Even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic repercussions, teams have found ways to secure bargain buys on the transfer market and reinforce their squads. Today, we’ll be looking at the 10 best transfers of the summer 2020 transfer window with the help of Goalpoint graphics. Loan deals were not included in this list, and as such, the likes of Mario González (Tondela) and Gaël Kakuta (Lens) have been left off the list.
Pedro ‘Pote’ Gonçalves to Sporting
Sporting have ended their 19-year title drought and ended Benfica and Porto’s hegemony in Portuguese football thanks to a rock-solid defense that has seen them concede just 20 goals in 34 matches, an efficient set-up by rookie manager Rúben Amorim, and a brilliant summer transfer window that saw the likes of João Mário, Pedro Porro, Antonio Adán and Zouhair Feddal arrive at Alcochete. The crown jewel was Pedro ‘Pote’ Gonçalves, who arrived in the summer for a fee of €6.5 million, with Famalicão maintaining 50% of his economic rights.
Playing on the right side of the Leões’ front three, Pote has been a revelation in Lisbon, with the 22-year-old attacking midfielder picking up 23 goals in the league including a hat-trick on the final day against Marítimo to surpass Haris Seferović and finish as the league’s top scorer, becoming the first Portuguese player to do so since Domingos Paciência in 1996.
His form was rewarded with a maiden call-up to the Portuguese national team, and while he did not make a single appearance as the defending champions crashed out at the Round of 16, he did come off the bench in pre-tournament friendlies against Spain and Israel. Sporting are looking to tie down Pote with a contract extension and an improved salary that should see him continue in Lisboa and help the Leões defend their crown next season.
Rúben Dias to Manchester City
Unlike Pote, Rúben Dias was a guaranteed starter for Fernando Santos after a brilliant campaign in England, and while he failed to continue his impressive form in the Euros, he remains important as ever for Portugal’s present and future. The 24-year-old center back began his 2020/21 season in Thessaloniki, Greece, playing the full 90 minutes as Benfica lost 2-1 to PAOK.
This defeat deprived Benfica of Champions League football and put them in a quagmire after a summer filled with expensive signings such as Darwin Núñez and Luca Waldschmidt; when Manchester City came knocking for a new center back after their deal to sign Jules Koundé from Sevilla fell through, there was nothing they could do but part ways with him for an initial fee of €56.6 million and Nicolás Otamendi in return.
Dias has been a revelation for the Sky Blues, helping to fix a previously leaky defense, forming a rock-solid pairing alongside John Stones, and beating out the likes of Harry Kane and Kevin de Bruyne to claim the FWA Footballer of the Year, becoming the first defender since Steve Nicol in 1988/89 to win the individual accolade.
Whilst his season ended on a dour note after losing to Chelsea in the Champions League Final and losing to Belgium in the Round of 16, Dias has firmly established himself in the upper echelon of center backs in European football with his performances this season, but it remains to be seen who his long-term defensive partner for Portugal will end up being as Pepe approaches 39 years of age.
Édouard Mendy to Chelsea
Chelsea capped off an incredible turnaround under Thomas Tuchel by defeating City in Porto to hoist their second Champions League triumph, a victory that was enabled by their plethora of summer signings. Kai Havertz grabbed the lone goal of the contest prior to halftime, whilst fellow summer arrival Timo Werner helped create space for the goal by dragging Rúben Dias out of position. Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva have become vital cogs in defense since joining from Leicester City and Paris Saint-Germain, respectively, but perhaps their finest signing has been Édouard Mendy.
The Blues found themselves in desperate need of a goalkeeper after a disastrous campaign from record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Jan Oblak, and André Onana being lined up as potential reinforcements, but it was Mendy who joined from Rennes for a reported fee of £22 million, arriving from the same club as legendary goalkeeper Petr Čech. Unlike Čech, Mendy is a late bloomer at 29 years old, but he has proven against the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City that he has what it takes to man the sticks and lead Chelsea to the finish line.
Wesley Fofana to Leicester City
This season has seen a wide variety of teams end long-awaited trophy droughts; Sporting, Lille, Inter and Rangers have all claimed their first league title in at least 10 years, whilst Leicester City contested their first FA Cup Final since 1969, winning it for the first time in their history with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. Youri Tielemans led the Foxes to victory with a tremendous effort from long range, but arguably the finest player on the pitch was Wesley Fofana.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were hamstrung early on with Jonny Evans hobbling off and Fofana picking up a booking for a poor tackle on Timo Werner, but the 20-year-old defender held his own and guided his side to victory with a stellar display alongside Çağlar Söyüncü and Timothy Castagne in defense. It was a risky strategy from Leicester to spend €35 million on a player with just 30 senior appearances for Saint-Étienne, but he’s proven to be worth his weight in gold so far.
