Swansea's summer shows club is potential destination for top names
While some of the Premier League's big clubs botched their transfer business, Swansea more than took care of their own, and should rank as one of this window's resounding winners. New boss Paul Clement showed he can offer the club more than mere tactical savvy, exploiting his contacts to bring Euro 2016 wunderkid Renato Sanches to the Liberty, while former fan favourite Wilfried Bony rejoined from Manchester City.
The Sanches capture is beyond remarkable for a club of Swansea's stature. Normally, a middleweight Premier League team that has freely flirted with relegation should have no business even contacting Bayern Munich, much less negotiating a deal for one of its players. However, Clement's personal relationship with both Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti and Sanches himself helped seal the deal.
Swansea's website broke down once the news was announced, and the traffic jam of disbelief on Twitter united behind a repeating theme: Why would Sanches choose Swansea over the likes of Liverpool, or Juventus, or Milan?
The answer is obvious. His career had already stalled at a big club in Bayern, the 20 year old not sufficiently developed to force his way into first team reckoning. Sanches needs to play to improve, and he needs to play under a responsible coach in a system that will support his strengths. Enter Clement and Swansea.
Ancelotti trusts his former long-standing assistant to nurture Sanches in Swansea's sophisticated football-first system. Sanches will improve with Swansea because he will play possibly every available minute. His decision to come to Wales is an endorsement that will help the Swans on and off the field -- the club's profile as an attractive destination for cultured players just got a timely and significant shot in the arm after a few seasons of sub-par recruitment.
Swansea's reputation was further enhanced by the battle between big six sides Spurs and Chelsea for Fernando Llorente. While Spurs won that tussle, the Swans mitigated the loss by re-signing Bony as the Spaniard's replacement, a younger player with an arguably stronger all-around game (a signing which broke the website for a second time in one night). His compact playing style should be a perfect fit for Clement's narrow and mostly winger-less tactical systems.
Bony's £12m fee is the same sum Swansea initially paid Vitesse for him in 2013, making a total outlay of £24m on one player. Manchester City paid the Welsh club £28m for the same player in 2015, which means that not only did City effectively buy Swansea a striker, but the Swans also wound up with £4m profit on top.
That kind of monetary savvy is a new weapon for this club, who have looked more like financial sharks than sheep since being taken over by American investors Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien last summer. The board was bold enough to ask £50m for Gylfi Sigurdsson and stubborn enough to get £45m from Everton. A quick look at the net spend of all Premier League clubs this window puts Swansea roughly £30m in profit, despite the side signing five good players -- easily the league's best "net spend."
Among the other signings were Hull's Sam Clucas, who could easily have followed former teammate Andrew Robertson to a big six side but somehow ended up at Swansea, and Roque Mesa from Las Palmas, who finished last season among La Liga's best passers while harbouring ambitions of a call up to Spain's national team.
Good players are evidently seeing Swansea as a solid choice to advance their careers, which speaks volumes about how much the club's reputation has improved, thanks in no small part to the presence of Clement and assistant coach Claude Makelele.
The one area not addressed this window was defence, but since Clement has already managed to make former spare parts Kyle Bartley and Mike van der Hoorn look like Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, that hardly seems so bothersome anymore.
A new wing back would have been good, but it's always possible one or more of Swansea's increasingly marginalised wingers (Jefferson Montero, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, Luciano Narsingh) can do what Victor Moses managed at Chelsea last season. And failing that, there's always January.
The mark of this window's success for Swansea is that it is now very difficult to name a starting XI without leaving a genuinely good player out, and that's a situation Swansea haven't been in for years. The club have neatly addressed the problem of replacing last season's saviours Sigurdsson and Llorente by completely changing the focus of the team. The new men will fit into the new system, and on paper at least, Swansea now seem a fairly formidable mid-table side, perhaps for the first time since the days of Michael Laudrup. Relegation candidates? Not this season.
Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks