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Summer transfer window: Grading big signings in men's soccer

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FC crew unanimous that Olise would be a great Bayern signing (1:24)

The ESPN FC crew react to reports of Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise nearing a move to Bayern Munich. (1:24)

Premier League clubs spent £100 million in the 2024 January transfer window -- the lowest single-window expenditure in the men's game since 2012 (£60m) and a significant drop from the record £815m splashed out in 2023, according to Deloitte.

After record-breaking spending in the past three transfer windows, things seem to have slowed. But English clubs' total spending of £2.5 billion during the 2023-24 season was still the second highest ever, and across the rest of Europe's Big Five leagues, January spending actually rose from €255m to €455m.

What can we expect this time around? Here are grades for all the major confirmed summer transfers in the men's game, with each day's moves listed in order of highest fee.

All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk.

July 14

JOSHUA ZIRKZEE
€40m (£34.4m, $43m)

Bologna: B
Manchester United: B

Zirkzee was once viewed as Robert Lewandowski's heir at Bayern Munich, but things didn't quite go to plan. Years later, after a long, circuitous route back to the top, he has signed for Man United after an impressive campaign helping Bologna into the Champions League.

Fans may need to be patient with the 23-year-old initially, as they did with Rasmus Højlund, because Zirkzee scored only nine non-penalty goals in Serie A last season. His real brilliance came in linking play, creating chances for others and pressing well.

A €40m fee isn't much to stake on a good, young, still developing player -- but the fact that Zirkzee hasn't shown that killer instinct just yet holds him back from an A grade.

July 12

RENATO VEIGA
€14m (£11.8m, $15.2m)

FC Basel: C
Chelsea: A-

Centre-back? Left-back? Defensive midfielder? Veiga is only 20 years of age, but so far he has flashed the ability to do all of the above to a strong level. That's an impressive level of versatility for one still learning his trade.

The €14m fee is a small price to pay for such potential, with Veiga standing out as yet another example of Chelsea's strong scouting at younger ages. Exactly how big his role will be to begin with is not clear, but he does profile well as an inverted full-back for new manager Enzo Maresca.

July 11

JOÃO PALHINHA
€50m (£43m, $54.8m)

Fulham: C
Bayern Munich: B

Last summer, on deadline day, Bayern got Palhinha all the way to Munich, through a medical and even into a photoshoot in the kit ... only for the €65m deal to then fall through. A year on, they've acted much earlier and sealed the deal; this time, they got their man even cheaper.

Palhinha has been incredible for Fulham: A duel-winning machine, a set-piece nuisance and a massive influence on midfield proceedings. He's the best player to wear the shirt for some time and will be impossible to replace like-for-like. The fee is fine, but not quite standout. Bayern clearly see his qualities and, in signing him at age 28, must believe he can have a big impact on their team from the start.

July 10

KHÉPHREN THURAM
€20m ($21.6m)

Nice: B-
Juventus: B+

Juventus' midfield is going to look very different in 2024-25, as Thuram follows hot on the heels of Douglas Luiz signing from Aston Villa. Thuram is a super-smooth midfielder with press-resistant qualities and who can glide through the middle of the park with ease. The issue last season was that he didn't necessarily show these qualities often enough, which may explain why the fee comes fairly cheap.

Perhaps moving to the club his legendary father, Lillian, played for will inspire Khéphren and restore him back to his top level?

July 7

MICHAEL OLISE
€60m (£50.7m; $64.4m)

Crystal Palace: A
Bayern Munich: B

Harry Kane in 2023; Olise in 2024. Bayern are sensing opportunity in the English market in a way they rarely have before. They've plumped for Olise in an attempt to refresh their wing corps, no doubt swayed by the remarkable creative inventiveness and goal-scoring form the Frenchman finished the 2023-24 season in (four goals and three assists in his final six games).

From Palace's perspective, it's a massive fee -- by far the largest in their history -- and it's always better to move players to a club on the continent, as there's significantly less chance Olise will score and break local hearts on a return to Selhurst Park.

July 6

THIAGO ALMADA
$21m (€19.6m)

Atlanta United: B
Botafogo: B

Almada's long-anticipated MLS exit has finally happened, although somewhat surprisingly, he hasn't taken the step to Europe ... yet.

