July is here, and with the countdown to next season in full swing and the transfer window wide open, football’s rumour mill is turning faster by the week.
Deals are happening right across Europe on a daily basis as clubs gear up for the new campaign, and speculation surrounding some of the game’s most prominent players is intensifying.
Some reported deals are pure guesswork, some are more likely to happen than others and, of course, some are just pure fantasy.
This summer has already thrown up some intriguing gossip involving some of the biggest clubs in the world, and here we take a look at 10 of the most sensational transfer tales to have surfaced so far.
Speculation surrounding the future of Chelsea striker Demba Ba began to increase the moment Jose Mourinho was confirmed as the new man in charge at Stamford Bridge.
With Premier League club West Bromwich Albion now in the frame, according to Charles Perrin of the Daily Express, this brash story appears to be a non-starter, but in the pure fantasy stakes it certainly raised the bar.
According to Bascombe, former United assistant manager Mike Phelan hinted as much during an interview on BBC Radio 5’s Monday Night Club podcast, as well as discussing the future of Wayne Rooney.
And with conjecture surrounding Ronaldo’s potential reappearance in the Premier League refusing to go away, the story could go on to dominate the back pages over the coming weeks.
Speaking of Wayne Rooney, his is another name that has been the subject of much speculation since he picked up his Premier League winners' medal with Manchester United six weeks ago.
Before Manchester United were linked with a move for Barcelona youngster Thiago Alcantara, as reported by Charles Perrin in the Daily Express, it was Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas who was on the English champions’ radar.
The former Arsenal star joined the Catalan giants two summers ago but has failed to secure a regular first-team place at the Camp Nou, fuelling speculation about his immediate future.
The Spanish World Cup winner quickly put an end to the rumours, however, and according to Joe Mewis from Mirror Football, labelled tales surrounding his supposed unhappiness as “absurd.”
After such an influential 2012-13 campaign with Tottenham Hotspur, it’s little wonder that Gareth Bale’s name has been linked with some of world football’s most celebrated clubs.
With Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid future up in the air, Bale is seen by many to be his ideal replacement at the Bernabeu, with a fee of £80 million already being mentioned.
But any deal that sees Ronaldo leave the Spanish capital could speed up the process, despite reports suggesting that the Welshman is happy to stay at White Hart Lane, such as this one from Colin Mafham in the Daily Express.
In a report by Mark Ogden of The Telegraph, family reasons were cited as the main motive behind a potential switch to Real Madrid, with his son Benjamin now living in the Spanish capital following the breakup of his marriage.
But the former Atletico striker played down the rumours in May, and club officials at the Etihad Stadium also stated that the 25-year-old is not for sale, opting instead to sell fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez to Juventus.
Despite winning over the vast majority of Chelsea fans following a solid 2012-13 campaign, uncertainty surrounds David Luiz’s future in West London.
European champions Bayern Munich are the latest club to be linked with the Brazilian, and according to Matt Barlow in the Daily Mail, they are up against Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain in the race to secure his signature.
Doubts began to surface in the days after Jose Mourinho’s appointment at Stamford Bridge, but fresh from Confederations Cup success in his home country, there are no shortage of takers for the defender.
Jose Mourinho was said to be eyeing the Swedish international as he looks to reshape his forward line, and with 39 goals in all competitions last season, the 31-year-old would certainly fit the bill.
Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic is also mentioned as a target in the same report, but Ibrahimovic is the type of player Blues fans have become accustomed to over the past decade.
The Italians expect to sell superstar Edinson Cavani over the coming weeks for a fee in the region of £50 million, and armed with such resources, Benitez believes he can get his man.
John Cross of Mirror Football suggests the Serie A club are confident they have the edge over their fellow suitors from the Spanish capital.
But any such move would anger Liverpool fans, who hold Benitez in high esteem after he led them to Champions League glory in 2005 during his six-year tenure as manager at Anfield.
Such a move was vocally supported by Barca midfielder and fellow Spanish international Xavi, who told Sky Sports he would welcome the stopper to the Camp Nou.
The unlikely transfer was quickly played down, with Xavi himself admitting that Casillas is “a Madrid man,” but that did little to quell the speculation.
The 32-year-old has been at the Bernabeu his entire career but lost his place in the starting lineup last season. Barcelona’s current keeper, Victor Valdes, is set to leave the club after revealing he would not extend his contract beyond next year, according to Graeme Yorke of the Daily Mail.