Transfer News: Friday, April 19th 2019

By David Shams

As the club season winds down, it’s inevitable that the pace of transfer rumors starts to pick up. There are too many to cover, but I’d like to focus on several over the course of the next few months. Some are more circus and PR stunts, while others are simply good players seeking greener pastures.

First on that list is Eden Hazard. It’s been nearly three years since we first starting hearing rumors that his move to Real Madrid was just around the corner. Reports suggest that we’ve finally come to that moment. ESPN is reporting an announcement is forthcoming at any day now. The move is estimated to cost Real Madrid around €100 million. And rumors have it there will be a spending spree this summer, with a budge of up to five times the amount of Hazards’s fee. Luka Jovic, Paul Pogba, and Sadio Mane are all rumored to be on the wishlist. But that also means several players will have to leave. It remains to be seen who will be the odd players out this summer, though.

As I mentioned above, Luka Jovic seems to be at the top of the list for Real Madrid. He’s also been linked with FC Bayern, Chelsea, and Barcelona. I poo-pooed the link to Barcelona in Episode 8 of the Two Idiots Podcast. He simply doesn’t fit their style of play. But the other three—Real Madrid, FC Bayern, and Chelsea—all play with a strong, traditional number 9. A strong performance by the Serbian striker in the Europa League—where his current club, Eintracht Frankfurt, faces off against Chelsea in the semifinals—and his price tag would likely increase. Add to that Eintracht recently triggered their purchase option on their loan agreement with Benfica. This could cause some teams to walk away.

In order to absorb all the players they want to buy (some mentioned above), Real Madrid will have to offload some of its roster. Chief on this list would have to be James Rodriguez. The Colombian attacking midfielder has spent the last two seasons at FC Bayern and couldn’t quite live up to expectations—they may have been too high, but nonetheless he failed to leave the desired mark. Bayern could still end up with the former Monaco player, but a move to Italy may be more likely. Napoli or Juventus may fit his style of play much better.

It’s possible that Richarlison could move on to his fifth side in as many seasons. Not because he’s a bad boy or lacks discipline, one could argue he does though, rather it’s been his standout performances that have seen him transfer to bigger sides year on year. Rumor has it that Barcelona has come knocking and owing in part to the great relationship between Everton and Barcelona built over the transfers and loans of several key Everton players, the transfer fee may be lower than expected. But there’s an obstacle to any sort of transfer to the Catalan side. They’re already chock full of non-EU players.

Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly has impressed over the last few seasons. And this year’s performances in all competitions has seen scouts from all over vying for his signature. Manchester United has looked like favorites since they’re the most in need of shoring up at the back. But he’s also mentioned that he’d like to stay and win championships.

Barring any surprise exits from Merseyside, Liverpool may not need to make a huge splash signing in the off season. But that hasn’t stopped them from supposedly pursuing Wolves midfielder Rueben Neves. Manager Jurgen Klopp may want to strengthen his somewhat crowded midfield and bringing in a Premier League battle tested player like Neves wouldn’t be a bad idea compared to the want-away PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Over the last two transfer windows, Tottenham haven’t signed any new players. In large part, this was due to pushing funds toward building their new stadium. But the stadium’s complete, a place in the Champions League Semifinals is secured, and another top four spot looking more likely fans will want to an effort to bring in new players. Curiously enough, though, the only sure rumors I’ve seen have players leaving. Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld are both linked with a move away from the North London club. Inter Milan is rumored to be preparing an offer for Eriksen, while Alderweireld may leave for either Arsenal or Manchester United.

Transfer season is always interesting to watch. There’s high drama, last second bargaining, and ridiculous rumors. These are but a few of the players or teams who will play huge roles in transfer season. I’ll follow them through the summer and keep everyone up to date on how everything shakes out.

David is the founder of DC Soccer Digest. He lives in Washington, DC.

Pulisic Transfer Rumors Heat Up

Eddie Johnson recently described Christian Pulisic as the best American player ever. Big words for a 19 year old, but Johnson, a former US National Team player, would know. Pulisic spent a chunk of the off-season training with the former MLS frontman in Orlando, Florida.

Now that preseason training is in full swing and the transfer window drawing to a close, it seems the Hersey, PA native could be on the move. 

