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What Europe’s leading clubs will need to do in the summer of two transfer deadlines

What a difference a year makes.

At the end of January 2023, there was a flurry of activity in the window as Chelsea signed Enzo Fernandez for a British record of £106m, Anthony Gordon arrived at Newcastle for £45m, Jorginho moved to Arsenal and Joao Cancelo swapped Manchester City for Bayern Munich on loan.

Premier League clubs at the wrong end of the table were equally busy, with Nottingham Forest signing three players on deadline day, Southampton two, including club record signing Kamaldeen Sulemana for £22m, and Bournemouth two for a combined £45m.

However, this year, barring any unexpected late twists, it has been remarkably low-key as the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules (that catchy new phrase we’ve all adopted this window) bared its teeth, the Saudi summer spending paused, the “Chelsea loophole” was banned and clubs instead scoured the market for loans or cut-price deals.

For those of you pining for the frenetic madness of transfer windows gone by, fear not.

This summer things should really ramp up again as clubs will start to work with two deadlines in mind — June 30, the last day of the financial year as they look to comply with PSR regulations that are now being punished with points deductions, and the regular end of window deadline for new signings.

So what is going on? What could still happen this window? And what are each of Europe’s top clubs planning that will turn a sleepy January turn into a far busier summer?

The Athletic explains it all.


By the end of January last year, Premier League clubs had spent a record £815m. Deadline day alone saw deals accounted for £275million. This meant, combined with the previous summer, the division’s total spent last season was £2.8bn, another record.

This was followed by an extraordinary summer 2023 window as Saudi spending rocked the market. An all-time record of £5.89bn was spent by clubs, with England, driven by Chelsea under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, the biggest spenders on £1.5bn, ahead of Saudi on £701m and France on £688m.

But after the taps were turned on, it feels more like a light trickle this month. The highest fee paid by a Premier League club this month has been Tottenham bringing in defender Radu Dragusin from Genoa for £25m. In Europe, it is a similar tale. The biggest expenditure has been £26.1m on Vitor Roque to Barcelona from Athletico Paranaense, followed by Bayern Munich buying Galatasaray’s Sacha Boey for £25.6m after a brief flirtation with Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier.

There’s still a number of deals that could happen before 11pm tonight (and you can follow developments here) and, interestingly, the highest-profile of those involve first-team players who have gone through their club’s academy.

Such players have become crucial for clubs looking to balance the books as they count as pure profit when sold. The merits of a system that incentivises clubs to sell talented players who joined them as a child and then rise through the ranks is an argument for another day.

Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey, an England Under-21 midfielder, is one such player.

The Athletic revealed on Monday that Newcastle made an approach for the 22-year-old, but any deal this window is now unlikely. Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur are monitoring his situation.

Like many clubs, Villa are treading a fine line on PSR and even if nothing further happens in January there’s a need to sell before the June 30 deadline this summer. They have agreed a deal for Middlesbrough’s attacking midfielder Morgan Rogers that could be worth up to £15m. Their Colombia striker Jhon Duran is interesting Chelsea.


Reyna is among the few players moving to the Premie League this winter (Photo: Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

Another situation to keep an eye on is that involving the Chelsea academy trio of Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja and Trevoh Chalobah. Gallagher has been the subject of enquiries from clubs including Tottenham and Newcastle. He is valued at £40m and has just 18 months left on his deal. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham are pushing hardest for Broja, although the former yesterday launched a late bid to sign another striker, Corinthians’ Yuri Alberto.

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace are keen to wrap up the signing of Blackburn Rovers’ Adam Wharton, Forest have signed US international Gio Reyna on loan while Brighton have strong interest in Leicester City midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.


It seems a far cry from that record £815m spent last January but, for those of you who love the drama of an action-packed window, it will not remain the same into the summer.

Clubs were being extra cautious this winter after Everton’s 10-point deduction for breaching PSR was followed by Everton (again) and Nottingham Forest being charged last month with breaching financial rules that allow Premier League clubs to lose no more than £105million in a three-year rolling period.

Even Chelsea, whose new owners have spent more than £1bn on players since taking control of the club in May 2022, have changed their habits after the loophole they frequently exploited to amortise transfer fees over long contracts was limited in December to a maximum of five years.

