The summer transfer window is open, in full swing, and Europe’s top clubs are already making their moves.
Barcelona have bought Miralem Pjanic, Juventus have signed Arthur, Borussia Dortmund have picked up Thomas Meunier, Tottenham Hotspur have sealed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s signature…the list is already a strong one, and it’ll only get longer.
We’ll need a year or two to see exactly how these moves pan out, but fans will cross their fingers and toes that the deals turn out as wildly successful as some of those we’ve seen in previous windows.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen clubs strike gold in the market, either working relative miracles on a budget or nailing their headline signings. They’ve set some standard to live up to.
Here, B/R selects a cluster of Europe’s top clubs and picks the best signing by each since 2010. The criteria used to judge naturally involve price, longevity and in some cases the sell-on fee received, but all of those factors are trumped by the sheer impact a player has made if he’s played a transformative role in a club’s fortunes.
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Striker
Cost: £57m, 2018
Adam Davy/Associated Press
We kick off with a genuinely difficult one, as Arsenal can point to a glut of players who have had a similarly strong impact on the club over the last 10 years.
Laurent Koscielny held the defence together for a long time, Santi Cazorla is a legend, Olivier Giroud and Mikel Arteta had profound impacts in silverware-winning seasons, and Alexis Sanchez was one of the best players in the Premier League during his time in North London.
But for this pick, we’re going more recent: Aubameyang, signed in 2018, has a better than one-in-two goal ratio for the club—goodness knows where they’d be without his goals—and has made good on his substantial fee.
His brace in the FA Cup final led the Gunners to a record 14th victory in the competition, having scored a brace in the semi-final to get them there in the first place. He’s the shining light, the big smile, the acrobatic entertainer and, most importantly, the deadly goalscorer that headlines Arteta’s side right now.
Honourable Mention: Laurent Koscielny
Atletico Madrid: Diego Godin, Defender
Cost: £7m, 2010
Andres Kudacki/Associated Press
For the best part of a decade (2010-19), Godin was the heart and soul of an Atletico side that terrified opposing attackers—yes, even the best.
His smashmouth approach to football suited Diego Simeone’s tactical intentions perfectly, and he led the meanest defensive line in Europe season after season, inspiring them to a La Liga title and two Champions League finals.
He changed the culture, the expectation and the reputation of the club. Not bad for a modest fee of €8 million from Villarreal.
Honourable Mention: Filipe Luis
Bayern Munich: Robert Lewandowski, Striker
Cost: Free, 2014
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press
Lewandowski on a free? It might just be the best deal on this entire list, let alone the best deal Bayern Munich have struck in the last 10 years.
He’s scored 244 goals from 286 games and counting, the Pole spearheading what is expected to be a convincing charge toward a Champions League title from Die Roten, and picked up all sorts of domestic silverware since signing in 2014.
Honourable Mention: Joshua Kimmich