As Brent Maximin takes you through the Premier League players who will fill this summer’s headlines, here’s a look back at last year’s big moves:
Luis Suárez (pictured above)
Where, in 2013-14: Liverpool
Where, in 2014-15: Barcelona
Why: One bite too many made Liverpool realize it was time for an extraction
How much: $90 million
With 31 goals in 33 games, Suarez helped his side challenge for the title in a thrilling manner, and priced himself out of most moves. Especially since he was at a team set to play in the Champions League and determined to reclaim what it believes to be its rightful place in English soccer.
But Luis Suárez committed one sin too many. A little nibble while at Ajax could’ve been overlooked as a youthful indiscretion. Racial abuse of Patrice Evra could have been (somehow, some way) misinterpreted. Even taking a bite from Branislav Ivanović’s bicep, and the resulting 10-game ban that followed, wasn’t enough to make Liverpool give up on its star. But going after Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup, thus landing himself a four-month ban, was too much. The Uruguayan had to go.
Barcelona, sensing a deal afoot, admirably stepped up, not caring that Suárez wouldn’t play until the end of October. There were concerns about whether he’d play nice with Neymar and Lionel Messi, but we’re closing in on the end of the season now and nearly everyone’s forgotten about those niggling doubts. The newcomer has shown a remarkable adaptability, and the trio have created the most lethal attack in the world, with over a hundred goals scored between them. Barcelona sits top of the La Liga table and could well end up Champions League champions. For all that, $90 million doesn’t seem too high a price, especially since Suárez looks like he’s sticking to snacking on tapas.
Where, in 2013-14: Chelsea
Where, in 2014-15: Paris Saint-Germain
Why: José Mourinho loves a good laugh
How much: $76 million
What do you say when a mega-rich club offers piles of money for a defender who often looks as though he’s uncertain which team he might be playing for? If you’re smart, you simply approach quietly, snatch the money, stick David Luiz on a train heading through the Chunnel and then giggle all the way to the bank.
Chelsea, in fact, is still laughing at PSG’s willingness to break the record fee set for a defender, particularly as the defender in question is known as Sideshow Bob. The Blues certainly aren’t feeling the pain, given that the club’s ready to lift the Premier League title and can boast of the second-best defensive record in the division.
PSG, for its part, has turned a deaf ear to the chuckles. The owners probably thought they’d got their own chuckle when the defender equalized against his former club in Champions League play … but then they were forced to watch Luis Suárez nutmeg him twice in the next round as Barcelona knocked out PSG. And endure his mom publicly sticking up for her precious son. But considering the club’s rolling in dough, perhaps it felt David Luiz was worth the money for the joy he’d bring to the locker room.
Grade: C+ (the defense might be worse, but PSG needed a touch of lightheartedness)
Where, in 2013-14: Everton
Where, in 2014-15: Everton
Why: Everton fell in love
How much: $40 million
Everton must’ve watched the World Cup – who didn’t, right? – yet still decided to throw piles of cash Chelsea’s way, despite the fact that Romelu Lukaku looked devoid of ideas and out of sorts against not-world-class opposition. Everton truly believed in the Belgian and just knew he could improve on his 15 goal tally. Besides, it remembered what happened when West Brom couldn’t pony up the cash to retain him, and didn’t fancy going into utter freefall.
And here we are, with Everton in utter freefall. Ok, not quite, as relegation is no longer a worry. But the side never even flirted with Europe this season, much less a Champions League spot, and Lukaku’s drop in form is a big part of the reason why. Oh, and the fact that the Toffees couldn’t afford to reinforce other parts of the squad after splurging on Lukaku. He’s still young, of course, and production could well pick back up again next season. But unless a 20+ goal season puts Everton into the Champions League, no one but Chelsea will be considering the fee paid a smart one.
Where, in 2013-14: Chelsea
Where, in 2014-15: Atlético Madrid after a layover at AC Milan
Why: Have we not yet learned that Chelsea are both clever and ruthless?
How much: $3.5 million to Chelsea, loaned to Atléti from Milan in exchange for Alessio Cerci
Ok, so Chelsea isn’t always clever and ruthless, and the club’s certainly never getting back the record-setting 50 million pounds it spent on Fernando Torres (that doesn’t even include the helicopter fees). But convincing Milan to pay a marginal fee in order to ship Torres off to boyhood club Atlético Madrid got something like $15 million in yearly salary off Chelsea’s books, so once again, you gotta bow down to the masters.
The deal never really worked out for Milan, a club in desperate search of a lift to its spirits. Torres made all of 10 appearances and scored a single solitary goal – about on par for his post-Liverpool days – before heading back to Madrid. At Atléti he’s only scored twice in the league, but his two goals against Real Madrid helped knock his side’s rivals out of the Copa del Rey, which at least makes for a heartwarming narrative. As long as it’s not spending bucketloads on Torres’ salary, Atléti didn’t get a bad deal, especially considering Cerci started all of one match in all competitions, and notched just one goal for his club.
Where, in 2013-14: Manchester United
Where, in 2014-15: Arsenal
Why: Louis van Gaal was looking to remake Manchester United in his own image
How much: $24.5 million
New United manager Louis van Gaal wanted younger. Wanted more determined. Or, failing that, wanted to spend billions to rent Radamel Falcao. So out went Danny Welbeck, not only for a rather cut-rate price in the world of Premier League deals, but off to a direct rival as well.
Van Gaal might not have been wise about the whole Falcao thing, but it seems he’s been vindicated in his belief in Welbeck’s skills – or lack thereof. Sure, Welbeck was the one who scored the goal that knocked United out of the FA Cup, but his four league goals in 25 games don’t speak much to proving the Dutchman wrong. He’s useful, to be sure, and Arsenal didn’t spend a whack of cash, but he’ll never be the dream bargain the club had hoped for.
The Southampton Six
Where, in 2013-14: Southampton
Where, in 2014-15: Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham
Why: A breakout season that produced 22 league goals and a ticket to Brazil 2014
How much: Around $160 million combined
Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw and manager Mauricio Pochettino all left Southampton last summer. The pundits and journos predicted death and destruction, with a little relegation thrown in for some light relief. Southampton used the money wisely, bringing in Graziano Pellè, Dušan Tadić, Sadio Mané, Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Forester for less than $75 million. Under new manager Ronald Koeman, the Saints spent much of the season looking set to take a Champions League spot, but even though it’ll have to make due with Europa League instead, there was never a hint of dropping to the Championship.
Southampton’s buys may not have all been spectacular and may indeed still be suffering the transition pains of adapting to a new league, but the team’s resilience against combustion combined with the unimpressive showing by nearly all its exports means this was a spectacular bit of business. Liverpool, with its new laughingstock in Lovren and its six goals total from Lallana and Lambert, must be wishing it had invested in Southampton’s directors rather than its players.
Grade: A+ … for Southampton