Watch This Space

The 2017 summer transfer window will inevitably be the most lucrative in the game’s history, with many teams across Europe now ready to do whatever it takes to attract some of the best talents the continent has to offer to their clubs. The clubs featured in this FTO list are an eclectic mix when it comes to their transfer policies.

One club is ingrained in the history of elite European football, hoping to get back to the top of their domestic league. Another club is profiting from the unprecedented exposure that their league has experienced over the last decade, providing them with a transfer budget that Real Madrid would have been happy with not so long ago. The final club featured in this select group have a truly unique transfer policy, which limits them to a select region of Spain from which to choose from.

These three clubs demonstrate the different ways in which money can influence a team’s fortunes going into a new season in varying domestic arenas. They have also been chosen simply because they are exciting propositions for the season ahead and cannot be ignored. The so-called ‘bigger clubs’ in their leagues will no doubt take centre stage next season, but these clubs will pose a threat to the established group of challengers, whether it spurs from the amount of money they have spent, or their overarching club identity and core values.

Team: AC Milan. Last Season Finish: 6th. Money Spent in 2017 Transfer Window: £154.2 million.

Milan new signings 2017
Moving clockwise; Top left- Andre Silva, Mateo Mussachio, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Franck Kessié

Vincenzo Montella’s new-look Milan side will be hoping to challenge rivals Juventus next season in Serie A, with the Old Lady having claimed the last six Serie A league titles. In recent seasons, Milan has consistently under-achieved, constantly rotating managers and struggling to find a regular team from which to build on.

Under new Chinese ownership, Milan has been able to spend not only big but also quickly, having made their biggest signings in time for their pre-season matches. Despite a 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in Guangzhou on their tour of China, four days later they blew away Bayern Munich with a thumping 4-0 victory in Shenzhen.

The new signings look extremely promising, and Milan has not spent over the odds for the quality they have acquired. Their marquee signing is the £35.7 million Leonardo Bonucci, which is more than just a statement of intent from the I Rossoneri. Bonucci can provide defensive stability in a team that has lacked maturity in previous seasons, and allow a platform from which to allow the new attacking signings to flourish. He is a player that was sought after by many of the Premier League’s best teams, but Milan has managed to get him at a snip in today’s market.

Along with other signings Mateo Mussachio, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Andrea Conti, from Villarreal, Wolfsburg, and Atalanta respectively for a combined £51.8 million, Milan’s defence finally looks to have a perfect balance, with an emphasis on the transition from defence to attack. Almost equally important is the new contract signed by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, keeping him at the club until 2021.

At 18 years old, Donnarumma is one of Europe’s most exciting talents in any position, and it completes a successful summer in coach Montella’s defensive plans for next season- considering Donnarumma was being courted by almost every European club with the money to prise him away from the San Siro. Away from the 2017 summer signings, 19-year-old Patrick Crutone has also impressed in pre-season, scoring against Bayern in the 4-0 victory, proving the depth and promise that exists within this era under Montella.

Team: Everton. Last Season Finish: 7th. Money Spent in 2017 Transfer Window: £83.2 million.

Rooney Koeman Everton
Back to his roots: Ronald Koeman has brought Wayne Rooney back to where it all began, with the hope he can help Everton reach the next level on all fronts

Everton are finally looking like realising their potential under Ronald Koeman and as their new signings suggest, there is an exciting plan underway. The signings show that Koeman is ready to trust young English talent, enshrining them into a system based on Dutch total football.

The arrivals of Jordan Pickford in goal and Michael Keane in central defence for a combined £49.4 million make Everton’s future particularly bright, especially in the context of Koeman’s other signings. Pickford is a proven shot-stopper, and under the coaching of Koeman’s team, his distribution will improve.

The same applies for Keane, who will have to adapt to a different team with different expectations. Keane will need to improve on the ball, yet remain strong in the tackle and dominant in aerial duels. The Koeman philosophy is hugely different and more advanced than what Pickford and Keane have experienced, but his coaching methodology is proven in the Premier League, and Everton cannot be counted out regarding the race for the top four.

