- The 2018 summer transfer window was an active one, and while not all of the superstars mooted for big moves wound up changing clubs, a good amount did, including the biggest one of them all.
The transfer window across the biggest leagues in Europe shuts Friday, bringing an end to another hectic summer of player movement. Like every silly season, the rumors were fast and furious, with some coming to fruition and others remaining speculation fodder that never materialized.
In fact, some of the biggest moves are the ones that never happened. Antoine Griezmann stayed at Atletico Madrid. Gareth Bale and Luka Modric remained at Real Madrid. Eden Hazard is still at Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have returned to PSG, while Robert Lewandowski is still leading the line for Bayern Munich. But some of the planet's biggest stars have changed addresses, with their purchasing clubs hoping to alter their fortunes after spending heavily with an eye on trophies.
Here are the top 10 moves of the summer, in descending order:
10. Malcom to Barcelona
The move itself was a big one, with the 21-year-old Malcom, long linked to Premier League powers, bringing another attacking dimension to an aging Barcelona side that could use an influx of fresh legs. How it went down is another element altogether. Malcom appeared destined for Roma, with the club going as far as to announce he'd be arriving for a medical ahead of a transfer. Barcelona then offered Bordeaux more money, so the club looked out for its best interests, pocketed $47.5 million and pulled the switcheroo. The addition of Malcom and Brazilian midfielder Arthur from Gremio have injected more youthful talent into a club begging for it.
9. Steven N'Zonzi to Roma
The aftershock of Roma missing out on Malcom was the club fortifying its midfield with the addition of the World Cup-winning N'Zonzi. He steps in for the ousted Radja Nainggolan (now with Inter Milan) and helps cap a big summer of moves for sporting director extraordinaire Monchi, who also landed rising star Justin Kluivert, Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen and Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore.
Monchi, still smarting from losing Malcom, didn't hold back after signing N'Zonzi instead, offering the following: "I didn't say we'd sign a footballer who plays in the same position as Malcom, I said we'd sign a better player. For me, Steven is a better player than Malcom."
The move also sparked this hilarious tweet from the club's incredibly funny social media crew:
8. Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City
At the time, it seemed like a luxury signing, with Man City shelling out a club-record $77.7 million for the former Leicester City star. But now with Kevin De Bruyne on the shelf for three months nursing a knee injury, Mahrez may be just what City needs to stem the tide and provide the necessary depth. This move was a long time coming, with Mahrez and City flirting quite publicly last winter, only for nothing to materialize. It'll be on the Algerian to prove his worth and justify the price tag now that he'll have his name called upon for perhaps more of a significant role than even he was expecting.
7. Gonzalo Higuain to AC Milan
The Juventus forward will spend the season on loan at Milan, but it's hard to see a return to Turin following. His move was the byproduct of another mega transfer (more on that below), which always meant that one of Juventus's stars was bound for the exit. At AC Milan, he'll be part of a second straight major summer makeover for a club desperate to return to its old winning ways. The move came as part of a multi-player swap, with Mattia Caldara joining Higuain at Milan, while Leonardo Bonucci returned to Juve.
6. Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid
Courtois leaving Chelsea didn't come as a total shock, and the price wasn't overly horrendous, at $45.3 million for a 26-year-old world-class goalkeeper. But was that position really Real Madrid's biggest need area, even with Keylor Navas perhaps a step below his peak? And did Chelsea really need to shatter the transfer fee record for goalkeepers to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga for twice as much ($92.8 million) as cover for losing its Belgian star? Time will tell how this transfer and its domino effect age, but on the surface it all seemed a bit unnecessary.
5. Jorginho to Chelsea
Jorginho joined manager Maurizio Sarri in moving from Napoli to Stamford Bridge, and he's had a seamless transition into the Blues' midfield. Oddly, he's forced N'Golo Kante out of the role in which he has excelled, pushing the French dynamo further up the field. Naturally, he's found success there, too. Between the two of them, Chelsea arguably has the greatest clout in central midfield in the Premier League.
4. Thomas Lemar to Atletico Madrid
Atleti took care of this one early, prying the talented French midfielder away from Monaco and beating his Premier League suitors to the punch before the World Cup. The knock against Atletico's Madrid's past teams have been that, while their defense is outstanding, the attack hasn't had enough dimensions. Lemar hasn't fully gotten going just yet with the Rojiblancos, but his addition, to an attacking core that now includes Griezmann, Diego Costa, Gelson Martins, Angel Correa, Nikola Kalinic and Saul Niguez, gives Diego Simeone more options than he's ever had at the club. La Liga and the rest of Europe have been put on notice.
3. Naby Keita to Liverpool
O.K., so this transfer was sealed a year ago after Liverpool and RB Leipzig came to an agreement, but it went into effect this summer, and it couldn't have started working out any better for the Reds. Liverpool's midfield is an entirely new beast with Keita roaming in it, and while another key signing, Fabinho, hasn't had as much early opportunity or success, it's clear that Jurgen Klopp's side has boosted a need area in a big, big way.
2. Alisson to Liverpool
Goalkeeper was another severe need area for Liverpool, especially after the Loris Karius circus overshadowed the Champions League final. Liverpool didn't just upgrade–it signed arguably one of the top five goalkeepers in the world. It paid handsomely to do so, dropping $72.5 million, which, at the time, was a record for a goalkeeper until Chelsea smashed it soon after. But it could prove to pay off and then some as Liverpool challenges for trophies on multiple fronts with a safety net in the back. In three Premier League games, Alisson hasn't conceded a goal, and he'll be needed in a tough Champions League group that features PSG and Napoli.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus
This is in a class of its own. Juventus sensationally signed Real Madrid's star attraction from the three-time reigning European champions, paying over $100 million for a 33-year-old. Real Madrid actually turned a profit on Ronaldo after extracting all of those goals and trophies over nine years at the Bernabeu, and Juventus is banking on that same prolific production when it comes time for the Champions League this season. Juve has had close calls in recent Champions League runs, but it was always lacking the game-breaking finisher to tilt the scales. Nobody has been as lethal in the Champions League's history as Ronaldo, and Juve is betting big that those aging legs still have plenty of run–and goals–in them.