This summer’s transfer window is shaping up to be one of the most bizarre and unpredictable in history, and Manchester United are likely to be right at the heart of the action.
Two of the world’s most sought-after players – Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland – must be sold now (or in the winter window, which seems unlikely) in order for their clubs to avoid losing them for free (Mbappe), or for around £64 million (Haaland) next summer.
Both players would normally command a figure around the £150 million mark.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 has plunged football’s finances into crisis, with no club seemingly able to afford anything like the kind of figure that these players would have fetched under normal circumstances.
There are also murmurs of Harry Kane wanting away from Spurs and being valued at £175 million and of Borussia Dortmund being ready to sell Jadon Sancho for £100 million, although those deals are arguably less likely because both players have several years left on their contracts.
United’s Paul Pogba, still the British league record transfer at £89 million, is also entering the last year of his contract. United, like PSG and Borussia Dortmund in the above cases, will surely look to sell this summer rather than let him leave for free a year later.
Another major figure who may or may not move is Cristiano Ronaldo, who will also be entering the final year of his contract at Juventus. At 36 years of age, the main issue with him is whether any other club would take on his huge £26 million per year salary or whether Juve will be ‘stuck’ with him for another season. If they are, they are likely to be unable to compete for any of these other stars.
Reports from Spain consistently claim that Real Madrid’s priority signing would be Mbappe. Barcelona are in over a billion Euros of debt, Bayern Munich appear to be limiting their major spending to Dayot Upamecano, and Pep Guardiola has ruled City out, saying ‘with these prices we are not going to sign any striker … We are not going to sign any striker, it’s impossible – we cannot afford it. That’s not going to happen’ (via The Telegraph).
With Liverpool’s owners also normally loath to push the boat out – although they did go to £75 million for Virgil van Dijk – Chelsea and United are arguably left as the last men standing who are capable of signing Haaland at anything close to the kind of price that Dortmund have in mind.
So how will all of this unfold?
The most likely thing to happen is that Mbappe will move. PSG simply cannot afford not to sell him. The sale of Mbappe will then likely trigger a chain of events involving the other stars.
If Real Madrid sign the Frenchman, they will almost certainly not be able to pursue Haaland as well. With the funds raised from the sale, PSG could sign Pogba, partially funding United’s bid for Haaland.
Of course, Guardiola’s words could just be rhetoric. Roman Abramovic’s pockets are deep at Chelsea and he could pull off a coup and sign any of these players. And swap deals could also be involved. There are so many possible scenarios but one thing seems almost certain: it will be quite a summer.