There have been some big moves this summer and we are not even into August. The continent’s most prestigious sides have spared no expense in their attempt to usurp Champions League winners Real Madrid. The Spanish champions beat Liverpool in the final in Paris in May to secure their third Champions League title in six years. With their rivals strengthening, they have wasted no time in adding to their squad.
The big-money arrival comes in the form of Aurélien Tchouaméni, the 22-year-old Frenchman who joins from Monaco. Real Madrid are preparing to usher out the old guard in their midfield. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are all in their 30s, so bedding in a new generation is vital. With Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga already at the club and Tchouaméni signed for €100m, Carlo Ancelotti has the bulk of Real Madrid’s next midfield in place.
Antonio Rüdiger swells the squad’s defensive ranks, having joined on a free transfer. Chelsea were understandably keen to keep Rüdiger, but they were restricted by the financial sanctions put in place during Roman Abramovich’s time at the club. The 29-year-old is one of the finest centre-backs in the game and he will provide additional cover and competition for David Alaba and Éder Militão in the heart of the defence.
Rüdiger is not the only high-profile centre-back who has left Chelsea for Spain this summer, with Andreas Christensen moving to Barcelona. Having finished 13 points behind their fierce rivals last season, Barcelona are on a mission. Xavi’s appointment in November brought some much-needed stability to Camp Nou and the board have been more than willing to back him in the transfer market.
Despite their financial issues, Barcelona have been busy this summer. Franck Kessié has also arrived on a free transfer, joining from Milan, and the club have spent big on Raphinha (€58m) and Robert Lewandowski (€50m). Chelsea pursued Raphinha, but the Brazilian had his heart set on a move to Barcelona, who eventually got their man. The 25-year-old will provide stiff competition on the right-wing for Ousmane Dembélé, who has extended his stay at the club until 2024. Barcelona are also close to signing Jules Koundé, another Chelsea target, from Sevilla for €50m.
Lewandowski is the headline-grabbing addition to the squad, having ended his 12-year stay in Germany. The 33-year-old scored 35 goals for Bayern Munich last season to pick up another European Golden Boot. With the raft of attacking talent already at Xavi’s disposal, Lewandowski should tear La Liga up as Barcelona look to not only leapfrog Real Madrid as the best in Spain, but make it beyond the quarter-final stages for just the second time in the last eight seasons in the Champions League.
Bayern wasted no time in bringing in a replacement for Lewandowski. Following in his footsteps will not be easy, but the German champions will feel confident they have secured his successor in Sadio Mané. The 30-year-old scored 16 goals in the Premier League last season – not quite on Lewandowski’s level – but he shone in a central role for Liverpool as they reached the Champions League final and won two trophies.
Even after romping to the Bundesliga title, Bayern have made moves to strengthen, signing two Ajax players. Noussair Mazraoui swells Julian Nagelsmann’s options at right-back, easing the burden on Benjamin Pavard in the process, while Ryan Gravenberch will give them an additional driving force in the middle of the park. Signing a new centre-back was a priority for Nagelsmann once Niklas Süle left for Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern have spent big on his replacement.
Bayern brought in Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus for €80m, which means that three of their four record signings have been centre-backs. De Ligt struggled for consistency at Juventus, though working under three different managers in his three seasons at the club did not help as he tried to adapt to a new league in a new country. Nevertheless, Juventus essentially recouped the fee they paid for the Dutchman back in 2019.
They have put that money to good use. Bremer has come in as De Ligt’s replacement, the Brazilian crossing the city from Torino. Bremer made more interceptions (105) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so Juve head coach Max Allegri now has a new centre-back prepared to step up and ease the pressure on the Juventus goal.
The bulk of their business this summer, though, has been in the free market, where the Old Lady are masters. Paul Pogba has returned to the club following the culmination of his Manchester United contract, although he has torn his meniscus and faces a few months on the sidelines. Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi have all departed, with Ángel Di María arriving on a free transfer to bolster their attacking ranks.
Paris Saint-Germain have let Di María leave and appear to be taking a different approach in the transfer market under the new sporting director, Luis Campos. The French champions beat Newcastle to the signing of highly-rated Reims forward Hugo Ekitike on an initial loan, while defender Nordi Mukiele and playmaker Vitinha are also players with room to develop rather than superstar signings.
The Premier League’s dominant pair, Manchester City and Liverpool, have also bolstered their squads for the coming campaign, the former perhaps more so. Julián Álvarez has arrived in Manchester following the culmination of his loan spell with River Plate. City agreed a £14m fee for the 22-year-old striker in January and he will be raring to go.
Their major addition is goal machine Erling Haaland, who has signed from Borussia Dortmund. City scored more goals (99) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so the prospect of Haaland leading the charge for the Premier League champions is a scary one. Kalvin Phillips arrives as Fernandinho’s replacement in the middle of the park and City are still in pursuit of another left-back, notably Marc Cucurella, after Oleksandr Zinchenko’s move to Arsenal.
Liverpool’s need of a new striker was borne more out of necessity than desire. Mané’s determination to join Bayern effectively forced Liverpool’s hand to make a move for Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan scored 26 goals and laid on four assists for Benfica in the Primeira Liga last season and his four-goal haul in a pre-season game against RB Leipzig gives a taste of what is to come from the 23-year-old. Teenagers Fábio Carvalho, who has joined from Fulham, and Calvin Ramsay, who has signed from Aberdeen, will offer something different for Jürgen Klopp. Carvalho is a genuine No 10 and Ramsay will be a solid understudy for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
The gap between second and third in the Premier League last season was a massive 18 points, so Chelsea have a lot of work to do if they are to launch a sustained title challenge. Centre-back reinforcements are the priority for Thomas Tuchel this summer, though they have missed out on De Ligt and Koundé. Chelsea have made a statement signing in Kalidou Koulibaly, the towering centre-back who has arrived from Napoli for £33.8m. Koulibaly had been linked with a Premier League move for some time, and that transfer has finally come to fruition.
In attack, Raheem Sterling is the selfless forward that Tuchel craved 12 months ago. The England international replaces Romelu Lukaku, who has returned to Inter. There is still plenty of work to be done at Stamford Bridge, but fans will be hoping that Todd Boehly flexes his financial muscles and signs the players Tuchel needs.
What’s clear is that the powerhouses of European football have strengthened in key areas. Real Madrid have every chance of retaining their Champions League crown, having added Tchouaméni and Rüdiger. That said, Barcelona cannot be counted out as they look to build upon an embarrassing exit in the group stage last season – nor can Bayern Munich, even after the departure of Lewandowski. City will be hoping Haaland will fire them to the continental glory they crave in what promises to be one of the most competitive Champions League campaigns for some time.