Ronaldo, Kane, Arsenal – Winners and losers from the 2021 summer transfer window

After a whirlwind summer, the transfer window is closed.

For some, it ends in delight having done what was required and having strengthened smartly for the season ahead.

For others, there are recriminations, whether due to the money that’s been spent (or not) or because of recruitment failures, whether incoming or going out.

Certainly, the £1.1bn spending by the Premier League’s 20 clubs was surprising. It was the lowest gross spend by the top flight teams since 2015, and marked an 11 percent drop on 2020, yet was still higher than expectations amid the ongoing pandemic.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, Jack Grealish’s record £100million move to Manchester City and Harry Kane’s non-transfer were the headline acts across the window.

But who were the big winners and losers across the Premier League? Mirror Football dives in…



Sometimes it’s about evolution rather than revolution, particularly when you’re the reigning European champions.

Thomas Tuchel didn’t need to use his first transfer window to stamp his mark via arrivals and instead just did what was required: Getting the centre-forward he believes is needed to make them Premier League title contenders.

Romelu Lukaku’s return to the Premier League offers the Blues the attacking focal point which they were missing, and has them firmly placed at the heart of the title battle.

That they managed to pay the £97million needed to get Lukaku with the sales of unwanted, surplus players – the likes of Kurt Zouma, Tammy Abraham, Davide Zappacosta et al – and make a net profit, makes it a fine window for Marina Granovskaia and co.

The late addition of Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez, adding further strength and talent to their midfield, merely further underlined that fact.

Romelu Lukaku gives Chelsea the attacking focal point they needed

Jack Grealish

This is what the Aston Villa captain wanted. He wanted the chance to step up to a higher level, to surround himself with world class teammates and to test himself in the Champions League.

Villa set clear parameters for a deal, Man City paid up and now Grealish, entering the peak years of his career, is strutting his stuff at the Etihad under Pep Guardiola.

The silverware and greater global recognition he craves is there for him, he just needs to reach out and grab it.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portuguese superstar spent much of the summer facing up to another year at a Juventus side that, after some pretty gross mismanagement in recent years, looks a shadow of the side that dominated Serie A and is in the midst of a rebuild.

Having tried to get out early doors, he looked likely to stay put, until the very final week of the window. Then Harry Kane announced he was staying at Spurs, Man City scrambled and asked the question and Jorge Mendes worked his magic to use that interest to leverage those in power at Old Trafford. It won’t have only been former players saying “How can you let him go there?”

Now he’s back at Manchester United, where he’s adored, in a team that is firmly in win-now mode after the arrivals of he, Raphael Varane and Jason Sancho, and has a final flourish in the Premier League ahead.

Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to Manchester United


Getty Images)

Ferran Torres

On the subject of City and not landing Ronaldo or Harry Kane, plus with Sergio Aguero gone, it presents an opportunity for Ferran Torres.

Signed last summer as a winger from Valencia, he’s shown his nose for goal both at the Etihad and with Spain – remember his hat-trick vs Germany earlier this year?

Anyway, Alan Shearer has been effusive in praising his movement in the penalty box and Pep Guardiola seems to like him as a No.9, so much so he’s picking him ahead of Gabriel Jesus there right now.

That position is there for someone to take for their own and Torres may just be the guy with all the tools, who happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Joe Willock

After an outstanding loan spell at Newcastle United, Joe Willock wanted to test the waters back at Arsenal in pre-season and see if he would be part of Arteta’s plans.

He wasn’t. Thus he made clear he wanted to move and got a deal done to get him somewhere he’s valued and where he’ll be a first-team regular.

Norwich City

Long before promotion from the Championship was assured, the Canaries knew that Emi Buendia, so important during their title charge, would be leaving. Duly, he departed for Aston Villa in a deal that could earn the Norfolk club £38million all in.

That allowed them to clearly plan for their latest stint in the top flight, in the hope of giving Daniel Farke a better shot at keeping them up.

And, in fairness to the top brass, they’ve done precisely that. They’ll never spend money they don’t have – and should be applauded for that – but they’ve made plenty of funds available and have added to the squad diligently.