Whether playing in a back three or back four, Fofana combines standout physical qualities with an intelligence beyond his years, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s playing Champions League football for Leicester or another club. With the Foxes looking to shake off the ignominy of missing out on Europe’s top competition for the past two seasons, the Frenchman will be crucial as ever to delivering Brendan Rodgers’ side to new heights.
Sven Botman to Lille
As the saying goes, one man’s is another man’s treasure. That was certainly the case with Sven Botman, who, despite an impressive loan spell at Heerenveen, found himself starved of opportunities at boyhood club Ajax with the likes of Daley Blind, Edson Álvarez and Perr Schuurs ahead of him in Erik Ten Hag’s pecking order. It’s why, 11 years after joining De Toekomst, Botman left the Netherlands last summer and joined Lille for €8 million, replacing the outgoing Gabriel Magalhães.
Botman has been a mainstay in defense alongside Portuguese veteran José Fonte, with Christophe Galtier’s side conceding just 23 goals en route to their first Ligue 1 title since 2011. The Dutchman is an aerially imposing, speedy defender who is already drawing attention from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Liverpool, and it’s all but certain that he will enable Lille to land a hefty profit on him. However, with Mike Maignan off to Milan and Boubakary Soumaré joining Leicester, Les Dogues will be doing everything they can to hold onto their prized asset for another season.
Édouard Mendy has gone from strength to strength since arriving in London, but he’s far from the only late bloomer goalkeeper to make a major impact after joining a new club in the summer. Antonio Adán has gone from warming the bench for Jan Oblak to playing a vital role in Sporting’s league title, whilst Emiliano Martínez has become a revelation in Birmingham since joining from Arsenal for a fee of £20 million.
After countless loan spells and a decade of biding his time, Martínez finally got his opportunity to shine for the Gunners following Bernd Leno’s injury on June 20, 2020, but with the club preferring the German as the long-term option between the sticks, the Argentine elected to leave for Aston Villa. What was once a previously leaky position for them has now been fortified by Martínez, who has equalled Brad Friedel’s club record for clean sheets (15) and won the Aston Villa Supporters’ Player of the Season award.
Martínez’s form was rewarded with an international debut for Argentina, playing in a 1-1 draw against Chile in a World Cup qualifier. Five weeks later, he sealed his place in history by leading the Albiceleste to their first Copa América title since 1993, keeping a clean sheet in the Final against Brazil, saving three spot kicks in the semifinal against Colombia, and earning the Golden Glove for his performances.
Burak Yılmaz to Lille
Over the past decade, Lille have built a reputation of buying young players with potential and selling them for massive profits. Nicolas Pépé, Victor Osimhen, Rafael Leão, Yves Bissouma…the list goes on and on. However, they have won their fourth Ligue 1 title and first in a decade thanks to a strong performance from 35-year-old striker Burak Yılmaz, who chipped in 16 goals and 5 assists in 28 Ligue 1 appearances this season. Having played the entirety of his career in Turkey, apart from a lone season in China, Yılmaz made the move to a top five league after his contract with Beşiktaş expired last summer.
While he was expected to play a veteran presence and replace the departing Loïc Rémy, Yılmaz has ended up becoming the team’s attacking talisman, compensating for Jonathan David’s slow start to life in France and hitting the ground running. He has been not just a deadly finisher in the final third, coming up massive with a brace against Lyon in the final weeks of the season, but also with a calming presence on and off the pitch to lead Lille to the finish line and end Paris Saint-Germain’s hegemony.
Luis Suárez to Atlético Madrid
On August 14, 2020, Bayern Munich humiliated Barcelona 8-2 in the Champions League quarterfinals in Lisbon, setting the tone for the rest of the competition as Hansi Flick’s side won their first Champions League since 2013 and completed a historic treble.
The match sent shockwaves throughout the Camp Nou; manager Quique Setién was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman, Lionel Messi publicly attempted to leave his boyhood club, and Barcelona offloaded several veterans such as Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitić and Luis Suárez to clear up space in the wage bill. As embarrassing as their defeat was, it paled in comparison to the events of the next eight months.
After a move to Juventus fell through due to passport issues, in which Juve officials were accused of accelerating the process of obtaining Italian citizenship and enabling Suárez to cheat on his language test, the Uruguayan striker joined Atlético Madrid for a fee of €6 million, with Álvaro Morata joining Juventus on loan and Diego Costa eventually being released midway through the season to make way for him.
With Suárez in the line-up, Atleti have a player that they have missed since Antoine Griezmann’s departure — a reliable goalscorer who found the back of the net on 21 occasions this season, a figure only bettered by Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema and Gerard Moreno. As Griezmann and Messi watched in desperation as the Blaugranas finished third, El Pistolero fired Atleti to their first league title since 2014 with vital goals in the final two matchdays against Osasuna and Real Valladolid.