In a curious deal, Almada has initially joined Botafogo with a view to joining French side Lyon later down the line, according to ESPN Brasil. Both clubs are owned by the same group, Eagle Football Holdings. Atlanta will be devastated to lose one of the league's finest players but have at least earned a record MLS fee in return: $21m rising to a potential $29m with add-ons.

July 5

MICHELE DI GREGORIO
€18m ($19.5m)

Monza: C
Juventus: A

It's time for a new era between the sticks for Juventus. After seven years and over 250 appearances for the Old Lady, Wojciech Szczesny will move on to new things; in his place comes Di Gregorio, who has shot to prominence thanks to an incredible 2023-24 campaign with Monza.

Statistically speaking, he was the best shot-stopper in Serie A last season, conceding 10.4 fewer goals than expected based on the shots he faced. He also showcased true prowess with the ball at his feet, which is a quality new manager Thiago Motta will be extremely attracted to. All that for just €18m? It's a brilliant deal for Juve.

July 4

DAVID RAYA
£27m ($34.3m)

Brentford: B-
Arsenal: B+

Arsenal made Raya's loan deal permanent for £27m (plus £3m in add-ons) after an excellent 2023-24 campaign. He took little time to usurp Aaron Ramsdale and then never looked back, contributing strongly to the Premier League's best defensive unit. The price they've ended up paying feels like it's on the cheap side for a trusty, dependable No. 1, and it's clear he has earned great faith from Mikel Arteta and the coaching staff.

There's no risk to this deal whatsoever. The only thing holding it back from an A grade is that Raya still has a way to go before he can be considered one of the world's best at his position, but at 28 there's still room for him to grow.

July 2

ARCHIE GRAY
£40m ($50.7m)

Leeds United: A
Tottenham: B

Failure to get promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of asking comes with many costs, chief among them the loss of treasured players. To Leeds, Gray was not only a phenomenal prospect and player, but also family: His father (Frank) played for Leeds, while his uncle (Eddie) was a true Leeds great.

At the very least, he's gone for a great fee, and £40m is no small sum to part with for Tottenham, but they'll be rightly confident in Gray as a footballer. When you watch him, it becomes immediately apparent that the midfielder/right-back is highly intelligent and talented in so many ways; his confidence and positional versatility belie the fact that he's still just 18.

KIERNAN DEWSBURY-HALL
£30m ($38m)

Leicester City: D
Chelsea: B+

Dewsbury-Hall reunites with manager Enzo Maresca at Chelsea. They combined to guide Leicester City to promotion to the Premier League last season and will now combine at Stamford Bridge. It's a solid addition for the Blues. Dewsbury-Hall is a good player who will help with the squad's adaption to a very different new style -- although he doesn't solve any problem positions for Chelsea.

From Leicester's perspective, though, they've not only lost arguably their best player upon promotion, but the fee seems pretty low compared to some of the other deals being struck around this time.

July 1

ENDRICK
€72m ($77.3m)

Palmeiras: A+
Real Madrid: A-

There are plenty in Brazil who believe that we're looking at football's next great No. 9 striker. And when Brazilians say that, you sit up and listen -- they know a thing or two about what makes a goal scorer. Securing his signature early continues Real Madrid's quest to hoover up all of the best Brazilian talent, with Endrick following in the recent footsteps of Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo. Though he can't join officially until he turns 18 on July 21 because of FIFA regulations.

It's a lot of money to spend on a teenager, but he's quite experienced for his age, having clocked more than 50 top-level appearances in South America, and he's off the mark for his nation too. Moving to Real Madrid is a huge step, but the evidence so far suggests he'll take it in his stride.

IGOR THIAGO
€35m (£30m, $38m)

Club Brugge: A
Brentford: B

Brentford are almost always one step ahead of the game, and in agreeing to sign Thiago well ahead of the transfer window they've prepared well for whatever may happen this summer with regard to the potential departures of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo.

Thiago was named Europa Conference League Young Player of the Season after scoring five goals for Club Brugge, showcasing strength, powerful shooting and a love for the rough-and-tumble side of forward play -- which is a good sign when it comes to transitioning to the Premier League, as it's a big step and nothing is guaranteed.

LUIS GUILHERME
€30m (£25.3m, $32.4m)

Palmeiras: A
West Ham: B

Endrick is not the only talented teenager from Palmeiras on the move this summer, as Luis Guilherme became an early statement signing for West Ham. He's still fairly inexperienced at senior level (he has just five league starts to his name) but has shown flashes of great potential both off the bench for his club and for Brazil in youth tournaments.

His turn of pace is good, as is his control in tight spaces, but as ESPN's South American expert Tim Vickery notes, he has work to do on his weaker right foot. This is both an exciting signing for the Hammers and yet another big transfer windfall for Palmeiras.

CHARLES DE KETELAERE
€24m ($25.7m)

AC Milan: B
Atalanta: A

De Ketelaere's €32m move to AC Milan from Club Brugge in 2022 simply did not work out, but at Atalanta he seems to have found a home. He made 25 league starts while on loan there last season, scoring 10 and assisting eight, plus he played a significant role in La Dea's Europa League win in May.

For Atalanta, making him a permanent fixture just makes sense; the fee is pretty reasonable for a 23-year-old attacking midfielder who they already know suits the team and manager. For Milan, there's certainly some lost potential at play, but recouping a decent amount of the original fee allows them to strengthen other areas of the squad.

HIROKI ITO
€23m ($25m)

Stuttgart: B
Bayern Munich: A

Stuttgart's rise to second place in the Bundesliga was one of the stories of the 2023-24 season, but even securing Champions League football hasn't stopped the top teams moving for their top players.

It's a blow for Stuttgart to lose such an important player; Ito was excellent in splitting his time between left-back and centre-back for a defence that conceded just 39 goals. No doubt that versatility and flexibility -- along with the fact he's left-footed -- was key to Bayern's interest. Only Benjamin Pavard (€35m) has left Stuttgart for a bigger fee in the club's history, but even still, in this market, €30m might feel a touch low in their eyes.

MATVEY SAFONOV
€20m ($21.4m)

Krasnodar: A
PSG: B

It can be tough for goalkeepers to earn top-level exposure when they're young, but Safonov broke into Krasnodar's first-team as a teenager in 2018 and never looked back. Now 25, he's Russia's No. 1, has more than 175 appearances under his belt and is ready for the next step.

PSG is a slightly odd landing spot, given the goalkeeping quality already present, but the capital club have never been shy about adding depth and quality in that position. Safonov will now battle Italy No. 1 Gianluigi Donnarumma and Spain's Under-19 European Championship winner in Arnau Tenas for playing time; serial Champions League winner Keylor Navas will depart the club this summer.

TAYLOR HARWOOD-BELLIS
£20m ($25.5m)

Manchester City: A-
Southampton: A

Harwood-Bellis was a vital cog in Southampton's successful charge to promotion in 2023-24, starting 43 games in the heart of defence and showcasing incredible poise and prowess on the ball. He quickly became key to a possession-based style that swept opponents away with ease.

Achieving promotion triggered a £20m clause for Saints to sign him permanently, and it's a deal that perfectly suits all parties: Southampton have paid an acceptable fee for an excellent young English defender, Harwood-Bellis can finally test himself fully at Premier League level and Man City continue to make good money from allowing their academy players to leave, which is key to funding their spending.

IBRAHIM OSMAN
€18.95m (£16m, $20.4m)

Nordsjaelland: A
Brighton: B+

Over the past five years or so, FC Nordsjaelland have produced a litany of exciting young wingers who have all made big moves to top European clubs: Mohammed Kudus headed to Ajax (then West Ham), Ernest Nuamah signed for Lyon, Kamaldeen Sulemana moved to Rennes (then Southampton); and Osman is the next off the production line.

Brighton know exactly what they're doing here, as two years ago they signed winger Simon Adingra from the Danish club and have now returned for Osman. He scored six goals and had seven assists in the Danish Superliga in 2023-24 and some of his goals were absolutely spectacular.

ASSAN OUÉDRAOGO
€10m (£8.5m, $10.8m)

Schalke 04: C
RB Leipzig: A

Schalke have a rich history of producing fine footballers from their academy -- Manuel Neuer, Leroy Sané and Mesut Özil spring to mind -- and it looks like Ouédraogo could be the next to have developed there.

He was ripe for the picking thanks to Schalke's struggles in the second division and a lowly €10m release clause, although there is a chance they'll get him back on loan after a summer assessment. Leipzig have played the role Bayern Munich traditionally do here, swooping in early for top domestic talent in determined fashion.

LUCAS BERGVALL
€10m (£8.5m, $10.8m)

Djurgårdens: A
Spurs: A

Back in February, Spurs agreed to the signing of Bergvall ahead of Barcelona and will welcome him to the club this summer. It's a big move that completes his meteoric rise from the Swedish second division to the Premier League in just two years.

Each club gets an A grade, as it's a deal that works for all. A fee of €10m isn't a lot for Spurs to put down on a player who is full of potential, and having graduated from the same academy as Dejan Kulusevski in Sweden, the 18-year-old will have help settling in. But €10m is a lot for Djurgårdens, though; in fact, it's the biggest outgoing transfer fee in Allsvenskan history.

MARC GUIU
€6m (£5.1m; $6.4m)

Barcelona: D
Chelsea: B+

The striking thing about the Barcelona academy graduate is that he's not very Barcelona at all. At 6-foot-2, with a centre-forward build and skillset to match, he's a far cry from the type of player you typically associate with La Masia. The 18-year-old burst on to the scene last season, scoring with his first touch on his debut against Athletic Club, but slipped back down the pecking order and ended up back with the B team in April.

After paying his release clause of just €6m, Chelsea were happy to gamble on such a player; Barça, understandably, aren't particularly happy to see him go so soon.

TIMO WERNER
Loan

RB Leipzig: C
Spurs: A

Werner made a positive impact on loan at Spurs last season, so the decision to bring him back for another 12 months was likely an easy one. His direct, quick style of play suited Ange Postecoglou's tactics and his low crosses into the box from the left flank became a feature of their late-season play. Having qualified for the Europa League, Spurs clearly need more players to fill out the squad, so nabbing Werner on loan again -- with a €10m option to sign him permanently in 2025 -- is smart, risk-free business.

From RB Leipzig's perspective, though, it's another year without much of a return from a player they paid €20m to sign from Chelsea in 2022.

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KYLIAN MBAPPÉ
Free

PSG: F
Real Madrid: A+

Football's worst-kept secret is finally out in the open. Mbappé, arguably the world's best player, will join the reigning European champions Real Madrid. He makes an already sensational attack even stronger, ensuring everyone will be tuning in to watch Los Blancos in 2024-25.

The Frenchman's whopping signing-on fee (reported to be €100m) means this isn't really a free transfer, but Madrid have capped the cost of a superstar somewhat -- and PSG received absolutely nothing for him, having paid €180m to sign him from Monaco in 2017.

SERGIŇO DEST
Free

Barcelona: C+
PSV Eindhoven: B-

Dest enjoyed an excellent season on loan with PSV Eindhoven in 2023-24, only for a torn ACL to cut his campaign short in April and force him to miss the Copa América for the USMNT too. The Dutch club are taking something of a risk here, gambling on him making a full recovery in 2025, but are unsurprisingly comfortable doing so on the basis it's a free transfer -- having turned down an €11m option to sign him previously.

Barcelona get no transfer fee, having signed him for €20m back in 2020 from Ajax, but ESPN sources confirmed that they will get a percentage of any future transfer fee. They're under pressure to bring their hefty wage bill down for registration purposes anyway, so it's ultimately a deal that seems to suit all parties.

TOSIN ADARABIOYO
Free

Fulham: F
Chelsea: A

With Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) hanging heavily over Premier League clubs, free transfers have arguably never been more attractive. Although Chelsea look pretty well stocked for centre-backs -- Levi Colwill, Axel Disasi, Wesley Fofana, Benoît Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah are already in the squad -- signing Adarabioyo for free makes sense.

Over the past four seasons with Fulham, he has blossomed into a very solid centre-back whose long, threaded passes forward can change a game in an instant. They'll be crestfallen to lose him for nothing, and even more so that he's headed to their west London rivals.

LLOYD KELLY
Free

Bournemouth: D
Newcastle United: A+

Like with Tosin, Kelly quickly marked himself out as one of the most attractive early transfers this summer by virtue of being available for free. He plays both left-back and centre-back -- two positions Newcastle have had terrible injury luck in -- so he feels like an extremely astute addition that potentially solves two problems at once.

Add that to the fact that not only is he homegrown, but he's worked with Magpies manager Eddie Howe before on the south coast, and it's a transfer that just seems clever in every way.

