I’d anticipated that it would be a busy summer for us and that prediction certainly came true. We had a coveted squad and I had to be active in replacing any outgoing players. So far, I’m pleased with the business done but only time will tell if I’ve made the right decisions.
The season had barely finished and I was fielding calls for first choice performers. Three senior players left the squad in June in total.
Hans Hateboer followed Timothy Castagne to Leicester City in a £10.25m move, it’ll be interesting to see how they rotate between those two. Next to go was one of last year’s joint top scorers – Duván Zapata departing for Arsenal for an initial £40m potentially rising to £53m. Rafael Tolói made it a trio of moves to England as he joined the champions Liverpool in a deal that will net us £13.5m.
Several deals had already been done before I arrived for players who were out on loan, I won’t mention them by name but we’ve profited to the tune of £33m for them. The deals were not yet done as we also let Berat Djimsiti leave for Lyon for an initial £4m rising to £8m, Alexey Miranchuk joined him for another £13.75m and the final big name departure was Ruslan Malinovskyi to join Zapata at Arsenal for £16.75m rising to £19m.
In total, so far, we’ve seen twenty-nine players leave the club between transfers and contracts expiring. Six of those were first team involved so definite replacements required.
First off, I have to mention my six month pursuit of Arkadiusz Milik. I anticipated losing at least one of Ilicic, Muriel or Zapata and had lined up the Polish striker as an option with his contract due to expire at the end of the 20/21 season. Sadly, this never materialised as the Napoli man made a move to Arsenal instead – bloody Arsenal!
Fear not, however, as I had one other lined up who potentially has a lot more to be excited about… 21 year old Brenner comes in for £10m from São Paulo, his dual Italian nationality meaning a double win as he doesn’t occupy a non-EU slot! If that wasn’t excitement enough he’s joined by 20 year old Thiago Almada from Vélez – the Argentine attacking midfield is a perfect successor for Papu Gomez and also is an Italian dual national… result!
Cristian Romero’s loan deal from Juventus was made permanent for the agreed fee of £14.5m. Dodo’s signing from Shakhtar for £15m is excellent business to replace Hateboer and Kostas Tsimkas is loaned in from Liverpool for the season with an optional fee of £11.75m agreed.
The business doesn’t quite end there as Hakan Çalhanoğlu comes in from £19.75m from Milan. After much consideration I also made the move for Dominik Livakovic from Dinamo Zagreb who is good enough to immediately step in as our Number 1.
Five fixtures were lined up which included a foreign tour to China. The results were good, even if we had to fight harder than I’d hoped for a few of them. New signing Dodo was a particular delight as he scored twice in his first two games and was a constant danger throughout the pre-season period.
THE SCOUTING METHOD
Occasionally a player comes up that I move for in an instant with little time to process though – this season you can look to Livakovic and Çalhanoğlu for that. However, generally I take a lot of time to consider my options and I do this through the use of the shortlist feature.
I have two shortlists set up – One Year Interest and Immediate Interest. As I spacebar smash my way through the season, players pop up here and there. If I find them of any brief interest then they go onto the One Year list for the period or, well… a year.
These players come to my attention through the social feed, scouting centre, playing against them or maybe just someone I’ve decided to look at. If I feel a player in my current squad may be on the verge of an exit, I also use the Find Similar Players option to search for like fitted players in order to make sure I’m always making an upgrade on them.
In the months before a transfer window, I assess my One Year list which can at times reach up to and beyond 50 souls. At this point I look individually at each – attributes, stats, performances, injuries – and pick out a few to transfer over to the Immediate Interest list. This then becomes my selected target list for the upcoming window.
It’s hardly innovative thinking but it’s a tried and trusted method I’ve used for some time to make sure I don’t have any last minute scrambling to replace anyone.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2021/22?
Well, Champions League football will return to Gewiss Stadium. We’ve been drawn as 3rd seeds into Group G along with English Champions Liverpool, Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Belgian runners-up RSC Anderlecht. Oh, this is going to be fun.
As always I like to begin the season by looking at our first five fixtures and this season we’ve been dealt a cruel hand. Roma (away), Inter (home), Juventus (away), Napoli (home) and Udinese (away). I’m fairly confident of getting back at Udinese after our last loss to them away, I’d also like to think we’re capable of beating Napoli at home and taking a point or more from Roma. Inter could be tricky enough but with a fully fit squad a draw is a must. Juventus away is anyone’s guess but I’d happily take a point right now. Prediction? Minimum of 9 points.
With all of the talk of transfer dealing being said, let’s not forget that there’s still two weeks left of the transfer window and a certain Eduardo Camavinga has been on my radar. The rumoured £50m+ price tag is enough to make my eyes water but never say never! I have £55m left in the transfer war chest and £229k/week remaining in the wage budget.
There’s also still the possibility that Josip Ilicic, Alejandro “Papu” Gomez and Luis Muriel will see some late interest and decide their future lies away from the Atalanta Adventure.
It’s shaping up to be another exciting one in Bergamo.