Jude Bellingham. SUR
The deal of the summer

The deal of the summer

Jude Bellingham's €103-million transfer to Real Madrid has been the highlight; otherwise the market has been quiet

Rob Palmer - Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 30 June 2023, 15:25


There's quite a contrast between the cash-crazy Premier League (EPL) and the cash conscious approach of their La Liga counterparts as a summer of transfer activity is about to move up a notch.

The phone alarms of the leading football directors are set for 1st July when current contracts expire and new deals can be negotiated. The norm is for footballers' employment to run until 30th June which means that they can become free agents the following day.

The deal of the summer has undoubtedly been Jude Bellingham's €103 million transfer to Real Madrid. He was the "must-have" footballer and Real completed early. Apart from that, the market has been quiet as Liga clubs look for value. İlkay Gündoğan moved to fc Barcelona as his contract expired and he can move freely. Compare this to the EPL, where multi-million-pound transfers are being announced every day. The headliner was Declan Rice from West Ham to Arsenal. The price appeared to be inflated as Manchester City were reported to have declared an interest - though I suspect this was a ploy to bump up the price.

The benchmark for an international in the EPL appears to be around £40 million. Anything less and the player is regarded as average. Kai Havertz and James Maddison both moved to London clubs for fees in that ballpark this week.

Here in Spain, there's no such deals being done. A player either sees out his contract or a loan is arranged. Sometimes a fee can be arranged for a high-earning player with an English club that has money to burn.

The Spanish approach is to wait until 1st July and see what agreements can be reached. If a player hasn't accepted an offer from his existing club, he's free to go where he's wanted.

Barcelona operate smartly in this arena. Gündoğan this summer follows Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso from Chelsea twelve months ago plus Franck Kessié from AC Milan. The previous summer, they picked up Netherlands international Memphis Depay when he became a free agent.

Real Madrid's approach is to invest in young talent. Bellingham was a rare big-money signing. Equally as significant was the €60 million paid to Palmeiras to secure the future of 16-year-old Brazilian Endrick. He'll follow Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo from South America – both incredible success stories.

There is a war chest just in case Kylian Mbappé does become available - but that would be the exception. In the meantime, Joselu - on loan from Espanyol - will fill the gap created by the unexpected decision of Karim Benzema to head to Saudi Arabia.

Over in England there's been much crowing over the number of players heading to the Saudi Pro League. This has been prompted by one or two choosing millions of Riyals instead of millions of English pounds.

I believe that the development of the Saudi league will be a godsend for the top English clubs. Where else will the players who have outlived their usefulness, yet still have a couple of years on their contract, head to?

Spanish, Italian, German and French clubs can't afford the inflated wages of the surplus stars, so the fledgling Saudi clubs provide a welcome outlet. Just this week, N'Golo Kanté, Kalidou Koulibaly and Édouard Mendy eased Chelsea's wage bill by boarding a jet to Riyadh.

Players moving to Saudi and England are more likely to travel first-class; swapping Spanish clubs are more budget travel kind of guys.

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