Even if you hate a never-ending stream of rumours, awkward Twitter announcements and flashy headlines splashed across newspapers, the summer transfer window is still one of the best parts of the year.
It’s exciting. It’s life-changing. It’s history-making. Simply put, it’s everything we love about sport, and even more.
The only question remains: what was the most intense, entertaining and I Can’t Believe It Actually Happened transfer window over the last 17 years? The one that made us jump all over the place, shake our heads, question everything, then ask for more?
We’ve remembered six great summers already, but now, after a brief break to let the dust settle on the latest one, it’s time to hand out the gold medal.
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The Transfer That Shook The World
Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid for €94m.
And here… we… are!
As our series has proved, there have been tons of remarkable transfers over the last 17 years. Ronaldinho, Beckham, Zidane, Bale, Neymar, Lampard, Rooney, Drogba… you could go on and on.
Undoubtedly, all of those guys not only took their well-deserved places in the history of the game but reshaped it, redefined it and inspired millions of people from all over the world along the way.
But Cristiano Ronaldo’s €94million move from Manchester to Madrid still beats pretty much everything.
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Firstly, the Portuguese’s arrival in La Liga started the single craziest rivalry of all time, and I’m not even talking just about football. Gates vs Jobs, De Niro vs Pacino, Ali vs Frazier, Nadal vs Federer, Coke vs Pepsi, Bird vs Magic, Barton vs Common Sense…
All of those matchups were great. But honestly, has there been anything like Ronaldo vs Messi? Like, ever?
Never before have we seen two guys dominating their field for so long, trying to top each other so fiercely, getting better and better year after year, breaking one record after another, falling down, standing up, never stopping, walking the same path over and over with a single question in mind: how do I beat the best and take it to the next level when no one even knew there was one?
Well, for Ronaldo and Messi the answer is simple – they just get it done. Wait till it’s 2040, look back, zoom out and all you’ll see is those two men.
Furthermore, Ronaldo’s move completely changed the state of European football. It didn’t happen overnight, but Real Madrid had struggled in both the Champions League and La Liga for most of the 21st century despite constant injections of star players and managers. Now?
Well, Los Blancos won three Champions League titles in four years to not only reach but surpass La Decima. And no one will be surprised if they win it a few more times before CR7 finally leaves the big stage
Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan to Barcelona (€69.5m), Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid (€65m), Xabi Alonso from Liverpool to Real Madrid (€35.4m), Karim Benzema from Lyon to Real Madrid (€35m), Mario Gomez from Stuttgart to Bayern Munich (€30m), Carlos Tevez from Manchester United to Man City (€29m), Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal to Man City (€29m).
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1) Beginning his second tenure as the most eccentric president in European football, Florentino Perez did what he knew best – went full Galacticos, from day one.
But, to be fair, it was just the beginning of the Galacticos 2.0 era. And what followed proved Perez had learned from his past mistakes as he went on to sign players like Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira a year later, and Luka Modric in 2012.
None of those players had the marketing power or commercial appeal of Zidane, Kaka and Ronaldo, but the signings of Alonso and Modric proved to be two of the smartest deals in Perez’s career – and the ones that played a huge part in helping the club overcome Barcelona’s ridiculous dominance.
2) Somehow, Mourinho’s Inter Milan never went over €30million for a player that summer yet still had arguably the most successful campaign of the top European clubs with the exception of Real Madrid (more on this later).
The Ultimate Bargain
Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid to Inter Milan for €15m.
Oh, yes. By the time Perez returned to Madrid, Los Blancos had already gotten over Ramon Calderon’s idea to turn Santiago Bernabeu into Little Holland.
In a three-year span from the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2009, the Merengues signed SIX Dutch players including Van Nistelrooy, Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Drenthe and Huntelaar. Wonder how many of them survived the first two years of Perez’s reign? Well, that would be none.
Anyway, while Madrid never truly missed any of those guys, two European clubs were more than happy to get their piece of the Dutch pie.
The first one – Bayern Munich – laid out €24million for Robben to watch him grow into one of the most celebrated players in Europe, brilliantly link up with the genius of Franck Ribery and carry the team to a gazillion trophies over the next eight years.
The other club was obviously Inter Milan – and very soon, it became clear that Sneijder’s €15million move to Italy might well have been one of the greatest deals ever.