It has been a quiet January in Saudi Arabia, where huge investment in its league last summer fuelled spending in Europe too. New UEFA rules are gradually being introduced too that limit clubs’ spending on wages, transfers and agents’ fees to 70 per cent of their revenue, although permitted losses over three years have risen to £50million.

And January is traditionally quieter than the summer.

As Dan Plumley, a sports finance expert and lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, tells The Athletic: “Clubs that spend in January tend to be those that are at risk of relegation. In this makeup of the league, we are unlikely to see the three recently promoted teams spend big, so that’s a factor in this window as well.”

It is deemed the trickier window to operate in. “If a player is available in January, he’s available for a reason,” one agent, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect relationships, tells The Athletic.

Come this summer it will be a different story, with players such as Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies and Brentford’s Ivan Toney high in demand — and Kylian Mbappe potentially available on a free transfer. There will be new managers at Liverpool and Barcelona and a new group in charge of Manchester United’s sporting plans.

The expectation in the industry is that it will break down into two transfer windows.

“It is almost becoming two deadlines,” says Plumley. “That is heavily linked to PSR. We’ve seen that and will continue to see that especially now we’ve had charges and points deduction linked to those regulations that we’ve never had in the past. It might be that we see a flurry of activity, more so in the future, in and around that first June 30 window.”


Toney is back and may be on the move this summer (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

This date is a key feature of Forest’s PSR case. The club sold Brennan Johnson for £47.5m to Tottenham on deadline day of the summer window, meaning it took place after the last set of accounts. Forest’s argument with the Premier League is that if they had sold Johnson before the June 30 deadline, they would have received a smaller fee than the one they finally got.

In contrast, Spurs signed James Maddison before the cut-off date for £40m from Leicester City, a club needing to bank a prized asset.

In the same window, Chelsea managed to sell a host of players, including Kalidou Koulibaly, Mateo Kovacic, Edouard Mendy, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek before the June 30 deadline.

And a year earlier, Everton had sold Richarlison to Tottenham for around £60m on June 30 with their precarious financial state in mind.

So while this January has only felt like a light flicker of activity, expect the fireworks to resume in the summer.

Here a selection of The Athletic’s club correspondents explain what their clubs will need to do.


Arsenal

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

Arsenal entered the window with several positional priorities but were realistic about the prospect of adding reinforcements. New arrivals would most likely have been contingent on significant sales. With the squad struggling with several absentees, Arsenal chose to stick rather than twist. Come the summer, a striker is likely to top Arsenal’s wish list.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Aaron Ramsdale was told in no uncertain terms he would not be leaving, but the expectation remains that he will move on in the summer. The likes of Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson may be candidates for a departure — as academy players, any fee recouped for them would significantly improve Arsenal’s PSR position.

James McNicholas


Aston Villa

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

The need for Villa to alleviate PSR concerns has grown ever more pressing. As The Athletic reported last month, there was an unavoidable sense that Villa would likely need to sell a first-team player for substantial profit if they wanted to continue spending big but comply with regulations before the end of the financial year on June 30. Head coach Unai Emery dampened expectations throughout the month and is happy with his squad, albeit having held his own targets he wished to bring in.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Their only senior departure has been Leander Dendoncker’s loan to Napoli. Calum Chambers has held talks with sides from abroad and domestically and has been open to moving to the Championship. Bertrand Traore’s situation was more complex, given he is out of contract in the summer and away at AFCON with Burkina Faso. As referenced above, Villa will likely need to sell a first-team player in the summer, with Ramsey one of the options.

Jacob Tanswell


Chelsea

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

A forward. Chelsea have been looking at bolstering their firepower in the final third for some time, but a combination of PSR considerations and a lack of clear upgrades has kept them from delving into the winter market. The one caveat here is that the attackers on the books could yet change the plan with their performances in what remains of the season — particularly Christopher Nkunku, who was bought to be a marquee star at Stamford Bridge but has barely featured yet due to injury.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Gallagher’s future at Chelsea remains uncertain as long as his contract situation is unresolved, and he will head into the final year of his deal this summer. Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital’s asking price will be significant but their leverage will also be reduced and buyers are more likely to materialise at the end of the season. Broja and Chalobah are other attractive potential avenues to pure profit sales, and Ian Maatsen has a £35million release clause in his contract that can be triggered from the next window.

