Normally, at this time of year, as we approach the end of the season, the number of stories linking players with a move away from their club increases with each passing day.
Of course, despite the coronavirus’ impact, this continues to be the case. However, the reality of the crisis shouldn’t be ignored, and nor can the financial impact it will have either.
Due to the lack of fixtures and matchday revenue in recent weeks, clubs have been hit hard by the virus and, as a result, this will limit their spending when the transfer window does eventually open.
While we do all love a high-profile transfer, some which are currently being discussed are simply unreasonable at this moment in time. Here’s a look at eight players that we can expect to stay put this summer due – at least in part – to the coronavirus…
Where else could we start?
Neymar left Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for around £200m, with the intention of getting out of Lionel Messi’s shadow and boosting his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or.
However, since making the switch, scarcely a day has gone by without him being linked with a blockbuster return to Camp Nou. And even though Barcelona have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus, this hasn’t stopped suggestions that the Catalan giants are working to bring the Brazilian back to the club.
Swap deals have been reported, with one, two and even three players potentially involved in a deal. However, the 28-year-old would have to take a major pay cut to rejoin his former club, while the reality is that Barça don’t have the financial muscle at this moment in time to satisfy all parties involved.
As for Neymar’s teammate, Kylian Mbappe, he’s been heavily linked with Real Madrid among others, but considering his age and overall market value, no team will likely be able to afford him during this time of great difficulty.
Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
Niguez has established himself as one of Europe’s finest midfielders, operating in a number of different positions for Diego Simeone. But the player is said to have hit a wall in negotiations with the club over a new contract, even though his current deal doesn’t expire until 2026.
As a result, Manchester United, who have been linked with Saul for a number of years, have once again been alerted to his situation. The Spaniard has a release clause of £132m, but it has been suggested that United aren’t willing to pay more than around £70m. Moreover, the Red Devils could tempt Saul to Old Trafford by offering him a better deal, and increasing his wages.
However, a source has confirmed to 90min that United’s priority this summer is to sign Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham. As a result, a move for Saul looks unlikely, but a move in the future shouldn’t be ruled out. There has been interest in Saul for some time, but a move next summer would be far more reasonable, and understandable – especially if United or an interested party are looking to offer him improved terms.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane recently refused to rule out a move away from north London. The Tottenham man has a stellar record in front of goal and is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers when fit, but he is yet to win a major club trophy.
As a result, he’s been linked with the likes of Manchester United, City and Real Madrid. However, in order for Daniel Levy to even consider parting ways with him, an offer of between £150m-200m would need to be made.
In normal times, this would deter most suitors as most clubs simply aren’t able to pay up this kind of money, but now even teams who might be able to afford him will most likely not be willing to part ways with so much cash.
Levy is renowned for driving a hard bargain anyway, and this won’t change just because a player is considering leaving. Not just any player either, but the star man.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
It’s fair to say Kepa has struggled this season for Chelsea, so much so that good ol’ Willy Caballero was selected as the man to play between the sticks instead of the Spaniard at one point.
Frank Lampard’s (lack of) trust in Kepa has become fairly well-documented in recent months, and numerous reports have linked the Spaniard with a move away from west London. Admittedly, Kepa’s form for Chelsea was much improved after returning to the team, but this hasn’t stopped the Blues from keeping tabs on a number of potential replacements.
Lampard doesn’t appear to be convinced by his supposed first-choice shot-stopper but while the club may be eyeing up alternatives, it seems unlikely Kepa will be departing this summer. Having arrived in a world record deal for a goalkeeper, Chelsea wouldn’t be keen to let him leave for much less than the sum they paid for his services. This would be unrealistic as few – if any – clubs would be willing to cough up such an amount during these times.
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Havertz is one of the most sought after young talents in world football – that is clear. Following a 2018/19 season in which the German netted 20 times from attacking midfield and provided a further seven assists, Havertz actually made a fairly slow start to the 2019/20 campaign. However, he went on to grab ten goals and eight assists before football was halted due to the coronavirus.
These kinds of stats are impressive for a young striker, let alone a versatile midfielder. The 20-year-old is a special talent, and his performances haven’t gone unnoticed either, with the number of European giants eyeing his signature only increasing.
But due to the current financial climate, it wouldn’t make sense for a European elite to make a move for Havertz this summer. Any deal for the young prospect would not come cheap, with Havertz currently valued at somewhere between £80m-100m. But with his contract due to expire in 2022, it would make much more sense for a big club to wait and allow his value to drop over the coming year before making a move next summer.
Of course, Leverkusen may be in a position where they could look to offload a big player for a hefty fee now in order to soften the financial blow from COVID-19. But Havertz is the key man in this team and the likelihood of a team paying the figure the Bundesliga outfit are looking for this summer isn’t likely.
Therefore, it would make sense for all parties to wait another year, even though the player himself has hinted that he’s ready to move on.
Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid)
At face value, it may appear as though Thomas Lemar is set for the exit door this summer given the fact that he’s hugely disappointed during his time with Atletico Madrid. But in reality, any deal to take the Frenchman away from Madrid could prove challenging.
Atletico paid around €70m for him, while he is also still under contract until 2023. Therefore, Atleti will not sanction a sale unless a club meets a fairly hefty valuation – and this is something that few clubs would be willing to do, considering the financial constraints.
Lemar’s form makes him a huge gamble for a buyer, and unless his current club are willing to lower his valuation, it doesn’t seem like any suitor will be making a move in the next window.
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Make no mistake about it, Dembele is a sensational talent when fit, which is why Barcelona were willing to pay around £135.5m to bring him to the club.
But injuries have been a major issue, while his attitude and off-the-field antics have also not gone down well with Barça at times since his arrival. La Blaugrana have seemingly had enough and were willing to let him leave for around €60m – over half of what they paid for him.
The problem, however, is that clubs have still been unwilling to show any concrete interest and, as a result, the Catalan club have accepted that they will have to keep hold of the Frenchman.
In normal circumstances, €60m for a player of Dembele’s quality may prove to be a risk worth taking, even despite his injury record. However, during this crisis, it would be risky and reckless for a club to fork out such a hefty amount of money as the potential repercussions of wasting this money would be far greater.
Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
The second Barcelona player on this list is Rakitic, who is now said to be at ‘war’ with the club. The Croatian midfielder has failed to hold down a regular spot in the starting lineup this season, and this has seen the interest in him grow.
A number of offers have been made for him, but it is said that Rakitic hasn’t been willing to listen to these offers as he is set on a return to Sevilla. With his contract due to expire in 2021, Rakitic is in a position where he can decide his own future – something he has insisted he will do by using…a potato analogy.
The problem regarding a return to Sevilla is that due to the coronavirus, they aren’t looking to pay a fee for his services. Therefore, Rakitic could stay where he is until his contract expires, before making the switch back to his former club next year.
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa