Huge European Transfers That Could Happen This Summer
Prepare for this summer's transfer window to be more frantic and exciting than ever before.
The Premier League transfer window will close for business on August 9—two weeks earlier than usual—and with the World Cup also taking place this summer, it means future deals will need to come together quickly.
The vote on transfers from English clubs will have a knock-on effect across Europe, where there is potential for some game-changing deals. It is rare to see many major names move on in the same window, but it is starting to look likely this time.
Real Madrid and Juventus have an eye on talent from the Premier League, with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Hector Bellerin all being monitored, while Gareth Bale and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are among the big names who could land on English soil before the transfer window closes.
Bale's future has been a constant source of debate during his time in Spain, but this time I am told he is beginning to seriously consider a return to England.
Sources close to the player have told B/R that Bale is growing increasingly frustrated with life under Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane and could be willing to move back to the Premier League.
There is a belief that Zidane is unsure about Bale's role and his long-term value as a Galactico, perhaps backed up by the fact he did not start in either Champions League last-16 leg against Paris Saint-Germain.
Bale has always maintained to those close to him he would look to end his career in England, but one problem is finding the right home.
Manchester United has always been his preferred destination if he does return, but there currently seems no space for him with Jose Mourinho having to focus on positions in midfield and defence in the upcoming transfer window.
A Madrid insider said: "A serious issue over whether it becomes possible for him to leave is whether they can agree a suitable fee for him. There is a belief that they should be able to reclaim almost the entire fee they spent on him, based on the heights he has reached during his time at the Bernabeu."
Bale has won the Champions League three times with Los Blancos as well as La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Unsurprisingly, Tottenham Hotspur are keen to have him back and are believed to have first refusal on him, but the finances involved are likely to prove out of their league, and I'm told the player also has reservations about going back.
It means Chelsea could become a genuine landing spot if he wants to head home, particularly given Madrid's interest in Eden Hazard.
Manchester City seem a good fit given their current position, but so far there has been no evidence of them showing genuine interest.
There is a general feeling in Madrid this would be a good time for Bale to move.
Madrid blogger Abdallah Mahmoud said: "Bale has had a good career in Madrid. When Rafa Benitez was appointed as Real Madrid manager, Bale was carrying the team. After that, injuries sadly became a habit.
"Real Madrid is having a hard time this season; they can't keep Bale anymore. It's better for him and for the team if he leaves."
A key part of the reason Madrid are looking beyond Bale is that they are seeking their next Galactico, and Hazard is one of the priority signings being explored.
Their interest in signing Neymar has also been making headlines, but I understand the deal would be so complex that it is not likely until the summer of 2019.
Hazard is a more realistic target for now, and despite falling flat with Chelsea at the Camp Nou in the Champions League this week, sources in Spain are convinced an offer will be made before next season.
The Belgium international has been in talks with Chelsea over a new contract, but at this stage of his career, a show of loyalty could damage his future prospects.
One Chelsea source told me the manner of their Champions League defeat was "worrying," as it showed just how far the club are from winning the trophy.
A concrete offer from Madrid will test Hazard's drive and ambition and is certainly going to be a key storyline of the summer transfer window.
Courtois did not cover himself in glory on Chelsea's latest trip to Barcelona, as Lionel Messi twice scored with shots through his legs, yet he does remain on Real Madrid's wanted list.
As discussed in this recent article, Madrid's hierarchy would prefer to sign David De Gea but feel Courtois is more attainable.
Sources in London I have spoken to seem to confirm that, as they believe Chelsea do not see him as an irreplaceable figure.
No contact has been made at this stage, but Madrid are planning to push on with their recruitment drive in April, and that will include a decision over a goalkeeper.
If it is decided an upgrade on Keylor Navas is essential, then Courtois will be actively pursued.
Antoine Griezmann was expected to join Manchester United last summer, but now a future in Barcelona is genuinely on the cards.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo played down the possibility of the France international leaving in an interview with Marca (h/t FourFourTwo), and he still hopes his loyalty will prove key when it comes to deciding his future.
