2020 has been a difficult year in the transfer market. As soon as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Europe from February and March, with stadiums closed and seasons put on hold, budgets received an almighty hit that limited what was possible in the summer transfer window.
Clubs had to be more careful with that funds they had and plenty are still feeling the ill-effects of the crisis now because things remain far from normal.
Looking back at both transfer windows in 2020 – January and summer – here’s a look at 15 of the best signings made across Europe this calendar year.
€20m plus add-ons – RB Leipzig from Dinamo Zagreb – January 2020
It was RB Leipzig who won the much talked about race to sign Dani Olmo last January, with the former Barcelona talent having taken the slightly bizarre route of joining Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia when he turned 16.
Leipzig already stand a good chance of turning a handsome profit on 22-year-old Olmo in the future, but are currently reaping the benefits for themselves as he leads the team in Bundesliga assists.
£20m plus add-ons – Everton from Norwich – October 2020
Everton bought Ben Godfrey because he is a young centre-back with long-term potential. But what he and the club probably didn’t expect was filling in as both an emergency right-back and left-back at various times this season.
Godfrey has only sparingly played in his favoured position and has instead ensured that the loss of Seamus Coleman earlier in the campaign and more recently Lucas Digne hasn’t been as detrimental as it might have been.
Free transfer – Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain – August 2020
Thiago Silva is by no means a long-term solution for Chelsea, although his impact has already been felt at Stamford Bridge in visible defensive improvements, particularly in October and November.
The 36-year-old Brazilian was picked up as a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain in August and brings plenty to the dressing room in terms of leadership and mentoring.
£28m plus add-ons – Aston Villa from Brentford – September 2020
It was a gamble for Aston Villa to spend £28m to sign Ollie Watkins from Brentford, calling it anything else would be incorrect – especially given how their expensive capture of Scott Hogan from the same club went in January 2017.
Watkins, however, has proven a big hit. He laid a marker down early with a hat-trick in an astonishing 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool and his energy has been crucial to the way Villa play and why they are fighting for European places instead of fearing a relegation battle.
£5.4m – West Ham from Slavia Prague – October 2020
Although a little known bargain signing from Slavia Prague, Vladimir Coufal has made West Ham’s tactical system work this season, with the Czech wing-back proving to be a real gem.
Wing-backs are so important in that kind of formation and the Hammers could have had real problems without Coufal performing as well as he has done.
€5m – Barcelona from Las Palmas – July 2020
It is not an ideal time for any player to be at Barcelona, but in 18-year-old Pedri the struggling Catalans look as though they have landed upon a star of the future.
Barca agreed a €5m deal with Las Palmas that was registered as soon as the summer transfer window opened and the teenage midfielder has become a first-team regular straightaway.
The Catalan giants don’t really have the money to do it any other way right now, but it is nice that they are returning to their roots of developing young players.
£36.5m – Leicester from Saint-Etienne – October 2020
Leicester were made to pay big money for young centre-back Wesley Fofana – potentially up to £36.5m – but it already looks like an exceptional value deal given his talent and impact.
Fofana’s fortunes have been in stark contrast to those of former Saint-Etienne teammate William Saliba at Arsenal and he’s already become a key player for the Foxes.
£21m – Everton from Napoli – September 2020
Everton went big in midfield in the summer and, for once, it actually seems to have worked. James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure have both added something positive to the squad, but Allan is the one whose impact has been most keenly felt.
The Toffees lacked midfield structure and discipline before his arrival and have finally gone from punching well below their weight to challenging for a top four place like they have long wanted.
Free transfer – AC Milan from LA Galaxy – January 2020
Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked as though he could have been preparing to retire when he made the move to LA Galaxy and MLS in 2018. But the reality is that he used it as a springboard to regain his fitness before having one last crack at Europe.
The 39-year-old has enjoyed a flying start to the season and has scored in every Serie A game he has played so far, helping AC Milan rise to the top of the standings. Injury has ruled him out of late, but his off-field role will be just as important.
£15m – Tottenham from Southampton – August 2020
Pierre Emile Hojbjerg has instantly become a key player for Jose Mourinho as he tries to build a Tottenham team capable of winning a major trophy.
The Danish international is Mourinho’s chief midfield general and if Spurs are to win challenge for the Premier League title, or even just return to the top four, he will be a huge reason why.
Hojbjerg was formerly Southampton captain, but even though he doesn’t wear the armband for Spurs, he is still an invaluable leader on the pitch.
£41m plus add-ons – Liverpool from Wolves – September 2020
The summer of 2020 for Liverpool was about adding strength in depth to improve a squad that was already Premier League champions, but without breaking the bank. Enter, Diogo Jota.
Liverpool agreed an overall package worth £45m with Wolves for the Portugal international and fans have been delighted with his impact in the first few months, scoring nine goals already.
Jota is a major upgrade on previous first alternative forward Divock Origi and his presence as a relief option for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino without losing quality is crucial.
€10m loan – Juventus from Atletico Madrid – September 2020
Eyebrows were raised when Alvaro Morata joined Juventus on loan in September, yet another move that makes it five transfers since 2014, but he is back to his best form in Turin.
Morata has scored goals, particularly in the Champions League, but he has also added more assists to his game to become a more well-rounded player. Juve have already paid €10m and can make it permanent for €45m.
Free transfer – Atletico Madrid from Barcelona – September 2020
Atletico Madrid signed Luis Suarez for free in September when a proposed move to Juventus fell through. Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman claimed to no longer want the veteran Uruguayan, while releasing him eased the burden on the club’s finances. But Atletico are reaping the rewards.
Suarez scored seven times in his first 10 La Liga appearances for Los Rojiblancos, who are firmly in with a chance of securing their first Spanish title since 2013/14.
€20m – Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg – January 2020
Erling Haaland chose Borussia Dortmund at the end of 2019 and made his transfer from Red Bull Salzburg official when the 2020 January transfer window opened.
Haaland cost just €20m because of a low hanging release clause and believed Dortmund to be the best place for the next chapter of his rapid development.
Having scored 28 times in the first half of the season for Salzburg, the Norwegian prodigy picked up where he left off and got another 16 in 18 games for Dortmund. He has started this season on fire too and has netted more than a goal per game.
£47m plus add-ons – Man Utd from Sporting CP – January 2020
Even the most optimistic Manchester United fans couldn’t have reasonably predicted the impact that Bruno Fernandes was going to have on the club.
United had decided against pursuing Fernandes in the summer of 2019 because of concerns over his ball retention. That they did a U-turn in January because they were crying out for a creative player and have been completely transformed made that initial decision look completely ridiculous.
At the time of writing, Fernandes has played 45 times for United and has amassed 43 combined goals and assists in that time. The club is massively better off because of him compared to how they were 12 months ago and are climbing up the Premier League table instead of sliding down it.