Football Transfer Rumours: Predicting the 25 Biggest Summer Transfer Contracts
Things are really heating up on the transfer scene across Europe ahead of next season, with several clubs jostling for domestic and international domination.
This year's UEFA Champions League winners Barcelona are on the verge of bringing in another two of the finest young attacking players in European football for a total of $90 million and rivals Real Madrid have identified their own new set of Galacticos, with a six-year contract offer for Turkish star Nuri Sahin already secured.
In Italy, there is talk of a big-money move by AC Milan to secure the services of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Internazionale midfield playmaker Wesley Sneijder has been lined up to replace retiring Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes.
There is also much speculation surrounding several players who made it into the top 25 players on last season's Golden Boot list: Gervinho, Giuseppi Rossi, Kun Aguero and Carlos Tevez might all move to a different environment for greater exposure or just more playing time!
So here is a list of the 25 players I predict will be involved in this summer's most expensive transfer wrangles.
Let the speculation begin as the speculation continues.
25: Royston Drenthe ($15 Million)
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Soccernews.com reports that French club Marseilles is set to offer Real Madrid $15 million for 24-year-old Dutch wing-back Royston Drenthe.
The controversial speedster has spent last season on loan to F.C. Hercules, where he controversially refused to train as he claimed he had not received his wages for a long time. However, knowing he was in the wrong Drenthe backed down and his form his form has attracted the interest of OM coach Didier Deschamps.
With Lyon struggling with form last season and champions Lille's frontmen in demand, the South Coast club see a window of opportunity to regain Ligue 1 bragging rights.
24: Jeremy Menez ($15 Million)
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''We need to improve the size of our squad. We need a bigger variety in the height of our players. We need to be more capable of fighting against some characteristics than we have been this season."
That was Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's simple solution to improving the chances of the Gunners winning a trophy next season.
After conceding his side give up too many goals from set-pieces, the club is likely to target no-nonsense defenders this summer.
One player who does not fit the bill, but who is thought to be on Wenger's franco-centric radar is Roma's 24 year-old French midfielder Jeremy Menez, who has confirmed he wants to leave the Italian club.
A bid of $15 million is on the cards.
23: Axel Witsel ($16 Million)
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22-year-old Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel has recently expressed his desire to leave club Standard Liege in order to improve his skills.
Speaking to Sporza, Witsel said: "I need to make a move abroad in order to improve. You can see in training with [Vincent] Kompany and [Daniel] van Buyten. They are sharper in the duels and they always behave like a professional."
Now it seems that AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani is in talks with his Standard counterpart Luciano D'Onofrio for the tough-tackling $16 million midfielder, who was banned for eight matches for an outrageous stamp on Poland's Marcin Wasilewski.
22: Jermain Defoe ($18 Million)
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Setanta Sports claims that Tottenham Hotspur's 28-year-old England forward Jermain Defoe will be the subject of a $16 million transfer bid from bitter rivals Arsenal.
The former Portsmouth forward has struggled with form and injury this season, with only four Premier League goals in 29 appearances but Wenger thinks that he can revive the player's domestic and international career by pairing him with Dutch hitman Robin Van Persie.
However, it remains to be seen whether Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, despite his recent criticism of the player's form, would let a player he still rates highly leave for the Gunners and whether Arsenal can manage to negotiate a price with the notoriously stubborn Spurs chairman Daniel Levy which they are happy with.
It seems that a fee closer to the $20 million mark may be required to prise away a player capable of scoring 20 goals a season, especially in light of the continued travails of Tottenham's other forwards.
21: Peter Crouch ($18 Million)
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Despite looking like a clumsy England cricket bowler, Spurs forward Peter Crouch actually has a good record of scoring goals in big matches.
Four goals in 34 league appearances may not reflect this but consider his crucial away goal in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first-leg in the San Siro against AC Milan, his winner at Manchester City in 2010 to secure Spurs' first season in Europe's elite competition or his 22 goals for England.
And Tottenham Hotspur manager may be reluctant to let the 30-year-old former Liverpool forward leave White Hart Lane as his playing style has been instrumental to the outstanding form of attacking midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart in his first season in England.
But Sunderland manager Steve Bruce is keen to make a big-money move for Crouch as he has money available from the $30 million sale of forward Darren Bent to Aston Villa in January and an $18 million offer appears to be imminent, according to English tabloid newspaper The Daily Express.
20: Phil Jones ($20 Million)
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Not the glamorous poster boy of English football, Blackburn Rovers centre-back Phil Jones has nonetheless caught the attention of several top-10 clubs this season with physical and skilfull displays alongside man mountain Chris Samba to help keep the Lancashire club afloat, despite their offensive shortcomings.
