- The transfer window is shut across Europe's top leagues until the winter. After the billions spent and the dozens of stars who switched addresses, which clubs emerged as the winners of the summer?
The transfer window is finally shut across Europe's top leagues following Monday's flurry of late action, meaning teams must be content with what they have–at least until the January rumors start flying.
Billions have been spent by teams trying to reshape Europe's competitive landscape, though some of the top contenders for domestic and continental success didn't need to do much–if anything–to strengthen or maintain their statuses. Reigning Champions League winner Liverpool didn't make any moves of note, for instance, while Man City opted for efficiency in making one major splash in landing midfield heir Rodri and swapping Danilo out for Joao Cancelo at right back. Other clubs went big, though, looking to make statements while improving their chances at securing glory and the trophies that come along with it.
So with the window shut and with many stars moved elsewhere–while some wantaway stars were forced to stay put–here are the top 10 classes around the continent, in descending order, after a truly silly season of signings, rumors and player movement (all transfer fee figures from transfermarkt):
10. Inter Milan
Key signings: Romelu Lukaku ($74.1 million), Diego Godin (free), Nicolo Barella ($28.5 million), Alexis Sanchez (loan), Stefano Sensi (loan)
Antonio Conte made it clear that players like Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan had no place under his watch and looked to rebuild Inter's image upon arrival. In landing Lukaku and Alexis, he has two skilled players who have been the focus of Man United fans' abuse but have plenty to prove, while Godin, despite his growing age (33), remains one of the world's preeminent central defenders and was signed on a free transfer.
Barella and Sensi represent two of Italy's top up-and-coming prospects and add youth and depth in the center of Conte's five-man midfield. With two wins in two matches, it's been a case of so far, so good for the new-look Inter, though its Champions League group draw (Barcelona, Dortmund, Slavia Prague) could inhibit its aspirations in the first year of the Conte project.
9. Manchester United
Key signings: Harry Maguire ($99.2 million), Aaron Wan-Bissaka ($62.7 million), Daniel James ($19.4 million)
Man United didn't do enough to address its attack and still has questions in the midfield regarding Paul Pogba's future and any potential plan to replace him, but it did well to fortify its defense by adding Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. One look across the North West at Liverpool would show what a reliable central defender and surging right back can do for a club's fortunes–even at an exorbitant cost. James, meanwhile, has shown well in his early days at Old Trafford and could wind up being a bargain.
There's no doubting that United's purchases were solid ones. It's just a matter of what else was not purchased for a club with multiple needs areas.
Key signings: Tanguy Ndombele ($68.4 million), Ryan Sessegnon ($30.8 million), Giovani Lo Celso (loan)
Tottenham fortified its midfield and added a player who is potentially England's left back of the not-so-distant future with its first transfer buys in three windows. It hasn't translated into instant success, with Spurs limping through the start of the season, but when all three are fully up to speed, it's hard to see how they don't help take Mauricio Pochettino's side to the next level. The problem is that by that time it may have dropped too many points to contend with the impeccable Man City-Liverpool duo at the top of the Premier League table.
Had Tottenham been able to close a deal for Paulo Dybala, as it was reported to be in the mix to do, it would have vaulted the club toward the top of the list.
Key signings: Matthijs de Ligt ($97.5 million), Adrien Rabiot (free), Aaron Ramsey (free), Danilo (player swap), Merih Demiral ($20.5 million), Gianluigi Buffon (free)
Landing de Ligt was one of the coups of the summer, especially when all signs had pointed to him going to Barcelona. That looks even more valuable now with Giorgio Chiellini out indefinitely with a torn ACL. Juventus's talent has never been in question, but its aging factor–especially in the back–threatened to undercut its ambitions. Presuming that Maurizio Sarri can integrate de Ligt and channel his Ajax form, the changing of the guard should be a fruitful one.
The club further addressed its central defense by adding Turkish international Demiral, while landing Rabiot and Ramsey for free in the midfield offers more versatility and depth at the cost of "just" player wages if nothing else. Buffon's return has a feel-good element to it, though, at 41, he's clearly a backup at this stage.
The club still must sort out its attacking pieces after failing to sell Dybala and Mario Mandzukic and holding onto Gonzalo Higuain after his loan to Chelsea, but the Old Lady should be equipped to make another run at a much-desired European title.
6. Borussia Dortmund
Key signings: Julian Brandt ($28.5 million), Thorgan Hazard ($29.1 million), Paco Alcacer ($23.9 million), Nico Schulz ($29.1 million), Mats Hummels ($34.8 million)
Dortmund reloads again. The club continues its policy of roster churning, watching Christian Pulisic leave for Chelsea, Abdou Diallo head to PSG and Maximilian Philipp go to Dinamo Moscow, among other departures. But it had no problem improving its squad overall, first making Alcacer's loan from Barcelona permanent, and then adding class to the attack in Brandt and Hazard and refreshing the defense with Schulz and Hummels–weakening Bundesliga foes in the process.
Hummels's return was an intriguing one in particular, in that he spent the remainder of his peak at rival Bayern Munich before returning to BVB for a not-inexpensive cost, but he should, in theory, be a rock in central defense. Whether, at 30, he can handle the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, will go a long way in determining how serious of a challenger Dortmund will be this season.