In all they’ve spent over £50million on a number of young players with re-sale value – their oldest of 12 signings are Ben Gibson and Pierre Lees Melou at 28.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll beat the drop, but they certainly look better equipped than in 2019-20, provided they can shrug off a difficult first three games (three losses) and cut out the sloppy individual errors.

Dan James

The Wales international could easily have been lost in the shuffle at Manchester United following the arrival of Ronaldo, and that’s something which, quite simply, wouldn’t have done James any favours.

There’s no question he has struggled with confidence during his two years at Old Trafford and he struggled to get any real sustained rhythm throughout.

Thankfully, with his playing time looking set to dwindle, he’s been rescued by Marcelo Bielsa; the Leeds United boss was close to signing James in January 2019, and has kept tabs on him ever since.

Leeds thought they had finished their business before the opportunity to finally land James was presented to them, and Bielsa had no doubts about paying an initial £25million to finally take him to Elland Road. Hopefully, under the tutelage of the Argentine and with less pressure on his shoulders than in Manchester, James can really kick on in Yorkshire.

Dan James completed a deal two and a half years in the making



Harvey Elliott

With Gini Wijnaldum having departed, Liverpool fans – at least those on social media – spent much of the window calling for the club’s top brass to splurge on a creative midfielder. It’s a role Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both previously earmarked for, but which, for various reasons, namely injuries, neither has been able to grasp. Thus, both appear to have lost some of Jurgen Klopp’s trust.

Certainly there’s a gap to be filled there. Curtis Jones had chances last season, and now it’s Harvey Elliott’s turn. Klopp has spoken glowingly about the teenager who starred at Blackburn on loan and it was notable Elliott played the entirety of the weekend draw with Chelsea.

Perceived gaps in squads open up opportunities to young players, and Elliott now has a huge opportunity to make a first-team spot his own.

Patrick Vieira

When a new manager takes charge of a football club, what he wants is to have his vision backed.

Thankfully for Patrick Vieira, that is what has happened at Crystal Palace… and it was needed. Under Roy Hodgson, the Eagles ended last season with the oldest squad in the division. They then lost around a dozen professionals in the summer at the end of their contracts.

Thus, recruitment was always going to be vital for the Frenchman, and it feels as though Palace’s top brass have given him what he wanted.

The squad is much younger, with the likes of Marc Guehi, Joachim Andersen, Michael Olise and Odsonne Edouard among those who have arrived, with Vieira handed the tools required to change the club’s playing style.

Patrick Vieira has been backed as he looks to incorporate change at Crystal Palace

Andros Townsend

When Andros Townsend departed Crystal Palace as a free agent, you could forgive him if he worried about what was next.

Turning 30 over the summer, he hadn’t really pulled up too many trees at Selhurst Park in the last two seasons, scoring just twice in 61 games.

But offered a chance to reunite with Rafa Benitez at a bigger club in Everton – also one close to north Wales, where he’s working towards his coaching badges – he jumped at the opportunity.

Thus far, it looks like he’ll get plenty of minutes, rotating with Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi in the wide midfield roles depending on form and fitness.

For both Everton and Townsend, it looks a smart move.

Danny Ings

He got the big-money move he wanted. He got the contract he wanted. And the manner of his switch – little fanfare or speculation, just *BANG* deal done, felt like how transfers should be.

With Grealish gone, he can now fill the void as the new darling of the Holte End. With two goals already, he’s made a decent start.

Moise Kean

He didn’t get the move to Paris Saint-Germain that he wanted, but the young Italian does get the Everton exit he desired, with a return to former club Juventus.

Toffees fans won’t shed any tears, but this is perhaps the perfect solution from Kean’s perspective, going back to a Juve side in transition, where he will get more regular game time than he would at either PSG or indeed Goodison.


Harry Kane

If you start the summer declaring that you want to move to Manchester City to challenge for trophies, and you don’t get that move, then, quite simply, things haven’t worked out.

The England captain wanted to move to the Etihad and Pep Guardiola wanted him there.

But Daniel Levy, backed into a corner yet armed with the three years remaining on Kane’s contract – he should never have signed for six in 2018 – stood his ground, even winning the PR war against the Spurs No.10.

