Messi, PSG & Madrid: Winners and losers of the summer transfer window

FT Desk
FT Desk
  • Updated: 2 Sept 2023 00:01 BST
  • 4 min read
Lionel Messi celebrates his goalscoring debut for Inter Miami
© ProShots

The end of the transfer window is upon us, and it has been one hell of a ride.

From big-money deals in Europe's top-five leagues to ambitious new boys from across the world, the moves have come thick and fast over the last few months.

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And the ramifications from this summer window might have a real long-term impact, changing the face of the game forever.

Deadline Day: Every confirmed transfer around Europe

As always, some have fared better from the frenzy of wheelings and dealings and some may well feel short-changed.

Who, then, are the real winners and losers of this roller-coaster of a transfer window?

WINNER - Saudi Arabia

There are few precedents for what the middle eastern nation has done to the sport over the last nine months or so.

Perhaps only Colombia in the 1940s, during its short-lived El Dorado heyday, or China for a brief period this past decade, have caused so much upheaval to the established order; but even those examples pale in comparison to the millions that have poured out of Saudi Arabia.

The likes of Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino and many others have turned their back on Europe for the Pro League, following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo. It is perhaps the most ambitious project football has ever seen, and while its long-term success or sustainability cannot be predicted it has certainly set the cat among the pigeons.

LOSER - European football

The Premier League generally avoided the fiercest depredations of the Saudi incursion, thanks to its own astronomical wealth. The rest of the continent was not so lucky.

Celta's sale of Gabri Veiga to Al-Ahli has been greeted in apocalyptic terms by much of Spanish football, mourning the loss of one of its top young talents to Saudi Arabia.

And it is not just Spain. Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 were all overwhelmingly net sellers over the summer window, and with a few notable exceptions sat quietly on the sidelines while the big deals occurred elsewhere.

WINNER - Real Madrid

One of those notable exceptions, unsurprisingly enough, is the mighty Merengue.

Bellingham has made an instant impact at Madrid
© ProShots - Bellingham has made an instant impact at Madrid

Madrid have been one of the market's slickest operators in recent years and proved so again this summer, moving for young hotshots Jude Bellingham and Arda Guler in the wake of Benzema's departure.

Bellingham in particular has proved a roaring success already, and with nine points from as many games in La Liga the Blancos once more look to be a force to be reckoned with.

LOSER - Everton

It looks set to be another bleak season around Goodison Park.

Having struggled against relegation throughout 2022-23 the Toffees barely registered during the window, signing just three players: 38-year-old Ashley Young and Portuguese duo Youssef Chermiti and Beto.

With zero points so far in the Premier League and no more new faces coming, there is little optimism around the blue side of Merseyside.

WINNER - Inter Miami and Lionel Messi

It is amazing what a strong transfer window can do for a team.

Particularly if your headline signings happen to be the best player in the world and two of his former team-mates, famed for being on the same wavelength!

Inter have enjoyed a startling change of fortunes since landing Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, winning the Leagues Cup in thrilling fashion and racking up 10 straight games without defeat.

Messi too looks a changed man after his frustrating time at PSG, playing once more with a smile on his face as he takes apart MLS' best week-in, week-out.

The smile is back on Messi's face in Miami
© ProShots - The smile is back on Messi's face in Miami


To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: to lose one generational talent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.

So spare a thought for Paris Saint-Germain, who came perilously close to losing three. Lionel Messi and Neymar both jumped ship, while Kylian Mbappe was embroiled once again in a will-he, won't-he melodrama before finally pledging his reluctant commitment to the club as Real Madrid bide their time.

Even with all that upheaval - and many more departures aside - PSG should still stroll to the Ligue 1 title, but while they hope that a new-look attack including fresh summer signings Ousmane Dembele and Randal Kolo Muani can click with Mbappe, they look no closer to the Champions League than when this whole project started more than a decade ago.

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