The 1 Player Who Should Be the No. 1 Realistic Target of Each Top European Team

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 30, 2020

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly waves his fans at the end of the Champions League group E soccer match between Genk and Napoli at the KRC Genk Arena in Genk, Belgium, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

With leagues around Europe now finally drawing to a close, attention can fully turn to the 2020 summer transfer market.

Discussing it feels a bit like a leap into the unknown; the full impact of the coronavirus on clubs' ability to spend is not yet fully understood, and as a result, fees are up in the air, players' futures are less secure than ever and mega-money deals flip from looking on the cards to impossible in an instant.

Here, we've tried to simplify things amid all the noise, choosing one player for a selection of top European clubs to target each. If business is limited, then you have to make what you do count, so this is an exercise of identifying the most critical need at each side and finding a solution.



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Arsenal: Dani Ceballos, CM, Real Madrid

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It feels strange to pick a player for Arsenal who isn't a defensive midfielder or centre-back, as those remain glaring, long-term needs, but in light of the plasters Mikel Arteta has been able to apply over the course of 2020, their No. 1 priority feels a bit different.

With Granit Xhaka improving drastically under Arteta, William Saliba set to bolster the defence next season and the emergence of Kieran Tierney as an outside centre-back, Arsenal would now be most impacted by not tying down Dani Ceballos permanently.

He's been a revelation post-lockdown, looking much more like the midfield genius we saw at Real Betis and for Spain's under-21 setup, and his impact on the fluency and press-resistance of the Gunners' midfield is now crucial.

As Dean Jones explained on the B/R Football Ranks podcast this week, it's going to be a tough deal to strike given Arsenal's lack of disposable cash, but it's something they have to manage, one way or the other.


Atletico Madrid: Edinson Cavani, ST, Free Agent

Michel Euler/Associated Press

There appears to be a serious tug-of-war scenario emerging for Edinson Cavani's services—something that shouldn't surprise, given his glittering record at the top level and lack of transfer fee attached.

The Sun reported that Bayern Munich have entered the chase for him, joining Leeds United and Benfica (what a mix of suitors!), but Atletico Madrid should be elbowing their way back into the queue, reinstating the interest they held in him early this year.

He is the perfect Diego Simeone striker: a workhorse lone forward, all hustle and bustle, extremely team-oriented and a force in the air. It's a great match, let's see it happen.


Barcelona: Lautaro Martinez, ST, Inter Milan

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You'll be no stranger to this rumour.

Lautaro to Barcelona has been touted non-stop throughout 2020, and with good reason: The Argentinian looks a lot like one of the world's next elite forwards, and the Catalan club need a youthful refresh up front perhaps more than anything else.

He'll cost money Barcelona simply don't seem to have right now, but Mundo the Daily Mail's Kate McGreavy reported in July that all sorts of player-plus-cash options are on the table, keeping the deal alive.

It's easy to see why Barca seem so hell-bent on signing him, and if they come out of the summer having sealed one incoming transfer, it should be this.


Bayern Munich: Sergino Dest, RB, Ajax

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

Bayern Munich achieved what felt like footballing perfection during the Bundesliga's post-lockdown phase. They ran riot, won every single game they played and lifted two trophies.

During that time, they flexed immense depth at every position—perhaps, except, at one: right-back. 

If Joshua Kimmich is the long-term answer in midfield, they need another body to compete with Benjamin Pavard on the flank, ideally someone with a different skill set to the Frenchman.

Sergino Dest of Ajax would be a fantastic pickup—and Bayern do like the look of him, according to B/R's Dean Jones. With Pavard in place, the Dutchman would be able to adapt slowly, then eventually offer a different outlook at right-back in time.


Borussia Dortmund: Moussa Diaby, LW/RW, Bayer Leverkusen

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It feels inevitable that Jadon Sancho will depart Borussia Dortmund this summer, with Manchester United circling, per Sky Sports.

If and when that happens, BVB will have to enter the market for a replacement. One name that could easily work for them is Ferran Torres (Valencia), but Manchester City appear to be in pole position to sign him, per BBC Sport's Simon Stone, and that tussle only ends one way.

Another who fits Dortmund's M.O. is Moussa Diaby, the fleet-footed Leverkusen winger who has made great strides in 2019-20, showcasing incredible explosiveness and a good eye for a cross. He's not as good as Sancho (few are, to be fair), but in a tough market, he'd be an excellent signing.


Chelsea: Andre Onana, GK, Ajax

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Chelsea's goalkeeping situation has reached a breaking point, with Kepa Arrizabalaga's season-long struggles resulting in him being benched for the final, must-win fixture of the season against Wolves. Frank Lampard needs to address a number of positions, but none so urgently as the man between the sticks.

Advanced goalkeeping statistics via FBref suggest Kepa conceded 9.2 goals more than expected based on the shots he faced this season. It's the worst score of the 37 goalkeepers to play in the league in 2019-20.

The Blues will struggle to shift him, but they won't struggle to replace him if they look in the right spot: Andre Onana, who is on the club's shortlist, per the Evening Standard's Giuseppe Muro, is buyable and represents the modern goalkeeper in a nutshell; he's slick and confident with the ball and performs the fundamentals far better than Kepa.


Inter Milan: Ramy Bensebaini, LWB, Borussia Monchengladbach

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Inter Milan shocked the world earlier this summer when they swooped in for Achraf Hakimi, one of the world's best wing-backs. He'll thrive under Antonio Conte on the right flank, bringing power and potency to the XI.

