Neymar.

Playing the three of them in the same forward line means either Messi or Suarez is shunted wide, and that will not make either player happy. Selling Alexis Sánchez to make this deal viable is another questionable move that Barcelona has made.

The Serie A is also littered with several questionable transfers, but the ones that stand out are Fernando Torres to AC Milan and Napoli signing Michu. Torres has been very evidently past his prime for several years now, and signing him is an indication that Milan is too.

Michu was the last player Napoli needed. The team has great attacking talent, and signing another player there did not make sense in the first place. Add that to the sale of vital midfield general Valon Behrami, not signing any strong defensive midfielder, no defensive depth, and the continual decision to play Marek Hamšík in an unfavorable position, and you get a transfer window that was nothing short of a disaster.

Shocks of the summer
The first transfer on this list has to be Manchester United signing forward Radamel Falcao. The rumors began early in the morning on the deadline day, and by night it was confirmed.

The swiftness and secrecy with which this move was made was admirable, and much maligned chief executive Ed Woodward deserves plaudits for the way he managed to get one of the best forwards in the world to reinforce probably the best strike force in the world.

Real Madrid letting go of Álvaro Morata and signing Javier Hernández Balcázar (Chicharito) also came as a surprise. This move may still work out for Madrid, as Chicharito provides great cover for Karim Benzema, is very effective as a super-sub, and also has the pace and mobility that Morata could not offer.

Liverpool signing Mario Balotelli was a move questioned since the first rumor and still remains a surprise. Arsenal signing Danny Welbeck for the same price is as much of a surprise.

Welbeck may suit the Arsenal philosophy and playing style, but he was certainly not the player the team needed. Welbeck has a hopelessly poor minutes-to-goal of games-to-goal ratio, which is what Arsène Wenger should have been looking for.

There were some brilliant moves and some bad ones, but this has been one of the most exciting transfer windows. Let’s hope this is just a prelude to what promises to be a nerve-wracking season for fans and clubs alike.