Transfer Grades: Who Benefits from Deadline Day's Biggest Moves?
- Kylian Mbappe traded one Ligue 1 power for another, while Renato Sanches has an unusual new home address with the two rising stars among the biggest movers on transfer deadline day.
Transfer deadline day brought us some expected moves, some reported massive swings and misses and a potential seismic shift when it comes to Europe's elite tier.
While France was busy dusting away the Netherlands in World Cup qualifying, two of its goal-scorers were in the center of transfer sagas. Thomas Lemar was reportedly the subject of a £92 million bid from Arsenal, only to reject the move and remain at Monaco, while Kylian Mbappe finally sorted his expected, yet still stunning move to free-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
They weren't the only big names at the heart of the deadline day mania, though. Renato Sanches has a surprising new address, and while Alexis Sanchez does not, one of his now-former Arsenal teammates will wear a different shade of red.
So who made out the best? We grade the biggest moves of the day.
Transfer Grades: PSG Loots Monaco with Kylian Mbappe Loan, Adds to Stable of Riches
One of the world's brightest young talents is on the move–but he won't be moving all that far. Paris Saint-Germain is the new home for striker Kylian Mbappé, after the club completed a deal with AS Monaco for the player. The deal calls for Mbappé to be transferred immediately on a one-year loan, with an option for PSG to buy at the end of the season for a reported €180 million (approximately $214 million). That eventual transfer fee would make Mbappé the second most expensive player of all time, behind his PSG teammate Neymar. Here's how the deal grade for all parties involved:
For PSG: B
Let's get the obvious out of the way: This move significantly weakens Monaco, which was the only team that figured to even give PSG a run for the Ligue 1 title. With Mbappé not just out of the picture but on its team, PSG can safely assume that another romp to a domestic title is all but assured.
However, and it seems odd to say this about any transfer involving a player as talented and widely-coveted as Mbappé, I find this move to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
For one thing, PSG does not have a huge on-field need for Mbappé, unless it is planning to transfer (or bench) Edinson Cavani or Angel Di Maria or move from a 4–3–3 to a totally crazy 4–2–4 formation. PSG could bring Mbappé off the bench, but there are so many other players the club could have bought, at far less financial risk, than Mbappe to provide depth behind Cavani, or on the wing behind Di Maria (though Mbappé isn't a winger). Then again, after splashing over €400 million on players in the last two transfer windows, maybe financial risk isn't something that much concerns PSG's Qatari owners, and that, too, could be part of a problem. UEFA's Financial Fair Play laws were put into place, at least in theory, to stop wild spending like what PSG has done recently. What if the deal for Mbappé is the one that finally enacts the penalties FFP supposedly provides? Would it really all be worth it, just so PSG could add another Ferrari to its stable of Ferraris?
For AS Monaco: F
It makes sense for Monaco to sell Mbappé. The player is one of the world's brightest stars, but his value at this point is based almost entirely on promise, not production. With that and the inflated post-Neymar market, it's likely Monaco might never get a higher fee for Mbappé than it agreed upon this summer. However, it makes almost no sense to sell Mbappé to PSG, a domestic rival that was going to be hard enough to beat out for the league title even with an unweakened quad. The financial windfall is significant, but it's also not 100% guaranteed. Surely, there have been bids from other clubs after Mbappé's star-making Champions League performances, which included six goals in the knockout stage against the likes of Manchester City, Dortmund and Juventus. Why wait until the last minute, then sell to the most harmful destination possible?
For Kylian Mbappé: B
With all the hype surrounding Mbappé, it can be easy to forget that he's still only 18 years old. He still has a ton of growing to do, and they red-hot way he ended last season may not be the way he plays the rest of his career. With that in mind, it's strange and potentially harmful to his development to move from a Monaco team where he was a first-choice starter to a PSG squad where he'll have to battle for minutes with Cavani and, potentially, Neymar and Angel Di Maria. As far as superteam moves go, though, PSG might also be about right for Mbappé. For one thing, he'll be closer to home, having grown up in Bondy, on the outskirts of Paris. And and for another, the lack of expectation about his arrival may end up being a positive. Unlike Neymar, Mbappé doesn't arrive with the pressure to carry the team on his shoulders. Simply continuing to develop will be enough to make the move worth it for him.
Transfer Grades: Bayern Munich Loans Renato Sanches to Swansea in Stunner
Renato Sanches completed one of the more surprising moves on transfer deadline day, with the promising Portuguese midfielder heading to Premier League club Swansea City on a one-year loan from Bayern Munich. Sanches, 20, joins a Swansea side that has taken four points from its opening three games in the Premier League. Here's how the deal grades for all parties involved:
For Swansea City: A+
No question about it: This is a coup for Swansea City. Yes, even though it's just a loan. And yes, even though it's only for one season. Renato Sanches was one of Portugal's best players at Euro 2016 at just 18 years old, but the resulting move to Bayern Munich hasn't quite worked out so well. Sanches made just 17 appearances for Bayern last season, but is still widely considered to be one of Europe's top young talents. Players like that don't come available very often, particularly for teams for which finishing upper-midtable would be considered a success. Sanches's relentless style of play should be a great fit for the Premier League, and he can provide a nice balance to a Swansea midfield already strengthened this offseason with the addition of Hull City's Sam Clucas.
For Bayern Munich: B
Bayern Munich fans likely expected big, immediate things from Sanches upon purchasing him from Benfica before last season, but life was always going to be more complicated than that. Sanches has undeniable quality, but is still raw–raw enough to where he simply wasn't going to contribute to Bayern's campaign this season in any meaningful way. Rather than have him sit on the bench or play with reserves, Bayern is allowing one of its better young players to get more playing time, in the hopes that he'll come back a better, more complete player with a full season of top-level experience under his belt. There's no downside for Bayern here, except any potential ripple effects in transfer markets to come – will young players now think twice about joining Bayern if they know opportunities will be limited, and a quick loan is a possibility?