Wayne Rooney’s return to Everton will also benefit the growth of Pickford and Keane to no end, with his winning mentality taking Everton to a more competitive level next season. Koeman is an astute coach and man-manager, and he believes Rooney still has much to offer the Premier League. With the departure of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for £72 million, Rooney will be ready to fill the void as well as he can.

Rooney will be helped out by the arrival of 22-year-old striker Sandro Ramirez from Málaga. Ramirez cost Everton just £5.1 million, an absolute bargain for such a promising young talent. A product of La Masia, Ramirez had to bide his time for his opportunity, eventually arriving at Málaga, scoring 16 goals in 31 games last season. Ramirez will want to make up for lost time and he will be determined to make his first Premier League season explosive.

The most impressive signing, however, has got to be Davy Klaassen from Ajax, for £22.9 million. At only 24, he captained the Dutch giants to a Europa League final last season, scoring 20 goals and providing 12 assists in all competitions. He has been compared to Dennis Bergkamp back in Holland, and the attacking midfielder is moulded for Koeman’s style of play. His effortlessness and precision on the ball are similar traits to that of Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur, who has become one of the Premier League’s best players outright, taking his own team to the dizzying heights of Champions League football.

With Everton hosting MFK Ruzomberok at Goodison Park tonight in a Europa League Qualifier, their squad will be tested upon their expected progression to the group stages. Under Koeman Everton’s future looks bright, with a coach that has always wanted immediate progress from his teams. Koeman makes short-term plans, hoping to maximise his resources within one season. Therefore, the following season promises to be an exciting one for Everton, and they will undoubtedly turn heads in the Premier League and beyond.

Team: Athletic Bilbao. Last Season Finish: 7th. Money Spent in the 2017 Transfer Window: £0.

Atheltic Bilbao celebration

Unity and strength: Athletic Bilbao have every attribute to compete at the top of La Liga, they just need to realise it

Athletic Bilbao’s transfer policy is unique and principled. Throughout their long history, they have only allowed Basque-born players or players who have learnt their skills at a Basque club to play for the team. With their coach from last season Ernesto Valverde becoming manager of Barcelona, Jose Angel Ziganda faces the task of maintaining the standards historically set by Athletic Club, with European competition also central to their ambitions.

The main man at Athletic is without a doubt Aritz Aduriz. At 36, Aduriz is showing no signs of stopping, with 84 goals in 164 La Liga appearances since his return to the Basque club in 2012. His seven goals last season in the Europa League was also a source of inspiration, and with a tough qualifier against Dinamo Bucharest in the same competition tomorrow, Aduriz will be integral in the continental success of Los Leones.

Athletic Club has an array of experienced players who are proven in La Liga such as midfielders Beñat and Raul Garcia, but there is an exciting youth project underway that promises to continue next season. Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams occupying both wings provide scintillating pace, dribbling ability, and creative prowess.

With the raw pace of Williams down the right, Muniain provides playmaking creativity with his ability to cut inside onto his right from the left flank. Their loyalty to Athletic Bilbao is also an asset, and their potential is clear to see so they will be players to watch out for not only in La Liga but in Europe as well providing they progress from the UEL qualifiers.

Athletic Club possesses a hugely promising starting XI, and when the players are fit, they are one of the best sides in La Liga, with the ability to beat anyone. They need to ensure that their players stay fit because of their transfer policy which can be limiting. Players such as Oscar de Marcos at right-back and Ander Iturraspe in central midfield are already fan favourites at the club but have the potential to play every game of the domestic season. Keeping them fit is one of Ziganda’s tasks to make Athletic Club more threatening next season.

With a more certain starting lineup, Athletic Club can push for the Champions League places, and if they progress to the Europa League group stages, the 2017/18 season can definitely be a prosperous one. If they can retain their central spine, starting with the highly-rated Aymeric Laporte at centre-back, Athletic Bilbao will pose a threat to the established hierarchy of Spanish football and can cause more than just the occasional shock result in next season’s campaign.

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