The frenzy is already underway.
Real Madrid are eager to prise Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. Lionel Messi is leaving Paris Saint-Germain and, most likely, bound for Saudi Arabia. A flurry of England internationals, from Harry Kane to Declan Rice, James Maddison to Mason Mount, might also be on the move.
The transfer window may not formally open until June 14, but clubs are already kick-starting attempts to strengthen their options ahead of next season — with a number of elite players likely to be on the market this summer.
This is what The Athletic is hearing on 10 high-profile figures who could be off to pastures new.
One by one, Jude Bellingham’s suitors have faded from the picture.
For a long time, Liverpool seemed his likeliest post-Borussia Dortmund destination, but the scale of the rebuild necessary at Anfield, and what that will cost, has put paid to that move. With Manchester City apparently harbouring more of an admiration for Bellingham than an outright interest in signing him, Florentino Perez and Real Madrid are really the only party at the table.
As it is, the 19-year-old England midfielder informed City around a month ago that his preference would be a move to the Bernabeu. Real would offer him a six-year deal, and personal terms will not be an issue.
German clubs do not enjoy transfer sagas. They prefer succession planning and good strategy, and Dortmund have already said publicly that they expect movement on this issue sooner rather than later.
One sticking point might be the actual transfer fee. Dortmund value Bellingham at somewhere close to €150million (£129.1m; $160.7m) and that might prove too rich even for Real’s blood.
Nevertheless, given that his current contract expires in 2025 and he has shown no willingness to sign an extension, sporting director Sebastian Kehl and managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke will know Bellingham — named the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season yesterday (Sunday) — is right at the peak of his value and ripe for sale.
Alexis Mac Allister
Alexis Mac Allister waved a tearful goodbye to Brighton supporters following their final Premier League game of the season against Aston Villa last weekend.
The Argentina international is set to move on after a highly impressive campaign in which he helped his nation win the World Cup and ensured Roberto De Zerbi’s team secured European qualification for the first time in Brighton’s history.
His father and agent, Carlos, has been holding discussions with interested clubs since April, with Liverpool at the front of the queue. Jurgen Klopp is a big admirer of the dynamic midfielder, who scored 12 goals and contributed three assists for Brighton in 40 appearances in all competitions this season.
The 24-year-old’s contract runs until 2025, with the option of adding a further year for Brighton, but The Athletic recently revealed how that deal contains a mechanism to help facilitate a move. The fee is set to be less than the £70million previously mooted and Liverpool have held productive talks with Mac Allister Snr over personal terms.
The player has been on holiday, but has spoken to Argentine news outlet Infobae from Miami.
Asked how it felt being “one step away” from joining Liverpool and being trained by Klopp, Mac Allister said: “I am very calm. I also have the possibility of being at a club like Brighton, that accompanied me at all times and which I really enjoy being part of.
“If I don’t leave the club, I will continue to be very happy there. But I am aware that there are possibilities, and if a good offer arrives for the club and for me, we will evaluate it. I have no doubts that (the Premier League) is the best league to play in and that is why I would like my next club to be in the Premier (League). I really enjoy being there.
“The objective is to continue improving as a person and as a player to win more titles. I’m 24, I’m a world champion, I play in one of the best leagues in the world and I feel my career is growing, but I still have my feet on the ground and I really want to improve. We’ll see what the future brings.”
James Maddison’s future almost certainly lies away from Leicester City.
The 26-year-old has a year left on his contract — dangling the risk of him leaving for nothing in 2024 if he stays; a scenario Leicester will want to avoid as they look to balance their finances — and will not be short of Premier League suitors this summer despite his side’s relegation.
Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been linked with a move for the England international in the past and you would expect there to be a clamour for his signature once the window opens in just over a week.
Several intermediaries have suggested to The Athletic that Maddison’s market value — taking into account his contract situation — sits at around £40million, but noted that if multiple clubs come forward, Leicester could get more if a bidding war starts.
Maddison scored 10 goals and added nine assists in all competitions last season, although he missed a crucial penalty on the relegation run-in during a draw with fellow strugglers Everton at the beginning of May. He also returned to the England squad in March, earning his second cap and first start more than three years after his debut.
Gareth Southgate has also named Maddison in his squad for this month’s two European Championship qualifiers.
As recently as five months ago, those close to Lionel Messi’s camp were confident the freshly-crowned World Cup winner would sign a new contract to stay at Paris Saint-Germain beyond this summer’s expiry of his two-year deal. But something broke down between the French champions and the Argentina star, particularly after they were dumped out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich in March, and he is moving on.
According to sources involved in the negotiations, who were speaking on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, it will not be long before we know Messi’s next club. The player’s ideal scenario would be for a final decision to be made in the coming week. Will that happen, though? Well, it’s complicated.
