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Pogba, Barcelona, Zidane & The Winners And Losers Of The Summer Transfer Window

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The Real Madrid boss wanted
to bring his fellow Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu but the deal
never materialised, much to the disappointment of both

The European transfer window has finally closed, after a summer full of massive deals, protracted talks and sudden u-turns. 

Below, Goal looks at the biggest winners and losers of a hectic few months…

WINNERS: ANTONIO CONTE

Antonio Conte and Beppe Marotta combined to great effect to put Juventus back on their perch after Calciopoli. Now, they are teaming up again to knock them off it. The early signs are promising.

Inter have made a perfect start to the Serie A season, routing Lecce at home before battling to victory to Cagliari on Sunday, and their summer business has played a pivotal role.

Conte wanted to add another centre-back so he could employ his preferred 3-5-2 formation, so the peerless Diego Godin was snapped up on a free transfer from Atletico Madrid. He wanted to rejuvenate the midfield, so Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi were acquired from Cagliari and Sassuolo, respectively.

Most importantly of all, Conte wanted a strong No.9 to lead the line, so Romelu Lukaku was signed from Manchester United. Conte already believes that the Belgian will prove a bargain at €65m.

How loan signing Alexis Sanchez fares remains to be seen, given the
Chilean had an even worse time of it than Lukaku at Old Trafford, but he
offers another option in attack, which, again, was exactly what Conte
wanted.

For the first time in many years, Inter have both a squad and a coach capable of sustaining a title challenge.

Conte has already changed the atmosphere around the club and the
sense of togetherness will only improve now that former club captain
Mauro Icardi has finally been offloaded, with the unwanted Argentine
joining PSG on loan on deadline day.

Conte’s Inter are already looking like Conte’s Juve. The Old Lady will be shifting uncomfortably on her perch right now.

WINNERS: ATLETICO MADRID

During the summer, Atletico Madrid lost Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, Rodri, Lucas Hernandez, Juanfran and Filipe Luis.

That is one hell of a mix of experience and talent.

And yet here we are talking about them as one of the major winners of the transfer window – why?

Because they have replaced those proven performers excellently. Indeed, the results prove as much.

Atletico are top of La Liga, having won their opening three fixtures, and are already four and five points clear of Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively.

Eyebrows were raised when Atletico paid Tottenham €22m (£20m/$24m) for Kieran Trippier but the much-maligned Englishman, who was coming off the back of a dire season in the Premier League, has settled in quickly at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Mario Hermoso has slotted in seamlessly alongside Jose Gimenez at the
back, while Real could come to regret selling Marcos Llorente to their
city rivals.

However, the pick of Atleti’s summer signings is undoubtedly Joao Felix.

The fee may have been historically colossal for a teenager – €126m
(£115m/$138m) – but he will be deemed worth every cent if he can
maintain his scintillating early-season form and help the Rojiblancos
win a first title since 2014.

LOSERS: POGBA & ZIDANE

Zinedine Zidane agreed to step
back on board the sinking ship that was Real Madrid last season partly
because he was given assurances that he would be a given a huge say in
the salvage operation.

Essentially, that meant club president Florentino Perez signing the
players that the Frenchman wanted. It hadn’t always worked like that
during the Frenchman’s first spell in charge – in spite of the fact that
Zidane led Madrid to three consecutive Champions Leagues.

Eden Hazard was the primary target and, 10 years after first recommending the Belgian to Perez, the winger arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu for €100m (£91m/$110m), from Chelsea.

Several other players were also acquired – Eder Militao, Rodrygo,
Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy – for more than €300m (£273m/$330m) overall
but Zidane still felt, rightly, that Madrid were lacking a young,
dynamic and imposing presence in midfield.

Paul Pogba ticked all the boxes. What’s more, he wanted to come, having decided he wanted to seek a new “challenge” away from Manchester United, perhaps after realising that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are light years away from challenging for the Premier League – let alone the Champions League.

Only Madrid were unable to make it to happen, namely because of their
inability to offload the valuable assets deemed surplus to requirements
by Zidane: Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez.

Zidane did his best to push Bale out the door but he was undermined by Perez, who blocked the Welshman’s move to China because of his concern over a lack of cover out wide after Marco Asensio suffered a potentially season-ending injury before the 2019-20 campaign had even got under way. Hazard’s minor knock also played a part.