Conte's next task is to find the right man to play on the opposite side. A mix of players have lined up there this season, including Cristiano Biraghi (on loan) and Ashley Young (35 years old), with no obvious long-term solution present.

A glance north to Germany, and specifically Monchengladbach, may reveal the perfect candidate: Ramy Bensebaini has the frame, power, speed and directness to thrive as Hakimi's opposite, is at a prime age (25) and can even deputise in the back three if needed.


Juventus: Sandro Tonali, DM, Brescia

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In 2012, Italy's biggest clubs let Marco Verratti go to Paris Saint-Germain, in the process losing a homegrown midfield star to another league.

They can't afford to let that sort of thing happen again with Sandro Tonali.

Relegated with Brescia and with a contract expiring in 2021, there's no doubt the prodigiously talented Tonali moves this summer.

A mix of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso—according to himself, per Rai Sport (h/t Perform, via AS)—he'll be a fixture in the Italy national team for years to come, and while the midfield room is quite crowded at Juve right now, he's a can't-miss buy regardless.


Liverpool: Memphis Depay, FWD, Lyon

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Liverpool, despite their rich success over the last two seasons, have so far proved just as vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus as most others.

Pulling out of the Timo Werner race because of his cost underlines their fragile footing in the market, and B/R's Dean Jones reported in June that the Reds could go signing-less for a second successive summer.

If they do enter the market, it should be for a forward in the mould of Werner: a striker who can comfortably operate wide, or vice-versa. Taking into account financial constraints, the best option might be Memphis Depay, who has just a year left on his deal at Lyon, has grown immensely over the last few years, and may come a touch cheaper than expected after his ACL injury in December.


Manchester City: Kalidou Koulibaly, CB, Napoli

Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

It's time to go big if you're Manchester City. Close the gap to Liverpool and close it fast.

The best way to do that is to reinforce the defence—a statement that may sound odd after Ederson received the Golden Glove for a league-high 16 clean sheets—but it's clear that discombobulation at the back cost them precious ground early in the season.

Aymeric Laporte is one of the best left-sided centre-backs in the world, and with the budget at City's disposal, they should consider pairing him with one of the best right-sided options.

Kalidou Koulibaly, a top-five defender in world football, is the perfect fit. At 29, he's at peak age, so this would be a win-now move from Pep Guardiola and Co.


Manchester United: Jadon Sancho, FWD, Borussia Dortmund

Guido Kirchner/Associated Press

There's no need to labour this point. 

The Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler and Kishan Vaghela reported that Dortmund have set a deadline of August 10 for this transfer saga to conclude, and United will have to break their transfer record to get it done.

Having registered 20 goals and 20 assists in all competitions this season, and at age 20, he's established himself as a star for now and a star for the future. He'll cost a bomb, but he'll be worth it.


Paris Saint-Germain: Nelson Semedo, RB, Barcelona

Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

Even with the loss of Edinson Cavani this summer, Paris Saint-Germain still look pretty stacked in the forward areas. Recruitment there could help, but it can't be considered a priority—and the same rings true in midfield.

Defence is a different story. With Thomas Meunier gone and Thiago Silva soon to follow, there are some holes to fill, and the focus may end up falling on right-back. If Thilo Kehrer's the first-choice there, some attention may be needed.

Nelson Semedo's time at Barcelona has been a little up and down and he feels expendable. While that may not sound like the sort of premium signing PSG are accustomed to, Semedo's just a dose of consistency (and perhaps a new environment) away from developing into a top player in his position group.

Relations between PSG and Barca likely aren't particularly strong after three years of Neymar chat, but with the latter seemingly in need of cash, this might be one that works for all parties.


Real Madrid: Eduardo Camavinga, DM, Rennes

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Real Madrid are in a rather luxurious situation: They have a stacked squad and an army of brilliant youngsters, so any holes they can't afford to fill during a coronavirus-affected year they can call from within to fix.

In June, Florentino Perez said Los Blancos can't afford to make any major signings, per El Transistor (h/t the Daily Mail's Jack Kinnersley), and let's face it: They won't shop in the bargain bucket, because they don't need to.

So a target like Eduardo Camavinga, who will not come cheap, is probably a bit pie on the sky for Madrid in 2020—but if they want to return to football's golden status, they may have to be as ruthless as they once were.

If that means selling five to raise funds, it's worth it. Camavinga is a brilliant defensive midfielder who breaks up play, covers ground and keeps it simple, and he'd fill the only semblance of a weak spot in the squad: Casemiro's understudy.


Tottenham Hotspur: Timothy Castagne, RB/LB, Atalanta

Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

Tottenham Hotspur head into a difficult summer with far too many needs for comfort. Right-back, left-back, holding midfield, back-up striker—take your pick.

Of all those positions, full-back is perhaps the one most in need of urgent addressing. Failing to replace Kieran Trippier last summer brought about huge depth issues on the right, then Danny Rose's loan exit made the left weaker, too.

A starting calibre right-back who can also deputise on the left would likely make the biggest difference to this Spurs side, and while Timothy Castagne is set for Champions League football with Atalanta whereas Spurs aren't, La Dea don't have the financial clout to resist sales.

He'd offer more than incumbent Serge Aurier can in both defence and attack, operate on either flank and inject some dynamism into a team that can feel a bit stodgy at times.


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