22 most exciting youngsters to watch in 2022
Over the next 12 months, a fresh crop of footballers will establish themselves atop the men’s game. Here, theScore looks at some talented youngsters – aged 21 and under – who are set to flourish in 2022, while deliberately excluding those who made our lists in previous years.
Previous selections: 2019 | 2020 | 2021 (Part one and two)
Yacine Adli ??
Club: AC Milan | Age: 21 | Position: Attacking midfielder
AC Milan quietly executed a shrewd piece of business by signing Adli this past summer. You can see why. The Frenchman, who’s spending the season on loan at Bordeaux to continue his development, can take you by surprise with the kind of mesmerizing quick feet that you don’t typically associate with someone of his rangy physique.
Julian Alvarez ??
Club: River Plate | Age: 21 | Position: Forward
Alvarez trained with Real Madrid before he was a teenager, but it’s at River Plate where he’s exploded with 19 goals and seven assists over his last 16 appearances. The attacker seemed destined to use Major League Soccer as a stepping stone into Europe, but his influential role in River’s league triumph may mean he bypasses North America on his way to the top.
Ander Barrenetxea ??
Club: Real Sociedad | Age: 20 | Position: Winger
Alexander Isak (22) isn’t the only rising star at the Anoeta right now. Barrenetxea, a tricky dribbler who typically operates on the left wing, has caught the eye in limited action for Real Sociedad this season. Able to cut inside and beat multiple defenders with one mazy run, the Spanish youth international is the latest to emerge from the Basque club’s famed academy.
Club: Ajax | Age: 21 | Position: Winger
Ajax are one of the most exhilarating sides to watch in Europe thanks in part to the inventiveness and trickery of the left-footed Brazilian. Antony has made a habit of cutting in from the right wing and either finding the net himself or teeing up the likes of Sebastian Haller; the explosive youngster has racked up five assists in as many Champions League matches this season.
Armando Broja ??
Club: Chelsea | Age: 20 | Position: Forward
Broja had to bide his time for the first league start of his Southampton loan spell and his work ethic has been questioned by Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, but he’s finally taking the chance to prove himself. He’s the club’s top scorer with six goals despite starting only nine matches across all competitions but needs to learn to use his 6-foot-3 frame more effectively when holding up the ball.
Maxence Caqueret ??
Club: Lyon | Age: 21 | Position: Midfielder
Caqueret has been one of the few bright spots for a struggling Lyon side this season. A product of the club’s fabled academy, he captained the team at every level before leaping into the senior squad. Though slight and diminutive in stature, the French midfielder is smooth as they come on the pitch, and he reads the game so well that he always seems to be in the right place.
Jonathan David ??
Club: Lille | Age: 21 | Position: Forward
David is already a star. The forward has scored 12 times in the 2021-22 Ligue 1 campaign – just one goal behind his tally from Lille’s 2020-21 title-winning season – and he powered Les Dogues to the Champions League round of 16 with three strikes during the group stage. David’s seven goals and three assists in World Cup qualification have also put Qatar 2022 in Canada’s sights.
Charles De Ketelaere ??
Club: Club Brugge | Age: 20 | Position: Forward
De Ketelaere is ready for the next step. After establishing himself in the Club Brugge senior side over the last two seasons, the young Belgian forward is enjoying a true breakout campaign, scoring nine goals – all from open play – and adding six assists, both career highs, through 21 matches. An opulent transfer, likely in the summer, beckons.
Conor Gallagher ?gbeng
Club: Chelsea | Age: 21 | Position: Midfielder
Gallagher is a contender for the 2021-22 PFA Young Player of the Year award. His aggressive work off the ball for loan side Crystal Palace can be overlooked due to the brilliance of his energetic, incisive play at the other end of the park. Chelsea have a real talent on their hands, though his style is arguably a better fit for a team like Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Club: Barcelona | Age: 17 | Position: Midfielder
Like compatriot Pedri before him, fellow teen sensation Gavi has enjoyed a meteoric rise at Barcelona. Controlling the midfield for one of the biggest clubs in world football is a herculean task, let alone for a 17-year-old, but with a mixture of poise and technique, Gavi makes it look frighteningly simple. His feel for the game is innate, and that’s something you simply can’t teach.
