This summer's transfer window was one for the books. Between Messi going to the MLS, the Saudis spending more recklessly that a trust fund kid with daddy's credit card at Loro Piana, and Chelsea snatching up every player with a pulse, clubs spent a combined €7.63b this window – eclipsing 2019's worldwide record of €7.57b. That's a lot of vicuña. 🦙
Here are the players, leagues, executives, and ungulates who gained – or lost – the most in a record-breaking summer that will be remembered for sculpting the landscape of the sport for decades:
Winner: Kai Havertz (The Donkey)
Kai Havertz and Kai Havertz
There will be no shortage of chow at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, where a donkey named after the German international will receive a windfall in the form of straw and dried sugar beet pulp after Havertz (the footbalzler) signed a mega-deal with Arsenal. The 24-year-old inked a five-year contract that will earn him £331k a week, which is plenty enough to make his rescue donkeys happily overlook their provider's questionable on-field performance.
🤦 Loser: Gabri Veiga's Blossoming Career
The highly-coveted 21-year-old snubbed a move to Napoli in favor of Saudi Pro League side Al-Ahli, where his €10m salary is apparently more than enough to justify throwing away his chances of becoming a world-class player. Veiga better hope Toni Kroos doesn't join him anytime soon.
💸 Winner: The Saudi Public Investment Fund
Mohammed bin Salman’s plan is all coming together
The Saudis set out with a goal of "propelling the national economy with the impact felt well beyond Saudi borders," and boy oh boy, did they sure as hell achieve it. Saudi Pro League clubs spent a whopping €846m on transfer fees this summer – the second-most of any league, with big-name players like Karim Benzema, Neymar, and Sadio Mané leading the oil-fueled exodus from Europe.
🇧🇷 Loser: Vinícius Júnior
Real Madrid spent €130m this summer – most of it on Jude Bellingham – but failed to secure a Karim Benzema replacement, meaning Vini Jr. is having to reluctantly fill the void at striker. Benzema was on the end of 11 of Vini's 21 assists last season, all of which came from the Brazilian's preferred position at left wing.
🌴 Winner: Miami
Argentine artist Max Bagnasco’s ode to the GOAT 🐐
Lionel Messi moving to the Sunshine State has done things for the economy that Governor DeSantis could only dream of. Some reports suggest that the GOAT's arrival will generate $400m in tourism revenue and create 12,000 new jobs for the city. The Messi boost is best exemplified by Inter Miami's Instagram page, which has grown from fewer than 1 million followers to nearly 15 million since just mid-July.
📉 Loser: Todd Boehly's Bank Account
At least the Dodgers are good
Chelsea continued their rampant spending this summer, adding ten players for a combined fee of €417m. The Blues' spending has eclipsed €1b since Boehly and Clearlake Capital took over the club in May 2022, though it's not entirely clear who's footing the bill for a club who has twice broken the Premier League transfer record this year.
😤 Winner: James Maddison
Take note, Apple Product Managers: now this is an upgrade. The 26-year-old midfielder completed a move from Championship-bound Leicester to Tottenham, where he now earns £60,000 more per week and is making a case for being the first name on Ange Postecoglou's team sheet.
🇪🇸 Loser: La Liga
La Liga President Javier Tebas, who said the Premier League is “financially doping”
Spanish clubs are still facing the repercussions of financial controls imposed a decade ago to solve widespread insolvency issues. Rules imposing salary restrictions, such as the total cost of a squad not exceeding 70% of the club’s income, have prevented clubs with cash to splash from investing this summer. La Liga's transfer expenditure totals only €398m in 2023, about one-sixth of what Premier League clubs have spent this summer alone (€2.4b). 🤯
👀 Winner: Brighton's Scouting Department
18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson is likely the next youngster that Brighton will profit from handsomely
The good folks at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre (rolls right off the tongue) are licking their chops after having offloaded Moisés Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister for a combined fee of €158m. What 19-year-old will they dig up out of the Ecuadorian Amazon next?