Assessing the Transfers That Will or Won't Happen Before Deadline

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportAugust 7, 2018

Assessing the Transfers That Will or Won't Happen Before Deadline

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    Premier League clubs voted for their transfer window to close early this year, meaning no incoming business can be done once the new season gets under way on Friday.

    It's a decision they are now having to live with as they have until 5 p.m. BST on Thursday to get their squads in shape, while Spanish, German and French clubs have until August 31.

    It promises to be a frantic day, and there are some big-name players likely to be making major moves.

    Here, we run down some of the most significant rumours and wave our believability meter across the deals to predict what will happen before the transfer window closes.

Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    A double move from Chelsea to the Santiago Bernabeu? Don't count on it.

    Eden Hazard is running out of time to complete a dream move to Real Madrid. He's been waiting for a bid to arrive so he could spell out his ambition to the Chelsea board and push for a switch.

    But Madrid have not come forward with a firm offer, and Chelsea are in no mood for business at such a late stage.

    Per Matt Hughes of The Times, they slapped a £200 million price tag on his head in a bid to scare off Madrid and Barcelona, and it has worked. Even though the window will remain open for foreign clubs to snap up talent from English clubs after Thursday's Premier League deadline, sources inside Stamford Bridge are adamant they will not part ways with their best player.

    Hazard may now have to bid farewell to a Belgian pal, as Thibaut Courtois will complete a move to Madrid.

    The goalkeeper is set on making the switch and—unlike Hazard—is in a position where he can actively push for the move.

    Madrid have made contact, told Chelsea they want him, and now the pieces need to fall into place. Courtois has decided to get the ball rolling by not returning to training on Monday as expected. It was a decision he made at the end of last week, according to sources.

    Where will Chelsea turn now they know they will lose Courtois?

    Club officials met today (Tuesday) to agree on which target to pursue, with the aim to quickly go ahead and make an offer.

    Look out for a bid for Stoke City's Jack Butland, contact has been made. Initially they were going to turn to Jordan Pickford, but Everton value him at close to £70 million in the current market.

    Chelsea were not willing to pay out a world-record fee for him and believe fellow England international Butland would be a better purchase at around half the price.

    The most recent development is that they are moving ahead with a move for Athletic Bilbao's Kepa, but there have also been conversations about a move for Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel, Sevilla's Sergio Rico and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak.

Wilfried Zaha

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    Chelsea have been exploring the option of signing Wilfried Zaha all summer—mainly as a fallback option in case Hazard did move to La Liga.

    Every player has his price and Zaha, who is keen on joining Chelsea, is no different. An offer north of £60 million would be enough to sign him—but the people in power behind the scenes are still hesitant.

    However, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson cannot bear the prospect of losing Zaha. He told the board he sees the 25-year-old as the difference between just surviving in the Premier League and actually making an impact.

    Another man on Chelsea's radar at this moment is Leon Bailey, which is more realistic.

    The exciting Bayer Leverkusen forward has had his agents working around the clock to find him a club in the Premier League, and Stamford Bridge is opening up as the most likely landing spot.

    A fallback option Chelsea have been checking out is Leicester City's Demarai Gray.

Toby Alderweireld and Harry Maguire

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    You may have noticed that Jose Mourinho does not look particularly happy at the moment. The reason? He hasn't been allowed to spend enough money.

    The Manchester United manager will get to do a deal before deadline, but only time will tell whether it is enough to please him.

    First things first: A world-record £75 million bid for Harry Maguire makes little sense. Informed sources close to him told B/R he is not seen as the outstanding player they are missing, and Mourinho is not desperate to sign him.

    United took a risk by spending big money on Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly last year—this would be another gamble.

    Maguire was put forward to him by the recruitment department. To be fair, at the time he was not going to command such a huge fee.

    A move for Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld would make more sense. The fee will be around £25 million less than for Maguire and, according to sources, United have already managed to agree personal terms through intermediaries.

    Alderweireld has the games behind him that would give Mourinho confidence to trust him—now they just need to convince Spurs.

    In the meantime, Jerome Boateng has been offered to United from Bayern Munich.

