Luis Suárez, Barcelona to Atlético Madrid (£5.5m)
The transfer story of the summer was a move that didn’t happen, but while Lionel Messi stayed at Barcelona, several high-profile teammates were ushered out. Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Rafinha left for cut-price fees but the departure of Suárez caused the most anger – not least with Messi. “You did not deserve for them to throw you out like they did,” the Argentinian told his strike partner via Instagram.
Suárez has said the manner of his departure reduced him to tears, but it may be Barça who look back with regret. Having initially tried to dictate his destination, the club were forced to let Suárez join Atlético for a £5.5m fee made up entirely of variables. The Uruguayan may be nearly 34 but forcing out such a pivotal player was a big risk. Handing him to a title rival looks careless at best, and his explosive debut showed what he can do as part of an artful strike duo with Diego Costa.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Southampton to Tottenham (£15m)
The Danish midfielder spent four years at St Mary’s but his departure caused little consternation among Southampton fans. Højbjerg impressed in spells but struggled for consistency, and was stripped of the captaincy in June after expressing his desire to leave. Having got his wish, Højbjerg has shown why José Mourinho was so keen to buy him. Nobody has completed more passes in the Premier League season, and the former Bayern academy product is building a solid midfield foundation with the improved Tanguy Ndombele. If he can maintain his strong start, £15m for a 25-year-old looks a steal.
Luca Waldschmidt, Freiburg to Benfica (£13.5m)
Project Restart has not gone to plan for Benfica; they lost the title race and cup final to Porto and lost in the Champions League play-offs. Jorge Jesus’s side have spent big in an effort to rebuild, with the Brazilian wingers Everton and Pedrinho joined by the Uruguayan forward Darwin Núñez. Their best attacking recruit may prove to be Waldschmidt, the top scorer at last year’s Euro Under-21 tournament. The 24-year-old has yet to fulfil his huge potential at domestic level, but will get plenty of service at Benfica. Waldschmidt started with two goals in his first game; it would not be a surprise if Europe’s big spenders come calling next summer.
James Rodríguez, Real Madrid to Everton (£20m)
Few clubs enjoyed a better window than Everton. Carlo Ancelotti’s side spent big, but spent wisely – rebuilding their engine room for just over £60m. The recruits have made an immediate impact, with the industry of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré helping Everton forge a new identity. Eyebrows were raised over Ancelotti’s pursuit of the 29-year-old Rodríguez to complete his midfield. The Colombian seemed to lose his purpose while floating between Munich and Madrid but looks the perfect fit as the big-name, creative heartbeat of a team whose ambitions heighten with every win.
Dani Parejo, Valencia to Villarreal (free)
Video: Edinson Cavani prepares for his Man United debut (Manchester Evening News)
Barcelona were not the only La Liga giants to endure a sobering summer, as Valencia’s owner, Peter Lim, embarked on an unexpected fire sale. Rodrigo joined Leeds for £30m and the winger Ferran Torres went to Manchester City for £24m. Worst of all, two first-choice midfielders left for local rivals Villarreal for a little over £7m. Francis Coquelin will be missed but it was the departure of captain Parejo on a free that led to protests outside Mestalla. He will bring steel and composure to a Villarreal team who have recruited well under Unai Emery.
Robin Koch, Freiburg to Leeds (£12.9m)
Rodrigo’s arrival signalled Leeds’ transfer strategy for their Premier League return, with a handful of big names augmenting the well-drilled side that won promotion. Winger Raphinha and centre-back Diego Llorente have followed, but fellow defender Koch may prove the best investment. He will need time to adjust to Leeds’ full-throttle style but has already shown his commitment to the cause. Having recently broken into the Germany side, the 24-year-old may have the perfect place to develop.
Jude Bellingham, Birmingham to Dortmund (£22.8m)
Borussia Dortmund always looked a good fit for Bellingham, but the £20m-plus fee appeared steep for a 17-year-old with 41 Championship appearances. The early signs have been very promising; the midfielder scored on his debut in the German Cup, then set up a goal on his first Bundesliga appearance. Bellingham is also adapting well off the field – according to England Under-21 coach Aidy Boothroyd, he has been learning German and taking driving lessons.
Sam Lammers, PSV Eindhoven to Atalanta (£9m)
Atalanta finished third in Serie A last season, scoring a scarcely believable 98 goals. It can be dangerous to meddle with an attack working so effectively, but extra depth was needed for a second straight Champions League campaign. Atalanta turned to Lammers, a traditional centre-forward who impressed on loan at Heerenveen in 2018-19 but missed most of the last campaign after knee surgery. As expected, he has featured only off the bench so far – but made an impact with a superb solo goal against Cagliari.
Alexis Saelemaekers, Anderlecht to Milan (£3.2m)
About £3bn was spent across Europe’s top five leagues – but sometimes it pays to get deals done early. Milan took versatile wide man Saelemaekers on loan from Anderlecht in January with a €3.5m (£3.2m) option to buy, which they activated on 1 July. A winger who can also operate as a full-back and central midfielder, the 21-year-old played a key role in Milan’s resurgence after the restart.
Antonee Robinson, Wigan to Fulham (£1.9m)
Fulham’s doomed £100m spending spree in 2018 is the stuff of transfer legend; any promoted team splashing the cash are warned against “doing a Fulham”. The Cottagers appear to have heeded their own lesson, focusing on loan moves and cut-price deals. Robinson arrived from ailing Wigan for a knock-down fee, with Fulham moving fast to secure a player who almost joined Milan in January. The USA left-back made his Premier League debut against Wolves, where Fulham lost but at least showed signs they can be competitive.
Álex Berenguer, Torino to Athletic Bilbao (£10.5m)
Athletic’s policy of signing only players born or developed in the Basque country means transfer window bargains are particularly hard to come by. They may have found one in Berenguer, who emerged as a flying full-back at Osasuna. At Torino, Berenguer has grown into a skilful left-winger, but has experience of playing in virtually every outfield position – that versatility will be a big asset to a team that inevitably lack strength in depth.
Mario Götze, Dortmund to PSV Eindhoven (free)
The World Cup winner’s decision to join PSV came as a surprise to their coach, Roger Schmidt. “I talked to Mario on the phone and asked about his plans,” Schmidt said. “I knew that we weren’t his first option.” Two months later, having held talks with Hertha Berlin, Leverkusen and even Bayern Munich, Götze decided to leave the Bundesliga. He remains hugely talented but a muscle disorder has limited his ability to play regularly. “My feeling was that maybe he could look for a more quiet environment, where he could enjoy playing again,” said Schmidt. It seems that was exactly what Götze was looking for.