The summer transfer winds are blowing.
As July nears, transfer season is in full swing, with significant decisions coming down seemingly daily, ones that will shape the club landscape for the next season and beyond and dictate who the power players will be for a year that will be impacted heavily by the 2022 World Cup.
Already we know that Kylian Mbappé has stayed put at PSG instead of bolting to Real Madrid, although his countryman, Aurélien Tchouaméni, has signed on to be part of the next wave of talent at the Bernabéu. Erling Haaland left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester City, and while Sadio Mané is off to Bayern Munich from Liverpool, he was replaced by former Benfica star Darwin Núñez.
The U.S. men’s national team is front-and-center in the transfer window as well, with Brenden Aaronson leaving Salzburg for Leeds United and Matt Turner joining Arsenal from the New England Revolution. Varying degrees of uncertainty linger for plenty of other key U.S. players, with the futures of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest and Tim Weah all becoming rumor fodder. There’s also the issue of U.S. goalkeepers, with none of the abroad-based contingent in line to start for their current clubs five months out from the beginning of the World Cup.
So while much has already been decided, there are plenty of headline-drawing moves still to come. Here are the biggest names to watch in the coming weeks, as business picks up, preseason begins and the dawn of the 2022-23 seasons abroad nears.
The Polish star and two-time reigning FIFA Best Men’s Player in the world has made his desires known. Despite enjoying a run of success at Bayern and having a year left on his contract, he wants out, and he reportedly only has eyes for Barcelona. Bayern Munich has plans to hold Lewandowski to his contract, though, at least publicly. On the day Bayern introduced Mané as its new signing (and theoretical Lewandowski replacement), club director Oliver Kahn reiterated the club’s stance.
“As far as Lewandowski is concerned, not much has changed. He's still under contract until 2023,” he said. “Here at Bayern we are now looking forward to the first day of training with Robert.”
Whether it’s posturing for a greater transfer fee from Barcelona (whose ability to afford Lewandowski likely hinges on completing sales elsewhere) or a hard-line stance, it just further underscores how dug in both parties are at the moment. There’s time to work things out, but it’ll require one side to budge in this very high-profile game of chicken.
PSG did well to hold onto Mbappé, but would it part ways with a star that it just signed to a new deal through 2025 just over a year ago? Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wasn’t so convincing about Neymar’s role with the club when addressing the topic earlier this week, and new sporting director Luís Campos is reportedly open to selling if the right offer comes in. The problem is that Neymar’s wages are astronomical, only a handful of clubs can afford both the fee and subsequent salary commitment and there’s no clear-cut landing spot. Unless PSG—and the player—were willing to entertain loan scenarios, it’s hard to envision an outcome that has Neymar wearing a different club’s kit.
Frenkie de Jong
The Dutch midfielder is reportedly the center of a transfer saga between Manchester United and Barcelona, with the former looking to reunite him with new manager Erik ten Hag. The hope there is that it would help de Jong rediscover the top form he enjoyed under ten Hag at Ajax while rejuvenating a Man United midfield that was often outdone last season.
The 25-year-old is reportedly the top target for chief executive Richard Arnold, with Man United said to already have had a €60 million ($63.5 million) bid rejected by Barcelona and while preparing a €70 million ($74 million) follow-up bid. Barcelona could use the money—especially if it wants to sign Lewandowski—and will surely have a breaking point despite president Joan Laporta’s claim last month that he thinks de Jong should stay put. Unless Barcelona thinks de Jong is invaluable to its project, a club in such a precarious financial situation would be wise to mull its options.
Lukaku appears headed back to Inter Milan on loan from Chelsea, where his second go-around just didn’t work out. On paper, it had all the markings of a perfect fit. Refined and polished after a successful spell in Italy, Lukaku was the No. 9 that Chelsea needed to have it all come together under Thomas Tuchel. He struggled mightily last season, though, scoring just eight Premier League goals, and he appeared to clash with his manager. Inter and Chelsea reportedly have a deal where the Italian club will pay a £10.3 million ($12.6 million) loan fee, while the player will take a 30% pay cut and have his wages paid by the Serie A side. All this less than a year after Lukaku became Chelsea’s club-record signing.