Now it seems that Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish wants to add Jones to his squad ahead of next season, as he looks to inject more energy, hunger and youth into his squad following the transfers of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
At just 19 years, it appears likely that Jones could soon become an England international but he is still establishing his reputation and does not have enough top-flight experience to merit the $25 million transfer fee Rovers are looking for.
But if Rovers can manage to keep captain Chris Samba in their ranks despite renewed interest from Arsenal, manager Steve Kean may feel that Jones's departure could give him vital funds to go out and find a goalscorer who might help Rovers break into the top 10 next year.
19: Pablo Osvaldo ($20 Million)
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According to goal.com, Fulham failed in their first attempt to sign Espanyol's Argentine striker Pablo Osvaldo, who scored 13 times on 24 matches in last year's La Liga competition.
The Cottagers reportedly offered $17.25 million for Osvaldo but the Catalan club is holding out for $28.5 million. While it is unlikely Fulham can come close to matching that asking price, it is thought that Osvaldo has many other English admirers such as Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United.
This could spark a bidding war between the parties and Spurs could even tempt the Blanquiblaus (White and Blues) with a potential swap involving Russian forward Roman Pavlyuchenko, recent scorer of a hat-trick in his country's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
18: Mirko Vucinic ($20 Million)
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The Daily Mirror has suggested that Roma's 27-year-old Montenegran forward Mirko Vucini is being targeted by Tottenham Hotspur as a potential replacement for either Peter Crouch or Roman Pavlyuchenko, who have failed to provide the London club with enough goals this campaign.
Manager Harry Redknapp has long been a fan of Vucinic and often travels or has a scout travel abroad to watch Serie A's top players in action.
However, back in 2009 Vucinic said he Tottenham was not one of the clubs he wished to join and stated a preference to stay in Italy with the Giallorossi.
Whether that remains the case is another issue and Spurs could re-visit the possibility of a $20 million move as they like the player's versatility and experience in leading the line. They would need to move quickly as March reports linked Vucinic with a tempting move to Napoli, where he could form a phenomenal partnership with Edison Cavani end Ezequiel Lavezzi.
17: Leandro Damiao ($22 Million)
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Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ranieri Sandro recently told his bosses that they should pursue their interest in his compatriot and former Internacional teammate Leandro Damiao, after it emerged that the Brazilian international forward may be allowed to leave earlier than the end of 2011 if his club received the right fee.
"Not only do Spurs want him, we read that other sides are also interested in Leandro Damiao. Damiao is a guy who is globally known. He's got quality'', said Sandro to Brazilian reporters recently.
Indeed, 21-year-old Damiao has already played for Brazil despite competition from several high-profile and more experienced players and has impressed in the Gaucho state championship this year.
However, Harry Redknapp is thought to favour a move for a more experienced goalscorer with a proven track record in European and, preferably, Premier League football and this may play into the hands of Italian clubs Juventus and Roma.
16: Keisuke Honda ($22 Million)
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CSKA Moscow's Japanese winger Keisuke Honda may be headed to Manchester City this summer in a deal worth more than $20 Million.
Despite telling Sankei Sports that he could stay in Russia next season as he is attracted by the prospect of receiving guaranteed playing time in the UEFA Champions League, the lure of big bucks and a new experience in a stronger league may prove irresistible.
With seven goals for Japan and a one-in-four goalscoring record in Europe, the skillful Honda would provide an excellent option in midfield for City manager Roberto Mancini. Honda is also an expert from set-pieces and is more experienced than Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips may look to move on following a season on the sidelines.
15: Paulo Henrique Ganso ($25 Million)
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Another young Brazil-based footballer who is attracting a lot of attention is Santos' 21 year-old winger Paulo Henrique Ganso.
With Pele, Robinho and Diego Ribas all having started their careers at the Brazilian club and hotshot Neymar also set to move on from Santos for big money, it is no surprise that AC Milan are keen to jump ahead of the queue for a future Brazil international with a glamorous career ahead of him.
One of the Rossoneri's Brazilian contingent has claimed that a transfer may be more likely in December but urged the directors to tie the deal up before then:
“[Ganso] wants to play the Copa America and wants to play at AC Milan. I read that the deal has been stopped. I read that he comes in December, but Ganso must be taken now. This is the right time.”
14: Jordan Henderson ($25 Million)
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Liverpool are hoping to buy young England and Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson in a deal worth $25 million, quadrupling his $30,000-a-week wages.
