Best transfers: Mac Allister, Kovacic, Guler and more

Tor-Kristian KarlsenJul 16, 2023, 4:00 AM ET8 minutes of reading

Matthew Kovacic can add a lot to Manchester City’s midfield.Manchester City FC via Getty Images

The transfer window across Europe’s top leagues is in full swing and there have already been some big moves. But while the likes of Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool have already spent over €100 million ($111.6 million) to sign world-class players, there have also been a few offers.

Here we look at six of the best value-for-money transfers so far, as well as six players that clubs could sign for a minimal fee.

*All fees are estimated, with Transfermarkt ratings applied.

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Completed agreements

Matthew Kovacic, 28, CM, Manchester City, €30m

In today’s inflated transfer market, signing a four-time Champions League winner with almost 100 caps for Croatia for €30m before he turns 30 is an incredible deal. Despite never being an undisputed regular at Inter Milan or Real Madrid, Kovacic won the faith of whoever happened to be in charge of Chelsea and should prove equally useful to Pep Guardiola (who usually plays with two No. 8s, which suits Kovacic perfectly. )

Even if Manchester City sign another midfielder before the end of the window, Kovacic’s ability to cover multiple roles in midfield, his admirable defensive work rate and his direct passing should help compensate for the loss of Ilkay Gundogan.

Arda Guler18, AM, Real Madrid, €17.5m

Real Madrid reportedly beat off rivals from a number of elite destinations (including Barcelona) to land the exceptionally talented Turkish international midfielder from Fenerbahce. Without his release clause of 17.5 million EUR, Guler would undoubtedly have demanded a significantly higher fee and Madrid have done themselves a bargain.

Seen by many as a generational talent, the teenager boasts remarkable dribbling skills (more than four successful dribbles per 90 minutes) as he is able to dance past opponents with a low center of gravity and quick first move. Whether cutting in from the right or roaming in central areas, the creative and elusive playmaker also possesses a wonderful left foot.

Lee Kang-In, 22, AM, Paris Saint-Germain, €22m

Lee Kang-In was a revelation for Mallorca last season.Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

A €22 million signing from Mallorca, the South Korea international is an interesting signing for a club that has previously seemed more concerned with big-name status than potential. After showing plenty of teenage promise at Valencia, Lee enjoyed his proper breakout last season and was a major contributor to Mallorca’s top-half finish in LaLiga with six goals and seven assists.

Left-footed, extremely positive in his play and always looking for opportunities going forward (4.5 progressive passes per 90 minutes), he can fit into any attacking midfield role and PSG will benefit from his versatility.

Enzo Le Fee, 23, CM, Rennes, €20m

Le Fee was heavily tipped to move abroad this summer, but Rennes managed to keep the versatile midfielder in Ligue 1 by signing him from Lorient. One of the most effective players in France last season, Le Fee’s ability on the ball (he often plays constructive, nicely weighted passes) and excellent control of his body allow him to protect possession well and turn quickly in all directions .

Versatile and tactically intelligent, the France Under-21 midfielder also tackles and recovers the ball while finding positions to do damage in the final third. He is undoubtedly best deployed as a No. 8, but he can also play wide and in a double pivot role.

Benjamin Sesko, 20, CF, RB Leipzig, €24m

A transfer was originally agreed last summer, but the 6-foot-4 Slovenia international has now taken the well-trodden path from FC Salzburg to the Red Bull group’s biggest club in Leipzig. After polishing his game in Austria, his link-up play has improved and he scored 29 goals in 79 games.

Long regarded as one of the most exciting centre-forwards in his age group, the 20-year-old has a strong aerial game as well as high speed and acceleration for his size. A fine finisher, he also times his runs well and often gets on the end of crosses or cut-backs. Although his touch and technique still need work, Sesko could make an immediate impact in the demanding environment of the German Bundesliga.

Alexis MacAllister, 24, CM, Liverpool, €40m

Before the 2022 World Cup, the €40 million Brighton received from Liverpool for the midfielder’s signature would have been considered a decent sum. But after a month in which Mac Allister helped Argentina to the trophy with a string of stellar performances, it appears to be on the cheap side. Yet that was the result of a release clause (uncommon in the Premier League) that was added when he put pen to paper on a new contract in October.

