By Edward Perez
When addressing the ongoing buzz about summer transfers in the world of football, one cannot help but give credit to the 2014 FIFA World Cup for providing a fantastic stage for players to shine on in front of the eyes of millions. When the last club season came to an end this past May, teams from across the world began to reflect on their seasons, while looking for ways to improve before the start of the new season in August.
For many squads, a primary way to improve is by replacing aging and deficient players. Even former world-class players with tremendous vision and technical ability are not immune from this phenomenon; Barcelona midfielder and former Spain international Xavi Hernandez, at 34, is one example of a player who is simply past his prime, as he is unable to keep up with the aggression and speed of modern football, especially when participating in La Liga and the Champions League.
As a result, there is a possibility that Xavi may leave the Spanish giants and join Al Arabi, a team located in Qatar. To replace their central mastermind, Barcelona signed Ivan Rakitic, who alongside Luka Modric, put up a stellar performance at the World Cup. The two will now face each other in the upcoming season in the Spanish Clasico that promises to be epic.
Continuing on the topic of transfers in La Liga, the signings of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez shocked the world, as Real Madrid signed two of the top players from the 2014 World Cup. Rodriguez emerged as a star of the World Cup, while clinching the Golden Boot Award for having scored the most (six) goals in the tournament in only five matches. Kroos was vital to Germany’s success in the World Cup, having notched four assists and two goals in seven matches.
With a roster filled with superstars, Barcelona will not hesitate in deciding who does not meet its standards. In making room for the most controversial signing of the summer, namely former Liverpool striker Luis Suárez, Barcelona sold Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal. Suárez, who is banned for four months of club football and nine international matches for biting Giorgio Chiellini (after having bit Otman Bakkal in 2010, and Branislav Ivanovic in 2013) in a group stage match between Italy and Uruguay, could possibly debut for Barcelona in the first Clasico of the 2014-15 season, scheduled for October.
Goalkeepers were a huge story at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Although 171 goals were scored in total, goalkeepers still managed to shine and attract the eyes of big clubs. Guillermo Ochoa, a favorite of Mexican fans, was humorously portrayed as a saint in memes all across the Internet after he played a fantastic match against the initial World Cup favorites, Brazil.
In the second group stage match for both sides, Ochoa emerged as the Man of the Match with six crucial saves to keep the game scoreless after Brazil proved to be the more threatening side. While Ochoa was tentatively called up to Mexico’s 23-man World Cup roster with the distinct possibility that he might not play a single minute, he became an instant hero to many.
After being released by his former club AC Ajaccio, which has been relegated to Ligue 2, Malaga signed Ochoa on a free transfer. In his debut for Malaga on August 6th, Ochoa played 60 minutes, with his side prevailing by a score of 4-1.
Continuing on the topic of goalkeepers in the transfer market, Claudio Bravo emerged with a save rate of 81.8 percent at the World Cup, catching the eyes of Barcelona with his performance. He signed with the Blaugrana side on July 7.
Similarly, David Ospina landed a move to Arsenal after having played a crucial role in Colombia’s success at the World Cup, where he emerged with a save rate of 84 percent. Keylor Navas, the Costa Rican goalkeeper, ended his run in Brazil with an impressive save rate of 91 percent. He recently announced his move to Real Madrid, whose current goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, conceded several goals this summer at the Cup, including his five-goal debacle against the Netherlands.
Turning away from goalkeepers and La Liga, I will transition to transfers taking place in the Premier League, particularly with Alexis Sanchez’s move to Arsenal. This was one of the biggest signings of the summer, as the Chilean agreed to a 35-million-pound move from Barcelona to the Barclays Premier League.
As previously stated, Barcelona has a roster filled with superstars, contributing to the reason why Sanchez never got as much playing time as he deserved with Barcelona. The clinical finisher scored 47 goals in 141 appearances for Barcelona, and clinching La Liga, the Copa del Rey, two Spanish Super Cups, a UEFA Super Cup and a Club World Cup during his time at Camp Nou.
Now, as Barcelona adds Luis Suarez to its roster, there is simply no room for Alexis on the team anymore. With Barcelona, Sanchez was a very disciplined player, as he had to play within the system known as Tiki-Taka. However, as was seen in the World Cup, Alexis was free to do whatever he wanted with the Chilean national team, allowing himself to demonstrate his skills and true ability.
It is clear that a transfer to Arsenal was the right move for Sanchez due to its nature of play, as the Gunners are known for their fast breaks and lethal counter-attacks. The Chilean speed is impressive, and with Theo Walcott by his side and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wing, Sanchez and Arsenal will be a force to be reckoned with.
In addition to Sanchez, the Gunners have made an all-around impressive effort in improving their squad. Last year, Arsenal shattered its spending record with the signing of Mesut Ozil for 50 million euros. Now, Arsenal has already spent more than 47 million pounds in the signings of Mathieu Debuchy (who will replace the Manchester City-bound Bacary Sagna) and Sanchez. Carl Jenkinson is out on loan to West Ham United, and so Arsenal also obtained Calum Chambers from Southampton to replace him.
Moving on from Arsenal, new Manchester United head coach Louis Van Gaal has been keen on buying talented players to restore United’s dignity after an embarrassing end to the 2013-2014 season. For example, Jose Mourinho believes Van Gaal overpaid for Southampton defender Luke Shaw; in addition, Van Gaal also obtained Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao.
Whatever Van Gaal is up to, it clearly is working, as Manchester United ended its U.S. tour with a International Champions Cup-clinching 3-1 victory over Liverpool. Southhampton, on the other hand, has been sucked nearly dry of its talents, as it sold 10 players while only making 3 purchases.
Chelsea has had its share of astonishing transfers. With the purchase of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona for 30 million pounds, Diego Costa and Felipe Luis from Atletico Madrid for a combined price of 52 million pounds and the return of Chelsea Legend Didier Drogba, the Blues stand as one of the favorites to win the Premier League this season.
All in all, the World Cup has sparked interest in the upcoming club season, as many teams reinforced their ranks with the stars of the World Cup. Ultimately, the actual season will decide whether these transfers were wise transactions or simply busts.
Contact Edward Perez at EdwardP.NBTB13 ‘at’ gmail.com.