As soon as there was a hint Messi’s future would be away from Paris, his long-time club Barcelona put themselves at the negotiating table. The Catalans want to re-sign him for several reasons: it’s a personal wish from their president Joan Laporta, who was left disheartened by the Camp Nou talisman’s departure when his contract ended two summers ago. Laporta wanted to mend that relationship by offering Messi the proverbial ‘last dance’ back in La Liga.
There’s also an economic dimension to the deal. Barcelona believe bringing Messi ‘home’ would significantly help their finances in a season which will see them playing home games away from the Camp Nou, in a much smaller stadium across town, to allow for what’s set to be more than a year of extensive building work. Barcelona will lose income while they can’t play at their famous ground, and superstar Messi has huge appeal for potential sponsors as well as fans all around the world.
How could Barcelona afford him, though, considering their ongoing monetary issues? No one knows, frankly. Which is why they are seeming less likely to land Messi as time goes by.
Barcelona can’t yet even give a formal offer to Messi, who turns 36 in less than three weeks, as they are still waiting for La Liga’s response to a viability plan covering the next two years they submitted last month. If La Liga gives that the green light, they should be allowed to proceed with signings for next season. But that has not happened yet, and Messi does not want to wait for long.
Important figures inside the Barcelona dressing room are feeling less and less optimistic about the club’s chances of bringing him back.
Al-Hilal, from Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, are offering Messi a reported €400million-a-year deal. That was presented months ago, and he is expected to give a definitive reply soon on a proposal that would see him move to the city where his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al-Nassr. Despite Messi’s initial wish to carry on in European football for one more year, the scale of the Al-Hilal bid could lure him to Saudi. As of now, that seems the most likely destination.
Finally, there’s the Inter Miami option.
The American life would be different, and possibly more appealing for Messi, who bought a property in that US city in 2021. Months ago, his camp denied having received a formal offer from any team in MLS, but right now Miami — part-owned by fellow superstar David Beckham, and currently bottom of the North American league’s Eastern division almost halfway through their 2023 season — are seen as a possibility.
The strength of Christian Pulisic’s desire to find a new club this summer is matched only by current employers Chelsea’s eagerness to sell him in the coming transfer window.
Pulisic has been unhappy with his opportunities at Stamford Bridge for more than a year, and the big-money signings of Raheem Sterling from Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhailo Mudryk in that time have underlined that Chelsea’s squad planning does not include him.
Until now, a market has been slow to develop for the current United States captain. Chelsea’s valuation of the player they signed from Borussia Dortmund for £58million in 2019 has been an obstacle, but so too has Pulisic’s salary, which places him among their higher earners. The fact the 24-year-old is entering the final season of his contract provides all parties with extra incentive to be more flexible in their search for a solution.
Within the market, there is a feeling a deal could be done for around £20million, while the player himself is prepared to take a considerable pay cut to secure a change of scene that could kick-start his club career.
A move within the Premier League or to Italy appear the likeliest options — but do not be surprised if it emerges Chelsea are trying to include him in part-exchange for their targets.
It was in December when West Ham conceded internally that they would have to face selling Declan Rice, their captain, this summer.
Rice has turned down three offers of a new contract and is ready for a new challenge. He will hope to end his West Ham career on a high by lifting the Europa Conference League trophy after Wednesday’s final against Fiorentina.
His suitors will not secure him on the cheap. West Ham value Rice at £100million and will be reluctant to sanction his departure unless a club meets their asking price.
Even so, the player is heavily coveted.
Rice would bring a level of athleticism and aggression to the Arsenal midfield that they currently lack, but his ability to keep the ball should also not be underplayed. He has flourished in less of a possession-based side at West Ham, where his reading of the game and powerful runs into space stand out. But, at England level, he has to be more of a controlling influence, playing through pressure and finding his attackers amid congested defences.
The 24-year-old would be an upgrade on Thomas Partey in Arsenal’s holding role. His physical attributes mean manager Mikel Arteta could play with two attack-minded No 8s, safe in the knowledge he has someone adept at breaking up play and covering large areas of the pitch behind the ball. Adding to the group of English players already at the club in Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah would also help build on the improved connection with the supporters.
Manchester United have long tracked Rice but, in previous windows, their recruitment staff failed to come to a consensus about a move — especially given West Ham’s stance that he was not for sale. They are keeping abreast of Rice’s situation going into the summer, but the fee being quoted and manager Erik ten Hag’s priorities lying elsewhere mean a turnaround is required for a formal approach from Old Trafford to follow.
Harry Kane has said very little about his future all season, always insisting he was focused on Tottenham and that he would sit down with chairman Daniel Levy this summer.
Yet the England captain did make it clear enough, speaking after their penultimate game against Brentford two weeks ago, that he was not happy with how things had gone, pointedly saying that “a lot needs to change”, and that he would speak to Levy about “the values of the club”.
Kane, who turns 30 next month, has done little to persuade people that he is not at least interested in a move away this summer but, as was the case in 2021, the matter is not entirely in his hands.
The first question is: who wants him? And the next: how much money are they willing to spend? Manchester United are certainly interested, and it might be that Real Madrid join them in the chase now Karim Benzema is leaving. It is understood that Carlo Ancelotti has conveyed his admiration for Kane to the Real president Florentino Perez.
The other issue is that while Tottenham do not want to lose him, especially not to another Premier League side, this is the last summer in which they could sell him for money that can be reinvested in the team. Next summer, Kane will be a free agent and hold all the power over his future.
A resolution to Kane’s future is coming, one way or another, in the next year. But nobody knows right now if we will get a firm answer this summer.
With his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen already some way down the track, Granit Xhaka was able to bid farewell to the Emirates Stadium crowd in Arsenal’s final game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The two goals the Swiss midfielder scored that afternoon were a fitting send-off for a player who has completely turned around his reputation among Arsenal supporters after a terrific season being deployed in a more advanced position by Mikel Arteta.
Even though he contributed heavily to the club’s resurgent campaign, there remained a sense that Arsenal need to lift the bar again in the midfield area. And funding moves for Declan Rice and another midfielder besides requires money and space. Xhaka is not the type to be content with a reduced role if new midfielders arrive and, because he will be 31 in September, this is as dynamic as he is likely to get.
If the deal with Leverkusen goes through, it is expected to net Arsenal around £13million and will be a move that also suits Xhaka’s style of play, moving to exert an influence under another former Spain midfielder at the German club in Xabi Alonso.
Manchester United are looking to make sales to generate funds for Erik ten Hag’s squad building and Harry Maguire is a player who could command a significant fee. He is United’s club captain, but the armband has been worn most frequently by Bruno Fernandes this season, with Maguire starting 16 games in all competitions.
He has played 1,593 minutes for United, a sharp fall from 3,169 minutes in 2021-22, and his future will come on the agenda now that Ten Hag’s first campaign is over.
Maguire has shown a determination to fight for his place at United, and he takes great pride in being captain. One source with understanding of the situation said his intention is to stay at Old Trafford.
But Gareth Southgate’s comments at his latest squad announcement made clear that further time spent on the bench will put his place in the England team in jeopardy, and that could bring the issue to the forefront.
“Inevitably it’s not a situation that can continue for ever,” Southgate said. “Of course the longer that situation goes on the more concerning it is. We’ve got Marc Guehi, Lewis Dunk, Tyrone Mings, players who are playing well without the same experiences of club European football or international football. But we’ve got to keep searching for competition in that area of the pitch.”
Maguire is behind Victor Lindelof in Ten Hag’s current thinking, and Luke Shaw has also played ahead of him at left centre-back. Maguire didn’t feature in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, although it shouldn’t be forgotten Pep Guardiola was a rival for his signature in 2019.
Maguire is 30 now, having been through a difficult spell but gained much experience, as Southgate alluded. He started all five of England’s games at the World Cup this winter.
He has two years left on his contract and those who know the market believe he could be worth £40 million. There are only a handful of clubs who could afford his £190,000 per week wages.
Barring a remarkable late development, Mason Mount has played his last game for Chelsea.
Anyone who witnessed a clearly emotional Mount walking on the Stamford Bridge pitch during the traditional end-of-season lap of appreciation, following last weekend’s finale against Newcastle United, will have that impression.
Talks over a contract extension, which began last summer, have broken down on both sides and there is little sign of a reconciliation. Several clubs domestically and abroad — suitors include Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus and Bayern Munich — are keen, but Manchester United are the firm favourites to win this race.
The Athletic has been told that United plan to sign two players early in the window, to ensure they are ready to join up for pre-season next month. Mount, who is leaning towards a move to Old Trafford, is one of them.
Discussions have begun between the clubs but the fee could be a major stumbling block. Even though the 24-year-old England international has just 12 months left on his contract, Chelsea value him at around £70million. United are reluctant to pay that much.
This is where that slim chance of a ‘remarkable late development’ remains. If negotiations do not go well with United, or any other interested club, Mount could see out the last year of his deal and leave, instead, as a free agent next summer. With no fee involved, he would benefit financially from pursuing that course.
There is also the reality that Chelsea’s incoming new head coach, Mauricio Pochettino, would prefer him to stay.
But it is still rather unlikely at this stage, especially because the club need to raise funds to help them comply with financial fair play rules, as well as to finance their own spending on new talent.