“At the start of the season, with the way I was underestimated… Atlético Madrid opened the door for me, to keep showing that I’m still valid. That’s why I’ll always be grateful to this great club for trusting in me,” stated an emotional Suárez on the final day. “A lot of people have suffered with me. My wife, my kids, they’re with me day-to-day. I’ve been in football for many years and this is the year they’ve suffered the most. It’s special, because of everything I had to suffer. My statistics are there. Five out of seven league titles. That is Luis Suárez.”
Achraf Hakimi to Inter Milan
Inter Milan have ended a decade-long trophy drought and claimed their first Scudetto since 2010, ending Juventus’ unprecedented dominance and reestablishing their status in Italy’s footballing elite. After finishing one point behind Juve last season, the Nerazzurri took a step forward and claimed a remarkable 91 points in Antonio Conte’s second and final season at the club.
Several players such as Christian Eriksen and Nicolò Barella took a step forward in their development, while Romelu Lukaku had a career year with 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. However, it cannot be denied that the signing of Achraf Hakimi was a crucial reason for their victorious season. After an impressive loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, Hakimi found himself surplus to requirements under Zinedine Zidane, and Real Madrid elected to cash in on him and sell him to Inter for a fee of €40 million.
Hakimi has provided what the likes of Antonio Candreva, Ashley Young and Victor Moses were incapable of providing in Conte’s first season; reliable end product, ability to maneuver in tight spaces, and speed and close control in the final third.
Whilst he was reportedly one of Inter’s 8 “untouchable” players alongside Lukaku, Barella, Marcelo Brozović, Alessandro Bastoni, Lautaro Martínez, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Škriniar, Inter have been forced to make a capital gains of €100 million this summer in order to compensate for their economic struggles, something that has already caused Conte to resign in disgust, with Simone Inzaghi replacing him.
The Morocco international was used as the sacrificial lamb to help Inter cope with the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Paris Saint-Germain signing him on a five-year contract and paying €60 million and €11 million in bonuses. Despite only playing one year in Milan, Hakimi will always be remembered as one of the key figures in the team that ended Juve’s dynasty and brought the title back to the San Siro.
Kevin Volland to Monaco
If there’s any German player who benefitted from the Euros being delayed a year, it’s Kevin Volland. The 28-year-old forward suffered a ligament tear to his left ankle in February 2020, and while he returned to full fitness by the time the Bundesliga restarted, Bayer Leverkusen had no qualms about parting ways for him for a fee of €11 million, a staggering hit on the club-record €18 million they paid to bring him in from Hoffenheim in 2016. With just one year left on his contract, Volland departed his home country for the first time in his career and packed his bags for Monaco.
Under the tutelage of Niko Kovač, Volland has become a key player in the principality, chipping in 18 goals and 8 assists and earning himself a recall to Die Mannschaft for the first time since November 2016, making his return in a friendly match against Denmark and coming off the bench for Serge Gnabry in the 79th minute. “Kevin Volland makes an extremely strong impression physically and has performed very well in France,” stated manager Joachim Löw. “He can help us with his physicality and ability to find the net.”
Whether partnering Wissam Ben Yedder in attack or cutting in from the left flank, Volland is a versatile, goalscoring threat who has played a leading role in Monaco’s turnaround under Kovač, with Les Monégasques losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France Final and finishing third in Ligue 1 to book a place in the Champions League qualifiers.
Six years after captaining Germany in the U-21 Euros and leading them to the semifinals, Volland came off the bench in Die Mannschaft’s group stage matches against France and Hungary, although he remained on the bench as England knocked them out of the tournament at Wembley Stadium via goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
It appears that Monaco sporting director Paul Mitchell has taken notice of the success of Volland and Kovač and carried forward his Bundesliga focus into the new season; Ismail Jakobs has left Köln to replace the outgoing Fodé Ballo-Touré, whilst Alexander Nübel has arrived on a two-year loan spell from Bayern Munich to provide competition between the sticks for Benjamin Lecomte.
Honorable mentions: Tomáš Souček to West Ham, Jonathan Clauss to Lens, Maxence Lacroix to Wolfsburg, Thiago Silva to Chelsea, Federico Chiesa to Juventus, Simon Kjær to Milan, Caio Henrique to Monaco, Renato Tapia to Celta Vigo, Marcos Acuña to Sevilla, Amine Gouiri to Nice, Mehdi Taremi to Porto, Antonio Adán to Sporting, Lucas Paquetá to Lyon, Jude Bellingham to Borussia Dortmund, Raphinha to Leeds United, Yannick Carrasco to Atlético Madrid, Wataru Endo to Stuttgart, André Silva to Eintracht Frankfurt, Al Musrati to Braga, Terem Moffi to Lens.
By: Zach Lowy
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthew Ashton – AMA / Getty Images / Giuseppe Bellini / Getty Images / BSR Agency / Getty Images