Transfer window countdown: Man United need help; Barcelona rebuild
This summer’s transfer window has been unusual given how the coronavirus pandemic has caused uncertainty across the world, particularly in the financial markets, while leagues have been postponed, then restarted while adhering to safety protocols.
Some clubs have had to change their transfer plans significantly; others have seemingly continued as normal. But deadline day — Oct. 5 — across the major European leagues fast approaching, what is left to decide?
With a week to go, we look back at our transfer window preview from July, note who has arrived, see if clubs have done what ESPN’s writers first suggested, and ask if there’s any other business they can sneak in before the window slams shut next Monday.
MAN UNITED: A bit of everything required
What did the team need? There are still a number of areas of the squad that need strengthening, but the priority is a right-sided forward and a centre-back, preferably left-footed. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has put together a strong starting XI, but if United are going to challenge for major trophies, he needs more strength in depth. — Rob Dawson, July 27
DONE DEALS: Donny van de Beek — Ajax, £40m
What do they need now? Only one player has arrived at Old Trafford this summer, which seems barely believable, and therefore quality depth is still an issue. Van de Beek is a good addition, but the key target remains Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho — though with the German club unwilling to drop their €120m valuation, talks have stalled. Barcelona‘s Ousmane Dembele, Inter’s Ivan Perisic and Juventus‘ Douglas Costa have all been linked as backups.
Oddly, centre-back doesn’t seem to be a top priority, despite sources telling ESPN that RB Leipzig‘s Dayot Upamecano remains a target, and backup for left-back Luke Shaw could arrive in the form of Porto’s Alex Telles or Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico.
Midfield is stacked but reports continue to link them to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante. In goal, the options are great as Dean Henderson has returned from a successful loan at Sheffield United to put pressure on No. 1 David de Gea, but as a result it’s possible Argentina international Sergio Romero could leave.
Steve Nicol loves Liverpool’s addition of Diogo Jota, saying the forward “can play at the top level.”
LIVERPOOL: Centre-back cover still needed
What did the team need? Having won the Premier League with ease this season, there is clearly little wrong with the Liverpool machine. In every position, Klopp’s side are a match for any opponent in the world. But there is an argument that Liverpool lack depth in key areas, with no obvious cover for left-back Andy Robertson or centre-back Virgil van Dijk. — Mark Ogden, July 27
What do they need now? After some impressive moves to strengthen in midfield (Thiago and Jota) and add left-back cover with Tsimikas, the club have already spent over £75m, despite manager Jurgen Klopp claiming they had no money amid the coronavirus pandemic. The excess of talent now at their disposal means possible exits for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi or Rhian Brewster as competition is fierce.
With Dejan Lovren having joined Zenit, the gap at centre-back is still there, but they don’t have much cash to spend now. Sevilla’s Diego Carlos and Napoli‘s Kalidou Koulibaly are surely too expensive, so expect a cheaper option.
Gab Marcotti examines the futures of Antonio Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea.
CHELSEA: One more big signing to come?
What did the team need? Frank Lampard is convinced Chelsea require another attacking option … but surely they need to strengthen defensively to challenge for the title. A left-back and at least one centre-back would provide greater solidity, while there is a big call to make on their No. 1 goalkeeper: persevere with the erratic Kepa Arrizabalaga or cut their losses on the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. — James Olley, July 27
DONE DEALS: Timo Werner – RB Leipzig, £47.7m; Hakim Ziyech – Ajax, £33.3m; Thiago Silva – PSG, free; Xavier Mbuyamba – Barcelona, free; Ben Chilwell – Leicester, £50m; Malang Sarr – Nice, free; Kai Havertz – Bayer Leverkusen, £62m; Edouard Mendy – Rennes, £22m
What do they need now? Arguably the team to have made the best signings already this window, Chelsea haven’t let the global pandemic put them off as they reinvest the £100m they got for Eden Hazard last year — and then some. Lampard landed his top attacking choice, Havertz, then also picked up Chilwell for left-back and two centre-backs (Thiago Silva and Sarr) for nothing. Now his goalkeeping position is more secure with Mendy arriving, too.
So what does that leave? After spending almost £250m, surely the club need to balance the books so Hudson-Odoi could move on loan, with Bayern interested, and Tiemoue Bakayoko could join PSG. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley and Emerson Palmieri could also go. Defender Antonio Rudiger has been left out of recent squads, but if he departs and Fikayo Tomori stays, Lampard could bring in one more player to cover both defensive midfield and centre-back: West Ham’s Declan Rice is an option, though he could cost as much as £80m.
Zack Steffen explains his long term future plan, with winning trophies at Man City a priority.
