The 2019 summer transfer window is a seller’s market.
Bloated fees have left clubs at bursting point in their attempts to finance crucial deals as teams see opportunity to cash in on their assets with the market gone wild.
The result is a change in perception of what is considered cheap and expensive as €30m has become the new €50m. There have been some standout signings, both over and underpriced, though.
We looked at four overpriced players first, now it’s time for the underpriced stars, but bear in mind loan deals and free signings aren’t up for consideration in this series.
Kostas Manolas €36m | Roma-Napoli
Roma’s failure to qualify for the Champions League this season means their hands have been tied by Financial Fair Play constraints.
To comply, assets had to be stripped and one of the biggest was Kostas Manolas.
Napoli paid up the Greek’s release clause, partnering one of Serie A’s finest centre-backs with another in the form of Kalidou Koulibaly.
Considering the tier Manolas sits in and the dearth of high-quality centre-backs around Europe, the fee is cheap.
In Manolas, Napoli have acquired a player who is absolutely electric and can genuinely claim to be one of the fastest defenders in Europe.
After all, there’s a reason he’s called ‘Greece Lightning’. The 28-year-old has the ability to cover vacated space in the channels as if a bolt has struck the pitch, just zipping into position before zapping the ball away.
Carlo Ancelotti’s remit is to win a major trophy in 2019/20 and the bedrock of their success could be cemented by signing a Greek cornerstone.
Julian Brandt €25m | Bayer Leverkusen-Borussia Dortmund
Take away the Mats Hummels and Paco Alcacer deals, and any one of Dortmund’s other summer buys could have featured after the Christian Pulisic money, plus change, was wisely reinvested into acquiring Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Nico Schulz.
Brandt is surely the highlight, though. The Germany international further developed his unique ‘Brandt’ of attacking qualities at the Bayer Leverkusen talent factory, embracing and thriving in multiple positions last season.
According to Whoscored.com, he was deployed in six different roles in 2018/19, although Peter Bosz made the bold move to shift him into a deeper midfield slot for the large part having pretty much lived out his career as a winger.
Brandt was outstanding, scoring seven goals and assisting a further 11. The 23-year-old, alongside his former team-mate Kai Havertz, represents the present and future of German football. He’ll likely feature in a double pivot with Axel Witsel in Lucien Favre’s 4-2-3-1, but Brandt can also provide cover for both Hazard and Jadon Sancho, he could even partner Marco Reus in a 4-1-4-1.
He’s young, fast, dynamic, can pass and shoot plus play in various positions – that’s a lot packaged into a €25m purchase.
Nabil Fekir €19.75m | Lyon-Real Betis
Jean-Michel Aulas has a reputation for being a tough negotiator, yet that seems rather misguided on the basis of some key Lyon sales.
Samuel Umtiti (€25m), Corentin Tolisso (€41.5m), Alexandre Lacazette (€53m) and now Nabil Fekir have all been sold for amounts below their true worth.
There’s the mitigating factors of Fekir entering the final year of his contract and the fact Liverpool pulled out of a deal last year because of concerns over an historic knee injury.
But the Reds were willing to pay €60m for the World Cup winner just a year ago and 12 months on his price plummeted without his talent doing the same.
Fekir is premier No10, his record of 69 goals and 46 assists in 193 run-outs for Lyon reflects that.
He’s the type of player who can create space for others through his quick movement, and unlock it for himself with quality control of the ball. Indeed, Fekir is a four-pronged attacker, one able to score, create, dribble and provide a genuine threat from set-pieces.
The 26-year-old can drop in and drive forward or arrive late to finish chances with conviction. There are not too many players of his ilk in world football and yet he has cost Betis a snip.
Okay, the Basque side had to sign his unheralded brother as well, and the deal with Lyon contained a 20 per cent sell-on clause, but the initial outlay is remarkably cheap.
Alexander Isak €6.5m | Borussia Dortmund-Real Sociedad
First it’s important to preface that there are strong reports Dortmund have wisely included a buy-back clause, but still €6.5m for Isak is an absurdly good piece of business for Sociedad.
The Swede has been likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, mainly because he’s a tall striker and Swedish, but the two are not alike.
Isak is altruistic and more of a team player, but he is an archetypal modern striker, a complete forward who can drop in to drive the build-up phase with a devastating right-foot to finish off attacks.
He was strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid before maturely deciding on Dortmund, yet his career stalled in Germany before a loan move to Willem II last season witnessed an explosion of his talent.
In Isak’s opening 12 league games after joining the Eredivisie side on a January loan, the 19-year-old recorded 12 goals.
He was outstanding beyond the goals as well, silky smooth on the ball and intelligent off it.
Suffice to say, he’s one of the more impressive young strikers in Europe and next season, he’ll be spearheading an attacking contingent which contains Martin Odegaard, Mikel Oyarzabal and Adnan Januzaj, handing him a prime opportunity to further his glowing reputation and make the fee look very conservative.
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