The summer’s top transfer sagas: Rashford, Alexander-Arnold, Salah

Friday is one of the most significant dates of this summer’s football calendar, and not only because it’s the kickoff of Euro 2024.

While host nation Germany face Scotland in Munich, it also marks the official start of the Premier League’s summer transfer window. Clubs and players can begin to tie up deals while all eyes are fixed on the European Championship.

The biggest transfer of the summer has already been signed and sealed, with Real Madrid confirming Kylian Mbappé’s move to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of June following the expiry of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

But there are still plenty of transfer sagas that are likely to rumble on during the weeks ahead, potentially right up to the Premier League deadline at 11 p.m. BST on Aug. 30.

Some players will push for a move, others will sit tight and wait for a deal to happen, while star names will be the subject of speculation whether they intend to find a new club or not.

So with the transfer window opening Friday, which players are set to be the centre of attention?

Marcus Rashford signed a five-year contract at Manchester United last summer, so his future should not even be up for discussion. But the 26-year-old has just endured one of the worst seasons of his career, scoring eight goals in 43 games. It was a loss of form that cost him a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

With United under a new football regime following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s arrival as a minority owner in February, sources told ESPN in April that the club would consider offers in excess of £70 million for Rashford, although they are not actively seeking to offload the forward.

Having lost his regular starting spot under manager Erik ten Hag, Rashford has also been the subject of criticism from supporters.

Any fee received for Rashford would boost United’s small transfer budget, but the big issue for club and player is the absence of any team wanting to do a deal.

Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have been linked with Rashford in the past, but neither are regarded as realistic options. The picture can change, so Rashford’s situation at Old Trafford is certainly one to watch.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is facing the most important summer of his career and one that will make or break his Anfield future.

The Liverpool defender, who will be at Euro 2024 with England, has just one year remaining on his Liverpool contract, and speculation is linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

In a summer of change at Anfield, with former Feyenoord boss Arne Slot replacing Jurgen Klopp, Alexander-Arnold has a huge decision to make.

Does he sit down with the club and negotiate a new long-term contract that would commit the 25-year-old to his hometown team for the best years of his career, or does he signal his intention to leave, either this summer or next, by opting to run down his contract?

That is the player’s dilemma, but it is one facing the club, too. Liverpool cannot afford the financial hit of losing Alexander-Arnold for nothing next year, and the optics of allowing him to do so would be equally damaging.

So once the Euros are over, the future of Alexander-Arnold will become a big issue for everyone at Liverpool. They will need to agree to a new contract or look at options in the transfer market.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne made a frank admission last week that he is ready to consider a move to the Saudi Pro League because he would be “able to earn an incredible amount of money” there.

With 12 months left to run on his contract at the Etihad, De Bruyne’s comments were interpreted as being open to a move when his City deal expires. But with the Belgium international approaching his 33rd birthday this month and his last 18 months at City having been blighted by injury problems, the prospect of De Bruyne ending his nine-year stay at the Etihad this summer is a real one.

It is likely to be a decision driven by City manager Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Begiristain because of the prospect of reinvesting any fee for De Bruyne into the first-team squad.

A year ago, City raised a combined £53.6m by offloading Riyad Mahrez (Al Ahli) and Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr) to Saudi Arabia, so a similarly lucrative offer for De Bruyne could prove to be too good to refuse, both for City and the player.

Mohamed Salah appeared to give his clearest indication yet that he intends to remain at Anfield by posting on his Twitter account last month that he would “fight like hell” to win trophies at the club next season.

But Salah, who turns 32 on Saturday, remains the subject of interest from Saudi Arabia, and a renewed bid from Al Ittihad is a possibility.

In August 2023, Al Ittihad lodged a £150m bid for Salah in the final hours of the transfer window, but Liverpool rejected it. Salah also did not push for a move away from Anfield.

But with Salah’s contract due to expire at the end of next season, Liverpool face a much more complicated decision if Al Ittihad or another Saudi club returns with a new bid.

Like the situation with Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool won’t want to lose a star player like Salah for nothing, but there is also the risk of allowing their most reliable goal scorer to leave, just weeks after Klopp’s departure as manager.

Both Salah and Liverpool are keeping their cards close to their chest right now, but if Saudi interest returns, both player and club will have a huge decision to make.

During a difficult season for Chelsea, Conor Gallagher was a rare model of consistency in Mauricio Pochettino’s team and a player who, ordinarily, would be regarded a crucial figure in the years ahead.

But the 24-year-old has yet to agree to a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires next year, and Chelsea have made it clear that he will be offloaded this summer if he fails to commit to their future.

As a homegrown player, any fee received for Gallagher would be classed as pure profit in their financial accounts, and that is a key factor for a club needing to raise funds to comply with the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.

So the likelihood is that Chelsea will exploit interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa as they attempt to raise around £50m for Gallagher, who could be away with England at Euro 2024 until mid-July.

Spurs have maintained their interest in Gallagher since last summer, but Villa can offer Champions League football. Unai Emery’s team might just hold the aces.

Brentford held firm in their determination to keep Ivan Toney at the club following his return in January from an eight-month ban for breaches of the FA’s betting rules, but keeping the England forward this summer will be a much tougher challenge.

Quite simply, every team that needs a proven goal scorer has Toney at the top of their list, or at least very close to it.

The 28-year-old is out of contract at Brentford at the end of next season and is already the subject of interest from Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

However, the issue facing Brentford and Toney is that none of those clubs has the funds in place to do a deal early in the summer, all needing to offload players to offer something in the region of £80m for the former Newcastle player.

But make no mistake: Toney will move this summer, and with so many big clubs chasing his signature, Brentford will be able to use that interest to raise his transfer fee even higher.

Manchester United want to strike a deal to sign Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite, who narrowly missed out on a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

The 21-year-old centre-back cost Everton just £1m when he signed from League Two side Carlisle United (who will receive 15% of any future transfer fee) in January 2020. With Everton under intense financial pressure because of the collapse of a takeover deal with 777 Partners earlier this month, they may have to offload the defender before the end of June to ensure the fee is part of this year’s PSR calculations.

Branthwaite’s transfer is valued at over £75m by Everton, but United could strike a deal for much less if Everton’s financial constraints begin to bite.

Much now depends on whether Everton can steady the ship financially by offloading other players or finding a new buyer for the club, but the clock is ticking, and United are ready to take advantage.

Casemiro signed a four-year contract at Manchester United when he arrived from Real Madrid in a £70m transfer in August 2022, but sources told ESPN that the club are attempting to offload him this summer to free up space on the wage bill.

Former football director John Murtough even travelled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year in an attempt to assess potential interest from Pro League teams. Although United are not expecting Saudi clubs to spend as heavily as they did last summer, there is a confidence that a deal can be done for Casemiro, who missed out on Brazil’s Copa América squad.

Having fallen out of favour under manager Erik ten Hag, the 32-year-old is said to be open to a move away from Old Trafford in order to spend the final years of his career playing first-team football.

Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise has become one of the hottest properties in the Premier League and is attracting interest from Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Michael Olise signed a new four-year contract with Palace last August after rejecting a late move to Chelsea, but sources have said that the 22-year-old has an escape clause in his £100,000-a-week deal that becomes active this summer.

Man United have emerged as strong candidates to sign the France under-21 international, with ESPN reporting in January that former Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be offered as part of a deal.

But Chelsea’s interest has not gone away, and they are expected to rival United for Olise this summer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *