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Has it been nearly a week since the World Cup Final? Didn’t Kylian Mbappe only just lash the ball past Danijel Subasic at Luzhniki Stadium? Was it really last Sunday that Hugo Lloris lifted the trophy in the Moscow rain?
The World Cup can be like a black hole, sucking all of soccer into itself and sealing off all outside light and matter. And yet, there is always a lot going on throughout the sport’s life-filled, ever-expanding universe. Major League Soccer, for one, continued its schedule, and yes, Toronto FC are still well outside the play-off places. The Champions League got started, too, and most European clubs began pre-season training while knockout matches were kicking off in Russia.
But what really got lost in the World Cup shade were the transfer stories that typically keep attention fixed on big teams and high-profile players from June through August. Following are 10 of the most notable.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid to Juventus
Shortly before France and Belgium clashed in their World Cup semi-final, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner completed his US$137-million switch the Spanish capital to the Italian champions. He had hinted after the Champions League Final — literally right after it — that he had a decision to make about his future, and on July 10 his decision became public.
With nothing left to win at Madrid, and with manager Zinedine Zidane’s exit signalling comprehensive changes at the club, it wasn’t all that surprising that he opted to pursue a fresh challenge. When the transfer happened, it happened quickly and smoothly.
Arguably the biggest star in sports, Ronaldo immediately becomes Italian soccer’s most important figure in a generation. In a single swoop, Juventus put Serie A back on the map. And the Turin outfit, for their part, now has an attack that features an all-time great alongside Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Douglas Costa. They are immediate Champions League favourites.
Gianluigi Buffon: Juventus to Paris Saint-Germain
Four days before Ronaldo joined Juventus, the Bianconeri legend departed the Scudetto winners for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. His contract having expired at season’s end, he moved on a free transfer. It was a commercial no-brainer for his new club. With Kevin Trapp and Alphonse Areola already in the French capital PSG hardly needed another goalkeeper, but in Buffon they signed an icon motivated to win the only thing that has so far eluded him: the Champions League.
Thomas Lemar: Monaco to Atletico Madrid
Lemar is already well acquainted with new Atletico Madrid teammates Lucas Hernandez and Antoine Griezmann. The three just won the World Cup together with France. A transfer target of Liverpool last summer, the 22-year-old was one of Ligue 1’s assist leaders when Monaco won the title in 2016-17. His US$82-million move from the principality, as well as Griezmann’s contract extension, helps make Atletico a serious contender in La Liga, especially with Ronaldo having departed Real Madrid.
Riyad Mahrez: Leicester City to Manchester City
This transfer was a long time in coming—a foregone conclusion. Mahrez wanted out of Leicester already last summer, and in January, after a move to Manchester City fell through, he went on strike at King Power Stadium. His US$97.5-million switch was finally concluded on July 10, and if it went rather unnoticed it’s because Ronaldo joined Juventus the same day.
Jorginho: Napoli to Chelsea
The Brazil-born Italy international joined Chelsea for US$66.8 million the day before the World Cup final. A classic all-rounder, he’ll provide the Blues with an impressive range of passing and positionally sound presence in the centre of the park. He’ll also continue working with new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, who was his manager at Napoli.
Fred: Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United
Manchester United signed Fred for €59 million from Shakhtar Donetsk while the Brazil international and his Seleção teammates were in England ahead of the World Cup. The three-time Ukrainian Premier League winner moves the ball quickly and accurately—characteristics United manager Jose Mourinho was surely keen to add after seeing his side labour to create meaningful build-up play last season.
Vinicius Junior: Flamengo to Real Madrid
Ronaldo’s long-term replacement at Real Madrid could well be Vinicius Junior, who completed his US$52.7-million move from Flamengo on June 12. Los Blancos negotiated the deal in 2017, but Vinicius couldn’t formalize his contract until he turned 18. Incidentally, he leaves Flamengo at the top of the Brazilian table and in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores.
Arthur Melo: Gremio to Barcelona
Another Brazilian who will play in Spain this season, the US$36-million midfielder was officially unveiled as a Barcelona player on July 9. Arthur previously won the Copa Libertadores with Gremio and was named the Best Newcomer in Brazilian soccer in 2017. He’ll play a deep-lying, passing role at Camp Nou, perhaps replacing Xavi Hernandez more than Andres Iniesta.
Fabinho: Monaco to Liverpool
Liverpool have been quite active in the transfer market, spending nearly US$235 million on four players so far this summer. Former Monaco midfielder Fabinho commanded US$52.7 million of that and will more than make up for the loss of Emre Can, who joined Juventus on a free transfer. A converted right-back, the 24-year-old’s ball-winning skills will allow Jordan Henderson the freedom to play the role of pure passer.
Jean Michael Seri: Nice to Fulham
He very nearly joined Barcelona last year, so his US$35-million capture is something of a coup for Fulham, who are back in the Premier League this term after four seasons in the Championship. Seri, 27, is the sort of midfielder who can dictate the tempo of a match and spray the ball around with accuracy.