With the closure of the transfer window just eight days away, Sport360° analyses the immediate future of 10 major players across Europe who have looked destined for a move all summer.
There’s plenty of top talent up for grabs, but who will stay and who will go?
Indeed, plenty of questions to be answered!
We want to hear your thoughts, too.
Barkley has negotiated himself into a position of considerable weakness having turned down Everton’s contract offer at the end of last season without any definite suitors on the horizon.
Not so long ago, the 23-year-old was being pursued by all the Premier League’s finest but his career has stalled and wage demands of £150,000 a week have further muddied the waters as to where he’ll be playing his football next. For now, Chelsea or Tottenham look the most realistic landing spots.
The Blues need to boost their squad numbers and Barkley fits the profile of being young – with the Chelsea board reluctant to sanction any deals for players lacking resale value – while he gives their midfield unit more creativity. Does he possess the necessary work rate and tactical discipline to satisfy manager Antonio Conte, however?
Tottenham are also a common sense option but should they conclude a deal, it would instantly make Barkley their highest-paid player; a tricky situation to be in for an individual who won’t always make their first XI.
With Kylian Mbappe on his way to Paris and Fabinho potentially also following the French starlet, Lemar could be the last man standing of Monaco’s crown jewels.
At various stages of the summer Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United have supposedly been “on the brink” of signing the French international who, to his credit, has carried on performing – playing 90 minutes in Monaco’s three league games.
The attraction of the 21-year-old is obvious: a quick and tricky wide forward who was among the most creative players in Europe last season.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was in the south of France in June with CEO Ivan Gazidis and Lemar appeared to be his No1 priority, however, the Gunners’ lack of Champions League football may leave them on the outside looking in.
Liverpool have added Mohamed Salah, so with Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho staying put, paying £50m for someone who can’t find a place in the team may prove a stretch.
Chelsea’s need for additional quality could see them step up interest, although Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro plus Victor Moses – albeit in a more defensive role – does give Conte options in that department.
That then leaves United, with Jose Mourinho openly declaring he needs a wide player. Alt-hough at 21, Lemar’s age could count against him with the Portuguese preferring a more Premier League-ready player.
Diego Costa has made his position loud and clear to Chelsea: he wants out and is determined to return to Atletico Madrid.
Antonio Conte’s position, meanwhile, is well known and nor has it altered, which begs the question as to why it’s taking so long to get him out of Stamford Bridge.
Atletico’s transfer ban is a major issue, with the Spanish giants unable to sign their former frontman until January, and with Costa persona non grata in west London, it leaves him in limbo.
There is the slight side point that Atletico are yet to fully commit to buying him back and whispers that current leading man Antoine Griezmann isn’t exactly enamoured with the idea of playing alongside the often divisive Costa but surely if the option is there – and at what will be a reduced price – Diego Simeone will take it.
Something, though, needs to be resolved by next week and, clearly sensing an opportunity, Marseille have entered the sweepstake for the 28-year-old and could be prepared to offer Chelsea a take-it-or-leave it deal of around £27.5m. Given the proximity to the close of the window that could force Chelsea into action, although whether or not Costa wants to play in Ligue 1 or not is another matter.
Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud told SFR Sport earlier this week: “What I like about the player is his character, his passion and his willingness to fight.
“He would fit in well with our team. I understand he has a complicated contractual situation at Chelsea. But if it a player ticks all the boxes, we could reach a bid of up to £27.5 million.”
Costa’s personality and playing style would certainly endear him to the fervent support at the Stade Velodrome and, with the project under American Frank McCourt still in its infancy, he could become a bona fide club legend very quickly.
But, for now, Costa has his heart set on a return to Spain and unless Chelsea make his life difficult, putting him in a position where he has to leave now, he’ll be reunited with Simeone in January.
Having scored 26 goals in 35 Serie A games for Torino last season, with the greatest of respect for Il Toro, it’s unlikely Belotti would have imagined still playing for the club come the first kick of the season.
However, the 23-year-old appears to have been the victim of being everyone’s second or third choice and once the music stopped, with Alvaro Morata joining Chelsea, Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal, Manchester United opting for Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan taking the cheaper option in Nikola Kalinic, Belotti remained in burgundy. Fresh opportunity has emerged, though, with Kylian Mbappe on the verge of signing for PSG which will leave the Principality club a little light up front. Belotti is the sort of all-round striker who would fit into Leonardo Jardim’s aggressive offence, although his aerial strength makes him a little similar to Radamel Falcao, albeit a much younger version of.
Chelsea, once again, could come back in for Belotti for the same reason they would want Barkley and Lemar, but should Monaco have €150m burning a hole in their pocket post-Mbappe and in need for quick reinforcements, that looks his most likely destination.
PSG insist the €222m they shelled out on Neymar doesn’t need covering but, as much as the club hierarchy insist, the arrival of the Brazilian earlier this month presents financial and tactical issues.
Les Parisians are a top-heavy team with Draxler, Neymar, Lucas Moura, Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore all effectively competing for two spots. Competition may be healthy but with the exception of Pastore and maybe Lucas, all those individuals demand first-team football every week.
So far, Unai Emery has preferred Neymar and Di Maria alongside Edinson Cavani with Draxler making a five-minute cameo at the end ofSunday’s 6-2 hammering of Toulouse.
Sooner or later, the excitement of Neymar being in Paris will die down and players who were first choice last season will start getting fed up they’re no longer automatic picks.
To pre-empt and counter any disagreements, plus recouping some of the nine figures spent, the simple action is to make Draxler available. At 23, on a four-year contract and possessing world class ability, he represents their most valuable and saleable asset.
