Summer Transfer Market: The Biggest Surprises and Best Deals

The summer transfer window is now closed for business across (most of) Europe. Clubs on the continent will now have to wait until January before they are permitted to sign players again.

It was a typically busy window as teams looked to strengthen ahead of the 2023/24 season. We saw some huge deals involving clubs in leagues such as the PL, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and La Liga.

In this article we have summarised the summer transfer market, picking out some of the most eye-catching deals and analysing which teams benefitted and which ones did not.

Football Transfers Summer 2023

The 2023 summer transfer window was one of the most memorable in recent years. The Premier League was once again the highest-spending league, with an astonishing outlay of £2.36 billion split between its 20 clubs.

Compare that to just €432m for La Liga sides and you start to get an idea of the financial gulf that now exists within European football. If you discount the pandemic years, it was the lowest expenditure for La Liga clubs in a decade.

France’s Ligue 1 was responsible for €900m in transfer fees, much of that involving Paris Saint-Germain. Serie A teams parted with €850m, while Bundesliga outfits paid €747m for new players. Europe’s four other major leagues spent a combined €2.93 billion – not much higher than the Premier League’s total outlay.

The biggest story, though, was the emergence of Saudi Arabia. The Middle Eastern nation has decided to invest huge sums into football, and we saw its Pro League prise several superstars away from European clubs this summer.

Many of the players that moved to Saudi Arabia are in their 30s and/or are coming towards the end of their careers, including Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Neymar. Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo joined Saudi side Al-Nassr in the previous window.

But Pro League clubs were also able to capture talented footballers still in their 20s. Ruben Neves, previously linked with Barcelona, was signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Aymeric Laporte, only 29 years of age, left Manchester City for Saudi Arabia. Former Barcelona forward Malcom has also opted to continue his career there.

There have been threats to Europe’s pre-eminence in the past, most notably from the Chinese Super League. That one did not really last, but the early signs are that Saudi Arabia is here to stay as a rival destination for top-class footballers.

Biggest Football Transfers This Summer

Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid

Jude Bellingham was wanted by most big clubs in Europe this summer, but it was Real Madrid who won the race for his signature. Arguably the most talented young player in the world today, the 20-year-old could feasibly be a starter for the club for the next 15 years.

Bellingham has made a remarkable start to life with the Blancos, scoring five goals in his first four games.

Harry Kane to Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich only won the Bundesliga by the skin of their teeth last term, as the absence of a top-class centre-forward held them back. Enter Harry Kane.

The England captain is one of the best strikers on the planet. He is a prolific goalscorer but also brings so much more to the table, including creative passing and expert link play. He could be the missing piece in the jigsaw for Bayern.

Declan Rice to Arsenal

At one time it looked like Declan Rice was joining Manchester City, but the midfielder opted for Arsenal in the end – and that is probably good news for the competitiveness of the Premier League.

Rice is an all-action player who contributes in every phase of the game. He is still young but is already a natural leader. The former West Ham United captain will be a big presence for Arsenal on and off the pitch.

Neymar to Al Hilal

The biggest star that the Saudi Pro League managed to attract this summer was Neymar, who ended his six-year stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazilian did not fulfil his potential in Europe but he is still one of the most talented footballers on the planet. Local Saudi fans – especially those of Al Hilal – will enjoy watching him play.

Joao Felix to Barcelona

On transfer deadline day, Barcelona secured the signing of Joao Felix on loan. The Portugal international was never a good fit for an Atletico Madrid side managed by Diego Simeone, but his talent cannot be questioned.

Felix is still only 23 years old and he adds quality to Barcelona’s frontline. The skilful attacker could still be a major success in La Liga.

Worst Football Transfers

It is far too early to make a judgment on the worst football transfers of the summer window. New signings have only played a handful of matches for their teams, and even slow starts cannot be assessed in their first few weeks in a new environment.