With great technical skills on the ball, Mac Allister’s passing range is good and he can dictate the tempo of the game with his quick and sharp movement. He is an attacking force and has the vision and awareness to create space for his teammates. Not the most physical in midfield, he has a great work ethic and Jurgen Klopp should get a lot out of him in the press.

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Potential signings

Zeki Amdouni, 22, FW, FC Basel, €10m

FC Basel could have withdrawn the summer’s deal by taking advantage of the permanent option of 4 million. EUR to land the Lausanne striker after his loan expired. Amdouni’s performances for club and country (five goals in five appearances) over the last six months have been so sensational that bigger clubs are already eyeing the Swiss international.

If his combination of excellent technical ability, intuitive creativity, high-speed dribbling and turning, well-developed physique and ambidexterity were not enough, Amdouni is also deceptively dominant in the air and there is aggression in his game as well. Full of flair and liveliness, he tends to thrive when he moves into the final third and is a threat in a central or wide role up front.

Mohamed Kaba21, CM, FC Valenciennes, €3m

Although unproven at the highest level of French football, Kaba’s performances over the past season and clear interpretation of the No. 6 role suggest that he has already outgrown Ligue 2. Physically dominant in the middle of the pitch he covers a lot of ground, intercepts efficiently (2.2 interceptions per 90 minutes) and is not afraid of contact (8-plus duels won per 90 minutes).

The Frenchman is also delightfully tidy on the ball and can progress out of congested areas without losing possession. He can also change direction with either foot and keeps his head up to feed line-mates with line-breaking passes. Informal and with a great work ethic, Kaba provides a reliable presence deep in midfield and is ready to step up.

Arthur Vermeer18, CM, Royal Antwerp, €17m

One of the revelations of the year in Belgian football, the 18-year-old marked his debut season at senior level by becoming an essential part of Antwerp’s league-winning team. Usually deployed as a defensive midfielder in a double pivot, he exudes confidence beyond his years and is excellent at winning the ball, getting around the pitch and draining passes.

Always active, with a high level of consistency and good passing range of his own, the Belgium Under-19 international is sure to be on the shortlist of most European giants. While another season or two in Belgium wouldn’t hurt the teenager’s development, he’s definitely one to watch.

Alan Varela22, DM, Boca Juniors, €9 million

A product of the prestigious Boca Juniors academy, Varela has only recently broken into the first team but has made a big impression. At 5-foot-8, he doesn’t have the towering physical presence of some players in the defensive midfield role, but his stamina, awareness and positioning allow him to get the best of opponents with guile rather than force.

He is actually also a committed tackler who helps and is comfortable on the ball and takes his time to choose the right pass. He’s not fancy with his distribution, he keeps possession well and keeps things ticking over in midfield without being too extensive. If teams are looking for an aggressive and industrious midfielder with a touch of finesse, they could do a lot worse.

Keito Nakamura22, AM, LASK, €8 million

The Japanese winger has attracted plenty of interest on the back of a fantastic season in Austria with LASK. He scored his first goal in his second senior appearance for the national team last month and his ability to finish as well as create (14 goals, seven assists for LASK last season) makes for a modern, fairly complete wide playmaker.

Although not the quickest, Nakamura’s off-the-ball movement sees him make timely runs into the box after chances that he normally finishes calmly. Technically gifted and blessed with a subtle touch, he carries the ball forward well and is excellent at finding a teammate with a pass in behind the defensive line.

Gianluca Prestianni, 17, FW, Velez Sarsfield, €5m

With Julian Alvarez (Man City) and Julio Enciso (Brighton) proving that it is possible to make a direct leap from the South American leagues to the Premier League, the Velez Sarsfield winger represents another exciting prospect.

Although he is still six months away from his 18th birthday (which rules out a move abroad this summer, although a deal could still be agreed), Prestianni’s explosive acceleration in wide areas, high-speed dribbling and quick body movements score high on the checklist of desired attributes of European top clubs.

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