On 31 August, at 11 PM UK time, the 2021 summer transfer window shut across the majority of Europe after a dramatic 82 days that will go down in history as one of the wildest in the football business.
The period saw the craziest and most shocking transfers, with the two biggest names in football both involved in unprecedented moves.
When the COVID pandemic struck in late 2019 and spread like wildfire across the globe, Europe was one of the continents most affected. This inadvertently changed the beloved sport of football as we knew it, with stadiums everywhere going empty as football became a “behind closed doors” game.
With fans locked out of the arenas, revenue from ticket sales died a painful death—a deadly hit on the finances of footballing outfits everywhere. “No money on ground” became the theme song, accompanied by other soundtracks like “We are broke” and then some. It became a worry for professionals and fans; what will the upcoming transfer window look like?
Of course, there is always the Sugar Daddy money factor in play, with stinkingly rich owners pumping insane amounts into their teams. Still, there were no expectations of a big summer window, let alone one as off the rails as the one we just witnessed. With football clubs trying to get back on their feet in the aftermath of the lockdown, the majority expected a quiet window, or at most, an overly prudent one, with little to no fanfare or ear-bending stories. The majority was wrong!
Messi bid his boyhood club farewell after 21 years, Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the red side of Manchester more than a decade after leaving, and Lukaku returned to the club that initially didn’t give him a chance. See the ten moves that shook everyone this summer.
1. Messi to PSG
Arguably the most emotion-stirring move of the summer window. On 11 August, six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi signed for French top-flight outfit PSG in a whopping $25 million/year deal. It was amid tears that the GOAT bid his former club farewell. It was clear that Messi desired to stay at Barcelona, where he had played all his professional football. He even took a 50% pay cut just like some of his teammates to make it happen, but that didn’t suffice. Barcelona was hamstrung by La Liga’s rules on club spending, and their wage bill was way beyond limits.
On signing for PSG, Messi said: “I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions. I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.” He wears the number 30, refusing to take the coveted number 10 from his friend and now teammate, Neymar.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United FC
CR7 made his premier league debut in 2003 donning the Red and White jersey under the GOAT manager Sir Alex Ferguson. He soon introduced and established himself as one of the finest attacking players the league has ever seen. He secured a premier league golden boot, a champions league title, many premier league titles, and a Ballon d’Or. Then in 2009, he made a big money move to Spain. After extraordinary success with Real Madrid which saw him win 4 champions league titles, the EURO 2016, and 4 more Ballon d’Or titles, he moved to the Italian Serie A for new challenges.
It all happened so fast. First, it was news of his agent Jorge Mendes pushing for a move to Manchester City. It looked like a done deal for sure, and all of a sudden, Manchester United entered the fray and that was it. Within hours, it was confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is on his way back to the Theatre of Dreams, where many of his dreams came true years ago. It is being reported that Ronaldo will be paid over $30 million per season, making him the highest-paid player in the Premier League.
“Everyone who knows me, knows about my never ending love for Manchester United. The years I spent in this club where absolutely amazing and the path we’ve made together is written in gold letters in the history of this great and amazing institution,” Ronaldo said on Instagram. He ended the emotional message with, “Sir Alex, this one is for you!”
Ronaldo was unveiled with official photos on Man UTD’s social media pages on deadline day.
3. Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea FC
Another unprecedented move in this transfer window is that of this big man here, Belgian striker, Romelu Lukaku. When Lukaku moved from Anderlecht to Chelsea in 2011, he didn’t stand much of a chance. Not only was he too young at the time, but he also met the likes of the unbenchable Didier Drogba at the club. Lukaku began a series of loan spells that saw him do stints at Everton and West Bromwich Albion. He impressed in all of them but still couldn’t break into the Chelsea 11.
Lukaku left on a permanent move to Everton in 2014 scoring 53 goals in 110 appearances. Ironically, his former coach at Chelsea under whom he couldn’t get a chance eventually recruited him at Manchester United in 2017.
After two years at Old Trafford and another two in Italy with Inter Milan, Chelsea returned for their man this summer in a staggering £95 million deal. Making Lukaku the most commercially successful player, with over £300 million combined spent so far on him. He wears the number 9 shirt and didn’t wait too long before netting his first-ever Chelsea goal on his 2nd debut for the London outfit.
4. Jack Grealish to Manchester City FC
JG10 is without a doubt one of the most exciting attackers in the game in recent years. The former Aston Villa captain had been with his boyhood club for the longest time and had stayed with them through thick and thin. Grealish captained the side into promotion from the Championship to the premiership three seasons ago and saw them through a gritty relegation battle that lasted till the very last day of the 2019/2020 season. Though he attracted interest from every corner in England, he stayed that summer and played a key role in their impressive 2020/2021 season, pulling off a brilliant 16 goal involvement despite a long injury that kept him out for the latter part of the season.
