TEN OVERSEAS TRANSFER TARGETS PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS CAN APPROACH FROM JANUARY.
Normal people look to January 1 as the day they can celebrate the New Year, a time for them to start new adventures or make improvements. But for the football world it’s a bit different.
January 1 is also the day the transfer window opens and teams can plan to make improvements of their own, whether immediately or with the long-term in mind.
One of the differences between the summer and winter transfer windows is that the latter allows Premier League clubs to agree pre-contract deals for players in foreign leagues whose deals would be up in the summer, securing them for free.
But who could Premier League clubs secure on a pre-contract next month?
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Lionel Messi was heavily linked with leaving Barcelona last summer, believing he had a clause in his contract which allowed him to do so. The Argentinian was unhappy with the way the club was being run and, six months on, there haven’t been too many signs of that feeling changing.
But, more importantly for Premier League sides, he hasn’t signed a new contract going into January and it is still unclear as to whether he plans to, or if he still wants to leave next summer. Manchester City have been tipped as the most likely destination, where Messi would reunite with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, though the Spaniard wants him to end his career at the Blaugrana.
“Leo Messi is a player from Barcelona,” he said in November.
“And you ask me my opinion, as a person who has huge gratitude for what Barcelona has done for me in the academy as a football player and, after, a manager who gave me absolutely everything, what I want is he finishes his career there,” Guardiola said.
“That is what I want. I would wish — as I’ve said I don’t know how many times, maybe a thousand times — I would like as a Barcelona fan for Leo to finish there.”
Sergio Ramos has been linked with a move away from Real Madrid for a while now, but is January 2021 the time he finally plans to call an end to his Santiago Bernabeu career?
The Spaniard is one of the most unique centre-backs in world football, excellent in stopping opponents from scoring but equally as prolific in the attacking third of the pitch, whether from corners or the penalty spot.
Ramos has over 100 for Los Blancos now and some of them have come when Real Madrid needed them most, in Champions League finals and decisive league fixtures. Unlike Messi, Ramos appears happy at Real Madrid but in the past there have been rumours of a move away for the centre-back to try something new,
Despite being 34, it feels as though Ramos still has a good few years in him, and he would slot into practically any Premier League defence. But could they afford his wages?
One player with Premier League experience that could be available for a return to the English top flight is Angel Di Maria.
The Argentinian spent one season at Manchester United under Louis van Gaal in which he started brightly but tailed off as the club continued to struggle in the years following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Despite having to contend with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for a spot in PSG’s attack, Di Maria is always including and has become a key cog in their domination of French football over the past few years. One problem Premier League clubs may have in this move, however, is that just one year ago Di Maria revealed he would like PSG to be his final European club.
“For the moment, there are no discussions (about an extension),” he told reporters in January 2020. “I have another 1.5 years on my current contract, I am staying calm.
“I have been saying it from the first day. I hope that PSG will be my last club in Europe, then I will return to play in Argentina.”
Whether those hopes have changed remain to be seen.
As things stand, Hakan Calhanoglu is the most creative player in Serie A by some distance, creating 46 chances so far this season, at least 14 more than any other player. That gap is widened to 30 when only taking into account his AC Milan teammates, but there is every chance this could be his last season at the San Siro.
The 26-year-old’s performances across the past 18 months have seen him linked with a move away from AC Milan, the likes of Manchester United reportedly interested, and his current deal at the club is up next summer. At his age, the Turkish international is arguably still to hit his peak and given the level he currently operates at, it would be a good investment for many a Premier League club looking to solve their creative problems.
Calhanoglu is reportedly close to signing a new contract with AC Milan but every day that passes without the news brings the midfielder nearer to a possible exit.
Gianluigi Donnarumma is already becoming synonymous with AC Milan and despite his contract running out this summer, the goalkeeper has been vocal in his wishes to remain with the club.
However, January is creeping closer, and with Mino Raiola as Donnarumma’s agent, there is nothing guaranteed. Raiola is known to be a tough negotiator, agent to some of world football’s biggest stars, who would rather end talks with a club than not get everything he and his client desires.
Could Raiola’s potential hard-ball style lead Donnarumma to a free transfer?
According to recent reports, Memphis Depay could be available for clubs to sign in January for as low as £4.5m. No, that’s not because there have been any problems with the Dutch forward and his club Lyon, but rather as a result of his contract running out in the summer.
Lyon are hoping the low price would allow they to at least something from Depay’s sale but if they don’t and clubs do choose to wait, he could be a good free move for the Premier League.
The 26-year-old has history in the Premier League, joining Man Utd from PSV Eindhoven in 2015 but he failed to settle in at Old Trafford, leaving for Lyon 18 months later. Depay has been linked with a Premier League return in recent years, as he has matured and improved his game, but would a move interest him?
It’s difficult to talk about David Alaba while referring to just one role or position, because he’s such a brilliant utility man, capable of top-class performance wherever he is played.
The Austrian can do it at left-back, centre-back and even in midfield, which would make him absolute gold for almost every Premier League club. And with his Bayern contract up this summer, with no signs of a renewal on the cards, Alaba could be on his way to England.
He has already been linked with a move to Chelsea this season, to bolster their ranks at centre-back and left-back (allowing Marcos Alonso and Emerson to be moved on), providing experience and competition for Ben Chilwell.
And despite being in the Bayern first team for nine years, he is still only 28, so has a good few years left in him to play at the top level.
Another Bayern Munich defender whose contract runs out next summer is Jerome Boateng and, as things stand, a decision on his renewal is yet to be made.
The German centre-back is more of a veteran than Alaba but remains one of the more reliable defenders in Europe this season as part of Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich side, having overcome a tough patch a few seasons ago.
In November, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic insisted there were no issues with Boateng’s contract and the hope was that he would sign a new deal at some point.
“We all know that Jerome has a contract until June 30th, 2021 and we will talk to Jerome and his management at a reasonable time and make a fair decision for everyone,” Salihamidzic said.
“This is not an issue for us at the moment.”
But, like the rest in this list, once January 1 comes around, Bayern will have a little less say on Boateng’s future.
There seems to be a trend of former-Premier League stars’ contracts running out this summer and another, who could be there for a return, is Florian Thauvin.
The 27-year-old joined Newcastle United in 2015 as they looked to build a contingent of French superstars, but played just 16 times before being loaned back to Marseille in January 2016, watching on from a distance as the Magpies were relegated.
But this is a different Thauvin than the one that failed to ignite St James’ Park. Thauvin is now one of the most impressive attackers in Ligue 1, bringing a mixture of goals and assists to Marseille’s team. Already this season he has been directly involved in 12 goals, scoring six and recording six assists. But with his contract up this summer, he could be there for a Premier League return.
With all the stars at PSG, some players are bound to be forgotten, and Julian Draxler was one of them. However, he has recently found a role in the team as a deeper midfielder, away from the more attacking role he was previously known for.
But that hasn’t helped his chances of signing a new contract as things stand, and the German could be on his way out this summer. In the past, Draxler has been linked with a move to the Premier League so don’t be surprised if he does turn up in England sooner rather than later.