Sources in Spain have said they believe the club know the chances of him staying are slim this time, though, and the lure of Barca is going to prove too strong as they prepare an offer to make him part of their magical line-up at the Camp Nou.
Griezmann, 26, is prepared to show his ambition by making the move across Spain.
Le 10 Sport (h/t AS) reported an agreement is already in place, and while I am told that is not quite the case, progress is being made behind the scenes and the foundations have been laid so a transfer can move forward quickly around the World Cup.
Kieran Canning, Spanish football expert and correspondent for Agence France-Presse in London, believes clubs in England may yet snatch him ahead of Barca, though.
"There is no doubt Barcelona were very confident of landing Griezmann a few months ago," he told me. "They even had to backtrack off some public statements from president Josep Maria Bartomeu admitting contact with the players' family, which Atletico then took to FIFA to launch a complaint.
"The spectre of Griezmann's future has never gone away this season, with many Atletico fans reacting negatively towards him despite his spectacular return to form in 2018. At €100 million he would also be cheap for Europe's biggest clubs given the current market, his talent, age and marktetability. The question is whether Barca really need to spend €100 million for the third time in less than a year, especially with their finances very tight as it is.
"Moreover, where goes Griezmann fit into a squad already boasting [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, [Ousmane] Dembele and [Philippe] Coutinho and that has performed so well with an extra body in a four-man midfield this season. For all those reasons, and despite Griezmann's obvious desire to remain in Spain, a move to the Premier League seems more plausible."
Groundwork has been underway since the end of last year over this move, and Hector Bellerin is likely to make a switch to Juventus this summer.
Arsenal do not want to lose the player but privately accept they cannot stand in the way of his ambition if his valuation is met.
At this stage, a figure of £50 million is being discussed for the right-sided defender, and it is understood the 22-year-old is keen on the prospect of moving on after seeing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud seek new challenges.
One positive being viewed from the Arsenal camp is that a sale would give them further opportunity to shake up the squad. They are expected to make at least three key additions in the summer.
Scouts from Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid have all been paying close attention to Lazio's Serbian midfielder, but Stamford Bridge is beginning to look like the most realistic destination.
Milinkovic-Savic, 22, has the potential to become one of Europe's leading talents; his displays this season have catapulted him towards a switch to one of Europe's elite.
His agent, former Chelsea player Mateja Kezman, has been building him up publicly to the extent it seems he is sure to find him a new club.
He told Serbian outlet Mozzart Sport his client is "better quality than [Paul] Pogba" and he "can become the most complete player on the planet" (h/t the Sun).
Sources in Italy say Lazio are going to play hardball when it comes to negotiating a fee, and they believe Manchester United and Chelsea are most serious about signing him.
Alasdair Mackenzie of the Lazio Lounge podcast believes he could move on if the club do not qualify for the Champions League.
He said: "The problem for any potential buyers is twofold—he signed a new contract last summer and Lazio president Claudio Lotito is a notoriously hard-bargainer. He won't let SMS go for less than £90 million, or so he says.
"A lot could depend on whether they reach the Champions League group stage. If they do, then it might be easier to convince him to stay."
Danny Rose's future at Tottenham has not looked particularly bright since he declared in an interview with The Sun that he feels he is not paid his true worth.
He hinted he would like to finish his career up north on a bigger contract, and it is starting to look like he will get his wish this summer.
Jose Mourinho's search for a new left-back is ongoing, and while Alex Sandro of Juventus is on the radar, sources close to Manchester United believe a £60 million deal for Rose is beginning to look more likely.
It has been a problem area for the club since Luke Shaw failed to convince Mourinho he should take a regular starting spot. Ashley Young has performed admirably in the role, but he will not be continuing as the side's left-back next term as Mourinho feels his side will not meet his ambition unless a specialist is brought in.
Rose, 27, is likely to get the pay rise and big move he craves.