Messi Moves, Saudi Spree And Dec's Decision: The Summer Transfer Window Is Back

This summer has felt like a throwback to a more frenzied time
12:00, 01 Jul 2023

For something that arrives with such hype, the transfer window often passes without much incident. In comparison to the dizzying highs of Sir Alex Ferguson chasing Dimitar Berbatov down at the airport, Peter Odemwingie turning up in his car or Robinho being politely informed he’d actually signed for Manchester City, recent windows have been a bit more tepid. But the 2023/24 summer window already seems set to shatter that trend, with a multitude of big moves and high-profile incidents taking place already.

A big reason for this year’s market revival has been the dawn of the new age in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Pro League used to be rather inward-facing, until Al-Nassr signed one Cristiano Ronaldo last winter. Since football’s most famous player emigrated to the country, a flock of big names have followed.


This summer has seen Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, Chelsea and Leicester City legend N’golo Kante and Wolves’ sought-after midfielder Ruben Neves among those joining the league. Manchester City’s Riyadh Mahrez, departing Liverpool man Roberto Firmino and Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech are also reportedly close to completing moves. These seem unlikely to be the last either, with reams of players linked with a dash to the gulf state.

The knock-on effect here is that, with so much talent leaving from the Premier League and beyond, replacements are needed. Whatever you think of the Saudi project, it is stimulating transfer business elsewhere. Chelsea in particular are likely to spend another summer heavily-involved in the market. Along with Chelsea teammates Kante and Ziyech, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy have also signed Saudi deals. Couple this with the sale of Mateo Kovacic to Man City and there will be definite activity as Mauricio Pochettino gets his feet under the table at the club’s Cobham training ground.

Away from the Stamford Bridge revolving door and the Saudi arrivals lounge, there has been plenty of other compelling narratives in this window already. Jude Bellingham finally secured his big move, signing for Real Madrid. Still only 20 years old, it has felt like an eternity since he was the precocious Birmingham City youngster taking his pick of Europe’s elite clubs. He wisely chose Borussia Dortmund, the elite German finishing school that also moulded Erling Haaland. Jude’s decision saw him earn 24 England caps while still a teenager. Now it has landed him a chance to strut his stuff at the Bernabeu.


Another England midfielder whose name is on everyone’s lips this summer is Declan Rice. The West Ham United star is fresh from helping his side lift the Europa Conference League. Now Arsenal and Manchester City are duking it out for his signature. Like Bellingham, it’s a long-awaited move that has been tentatively tipped during every recent transfer window. And like his England teammate, Rice now seems ready to take the plunge.

Their international captain may be on the move too. Tottenham Hotspur talisman Harry Kane is weighing up at move to Bayern Munich, with the Bundesliga champions having already had one bid rejected. Originally expected to be fought over by Manchester United and Real Madrid, it now seems like Bavaria or bust. With his Spurs contract due to run out next summer, it feels like something monumental surrounding Kane is coming during this window.

The Manchester United mess surrounding David De Gea continues apace. News emerged this week that he signed a contract on reduced terms, only for the club to renege on it and offer even less money. With the Red Devils eyeing a move for Andre Onana, it seems unlikely De Gea will remain at the club much longer.


United are responsible for another unfolding saga in this busiest of windows with their pursuit of Chelsea’s Mason Mount. Another player with a year left on his deal, the 20-time English champions had several bids rejected before Chelsea reportedly accepted £60 million terms on Thursday. Erik ten Hag was expected to prioritise a striker this summer, with Anthony Martial the only out-and-out centre forward in his squad. But instead, Mount has been signed to ease the burden on Christian Eriksen and provide an upgrade on Fred and Scott McTominay alongside Casemiro.

Everywhere you look this summer there’s a story. Lionel Messi swapping Parc Des Princes for Inter Miami, after a brief hint of a return to Barcelona. Ilkay Gundogan instead taking his place in Catalonia after leaving Manchester City. Liverpool starting their much-needed rebuild with Alexis Mac Allister. Chelsea doing the same with Christopher Nkunku. Leicester City’s James Maddison pitching up at Tottenham Hotspur. 

There’s enough meat on the bone here that it’s hard to believe we’re barely out of July. Entire transfer windows have featured less blockbuster stories than this one and it’s only a month old. Allowing for emerging stories and desperation moves, this may even end up being the busiest summer trading period ever. While there is no guarantee these signings will work for the teams making them, that’s part of the fun. And if they don’t, perhaps we’ll see some of these players move on in a similarly-frenzied window next summer.

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