Ok so we have a confession…Zlatan (though pictured) does not make it to our Legends list. This may be strange to some on the face but we have a justification. Acquiring a player of the Zlat‘s pedigree on a free transfer is something of a coup but he doesn’t meet our standard for the simple reason of his age.
Our 2016 Legends list is aptly named as we seek to identify those transfers fans will remember as accruing the most benefits(production, trophies) to the club over the longest time. At the age of 34; one should therefore understand why Zlatan has to be excluded here.
Even Messi, whose durability over his career has dumbfounded many and is 5 years younger, has recently started accumulating injuries; missing a 6 week stretch last season. The point here is simply “Father Time” will stand undefeated; so age is a crucial factor in the value of any transfer in our view.
So how did we come up with our list? Every transfer we selected meets most if not all of the following criteria:
- Fills an obvious squad need or even more importantly “first team” need.
- Player’s talent and experience will provide an immediate impact/upgrade.
- Sensible transfer fee and manageable wages – crucial for the club’s financial flexibility.
- Longevity – When the player leaves will he be regarded a club legend? i.e. Can the player contribute to the club for at least 5 years.
So…. counting down to the SoccerSurgery gem transfer of the summer:
5) Joel Matip – Schalke to Liverpool – Free Transfer
With the departure of the error prone Martin Skrtel and the continued Jekyl and Hyde, perhaps drug enduced performances from Mamadou Sakho, a centerback was high on the priority list for Jurgen Klopp. That considered the free pickup of Matip can be deemed no less than an inspired move by Liverpool given his pedigree and experience despite being only 25 years old: 194 Bundesliga/46 European appearances for Schalke.
Analyzing performances over the second half of last season reveals the glaring contrast:
4) Samuel Umtiti – Lyon to Barcelona – £21m
If the Matip deal was a steal then the Umtiti deal was petty larceny in light of the sums paid for other centrebacks – Hummels(£30m), Mustafi(£35M and Stones(£47M).
Umtiti interestingly started his career as a striker which explains his comfort with the ball at his feet and eye opening pace. These attributes fit Barcelona’s high pressing game like a glove given opponents’ reliance on counterattacks. In recent years the lack of pace in the Pique/Mascherano pairing has been exposed at pivotal times; so the signing fills a glaring need.
In addition, Umtiti, though only 22, has 170 appearances for Lyon captaining the side last season. His progress has certainly not gone under the radar even elevating him to the France national team where he started the Euro 2016 Final. He looks to be the rock of the club for years to come and was acquired for a modest sum by today’s standards. Wonderful piece of business amidst a bizarre widow for the Spanish giants.
3) Ilkay Gundogan – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City – £22M
Gundogan’s kind is a soon to be extinct breed – class box to box midfielders; equally as proficient at reading opponents passing angles and breaking up play as they are proficient in adding numbers and supply to the attack.
City acquires Gundogan (only 25) in the prime of his career with the only caveat being his concerning injury history over his Dortmund career which includes a spinal issue(Ouch!) that sidelined him for the entire 2013/14 season. That said the upside is there for all to see as he was a key cog in Klopp’s dominant teams and proven battled tested in 30 Champions league games.
Yaya Toure, the previous midfield lynchpin, is known to be no favourite of Guardiola. If he did not fit his pressing, possession retention style years ago certainly his legs betray him now. So Gundogan, with his career 85% pass rate, is the perfect replacement as a “shuttler” in City’s new 4-3-3 system i.e the player working the channels, recycling posession and linking defense and attack.
Pogba will effectively play the same position for their cross town rivals and he cost a whopping £60M more. Yet, we see no gulf in class. Gundogan was the highest rated central midfielder in the Bundesliga last year per the excellent analysts at www.whoscored.com.
2) Mario Gotze – Bayern Munich to Borussia Dortmund – £18M
The Klopp connections continue.
Imagine. Dortmund received £32M three years prior and buy back the player at half the price largely because there was just one year remaining on his contract. The deal therefore benefited both parties. Dortmund need no scouts to tell them they (re)acquired a super player who has not yet seen his 25th birthday. To put the deal in context Yannick Bolassie cost Everton £25M.
Gotze slots in on the right of Tuchel’s attacking trident in his 4-2-3-1 replacing the now departed Mkhitaryan whose production (11 goals, 15 assists) is hard to replace but they have the right man for the job. Gotze scored 10 goals in just 23 games his last season for Dortmund, hit 44 goals in 156 career appearances for Dortmund/Munich overall and would be known by most as the scorer of the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup.
And the top transfer of the summer is….*drumroll*…….
1) Miralem Pjanic – Roma to Juventus – £27M
We love the deal with one reservation.
What bothers us about the deal? Serie A and Bundesliga are quickly losing their designations as “competitions” with Bayern and Juventus’ recent strategy of crippling its direct rivals via the transfer market. We believe this will ultimately be harmful to football but that’s a topic we will dissect at a later date.
Fair play considerations aside, which would be dismissed by many, this is a cracker of a deal for Juve fans who would have been mournful of the loss of Pogba. Though clearly Pjanic doesn’t possess Pogba’s dynamism on the football we look at end product. Like Pogba, he had 12 assists last season but actually scored more goals (12). Again, these arguments are not made to prove he is a better player than Pogba but at the fee paid to Roma this is the most value we have seen of any transfer this window.
At the age of 26, Pjanic has established himself as the heir to Pirlo as the King of a dead ball but his overall passing and composure in the centre of the park is also a joy to watch.
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