2021 is nearly over which means it’s time to look forward to what the new year might bring. For many across European football, 2022 will present the opportunity for a change. Indeed, the future of several big name footballers will be decided over the coming 12 months as the transfer market machine whirs into action again.
Whether it’s in the January window or at the end of the 2021/22 season, there will be a number of notable transfers in 2022. Here are five players who find themselves at a juncture in their career and will face a decision next year.
Gareth Bale has made just three league appearances for Real Madrid since returning to his parent club after a loan spell at Tottenham Hotspur last season. While Carlo Ancelotti initially appeared willing to give the Welshman another chance in the Spanish capital, Bale has once again angered his employers after picking up an injury while on international duty in November.
With Bale’s contract up at the end of the season, the 32-year-old will face a career crossroads this summer. Will he return to the Premier League as a free agent? And if so, which clubs will want him? Bale has even mischievously hinted that he could retire from the sport altogether. After years of speculation about his future, 2022 will finally see Bale make a significant decision.
Every member of European football’s elite will take their place in a long line to sign Erling Haaland this summer. The Norwegian is already a goalscoring phenomenon at the age of just 21 and is seemingly ready to take the next step in his career after 18 months at Borussia Dortmund. Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid have all been linked with a move.
Crucially, summer 2022 will see a €75m release clause in Haaland’s current contract become active. At that price, the Norwegian will be a relative bargain given the money splashed on inferior players in an inflated transfer market in recent years. Wherever he ends up, Haaland is almost guaranteed to score goals.
One of European football’s longest-running transfer sagas will come to an end in 2022 when Kylian Mbappe is expected to become a free agent. The French forward has yet to sign a contract extension to stay at Paris Saint-Germain beyond the end of the season and despite continued optimism at the Parc des Princes that an agreement will be reached it seems increasingly likely that Mbappe will be off to Spain.
Real Madrid see Mbappe as their next great ‘Galactico.’ Club president Florentino Perez is particularly obsessed with the idea of capturing the 23-year-old and has been hoarding funds to make sure a deal happens. The prospect of Mbappe as a Real Madrid man has seemed inevitable for quite some time and 2022 could be the year it finally materialises.
Almost from the moment Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in 2016, there has been speculation about his next move. The French midfielder hasn’t always lived up to his billing at Old Trafford, falling in out and out of United’s first team, and so a parting of ways might be best for all parties concerned with Pogba out of contract this summer.
However, there is a scenario in which Pogba stays put. While Juventus and Real Madrid have been linked with the 28-year-old, both clubs could direct their transfer funds towards other targets in other positions. Pogba might not have many options, in which case a short-term contract extension at Manchester United could be put in front of the midfielder to sign.
While Declan Rice has long been rated as one of the best young midfielders in the Premier League, he has taken the next step in his development this season. Indeed, the 22-year-old has been one of the best players in the whole division and a driving force behind West Ham’s unexpected top-four challenge.
There is, however, a growing sense that Rice will seek a new challenge this summer with Chelsea and Manchester United believed to be particularly interested in the England international. Rice won’t come cheap, though. West Ham reportedly wanted £80m for their prize asset last summer. After such an impressive 2021/22 campaign, that price may have risen further.