The transfer window is over and the spot light will finally be back on the pitch, at least till January. TheHardTackle reflects back on how the top clubs across Europe fared this summer.

Chelsea

ChelseaThe has been quite a good transfer window for the West London club. Despite winning the Champions League, it was quite clear that there was a pressing need for the club to reinvent, reinvigorate and replace the ageing core of the team. The focus has firmly been on recruiting talented young players rather than established superstars at the peak of their powers, as had been the case previously. Big money was spent, but on players under the age of 23. Hazard, Oscar, Marin, Moses, and Azpilicueta were signed for a combined fee in the region of £75m.

Drogba, Kalou and Bosingwa all left after their contracts had expired, while Essien and Benayoun were sent out on loan from the first team, in addition to about 21 youth prospects.

However, this doesn’t mean that all areas of the pitch are well covered. The Blues are terribly short of strikers with Torres, Sturridge and maybe Moses being the only possible options. An injury or a bout of poor form for Torres could throw the cat amongst the pigeons. Central midfield isn’t particularly strong either, unless Oscar shocks one and all and adapts to life in deep midfield much before he’s actually expected to.

Overall, a fairly good window for the Blues. One that saw Chelsea look beyond the style of football and the core of players that had become synonymous with the club.

Transfer Window Rating – 8/10

Arsenal

In what promised to be an exciting Summer Transfer Window with early acquisition of top-class Internationals, Arsenal ended the activity on 31st August in rather disappointing fashion. They just managed to loan out a few fringe players to other clubs and even ended up selling some of their prized ‘youth projects’ who were supposed to make it big at the club.Santi Cazorla is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important buy of the season. He has already seamlessly fitted into the Arsenal system, as if he has played for them for years now, linking up play excellently, perhaps showing a player like him can fit into any good ‘football playing’ team. Podolski and Giroud are replacements for Robin van Persie, two players needed to be bought to cover up for the loss of the Dutchman to Manchester United. Both the players are seasoned campaigners with loads of International experience, they are proven goal-scorers, but need to work really hard and start delivering the goods for the Gunners. Overall, it has been a decent Summer Transfer Window financially, 36 Million Pounds spent with those three fantastic purchases and 38 million Pounds received from the sales of van Persie and Alex Song, who changed allegiance to Barcelona FC.

Transfer Window Rating – 7/10

Liverpool

Liverpool fans have mixed feelings about this transfer window. Although Rodgers has managed to get in some quality players like Allen and Sahin over the summer, they missed out on some of their targets like Dempsey and Sigurdsson to Tottenham.

FSG had a clearly outlined strategy for the summer window which was echoed in Rodgers’ transfer dealings. Conscious efforts were made to offload squad players on high wages and rope in fresh young talent. Liverpool trimmed the squad and sold several senior players like Kuyt, Maxi and Bellamy. Fans were expecting at least one or two arrivals on deadline day especially after the departure of Carroll to West Ham. It was not to be however and Liverpool now find themselves short of striking options. After being wasteful in their transfer dealings in the last summer under Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish, one can only wonder who Rodgers might have been able to bring in with the same financial backing. The rebuilding process has certainly started under the new manager but The Reds will need to get in reinforcements over the January window. Overall, one would be fairly satisfied with the deals in this window. Liverpool have bought bought well and have not overpaid for any player. However, the inability to close deals on deadline day does leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Transfer Window Rating – 6/10

Manchester City

Quite surprisingly, City were very quite in the early part of the transfer window. Former City Chairman, in an interview to TheHardTackle said –

“It seems we need to get a few big earners off the payroll before we make any more signings, that seems reasonable. We were never going to keep spending like we have been doing, that was all about building a title winning squad. We did that, so the odd tweak here and there will be what I expect over the next few windows.”

City did manage to get some of their big earners off their payroll as Adebayor went to Tottenham, Roque Santa Cruz joined Malaga on loan, while Nigel de Jong was sold to AC Milan. Jack Rodwell was brought in earlier on in the window and with de Jong departing, the former Everton man will get a lot of game time this season. He seemed to be astute buy and one with potential to develop in future.

Roberto Mancini did show is frustration openly on City’s lack of transfer activity as he saw his primary target Robin van Persie joining the other team from Manchester. But City had a very busy deadline day as they signed Richard Wright as their third choice goal-keeper, Maicon from Inter and their big money signing this summer – Javi Garcia. It is yet to be seen where Garcia will fit into the team, looks like he can replace Rodwell in the starting line-up. Overall, City already had a squad with depth, so they didn’t need any drastic change, but managing to offload some deadwood from the squad will help Mancini balance the books as FFP looms large.