Tino Livramento ?gbeng
Club: Southampton | Age: 19 | Position: Right-back
Livramento has played the most Premier League minutes for Southampton this term despite only making his top-flight debut on the first weekend of the campaign. Such is his attacking threat, Livramento is the most-fouled defender in the division, and his excellent form has forced right-back Kyle Walker-Peters – one of the Saints’ standout players last season – onto the left-hand side.
Lorenzo Lucca ??
Club: Pisa | Age: 21 | Position: Striker
Lucca won’t be playing in Italy’s second tier for very long. The mountainous center-forward, who idolizes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is the top scorer for Serie B-leading Pisa this season. Either via promotion or transfer, the striker dubbed the “Tower of Pisa” should get an opportunity to show off his devastating aerial prowess in Italy’s top flight in 2022.
Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty ??
Club: Toronto FC | Age: 17 | Position: Winger
Marshall-Rutty’s recent training sessions with Liverpool have earned the admiration of Reds midfielder Harvey Elliott, who urged the Canadian teenager to “sign” in an Instagram response. Through his rise up Toronto FC’s ranks and 12 MLS appearances thus far, the winger has proven he can deliver pinpoint crosses, accelerate in an instant, and often make the right on-pitch decisions.
Gabriel Martinelli ??
Club: Arsenal | Age: 20 | Position: Forward
The Martinelli hype has soared over his recent run in the first team. He’s scored three over his past four league starts and regularly gets more touches of the ball and completes more dribbles than his fellow attackers. “He’s come a long, long way because his energy, his passion, his commitment – it doesn’t get much better than that, ever,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said in December.
Cole Palmer ?gbeng
Club: Manchester City | Age: 19 | Position: Attacking midfielder
Palmer is expected to get more game time for Manchester City following the sale of Ferran Torres. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have given Palmer advice on how to play the No. 8 role in the past, but his early senior outings have mainly been in attacking positions. He impressed in a fluid frontline when he scored from 18 yards during a cameo against Club Brugge in October and was a false nine the following month for his first Premier League start in a 3-0 win over Everton.
Ricardo Pepi ??
Club: FC Augsburg | Age: 18 | Position: Striker
El Tren has already had his breakout year. In 2021, Pepi was named MLS Young Player of the Year for his team-best 13 goals for FC Dallas and U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year for three goals and two assists since his international debut in September. In light of that success, the fearless and fiercely competitive striker completed a record-breaking move to Augsburg.
Yeremi Pino ??
Club: Villarreal | Age: 19 | Position: Winger
Nobody has appeared in more league matches for Villarreal this season than Pino, who continues to show why he’s regarded as a future superstar every time he gets on the ball. The Spanish club recently inked the exciting winger to a lengthy contract extension that, in true La Liga fashion, includes an €80-million release clause. That could eventually be a bargain.
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi ?gbeng??
Club: Crystal Palace | Age: 19 | Position: Winger
Rak-Sakyi may have to wait until next season for an extended run in the first team, but the departures of Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew – and potentially Jeffrey Schlupp – to the Africa Cup of Nations could present chances for him to be an impact sub in the coming weeks. He’s scored 10 goals in 13 starts for Palace Under-23s this season, underlining his rapid improvement over the past 18 months.
Jacob Ramsey ?gbeng
Club: Aston Villa | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder
Ramsey’s a courageous midfielder who always looks to move his team forward, and he’s thriving since Steven Gerrard identified him as a key player following the Scouser’s appointment as Aston Villa manager in November. Ramsey’s younger brothers are also at the club: Aaron, 18, made his senior debut in August and Cole is making an impression in Villa’s younger ranks.
Nicolo Rovella ??
Club: Juventus | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder
The answer to Juventus’ longstanding midfield issues may already be in-house. Rovella, currently on loan at Genoa, is an assured central midfielder whose poise playing in front of the defense belies his youth. The feisty Italian is tidy in possession, has an impressive passing range, and balances that out nicely with significant defensive output.
Kamaldeen Sulemana ??
