Ranking the 20 best players at the 2022 World Cup
We’ve ranked all the teams; now it’s time for the players to take center stage. As we close in on the opening kickoff at the World Cup, here are the 20 brightest stars who’ll be on display in Qatar over the next month.
20. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Age: 37 | Position: Forward | Club: Manchester United
Yes, he’s low on this list. But over the first half of the club season, he contributed more to Britain’s tabloid newspapers than he did on the football pitch. His power waned, and his moral standing appears pretty loose-footed. And, most crucially, Manchester United appear to be better off without him. So, the scene might be set for Ronaldo to write the greatest chapter of his career.
19. Phil Foden (England)
Age: 22 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Manchester City
It’s a crime that Foden isn’t an automatic starter for England. Gareth Southgate’s preferred formation often leaves the silky Manchester City man fighting with a host of other talented options to play in support of Harry Kane. If given a consistent opportunity in Qatar, though, the Stockport native will deliver when it counts, just as he does at club level for Pep Guardiola.
18. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Age: 30 | Position: Goalkeeper | Club: Real Madrid
Some love for the goalkeepers. Courtois, in rather confounding fashion, continues to insist that he doesn’t receive enough respect within the football world. At this point, it’s clear the Belgian uses any perceived slight as motivation. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. The lanky netminder figures to be busier than usual as he backstops an aging Belgian defense this month. With more scoring chances to deny, maybe he’ll get the praise he seeks.
17. Jude Bellingham (England)
Age: 19 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Borussia Dortmund
Bellingham was a project. Birmingham City recognized the talent they had and made an effort to make him a Swiss army knife in midfield: a No. 6, a No. 8, a No. 10, and – while we’re at it – someone who can do a job on the flank. It was ambitious, and it was a rip-roaring success. Borussia Dortmund have one of the finest young players on the planet, and if Southgate has any sense, he’ll be one of England’s main men in Qatar.
16. Alphonso Davies (Canada)
Age: 22 | Position: Left-back/Winger | Club: Bayern Munich
Canada’s hopes of making waves at the World Cup – the country’s first since 1986 – rest largely on the state of Davies’ hamstring. One of the most explosive players on the planet, Davies is working hard to recover ahead of Les Rouges’ opener against Belgium, where he’ll look to wreak havoc from the more advanced attacking position he occupies with the national team.
15. Joao Cancelo (Portugal)
Age: 28 | Position: Full-back | Club: Manchester City
Full-backs aren’t supposed to be capable of the things that Cancelo accomplishes with ease. His passing ability is more akin to a No. 10, while he recognizes openings and charges forward to pounce on them like an old-school winger. It gives Portugal, already loaded in the traditional attacking areas, another player who can change the game in an instant.
14. Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Age: 27 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Bayern Munich
How far would a team of 11 Kimmich clones progress at the World Cup? That we’re even asking the question is a testament to the cerebral German’s versatility. Not only is he comfortable in all three areas of the pitch, but he can also thrive no matter the task. A jack of all trades is supposed to be a master of none. Kimmich lays waste to that theory.
13. Bernardo Silva (Portugal)
Age: 28 | Position: Attacking midfielder | Club: Manchester City
Silva – or “Bubblegum,” as he’s nicknamed by his club teammates – has an incredible knack for making the ball stick while he squirms through the tightest of spaces. He offers versatility – he can operate out wide and in any central midfield role – and regularly covers more ground than anybody else. Though some of his Manchester City teammates demand more attention, Silva is incredibly important to Guardiola’s side.
12. Pedri (Spain)
Age: 19 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Barcelona
Pedri is calm personified on the pitch. Everything he does looks effortless. Certain players have an innate ability to always make the right decision on the ball. Not many of them – if any – are teenagers, which makes the Spaniard’s sumptuous skill set even more impressive. Even for a Spanish side that values the collective over the individual, Pedri still shines.
11. Son Heung-Min (South Korea)
Age: 30 | Position: Forward | Club: Tottenham Hotspur
As one of the few players at the World Cup capable of deciding matches on his own, a healthy Son would arguably be among the must-watch players in Qatar. Unfortunately, a broken eye socket has threatened to sideline him for South Korea’s first game. If he recovers, the prolific Tottenham scorer, who said he’s willing to “risk” his health, could lead a vastly improved South Korea side out of the group stage.
10. Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Age: 31 | Position: Central defender | Club: Liverpool
A strong showing at the World Cup could do wonders for Van Dijk. After going through somewhat of a rough patch during Liverpool’s poor start to the season, the imposing Netherlands center-back, 31, will get a chance to revive his season and prove he’s still one of the world’s best defenders when he stars in the heart of Louis van Gaal’s back line at his first-ever World Cup.