Transfer Window Rating – 7/10

Manchester United

Robin van Persie_Manchester UnitedDespite finishing 2nd to Manchester City only on goal difference and the manager urging the fans to keep faith in the squad, the wily Old Scot knew deep down that the squad needs to be strengthened. The showings in Europe (both in the Champions League as well as Europa League) highlighted the obvious shortcomings in the United roster and the fans were hoping that the manager will take out his cheque book to avoid any such repetition.

Although the fans craved for a quality central midfielder who never arrived, Sir Alex did give the fans reasons to be cheerful. While Nick Powell and Angelo Henriquez are the one for the future and Alex Buttner as a back-up for Patrice Evra, Shinjji Kagawa and Robin van Persie have definitely added quality to the squad. The club did lose out on two potential gems in Hazard and Moura, but then their arrival might have restrained Fergie to sign the likes of RvP and Kagawa.

Kagawa looks to have taken to the league like duck to water as suggested by his brilliant performances in the opening two games of the season. Van Persie, as known to all, is a match-winner in his own right and a natural goal scorer who has the ability to create something out of nothing as he did against Fulham at Old Trafford. The signings of Kagawa and RvP have also taken some pressure off Wayne Rooney and it also gives a chance to the manager to rest his talismanic striker – something which he was unable to do in the previous seasons.

All in all, it has been a more than satisfying window for Manchester United. However, some supporters will still bemoan the failure to bolster the midfield with a ball winner in the mould of Cheik Tiote (say), even though Ferguson has made it evidently clear that such a player does not fit into his scheme of things at the club. Hence, no real surprise there.

Transfer Window Rating – 8/10

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs started off brightly with the capture of Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson along with young coach Andre Vilas Boas. Redknapp had a big squad but he didn’t use most of the squad players eventually resulting in burnout of key players.

Most of these players were not suited for Vilas Boas tactics as he identified the weak-spots in the team during pre-season. Daniel Levy and Vilas Boas started the new era with the plan of chopping deadwoods and adding talented young players who were available at the right price. The departure of Modric was inevitable; Levy and team didn’t buckle under pressure and made the best possible deal. Van der vaart was not fit enough to match Vilas Boas template and was offloaded at the right price. There were many more exits of unwanted players and the replacements were much younger, mobile and sharper which bides well with the Tottenham plan.

Lloris deal might prove out to be the answer for the long serving goalkeeping problem for Spurs. Vertonghen’s addition adds the missing piece in defense in the absence of retired Ledley king. Midfield looks more balanced with the arrivals of Sigurdsson, Dembele and Dempsey; all proven performers at EPL. Adebayor returned to fulfil his white hart Lane role but this area is looking thin at the moment. Spurs might have missed a target man (Damio) and a deep lying playmaker (Moutinho) but overall it was one of the best transfer windows Lillywhites can expect.

Transfer Window Rating – 8/10

Barcelona

It might not be apparent, but the turbulence in the Catalan camp is evident. As if the threat posed by Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho wasn’t enough, Vilanova also has to deal with the constant comparison with Guardiola – perhaps the most successful coach in the recent past. However, the struggle to break out of Guardiola’s shadows is perhaps engulfing the Catalans. The acquisition of Alex Song particularly, is perhaps a testimony. Guardiola sold Toure. Vilanova bought Song. Similar players – just that Toure is a better player by quite a distance.

Jordi Alba was a no-brainer. The left side had to be secured. And for a man as frugal as Rosell, Alba, a former La Masia product and with just a year left on his contract was the ideal choice. Daniel Agger, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes – the quality was available. Only the price had to be fixed. Unwillingness to do so, coming from a club, who are willing to spend more than a fortune on some Brazilian kid, untested in Europe, is not understandable. The second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Bernabeu made it evident that Barcelona doesn’t exactly consider the old-school defending as a part of the game. Ideally the club should have bolstered the defense first. The promotion of youngsters is a beautiful idea – quite romantic actually; but not exactly when a club has to make up for the ground lost. The last thing a fan would want to see is one of the recently promoted La Masia kids taking on Cristiano alone. Even Adriano did an extremely sloppy job and not everybody is Davide Santon.

Transfer Window Rating – 6/10

Real Madrid

For the first time, in many years Real Madrid have had a sane transfer window. While fans of other clubs look forward to new signings each other, fans of Real Madrid were tired of a flurry of signings each other and the unstability it bought to the team.

Thankfully under Mourinho, the team has not been tinkered with and barring the signing of Modric and Michael Essien, there have been no new additions to the sqaud. The club has also managed to offload quite a few players to either make way for others,or to afford them better playing time. Ideally the departure of Kaka would have saved a lot of money, Mourinho will be happy with the players at his disposal. All said and done, fans and the club with be delighted with the transfer window.