Club: Rennes | Age: 19 | Position: Winger
Sulemana has more successful Ligue 1 dribbles (50) than both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe this season, and he’s accomplished that feat despite touching the ball only 522 times; the Paris Saint-Germain duo come in at 756 and 877, respectively. That, in a word, is electrifying. The blossoming Ghanaian is nightmare fuel for full-backs.
Nico Williams ????
Club: Athletic Bilbao | Age: 19 | Position: Winger
The Williams legacy lives on at the San Mames. The younger brother of beloved ironman Inaki, Nico Williams is already establishing himself as a vital contributor at Athletic Bilbao; he’s one of only three players to appear in every league match for the club this season. The teenager is quick, skilled, clever with the ball, and plays with a passion that fans adore.
How has Ronaldo fared in his first 5 matches in Saudi Arabia?
Cristiano Ronaldo said the project at Al Nassr was more enticing than multiple offers from European clubs. The Saudi Pro League was “very competitive” and thus enticing as the next step in his storied career.
The Portuguese superstar signed for Al Nassr on Dec. 30, 2022. Ronaldo stressed – publicly and repeatedly – that his main motivation during the autumn of his career was to play at the highest level. But then, as potential suitors dwindled after his tumultuous and disappointing World Cup showing, he opted to join a club that had an average attendance of just over 8,000 for the 2021-22 campaign. Money talks – and its voice is particularly loud when the contract is reportedly worth €200 million per year. Suddenly, Ronaldo adding to his Champions League scoring record and challenging for other top European honors wasn’t as important.
Strange as it may be to get used to, Ronaldo, 38, is now fully ensconced with Al Nassr, bringing his signature goal celebration and legions of fans along with him to Saudi Arabia. But how has he fared so far?
Here’s a game-by-game analysis and overall conclusion of Ronaldo’s opening five league matches for Al Nassr, starting with his debut against Al Ettifaq.
Jan. 22: Al Nassr 1, Al Ettifaq 0
- Venue: Mrsool Park
- Attendance: 22,862
Al Nassr supporters, who turned out in droves for Ronaldo’s official unveiling at the club, had to be patient. His debut in the league was delayed by a suspension stemming from his spell at Manchester United. When it finally arrived in the 1-0 home win over Al Ettifaq, it was a mixed bag. Immediately installed as captain by manager Rudi Garcia, Ronaldo led the line, playing alone up front in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He sometimes looked isolated and unable to link up with Brazilian attacking midfielder Talisca, the team’s incumbent talisman and leading scorer in the Saudi Pro League this season. Ronaldo had just three touches inside the opposition penalty area.
But there were encouraging flashes, including literal ones when he stood over a first-half free-kick and seemingly every fan in the stadium quickly whipped out their phones to try and catch a potentially memorable moment. His effort, however, missed the target. Ronaldo had a couple of looks at goal – an early shot from just outside the area was deflected away for a corner – and he nearly notched an assist for Pity Martinez early in the second half but was ultimately unable to mark his debut with a goal contribution.
|Shots on target||0|
Feb. 3: Al Fateh 2, Al Nassr 2
- Venue: Prince Abdullah bin Jalawi Sports City Stadium
- Attendance: 17,631
Sandwiched between his debut against Al Ettifaq and his second league match versus Al Fateh, Ronaldo featured in a Saudi Super Cup loss to Al Ittihad. Following that contest, Garcia could sense that his players were trying a little too hard to find their illustrious new teammate on the pitch. “It’s very important that the players play normally and don’t always try to give the ball to Cristiano,” he explained, imploring them to make the “right decisions” in the final third of the field. The message seemed to get through. Al Nassr looked more at ease with Ronaldo headlining the team, and the veteran forward himself seemed more comfortable in his new surroundings.
There were the first real glimpses of a blossoming partnership with Talisca when, in the 24th minute, Ronaldo latched on to a deft flick from the Brazilian before unleashing a left-footed strike that careened off the post and into the net. But, despite his protestations and insistence that he was onside, the flag was up, and the goal was chalked off. Then, prior to the halftime interval, he smashed a close-range effort against the crossbar when it appeared easier to score. It looked like the wait for his first Al Nassr goal would go on, but in typical dramatic fashion, Ronaldo dispatched a penalty in the 93rd minute to salvage a point for his side. He was up and running.
|Shots on target||1|
Feb. 9: Al Wehda 0, Al Nassr 4
- Venue: King Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium
- Attendance: 27,102
The penalty against Al Fateh opened the floodgates in a big way, as Ronaldo followed up that outing with his most dominant showing to date in Saudi Arabia. Just four days after his 38th birthday, Ronaldo scored all four goals – two on either side of the halftime break – in Al Nassr’s comprehensive triumph against Al Wehda. The quartet of goals saw him surpass yet another impressive milestone, bringing his career tally in domestic leagues to 503.
