Brentford head coach Thomas Frank has confirmed what the rest of football had long suspected — Ivan Toney is almost certainly going to be sold this summer.
The striker, who recently returned from an eight-month ban from the game for breaking gambling rules and turns 28 next month, will not come cheap but there should be no shortage of elite clubs in England and across continental Europe ready to express an interest.
Our experts assess the sides who should be considering a move.
Arsenal don’t have a penalty-box killer in their ranks. Signing Toney would give them a type of presence they do not currently have, with the bonus that he has already shown he can be prolific in the Premier League.
Manager Mikel Arteta chose to invest in other areas rather than a proven goalscorer last summer, backing his attackers to share the load in a bid to keep pace with Erling Haaland of Manchester City and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
It is a bold strategy but, while Gabriel Jesus offers Arsenal many qualities which help their build-up play, the Brazil international forward has said himself that finishing is not the main one. Arsenal may well be able to get away with that, but they can’t rely on an an availability record that has seen Jesus start just 36 of a possible 60 league games.
Arsenal are also now facing low defensive blocks on a regular basis as teams make adjustments to deny them space. Academy graduate Eddie Nketiah is a good squad option but he is not a big threat to score from crosses.
Toney is a couple of inches taller and his physicality and aerial ability would give them a different dimension in that regard. His confidence in converting a variety of finishes suggest he could adapt to a possession-heavy team but it all depends on the asking price and how much financial headroom Arsenal have to manoeuvre.
The case for United to sign Toney is a simple one: despite Rasmus Hojlund showing enough promise in this debut season to suggest he can lead the line at Old Trafford for years to come, he is currently manager Erik ten Hag’s only recognised and consistently available centre-forward.
Anthony Martial’s impact this season has been negligible, even on those rare occasions when he has not been sidelined through illness or injury, and he is set to leave the club when his contract expires in the summer.
Ten Hag would ideally have signed a proven, dependable and experienced striker to provide competition for Hojlund last year. That vacancy is still open, Toney fits the bill perfectly and United have been watching his return in recent weeks with interest.
Would Brentford’s asking price complicate matters? Quite possibly. United have stressed the importance of remaining profit-and-sustainability-rule (PSR) compliant since last summer and sales of current players may be required before any major business can be done.
But put the finances aside for one moment and a 28-year-old striker with a proven Premier League record who can combine with, and compete with, Hojlund is exactly the type of profile United need and will be looking for.
Finding the net is not quite the glaring issue for Chelsea that it was last season; new coach Mauricio Pochettino’s team have already matched the 38 Premier League goals the club scored in 2022-23 with 15 matches to go.
But anyone who has watched them will know that ruthlessness and personality are two traits that are far too rare in this Chelsea squad. Nicolas Jackson is promising but erratic, Christopher Nkunku is not a true No 9 and academy graduate Armando Broja, now on loan at neighbours Fulham, may have played his last game for the club.
Another of last summer’s signings, Cole Palmer, might actually be the most composed finisher Pochettino has, and is one of only a handful of Chelsea players who never looks scared of the moment. Toney would help address both of those needs if he made the short move from Brentford, and the profile of his game also makes him an intriguing tactical fit.
Chelsea have not replaced the muscular, smart, aerially competent hold-up play Olivier Giroud provided until he moved to Italy’s AC Milan three years ago. It is easy to see how Toney’s similar qualities could add real value at Stamford Bridge — provided that Brentford do not demand a king’s ransom for him.
Many people predicted Tottenham would struggle after selling Harry Kane, their greatest ever goalscorer, to Bayern Munich last summer.
As it happens, things have turned out pretty well so far under their new head coach Ange Postecoglou.
The Australian has brought an exciting brand of attacking football. Spurs concede lots of goals but generally score even more. But they have not directly replaced Kane with a No 9 who is skilled at holding up the ball. Leading the line at the moment is Richarlison, who is in an excellent run of form but had largely struggled in his two years in north London before that.