MAN CITY: Should be all done once centre-back arrives
What did the team need? The priority is a centre-back after missing out on Harry Maguire last summer. Vincent Kompany has still not been replaced and that, combined with the serious knee injury suffered by Aymeric Laporte, hurt City’s chances of retaining their title. Pep Guardiola will also look to sign another attacking player with David Silva leaving after 10 years at the Etihad Stadium and Leroy Sane already sold to Bayern Munich for €49m. — Rob Dawson, July 27
What do they need now? Ake’s arrival gives City some more strength at the back, but the Leicester defeat showed they badly need some depth, especially if Eric Garcia joins Barcelona. Napoli’s Koulibaly and Atletico Madrid‘s Jose Gimenez were on the radar, while the club were also chasing Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, with all three deemed too expensive at over £80m. But the club opted to move for the relatively cheaper option of Benfica’s Ruben Dias, at £63m, with Nicolas Otamendi going the other way in part exchange. Benfica have announced the deal to the Portuguese stock exchange, so not it’s just a case of waiting for the ink to dry on the contract.
Despite losing a star in Leroy Sane, who got his desired move to Bayern, Valencia’s Torres arrived for a small fee and England youngster Phil Foden is being moulded into Silva’s long-term replacement. Oh yeah, and they didn’t need to sign Lionel Messi anyway. But they should start thinking about extending Guardiola’s contract.
Julien Laurens outlines the qualities that Houssem Aouar would bring to Arsenal.
ARSENAL: Midfield still a big issue
What did the team need? Centre-backs and a central midfielder. David Luiz silenced some of his critics … but even allowing for William Saliba’s arrival from Saint Etienne, Arsenal’s current crop has to be improved upon. Arsenal have also lacked a powerful, physical presence in central midfield for years and this is known to be an area manager Mikel Arteta has identified. — James Olley, July 27
What do they need now? Now Gabriel and William Saliba have arrived, and Luiz has signed a new contract, there is a need to move on centre-backs Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers, either on loan or preferably permanently to raise money. Rob Holding was linked with a loan move to Newcastle, but now looks like he’ll be staying, though winger Reiss Nelson could move on in search of more game time after the signing of Willian.
Arguably Arsenal’s biggest signing was getting captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to pen a new contract, with youngsters Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli also doing so, but they need to bring in some new blood in midfield. Dani Ceballos rejoined on loan, but Arteta wants one or both of Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey or Lyon‘s Houssem Aouar.
Lucas Torreira is expected to make way, possibly as part of the aforementioned deals, but that presence in midfield is still needed.
Julien Laurens discusses Arkadiusz Milik’s rumoured transfer and debates Dele Alli’s future at Tottenham.
TOTTENHAM: A backup striker, as ever
What did the team need? Jose Mourinho is saying that his squad “doesn’t need major investment.” Though one position he really wants to invest in is in midfield, and he could also do with a right-back, centre-back and backup striker. — James Olley, July 27
What do they need now? Mourinho got his midfielder as Hojbjerg joined, while Tanguy Ndombele seems to have a future again at the club, so the need isn’t as strong as it once was. Doherty was the right-back and Real Madrid’s Reguilon was signed on the other side of defence, though if Serge Aurier was allowed to leave then the full-back spots start to look light again.
In attack, bringing Bale back to the club on loan was impressive, but his arrival from Real Madrid has seemed only to cast doubt on Dele Alli‘s future, amid links with Man United’s Jesse Lingard. And it doesn’t solve the main issue, which has been an issue for a while now, either: backup striker. Take your pick of any number of goal scorers who could help ease the burden on Harry Kane: Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik? Atletico’s Diego Costa? Eintracht Frankfurt‘s Bas Dost? Real Sociedad‘s Willian Jose? Wolfsburg’s Wout Weghorst?
If they fail again, expect Son Heung-Min to be used up front if Kane isn’t available.
Sid Lowe believes Barcelona have enough forwards and don’t need to replace Madrid-bound Luis Suarez.
BARCELONA: A complete overhaul
What did the team need? They are looking for a top forward, a left-back to replace Junior Firpo if he leaves and a centre-back who could become the long-term replacement for Gerard Pique. They might also need a right-back if Nelson Semedo goes. — Sam Marsden, July 27
What do they need now? Where to start … probably a new board and public relations team. This summer has not been a good one for the reputation of one of the world’s biggest clubs. Still, at least Messi is staying for now, though if he’s still there in a year’s time it would be a big surprise.
Barca’s top attacking target was Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, but at over €100m, he proved too expensive. Now that Luis Suarez has joined rivals Atletico Madrid, it’s possible that they won’t even sign a replacement. And maybe they don’t need to.
With new coach Ronald Koeman installed, a host of Dutch players — notably Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon’s Memphis Depay — have been linked. But Barca aren’t short of forwards (with Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Martin Braithwaite, Ansu Fati and newcomer Francisco Trincao). The return of Philippe Coutinho from loan should be a creative boost if the Brazil international can find his form.
The Barca midfield has lost Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, but Pjanic and Pedri have come in, and much more is expected of €75m man Frenkie de Jong this season. A new right-back addition to replace Semedo will be Ajax’s €20m-rated Sergino Dest, sources have told ESPN. Samuel Umtiti and Jean Clair Todibo could go but Firpo is still around, so maybe a left-back can wait. Their top centre-back choice is Man City’s Garcia, who left Camp Nou in 2017 and says he won’t sign a new deal at the Etihad.