For the first time in a long time, Ronaldo looked like the best version of himself on the pitch. There was a familiar element of precision about his first two markers, one with either foot. After slotting home another spot-kick for his maiden hat-trick in Saudi Arabia, he capped the memorable performance by showing off a burst of pace on his final tally, something that was a hallmark of his game for so long but had appeared to desert him over his final season at Manchester United and, more glaringly, at the World Cup. Each time the ball hit the back of the net, the crowd, in unison, joined Ronaldo in blaring out his famous “Siu!” celebration.
|Shots on target||6|
Feb. 17: Al Nassr 2, Al Taawoun 1
- Venue: Mrsool Park
- Attendance: 22,347
Facing the sternest challenge of his opening five league matches in Saudi Arabia – based on the league table – and doing it without the suspended Talisca, Ronaldo eschewed his scoring responsibilities and turned provider, crafting a pair of assists in a 2-1 victory that saw him often drop deeper to facilitate play. Ronaldo shared a moment with former Real Madrid teammate Alvaro Medran in the tunnel prior to kickoff, and, at one point, it seemed as though the Spaniard would come away from the match having stolen the spotlight from his ex-Madrid peer.
Ronaldo set up the opening goal of the contest with a defense-splitting pass from just inside his own half that sent Abdulrahman Ghareeb clean through in the 17th minute. Medran equalized with a thumping close-range volley just after halftime, sweetly connecting with a cross to find the roof of the net. But Ronaldo had the last laugh when, while standing inside the six-yard box in the 78th minute, he blocked a shot from teammate Luiz Gustavo – remember him? – that appeared as though it was creeping into the bottom corner. Luckily, Ronaldo’s block turned into the perfect layoff for the nearby Abdullah Madu, who reacted quickest and found the net. Initially ruled offside, replays showed Ronaldo was clearly onside when Gustavo took his shot, and the goal was awarded after a lengthy VAR check.
|Shots on target||3|
Feb. 25: Damac 0, Al Nassr 3
- Venue: Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium
- Attendance: 13,434
Ronaldo’s performance against Damac made it official: He was on a heater. The decorated forward bagged his second hat-trick in three games, staying red-hot and leading Al Nassr to another win. He came within inches, literally, of another four-goal performance, but his fourth tally of this contest was (correctly) chalked off for a tight offside call. No matter, the damage was already done well before that point; Ronaldo scored all three of his goals in the first half at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium.
Ronaldo was a constant threat, with a team-leading nine touches inside the opposition penalty area and six shot attempts. He sandwiched a ferocious penalty and close-range tap-in with his best goal of the evening when, while surrounded by three defenders, he rifled a left-footed shot from just outside the area that left Damac goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba rooted to the spot.
|Shots on target||3|
How has Ronaldo fared in his first five matches?
First, a necessary disclaimer: Yes, this all comes with the caveat that, with respect to the Saudi Pro League, the level of competition is a step down from what Ronaldo has previously experienced. There’s no hiding that fact. But, ultimately, all we can do is judge his performances at face value. With eight goals in five league games – he’s already only five shy of the league lead for the campaign – there’s no denying that Ronaldo has been an immediate hit at Al Nassr. At an even more basic level, the fact that we’re talking about the club and league at all is proof of his enormous impact.
Al Nassr in the 2022-23 Saudi Pro League:
|Before Ronaldo||Stat||Ronaldo’s debut onward|
|2.4||Points per game||2.6|
Garcia appeared to let it slip that Ronaldo will look to return to Europe once his Al Nassr contract expires in 2025. On this evidence, why not?