5. Real Madrid
Key signings: Eden Hazard ($114 million), Luka Jovic ($68.4 million), Ferland Mendy ($54.7 million), Eder Militao ($57 million), Rodrygo ($51.3 million)
Real Madrid spent north of $300 million in hopes of rejuvenating its squad, and the early returns have been mixed and inconclusive. Hazard, who was criticized for his fitness level as he joined the club from Chelsea, hasn't played yet as he overcomes a preseason muscle injury, while Jovic's transition hasn't been entirely smooth–though his back-heel-flicked setup over the weekend is a testament to his quality in the final third.
That the club is still counting on Gareth Bale, who appeared to be a lock to be sold only for his Chinese Super League venture to fall apart, makes you wonder what the plan is, or if there's even one in place aside from spending, plugging and praying. The jury remains out on Zinedine Zidane's first summer back in charge, but there's no denying the quality level, at least on paper, of the quintent Real signed.
4. Bayern Munich
Key signings: Benjamin Pavard ($39.9 million), Lucas Hernandez ($91.2 million), Philippe Coutinho (loan), Ivan Perisic (loan), Jann-Fiete Arp ($3.4 million), Mickael Cuisance ($13.7 million)
Bayern took care of most of its business early, having long-standing agreements to sign Pavard and Hernandez and adding half of France's World Cup-winning defense to its aging back line. It spent most of the summer looking to replace departed veterans Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben and struck out on most of its targets. Leroy Sane didn't come from Man City and ultimately suffered a long-term injury that prevented any further discussion, while Callum Hudson-Odoi, who also suffered a long-term injury amid Bayern interest, wound up remaining with Chelsea.
Coutinho and Perisic are fine consolation prizes, especially on loan, while Lewandowski signing on for the long-term was another piece of important business. Dortmund and RB Leipzig should make for legitimate challengers in the Bundesliga, but Bayern got younger, deeper and more versatile in some key areas in hopes of staving them off and mounting trophy quests on multiple fronts.
Key signings: Antoine Griezmann ($136.8 million), Frenkie de Jong ($85.5 million), Neto ($29.6 million), Junior Firpo ($20.5 million)
Griezmann and de Jong were two of the signings of the summer, but one can't help but wonder what this class could've been like had de Ligt followed de Jong from Ajax to Camp Nou and had Neymar returned as he hoped he would. As it stands, Barcelona secured another world-class attacking piece and a natural successor to Luis Suarez, whose time in Barcelona appears to be running short; and in de Jong it has its next midfield fulcrum for years to come.
Early results in La Liga still show the importance Lionel Messi carries for this team, but when he returns and when Griezmann and de Jong are fully settled with their new club, Barcelona should be one of Europe's top-class sides again–provided it has learned how to defend a big lead on the Champions League stage.
2. Atletico Madrid
Key signings: Joao Felix ($143.6 million), Marcos Llorente ($34.2 million), Hector Herrera (free), Kieran Trippier ($25.1 million), Alvaro Morata ($63.8 million)
It's not often that a club can lose the core members of its spine (Griezmann, Godin, Rodri, Hernandez) and remake itself into a potentially better version all within a few weeks, but that's what Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid appears to have done. In Joao Felix, the most expensive purchase of the summer anywhere, the club has a new attacking cornerstone and a proper heir to Griezmann's throne. The 19-year-old Portuguese star has wasted little time in showing that his quality translated from Benfica to one of La Liga's top contenders, and while some growing pains should be expected, he looks like he's capable of spearheading this club's revival.
Losing Rodri to Man City left a hole in the midfield that Atleti filled with Herrera, a Mexican veteran, and Llorente, who was questionably deemed expendable by a Real Madrid side appearing to act on tilt.
Sealing the permanent signing of Morata adds depth in the attack, while Trippier's arrival at right back was one of the more intriguing signings of the summer. Atleti won't be favored to win La Liga or in Champions League, but Simeone's side can still compete with anyone after its makeover.
Key signings: Keylor Navas (player swap + $17.1 million), Mauro Icardi (loan + $77 million option to buy), Idrissa Gueye ($34.2 million), Pablo Sarabia ($20.5 million), Abdou Diallo ($36.5 million), Ander Herrera (free)
For all of the handwringing about PSG, its inability to sell Neymar and the sense that no matter what the club does it is destined to choke in Champions League again, it had a really–really–good summer in the transfer market.
Navas was given a raw deal at Real Madrid, which needlessly spent big to sign Thibaut Courtois ahead of last season despite having clear needs elsewhere and a stable three-time Champions League winner already in tow. Sick of playing second fiddle, Navas wanted out, got out and landed in a pretty unique situation. PSG is obsessed with European glory, and Navas has plenty of experience with it. Still just 32, he's not on the downswing just yet and can be an upgrade over the Gianluigi Buffon-Alphonse Areola tandem of a season ago.
Beyond Navas, there's Icardi, whose integration should go one of two ways. Either he'll be rejuvenated after finally being freed from Inter Milan, be a wonderful teammate and an eventual succession plan in the attack should Neymar and/or Edinson Cavani move on next year, or it will blow up in PSG's face entirely. The club isn't on the hook for a full purchase, so there's little risk with potential high reward after landing a player whose skill has never been in question.
Beyond that, the club did well to fortify its midfield on the (relative) cheap in landing Gueye ($34.2 million), Sarabia ($20.5 million) and Herrera (free), while also securing a defensive anchor for the present and future in Diallo.
The club addressed its squad from front to back and should be deeper, more balanced and better equipped to tackle its European challenge.
Honorable Mentions: Man City, Napoli, Monaco, Fiorentina, Arsenal, RB Leipzig, Sevilla, Everton