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HomeSportsMen's summer transfer grades: Real Madrid an A+ for Mbappé

Men’s summer transfer grades: Real Madrid an A+ for Mbappé

Men’s summer transfer grades: Real Madrid an A+ for Mbappé

Sam Tighe

Premier League clubs spent £100 million in the 2024 January transfer window — the lowest single-window expenditure in the men’s game since 2012 (£60m) and a significant drop from the record £815m splashed out in 2023, according to Deloitte.

After record-breaking spending in the past three transfer windows, things seem to have slowed. But English clubs’ total spend of £2.5 billion in the whole 2023-24 season was still the second-highest ever and, across the rest of Europe’s Big Five leagues, January spending actually rose from €255m to €455m.

What can we expect this time around? Here are grades for all the major confirmed summer transfers in the men’s game, with each day’s moves listed in order of highest fee.

All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk (*).

July 1

€72m ($77.3m)

Palmeiras: A+
Real Madrid: A-

There are plenty in Brazil who believe that we’re looking at football’s next great No. 9 striker. And when Brazilians say that, you sit up and listen — they know a thing or two about what makes a goal scorer. Securing his signature early continues Real Madrid’s quest to hoover up all of the best Brazilian talent, with Endrick following in the recent footsteps of Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo. Though he can’t join officially until he turns 18 on July 21 because of FIFA regulations.

It’s a lot of money to spend on a teenager, but he’s quite experienced for his age, having clocked more than 50 top-level appearances in South America, and he’s off the mark for his nation too. Moving to Real Madrid is a huge step, but the evidence so far suggests he’ll take it in his stride.

Club Brugge: A
Brentford: B

Brentford are almost always one step ahead of the game, and in agreeing to sign Thiago well ahead of the transfer window they’ve prepared well for whatever may happen this summer with regard to the potential departures of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo.

Thiago was named Europa Conference League Young Player of the Season after scoring five goals for Club Brugge, showcasing strength, powerful shooting and a love for the rough-and-tumble side of forward play — which is a good sign when it comes to transitioning to the Premier League, as it’s a big step and nothing is guaranteed.

Stuttgart: B
Bayern Munich: A

Stuttgart’s rise to second place in the Bundesliga was one of the stories of the 2023-24 season, but even securing Champions League football hasn’t stopped the top teams moving for their top players.

It’s a blow for Stuttgart to lose such an important player; Ito was excellent in splitting his time between left-back and centre-back for a defence that conceded just 39 goals. No doubt that versatility and flexibility — along with the fact he’s left-footed — was key to Bayern’s interest. Only Benjamin Pavard (€35m) has left Stuttgart for a bigger fee in the club’s history, but even still, in this market, €30m might feel a touch low in their eyes.

Palmeiras: A
West Ham: B

Endrick is not the only talented teenager from Palmeiras on the move this summer, as Luis Guilherme became an early statement signing for West Ham. He’s still fairly inexperienced at senior level (he has just five league starts to his name) but has shown flashes of great potential both off the bench for his club and for Brazil in youth tournaments.

His turn of pace is good, as is his control in tight spaces, but as ESPN’s South American expert Tim Vickery notes, he has work to do on his weaker right foot. This is both an exciting signing for the Hammers and yet another big transfer windfall for Palmeiras.

Manchester City: A-
Southampton: A

Harwood-Bellis was a vital cog in Southampton’s successful charge to promotion in 2023-24, starting 43 games in the heart of defence and showcasing incredible poise and prowess on the ball. He quickly became key to a possession-based style that swept opponents away with ease.

Achieving promotion triggered a £20m clause for Saints to sign him permanently, and it’s a deal that perfectly suits all parties: Southampton have paid an acceptable fee for an excellent young English defender, Harwood-Bellis can finally test himself fully at Premier League level and Man City continue to make good money from allowing their academy players to leave, which is key to funding their spending.

Nordsjaelland: A
Brighton: B+

Over the past five years or so, FC Nordsjaelland have produced a litany of exciting young wingers who have all made big moves to top European clubs: Mohammed Kudus headed to Ajax (then West Ham), Ernest Nuamah signed for Lyon, Kamaldeen Sulemana moved to Rennes (then Southampton); and Osman is the next off the production line.

Brighton know exactly what they’re doing here, as two years ago they signed winger Simon Adingra from the Danish club and have now returned for Osman. He scored six goals and had seven assists in the Danish Superliga in 2023-24 and some of his goals were absolutely spectacular.

Schalke 04: C
RB Leipzig: A

Schalke have a rich history of producing fine footballers from their academy — Manuel Neuer, Leroy Sané and Mesut Özil spring to mind — and it looks like Ouédraogo could be the next to have developed there.

He was ripe for the picking thanks to Schalke’s struggles in the second division and a lowly €10m release clause, although there is a chance they’ll get him back on loan after a summer assessment. Leipzig have played the role Bayern Munich traditionally do here, swooping in early for top domestic talent in determined fashion.

Djurgårdens: A
Spurs: A

Back in February, Spurs agreed to the signing of Bergvall ahead of Barcelona and will welcome him to the club this summer. It’s a big move that completes his meteoric rise from the Swedish second division to the Premier League in just two years.

Each club gets an A grade, as it’s a deal that works for all. A fee of €10m isn’t a lot for Spurs to put down on a player who is full of potential, and having graduated from the same academy as Dejan Kulusevski in Sweden, the 18-year-old will have help settling in. But €10m is a lot for Djurgårdens, though; in fact, it’s the biggest outgoing transfer fee in Allsvenskan history.

RB Leipzig: C
Spurs: A

Werner made a positive impact on loan at Spurs last season, so the decision to bring him back for another 12 months was likely an easy one. His direct, quick style of play suited Ange Postecoglou’s tactics and his low crosses into the box from the left flank became a feature of their late-season play. Having qualified for the Europa League, Spurs clearly need more players to fill out the squad, so nabbing Werner on loan again — with a €10m option to sign him permanently in 2025 — is smart, risk-free business.

From RB Leipzig’s perspective, though, it’s another year without much of a return from a player they paid €20m to sign from Chelsea in 2022.

Real Madrid: A+

Football’s worst-kept secret is finally out in the open. Mbappé, arguably the world’s best player, will join the reigning European champions Real Madrid. He makes an already sensational attack even stronger, ensuring everyone will be tuning in to watch Los Blancos in 2024-25.

The Frenchman’s whopping signing-on fee (reported to be €100m) means this isn’t really a free transfer, but Madrid have capped the cost of a superstar somewhat — and PSG received absolutely nothing for him, having paid €180m to sign him from Monaco in 2017.

Fulham: F
Chelsea: A

With Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) hanging heavily over Premier League clubs, free transfers have arguably never been more attractive. Although Chelsea look pretty well stocked for centre-backs — Levi Colwill, Axel Disasi, Wesley Fofana, Benoît Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah are already in the squad — signing Adarabioyo for free makes sense.

Over the past four seasons with Fulham, he has blossomed into a very solid centre-back whose long, threaded passes forward can change a game in an instant. They’ll be crestfallen to lose him for nothing, and even more so that he’s headed to their west London rivals.

Bournemouth: D
Newcastle United: A+

Like with Tosin, Kelly quickly marked himself out as one of the most attractive early transfers this summer by virtue of being available for free. He plays both left-back and centre-back — two positions Newcastle have had terrible injury luck in — so he feels like an extremely astute addition that potentially solves two problems at once.

Add that to the fact that not only is he homegrown, but he’s worked with Magpies manager Eddie Howe before on the south coast, and it’s a transfer that just seems clever in every way.

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