Transfer Window Rating – 7/10

Bayern Munich

For a club of Bayern’s stature, two barren seasons were a bit too much to accept. It was expected that Bayern will spend a lot to bring in new players to launch an expected revival. And of course, a few names were expected to leave to make way for the new joinees. The likes of Breno, Petersen, Olic and Usami left as expected. The signings gave a fair enough idea that Bayern are looking to improve their bench strength instead of  going for an overhaul.

Mandzukic and Pizarro were brought on to replace Petersen and Olic. The signings only meant that instead of going for bit players, Bayern are actually looking to make Gomez’s spot competitive so that Gomez takes the chances coming his way more seriously than before. The signing of Dante was meant to consolidate the defense. Starke offers a perfect foil for Neuer. Bayern’s flying wingmen, ‘Robbery’ earlier had no replacements and in case of an injury to any one of them did cost Bayern a few good points at times. Signing of Shaqiri and Wieser ushers in the able back-up to the wingers. In fact, versatile Shaqiri can claim stake even in Kroos’s central attacking position or in the right-back position.

The prolonged transfer saga of Javi Martinez ended on a positive note for the Bavarians, but only after coughing up their record transfer fee in the process. Martinez offers depth in the midfield as well in defense and could prove to be pivotal for Bayern in the seasons to come. However, sooner Heynckes solves the riddle of where to put Martinez the better for the side. With Schweinsteiger and Gustavo already available on the holding role, one of them will have to sit out to accomodate Martinez and Gustavo looks like the likeliest candidate. A bit unfortunate for him as he emulated van Bommel to perfection in the last season. All in all, a busy and expensive start to the season for Bayern and the fans can only pray that these are the missing pieces in the Bayern lineup.

Transfer Window Rating – 8/10

Juventus

Juventus’ transfer campaign began strongly but ended with a whimper. The Old Lady was one of the earliest movers in Serie A transfer market as they snapped up the Udinese duo Isla and Asamoah, both excellent additions to the team. Lucio was brought in as a free agent to add experience. Sebastien Giovinco was finally given the much awaited chance of proving himself in Juve as he was brought back from Parma. Martin Caceres and Emanele Giaccherini were brought in permanently sfter impressing last season. The club also made a number of interesting young acquisitions. Among them Paul Pogba, Alberto Masi, Nicola Leali and Richmond Boakye are ones to watch out for. Despite strengthening most of the Juventus squad, Giuseppe Marotta failed to bolster the area that needed it most – attack. The club was linked to a number of high profile strikers throughout the transfer window but failed to sign any of them due to financial constraints. In the end Juventus had to settle for a free loan of Nicklas Bendtner from Arsenal, hardly and addition which will improve the strike force. Among exits, the most notable was that of Milos Krasic. Overall it was a pretty good transfer campaign for Juventus though their failure to rope in a quality goal scorer may come back haunt them in future.

Transfer Window Rating – 7/10

AC Milan

What started off as a nightmare actually ended pretty well for the Lombardy club. With the mass exodus of talents from Milan, the transfer of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic not only demoralized Milan but it became so intense that fans wanted a refund of season tickets. The most expensive trasfer for this transfer window was that of Thiago Silva, £36.96 million – a record for a defender anywhere. Milan could’ve spent the money earned straightaway, but as Berlusconi said in a recent interview – “Milan are not in a position to spend 50 million every year. Times have changed, the nature of football has changed.” As has been the trend with Milan since few years, the focus was more on loan deals and free transfer rather than outright buys – a way to soften the financial blow. In came Sulley Muntari, Riccardo Montolivo, Bakaye Traoré on free transfers, Cristian Zapata, Francesco Acerbi – the Chievo defender for a paltry £3.5 million and Gabriel, the 19-year-old goal-keeper from Brazil who featured in the Olympics. Misfiring Taiwo was loaned off to Dynamo Kyiv while the loan deals of Maxi Lopez and Alberto Aquilani were terminated. When all seemed dead, Milan suddenly awoke in the final days of the transfer window and brought in Bojan Krkić on a season-long loan deal and Nigel de Jong for £3.08 million. The most surprising transfer of this window seemed to be that of Giampaolo Pazzini, who was swapped with Cassano with Internazionale alongwith £11 million. Only time will tell how wise the last transfer was.

Transfer Window Rating – 6/10

Inter

Inter have had a brilliant transfer window this time around, probably even the side with the best transfers in the Serie A. They’ve successfully managed to weed out the more senior players who were taking a massive toll on their wage bill, and bring in cheaper yet more efficient players. The Antonio Cassano swap deal with Milan, which left Inter fans in good humour but Milan fans fuming, just epitomizes the Nerrazzuri’s cracking transfer period. An A+ if this were to go onto a report card.

Transfer Window Rating – 8/10