The sun has set on another summer of transfer sagas but if you think you can escape from the speculation … well, think again.
It’s clear who certain teams want, and where certain players want to go. Plans are being prepared well in advance of next summer – let’s call it the 2020 vision.
Think of this as a helpful warning, as you’ll be hearing about these potential moves for many moons to come.
REAL’S FRENCH CONNECTIONS
It should be the perfect marriage. Zinedine Zidane and Paul Pogba both want to tie the knot, but Real Madrid must pay a pretty penny for the privilege.
The problem this summer is that Madrid had already spent €300 million retooling their squad and all reports suggest Manchester United wanted half of that again to consider releasing Pogba. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that Madrid will return with sackfuls of cash in 2020.
To give full credit to the World Cup winner, his professionalism has been beyond question since dropping his ‘new challenge line’ during pre-season. Given the racial abuse he has suffered on social media – and the sign outside United’s training ground being defaced with ‘Pogba Out’ graffiti – he must wish he was anywhere but Manchester.
A player of Pogba’s calibre, however much he oscillates between fantastic and frustrating, should not be missing out on multiple Champions League campaigns. United are in full rebuild mode and their poor start does nothing to suggest that the signposts lead back to Europe’s elite competition.
Kylian Mbappe is no ordinary 20-year-old. The man, barely out of his teens, has already won the World Cup as well as three league titles, so it’s easy to believe that he has suitably grand expectations for his club progression, too.
Only that’s not happened at PSG and arguably never will. Mbappe can score as many goals as he wants, win as many league titles as he wants, but the asterisk against his name will be Ligue 1’s inferior competition for however long he remains in France.
Privately, it would be no surprise if he is agitating for a move. The Parisian talked about taking ‘more responsibility, whether at PSG or elsewhere’ at the Ligue 1 awards back in May, which came across as a premeditated move to set alarm bells off around Europe.
Florentino Perez in particular would have bolted upright at those comments. The huge problem for the Real Madrid president is that the last thing PSG need is cash and they’d much prefer to offload Neymar. Good luck, Florentino.
BARCA’S TAKE TWO
On to the bristling Brazilian. ‘MSN’ remains defunct – at least for now – in the wake of reports that Ousmane Dembele refused to be used as a makeweight to bring Neymar back to Barcelona.
No party could have been left happy about it. Neymar’s pouting has embarrassed PSG’s owners and caused distraction in both changing rooms, as Barcelona now seek to repair relationships with the numerous players they tried to offload to Paris in exchange.
Since talks broke down (again), the posturing by both clubs has cranked up again – PSG chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi has already stated that €300m is required for his signature, when it was widely reported that €200m would have been enough.
However, it is difficult to imagine Barca not gathering the resources for a new bid in 2020/21 and don’t discount Perez from sticking a Real Madrid-branded oar in, either.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hell-bent on signing young, British talent, Manchester United need a new poster boy when Pogba inevitably leaves, Sancho quit their noisy neighbours to seek his fortune in Germany … it’s all set for a glorious homecoming.
It’s just a shame that United aren’t fulfilling their end of the bargain – in fact, they’re falling well short after picking up just five points out of a possible 12 this season thus far. You get the feeling that Sancho would only be too happy to return to an English juggernaut if they weren’t so dead-set on careening into icebergs.
An attack of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, the hugely impressive Daniel James and Sancho would be faster than lightning, with the latter giving the sought-after end product that is so often lacking at Old Trafford.
Sancho is proving so good, however – he’s bagged 18 goals and 16 assists since the start of last season – it’s difficult to imagine the Red Devils would get a clear run at him. They can forget about it completely if they miss out on the Premier League’s top four and the Champions League.
BAYERN’S ‘SUMMER OF 2020’
If Trent Alexander-Arnold hadn’t bundled him over at Wembley last month, Leroy Sane could well be ripping up the Bundesliga right now instead of rehabbing in Manchester.
Before sustaining the ACL injury that has wrecked his season, it is fair to assume not even Sane truly knew what he wanted this year. Bayern Munich’s interest had been well documented for months on end and a firm push from the 23-year-old would surely have seen the transfer concluded well in advance of that fateful Community Shield clash against Liverpool.
Heaven knows Bayern have been keen enough on their end, having seriously considered pushing the boat out to €100m and up to 400k a week wages. Six months further reflection away from the pitch could go either way depending on the progress of his apparently prickly relationship with City boss Pep Guardiola.
The Bavarians will be hoping they aren’t burned twice by a Callum Hudson-Odoi-style U-turn.
The most naturally gifted German of his generation, you say? Surely he’s off to Bayern Munich.
If only it were that simple for the country’s colossus. Outside Germany’s borders there is Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United … you get the picture. Who wouldn’t be interested in a 6ft4in tall, technically flawless, versatile ambipedal, scarcely 20-year-old wunderkind?
Havertz scored an incredible 17 goals last season, operating in centre midfield, behind the striker and more often than not by the end of the season on the right of an attacking three. He has the dexterity of a Bernardo Silva from out wide despite him having a full 16cm on the diminutive Portuguese.
The likes of Mesut Ozil and Marco Reus have evaded Bayern’s clutches, but their allure has proven thoroughly entrancing for many of their compatriots. Can they find enough coins in their coffers if Sane also goes through?
Bayern could make it a hat-trick of Germans with Timo Werner, and he didn’t do his case any harm at all with a hat-trick for Leipzig against Gladbach ahead of the international break.
Leipzig got the trumpets out for the announcement of Werner’s new contract last month but, in reality, it’s just a guarantee that he won’t be leaving the club free of charge next summer rather than an oath of fealty.
Indeed, according to German publication Kicker, a club need only bid €30m to activate the release clause – not quite loose change, but only a few notes for a side like Bayern.
This move hinges on the 23-year-old convincing Bayern rather than the other way round. No one is quite sure just how good he is yet. He is incredibly pacy, can play through the centre or out wide, and has a eye for goal, but is really a rightful heir to the ridiculously prolific Robert Lewandowski?
After five goals from his first three Bundesliga outings this year, if he can get near 30, it’ll go some way to answering that question in the affirmative.
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