The January transfer window may have closed with a whimper rather than a bang, but expect the summer transfer window to more than make up for it.
January has always been a tough time to do business with Bruno Fernandes and Virgil van Dijk the only major deals of note to happen in the last few years.
Most clubs use the period to sound out their transfer targets for the end of the season as players enter the final six and 18 months of their deals at their current clubs.
It is the players who have 18 months remaining and would therefore would be into the final year of their contracts – meaning it is the last chance for clubs to sell – which we need to watch out for from now on.
Here are some of the biggest deals which could happen during the summer transfer window…
Watch European Football with beIN SPORTS and ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA) TO PSG/MANCHESTER CITY
A few potential suitors may have seen their jaws drop to the ground in a mild panic when details of Lionel Messi’s astronomical Barcelona contract were leaked this week, but don’t expect that to put them off too much.
When the best player ever is available for free – well, not free, but without a transfer fee – not many are going to be deterred too much. Manchester City and PSG are the two front runners, with the Parisians desperate to reunite Neymar with his former Barcelona co-tormentor.
The likelihood is that Messi will choose PSG, but the lure of testing himself in the Premier League before he retires could be too much to turn down.
What appears certain for now is that he will be leaving Barcelona regardless, with the relationship between player and club becoming strained after he tried to force a move last year only for Barcelona’s lawyers to get involved and for it to get, well, messy.
ERLING HAALAND (BORUSSIA DORTMUND) TO CHELSEA/MANCHESTER UNITED/REAL MADRID/BAYERN MUNICH
This one is actually more likely to happen at the end of the 2021/22 season, but there is a sneaky suspicion that Europe’s most-wanted striker could be on the move 12 months earlier.
Haaland’s £66m release clause in his contract kicks in at the end of next season and is set to spark the biggest scramble for a player in recent memory.
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea are the frontrunners, but Liverpool, PSG, Barcelona, Juventus and more are all keeping tabs on the situation too.
And given the competition to get Haaland at a discounted price will be so high, Chelsea have reportedly decided to move a year early and offer Dortmund more than they would otherwise get.
Should that happen, don’t expect the Blues to be the only ones making a bid as Manchester United will surely try to match it, although it may rule out Real Madrid, who have their eyes set on a different forward fledgling.
KYLIAN MBAPPE (PSG) TO LIVERPOOL/REAL MADRID
This could be the biggest one of the lot during the next transfer window, and the one Real Madrid have been saving their pennies for over the last couple of years.
Kylian Mbappe, valued at $284 million, will almost certainly be sold if he makes it clear to PSG that he won’t be signing a new contract in Paris.
He will have 12 months remaining on his current deal by the end of the season and PSG will have to sell or face losing him for free a year later. And at a time when you want to fund a move for Messi, that is not something they will financially be prepared to do.
Mbappe has always wanted to play for Real Madrid, having idolised Cristiano Ronaldo while there as a child and with his compatriot Zinedine Zidane in charge at the Bernabeu.
However, Madrid’s current financial situation, while not as dire as Barca’s, is unclear, as is the future of Zidane at the club and whether he will even be at the helm next season. And Mbappe has publicly spoken of his admiration for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp.
Watch this space.
JADON SANCHO (BORUSSIA DORTMUND) TO MANCHESTER UNITED
It came close to happening last year, or not depending on who you ask, but Manchester United are likely to go back in for Jadon Sancho but at the price they originally wanted, rather than the inflated £109m Dortmund were demanding.
Sancho has failed to follow up on his amazing season last term with it taking him until January to register his first Bundesliga goal of the season meaning his value will only have dropped.
But United are still believed to be interested, with the player still only 20 years old and holding all the attributes to fill one of the problem positions in the squad on the right side of the attack.
It will likely be another long-running saga however, with Dortmund sure to get all of the money they can get and United determined to come out of it with what they can sell as a having negotiated a great, cut-price deal.
PAUL POGBA (MANCHESTER UNITED) TO JUVENTUS/REAL MADRID
Paul Pogba will be another in the final 12 months of his deal at Manchester United by the end of the season and his future is sure to be another long-running saga if his agent has anything to do with it (spoiler: he will).
Pogba is enjoying his best run of form since joining Manchester United and has made himself undroppable, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pushing him on the left and right on different occasions and the Frenchman still thriving.
