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Five Champions League transfers you might have missed this summer

:Headline: Five Champions League transfers you might have missed this summer:
As the summer transfer window prepares for a post-Euros boom, Sports Mole rounds up some Champions League moves that have flown under the radar.
Sports Mole

Not satisfied with being crowned kings of Europe for a 15th time last season, Real Madrid have already strengthened their latest Champions League-winning squad with some attractive signings.

Ahead of the expanded 2024-25 edition, which will feature more games than ever, most teams are in the market for fresh faces - and the action is hotting up just as Euro 2024 winds closer to its conclusion.

Moves for Kylian Mbappe and Endrick have bolstered Real's stellar front line, Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi are heading for Inter Milan on free transfers, while Douglas Luiz has swapped Champions League debutants Aston Villa for fallen giants Juventus - but several other switches seem to have flown under the radar.

Here, Sports Mole rounds up five of the most intriguing transfers that could make an impact on next season's competition.

Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart to Bayern Munich - £25.3m)

Bayern Munich's first signing of the Vincent Kompany era, Ito will become only the third Japanese player to represent Die Roten to date, following his move from last term's Bundesliga runners-up Stuttgart.

Capable of playing in both central defence and at left-back, he has signed a four-year deal in Bavaria, where the German giants have been impressed by his reliability, aggression, passing and versatility.

Making 26 top-flight appearances in 2023-24, helping his former club finish a point ahead of third-placed Bayern, Ito committed only 16 fouls and received just one yellow card, while an impressive pass completion rate of 90.4% was well inside the Bundesliga's top 20.

Now reaching his peak, the 25-year-old who moved to Europe from Jubilo Iwata three years ago has 19 international caps to his name so far, including an appearance at this year's Asian Cup in Qatar.

With Matthijs de Ligt apparently on his way out of the exit door at Bayern's Allianz Arena, Ito's chance to shine could come sooner rather than later.

Nicolo Zaniolo (Galatasaray to Atalanta BC - loan)

Though Nicolo Zaniolo continued his exodus from Italy by featuring some 39 times for Aston Villa last season, the one-time Roma wonderkid scored just three times and only started nine Premier League matches.

As a result, Villa declined to take up their option to purchase the Italian international at the end of his loan, sending him back to parent club Galatasaray.

The Turkish club wasted little time in moving the injury-hit attacker on again, though, and having booked their return to the Champions League for next term, Atalanta brought Zaniolo to Bergamo for what could be an eventual total of £20.2m.

In the first instance, the Europa League winners are paying £5.4m for a one-season loan, with the option to buy for a further £13.1m plus possible bonuses of £1.7m.

If the Inter primavera product can stay fit and well, he could be a perfect match with fellow forwards Charles De Ketelaere, Gianluca Scamacca and Ademola Lookman, so Serie A defences had better beware. A deep run in the Champions League cannot be ruled out, too.

Maarten Vandevoordt (Genk to RB Leipzig - £8.5m)

Not long before his 18th birthday in 2019, Maarten Vandevoordt made an unexpected Belgian league debut, and just three days later he became a Champions League record-breaker as the youngest debutant goalkeeper in the competition's history.

Aged just 17 years and 287 days when thrown into the deep end after Genk's first choice suffered an injury, the young stopper was at fault for at least one of four goals conceded that day, but such a harsh introduction to the big time has certainly not held him back.

As long ago as mid-2022, it was announced that Vandevoordt would join RB Leipzig from the summer of 2024, and his five-year contract with the Bundesliga club has finally begun.

The Belgium Under-21 international is predictably being likened to Red Devils and Real Madrid star Thibaut Courtois, as both learned their trade under the same coach - Genk's Guy Martens.

While going on to reach the same giddy heights as his hero is perhaps asking a lot, the two 'keepers may now meet in this season's Champions League - providing Vandevoordt can displace Leipzig stalwart Peter Gulacsi between the posts.

Aleix Garcia (Girona to Bayer Leverkusen - £15.1m)

A proven operator in the transfer market, with a superb record of success in recent seasons, Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director Simon Rolfes certainly recognises talent when he sees it.

Therefore, heralding the "excellent strategical abilities", "assured passing game" and "great vision" of the German champions' newest signing - plus his "valuable leadership qualities" - should make fans of Die Werkself sit up and take notice.

Generally deployed in a holding midfield role, 26-year-old Aleix Garcia has already been around the block a few times, but he arrives at his new club having helped Spanish upstarts Girona qualify for the Champions League.

The former Manchester City player - who started out at Villarreal - featured in all but one of their 38 league fixtures last season, contributing three goals and six assists, and often wearing the captain's armband.

Loaned by City to clubs diverse as Mouscron, Dinamo Bucharest and Eibar before joining Girona three years ago, Garcia drew the attention of Barcelona after being included in La Liga's 2023-24 team of the season, but a deal could not be agreed for financial reasons.

Twice capped by Spain, he was released from Luis de la Fuente's final Euros squad just before they set off for Germany, so there is still plenty left to prove in Leverkusen, where he will team up with compatriot Xabi Alonso.

Michele Di Gregorio (Monza to Juventus - loan)

With longstanding first choice Wojciech Szczesny apparently bound for Al-Nassr this summer, Juventus were in the market for a new number one goalkeeper ahead of their return to the Champions League.

Joining Juve as winner of the 'Best Goalkeeper' award in Serie A last season, Michele Di Gregorio somewhat surprisingly missed out on the final Italy squad that struggled to make an impact at Euro 2024, but his abilities are certainly not in doubt. A superb shot-stopper, the ex-Monza man is competent with his feet too, making him a perfect fit for Thiago Motta's new regime in Turin.

The Bianconeri's new boss will be presented with a 'keeper that made a league-leading 127 saves in 33 appearances last term, including no fewer than nine against Napoli in December.

Despite coming through the youth system of arch-rivals Inter - who will receive a sell-on fee when the deal is completed next year - Di Gregorio has already won the approval of a genuine Juve legend, Gianluigi Buffon.

The latter labelled his latest successor at the Allianz Stadium as "one of the best goalkeepers around" and an initial loan fee of £3.8m for the 2024-25 campaign seems to offer great value. Only a further £12m will then be required in order to make the move permanent. body check tags ::

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