Sid Lowe says it’s very difficult to believe Real Madrid would spend money on a striker Edinson Cavani’s age.
What did the team need? Madrid had hoped to add a central midfielder and ideally a centre forward to their ranks this summer, but those plans have been put on hold. Fortunately, they already have an impressive squad with remarkable strength in depth, boasting as many as 36 first-team players including those who have been out on loan. — Alex Kirkland, July 27
DONE DEALS: None
What do they need now? Moves for PSG striker Kylian Mbappe and Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga will have to wait until 2021. For the first time in a long while, Real Madrid aren’t major players in the transfer market and have Martin Odegaard and Alvaro Odriozola back from loan to add to their depth.
Achraf Hakimi raised around €40m with his move to Inter, but Real are keeping their money saved for now, and talk of signing a backup striker like Edinson Cavani, even on a free transfer, probably won’t happen as €60m flop Luka Jovic should stay.
Gab Marcotti explains why Bayern Munich are attempting to add depth at right back and on the wings.
What did the team need? With Leroy Sane already signed from Manchester City for €49m, much will now depend on who leaves Bayern. With Thiago Alcantara and David Alaba both weighing up their futures, Bayern’s summer plans will be steered by this. Regardless of departures, the club have targeted a new right-back. — Stephan Uersfeld, July 27
What do they need now? As Gab Marcotti asserts: “It might seem unconscionable to suggest that a club that won the Treble last season might be a little bit short-handed going into the season, but that’s exactly where Bayern Munich find themselves right now.” The 4-1 defeat to Hoffenheim at the weekend proved as much.
Sane is a great signing, but Bayern have three wingers (Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry) when they should really have four, so a loan move for Callum Hudson-Odoi could help. Elsewhere, Thiago’s move to Liverpool has left them one short in central midfield. Failure to quickly tie up a right-back to provide help for Benjamin Pavard means they’ll miss out on Ajax’s Dest to Barcelona instead, while they have been linked with Norwich City’s Max Aarons (as had Barca).
Tying the versatile Alaba down to a new contract is key, while they’ll need to account for the losses of Coutinho, Perisic and Odriozola (who returned to their parent clubs after loans) and also possibly Javi Martinez (set to rejoin Athletic Bilbao). So there could be some late movement in Munich.
Julien Laurens confirms Kylian Mbappe has not asked to leave PSG and the club are optimistic he will extend his current contract.
JUVENTUS: More tinkering for Pirlo?
What did the team need? Juventus need to lower the average age of their squad and desperately get some of the high-earning fringe players off the wage bill. Last summer, they tried unsuccessfully to sell off some of their squad players on big money and that will likely be the aim again this time around. In terms of where they can improve, they will be looking at the central midfield area as well as perhaps the full-back slots. — Andrew Cesare Richardson, July 27
What do they need now? Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi both left to join MLS side Inter Miami, while Juve can reportedly save a decent amount of money on the wage bill by letting Sami Khedira depart on a free transfer, possibly to PSG. Arthur’s arrival balances out Pjanic’s exit, while signing U.S. men’s national team star McKennie adds depth to midfield, so nothing more needed there. Defensively there could be some work to do if Mattia de Sciglio and Daniele Rugani are allowed to go.
The side is just taking shape under new manager Andrea Pirlo, but Morata’s loan is a good move to replace Higuain up front, especially as it means they won’t have to sign Edin Dzeko from Roma, and could bring back Moise Kean from Everton instead. Finally Juve will be able to see what spending €35m on winger Dejan Kulusevski in January will do for them, after he spent the second half of the season on loan at Parma, and Douglas Costa could yet leave as a result, with Fiorentina‘s €50m-rated Federico Chiesa consistently linked.
PSG: Defensive and midfield improvements still needed
What did the team need? Sporting director Leonardo wants to make adjustments to the squad more than changing everything. A right-back, a defensive midfielder and, if there is money left over, a centre-back as well are required. Depending on Alphonse Areola’s future once he returns from his loan at Real Madrid, a reserve goalkeeper might be also needed. — Julien Laurens, July 27
What do they need now? Areola was allowed to join Fulham on loan, so a third-choice goalkeeper to play behind Rico will be needed as Marcin Bulka and Garissone Innocent are likely to leave as well. Alexandre Letellier, of Ligue 2 side Orleans, is one name linked. Florenzi was the right-back required, while a replacement for centre-back Thiago Silva is possibly needed, especially if Thilo Kehrer is allowed to depart.
No midfielder has yet arrived, despite reports of a move for Tottenham’s Dele Alli. Sources told ESPN that PSG are in talks with Chelsea’s Tiemoue Bakayoko, while Khedira has been offered to the club by Juventus on a free, but Milan’s Ismael Bennacer, Rennes’ Camavinga and Lazio‘s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are considered too expensive. There could be some money raised from letting Idrissa Gueye and Julian Draxler go, but the club will want to prioritise new contracts for Mbappe and Neymar before they expire in 2022.