For instance, Moises Caicedo has not exactly hit the ground running following his €116m move to Chelsea from Brighton & Hove Albion. But the Ecuadorian has proven himself in the PL before now, and he will no doubt come good in time.

Similarly, many have claimed that Manchester United overpaid for Rasmus Højlund, who cost them €75m. But if the Dane scores goals on a regular basis over several seasons, that transfer fee will look like a bargain.

Most Expensive Football Transfers

All data is taken from

Player From To Fee
Declan Rice West Ham United Arsenal €116.6m
Moises Caicedo Brighton & Hove Albion Chelsea €116m
Jude Bellingham Borussia Dortmund Real Madrid €103m
Harry Kane Tottenham Hotspur Bayern Munich €100m
Randal Kolo Muani Eintracht Frankfurt Paris Saint-Germain €95m
Josko Gvardiol RB Leipzig Manchester City €90m
Neymar Paris Saint-Germain Al Hilal €90m
Rasmus Højlund Atalanta Manchester United €75m
Kai Havertz Chelsea Arsenal €75m
Dominik Szoboszlai RB Leipzig Liverpool €70m
Mason Mount Chelsea Manchester United €64.2m
Sandro Tonali AC Milan Newcastle United €64m
Romeo Lavia Southampton Chelsea €62.1m
Matheus Nunes Wolverhampton Wanderers Manchester City €62m
Christopher Nkunku RB Leipzig Chelsea €60m
Jeremy Doku Rennes Manchester City €60m
Manuel Ugarte Sporting CP Paris Saint-Germain €60m
Malcom Zenit Saint-Petersburg Al Hilal €60m
Otavio Porto Al-Nassr €60m
Brennan Johnson Nottingham Forest Tottenham Hotspur €55m
Ruben Neves Wolverhampton Wanderers Al Hilal €55m
Moussa Diaby Bayer Leverkusen Aston Villa €55m

The Biggest Transfer Losers

Borussia Dortmund

The sale of players is part of Borussia Dortmund’s business model. They often act as a gateway for youngsters in particular, offering a competitive environment while they develop before selling them on for a profit.

So while it is no surprise that BVB lost several players in 2023, they could be set for a season of struggle without them. Jude Bellingham was the standout departee, but Raphael Guerreiro could also be a big loss.


The team that spends the most money is usually considered to have ‘won’ the transfer window. But it is difficult not to view Chelsea’s approach to recruitment under Todd Boehly as risky and haphazard.

The Londoners have spent close to £1 billion on new players in the space of three transfer windows under Boehly. It is an unsustainable approach that does not take into account the fact that not every signing will be a success.

Chelsea spent big money on the likes of Moises Caicedo, Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku this time around. The club should remember that cohesion and balance are vital to a football team, and those are difficult to achieve if dozens of new players are arriving every few months.

Newcastle United

Newcastle United punched above their weight last season, finishing fourth in the PL and qualifying for the CL for the first time since 2002/03.

The race for the top four in England will be more difficult this term, though, and Newcastle might not have done enough to improve their squad. Sandro Tonali is an excellent acquisition from AC Milan, but no other newcomers improves their starting XI.

The Magpies have spent a huge amount of money since they were bought by Saudi Arabia. However, they needed to bring in more talent this summer if they want to continue making progress.

Young Players To Watch

Yunus Musah

AC Milan spent just €20m to land Yunus Musah, an impressive 20-year-old midfielder. Musah shone for the United States on the biggest stage of all last year, and was regarded as a star of the future at Valencia, his former club. Keep an eye on how he performs in Italy.

Benjamin Sesko

The Red Bull group’s talent identification is right up there with the best around, so there is good reason for excitement about Benjamin Sesko. After scoring freely for Red Bull Salzburg, the Slovenian has moved to sister club RB Leipzig.

Manuel Ugarte

Paris Saint-Germain have bolstered their midfield ranks with the signing of Manuel Ugarte, a 22-year-old holding player. The Uruguayan was signed from Sporting CP and will add steel to Luis Enrique’s team.

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