With a national team call up and a decent performance at the EURO 2020, it became almost certain that Aston Villa will not be able to wade off the interests in their key man this summer. Looking to strengthen their already formidable squad, the current EPL champions came all out with the big bag for Jack Grealish. He sealed a £100 million move to Manchester City in what is a new record for an English player. 10 on his back, low socks, and a hairband, JG10 now plays for the citizens on the blue end of Manchester.
5. Jadon Sancho to Manchester United FC
The biggest transfer saga of the 2020 summer window definitely has to be that of Jadon Sancho’s potential move to Man U. It was an unending drama between German outfit Borussia Dortmund and United, which everyone believed will get over the line. However, it was not to be, as the Red Devils failed to meet Dortmund’s valuation of the player and he stayed put at the Signal Iduna, but only for one more season.
Like the proverbial vulture that prides itself in its patience, Manchester United waited for the 2021 summer window. This time around, they got their man for a reported £75 million fee. I guess this one is not so shocking for anyone who follows football news keenly. It was coming all along.
6. Antoine Griezmann to Atletico Madrid FC
When Antoine Griezmann joined FC Barcelona from Atletico Madrid after a successful 5 year spell in 2019, it was expected that he would replicate his great form. That, however, wasn’t entirely the case, as the striker struggled to find his footing. There were speculations that he might leave the Blaugrana, especially as the financial restrictions set in. Being one of the highest earners at Barca, Griezmann seemed one of the most likely to be let go.
Indeed, FC Barcelona did let him go, well, partially, but that isn’t what is surprising. What is shocking is that, though only a loan move, Griezmann returned to Atletico Madrid. It is one of the transfers that made deadline day so interesting.
7. Eduardo Camavinga to Real Madrid FC
Real Madrid may have been in a long battle for a Frenchman in the just concluded transfer window, but that man wasn’t Camavinga. The Madrid giants had their sights set on securing the services of Kylian Mbappé and tried their utmost best to get a deal done even till the very last minute. PSG didn’t budge and from out of the blues, news surfaced that 18-year-old Rennes wonderkid was on his way to the Santiago Bernabéu. The €31 million deal happened swiftly and is one of the biggest surprises of the 2021 summer transfer business.
8. Saúl Ñíguez to Chelsea FC
Another deadline day saga that looked almost unlikely till the very end. In hopes to build on last season’s success, Chelsea looked to bolster their midfield this summer, but without necessarily spending much. They had identified Atletico Madrid man, Saúl Ñíguez, early enough, but for some reason, the deal dragged on for weeks. As the deadline drew closer, different updates came through about the deal, the majority of which held no optimism. At some point, in fact, the deal was even said to be off. It was reported that it was contingent on Atleti’s confirmation of the Griezmann loan move from Barca.
At the end of the day, SkySports reported that the deal was all but done, with all parties having put pen to paper. Still, there was an internet issue that didn’t allow Atletico to upload the transfer on the official LaLiga portal. A protocol without which the player couldn’t move. Of course, it was sorted just in time, and Chelsea has their man on a season-long loan.
9. Sergio Ramos to PSG
A long contract extension face-off started brewing between loyal steward, Sergio Ramos, and Real Madrid towards the end of his old contract. According to reports, the club was not willing to give Ramos the number of years he desired, and he wasn’t going to take anything short of it. After an astonishing and successful 16 years and 469 appearances for Los Blancos, Ramos left as a free agent to French Ligue1 outfit, PSG. He teams up with Lionel Messi, who has been his rival in the Spanish top flight for almost two decades.
10. Georginio Wijnaldum to PSG
Barcelona seemed to have secured the signings of three free agents in Sergio Aguero, Gini Wijnaldum, and Memphis Depay long before the end of last season. Reports said all the three players had agreed personal terms with Barcelona, but the club eventually got only two of them. Former Liverpool midfielder, Georgino Wijnaldum’s move to PSG was anything but expected. It happened so fast and we were left in shock as to how he slipped through the hands of Barcelona. Word on the street is that he went for the most lucrative offer, and who can blame him? At 30, nearing retirement, Champions League and Premier League medals under the belt, what’s left than to chase thna money? Get that paper Gini.
There are of course several other unprecedented moves that happened in the window, like Ben White’s 50-million-pound move to Arsenal, Luuk De Jong’s last-minute loan move to Barca, Danny Ings’ stealthy move to Aston Villa, Roma’s purchase of Tammy Abraham, Achraf Hakimi’s move to PSG, and Raphael Varane’s move to Manchester United to mention a few.
What was expected to be a simple transfer window went on to produce some of the best transfer headlines in a long time, and history will definitely not forget it. Here’s wishing the players a successful run at their new clubs!