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The desert storm: A debrief of the football transfer window

The recent transfer window was absolutely sensational, full of twists and turns. In the end, it’s the Saudi clubs, awash with cash, who have blown away the Europeans, and are emerging as major challengers to the famed European leagues.

The desert storm: A debrief of the football transfer window

Friday September 15, 2023,

6 min Read

Europe’s elite clubs can finally breathe easy for now. The Saudi sandstorm over Europe has blown over. The transfer windows have finally shut and attention will once again switch to the football pitches.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the crusader who initially set course towards Saudi, and this summer a whole plethora of stars have followed suit.


Cristiano Ronaldo I Image credit: Shutterstock

Lionel Messi, however, went the other way. He has since set the States on fire, leading Inter Miami CF, along with his old Spanish pals Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, to the top of the league in the Major League Soccer, and creating ‘Messi mania’ throughout America.

The Saudis have thrown billions to sign the biggest names–Karim Benzema, Neymar, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, and a whole list of top names have headed to Saudi Arabia.

Unlike previously, when the fading lights of the game used to head out for one last hurrah before hanging up their boots, players in their absolute prime have moved to the Gulf for mind-boggling salaries, leaving some of the top European clubs stunned and scrambling for new talent.

Liverpool FC lost its whole midfield to Saudi clubs, but it was quick to react and has signed some quality replacements such as World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, Austrian Dominik Szoboszlai, and Japanese midfielder Wataru Endo. All of them look good and can refresh Liverpool after last season’s struggles.

Most importantly, Mohamed Salah stays.

Liverpool looks like Manchester City’s only competition for the Premier League this season. City lost last season’s stars–Ilkay Gundogan to Barcelona, and Mahrez to Saudi. It spent big on rising Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol and managed to convince both Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker to stay.

With Erling Halland still unstoppable in front of the goal and new additions Jeremy Doku and Matheus Nunes arriving, City looks good to continue its dominance.

Chelsea FC, with an endless pot of gold, continued its great signing spree. Mauricio Pochettino is the new boss and will try to unearth a winning combination amongst his huge roster of players, some of whom he may never know of! After spending big in January, the club continued its relentless spending this summer.

Another club needing to find a new midfield, after the loss of N’golo Kante, Jorginho, and Mateo Kovacic, it was lucky to find a willing buyer in Arsenal for the goal-shy Kai Havertz, and Romelu Lukaku went to Roma.

Chelsea FC signed Ecuadorian Moises Caicedo for 115 million pounds and Romeo Lavia for 58 million pounds–both were also wanted by Liverpool but were lured by Chelsea's money.

Nicolas Nkoulou and Nicolas Jackson were signed to get the goals, but Jackson is firing blanks so far.

Arsenal got its man in Declan Rice for 105 million pounds and will challenge again. Manchester United is still a mess and is pushing towards further mediocrity.

Sofyan Amrabat and Rasmus Hojlund will need to create some positivity around the club but there is an abject lack of squad depth and quality at United. The Glazer family (of Manchester United) are reluctant sellers, still looking for their pound of flesh, not happy with offers of 5 billion pounds so far. United supporters are long suffering and fed up with them but their protests are making no headway so far.

The Spurs club finally lost its greatest goal scorer Harry Kane to FC Bayern Munich after a long and dramatic transfer, relenting only when the asking price of 100 million pounds was triggered. While it was active in the transfer market, the club’s biggest signing seems to be new manager Ange Postecoglou. His positive playing outlook, along with the signing of James Maddison, seems to have helped somewhat in uplifting Spurs after the irreplaceable Kane departed.

Newcastle has been steady in the market, with no marquee signings despite Saudi ownership.

The Premier League seems to have lost out to the Saudis in terms of buying power. Luckily, Liverpool held on Mo Salah, although, I suspect, not for long, as he is the undisputed Arab superstar and will be the most coveted by Saudi clubs come next season.

Real Madrid CF has made the most significant signing of the summer so far–with Jude Bellingham joining for 103 million pounds. He has been absolutely on fire so far, topping the goals charts. Karim Benzema was a huge loss to Madrid and hasn’t really replaced him, but 19-year-old Jude Bellingham is a superstar in the making, and Real Madrid now has the best young midfielder in the world.

Kylian Mbappe’s flirtation with Real Madrid is off for now, but you never know!

Barcelona has been active in getting in Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo from Man City, and Joao Felix, although it lost Ousmane Dembele to Paris Saint-German (PSG) FC and Franck Kessie to Saudi, but it’s the young homegrown players who will form the crux of the team. Another two-horse race is expected in LaLiga.

Italian Serie A is looking the most exciting these days with an air of unpredictability. Juventus FC is no longer the don of Italy and Napoli. Last season’s runaway winner has managed to hold on to the top striker Victor Osimhen and star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. However, it has a new coach in Frenchman Rudi Garcia and will be the challenger again.

AC Milan has been strengthened, as well as Roma, with Romelu Lukaku moving there. But it looks like the team to beat is Inter Milan. While the club made some strange additions such as Alexis Sanchez, its confidence is at a high after losing out narrowly to Man City in the Champions League final. Coach Simone Inzaghi has made Inter the team to beat, but for sure it’s going to be an interesting season in Serie A.

FC Bayern Munich, with Harry Kane finally on board, looks odds on for the Bundesliga and will definitely be contenders for the Champions League. It will be great to see Kane get his hands on a much deserved trophy and, hopefully, the Champions League at Wembley.

For PSG, the soap opera continues. Kylian Mbappe has once again got his way and continues as the Prince of Paris. All the drama of selling him to Saudi for a world record of 300 million pounds fizzled out, and the Qataris had to swallow their pride and let Mbappe continue to reign PSG.

Messi left, Neymar was turfed out to Saudi instead, and in came Mbappe’s buddy’s Ousmane Dembele, Randal Kolo Muani, and a whole host of others for new coach Luis Enrique to conjure up a winning combination that can lead them to their holy grail–The Champions League.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi I Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s been an absolutely sensational transfer window, full of twists and turns, but it’s the Saudi clubs, awash with cash, who have blown away the Europeans and are emerging as major challengers to the famed European leagues. Interesting times ahead!

Happy days are here again, cheers to a new season!

The author is a football intermediary, a certified coach, a talent scout, and a keen follower of the beautiful game.

Edited by Swetha Kannan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)