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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Way-too-early look at summer transfers: Mbappe, Salah, Toney?


So, the January transfer window was a bust. Premier League clubs only spent just over £100 million on new players — a mere 1/8th of 2023’s eye-popping £800m+ outlay. With profit and sustainability rules (PSR) looming large and both Everton and Nottingham Forest charged with breaches, clubs were cautious with their money.

There was no Saudi Arabian cash to fuel manic spending sprees this time around either, and the knock-on effect that had on the rest of Europe was keenly felt on deadline day, as very little actually happened.

But fear not! The summer will be different. Many Premier League clubs will turn the page on a new financial year and be able to spend, Saudi Arabia will stalk the market once again and that will bring the rest of Europe into spending contention too.

With that in mind — and with a wish to forget 2024’s truly dry January in haste — let’s take a way-too-early look ahead to major transfer deals we could see happen this summer.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Kylian Mbappé: Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid, Free

Sources have confirmed to ESPN that Mbappé will finally make a free transfer to Real Madrid this summer when his contract expires, bringing an excruciating saga to a close (although we have said that before!)

There’s still plenty to figure out before this one actually gets rubber-stamped, like the Frenchman’s weekly wage and Summer Olympics availability, but the most important factor — Mbappé’s own decision — is now cemented.

Should he move to the Santiago Bernabéu this summer, he’ll forgo a huge bonus payment of around €80m owed to him by PSG and join forces with the electric trio of Vinícius Jr., Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham, forming perhaps the most feared attacking quartet in the world.

Mohamed Salah: Liverpool to Al Ittihad, €120m

Summer 2024 already promises to be tough for Liverpool, as long-serving manager Jürgen Klopp has announced he’ll step away from the club. The last thing they need is fearful speculation over Salah too, but it’s almost guaranteed Al Ittihad — who bid €170m to sign him last summer — will try their luck again a year on.

At that stage Salah will have just one year left on his deal, handing something of an advantage to Al Ittihad in negotiations, as they’ll play on the fact they could sign the Egypt international for free the following summer. This is essentially Liverpool’s last chance to pick up a mammoth transfer fee, which judging by history, is something they’ve always been willing and cold-blooded enough to do.

Just think: Klopp and Salah gone? That truly would feel like the end of an era.

Ivan Toney: Brentford to a ‘top six’ club, €60m

Toney has never hidden his desire to play for a top Premier League side and having just returned from an eight-month betting suspension, that desire will likely only have intensified as he seeks to make up for lost time.

Like Salah, Toney’s contract expires in 2025, meaning he’ll enter the final 12 months of his deal this summer. A club like Brentford, who continually punch above their weight by moving players on for transfer profit, will almost certainly accept it’s time for him to leave. But they will still demand a significant fee.

Chelsea and Arsenal are likely to enter that conversation, perhaps others too. If he impresses for England at Euro 2024 then it could complicate things, but by September it’s almost certain Toney will have a new home.

Karim Benzema: To leave Al Ittihad, Free

Benzema was touted for a late January transfer due to the untenable situation he finds himself in at Al Ittihad: He’s reportedly training in isolation after falling out with management and made it clear that he wanted to depart. Chelsea, Arsenal and his boyhood club Lyon were all mentioned as possible rescue destinations, but his astronomical wages (over €100m per year, tax-free), age (36), and concerning injury record probably all contributed to teams eventually steering clear.

Perhaps over the next five months he and Al Ittihad will reconcile, leading to his re-introduction to the team. But if not, Benzema will need to find a new club. It could be as simple as reallocating him within the Saudi Pro League, but he was not keen on that idea for a January loan and a return to Europe could once again be on the cards.

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Laurens: Only two clubs in Europe can go for Osimhen

Julien Laurens joins the ESPN FC show to discuss the future of Victor Osimhen after the Nigerian striker said he’s decided on his future.

Victor Osimhen: Napoli to Chelsea, €130m

Osimhen has already made a decision on where his future lies. Unfortunately, he hasn’t told us where that is just yet.

He has a huge €130m release clause in his contract and that rules out all but a handful of destinations. PSG may look to replace Mbappé with him; otherwise it’s only the top-end Premier League clubs, or those from Saudi Arabia (who he has already turned down) who can find that money.

Luckily for Osimhen, his skillset suits pretty much any league, style or team, so he’ll probably do well wherever he ends up. But a move to big-spending Chelsea, who have been looking to solve their striker problem for years, looks most likely.

Bruno Guimarâes: Newcastle United to PSG, €100m

It appears as though Newcastle United will have to offload a star player in 2024 in order to abide by PSR, and although it would break fans’ hearts, the most logical would be Guimarâes.

His impact on Tyneside has been incredible, helping lift Newcastle from the relegation zone to Champions League football in just a year and a half, marking himself out as one of the best midfielders in the world in the process.

He’s good enough to command a massive fee and reportedly has a €100m-plus release clause, while ESPN Brazil have reported that he’s a top target for PSG this year.

Kevin De Bruyne: Manchester City to Saudi Arabia, €60m

Now that De Bruyne has returned to action after injury, so has the discussion around his future. The 32-year-old is approaching the final year of his Manchester City deal and while manager Pep Guardiola would like to sign him up for several more, it’s not necessarily up to him.

Recent reports suggest the Saudi Pro League will make a run at KDB, offering him a huge salary and City a huge sum to part with him. Given his contract status, age and recent injury troubles, they might just be tempted.

Aaron Ramsdale: To leave Arsenal, €40m

The fuss over Ramsdale’s surprise benching at the start of the season has died down now, as Brentford loanee David Raya is clearly the No. 1 choice. Once it became clear no January move would be sanctioned, any transfer buzz (with links to Chelsea and Newcastle) tempered off too. But come the summer this will be one of the hottest topics again, as Ramsdale simply cannot allow this situation to continue.

There is a general lack of vacancies between the sticks across England and Europe’s top clubs, though. At a glance, perhaps only Roma might find themselves in serious need of addressing the goalkeeper position as it stands, so Ramsdale may have to wait for an injury or drop a little lower in the table than he wants in order to find playing time. And in the meantime, his chances of being England No. 1 look slim.

Rafael Leão: AC Milan to PSG, €120m

PSG have a handful of months to prepare themselves for Mbappé’s exit, and by prepare themselves we mean identify who they want to replace him with.

In the squad already they have 21-year-old forward Bradley Barcola, who is really blossoming, plus Ousmane Dembélé, Marco Asensio and Lee Kang-In who can all play there, but this club’s modern history suggests they’ll look to sign a major star to fill the void.

Leão and Manchester United‘s Marcus Rashford have been mentioned as possible targets, with Rashford’s recent rift with coach Erik ten Hag fuelling the fire on that rumour a little. But sources have told ESPN that Leão is the one they want most. He has a €175m release clause, but it’s likely Milan will let him go for less.

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