Toney — a player Tottenham would potentially have been interested in signing last summer, but for his ban — is about as close as it gets to guaranteed goals in the Premier League after scoring 12 and then 20 in his first two seasons in the division.
There is another reason Toney to Spurs would make sense: chairman Daniel Levy has long been pilloried for not showing enough ambition in the transfer market, but in this new era of stringent PSR, Tottenham have more cash to play with than most after playing the long game, securing regular European football and building themselves a stadium which spews out cash.
It gives them room to spend where their rivals are restricted — and the Kane fee helps too.
It feels like Toney and Newcastle have unfinished business. There were only two Premier League appearances of five minutes each (and six loan spells) during his three years as their player, after he arrived as a raw but extremely promising teenager from fourth-division Northampton Town in summer 2015.
The timing was not right then but perhaps, come this summer, it would be.
Admittedly, with Alexander Isak currently leading the line, it is difficult to see how the Sweden international and Toney could play together, but the man who made his England debut last March is the exact calibre of forward Newcastle require to kick on to the next level. Callum Wilson has been excellent but, given his and Isak’s respective injury records, and the former’s age (32 this month), a more durable centre-forward is needed and one is expected to be sought this summer.
Given the volume of business they have to conduct during the off-season and their need to comply with PSR, Newcastle may struggle to commit such a significant portion of their budget to Toney.
Yet he has featured on long lists of striker targets compiled before by Steve Nickson, the head of recruitment, and would provide an intriguing and exciting alternative to Isak.
Liverpool already have an embarrassment of riches in attack. Having Salah, Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz would make you almost instantly dismiss the notion of signing a new forward.
But… is it fair to ask, ‘What if?’.
Manager Jurgen Klopp’s announcement that he will step down at the end of this season has created uncertainty. It is yet to be determined who his successor will be. Salah’s future is also up for debate, as he will be entering the final 12 months of his current deal and Saudi Arabian interest is almost certain to return in the summer — when he turns 32.
If Salah, Liverpool’s most prolific goalscorer, departs too, a replacement would be required. Toney is nothing like the Egyptian as a player but he would bring Premier League experience and the ability to consistently find the back of the net at that level. He is different stylistically as a focal point to the other four forwards, although not quite as versatile. Nunez, Jota and Gakpo can all operate as a No 9 but also in wider areas.
While it all may be unlikely, especially considering the cost and Toney’s age, it’s worth giving it some thought.
The new manager, whoever that turns out to be, may decide to play a style that fits him perfectly.
But that’s a lot of ifs.
And what about continental Europe?
Financial reality at most La Liga clubs means Toney is likely out of their range — both in terms of transfer fee and the wages he could get if he stays in the Premier League.
If Barcelona or Atletico Madrid were looking for replacements for Robert Lewandowski and Alvaro Morata, then a proven Premier League goalscorer, with impressive physical presence and set-piece record, could be interesting. But both would have to stretch a lot to reach the type of figures Brentford and the player himself are likely to ask for.
So that only really leaves open Real Madrid, who currently have Joselu, 34 years old next month and only at the club on loan, as their Plan B centre-forward off the bench. Still, though, Toney teaming up with England colleague Jude Bellingham at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu seems quite unlikely.
The Premier League is so much wealthier than Europe’s other leagues that even a striker who missed eight months for a team in the bottom half of the table is practically unattainable.
Make no mistake, several Serie A sides are looking for a centre-forward this summer. Take Roma, for instance, who aren’t likely to be able to make Romelu Lukaku’s loan from Chelsea permanent. And his option is less expensive than Toney’s reported valuation.
AC Milan need a long-term successor to the 37-year-old Giroud, whose contract expires at the end of the season. But even if they wanted to sign Toney, politics at national level has made them and other Italian clubs less competitive in the transfer market.
The end of a tax break which, for four years, made the salaries of incoming Premier League players more affordable means Italian teams have lost an edge. Shopping in England, whether it’s for Toney or, to give an example, even fringe players at Chelsea, is far harder for them now than it was before the start of 2024.
(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
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