Friday 21 June 2019

Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and factors that could make this football's first billion pound summer

Christian Eriksen, Matthijs de Ligt and Eden Hazard
Christian Eriksen, Matthijs de Ligt and Eden Hazard

Miguel Delaney

It is a mere hour after the end of the Nations League final - and thereby the end of the regular 2018-19 men's football season - and one of the big-name managers present in Porto is cycling through the series of Whatsapp messages on his phone. A series of them relate to signings.

"Different work now begins," he smiles to a few media figures around him. "This might be one of the biggest summers we've seen."

Arsene Wenger was recently saying similar at a corporate event, but for European football as a whole.

This is one of those rare windows that represents something of a release, where the relative inactivity of previous windows causes a backlog from so many different areas, that results in one big blow-out.

There have already been the explosions of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona, as well as Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.

They are just the start of it, that in turn cause more tremors. It is one of those years that will change the landscape of the European scene.

The major factor is that so many of the major clubs want to renovate their squads. Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are all now undertaking overhauls. At least three of the cases - United, Madrid and Bayern - were already put off by a year, only making the need all the greater now.

Those four clubs alone could bring the expenditure this summer up to well over half a billion, maybe close to a billion.

They have already seen the Premier League lose one of its greatest stars in Hazard, with that itself altering the gravitational state of the competition. Chelsea have lost their greatest player, who has made them one of the division's greater forces. That will require a lot of readjustment.

Christian Eriksen may well follow him to Madrid. That almost feels more important because of how central he has been to a similarly rare spell where Tottenham Hotspur have been one of the major greater forces.

Their presence will have lessened, even if that saga is only going to grow.

It still isn't going to be the summer's biggest saga.

That seems to be the question of Matthijs de Ligt's future. It was that indicative that, while Eriksen refused to elaborate on his own situation after Denmark's international with Ireland on Friday, De Ligt was all too willing to talk in that very Porto stadium on Sunday.

"I'm going to think about what's best for me and then I will decide," the 19-year-old said.

Some involved have noted how such brief media interactions, which only increase the intrigue around a player's future, are common to - yes - Mino Raiola clients. There all part of the game.

They still haven't prevented Barcelona, United, Paris Saint-Germain and - to a lesser extent - Liverpool and Manchester City looking to make De Ligt a big part of their plans.

Those who know the Ajax centre-half still think he will end up at Camp Nou, despite PSG offering the greatest financial offer. The feeling is that, although this is all part of that game in order to get a better contract from Barcelona, they will eventually say ‘let's cut the messing about and get it done'.

He isn't the only Raiola client responsible for such flurries. There's also Pogba, whose own future could have such an effect on Eriksen's, as well as United's plans.

"So much depends on that," in the words of one Old Trafford source.

Zinedine Zidane wants Pogba at the Bernabeu at whatever price it takes, but the hierarchy are now already looking to less expensive options, which Eriksen represents.

If Madrid do go for Pogba - who is said to be "desperate" to leave Old Trafford - would United then turn to Eriksen?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is prioritising a pursuit of younger-profile players, but the club's commercial outlook would still require stars of a certain status.

They have already almost certainly failed in a move for Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, but executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is said to again be exercised about the possibility of signing Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid forward's long-mooted move to Barcelona has run into complications, although the Spanish champions still need a player in his position.

United meanwhile need to move on some players, with Romelu Lukaku among the likeliest, but this is where another big factor in this window comes in.

Internazionale are set to return to old ways, and want to spend a lot of new money. That will only further alter this window. There is talk of an outlay of £300m and moves for big players, even if their recent status means it will be players no longer quite at the height of their careers. Luka Modric is an obvious one, as is Alexis Sanchez, and Lukaku.

This is where the market is for those players who will find themselves moved out by overhauls. James Rodriguez is perhaps the poster boy for this, given that is in one summer the victim of renovations at two clubs: Bayern and Madrid.

Such moves could still bring a necessary response from Juventus to re-assert their own power, which is why it is relevant they are willing to enter the markets for De Ligt and Pogba.

They would still be in a similar situation to clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City.

They have top-quality sides that have been put together in previous windows, meaning they just need to keep it ticking over. They just need a deal or two here or there.

It is still telling that moves for players like Pepe of Lille, or Juve's own Joao Cancelo, would represent more notable moves in other windows.

They're now only likely to be minor tremors. That illustrates how big this window will be.

The actual football might have stopped. The football business never does, and only now really gets going.

Independent News Service

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