Contract talks have stalled with his club team, Borussia Dortmund. He has two years left, but without an extension Dortmund would have to settle for selling him at a discount next summer or letting him go for free. 

Pulisic has been on the radar of Liverpool, FC Bayern, and Real Madrid. Jürgen Klopp, manager at Anfield, was in charge of Dortmund when the American winger first arrived in Germany. FC Bayern sees Pulisic as a natural replacement for their aging stars Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben. And Real Madrid is interest because everyone else is too. 

Late Sunday evening, however, a new front runner has emerged, Chelsea. The London club hasn't made a big splash in the transfer market as of yet. But with Willian, Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois likely on their way out, they'll have money to spend. 

The American youngster does have the potential to be great, but most likely won't be able to fill the shoes of Hazard if the Belgian leaves Stamford Bridge anytime soon. Pulisic didn't particularly shine last season for Dortmund. 

For the sake of improving his skill sets, he's better off staying for another year in Germany. There he'll play much more often than at any of the other teams in the running. Liverpool looks to have sorted out backups for their wingers, Pulisic won't start over Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah. At FC Bayern, he'd still have to share time with Ribéry and Robben. There'd be no playing time at Real Madrid, even in cup ties. At Chelsea, the team seems in such disarray that even if he were to play more often, it may not be worth the hassle. 

Interested teams, for their part, would be better off waiting until the 2019 Transfer Windows--either in January or in the summer. Dortmund would likely be forced to take much less than the £65 million ($85 million) on offer today. Or they could manage to swing a deal that lets Pulisic stay in Dortmund for one more season--letting him develop his skills--with his transfer being effective next summer. 

Nonetheless, I don't forsee any movement unless Chelsea can get their transfer situation sorted out. Without the money to pay for Pulisic, there's no way they can make a move. It's a better decision all around if he stays one more season in yellow and black. 

Premier League Transfer Deadline Looms Large

We've all become used to the mad dash to wrap up transfers by August 31st.

Several games into a season, teams were still searching for a solution to glaring needs on the field. Maybe they haven't quite settled on terms with a long held transfer target. Or, possibly there's that lone trouble maker they're trying to off-load. 

But those late editions/subtractions can also be disruptive to team chemistry. 

That's precisely what Premier League clubs were seeking to avoid when they announced last season on a 14 to 5 vote (one abstention) that they'd move their transfer deadline back from August 31 to the Thursday before the first weekend of games. The new deadline falls on August 9th. 

FIFA, it must be noted, has mandated a 12-week transfer window. Which is why, if you recall, Premier League teams were finalizing transfers as early as mid-May. Fabinho to Liverpool from Monaco is a prime example.

It seems, though, teams in England haven't really caught on to the new transfer deadline. Yes, there have been some big signings--Liverpool picked up Xerdan Shaqiri from Stoke and Alisson from Roma. But overall there haven't been the series of splashes that a transfer window normally has. 

We should also take into account the four-week-long extravaganza in Russia, the World Cup usually slows the transfer market. Surely that puts a damper on activity as teams wait to see how targets perform and whether or not they have to increase their bids. 

But that doesn't account for the general hesitancy of teams to buy or sell. Normally a big transfer, like Ronaldo to Juventus, would act like a multiplier and set off a series of other transactions. That hasn't happened yet.

Some have said we should wait until the last ten days, which will begin July 31st. There's always a flurry of activity as the window starts to close.

Still others have pointed to the delayed transfer deadlines of other clubs. Italy has decided to enact the same policy as the Premier League, but their start date is a week later. Germany, Spain, and France haven't made those changes and will be free to sign players until August 31st--even  from sides in the UK.  

While it is certain to limit confusion and allow players to focus on the season, the new policy could lead to Premier League sides missing out on players as clubs in other leagues have a bit more time hammer out transfers. And if there's a want-away player on a side in England, a club with a longer transfer deadline would be able to make a lower bid, knowing there's a strong desire to get rid of the player. In short, the last three weeks of August will be a buyers market. 

The new transfer rules look to be reasonable, but the fact they aren't uniformly applied across Europe makes it all the more confusing and likely that English sides could get the short end of the stick. 

Obtaining consistency across Europe should be next on the agenda.