The transfer window shut gently across much of Europe on Monday evening (Sept 2) with a flurry of loan deals instead of the anticipated bang of a mega-move.
Neymar will stay in Paris for, he says, another year after Barcelona’s interest cooled over the weekend, but nobody expects any magic anymore. And so what has become an uncomfortable marriage of inconvenience will go on for a third year. Strange things can happen, and it may be that with the pressure off and the cards on the table there is a golden finale, but the more likely outcome is a draining year for all concerned. PSG, anticipating just that, has already asked its ultras not to be too hard on Neymar.
Several big-name players did change clubs on loans, including Mauro Icardi, Nikola Kalinic on loan from Atletico Madrid and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The biggest names among the permanent transfer were a pair of Central American veterans: Keylor Navas and Javier Hernandez.
The closure of the window interrupted the saga surrounding Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, who will stay at Paris Saint-Germain after failing to get the move back to Barcelona he craved for.
Real Madrid had also been linked with Neymar as well as Manchester United World Cup winner Paul Pogba and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen as part of the expensive refurbishment of Zinedine Zidane’s squad.
Pogba excited some suspicious speculation earlier in the day when he dropped out of France’s two upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers with an “ankle problem”. Real did do one deal with PSG. It even involved a World Cup winner, but the marquee name was the Madrid club’s back-up goalkeeper.
Navas, a 32-year-old Costa Rican who won the Champions League three times in Madrid, joined PSG with the younger French international Alphonse Areola moving in the opposite direction on loan.
PSG also pulled a late rabbit from their sleeve late with the loan signing of Argentine striker Icardi “with an option to buy”. Icardi was joint top scorer in Serie A in 2017-18, but a dispute saw him stripped of the Inter Milan captaincy last season and barred from full training. He has started legal action against the club.
Barcelona were not entirely inactive. They extended the contract of attacking midfielder Rafinha and then loaned him to Celta Vigo, where he also spent the 2013-2014 season.
Even without a deadline-day blockbuster, La Liga clubs spent a record €1.3 billion (S$1.98 billion) on players including Eden Hazard, Rodri and Ferland Mendy to Real, Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong to Barca and Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid.
Manchester United sold 29-year-old Italy full-back Matteo Darmian to Parma. The fee was reportedly £1.4 million (S$2.35 million) for an undisclosed fee.
Mexican striker Javier Hernandez joined Sevilla from West Ham on a three-year deal. The Spanish club reportedly paid £7.3 million for the 31-year-old ‘Chicharito’.
Turkish giant Fenerbahce signed midfielder Luiz Gustavo, a 32-year-old Brazil international and former Bayern Munich man, from Marseille for €7 million.
Meanwhile, Jerome Boateng did not want to leave the German giants. The 30-year-old Bayern and Germany centre-back had been reportedly on the point of moving to Juventus to replace captain Giorgio Chiellini, who has suffered a serious knee injury. Boateng decided to stay in Munich.
Other Italian clubs shuffled strikers.
AC Milan swopped players with Eintracht Frankfurt. Croatian forward Ante Rebic moved to Italy on a two-year loan. Portuguese Andre Silva moved the other way.
Roma borrowed two old strikers while loaning out a young one.
They took Kalinic on loan from Atletico Madrid and Mkhitaryan from Arsenal while sending Patrik Schick to RB Leipzig.
Roma said they had an option to buy the 31-year-old Kalinic, a member of the Croatia squad that reached the 2018 World Cup final, for €9 million.
Mkhitaryan, a 30-year-old Armenian, made his last appearance for the Gunners as a substitute as they were held at home by Tottenham on Sunday.
Leipzig, who have an option to buy Schick, a 23-year-old Czech international, for €29 million, if they qualify for the Champions League again next season.
The Bundesliga club were plugging their own gap. Leipzig said they needed another attacker after loaning Jean-Kevin Augustin to Monaco on Sunday.
Napoli signed Fernando Llorente on a free transfer. The 34-year old Spanish World Cup winner was a free agent after helping Tottenham to the Champions League final last season.
Galatasaray confirmed the signing of veteran Colombian striker Radamel Falcao from Monaco.