The Reds have also been linked with Wigan players Charles N'Zogbia and James McCarthy and Aston Villa winger Ashley Young but it seems that it is Henderson who Kenny Dalglish will look to bring into a midfield which underperformed for the majority of last year.
With Dalglish keen to finalise his squad before commencing preseason training at the start of next month, he will put pressure on club owner John W Henry to increase the club's initial offer of $23 million, which was rejected by The Black Cats.
13: Didier Drogba ($25 Million)
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Chelsea and Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba is being linked with a move back to his first club, Marseille.
The Frenchmen are looking to secure private sponsorship in order to meet the 33-year-old's $8 million annual wages.
But Drogba may feel fed up with his current fortunes in England, having struggled last season with malaria and illness and seen $80 million Spanish forward Fernando Torres usurp him as Chelsea's first-choice forward.
Other possible destinations for Drogba include Arsenal, Juventus and Spurs.
12: Gervinho ($25 Million)
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Having helped club Lille win their first title for in 57 years with 15 goals in 40 appearances, it is no surprise that Ivorian striker Gervinho is in demand.
The 24-year-old has formed an explosive partnership with fellow African forward Moussa Sow, which has seen unfancied Lille displace Lyon as Ligue Un champions.
But Gervinho is keen to play UEFA Champions League football with a big club and would consider a move to a club such as Arsenal with high ambitions, a good footballing ethos and a large francophone contingency.
Wenger is thought to admire his pace and skill and sees the forward as an ideal and reasonably valued foil for hotshot Robin Van Persie.
11: Lassana Diarra ($25 Million)
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Tribal Football has reported that Manchester United are lining up a double deal for Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema and midfielder Lassana Diarra.
While it is unlikely Jose Mourinho would sanction Benzema's departure given that he is already lacking centre forwards in his squad, Marca.com has today argued that the Portuguese coach will need to sell several squad players, including former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Diarra in order to create the financial situation necessary to continue his recruitment drive.
Diarra's most likely destination is Manchester City, who will be looking to replace the ageing Patrick Vieira in matches where coach Roberto Mancini prefers playing two holding midfielders.
But perhaps Diarra will be tempted to join title holders United, who will surely look to replace the outgoing Owen Hargreaves, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes with minimal fuss.
10: Alexis Sanchez ($30 Million)
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22-year-old Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez looks certain to become Barcelona's first big signing of this summer.
Having rejected a move to Manchester City, his club Udinese is in advanced negotiations with the Blaugrana club, with Sky Sports reporting a potential fee in the region of $35 million, which may or may not include winger Jeffren Suarez heading in the opposite directions.
The 5'6'' winger enjoyed an exceptional World Cup last year in South Africa and has scored 20 goals for Udinese in his three years in Italy.
With Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkic perhaps not developing into the world-class wide players Barcelona intended them to be, Pep Guardiola has instructed his bosses to tie up a deal for Sanchez immediately.
9: Luka Modric ($35 Million)
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''For me, he has been Tottenham's best player. He is an incredible talent, a top player. I'm sure that many top teams will be looking at him."
That was the view of former Spurs and England midfielder Darren Anderton, who fears that the Londoners' failure to qualify for next year's UEFA Champions League might dissuade the club fans' Player of the Year from staying at White Hart Lane.
Anderton sees Luka Modric's ability to control the tempo of a match, retain possession and pick out his team-mates with his wonderful passing ability has alerted United boss Sir Alex Ferguson to make a $35 million move for the Croatian.
Unless Modric demands a move, Spurs are likely to resist any overtures from the Red Devils.
8: Wesley Sneijder ($40 Million)
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The Daily Mirror claims that one of Sir Alex Ferguson's top Manchester United transfer targets is Internazionale's Dutch attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder.
Sneijder, 26, has long been linked with a move to England but it is now thought a deal to either Old Trafford or United's rivals Manchester City is imminent.
MirrorFootball suggests a fee of more than $50 million but it is doubtful whether the player merits this fee, especially as either club could probably prise Tottenham Hotspur's Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart or, more probably, Croatian Luka Modric away from White Hart Lane for considerably less money.
Sneijder will also demand huge wages of more than $15 million a year, which could persuade Internazionale to sell more quickly and for a lower upfront fee.
7: Fabio Coentrao ($45 Million)
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''My future is not yet certain...I know there is interest from Real Madrid'', claimed Benfica's Portuguese full-back Fabio Coentrao in a recent interview with RTP.
Coentrao, despite his tender age, has a release clause of €30 million ($44 million) built into his club contract and Jose Mourinho may have persuaded his bosses that the 23-year-old is worth every penny and vital piece to his expensive jigsaw as he looks to stop juggernaut Barcelona in its tracks.
