Transfer Rumours: 7 Biggest Names on the Market This Summer & Who'll Sign Them
Football leagues across Europe reach their various conclusions over the course of the next month or so, and the big trophies will be handed out.
Then comes the time for clubs to take stock and plot how to improve next season. The opening of the summer transfer window provides them with the perfect opportunity to improve themselves.
For those at the very highest echelons of the game comes the chance to splash the cash and make a statement by signing one of world football's biggest and brightest.
With that very much in mind, here's a look at seven of the biggest names on the market this summer and the club(s) who will potentially be signing them:
7. Christian Eriksen: Borussia Dortmund
The Ajax playmaker continues to make wonderful progress with the Dutch giants, with the young Dane having played a key part in their third successive Eredivisie championship this season.
However, the 21-year-old continues to be linked with a move from the Amsterdam Arena and has recently given his thoughts on a potential move to the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund (according to Goal.com):
"Borussia Dortmund? That would not be a bad option. We met them twice with Ajax and lost both games. Dortmund would be nice."
With his Ajax contract set to expire in 2014, it seems he's likely to move on this summer. As a good passer capable of setting and dictating the tempo of a match with wonderful technique, a move to the Bundesliga would certainly be a step in the right direction for Eriksen.
Additionally, a move to the Westfalenstadion as a replacement for the outgoing Mario Gotze would certainly be an intelligent one, providing a chance to continue honing his skills in a forward-thinking side.
6. Gonzalo Higuain: Juventus
119 goals in 261 games for Real Madrid have marked Gonzalo Higuain down as one of world football's premier strikers. However, despite the continuing adulation of Los Merengues supporters, it appears the Argentine's time in La Liga is set to end this summer.
"In a great club like Real, we believe we need two number nines of a high level," said the club's general manager Jose Angel Sanchez, speaking to L'Equipe. (ESPN)
"We have Benzema and Higuain. Higuain will leave, Benzema will stay and two others will come."
For the majority of the last 18 months, Higuain has been largely second-fiddle to his French rival, and it has noticeably taken some of the sharpness from the 25-year-old's game. A regular starting spot and the chance to rediscover that missing half-yard is most definitely needed.
Thus, a new chapter in his career awaits. Italian champions Juventus, with only midfielder Arturo Vidal having reached double figures in goals this season, are very much in the market for a top-level striker—the already-decided deal for Fernando Llorente aside.
As such, a move to Turin for the former River Plate man could prove the best result for both parties, providing increased firepower for the Bianconeri ahead of another dual assault on Serie A and the Champions League, and the chance for Higuain to play regularly at the very highest level.
5. Mats Hummels: Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund's success in Europe this season has opened up the possibility of their squad being picked apart by vultures this summer, and one such scenario could see defensive leader Mats Hummels move to La Liga and Barcelona.
The Blaugrana have recently come under fire following their 7-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals for not strengthening their defence in the past couple of summers, preferring to retrain the likes of Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Alex Song to play at centre-half with mixed results.
Therefore, a summer deal for one of Europe's premier defenders could prove likely and, Dortmund defender Hummels could be the number one choice.
The 24-year-old has already claimed that he would consider a move to Spain this close season, claiming:
"Barcelona are one out of two or three teams that could make me consider a summer transfer." (Express)
Given his defensive capabilities and his technical quality on the ball, he would certainly prove a solid fit at Camp Nou.
He won't come cheap, but the humiliation by Bayern has shown those within the Barcelona hierarchy that defensive reinforcements are a necessity this close season.
4. Edinson Cavani: Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain
Sixteen goals are all that stand in the way of Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani and the club record at Napoli, currently held by a certain Diego Maradona. Should he remain in Naples next season, he will undoubtedly break that record.
Nonetheless, there has been a feeling that this season may well be his last with the Neopolitans.
Twenty-six goals in Serie A have once more underlined his quality, but they've scarcely made a dent in Juventus' title charge, with the vice-like grip of Antonio Conte's side on Italian football leaving Walter Mazzarri's talented but inconsistent Napoli to second place.
Having seen Ezequiel Lavezzi leave for PSG last summer, Cavani may see this offseason as his time—both for personal and professional issues—to patch up his marriage away from Naples' temptations, as well as to challenge for titles on both national and continental levels.
Manchester City are rumoured to be keen on enticing the 26-year-old to the Premier League with a £53 million package, according to the Daily Mail, which Napoli will struggle to refuse. Partnering Sergio Aguero in attack, and working in tandem with the likes of David Silva and Yaya Toure, may just be an offer too good to turn down.
Likewise, there could be the opportunity to move to Paris Saint-Germain to team up with Lavezzi once more. French radio station RMC is already claiming a deal is in the offing between Cavani and Le Parisiens (Metro).
3. Robert Lewandowski: Manchester United or Chelsea
Perhaps the hottest property in European football right now, Robert Lewandowski looks almost certain to follow Mario Gotze out of the Westfalenstadion this summer, given he has just 12 months remaining on his BVB contract. Nonetheless, the Polish international's destination is still somewhat up in the air.
His four goal salvo in the European Cup first leg semi-final win over Real Madrid for Borussia Dortmund rubber-stamped his terrific season, which has encompassed 35 goals in 43 matches.
Lewandowski's agent has recently spoken (Mirror) about his client having agreed to terms with a prospective set of future employers. However, the key will be getting those of his present club to sanction his sale, particularly in the light of Gotze's move to Bavaria. Everyone associated with Die Borussen would be loathe to see Lewandowski tread the same path.
As such, the likelihood of a move to the English Premier League increases. And with Jose Mourinho being heavily rumoured to stage a summer return to Chelsea, supposed texts from Mourinho to Lewandowski (Daily Mail) make very interesting reading.
The Europa League finalists are still trying to fully replace club legend Didier Drogba, despite the efforts of Fernando Torres. Claiming the Dortmund no. 9 for their own would go some way to doing so.
2. Fernando Torres: Atletico Madrid
Fernando Torres has scored 20-plus goals for Chelsea this season, but the fact remains that the Spaniard remains a shadow of his former Liverpool self.
The £50 million Roman Abramovich splurged on Torres in 2010 continues to look absurd with the player having struggled to reclaim former individual glories at Stamford Bridge. Fourteen Premier League goals during that time will attest to that, and his is a name that may well be heading out the door this summer.
Torres has intimated he would like to stay at the club (Metro), but with the Blues having eyes looking elsewhere with regards a striker for next season, it may only be a matter of time.
But where would the 29-year-old go?
However, much will depend on whether Chelsea can bring in the required replacement, and equally importantly, whether a seriously debt-ridden Atletico can fund such a move. If those problems can be overcome, there's no reason why this summer won't see a Fernando Torres homecoming.
Although, Atletico already have a genuinely world class no. 9. For now.
1. Radamel Falcao: Chelsea, Manchester United or (Heaven Forbid) Real Madrid
After another season of merciless goal getting with Atletico Madrid, the Colombian remains one of world football's most sought after strikers.
The man known as "El Tigre" has 68 goals in his two years with Los Rojiblancos and fans at the Vicente Calderon would be extremely unhappy to see him go.
However, such is the level of debt that the club currently find themselves in. Reality dictates that, should a certain offer come in, Falcao will be sacrificed for the greater good.
As such, Chelsea have made much of the running for the 27-year-old (Daily Mail), but the likes of Real Madrid (International Business Times) and Manchester United also have a standing interest. Indeed, compatriot Faustino Asprilla has urged Falcao to head to Old Trafford if his desire is to fight for the biggest trophies. (Daily Mail)
One of the most clinical strikers in the game today, the Colombian deserves that chance. With Spain's big two commanding La Liga, that scenario seems unlikely at present with Atletico; despite their recent cup successes, the gap remains seemingly insurmountable.
As such, a summer move would enable Falcao to be a regular challenger for major honours. Whether it's Manchester United, Chelsea or Real Madrid however, we'll have to wait and see. A move to the Santiago Bernabeu would certainly disgust Atletico's hardcore support, but release clauses being what they are, there can be no guarantees about where Falcao plays his football come 2013/14.