The Best FIFA awards: Live coverage as Messi, Putellas eye top honors
World football’s top players and managers of 2022 are being recognized at The Best FIFA Football Awards show on Monday. Below, theScore is tracking all the winners of the various trophies being handed out in Paris.
Best Women’s Goalkeeper
Mary Earps (Manchester United and England)
Earps, 29, back-stopped England to the Euro 2022 title on home soil, playing in all six of her country’s matches. Beating out competition from 2021 winner Christiane Endler and German shot-stopper Ann-Katrin Berger, Earps told the audience in Paris she didn’t expect to win the award, which no English woman had claimed before. Earps contemplated retirement after serving as England’s third-string ‘keeper at the 2019 World Cup. “Without rain, you don’t get rainbows,” she said.
Best Men’s Goalkeeper
Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa and Argentina)
The following awards are still to come today …
Best Men’s Player finalists
As was the case in the World Cup final, club teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe face off for the top men’s prize on offer, with reigning Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema also in the mix. This FIFA award, inaugurated in 2016 after the governing body’s split with Ballon d’Or organizer France Football, has gone to Messi just once before, in 2019. Can he double his total and get another one over on Mbappe?
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)
- Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
- Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina)
Best Women’s Player finalists
Despite being sidelined since July with a torn ACL that forced her to miss last summer’s European Championship, Spanish superstar Alexia Putellas – the holder of both this award and the Ballon d’Or Feminin – leads the nominees once again. She’s joined by Arsenal forward Beth Mead, who led England to glory at Euro 2022 by claiming both top scorer and best player honors at the tournament, and American superstar and icon Alex Morgan.
- Beth Mead (Arsenal and England)
- Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave and United States)
- Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)
Best Men’s Coach finalists
After guiding Argentina to the World Cup title, Lionel Scaloni headlines the finalists for the top men’s coach. He’s nominated alongside a pair of coaching titans in Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola. The Italian bench boss led Real Madrid to a Champions League and La Liga double last season, while Guardiola, now a three-time nominee for this piece of hardware, oversaw Manchester City’s fourth Premier League crown in five seasons.
- Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid)
- Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
- Lionel Scaloni (Argentina)
Best Women’s Coach finalists
Sarina Wiegman, nominated in this category every year since 2017, could make history on Monday. The England manager, who finished third last time around, is looking to become the first person – male or female – to win FIFA’s top coaching prize three times. Sonia Bompastor, who led French giants Lyon to a league and Champions League double last season, and decorated tactician Pia Sundhage, now managing Brazil, are in contention.
- Sonia Bompastor (Lyon)
- Pia Sundhage (Brazil)
- Sarina Wiegman (England)
Puskas Award finalists
This illustrious prize is given to the player “judged to have scored the most aesthetically pleasing goal, regardless of the competition in which it took place and the player’s gender or nationality.” Marcin Oleksy of Poland, the first-ever amputee footballer to be on the shortlist for the Puskas Award, scored a sensational scissor kick in November that quickly went viral, and garnered a message of support from compatriot Robert Lewandowski. He’s up against Dimitri Payet, the long-range shooting savant who added another great goal to his collection in April, and Richarlison, who lit up the World Cup in Qatar with a brilliant bicycle kick against Serbia.
Men’s FIFA FIFPro World11
To be announced.
Women’s FIFA FIFPro World11
To be announced.
Biggest winners and losers of the January transfer window
After a flurry of deadline-day moves, theScore picks out the big winners and losers of the January transfer window.
Strictly from an on-pitch perspective, Chelsea were the undeniable winners of the January transfer window. Building on their opulent summer, the west London outfit blew everyone else out of the water, signing eight new players in quick succession and capping the frantic spree with a record-breaking deal for World Cup star Enzo Fernandez worth a staggering €121 million. Eat your heart out, Jack Grealish.
Of the eight most expensive transfers brokered across the football world in January, Chelsea were responsible for five of them, with Fernandez joining high-priced arrivals Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, and Malo Gusto at Stamford Bridge – the latter will remain with Lyon for the rest of the season. Hell, Chelsea paid a reported €11 million just to add Joao Felix on loan for the rest of the season, a sum that exceeds the entire expenditure of some of Europe’s other top clubs for the month.
