We don’t know when the transfer window will open or how much clubs will be able to spend. What we do know is a number of huge deals will take place, regardless of the fall-out of COVID-19.
Plenty has been written and said about the economic ramifications of this pandemic for football. There has been talk of budgets being halved overnight while free transfers and loan deals could be the order of the day.
Despite those warnings, it’s hard to escape the feeling football is uniquely resistant to real-world happenings. It is virtually impossible to see deals like Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain taking place again in the near future. But big-name transfers will still happen. They have to.
So we’ve looked at ten massive moves we still expect this year – whenever the transfer window opens.
The Borussia Dortmund talisman is the most-wanted player in Europe. Still only 20, Sancho has served his footballing apprenticeship at the Westfalenstadion. There will be an almighty scramble for his signature this summer.
All of Europe’s top clubs want Sancho, who extended his contract with BVB beyond the summer of 2022 in August, signing a deal worth £190,000 a week.
That won’t deter the clubs in for the former Watford and Manchester City youngster. City’s cross-town rivals, Manchester United, appear to head the queue. Last month it was reported ‘almost every detail’ had been agreed, with the fee the sticking point.
Germany is the place to be for big-name deals this summer and RB Leipzig striker Werner is no exception. The 24-year-old is every bit as likely to leave Germany as Sancho in the next window. But his destination looks more clear-cut.
Liverpool have been linked with the versatile attacker, who can also play on the left, for some time and Jürgen Klopp is a known admirer of the 29-cap German international.
Speaking earlier in May, Red Bull’s head of sport and development Ralf Rangnick said the Reds would the best fit for the former Stuttgart youngster.
“Since Timo has made progress under Julian Nagelsmann, his most important weapons, however, are the quick switching movement and his powerful finish.
“Therefore, he would rather fit a club like Liverpool, which is similar to our style of play, but I would prefer him to stay here.”
Striking properties do not come much hotter than the Internazionale forward.
The €22.7million Inter paid Racing Club in July 2018 looks like smarter business by the week. Martínez has never been prolific since moving to San Siro, scoring 25 times in 66 appearances in all competitions. Having worked under Luciano Spalletti and Antonio Conte that isn’t a huge surprise.
What has earned the Argentine hitman numerous admirers is his pace, directness, finishing ability and movement. Martínez has 16 in 31 in all competitions for the Nerazzurri this term and his growing maturity makes him hugely appealing.
Barcelona lead the chase and will reportedly offer Inter their pick of any one of six outcasts. Those players are thought to be Arturo Vidal, Nélson Semedo, Samuel Umtiti, Junior Firpo, Rafinha and Jean-Clair Todibo.
Martínez’s £94million release clause might be out of the reach of most clubs this summer but PSG, Real Madrid and Manchester United are also keen.
Not one of the six outcasts put on the trade block by Barça, Coutinho is no more wanted at the Camp Nou than any of his team-mates.
The Brazilian’s loan spell at Bayern Munich has gone OK, but no better. Already the Bavarians have paid Coutinho’s entire salary and €8.5million to take him on loan for the season. For the move to become permanent, a further €120million would be required.
Deals of that magnitude look increasingly unlikely to happen in the coming months, as clubs count the cost of COVID-19 and the enforced break in football. Barcelona will be forced to hawk their record signing (£147million) around Europe for a second successive summer.
An emotional return to Anfield has been mooted, and quickly quashed, while Chelsea have been linked with the 27-year-old. With Hakim Ziyech already committed to Frank Lampard’s revolution, it’s hard to see a place for Coutinho.
Someone Barcelona will have far less trouble moving on is French Under-20 international centre-half Todibo.
The 6ft 3ins defender only signed for the Blaugrana in January 2019 but has made just five senior appearances for Barça. Watford, Southampton and Bayer Leverkusen were among Todibo’s suitors last summer but the former Toulouse youngster remained in Catalonia.
With first-team chances hard to come by, he joined Bundesliga side Schalke on loan in January. Todibo made just five appearances before football was paused and impressed. Whether Die Königsblauen can afford an initial €25million to make the deal permanent is another matter, though.