SAMUEL ILING-JUNIOR & ENZO BARRENECHEA
€22m (£18.6m; $23.6m)

Juventus: B
Aston Villa: B

One of Aston Villa's summer targets is to deepen their squad ahead of a Champions League campaign, so scooping up two young talents from Juventus' conveyor belt of next generation excellence is a solid strategy.

Samuel Iling-Junior is returning to England, having successfully made the jump into senior football abroad, and is an exciting, explosive wide player. Enzo Barrenechea is rewarded for a breakout 2023-24 campaign on loan at Frosinone with an intriguing next step. Juve won't be thrilled to lose either of these players, but funds needed to be raised to sign Douglas Luiz.

June 30

DOUGLAS LUIZ
€50m (£42.5m; $53.6m)

Aston Villa: B
Juventus: B

There's no doubt Villa will be distraught to lose Douglas Luiz; he was one of their best players last season and means a lot to the fans, having been at the club since 2019. But Villa's position with regard to Profit and Sustainability Regulation (PSR) rules forced them into allowing a big exit and Luiz was the one to go. A fee of €50m is a lot to receive in return, but it's still a tough one to take.

Villa's loss is Juventus' gain, though, and incoming manager Thiago Motta will love the fact he has a new playmaking midfielder to utilise as a brand new era in Turin begins.

ELLIOT ANDERSON
€50m (£35.5m; $44.4m)

Newcastle United: A
Nottingham Forest: C

Newcastle found themselves needing to make a sale to comply with Profit & Sustainably Rules so, in what has been a theme for the summer, they turned to an academy graduate in their hour of need.

Anderson, 21, was the reluctant pick. He's been a handy squad player for Newcastle over the last few seasons and clocked just over 1,000 Premier League minutes in 2023-24 while battling a back injury. Still, the £35m fee attached to him feels massive, and therefore an awful lot for Forest in terms of investment.

YANKUBA MINTEH
€50m (£33m; $41.7m)

Newcastle United: A
Brighton & Hove Albion: B-

Yankuba Minteh's Newcastle career came and went in a flash! He signed for around €7m in the summer of 2023, headed straight out on loan to Feyenoord for the season, notched 10 goals and five assists in just 1,463 Eredivisie minutes, and has now moved to Brighton more than four times that initial fee.

He's a reluctant, yet lucrative and necessary transfer for the Magpies who were under pressure to make some money on outgoings. For Brighton, it's yet another young talented in the door -- although at a significantly higher price than we're used to seeing.

OMARI HUTCHINSON
€50m (£20m; $25.3m)

Chelsea: C+
Ipswich Town: A

Ipswich Town smashed their transfer record to sign Omari Hutchinson permanently following his exceptional loan spell at Portman Road in 2023-24. He got better as the season went on, developing into a key player who scored 10 goals, assisted five, provided some stunning moments and pressed extremely effectively from the front.

Undoubtedly, this is a big get for Ipswich, who need quality difference-makers if they're to survive a Premier League campaign. Chelsea book a tidy profit, which is no bad thing in 2024, but it's hard to escape the feeling that for a player of Hutchinson's potential, £20m may end up looking a little cheap in the end.

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June 29

OMARI KELLYMAN
£19m ($24.1m)

Aston Villa: A
Chelsea: B

Chelsea's quest to hoover up as much young potential as possible has continued this summer with the signing of Kellyman. The 18-year-old joined Villa from Derby County two years ago and is now on the move once again.

In the handful of senior minutes Kellyman received last season, he looked a player brimming with potential -- smooth on the turn, clever in his positioning and capable of playing across the forward line or as the No. 10. Villa will be sad to lose such a player, but it still goes down as a great bit of business from their point of view, as the club were under pressure to generate revenue ahead of June 30's PSR deadline.

June 28

IAN MAATSEN
£37.5m ($47.7m)

Chelsea: A
Aston Villa: B

As the cliché goes, qualifying for the Champions League opens up fresh possibilities for clubs in the transfer market. Aston Villa are the latest to take advantage of this, signing Netherlands left-back Maatsen in part thanks to their new position among Europe's elite.

Maatsen shone on loan at Borussia Dortmund over the second half of last season, playing a key role in the German side's run to the Champions League final. He's both a significant addition to Unai Emery's side and a significant source of funds for Chelsea, who found themselves under PSR pressure ahead of the June 30 deadline.