Transfer News: Monday, April 29th, 2019

By David Shams

Transfers are always fun to watch. One moment something looks a near certainty and the next it’s fallen through. Most of the information spilling out of various sources is really just hearsay and grandstanding by agents, players, or hangers-on who are only interested in driving up the transfer and wage price. No one stops it though, because it’s all part of the game.

One of the more interesting sagas to watch been Eden Hazard. Is he leaving? Is he staying? The answer to either of those questions changes nearly every hour. When I last wrote about his rumored transfer to Real Madrid, it was to say that the deal was done and would be announced within 24 hours. Well, it’s been 10 days and the Belgian star is still a Chelsea player. Now there’s rumors that he’s staying. After this weekend’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United, Hazard was quoted as saying he wanted to be in the Champions League and that he was confident Chelsea would be there. Soccer’s version of Kremlinologists opined over the meaning of Hazard’s words. Most going so far as to suggest that rumored move away from Stamford Bridge could be off. Three years on since the rumors began, we’re still nowhere closer to a resolution.

Serbian striker, and current Eintracht Frankfurt player, Luka Jovic is still sorting out where he’ll land next season. Reports are suggesting that Real Madrid is emerging as the front runner with FC Bayern backing out of any bidding war. But statements from his Jovic’s father suggest he may stick with Frankfurt for another season. Both Madrid and Barcelona have feigned some measure of displeasure at the whole ordeal. They’re upset with how Jovic’s entourage has handled the race to sign the Serbian. They’re concerned the representatives are only concerned with driving up the price of the player. If Jovic leads Frankfurt to a Europa League title, he’s certainly going to be a bit pricier.

There hasn’t been much news on the James Rodriguez front. We’ve known for a while that he was more likely to return to Real Madrid after his two year loan deal ended. After coming on in the 57th minute in FC Bayern’s draw with Nurnberg, James was subbed off lasting 15 minutes due to some sort of muscle injury. There’s likely no space for him at the Bernabeu, but other teams are showing interest. Manchester United and Inter Milan have moved to the front of the line.

When Richarlison arrived at Everton, there were hopes he’d stick around for a few seasons before the Toffies were able to earn a rich return on investment. That may change this summer. As I said ten days ago, the club are looking like they’ll have to fend off offers from bigger clubs this summer. The Brazilian has caught the eye of Barcelona and Manchester United as well as several Italian clubs. Two huge requirements will have to be met before any transfer can take place, though. First, the club making the approach has to be in the Champions League. And Second, Everton likely won’t countenance any offers below €75 million. For Manchester United, though, they’ll likely have to offload several players first—Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, and David De Gea look certain to leave this summer.

Another player gaining interest from the front office at Old Trafford is Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. I mentioned the interest around him the last time around as well. His move away from Serie A looks more and more likely after his manager Carlo Ancelloti suggested he wouldn’t prevent any of his players leaving. The Senegalese’s price tag could reach as high as €150 million. That maybe too rich for United’s overhaul, especially if they fail to make the Champions League. That leaves only a handful of clubs that could actually close that deal.

Liverpool’s interest in Rueben Neves has remained exactly that. There hasn’t been any forward movement for either club. With Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain back at 100%, there may not be a need for another midfield player. But anything can happen.

After going two transfer windows without any new signings, Spurs will likely make some changes in the off season. Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld look the most likely to leave the North London side. Both are linked with Manchester United, although it remains to be seen if they both end up there. Donny van de Beek, Ryan Sessegnon, and Jack Grealish are favorites to join Tottenham during the summer window. All three are young talents that can be picked up at bargain prices. Mauricio Pochettino is rumored to have roughly £150 million to work with, so offloading players like Eriksen and Alderweireld would likely be necessary.

Like I said before, the build up to any transfer window is never short of rumors and connived narratives. Wading through it all is part of the fun, especially when Real Madrid is concerned. They’re legit connected to every player possible—Pogba, Hazard, Salah, Mane, Mbappe, Neymar just to name a few. Here, I try to pick a few story lines and follow them through the summer. Which ones will you follow? Which team will make the big splash? Will Hazard leave? What will Manchester United do? How does FC Bayern fare in the summer spending window?

David is the founder of DC Soccer Digest. He lives in Washington, DC. You can follow him on twitter at @ShamsWriter.

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.