    A move to Paris Saint-Germain fell through, and his agents sniffed the opportunity for a bit of business in Manchester instead.

    We can't rule it out, though. Boateng was on United's nine-man list at the start of the summer, but at this moment in time Alderweireld is the priority.

Paul Pogba

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    A move for Paul Pogba to Barcelona or Juventus would send tremors throughout European football—and we should not ignore the situation.

    At first, the transfer rumours seemed little more than idle gossip, but as momentum has gathered, sources have now informed B/R that there is foundation to the stories linking him with a move away.

    Pogba is not completely happy with his role at United, they say, and his agent, Mino Raiola, has entertained the idea of him moving back to the continent.

    Figures within the France international's camp are signalling his discontent, giving Barca and Juve encouragement.

    The same sources played down a bid of £45 million plus Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina from Barcelona, suggesting the story is more to test the friction between manager and player than an expectation it would actually be accepted. But one insider said: "Their interest in signing him is genuine."

    United paid £89 million for Pogba two years ago, and even though Mourinho has not embraced one of the world's leading midfield players, the message coming out of the club is that he and the board are adamant they will not sell.

    The chance of Pogba leaving right now is very low, but the timing is awkward and frustrating for the Red Devils.

Anthony Martial

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    There is little love lost between Anthony Martial and Mourinho, and it looked like this could be the tale of a man who returned to his wife's side while she gave birth to their child and never played for Manchester United again.

    Mourinho was not impressed by the way he conducted himself over the journey back from United's American pre-season tour, and it will not have helped convince him the 22-year-old deserves more chances in the starting XI.

    If he were to have his way, Martial would leave. He has not been completely happy at the club since he was left out of the side last season despite a good spell of form.

    However, United's squad is not exactly brimming with exciting young talent at the moment so—for now at least—the club are not looking to sell him.

Nabil Fekir

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    It's been the will-he-won't-he saga of the summer, as Liverpool fans wait for the final piece of their jigsaw to slot into place.

    They want Nabil Fekir to move to Anfield and finally silence all talk of the club failing to replace Philippe Coutinho.

    But can it still happen?

    After the player underwent a medical earlier in the summer, the £53 million deal was called off because Liverpool wanted to change the terms of the deal.

    Those negotiations have never totally gone away, and midway through July, sources indicated to B/R that talks seemed to be progressing. The club continued to chip away in hope Lyon would agree to restructure an agreement for them to sign him.

    Fekir wants the move to happen, but Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has been difficult to deal with. "He keeps moving the goalposts" is how one source described the situation.

    Chelsea are now being linked with Fekir—something Liverpool surely will not let happen.

Jack Grealish

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    Tottenham haven't spent a penny this summer, but they have had an eye on Aston Villa's Jack Grealish.

    This could be a deadline-day transfer, as Spurs are lining up an offer in the region of £30 million, according to B/R sources.

    Grealish loves Villa but feels the need to press on with his career after missing out on promotion last season.

    The opportunity to play Champions League football would be too good to turn down, and it is understood Villa will not stand in his way if Spurs meet his valuation.

    It should be pretty straightforward as Tottenham have been mulling it over since earlier in the summer, but they were held up as new owners arrived at Villa Park.

    Lewis Cook of Bournemouth is another English midfield option being explored by the club, but that potential move would also cost around £30 million.

Mousa Dembele

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    It seems ridiculous that one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League could be up for grabs, but that's the case with Tottenham's Mousa Dembele.

    The Belgium international has a year left on his contract and is not part of Mauricio Pochettino's long-term vision. It was that knowledge which encouraged Inter Milan to approach Spurs with an offer recently.

    They wanted to talk about the possibility of a £20 million transfer, but the midfielder made it clear he was not interested in making the switch. If it's not the right club, he is going to sit tight and see out his contract.

    However, we have seen how deadline day pans out—it only takes one transfer for a domino effect and suddenly new offers are arriving. That could be the case with Dembele for any top Premier League club that needs reinforcement.

    Bear in mind too that the European window will remain open, and the 31-year-old could be bought by overseas clubs beyond Thursday's deadline.

    Dembele may not have fancied Inter, but sources suggest he would love to test himself in Spain if the right club came along.