For the majority of teams – and their supporters – the season has ended meaning the players are jetting off on holidays, press conferences are few and far between and fans have no games on which to place their soccer bets; instead they’re left chewing over the outcome of the past year and then attention will quickly shift to the rumour mill.
The season has seen some of Europe’s biggest names fail to achieve their goals and therefore you can bet your bottom dollar some big names will be on the move. Let’s look at five players who are possibly switching loyalties.
- Paul Pogba
Pogba went into this season off the back of a World Cup win with France but was heavily criticised for his role in Jose Mourinho’s sacking from Manchester United. His performances improved under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and he ended up as United’s most influential player topping the assist and scoring charts, but questions over his attitude have reared their head again.
Real Madrid are said to be interested as Zinedine Zidane looks to strengthen following an appalling campaign, plus they both have the French connection in common.
Pogba, whilst a frustrating talent is still exactly that – a talent – and United need talented players. Given where United are it would send worrying signals of their ambition if they were to let him leave; a lot will depend on Pogba’s mindset.
Verdict – Don’t count on it
- Harry Maguire
We’ve already touched on what was an atrocious season for the Red Devils and, whilst the appointment of former striker Solskjaer brought a buzz about the place, a slow summer will kill off whatever positivity remains following an under par close to the campaign.
United are in need of strengthening throughout and a solid foundation is a good place to start. Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli has been linked, but a player like Maguire who already knows the league would be a huge step in the right direction and he’s home grown too. Leicester might have finished the season well after Brendan Rodgers arrived, but United are surely a more attractive proposition.
Verdict – Stranger things have happened
- Philippe Coutinho
When Coutinho arrived in Barcelona for €160 million the fans he was leaving were gutted, as his new supporters imagined him sprinkling yet more stardust into an already magical side, but it’s not quite gone according to plan.
Barca are under pressure to improve after the humiliation suffered at the hands of Coutinho’s former club Liverpool in the Champions League. Whilst Coutinho hasn’t become a bad player, there will be casualties and his performances in Spain have made him replaceable.
There’s plenty of teams willing to take him though; English duo Chelsea and Manchester United have both shown interest whilst French champions PSG have also thrown their hat in the mix. Could a return to Anfield be on the cards? That’s probably the least likely destination, but it would be a surprise to still see him in a Barcelona strip when the new season kicks off.
Verdict – This has legs. Don’t be surprised to see him join Chelsea (transfer embargo dependant!)
- Antoine Griezmann
Coutinho out, Griezmann in. Griezmann has announced he’ll leave Atletico Madrid this summer and Barca are reportedly happy to meet his release clause of €120 million. By today’s market that’s a steal for a player who has been directly involved (either scoring or assisting) in at least 20 La Liga goals in each of his seasons in Madrid.
It’s difficult to envisage him ending up anywhere else given Barcelona’s long running pursuit; finally, they seem to have their man. Let’s just hope Griezzman doesn’t end up shipped away like Coutinho after one or two seasons.
Verdict – A sure thing
- Eden Hazard
Zinedine Zidane is a long-time admirer of Hazard and playing for Real Madrid is a dream prospect for the player. So, it’s almost guaranteed that fans inside the Bernabeu will have a new star man to cheer; its just a case of how much it will cost.
Hazard is one of several who sit in the tier below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but on his day, he’s as good as anyone; consistency will be key, but he’ll improve the Madrid of this year no doubt. The bigger question is what will Chelsea do without him?
Yes, they could reinvest the fee but any new arrival (even Coutinho) will have big shoes to fill and if the club is banned from signing players, then it could be another underachieving season for the Blues.
Verdict – It’s as good as done