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In four years in Serie A, the Dutch international not only clinched almost every trophy imaginable but nearly stole the Ballon d’Or from Ronaldo and Messi, helped the Nerazzurri win their first Champions League title in 40 years and went down in history as possibly the brightest star of the most magnificent Inter team of the century.
Just so you know: the exact same summer, Chelsea signed Yuri Zhirkov for €6million more than what Inter paid for the glorious Dutch man.
Honourable mention: Falcao from River Plate to Porto for €5.4million.
Top manager transfers
Carlo Ancelotti from AC Milan to Chelsea, Claudio Ranieri from Juventus to AS Roma, Louis van Gaal from AZ to Bayern Munich.
Nothing exceptional, but still pretty solid.
The Ultimate Burning Shirt Transfer
Alright… so, is it Carlos Tevez from Manchester United to Manchester City or Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal also to City?
Well, even if Tevez had tattooed Man City crest on his forehead the day after the move, Adebayor’s celebration just a couple of months after his transfer still wouldn’t be beaten. Any time you want to piss off an Arsenal fan, just remind him of that game.
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Epic Transfer Fail
My initial thought? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. My second thought? Dmytro Chygrynskiy.
Hold on, though, because this time, we’ve got something better…
Back in 2004, Rafa Benitez paid about £10million to bring Xabi Alonso to Liverpool. The Spaniard turned out to be an instant success: fans loved him, team-mates loved him, even enemies loved him.
He quickly became a hero at Anfield and not only helped the team do the impossible in Istanbul in 2005 but made everyone around him better week in, week out.
His Liverpool career was nearly flawless, but the same manager who had yanked Xabi out of Real Sociedad went on to voluntarily sell the guy in his prime, trying to replace him with Gareth Barry before paying £20million for Alberto Aquliani.
Over the last 20 years Liverpool managers made tons of ridiculous, inexplicable mistakes, but Alonso’s sale remains the single dumbest thing any of them could have possible done.
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Ibrahimovic trying to settle in at Guardiola’s Barcelona only to describe Pep as a “coward with no balls” in his book a few years later, screw up the Catalans’ 2009-10 Champions League campaign as well as the atmosphere in the dressing room, humiliate the manager in front of half of the team after the game in Milan and start one of the coolest player/manager rivalries in the game.
That was one heated summer for Barcelona.
The Club That Went Completely Nuts
Real spent €257million on eight new first-team players, including two recent Ballon d’Or winners. I mean… do I even need to say anything here?
Iconic Transfer Campaign That Changed Everything
For first time during this series, we have to include two clubs in this section – Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
While Real spent the summer of 2009 laying down foundations for the future super team by bringing in Ronaldo, Benzema and Alonso, Mourinho wanted instant success.
Sneijder, Milito, Eto’o, Lucio, Pandev – all of the guys signed by Inter in 2009 were key in the club’s Champions League-winning campaign, destroyed Barcelona in the semi-finals, carried the team to another Serie A title and helped San Siro regulars quickly forget about Zlatan and Adriano.
This was the year when Mourinho cemented his place as one of the greatest managers ever, started the sacred war with Guardiola and prepared himself for perhaps the biggest challenge of his career – the survival game under Perez at Madrid.
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To Sum It Up
The greatest summer transfer window in the 21st century had it all.
A world-record transfer of one of the best footballers ever, the beginning of the Galacticos 2.0, Mourinho’s perfect campaign, a couple of awesome Shirt Burning moves as well as one of the most polarising signings over the last 20 years (hey, Zlatan).
Plus, five European giants made signature transfers that year: Real Madrid signed Ronaldo, Bayern Munich bought Robben, Inter got Sneijder, Manchester City stole Tevez away from United, while Porto introduced Falcao to Europe, turned him into a goal-scoring monster, then went on to win the Europa League two years later with Falcao their leading scorer.
And yes, as mentioned earlier, the Ronaldo vs Messi rivalry started that year, too, making it the single most entertaining – and most important – plot line in football history.
Good bless you, the summer of 2009.
Eartha Pond does her best work off the pitch.
Paolo Di Canio was a bit mad. Mad but brilliant.
“No one can be the next Gazza.”
You really have to see this to believe it.
Will any of these keep their places this weekend?
Is Rashford really as good as Mbappe and Dembele?
Ioannou is delivering on his promise with APOEL.
Which teams made the most changes?
What a goal this would have been.
Seven minutes to get all 30.