Most exciting debuts to watch across Europe’s top soccer leagues
Amid a summer of bustling transfer news across the world, the 2022-23 season will kick off across Europe. From Arsenal investing heavily, to Barcelona’s spending spree, this transfer market is a memorable one so far and there’s still a month left until the window closes.
Established veterans and young stars will be under the spotlight at their new clubs. So which debuts should you keep an eye out for?
We asked our writers Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland, Constantin Eckner, Gab Marcotti, and Julien Laurens which debutants across Europe’s Big Five leagues we should look out for in the 2022-23 season and here’s who they chose.
– Premier League 2022-23: Full fixture list
– When does the 2022-23 season start across Europe?
– ESPN guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (U.S.)
Barcelona’s summer transfer business has raised eyebrows for all sorts of reasons — and they’re not finished yet — but there’s no doubt the €45m arrival of Robert Lewandowski is the most attention-grabbing deal in LaLiga this window. Yes, he’ll soon turn 34, but Lewandowski looks in shape, hungry to put Barca back among Europe’s elite, and ready to add star power to a league that missed out on Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. With the likes of Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, and Pedri providing the ammunition at Camp Nou, Lewandowski’s battle with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema for LaLiga Pichichi (top scorer) will be unmissable.
If Real Madrid fans weren’t already excited about signing centre-back Antonio Rudiger — a Champions League winning, peak-age Germany international who can make their defence faster, taller, and more aggressive — then his debut in their preseason defeat to Barcelona in Las Vegas did more than enough to whet their appetites. Rudiger was given a thorough work over by Barca new boy Raphinha and acquitted himself well in an unfamiliar left-back role, even finding time to square up to Ronald Araujo as tempers flared before half-time. Rudiger citing Madrid legend Pepe as an inspiration in his introductory news conference was fair warning. Expect fireworks. — Kirkland
All eyes will be on Manchester City‘s first game of the season against West Ham at the London Stadium to see how Haaland handles his first taste of Premier League football. The Norway international striker has scored regularly wherever he’s been — 134 goals in 182 club games during his career to date — but the English top-flight is another test and it will be fascinating to see how one of the world’s best young players gets on. Even at just 22 years old he has been billed as one of the successors to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Pep Guardiola’s City feels like the perfect place for him to showcase his talents.
Will Jesus be the last piece of the jigsaw which finally allows Arsenal to take the next step under Mikel Arteta? The Brazil striker is proven in the Premier League despite never being first-choice at Manchester City. At Arsenal he looks set to be the main man and with that comes a different type of pressure: He’s the player Arteta has backed to score the goals to get Arsenal back into the Champions League. Jesus is a top-class finisher but has never had a season where he’s scored more than 14 league goals. He will need more than that at the Emirates but the potential is there. — Dawson
Before Bayern Munich agreed to let Lewandowski move to Barcelona, they made sure to bring a worthy heir to the Allianz Arena. In Mane, the German champions have acquired one of the Premier League’s most exciting players of the past eight years. It is not only a statement signing for Bayern but the entire Bundesliga. Liverpool fans around the world have rightfully bemoaned the departure of the Senegal international, who was so pivotal to the Reds’ success, but Liverpool’s loss is Bayern’s gain. Many Bayern fans will be keen to see how he will affect the team’s style and help compensate for the loss of relentless goal-scorer Lewandowski.
It feels like a lost son is coming home. Gotze, who famously scored the World Cup winning goal for Germany in 2014, has had to overcome a number of setbacks in his career and he went from being considered a generational talent to a benchwarmer. His move from Borussia Dortmund to PSV two years ago surprised many but might have been the best decision possible. Away from the spotlight, Gotze was able to regain confidence and redefine his game. At 30, he is far from the player he used to be, but his technical prowess and quick feet make him a threat to any defence. That he returns to the Bundesliga wearing the shirt of Eintracht Frankfurt would have been unthinkable not so long ago. Regardless, his debut for the Europa League winners is highly anticipated, as many fans are curious to see how much magic is left. — Eckner
Five years after leaving Lyon for Arsenal, Lacazette is back. Welcomed back almost like a God by the OL fans, the striker re-signed as a free agent this summer. At 30, he could have gone to another country, or to a club playing in Europe, but he wanted to help his hometown side back to the top. For the second season in three, Lyon have missed out on European football and were too far behind the title race last year. Lacazette’s signing, like Corentin Tolisso’s (Lyon as well) and Moussa Sissoko’s (Nantes), is a massive coup for Ligue 1.
Vitinha is the perfect representation of the new direction that PSG are taking this summer: fewer big names, less bling-bling, and a focus on more hard-work and potential. The 22-year old Portugal midfielder is exactly that. His transfer fee of just over €40m is reasonable for someone of his potential. He was outstanding for Porto last season, leading them to a domestic double. Vitinha is the complete midfielder — despite not being the tallest — as he can defend, attack, score, create, tackle and dribble. PSG’s new sporting director Luis Campos could have recruited other players but he ticked all the boxes. — Laurens
OK, so the guy started as many Premier League games as I did last season and likely won’t start for Milan. But his 1.72 goals, (albeit with a tiny sample size) per 90 minutes was by far the highest last season among Premier League strikers. And, of course, he scored some massive goals for Liverpool over the years (not just the Champions League winner either… just ask Barcelona, Everton or Wolves). I’m curious to see what he can do with meaningful minutes on the pitch, when you don’t have Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota keeping you out of the side.
Hugely hyped from a young age, the Georgia winger is a human highlight reel and one of the hottest prospects around. He excelled in his native Georgia with Dinamo Tbilisi and in Russia for Rubin Kazan, nd is now making the step up to replace the departed Lorenzo Insigne at Napoli. He’s quick, he’s tall, he can dribble and has an eye for goal. He only turned 21 in February and settling into Serie A isn’t always straightforward, but he certainly has the tools to succeed. And if he does it in Diego Maradona’s old home, he’ll be a folk hero to the point that people will learn to spell his name correctly (for now, he’s asked people to simply call him “Kvara.”) — Marcotti
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.