Liam Twomey


Liverpool

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

Having lost Joel Matip to a season-ending anterior cruciate knee ligament injury, Liverpool decided they did not need to recruit a replacement in January due to the development of young defender Jarell Quansah. With Matip out of contract in the summer, Klopp’s successor will need to decide whether that centre-back department still needs strengthening. Thiago is a free agent at the end of the season so there will be a gap to fill in terms of midfield depth. Buying a right-back could be on the agenda if the new manager decides that Trent Alexander-Arnold’s future lies in midfield.

Klopp Van Dijk


Whoever replaces Klopp could well be busy this summer (Getty Images)

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

There was never any real prospect of Liverpool generating funds from sales in January. The only outgoings were ever going to be fringe players securing loan moves.

In terms of the summer, so much is up in the air given the fact that the club are in the process of recruiting both a sporting director and a manager. Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Alexander-Arnold have all entered the final 18 months of their deals so there’s a lot to sort out.

James Pearce


Manchester City

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

The short answer is to replace Kalvin Phillips, albeit with somebody who Pep Guardiola would actually pick. City are exploring a move for Bayern Munich’s Kimmich but know it will not be easy. A winger is on the agenda, with Pedro Neto at Wolves and Savio at sister club Girona on the radar.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

They don’t really need to sell anybody but Bernardo Silva may finally go if a club triggers a release clause that was put into his contract last summer. Phillips will most likely find a permanent home after his loan at West Ham.

Sam Lee


Manchester United

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

It is evidently clear that Manchester United could have done with adding a striker this month but the funds simply weren’t there. Going into the summer, when Anthony Martial will be out of contract after spending nine years at Old Trafford, means it remains a priority position.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Jadon Sancho was the most notable departure in January, although he only returned to Borussia Dortmund on loan until the end of the season. Given the nature of his public fallout with Ten Hag, should the Dutchman remain in post beyond the summer, then you would expect Sancho to be sold.

Dan Sheldon


Newcastle United

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

The midfielder Eddie Howe desperately craves did not arrive and, although Sandro Tonali will return from suspension in August, the long-term uncertainty over Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton’s respective futures mean engine-room reinforcements remain essential.

Attacking signings are required too, with Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson’s persistent fitness issues often leaving Howe short of out-and-out striker options. Essentially, however, a general refresh is needed throughout the team, with centre-backs, midfielders and attackers all desired.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Bayern Munich’s advances were resisted for Trippier, Wilson did not depart despite speculation, while Al Shabab never followed through with an official offer for Miguel Almiron. Wilson and Almiron in particular could well be moved on, with Newcastle keen to lower the average age of their squad.

A key first-team player or two may be sold to aid PSR, such as Guimaraes or Joelinton, while an academy graduate may be offloaded. A busy summer of ins and outs is expected.

Chris Waugh


Tottenham

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

A top-class forward who can reduce the goalscoring burden on Son Heung-min. Timo Werner arrived on loan but he’s more of a stop-gap and, even if he does sign permanently, Spurs will still need another forward. Ange Postecoglou has spoken about his attack not quite clicking this season, and it’s definitely an area to look at.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is the main one. Both in January and in the summer, the player and the club were open to a move, but nothing materialised. Come the end of the season, he will have just one year left on his contract, and it’s pretty clear he’s not in the long-term plans of the head coach.

Charlie Eccleshare


Barcelona

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

A pure defensive pivot. The absence of Sergio Busquets has been the most noticeable loss for Barca this season. Without their compass, the midfield has been lost in almost every game.

Oriol Romeu did not perform as expected, he lost his confidence and is a player who has been virtually written off. He has been losing prominence in the starting line-up as the season progressed. Xavi Hernandez put a lot of emphasis on the arrival of a guaranteed pivot and, half a season later, he is still needed.

With Gavi’s long injury the club opted not to use the La Liga option to sign another player in his midfield position. That money will be saved for the summer.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Given the critical economic situation of the club, practically all but three or four players — Pedri, Gavi, Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Ronald Araujo — are for sale if a good offer comes in. Three players in particular are in the spotlight in this respect: Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha.

Kounde has struggled at centre-back and full-back, Raphinha has failed to perform consistently and Lewandowski was expected to be a leader and score a lot of goals, has given the team neither this season. All three have a high market value and their sales could help the club financially.

Laia Cervello Herrero


What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

With David Alaba suffering a serious knee injury in December (as Eder Militao did in August), the initial idea was to sign a centre-back. It was widely agreed that, pending when and how Militao would return (he could be back in March), the key phase of the season could not be approached with just two first-team centre-backs: Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez.