In the first year under new ownership – more on that later – Chelsea have spent well over €500 million on players. An absurd spree, obviously, but not totally without merit. These were not all vanity additions. Fernandez, an elite ball progressor and midfield conductor who plays with energy and aggression, should instantly rectify the glaring issues that have plagued Chelsea since N’Golo Kante’s body started betraying him. Mudryk is one of the game’s most exciting young forwards. Badiashile could be the cornerstone of the backline for years to come. Gusto, 19, is a blossoming star.
The approach isn’t without risk – if some of these news arrivals don’t pan out, for whatever reason, the Blues will be saddled with wildly expensive players sitting on lengthy contracts who are impossible to move. But ultimately, Chelsea, languishing in 10th place in the Premier League, have a significantly better squad right now than they did on Dec. 31.
Isn’t that the whole point of the transfer window? If you have it, flaunt it.
Loser: Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali
So, about those owners …
Yes, Chelsea got better – and, crucially, much younger – during the January window, but co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali had to compromise their reputations as negotiators to facilitate that outcome.
There’s something to be said for identifying the players you want and doing whatever is necessary to sign them – as with Fernandez – but every other club in the world knows that Chelsea have no leverage at the negotiating table. Going forward, there’s no reason for other teams to accept anything less than their quoted price, in full, when locked in talks with Boehly and Eghbali. Eventually, they’ll pony up. They always do. There can be value in disrupting the market, something the pair clearly relishes, but there are drawbacks, too.
Then there was the whole matter of Hakim Ziyech’s failed loan to Paris Saint-Germain, which collapsed because Chelsea apparently botched the paperwork process three separate times. Boehly and Eghbali, dealing with the Fernandez deal, presumably weren’t the ones actually trying to frantically file those documents, but as the frontmen of the organization, the debacle still reflects poorly on them.
Winner: Premier League
All hail the almighty Premier League pound. It’s stronger than ever.
Thanks in large part to Chelsea’s uninhibited approach, Premier League clubs spent a record £815 million in January, nearly doubling the previous benchmark. Together with the £1.9 billion splashed in the recent summer window – another all-time high – teams from England’s top flight have dished out nearly £3 billion on signings in 2022-23. Some £275 million of that total was allocated on Tuesday alone. The 20 sides atop England’s football pyramid accounted for 79% of the total spending across Europe’s major leagues over the past month. These are truly eye-watering numbers.
It’s not just the perennial contenders or celebrated “big” clubs, either.
Outside of Everton, every team from Nottingham Forest – in 13th place – down to the very bottom of the Premier League table was active. West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bournemouth, and Southampton combined to spend roughly £175 million. Wolves didn’t blink when committing to a reported £43-million purchase option for Matheus Cunha; the Cherries added six new players in total; the Saints broke their transfer record for Ghanaian winger Kamaldeen Sulemana. Leeds United, meanwhile, added Georginio Rutter for a club-record fee, and could pay over €40 million should the purchase option and bonuses in Weston McKennie’s deal come to fruition.
The pejorative quip from fans of other competitions that the Super League “already exists” isn’t entirely fair – the Premier League deserves credit for the way it has branded itself and earned enormous television contracts to create the behemoth that exists today – but it’s clear European football needs a course correction. The infamous Super League proposal was misguided and rightfully stopped in its tracks, but the gulf between the Premier League and everyone else is alarming.
Losers: Every other league
Teams in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and just about everywhere else could only watch on as the Premier League flexed its financial muscle.
According to Transfermarkt, Premier League clubs were responsible for 22 of the 25 most expensive signings in January. Marseille managed to crack the list by adding Portuguese striker Vitinha from Braga for €32 million. The two outstanding transfers involved Flamengo and Tigres.
Another Javier Tebas tirade is coming soon, surely.
Transfer spending in the remainder of Europe’s biggest leagues fell to €255 million in January, down from €396 million 12 months ago. Chelsea nearly matched that with just Fernandez and Mudryk alone. A sign of the times: the largest deal in Serie A was Fiorentina’s decision to make Antonin Barak’s loan from Hellas Verona permanent. It cost the Tuscan club €8.5 million.
“It is very wild, you just have to say that,” Borussia Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said of the inequitable spending capabilities. “They are running in their own race.”