The net result is that Pogba has been left stewing at United, with a
fanbase that has long since grown weary of his perceived lack of
commitment, on and off the field. And he only has himself to blame after
going public with his desire to depart.

Zidane, meanwhile, is also facing supporter unrest. He has been unlucky with injuries but not one of Real’s summer signings has truly gotten going with the club. There appears to be a lack of faith in the new arrivals, Jovic in particular, despite a good performance against Villarreal over the weekend.

Consequently, for the first time in Zidane’s Real coaching career,
there are doubts among the supporters over whether he is the right man
for the rebuilding job.

His inability to lift the team at the tail end of last season was
attributed to the fact that his two successors, Julen Lopetegui and
Santi Solari, had both flopped. Zidane had, essentially, inherited
someone else’s mess.

Now, though, having been given a greater influence in the club’s transfer strategy, he is in a mess partly of his own making.

LOSERS: JUVENTUS

Juventus deserve immense credit for beating Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain to the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, arguably the most coveted young player in Europe this summer.

Furthermore, while there are doubts over Adrien Rabiot (temperament)
and Aaron Ramsey (fitness), both have the talent to add their names to
Juve’s lengthy list of shrewd free transfers.

However, even accounting for Danilo’s surprise goal against Napoli on Saturday, Juve’s €37m (£34m/$41m) valuation of a Manchester City reserve was ridiculous, as was the decision to allow the promising Moise Kean to join Everton while there was still uncertainty surrounding the make-up of the Bianconeri attack.

The idea was obviously to sign another No.9, ideally Lukaku, or at
least Mauro Icardi. However, Paulo Dybala refused to move to Old
Trafford as part of the proposed Lukaku deal, while Icardi ended up
going to PSG.

Consequently, Sarri has been left with Gonzalo Higuain, 31, Mario
Mandzukic, 33, and Cristiano Ronaldo, 34, as his centre-forward options
this season, while Dybala is likely to spend most of his time on the
bench.

It means that Juve’s attack is overstocked and they will have to
leave some high-profile players out of their Champions League squad. It
is, as Sarri himself admitted, an “embarrassing” situation.

De Ligt is a fine acquisition but has been offset by the loss of Giorgio Chiellini to a potentially season-ending injury.

As it stands, this Bianconeri squad looks weaker rather than stronger
than last season’s and questions will be asked of sporting director
Fabio Paratici if Juve fail to end their now 23-year European Cup
drought.

LOSERS: BARTOMEU

At one point during Barcelona’s
bid to re-sign Neymar from Barcelona, L’Equipe claimed that the
Blaugrana didn’t actually want to succeed. According to the French
paper, the pursuit was merely an attempt to appease club captain Lionel
Messi, who was keen to have his good friend and fellow forward back at
Camp Nou.

Even if that were true, Barca’s inability to seal the deal has made
president Josep Maria Bartomeu look ridiculous. And a man in Bartomeu’s
position can’t be made to look ridiculous. It weakens one’s position
with the players, the board and the club members.

Just six months ago, he claimed that winger Ousmane Dembele – the youngster signed to replace Neymar when he departed for France two years ago – was a better player than the Brazilian. Yet Bartomeu end up using the Frenchman as a makeweight. And that proved incredibly costly.

Barca offered PSG players that had no desire to move to the Parc des
Princes. Ivan Rakitic was eventually convinced but Dembele’s refusal to
leave eventually blocked Neymar’s return.

It must also be pointed out that had Barca not acquired Antoine
Griezmann from Atletico Madrid for €120m (£109m/$132m), they would not
have had to make any players part of the Neymar deal; they would have
been able to meet PSG’s asking price with cash.

But Bartomeu refused to give up on Griezmann, who infuriated the fans
and directors by the way in which he publicly rejected a move to Camp
Nou last summer, after initially giving the impression that he was ready
to leave Atletico Madrid.

That stubbornness ultimately contributed to the collapse of the
Neymar deal, which in turn has contributed to the immense pressure
Bartomeu now finds himself under.

The cules are bewildered by apparent lack of any coherent recruitment
plan, several key members of the dressing room are now upset that their
friend isn’t coming home, while others are rightly annoyed at being
used as bargaining chips in a reckless gamble that backfired badly.

And that could end up costing Bartomeu his hopes of re-election.

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