For Renato Sanches: A+
He impressed with Benfica and lit up Euro 2016, but was a disappointment in his first season at Bayern. Still just 20, what Sanches needs at this point in his development is to play as many meaningful games as possible. He'll get that chance at Swansea, under a coach he knows well (Paul Clement worked as Carlo Ancelotti's No. 2 at Bayern before his hire at Swansea), and another coach that is among the best in history at Sanches's position (Claude Makelele). The latter of those two could work wonders with this player over a full season–it'll be fascinating to see how he matures.
Transfer Grades: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Leaves Arsenal for Liverpool
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be switching Premier League clubs after six years with Arsenal, with Liverpool confirming a £35 million ($45 million) deal for the England international on transfer deadline day. Oxlade-Chamberlain, 24, joins Liverpool just days after the team defeated his former club 4–0 at Anfield over the weekend.
Here's how this deal grades for all parties involved:
For Liverpool: B
Just about all Liverpool-related news in this transfer window has concerned the constant "will-he-won't-he?" surrounding playmaker Philippe Coutinho. Capturing Oxlade-Chamberlain helps bury that news somewhat, which will be a welcome positive for a club looking to secure a top-four place while challenging for titles domestically and in Europe this season. Beyond that, so much of Oxlade-Chamberlain's value to Liverpool will depend on how he will be used.
If Jurgen Klopp decides to use him exclusively as an attacking wide man, where he played often for Arsenal, his value might be limited as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and the injured Adam Lallana all have strong claims to those positions. However, as a defender, Oxlade-Chamberlain could provide Klopp with an intriguing attacking option at right back in his current system, along with the ability to be a wingback in a 3–4–3 similar to what Arsenal has used early this season. The latter might arguably be his strongest position, but Liverpool hasn't featured that look much yet.
For Arsenal: D
A woeful beginning to the season goes on for Arsene Wenger & Co. Not only were the Gunners utterly dominated by Liverpool last weekend, they have now lost one of their more reliable players, who just turned 24, to a Premier League rival. With Alexis Sanchez also rumored to be on the way out, and the team's defense already struggling to contain opponents, losing a robust, energetic player like Oxlade-Chamberlain will hurt quite a bit. There is no readymade replacement already in the Arsenal squad that can do what Oxlade-Chamberlain does, and perhaps the best option on the transfer market (Serge Aurier) has already gone to Tottenham. On the plus side, £35 million is quite a bit to get for a player that was in the last year of his contract and didn't appear to want to sign a new one. So while the move may make business sense, it leaves Arsenal with problems to solve on the field.
For Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: B+
He only just turned 24 earlier this month, so Ox still has a long career ahead of him despite being a regular on the club and international scene for the last five-plus years. However, he is a player that is now entering his prime, and it was up to him to make a move that would see him in a good position to improve as a player with a chance to win trophies in that time. Increasingly, it looks like that wasn't going to happen at Arsenal, hence why he rejected the club's latest contract offer earlier this summer. While Liverpool may not have an exact role carved out for him yet, there will be more chances to earn a spot on the field than there might be at Chelsea, where he reportedly rejected a deal earlier this week.
Transfer Grades: Serge Aurier's Tottenham Move is a Necessary Risk for Spurs
Serge Aurier is making his long-awaited move to the Premier League, with Tottenham Hotspur signing the Ivory Coast international from Paris Saint-Germain for a reported fee of £23 million (approximately $30 million). Aurier was thought to be one of the most likely figures to move from PSG after the club signed Dani Alves earlier in the summer, and he joins a Tottenham side with Premier League title ambitions after coming in second last season and third the season before. Here's how this move grades for all parties involved:
For Tottenham: B+
The calculus of this move actually wasn't all that complicated for Tottenham, after the club sold its first-choice right back Kyle Walker to Manchester City in a £50 million ($64 million) deal earlier this summer. They needed another first team-quality player there, and Aurier was the highest quality, readily available player on the market right now. In Aurier it gets a player three years younger than Walker, with a similar international pedigree, a similar style of play, and the club ended up making £25 million in the process. If there's a risk for Tottenham, it is Aurier's attitude. He has been suspended for airing profane criticisms of referees, his teammates and his coach on social media, and also was found guilty last year of assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub in Paris. None of these things mean that Aurier will automatically be trouble for Spurs, but it is a potential downside that keeps this from being an A-level move.
For PSG: C
Similarly to Spurs, PSG's motivation for selling Aurier isn't all that complicated. The club now has Dani Alves in the fold, and the Brazilian had already proven with Juventus that he is still among the world's best right backs. Aurier was simply surplus to requirements, and the aforementioned disciplinary incidents made him a more movable asset than he would be under other circumstances. So why such a low grade? The fee. In a world with ballooning transfer fees all over the globe, £23 million for Aurier seems somewhat reasonable. For a club that is (in theory) looking to recoup money after spending lavishly on Neymar and others, one can't help but think it could have gotten a little bit more for one of the world's best fullbacks that is just entering his prime.
For Serge Aurier: A
If you were to look up "needs a change of scenery" in the sports cliché dictionary, you might find a picture of Aurier. The arrival of Alves meant that he wasn't going to get many opportunities to play his preferred position this season, and his contentious (to say the least) history with PSG meant that not many at the club would be willing to give him a second chance anyway. Aurier needed to get away from that situation, and to a team where he could play an integral role. With Walker gone and Tottenham challenging at the top of the EPL, Aurier gets to stay with a top-class, Champions League-worthy side but get a fresh start simultaneously. Assuming he plays up to his ability and stays out of trouble, this could be a great move for him.