It doesn’t take being an avid soccer supporter to recognize the names Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. For two decades now, the two superstars have see-sawed with the title of best player in the world. They made headlines this summer; but for once, it wasn’t because of their soccer skills. It was because they shocked the sports world by moving to different clubs.
Messi, Ronaldo and a number of prominent international soccer players will be putting new uniforms over their heads this year after one of the most eventful transfer windows in recent history.
In a remarkable turn of events last summer, Messi parted ways with the club that brought him his fame: FC Barcelona. It is odd for soccer fans to see the 34-year-old Argentinian in anything other than the blue and garnet stripes he has donned for the past 21 years.
Nevertheless, images of Messi subbing for Neymar in a Paris Saint-Germain FC kit flooded the internet last week when he made his debut with the club. Messi will continue to play up front with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, making PSG’s new attacking trio one of the most lethal in the world. Good luck, Ligue 1 defenses.
As for Ronaldo, things are coming back full circle for the Portuguese icon. He has officially returned to Manchester United, the club where it all began. After hearing reports that Ronaldo wanted to leave Juventus — then after learning about Manchester City’s vested interest — Man United quickly struck a deal with the 36-year-old. Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo scored two goals in his debut at Old Trafford Stadium last Saturday, helping his team secure the 4-1 victory over Newcastle.
United may have acted impulsively on this one, eager to win back the beloved teenage phenom they once knew. But, in any case, fans old enough to remember Ronaldo’s first spell at Manchester now get to see it all over again — this time, he has little left to prove.
Messi and Ronaldo weren’t the only ones to make a mark on this summer’s historic transfer window. Raphaël Varane and Jadon Sancho were also sent to Manchester United during the transfer window for $137 million combined. France’s Antoine Griezmann returned to Atletico Madrid for a chance to reunite with his former Barca teammate, Luis Suarez. Romelu Lukaku is now back at Chelsea, where he played from 2011 to 2014.
From a financial viewpoint, the most astonishing transfer last summer was Jack Grealish to Manchester City for a whopping $130 million. The England international is coming off a strong European Championship performance, but only time will tell if he’s worth the money to City.
Soccer is an emotional sport. The most faithful fans will testify to that. The bond many supporters form with their clubs and favorite players is often unbreakable. As hard as it is for some to see players like Messi, Ronaldo, Lukaku and Grealish leave their clubs for new ones, it is that impermanence that gives the sport meaning and life.
Last summer’s transfer window was one for the ages. It was also one that reached far beyond the soccer world and touched every sports fan across the globe, generating a wide range of emotions, both good and bad. If there’s any reason to start watching soccer this year, the madness that unfolded this summer is reason enough.