6: Gareth Bale ($50 Million)
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There was astonishment at the announcement that Tottenham Hotspur's young Welsh winger Gareth Bale had won the PFA (Professional Football Association's) Player of the Year award last season in the Premier League, especially as he scored fewer than 10 goals from an attacking position and spent a large chunk of the season sidelined through injury.
But it is easy to forget that the votes were originally cast just after Gareth Bale had torn Internazionale apart both in London and in Milan with three goals and two assists in two matches in the UEFA Champions League and was in excellent league form at the time.
But it is undeniable that the former Southampton trainee has the following: extreme pace, control, athleticism, stamina and a very good left football—the last being a commodity that warrants a small transfer premium in an age where there are only a handful of decent left wing-backs in the Premier League.
Although Bale has insisted he is happy to develop his career at Spurs, the prospect of more Champions League football and a triple-your-wages offer from Manchester City may prove irresistible.
5: Javier Pastore ($50 Million)
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"If someone wants to buy Pastore, the price is €50 million [$73 million]''.
"There are five or six clubs also interested, including [Manchester] City and big clubs from Spain and Italy, but so far there has been nothing from them."
This was the firm reaction of Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini, after The Telegraph reported Chelsea's failed bid for the young Argentine playmaker.
However, like many other clubs whose players the financial ''powerhouses'' of world football are targeting this summer, pressure from Pastore and his agent could force a move for a lower price as an unhappy player often causes disruption and distraction and the Italians would have plenty of time to find a replacement.
4: Giuseppe Rossi ($50 Million)
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"Barca is a great team, the best team in the world and maybe the best in history and the truth is I enjoy watching them," Giuseppe Rossi said.
Villarreal's former Manchester United forward, 24, has made no secret of his desire to join the best club team in the world, reports Talk Sport, Britain's premier radio channel.
The Italian forward has yet again proven he can score goals at the highest level, despite Manchester United's decision to let him leave Old Trafford in 2007 for only $10 million.
Rossi scored 32 goals in 56 games in total for his club last year, showing his goalscoring ability and fitness levels and it now seems that Pep Guardiola is keen to unite Rossi with Lionel Messi and David Villa in a lethal three-pronged attack next season.
3: Sergi Aguero ($55 Million)
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Intent on not being outdone by fierce rivals Barcelona, Real Madrid may make a highly controversial move for young Argentine forward Sergio ''Kun'' Aguero in the next week.
With a wage bill bloated by several fringe players who did not receive much playing time, Jose Mourinho must first look to offload the likes of Lassana Diarra, Royston Drenthe and Kaka.
Diego Maradona's son-in-law has 74 goals for Atletico Madrid and nine for his country and is still just 22 years old and it seems that he may have had enough of trying to drag an under-performing team into the top five, and might be persuaded to have a shot at the La Liga title instead.
The Colchoneros forward would command a hefty transfer fee, especially at Atletico would be loathe to see him move across the Spanish capital.
2: Cesc Fabregas ($55 Million)
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"I hope he can come to Barcelona. Not only as a player but as someone who deserves to return," David Villa said.
Villa has urged compatriot and Arsenal midfielder to return to his boyhood club Barcelona this summer, according to The Sun.
In truth, Fabregas has not enjoyed a good season with the Gunners, having struggled with form and injuries and come to term with the team failing to win a trophy for the sixth successive year. These factors may have helped decrease his price tag, facilitating a move to the Catalan club.
But we must take into consideration that Andres Iniesta, Sergi Busquets and Xavi have all enjoyed fine season in midfield for Barcelona and whether Guardiola has room in his budget for a big-money move for another midfield playmaker remains to be seen, even if the move does make perfect in the long-term.
1: Carlos Tevez ($60 Million)
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$60 million may seem like a bargain for a 27 year-old fans' favourite who scores 20 goals a season and has an incredible work ethic and fighting spirit.
But Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez is rumoured to be unhappy with life in England, struggling to settle in the cooler climes away from his family (ever heard of aeroplanes, Carlos?).
And Manchester City, the toy of multi-billionaire Sheikh Mansour, is possibly the only club in the financial position to consider a player such as Tevez leaving for a reduced transfer fee, especially if it ends constant media speculation and improves the harmony of the squad.
Possible suitors include Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea—the only three clubs which Tevez has not already played for but could afford to pay the fee and take on his wages.
The following quote, relayed by the Daily Mirror, would suggest that La Liga is Tevez's most likely destination:
You can buy a holiday house in Marbella, but I’m never going back to Manchester, not even on holiday, not for anything.