9. Harry Kane (England)
Age: 29 | Position: Striker | Club: Tottenham Hotspur
It doesn’t feel like Kane has been at his absolute best this season, but he’s still scored 12 goals and added an assist over 15 Premier League appearances. Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte said his striker is “really tired” ahead of England’s World Cup campaign, but he’ll lead the Three Lions in Qatar and expect to challenge for the Golden Boot. He won the award in 2018 for his six strikes in Russia.
8. Vinicius Junior (Brazil)
Age: 22 | Position: Winger | Club: Real Madrid
Given how much Vinicius Jr. has improved and developed into a world-class attacker at Real Madrid, the 22-year-old could be primed to make himself a household name with a breakout performance in Qatar. Of Brazil’s enviable cast of rising stars, Vinicius is conceivably the most electric and talented of the bunch. If he plays regularly under Tite and helps Brazil capture its sixth World Cup, Vinicius will etch his name in the history books alongside iconic compatriots such as Pele, Romario, and Ronaldo.
7. Luka Modric (Croatia)
Age: 37 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Real Madrid
Does Modric know about the depressing, eroding realities of time? Clearly not. At 37, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder still has the slipperiness and technical brilliance that set him apart earlier in his career, but now he combines that with an assurance built on the pile of trophies he’s helped his club win over the past decade-and-a-half. We’ll miss him when he’s gone – if he ever retires, that is.
6. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Age: 34 | Position: Striker | Club: Barcelona
Few teams rely as heavily on a singular talisman as Poland, which will again look to Lewandowski in its bid to reach the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 1986. The veteran striker arrives in Qatar in inspired form, bringing his prolific Bayern Munich ways with him to Barcelona, where he’s already scored 18 goals in all competitions after an opulent summer transfer.
5. Neymar (Brazil)
Age: 30 | Position: Forward | Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Headlining the most balanced team in the tournament comes with immense pressure, particularly when that team is Brazil, but Neymar seems better equipped to handle that burden now than at any other point in his career. More mature, fit, and in great form, the Selecao No. 10 could overtake Pele as Brazil’s all-time top scorer during the World Cup.
4. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Age: 35 | Position: Forward | Club: Paris Saint-Germain
The story writes itself. Messi, who says Qatar will be his final World Cup, has never looked more at one with his national team. There’s an ease to his play for Argentina now, a comfort level that has developed since Lionel Scaloni took over. Playing for the Albiceleste was once a grating chore for Messi. Now it’s liberating. That should make the rest of the field very nervous.
3. Karim Benzema (France)
Age: 34 | Position: Striker | Club: Real Madrid
Since Ronaldo left Real Madrid in 2018, Benzema has become so much more. He took the mantle as a leader and notched career bests in goals (27) and assists (12) in league football last season. His hold-up play also remains vastly underrated: His movement and deft flicks create so many openings for Real Madrid, and he’ll do exactly the same for the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann with France.
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Age: 31 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Manchester City
De Bruyne’s right foot is ridiculous. No other footballer can pass with the same whip and penetration as the Belgian. Add in his work rate – when things aren’t going for his team, he’ll hack and harry to turn the tide – and the way he powers forward, chest out, during counterattacks, and you have the best midfielder on the globe. It’s as simple as that.
1. Kylian Mbappe (France)
Age: 23 | Position: Forward | Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Four years ago in Russia, a 19-year-old Mbappe was ascending the ranks at the same breakneck speed with which he operates on the pitch. Now, he’s atop the mountain, firmly established as the most unstoppable attacking force in world football. Still only 23, leading Les Bleus to consecutive World Cup titles would solidify his status as a French icon.
Honorable mentions: Federico Valverde, Jamal Musiala, Frenkie De Jong, Rafael Leao, Bruno Fernandes
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
The Champions League's best XI so far
Transfer grades: Assessing Hazard’s move to Real Madrid
IFFHS publishes the list of top scorers in football history – Romario first, Ronaldo third
Champions League4 years ago
The Champions League's best XI so far
Premier League4 years ago
Transfer grades: Assessing Hazard’s move to Real Madrid
Uncategorized2 years ago
IFFHS publishes the list of top scorers in football history – Romario first, Ronaldo third
Serie A4 years ago
35 stars who will define the summer transfer window
Sports3 years ago
Wenger: Hazard can’t replace Ronaldo.
Sports3 years ago
Ready Newest Trainer in Bundesliga History, retire SOLSKYER.
Serie A4 years ago
Ajax show Juventus that winning requires more than individual quality
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Mastur Talent Returns: In Milan I was a chance to make money, penalized me for growing up as a footballer.