Arsenal, looking to capture their first Premier League title in almost 20 years, went into the January window with a defined plan to bolster Mikel Arteta’s vibrant squad. The north London side, boasting an excellent starting lineup but lacking depth in certain areas, needed a backup forward, some help in central midfield, and another left-sided – and preferably left-footed – defender.
Check, check, and check.
Leandro Trossard is an ideal complementary attacking piece at this stage in his career, and didn’t cost an extravagant fee. Jorginho, signed for £12 million, brings title-winning experience and a calm on-ball demeanour to the Gunners’ midfield. And Jakub Kiwior will allow the ever-present Gabriel Magalhaes to finally get some rest after playing every single league minute for Arsenal so far this season. At just 22, the Polish international has long-term potential, too.
The Premier League leaders now have all the necessary tools in place as they try to fend off Manchester City in the second half of the campaign.
Did Sean Dyche save some of the magic dust that served him so well at Burnley? Without any new arrivals to bolster the disjointed squad he just inherited from Frank Lampard, Dyche will need a minor miracle to keep Everton from plunging into the second tier of English football.
The Toffees, despite pocketing £45 million from the sale of disgruntled winger Anthony Gordon to Newcastle, didn’t sign a senior player in January.
Worse yet, their scattergun list of targets is indicative of a spiralling club in disarray. On deadline day alone, Everton were linked with the likes of Ziyech, Conor Gallagher, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, and Beto. Some of those players, according to reports, flat-out rejected the move to Merseyside. Who can blame them? Everton, sitting 19th in the Premier League and tied on points with last-placed Southampton, are a mess right now.
Everton were the only Premier League club not to sign a single new player during the winter month. Good luck, Sean.
Winners: Headstrong managers
Pep Guardiola and Joao Cancelo apparently got into a heated argument over the Portuguese full-back’s lack of recent playing time at Manchester City. Not long after, Cancelo was in Germany, being unveiled as Bayern Munich’s marquee January signing. Meanwhile, Roberto De Zerbi, responding to Moises Caicedo’s public transfer request, proclaimed that the Ecuadorian dynamo was better off remaining at Brighton & Hove Albion for the rest of the season instead of leaving for the likes of Arsenal or Chelsea. He wanted to retain his star midfielder. Caicedo ultimately stayed put. In both cases, strong-willed managers got their desired outcome. Players have more influence than ever before, but certain coaches still retain power at their respective clubs.
Both situations are risky, for different reasons.
Manchester City are dangerously thin at full-back without Cancelo, who, at his best, is an elite attacking “defender” capable of playing both left- and right-back. He didn’t make the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in each of the last two seasons by accident. And while high-flying Brighton are inarguably better with Caicedo patrolling the middle of the park, there is a chance that their potentially historic season could be derailed if the 21-year-old is adversely affected by his request being denied. For a team riding a wave right now, avoiding any disruptions is key. Tony Bloom’s impressive track record at Brighton speaks for itself, so his decision to back De Zerbi in the matter and keep Caicedo, at least until the summer, is hard to disagree with.
Bonus winners: Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund sporting director Kehl is rubbing his hands together in anticipation right now. Fernandez costing a Premier League record €121 million on deadline day has set the transfer floor for Jude Bellingham’s impending move, which is expected to take place in the summer.
The ceiling could be much, much higher.
Kehl and the Dortmund brass can, and should, demand an exorbitant fee from any interested suitors that come calling for Bellingham. After all, the English midfielder is three years younger than Fernandez, has more experience playing in one of Europe’s top leagues, and has more international caps despite his age. By many of the metrics valued by the biggest clubs in the world, Bellingham is the more desirable player. Having seen how the Fernandez sweepstakes unfolded, why would Dortmund accept anything less than €150 million, at least, for their “irreplaceable” teen superstar?
The upcoming bidding war is going to be riveting.
Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action
Predictions for final stretch of riveting Premier League season
Key thoughts and analysis as Champions League last 16 concludes
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IFFHS publishes the list of top scorers in football history – Romario first, Ronaldo third
Champions League4 years ago
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IFFHS publishes the list of top scorers in football history – Romario first, Ronaldo third
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Ajax show Juventus that winning requires more than individual quality
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