Pogba is departing Manchester United, with his contract winding down, and all signs point to him signing with Juventus for a second time. It was at Juve where Pogba enjoyed his peak club years, and perhaps there’s reason to believe the magic can resurface in Turin. Save for the wage aspect, it’s a low-risk venture for Juventus, which is still reeling from a second straight season in which it failed to win the Serie A title. Last season was trophy-less on all fronts for Juventus, so there’s pressure on Pogba to put it together for a full season so the Bianconeri can challenge the Milan squads once again.
Bale is a free agent after having his time at Real Madrid come to an end. He’s looking for a club where he can stay in shape and in form ahead of Wales’s first World Cup since 1958. While he hasn’t been a vital player on the club level for quite some time, he means everything to his country’s hopes in Qatar, so his choice of destination is rather important. He laughed off Getafe’s claims that he was in talks with the Spanish club, and he was reportedly at Cardiff City’s training on Wednesday, as his entourage held talks with the second-tier Championship club based in his native country. D.C. United has also lightly been linked to the 32-year-old star, but if Bale is going to take a competitive step down from Real Madrid, staying close to home makes plenty of logistical sense.
PSG is reportedly bidding for Inter Milan’s Slovakian center back, evidently convinced by its pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe after a season in which it won Ligue 1 but collapsed in the Champions League round of 16 vs. Real Madrid. He won’t come cheap, and Inter reportedly has an €80 million ($84.5 million) asking price, which could even be too rich for PSG’s blood given that its offer was said to be €30 million less.
Arsenal may not have qualified for the Champions League, but it remains an engaged suitor for the Brazilian forward, who could step in for the departed Alexandre Lacazette. His time at Man City appears over, with Haaland brought in to become Pep Guardiola’s star forward, but he could wind up helping Man City recoup much of what it spent to trigger Haaland’s Dortmund release clause if reports of a £50 million asking price come to fruition. Between Jesus, Fábio Vieira and reports linking the club to Leeds’ Raphinha, Leicester’s Youri Tielemans and Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez, it’s shaping up to be a busy summer of wheeling and dealing for a club desperate to return to England’s top four.
The English winger could be trading one shade of blue for another, with Chelsea reportedly at the front of the line to pry him from the Etihad, where his influence has waned. He has one year left remaining on his contract with Man City, so it stands to reason that he would be moved this summer, unless he can reach a long-term agreement at a place where his playing time is guaranteed. Chelsea, which has new owner Todd Boehly at the wheel for the transfer window, isn’t starved for wingers, though he would provide a new element into the attack with Lukaku set to depart.
As mentioned above, Arsenal is among the clubs chasing Raphinha, with Barcelona, Tottenham and Chelsea also heavily linked to the Brazil international. Leeds stands to benefit from a potential bidding war and reportedly has an asking price of £65 million ($79.8 million) for the winger, who scored 11 Premier League goals last season. Raphinha would make plenty of sense for Barcelona if it is not able to reach a new deal with the out-of-contract Ousmane Dembélé.
Haller could become part of Dortmund’s Haaland-sized solution, joining Karim Adeyemi as part of the remade attack at Signal Iduna Park. Haller made waves in the Champions League for Ajax this past season, scoring in all six group games and finishing behind just Karim Benzema and Lewandowski with 11 goals in the competition. His 21 goals led the Eredivisie. For a reported €36 million ($38 million), he could be well worth the purchase for a Dortmund side that could yet mount a challenge to Bayern’s decade of dominance. Haller has previous Bundesliga experience as well, having scored 24 league goals over two seasons with Eintracht Frankfurt from 2017-2019.
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