While any clubs needing to complete any last-minute business, Dortmund and Barca in particular, will no doubt be extremely interested.
What appeared a near-certainty in June now looks a remote possibility with Arsenal ready to take the hit in terms of transfer fee and run the Chilean’s contract down knowing he’ll depart on a free next summer.
Unlike others in his trade, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is reportedly, and honourably, reticent to kick up any trouble and force Sanchez to make a fuss, in order to maintain a good relationship with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. After their significant spend in the window it’s also unlikely City are willing to go higher than £70m for a 28-year-old who they can have for nothing in 12 months.
It’s a tricky situation for both buyer and seller as Guardiola knows Sanchez could be the final piece of the puzzle – defensive concerns aside – while for all their stubborness, £70m is a lot of money to turn down for Arsenal, especially for a player who could be on autopilot for the season knowing his place in the Chile squad is guaranteed, regardless of his performances in the Premier League.
PSG add another layer to the mystery but have their hearts set on Kylian Mbappe; should that break down, however, expect some last minute pressure on Arsenal to relent.
With Coutinho a no-go, Barcelona will be concentrating all their efforts on prising Dembele away from the Westfalenstadion in order to fill the Neymar-shaped hole in their team.
The problem is Dembele’s own conduct appears to have irked Dortmund’s board to such an extent, they seem determined not to let him go without a fight, irrespective of how much financial sense it makes.
The French international effectively went on strike within a few days of hearing of Barcelona’s interest and has since been told to stay away. How much that was his decision remains to be seen but it has only amplified Dortmund’s insistence that they will not be bullied by the Catalans.
They have, however, slightly softened their stance in the last week, perhaps realising it’s better to take the money now than risk integrating an unhappy player back into a dressing room of which many players have voiced their disgust at Dembele’s actions.
The early-season performances of Christian Pulisic have helped reassure coach Peter Bosz losing the 20-year-old may not be as damaging to his first XI as initially envisaged.
“We are prepared to sell him and what we want is on the table,” confirmed Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke yesterday. “When it’s not met, Dembele will stay with us. We will not negotiate.”
That price is believed to be €130m for a player who is under contract until 2021 and who they paid just €15m for from Rennes a year ago.
Barca are running out of time and with pressure mounting on club president Josep Maria Bartomeu after a truly miserable summer and fear of the future, the Catalans may have to bite the bullet and overpay. Especially if the €100m or so committed to Coutinho is now freed up.
Dembele clearly has all the ability to become one of the best players in the world but it’s still an open question and someone at Barca HQ is maybe concerned €130m is too much to find out an answer.
JEAN MICHAEL SERI
Liverpool’s admirable stance over Coutinho has seen Barca switch focus to the Ivorian who has been identified as an Andres Iniesta-style attacking midfielder who is flexible enough to play in a variety of positions and is quite significantly cheaper than any of the three failed offers they made for the Brazilian.
At €40m, the 26-year-old represents fantastic value for money in today’s transfer market, especially when you consider that’s the same amount of money the Blaugrana spent to sign Paulinho.
However, there may be a twist in the tail with Barcelona approaching the deal diving in two-footed. Knowing the player wants the move, that they have the money and Nice would reluctantly accept the bid, Barca have done their damndest to mess this one up with RMC Sport reporting the French club feel “disrespected” – for two reasons.
Firstly, that Barcelona have supposedly already agreed personal terms with Seri (a very modern phenomenon, this) before their bid has been accepted but, more pertinently, tried to push a transfer through on the eve of Nice’s most important game of the season, maybe even the biggest in the club’s history; namely, Tuesday night’s Champions League play-off second leg against Napoli.
All signs point to Seri being a Barcelona player sooner or later but the La Liga club have, once again, made a real mess of things.
Credit to the Algerian who has gone against the grain this summer by playing some of his best football for Leicester, despite the knowledge a Champions League club wants to sign him.
Mahrez handed a transfer request in 12 months ago but, after no bids were forthcoming or acceptable, stayed, with varying results, at the King Power Stadium.
This year, Roma have made their feelings known they would dearly love to add the 26-year-old to their squad but instead of sulking at Leicester’s refusal to let him leave for £32m – Roma’s third and most recent offer – he has been fantastic in their opening two league games of the season, something that will in-part please Roma director of football Monchi but also has probably added a few million onto his price-tag.
Consequently, who Mahrez will be playing for come September 1 simply comes down to if Roma value him as much as Leicester do. He is clearly the Foxes most creative and potentially consistent attacking player and, if they have ambitions on securing European football, either must stay or command a considerable figure. Roma are willing to spend but anything north of £40m could see them look elsewhere, although time is ticking.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK
Who’s been clumsier in the transfer window this summer, Liverpool or Barcelona? Had the Reds lost Coutinho, potentially them, but the way they’ve haphazardly tried to prise Van Dijk away from St Mary’s could have a larger impact on their season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are just not good enough to contend for a title until they sort out their defensive shortcomings and while a coherent argument can be made that it doesn’t matter who the individual is – the problems are structural – adding a defender of Van Dijk’s quality will surely result in some degree of improvement.
In May, the Dutchman was talking as if he was a Liverpool player already and £50m was probably enough to make it happen. Yet, the Reds’ past with Southampton – five signed from the south since 2014 and counting – came back to haunt them and tapping-up allegations led to any deal being pulled.
But with defensive issues at Anfield remaining and Van Dijk having burned his bridges for the Saints, surely Liverpool will have one more go. If they don’t, or if Southampton stick to their guns, that could open the door for Chelsea who have remained an interested party without a firm offer. One thing is for sure, though, at this stage of the window, he’ll cost more than £50m.