Summer 2023 transfer window: Notable deals from Europe's five big leagues

Over 1,400 deals have been completed at a total value of close to €7 billion

Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice Defensive midfielders Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice are the most expensive signings this time | Chelsea/Arsenal

Despite the Saudi Pro League's rise to prominence this year, the five biggest European leagues—the Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France) continue to be the most competitive arenas of club football. Among them, the Premier League is the most financially dominant. As a result, clubs from England are responsible for six out of the top 10 purchases involving European clubs this summer. Here is a look at the most expensive signings, and some smart and surprising transfer business:

Biggest deals

Interestingly, the most expensive signings this time are both defensive midfielders. Ecuador's Moises Caicedo left Brighton for Chelsea and England's Declan Rice joined Arsenal from West Ham United—both for fees in excess of £100 million. There were a few major signings across leagues in the position, which has traditionally not been as glamorous as attacking roles. This highlights how important a reliable defensive midfielder has become in the modern game.

The third most expensive deal, depending on which reports you choose to believe, is either Harry Kane or Jude Bellingham. Twenty-year-old English central midfielder Bellingham joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund and was arguably the best player in the world in the month of August. His national team captain, Kane, moved to Bayern Munich from Tottenham Hotspur. Both deals were reported to be around the €100 million mark.

Apart from Kane and Bellingham, the third transfer not done by an English club among the 10 biggest deals was Neymar to Saudi club Al Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain, reported to be for a fee of around €90 million. And the fourth was French striker Randal Kolo Muani to PSG for a fee package reported to be in the region of what the club received for Neymar.

Six highly rated players have also secured big-money moves. Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol, 21, joined Manchester City, Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund, 20, signed for Manchester United, Hungarian star Dominik Szoboszlai, 22, has taken on Steven Gerrard's famous No 8 shirt in Liverpool's midfield, Belgium winger Jeremy Doku, 21, has moved to City, Italian defensive midfielder Sandro Tonali, 23, joined Newcastle United and 19-year-old Belgian defensive midfielder Romeo Lavia joined Chelsea.

Smart business

Jose Mourinho's Roma had flown under the radar till they landed Romelu Lukaku on loan in the last week of the window. But, the Italian club did brilliant business. While it remains to be seen whether the signings will work out, the deals merit much praise. They reportedly raised more than €70 million from player sales, while spending only around €10 million. For that €10 million, the club brought in an incredible seven first-team players.

The biggest spend was Lukaku's loan fee, the fixed part of which has been reported to be around €6 million, but it could rise to more than €10 million if performance-based clauses are met. Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches joined from PSG on loan for a €1 million fee, Iranian superstar Sardar Azmoun was loaned in from Bayer Leverkusen, as was Danish right-back Rasmus Kristensen from Leeds United. Spanish defender Diego Llorente had moved from Leeds to Roma on loan in January and his loan deal has been extended for a season.

The club made three permanent signings for around €3 million. All of that was spent on Argentine World Cup winner Leandro Paredes because in-demand French centre-back Evan N'Dicka, 23, and his compatriot Houssem Aouar, a talented 25-year-old playmaker, both joined on free transfers.

Away from the Italian capital, in the English capital, West Ham made good use of its Rice money to bring in two quality players from Ajax. Ghanaian attacking midfielder Mohammed Kudus and Mexican defensive midfielder Edson Alvarez joined for a combined fee of around £70 million. The club also roped in English midfielder James Ward-Prowse from Southampton for around £30 million. The set-piece specialist is the only man in world football who has rivalled Lionel Messi in free-kick taking ability in recent years and is arguably better than the all-time great from direct free-kicks. West Ham have also bolstered its defence with Greek centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos. And, despite spending in excess of £100 million, the London club still made a profit, thanks largely to the Rice sale.

In Spain, cash-strapped Barcelona made substantial profits, while significantly strengthening its squad. It brought in Portuguese duo, attacker Joao Felix and defender Joao Cancelo, one of the world's best full-backs, on loan deals from Atletico Madrid and Man City, respectively. German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan also joined from City on a free transfer. Spanish centre-back Inigo Martinez was another free transfer (from Athletic Bilbao). The Catalans have also signed Brazilian teenager Vitor Roque, but he will be joining only in 2024, like rival Real Madrid's own Brazilian teenage sensation Endrick.

Summer surprises

Both Barcelona and Real sprung surprises, too. The former by signing back academy product Oriel Romeu to replace Sergio Busquets, who left to join Messi in the US. Romeu has largely failed to live up to the potential he showed as a teenager since leaving Barca for Chelsea in 2011. But, last year, he had a stellar season for Girona in Spain. This prompted Barcelona to sign him for a modest €3 million and the now wiser and battle-hardened 31-year-old will finally get his chance in the Barcelona midfield.

Real have also signed an academy graduate in striker Joselu. The Spaniard, who is on loan from relegated Espanyol, seems a strange choice to replace Karim Benzema. Joselu, 33, had a thoroughly unremarkable career since leaving Spain in 2012, till returning to Spain in 2019. He has since rediscovered his form and was La Liga's third highest scorer last season, behind Robert Lewandowski and Benzema. In form and high on confidence, Joselu could prove to be a smart, short-term signing for Real with Endrick set to join next year and Kylian Mbappe still on the radar.

As if to balance out the Romeu signing, Barcelona have moved out an academy graduate, albeit only on loan. Still, 20-year-old Ansu Fati's move to Brighton is one of the most surprising deals of the summer. For a club that places so much emphasis on its academy, Barca seems to have given up on Fati, the man who inherited Messi's No 10 jersey. He has struggled with injuries, but is still capable of becoming world-class, especially given his age. However, if he can stay fit, Brighton could be the right move for one of the brightest talents in Europe.

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