Ultimately, City’s top brass didn’t quite want Kane enough. Only one outright offer was made – to the tune of £100million, £50m below Levy’s asking price – and they had no interest in a deal that, including wages, could see them splurging in excess of £250million on a 28-year-old with little re-sale value.

That left Kane to announce a week before the transfer deadline that he would be staying put in North London, declaring: “I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100 percent focused on helping the team achieve success.”

He stopped short of apologising to Spurs fans however.

Kane is resigned to another year at Tottenham Hotspur


Action Images via Reuters)


If you’re going to be the biggest spenders in Europes (transfer fees only), then you can have no excuses when the window closes if you haven’t strengthened your first team.

And yet, here we stand, with Arsenal in exactly that position.

Having been agent led in their initial transfer offerings under Edu in recent seasons – which was very good news for Kia Joorabchian – they’ve pivoted to youth this summer, splashing huge money on Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Martin Odegaard, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Takehiro Tomiyasu and new back-up ‘keeper Aaron Ramsdale.

But after finishing eighth last term – their worst finish in over a quarter of a century – it’s scandalous that they’ve splashed £160million-plus to just stand still (at best).

This summer has been just another window into how poorly run this football club is right now.


Sticking with Arsenal, there is now huge pressure on the club’s technical director, and not just from fans.

This was a summer where he had to get recruitment right, where the club’s owners handed him big-money to get the team back on track.

Instead, things look more dire than ever, to the extent that Paul Merson is taking shots on Sky Sports News declaring he could do a better job. That’s the same Paul Merson whose only stint in management led to back-to-back relegations, of course.

Jesse Lingard

Unfortunately, Jesse Lingard remains at Manchester United. And it’s nothing short of a waste.

Lingard enjoyed a remarkable second half of 2020-21 on loan at West Ham. He was an effervescent presence for the Hammers, arguably the Premier League’s best individual performer between February and May last term. Scoring goals, assisting, taking responsibility; he was enjoying his football and tearing it up.

It’s only right that he wanted to go back to United and see if there was a future. It’s United’s prerogative to be happy to keep a talented footballer on their books.

But the England midfielder is in his prime years and now faces wasting months at United merely getting a few minutes here and a cup appearance there. He’s better than that.

Jesse Lingard remains a Manchester United player



Tanguy Ndombele

Another who wanted to waltz through the Spurs exit door, especially amid suggestions of interest from Bayern Munich.

Instead, despite not featuring for Nuno Espirito Santo during his early days at the helm, the France international remains.

Bernardo Silva

He’s wanted to leave Manchester City for around 18 months now, but, unfortunately, is just too damned talented for them to be happy to let go for cheap and too expensive for other clubs to afford right now.

Newcastle United

They get praise for getting Joe Willock through the door, the No.1 target of Steve Bruce.

But other than that, nothing. They spent their entire budget – £20million – to land Willock, and while Bruce wanted a new centre-half and another midfielder, he’s been left with the same squad as last season.

It’s little wonder the natives are restless already.


Given the summer they’ve had and the first-team arrivals they’ve made, Manchester United have to win something this season, no ifs, buts or maybes.

If they fail, then make no mistake, social media will soon let you know that it’s Fred’s fault.

Ross Barkley

Two years ago, Barkley won the last of his 33 England caps. During the 2019 calendar year, he scored four times in eight games for Gareth Southgate’s men.

Now, at the age of 27, he’s nowhere near Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea lineup. He didn’t do enough last season to convince Aston Villa to sign him permanently, and now is facing a campaign where he’s going to see little action.

Needless to say, he’s nowhere near Southgate’s Three Lions squad right now. As things stand, it looks unlikely he ever will be again.


They lost arguably the greatest footballer of all-time because they couldn’t afford to pay him.

They too an £80million hit (at best) on Antoine Griezmann, two years after signing him and at a point where he may have finally been able to find a place for himself in the starting lineup.

They lost a number of talented young players, but couldn’t shift the highly-paid fringe players whose fat contracts are only exacerbating their current situation.

Yes they’re not a Premier League club, but we simply couldn’t not include them.

More than a club? More than a mess.

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