Todibo reads the game well and his distribution is excellent too. Tall, strong and quick, he has all the qualities required in a modern centre-half.
Everton have been heavily linked with the 20-year-old. According to Sport, RB Leipzig have joined the race – presumably fearing the loss of Dayot Upamecano – while Mundo Deportivo say Roma are also in for the defender.
The Croatian is one of the world’s best in his position but has found himself on the sidelines at Barcelona. Just 963 LaLiga minutes are a scant reward for someone of Rakitić’s ability and the 32-year-old has spoken out at his displeasure.
“How does my little girl feel when her toy is taken away?” he asked earlier in the season. “Sad. I feel the same way. They have taken the ball away from me – I feel sad.”
Potential deals taking him to Atlético Madrid or Internazionale came to nothing last summer. Manchester United, Juventus, Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla are all outsiders. But Rakitić recently performed a U-turn.
“I’ve still got a contract, when I sign a contract I always intend to fulfil it, and if that cannot happen for any reason, then we’ll sit down together and talk about it,” he said. “But for the moment, I am very happy here and I am thinking about other stuff.”
What won’t aid Rakitić’s hopes of regular football in Catalonia is Barcelona’s interest in Juventus‘ Pjanić.
Juve must move some midfielders out if they’re to contemplate a return for Paul Pogba. Pjanić could be the odd man out.
According to ESPN, Pjanić is open to a move to Barcelona. The smooth-passing midfielder would be the ideal fit at the Camp Nou, though Quique Setién’s squad is well-stocked in midfield.
Barcelona need cash to sign the aforementioned Martínez, meaning a swap deal is their preference. Todibo and Vidal are two options but Brazilian Arthur has no plans to leave. The 23-year-old has released a statement outlining his desire to remain in Spain.
Pjanić almost certainly won’t be the only midfielder leaving the Allianz Stadium this summer. Rabiot nailed his colours to the mast this week by refusing to return to training.
According to La Stampa, Rabiot is unhappy at the club for cutting £7million of his £28million salary and is effectively ‘on strike’.
It’s been an underwhelming first season in Turin for the 25-year-old, who endured a similarly acrimonious exit from PSG. Forced to train with the reserves after announcing he wouldn’t be renewing his contract, worse was to come.
Rabiot was suspended following PSG’s UEFA Champions League exit to Manchester United in 2019, for liking an Instagram post by Patrice Evra celebrating the Red Devils’ victory and then visiting a nightclub after the 3-1 loss.
Things haven’t improved in Italy for Rabiot who has made just 11 Serie A starts this season. Despite all that, Manchester United could be keen on the six-cap French international.
We said Barça wanted to shift a few and Vidal is another. The 32-year-old has grown frustrated at being the club’s Plan B.
Internazionale boss Conte is a long-term admirer of the former Juventus and Bayern midfielder. With Barca keen on Martínez, this could be one of the simpler deals to get over the line this summer.
On paper, Vidal is the ideal fit for a Conte side. Hard-working and physically imposing, the spiky-haired midfielder is at odds with everything Barcelona stand for.
Yet Lionel Messi, no less, is a big advocate of Vidal, saying: “Barça fans always want players with good feet. We defend with the ball. Players like Arturo Vidal are necessary.
“He’s the type of player who does everything well, with the ball and also with the muscle that he has.”
A lot of the midfielders on this list aren’t wanted by their clubs anymore. The same cannot be said of Ajax maestro Van de Beek who has outgrown the Amsterdam side.
The 23-year-old is expected to follow former team-mate Frenkie de Jong by joining one of Europe’s biggest outfits this summer.
Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar confirmed de Godenzonen will honour an agreement to let the pass master leave.
He said: “Last year, we made verbal agreements with [André] Onana, [Nicolas] Tagliafico and Van de Beek to stay another season, and then we look to help each other and find the next step in their careers. Nothing has changed,” said Van der Sar.
“There won’t be a 50 per cent discount. The clubs can forget about that.”
Barça, with a penchant for Dutchman, are just one of Van de Beek’s suitors. Naturally, rivals Real Madrid are in the hunt too. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are also keen on completing one of the deals of the summer.