With football quite rightly postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is so much up in the air. Leagues will need to be restructured drastically when the 2019-20 season resumes. There is also the issue of expiring contracts, with clubs potentially offering short-term extensions to players who would otherwise leave before the season concludes. Some players have already signed pre-contract deals with other clubs and are due to make their moves in June.
Whatever happens, with so much uncertainty over the summer transfer window, those teams who had secured new signatures in preparation for the next campaign will be pleased to have done so. Here are five notable signings and the roles they will play for their new clubs when football eventually returns.
Hakim Ziyech, Ajax to Chelsea
Hakim Ziyech is perhaps the most significant signing to be wrapped up before the transfer window opens. Chelsea fans will be eagerly anticipating the first sight of Ziyech in blue. The Moroccan has been a star turn for Ajax in the Eredivisie for years now, earning our highest rating in each of the last four seasons.
The question has been why it has taken so long for a top club in Europe’s elite leagues to sign the playmaker, now 27. Chelsea have finally taken the plunge and they can expect moments of real brilliance from Ziyech. He is comparable to Bruno Fernandes in many ways. He is extremely confident in the final third, although he does not score that many goals given the number of shots he attempts. However, there is no denying his technical ability. He has registered double figures for assists in the last six league seasons. His ability to play at No 8, No 10 or from wide will be a huge asset to Frank Lampard.
Trincão, Braga to Barcelona
Many will not have witnessed Trincão at his twinkle-toed best, but rest assured Barcelona have signed a real gem. The slight winger is only 20 and has only been on the pitch for 1,064 minutes this season for Braga – in the Primeira Liga and Europa League – but he has had a direct hand in 12 goals. That’s one every 89 minutes on average, having scored seven and set up five more.
The Portugal Under-21 international predominantly plays from Lionel Messi’s favoured right flank, but he has been deployed in a more central role this season and impressed. Averages of 3.3 shots, 2.5 key passes and four dribbles per 90 minutes are pretty exceptional. Trincão will give Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann – both of whom have underwhelmed at Camp Nou for different reasons – some food for thought.
Antony, São Paulo to Ajax
Ajax’s ability to make a lot of money on their prized assets while replacing them with cheaper alternatives has been impressive of late and they will be hoping for another success story when Antony arrives from São Paulo. The 20-year-old Brazilian has the unenviable task of stepping into Ziyech’s boots.
Like the Moroccan he played from the right wing in the Brasileirao last season and certainly caught the eye, earning our second highest rating (7.14) for players aged 21 and under. Despite his youth, Antony was a mainstay for São Paulo. He had a direct hand in 10 goals, scoring four and setting up six. He is similar to Ziyech in the sense that he takes a lot of shots for a modest goal return. He also has superb trickery, (completing 2.6 dribbles per 90 minutes).
Antony, Corinthians to Benfica
Only one player aged 21 or under had a higher rating than Antony in the Brazilian top flight last season and that was his fellow winger Pedrinho (7.24), who has made the move from Corinthians to Benfica. The 21-year-old also plays from the right and is in a similar mould to the Ajax-bound winger. He has scored a modest five goals from 28 appearances, setting up another four.
Another strong dribbler, Pedrinho is a real creator from wide areas too, having set up 50 chances from open play in 2019 – only five players managed more in the Brasileiro. It will be interesting to see where he fits in at Benfica. Their star player, Pizzi, has operated from the right this season but he could move into the central playmaker role – as could Pedrinho for that matter – currently occupied by Adel Taarabt.
Alexander Nübel, Schalke to Bayern Munich
Alexander Nübel is being talked up as the new Manuel Neuer and he has followed in the Germany goalkeeper’s footsteps by making the move from Schalke to Bayern Munich on a free transfer. Nübel captained Schalke this season before losing his place amid the speculation of his defection to Munich. Schalke have played five games without him in goal, winning just one of them.
The 23-year-old may be expected to fill in as Neuer’s backup at Bayern but he is a colossal figure between the posts and will have other ideas. After all, since Neuer returned from a serious injury last season, he has been far from his imperious best. He has improved this season after a pretty dismal 2018-19 campaign, but Neuer will need to be sharp once Nübel arrives. The new kid on the block will be waiting for another slip-up.