Real Madrid do not like doing business in January, but several voices in the board and, above all, Carlo Ancelotti were in favour of a reinforcement. In the end, the views of president Florentino Perez, chief executive Jose Angel Sanchez and head scout Juni Calafat prevailed.

For the summer, depending on whether or not Nacho extends his contract and how Militao and Alaba (although he will not play again this season) return, a central defender could be sought.

They will try to sign an attacker, with Mbappe again the big target. They will look at the market for a full-back, with Davies one player they are monitoring.


The futures of multiple trophy-winners Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are to be decided (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Due to the large number of injuries and the overall good performance, no offers would had been listened to. Moreover, no player asked to leave. For the summer, the futures of the players whose contracts expire must be decided. These are the loan players Joselu Mato and Kepa Arrizabalaga and then Lucas Vazquez, Nacho, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

As in previous windows, Ferland Mendy (under contract until 2025) will be put on the market, mainly due to his injury struggles.

Mario Cortegana


Bayern Munich

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

Thomas Tuchel’s enduring obsession with a “holding six” defensive midfielder is set to continue into next season as Bayern focused on bulking up the defence with deals for Eric Dier and Boey in this window instead. Another top class centre-back will be a priority unless Dier impresses.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Kimmich, Leroy Sane and Davies are all out of contract in 2025. There was no chance Bayern would let any of them go in the winter. But the trio are likely to be put for sale unless they renew their deals in the coming months. Leon Goretzka’s future is in doubt since Tuchel isn’t the Germany international’s biggest fan.

Raphael Honigstein


Inter

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

This squad is the most complete Inter have boasted since the treble in 2009-10. The only gripe is with the back-up strikers Marko Arnautovic and Alexis Sanchez. Inter are already moving to sign Piotr Zielinski on a free from Napoli to make their midfield even silkier.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Tajon Buchanan’s signing from Bruges makes one wonder if Inter are planning on selling Denzel Dumfries to the Premier League in the summer. Marcus Thuram, the signing of the season in Serie A, could be sold for pure profit to balance the books after a single year, a la Andre Onana.

James Horncastle


Juventus

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

A guileful trequartista. Juventus looked at the Icelandic Dybala — Albert Gudmundsson — and Giacomo Bonaventura without following through. As for the summer, plans for the midfield will depend on the outcome of Paul Pogba’s doping trial. It remains to be seen if Juventus take the option to sign Carlos Alcaraz on a permanent basis from Southampton. Juventus will hope to roll over Adrien Rabiot’s deal as they did last summer or risk losing him for free.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Moise Kean was returned to sender by Atletico Madrid in January. If Juventus need to make a quick buck they can sell one of their talented academy grads — Kenan Yildiz, Dean Huijsen, Samuel Iling Junior, Matias Soule, etc — for pure profit although, personally, I’d build around them.

James Horncastle


Milan

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

Another centre-forward like Serhou Guirassy from Stuttgart. Olivier Giroud and Luka Jovic’s deals are up. Regardless of whether they renew Giroud, Milan need to get younger in the position. Lorenzo Colombo, on loan at Monza, isn’t the guy to lead the line.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

Aside from gaming the non-EU slot system, Milan moved out Rade Krunic and others this winter. Fikayo Tomori has Premier League interest and Barcelona remain admirers of Tijjani Reijnders.

James Horncastle


Paris Saint-Germain

What they didn’t buy in January and need to do in the summer

PSG spent big last summer, with one of the biggest squad overhauls in Europe, so they did not need major squad surgery. They wanted to add defensive reinforcements following Presnel Kimpembe’s injury setback, as well as a midfield option too, and they have done that by signing two young players from Brazil. Lucas Beraldo joined from Sao Paulo and, belatedly, Gabriel Moscardo, who has been loaned back to Corinthians until the summer.

The future of Mbappe, whose contract expires at the end of the season, will have a huge bearing on what they do. The club feel they are prepared, financially and from a sporting standpoint. But Mbappe’s decision will be seismic.

Who they didn’t sell in January and might sell in the summer

PSG are still looking to offload personnel, including Hugo Ekitike, who might leave before the January deadline. A loan move seems the most likely outcome. Layvin Kurzawa is another player who has seen his minutes limited and the arrival of Beraldo will push him further down the pecking order. His contract expires in the summer.

Peter Rutzler



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