UNQUESTIONABLY, the best thing about this transfer window is the absence of an overbearing saga dragging on and monopolizing the headlines. Last summer, Manchester City’s failure to land Harry Kane sapped the lifeforce of all concerned and that absolutely extended to us, the public. A year before, it was impossible to avoid Manchester United’s quest to sign Jadon Sancho and again a forest’s worth of newspaper columns and a prolonged internet takeover was ultimately for nothing. The talented youngster eventually joined the Reds twelve months later in straightforward fashion.
Instead, this time out, the two transfers that may prove to be the most blockbuster this summer – Erling Haaland’s switch to the Etihad and Darwin Nunez replacing Sadio Mane at Anfield – have both been concluded nice and early and this leaves plenty of scope for an array of fascinating propositions to play out and genuinely pique our interest.
Of course, the trick as always, is to separate substance from clickbait, the latter usually concocted in a spare bedroom by a teen who has no earthly clue as to what is happening and this brings us to Manchester United’s serious interest in Frenkie de Jong, a chase that could yet turn into another omnipresent saga but thankfully – to this point – has not.
We know that the Barcelona midfielder is Erik ten Hag’s top transfer target, that much is true. We also know that the Catalan giants are willing to relinquish their Dutch star for a fee in the region of £75m, desperate as they are to raise funds for their own purchases. What they unconditionally fear is the prospect of having to cash in on one of their brilliant kids, namely Gavi or Pedro and compared to these two, De Jong is considered an expendable jewel. Furthermore, he is a player on exorbitant wages, a figure negotiated prior to Barcelona falling into financial decline.
We know too that no bid has yet come in, with both clubs instead playing the media game and eyeing the other up, and lastly, we’re on solid ground in saying that De Jong is not keen on a move to Manchester. The 25-year-old is settled in Catalonia and with four years remaining on his bumper contract is under no obligation at all to up sticks and leave.
Everything else is speculation, and that includes rumours of Ten Hag attempting to convince his former charge at Ajax that a move to the Premier League will be beneficial. Everything else is likely made up, typically by teens in their bedrooms.
So where does this leave us as regards to the transfer betting? Certainly, the 3/10 available on De Jong box-to-boxing at Old Trafford next term feels awfully slim given that he would have to forego Champions League football and exit Barcelona against his will. At this juncture, with player power as it is, backing the player to remain in La Liga for 2022/23 makes far more sense.
Across Manchester, the excitement surrounding Haaland’s arrival has given way to a degree of uncertainty with Raheem Sterling’s contract dispute coming to a head quicker than expected, put under the spotlight courtesy of a low-ball bid from Chelsea that seemingly came out of left-field.
For what it is worth, Chelsea’s interest is genuine but still, the 1/6 odds on the England winger flying down Stamford Bridge’s flanks next season should be avoided at all costs and for a number of different, legitimate reasons.
First off, though Sterling is indeed unhappy with his limited game-time last term and is indeed seeking assurances that has not fallen down the pecking order among City’s coterie of attacking talent, it remains more likely that he will extend on his existing contract that runs out next summer rather than move. That is the state-of-play at present at least.
More so, Chelsea’s reported opening bid of £21.4m is a world away from what City would demand, with the league champions determined to net close to £100m for Sterling and Gabriel Jesus combined. That incidentally is assuming they are willing to part with both attackers and there is serious doubt about that.
An additional factor is the current sense of upheaval in West London following their recent takeover by a consortium led by Todd Boehly. Long-standing chairman Bruce Buck is due to imminently depart along, crucially, with Maria Granovskaia, the executive that handles transfer negotiations. So, who will get this complicated deal over the line? The feeling is that Chelsea must first get their structure back in place before they can successfully prise away an important player from a rival for a fee agreeable to both parties.
With all this in mind, the 11/4 on Sterling to stay in Manchester is a logical shout but if you fancy a gamble and want great value, why not take a punt of Real Madrid entering the fray? If the narrative of Sterling leaving strengthens over this summer it’s worth recognizing that he has long desired a move to the Bernabeu, going all the way back to his time at Liverpool.
If Sterling might very possibly stay at the Etihad, Jesus will very possibly leave, with Arsenal the hot favourite to secure the Brazilian’s services.
Some skepticism is warranted in how strongly the Gunners should be fancied to win this particular race but that’s only because of Mikel Arteta’s previous working relationship with the player being parroted as a significant factor. Like Ten Hag’s history with De Jong, this is so often a consideration over-promoted in its importance.
Even so, in every other regard, Arsenal appear to be in the driving seat and it greatly matters that Jesus’ representatives are currently in England and it matters too that the respective clubs are not miles apart in their valuations.
Elsewhere, from the multitude of transfer links doing the rounds, a couple stand out, first and foremost the prospect of Jules Kounde heading to Chelsea that can be backed at 4/5. That’s an excellent price.
The future of Youri Tielemans meanwhile is especially interesting because so many key details have entered the public domain.
We know that the Leicester player has little to no intention of extending a contract that runs out next year. Reports are reliable that Arsenal have taken a step back in their chase and we’re aware too that Liverpool have passed on the option of purchasing the Belgian for a bargain fee of £25m. Jurgen Klopp, by all accounts, intends to go big on a midfielder next summer – Jude Bellingham most likely – and Tieleman’s wage demands are reportedly a hindrance.
Juventus however have made direct contact with the Foxes. Juve are keen.