But his future remains unclear and United were clearly planning for his exit with the signing of bench-bound Donny van de Beek. Solskjaer’s plan would have been to slowly introduce him to more and more Premier League football this year before unleashing him fully in Pogba’s old position next year.
The question of who can afford Pogba, at the price United would be willing to sell at, still remains though.
Real Madrid will be chasing Mbappe and don’t have the finances to land more than one (if they even have enough for one) signing despite Zidane’s insistence, while Juventus already have an embarrassment of riches in Pogba’s position and would need to sell first.
Could he stay at Old Trafford after all?
SERGIO AGUERO (MANCHESTER CITY) TO INDEPENDIENTE
Like Vincent Kompany and David Silva before him, it appears that the chapter on Sergio Aguero’s time at Manchester City will finally close at the end of the season, with the Argentine out of contract at the Etihad.
His time at City has been the most successful in the club’s history and has coincided with domestic dominance.
But he will turn 33 by the time his current contract expires and has only managed nine appearances all season through a combination of injuries and COVID. He has only managed two goals in that time, both in the Champions League.
City are in the process of rejuvenating their squad and a new striker will surely be on the transfer wishlist at the end of the season as Guardiola, having signed a new contract, moves into a new phase at his time at the club.
A move back to Argentina with Independiente has been mooted by Aguero himself, although he could be lured to America, with a lucrative move to MLS.
DAVID ALABA (BAYERN MUNICH) TO REAL MADRID/CHELSEA
This is a move that is now certain to happen and could even be finalised in the next couple of weeks.
David Alaba has made it clear to Bayern Munich that he is eyeing a new challenge, even though he is still just 28 and still has plenty more to offer on the pitch.
Real Madrid are in talks and believed to be Alaba’s preference but Chelsea, under Thomas Tuchel, are making a late move to tempt him over to the Premier League.
Alaba made his name as a left back but was moved into central defence following the emergence of Alphonso Davies and even played in midfield at times under Guardiola.
DAYOT UPAMECANO (RB LEIPZIG) TO MANCHESTER UNITED/BAYERN MUNICH
Dayot Upamecano is one of the most in-demand defenders in the world having impressed at RB Leipzig over the last two seasons and is available for a cut-price deal at the end of the season.
Upamecano has a contract until 2023 but has a release clause of £38m, according to his agent.
“The release clause is €42.5 million,” he said. “That is an insane sum in coronavirus times. In summer 2019 it was something else. The proportions of the transfer fees have changed. I believe that some clubs have to say goodbye to the market values when they sell players.”
Manchester United are known long-term admirers and would have had plenty of time to speak to their Leipzig counterparts during the two Champions League meetings earlier this season and want another option to partner Harry Maguire at centre half.
Chelsea are also interested but the biggest challenge will come from Bayern Munich, who are used to having a free run at domestic talent already based in Germany and will be looking to replace Alaba.
GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM (LIVERPOOL) TO BARCELONA
This has been on the cards for a while and seems to be a cert for the end of the season, with Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract in its final six months.
Barcelona are known admirers with Wijnaldum’s former Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman now in charge at the Nou Camp and looking to bring in some of his old charges at the national team.
Wijnaldum wanted to leave before this season but Barcelona’s financial mess meant they were unable to afford him.
Much depends on the results of the Barcelona presidential elections and the subsequent financial state of the club but Koeman, should he remain in charge, will push again for the Dutchman over the next few months, with Wijnaldum eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs outside the Premier League.
JACK GREALISH (ASTON VILLA) TO MANCHESTER UNITED/MANCHESTER CITY
Logically, this one is the only one on the list that doesn’t make obvious sense for the summer transfer window, but when you look at how Jack Grealish has performed this season, clubs will be clawing away at each other for his signature.
He won’t come cheaply having signed a new deal to remain at the club last year and Aston Villa in no need to sell, but the player himself will be desperate to challenge himself at a higher level.
Grealish has become one of the most exciting players in the league and his form has dragged Villa from relegation candidates to Europa hopefuls.
Manchester United are known to have kept tabs on him for a while, but cross-city rivals Manchester City are also interested with reports from last year suggesting both Guardiola and Kevin De Bruyne had urged the board to make a move for him.
The strain on finances for clubs mean they may target deals friendlier on the wallet however, with Grealish likely to cost more than £100m.