Top 5 soccer transfers of the 2021 summer window

September 8, 2021 — by Jason Cheng, Atrey Desai and Vinay Gollamudi

This past summer, soccer fans around the world have witnessed one of the highest-profile transfer windows of all time — including the transfers of two of the greatest soccer players in history, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Here are our takes on the most impactful transfers of summer 2021.

No. 5: Jack Grealish, Aston Villa to Manchester City

With a $130 million signing fee, winger Jack Grealish is now the most expensive British footballer ever. After a disappointing Champions League final loss last season, Manchester City coaches are hoping to beef up their team with Grealish’s composure and directness in the final third.

While Grealish’s signing was a cause for celebration for most Manchester City fans, his astronomically high transfer was scorned by many rival fans, who lamented Manchester City’s deep pockets and lack of hesitation to spend big on players.

Personally, however, we’re excited to see what he’ll do for his new team. Partnered with Riyad Mahrez in attack and supported by Kevin De Bruyne in midfield, Grealish will offer a new creative outlet to Manchester City’s attack. After providing a goal and assist in Manchester City’s 5-0 demolitions of Norwich City and Arsenal, he is looking like a marquee signing for the title contenders.

 

No. 4: Raphaël Varane, Real Madrid to Manchester United

After a decorated 10 years at Real Madrid with three La Liga titles and four Champions League victories, French center-back Raphaël Varane has finally bid farewell to the Spanish club and joined English giants Manchester United for a reported $44 million.

Fans had clamored for another center-back to partner with last summer’s $97 million signing, center back Harry Maguire. Their cries have been answered — Varane is a surefire upgrade over current center-backs Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof. 

After back-to-back top-four finishes in the Premier League, it’s clear that Manchester United is looking to make a serious push for the league title. Varane is the second transfer of the summer for the Red Devils following Jadon Sancho’s $100 million move from Dortmund, who will solidify an already elite defense of English duo Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

 

No. 3: Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germain

Arguably the greatest center-back of all time, long-time Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has departed his home club on a free transfer. Ramos was integral in all four of the club’s recent Champions League triumphs as a leader in the backline.

As for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Ramos will provide newfound leadership and rigidity to the defense, which was previously hindered by the departure of captain Thiago Silva in 2020. With PSG’s incredible transfer window, they are looking like the favorites for this year’s Champions League. 

 

No. 2: Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus to Manchester United

At the tail end of the transfer window, the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo shocked the world, announcing his return to former club Manchester United after a 3-year stint at Juventus. For an absolute bargain of just $18 million, Manchester United gets a priceless asset to their already stacked attack.

The groundbreaking transfer has already taken the Premier League by storm, crashing Manchester United’s website and selling over 300,000 shirts within 12 hours of Ronaldo’s announcement. 

With fellow Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes, Ronaldo will be looking to maintain his exceptional goal-scoring form from Italy despite a disappointing team campaign for Juventus, finishing 4th in Serie A and crashing out of the Champions League to underdogs FC Porto. 

Most fans of the club are overjoyed at Ronaldo’s storybook return. However, due to the sporadic performances of Brazilian midfielder Fred, many are still hoping for another signing to bolster the club’s main need — a defensive midfielder — in the next window. Regardless, the return of Ronaldo for such a low price is a dream transfer for the club.

 

No. 1: Lionel Messi, Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain

In a heartbreaking farewell, Barcelona announced that they were unable to keep hold of club legend Lionel Messi due to major financial difficulties, despite an agreement on both sides. 

After 21 years of service at his boyhood club and a record-breaking six Ballon D’or wins — regarded as the most prestigious individual award in soccer — Messi’s departure marks the end of an era for arguably the greatest player of all time. A magician on the pitch, Messi has inspired millions of young soccer fans around the world, and his shocking transfer to PSG has sent shockwaves in the soccer scene. 

Messi has reunited with former teammate Neymar Jr. at PSG for free. Messi’s signing rounds out one of the best transfer windows of all time for a single team, including right-back Achraf Hakimi, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Ramos all joining PSG this summer.

PSG’s monopoly over Ligue 1 in France has been subject to much criticism by fans: Lille’s league win in the 2020 season was only the second time since 2012 that PSG failed to win the league. With their signings since then, it looks as though no one will be able to challenge them for the Ligue 1 title for the foreseeable future. 

Messi’s transfer marked the crown jewel of this chaotic summer of transfers, and we’re excited to see how the new signings will play out. With star players in new jerseys and fans returning to stadiums, there will be plenty of soccer enjoyment to look forward to this year. 

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