Mike on six European signings he’s excited to see in action
Forget Hummels, Higuain and Pogba. Let’s take a closer look at the European transfer market. Who’s gone where and for how much?
1. Gianluca Lapadula (Pescara to AC Milan, €9million)
Van Basten. Shevchenko. Ibrahimović. And now… Gianluca Lapadula? You could argue that Milan’s signing of Pescara’s Lapadula says everything you need to know about their fall in the pecking order of both European and Italian football. He’s 26, never scored a goal in Serie A, and will be expected to offer something lacking in the game of Carlos Bacca. In other ways it’s a fantastic signing – or at the very least fantastically Italian. Lapadula was the top goalscorer in Serie B last year with 27 goals. It’s a bit like if Arsenal signed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to ignite their attack back in 2009. Or if Manchester United sought Jordan Rhodes in the summer of 2015. Lapadula has played in many of Italy’s threadbare lower leagues and his story provides an element of intrigue to the new season. Despite his free scoring last campaign he is comfortable coming deeper to collect the ball and is an asset anywhere across the final third. At 26 he should be approaching his peak – but he’s Italian so he’ll probably peak in around six years’ time. The signing is just crazy enough to work out. Pescara has played developmental host to some fine international footballers in the last decade including Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Marco Verratti.
2. Ganso (Sao Paolo to Sevilla, €9.1 million)
No, this isn’t our list of ‘Six Football Manager signings who never fulfilled their potential’ – Paulo ‘Ganso’ Henrique really has arrived in Europe. Ganso to some, Paolo Henrique to others, the Brazilian playmaker was the one you plucked from Santos on Football Manager 2011 that wasn’t Neymar. Last month Sevilla completed a €9.1 million signing from Sao Paolo and, in a window of dizzying headlines, this transfer borders on shrewd business. Whilst Neymar quickly became the archetypal Brazilian poster-boy, Ganso struggled with media attention and his form dipped soon after. This lead to a number of mediocre seasons and, ultimately, a far more low-key move to Europe than anybody would have previously expected. It’s not all doom and gloom however; Sevilla could be the perfect club for Ganso to make his mark. The club sit behind Spain’s ‘big three’ in almost every department but are proven winners in European football and have a crisp, balanced style. Ganso may find himself sitting deeper than his previous ‘number 10’ role, asked to dictate play rather than produce his trademark final balls. A new look midfield includes Palermo’s Franco Vazquez and the on loan Luciano Vietto.
3. Denis Suarez (Villarreal to Barcelona, €3.5 million)
In a ‘homecoming’ nowhere near as ridiculous as Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester, Barcelona opted to take advantage of their buy back clause and bring 22-year old Denis Suarez back to the Nou Camp. The Spaniard’s had a solid few years since leaving Manchester City with just a handful of cup appearances. He was an integral part of Villarreal’s Europa League semi-final run last season and possesses all the traits of a typical Barcelona winger. Whilst donning the Catalan red and blue can represent the pinnacle of Spanish football, Suarez will face serious competition to even get a game. Lionel Messi and Neymar are certain starters, as is his namesake Luis Suarez. There’s not much room to breathe beneath that trio’s talent but the new man could end up in the role once filled by Chelsea’s Pedro. He’ll have fewer opportunities to make his mark than at Villarreal but could still fit seamlessly into the hierarchy of the La Liga champions.
4. Nicola Sansone (Sassuolo to Villarreal, €13 million)
Denis Suarez out, Nicola Sansone in. Last season Sassuolo built on their previous campaign by upsetting the Serie A apple cart and taking the final Europa League spot. Their success was built on great performances all through the squad but two men – Sansone and Domenico Berardi – stood out as regular scorers and the providers of spark. Sassuolo are no strangers to losing star players and whilst they fought hard to keep Berardi, Sansone left for Spain for €13 million. The Italian’s 24 years old, capped once, and nets goals from wide positions. He should fit nicely into the La Liga ethos and could be upgrading Europa League football for the Champions League should Villarreal progress through their group stage qualifier. Villarreal have been busy this window recruiting fellow Italian Roberto Soriano and the enigma that is Alexander Pato.
5. Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg to Borussia Dortmund, €30 million)
For the first time in a while, Bayern Munich may find Dortmund a serious league threat. They’ve always had handfuls of top talent to go with their excellent set-up and wonderful fans but this year they’ve responded to Munich’s movements by flexing some of their own financial muscle. Mario Gotze returns, Raphael Guerreiro and Marc Bartra have been brought into the defence and teenager Ousmane Dembele chose Signal Iduna Park as his new home. On top of these they’ve brought in Andre Schurrle for €30 million. This almost feels like a luxury signing – but it’s about time Dortmund treated themselves. Schurrle is well known in Germany following spells with Leverkusen and Wolfsburg and offers very few surprises. The flip side is that he guarantees a level of performance and can fit into a number of systems. Describing the World Cup winner as a utility forward doesn’t do him justice. He might not bag you twenty goals but Schurrle will combine a boyish eagerness with years of Bundesliga experience. He strikes me as the perfect guy to have on the pitch when you’re trying to upset the giants of Munich.
6. Jeremy Menez (AC Milan to Bordeaux, undisclosed)
When will Jeremy Menez have that one big season? He got close in 2014-15 when scoring 16 goals in a fruitless Milan campaign – but he reversed any progression with a scrappy and injury hit final season. The skilful Frenchman has a succession of good goals – including this one vs. Parma – but exists awkwardly between a central striker and natural winger and his career has never really taken off. A perpetual frustration in his home country, he now finds himself back there having signed for Bordeaux. His glimpses of class remain too good to dismiss and he’ll once again start the season with a weight of expectation. Finishing 11th last time around, Bordeaux need a nudge up the league and a forward to score more than ten league goals – in an ideal world, Menez provides both. The early signs are not good but in no way Menez’s fault; he lost the top of his ear after being accidentally struck by the boot of Lorient’s Didier Ndong. Bordeaux will have to wait before seeing a return on their undisclosed fee.