With the end of the season almost upon us, talk is beginning to turn to the transfer market. Rumors of big-money transfers, star signings and moves for the brightest young talents are already starting to fill column inches. And rumblings from those who claim to be an ‘insider’ who is ‘in the know’ are doing the rounds on social media.
This is the point in the season where, with most of the continent’s league titles wrapped up, and only a fortunate few with cup finals to look forward to, many fans start to dream of summer signings. Whether it’s the latest teenage sensation bringing hope of a brighter future, or an old head to sure-up a solid squad and act as the final piece in an already well-constructed puzzle, all fans want their club to be active in the off-season.
And few clubs have been more active in the transfer market in recent years than Spain’s big two, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Fewer still can claim to affect the plans of so many other teams with their own transfer policies: a contract dispute in Madrid can spark a frenzy in Manchester, a want-away Barcelona squad player could see chequebooks opening in Paris and Munich.
Real Madrid’s Galáctico policy of bringing in a renowned world-class superstar each year arose in the early 2000s with the signings of Luís Figo and Zinedine Zidane, and has been perpetuated more recently with the acquisitions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez. This year names such as Paul Pogba and Sergio Agüero have been mooted. But one rumour that seems to have some legs is the possibility of Los Blancos making a move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Gabonese Borussia Dortmund striker has been in incredible form this season, netting 40 goals across all competitions. Aubameyang is thought to be very interested in the idea of joining the 10-time European champions due to a promise to his late grandfather that he would someday pull on the famous white shirt. Dortmund will be reluctant to part with their star man, and will demand at least €100m for his signature.
Madrid are also likely to return for David de Gea following last summer’s comical collapse of the Manchester United goalkeeper’s switch to the Bernabéu. The deal had been agreed by all parties, with Costa Rican stopper Keylor Navas moving in the opposite direction. But technical difficulties meant Madrid were unable to submit the relevant paperwork in time, and the transfer window closed with the deal in tatters.
Club president Florentino Pérez will be keen to avoid another embarrassment this time around by getting a deal sewn up as soon as possible. But the excellent form of Navas this season, coupled with the fact that United may soon have a new manager who’d be determined to persuade de Gea to stay, could be spanners in the works to a perspective transfer.
In the past, whenever Madrid have made an expensive Galáctico purchase, they’ve balanced the books with a major sale or two. When Gareth Bale was signed from Tottenham Hotspur for a world record fee in 2013, Mesut Özil was sold to Arsenal for £42m. And when James Rodríguez was brought in after the 2014 World Cup, Ángel di María was shipped off to Manchester United for £59.7m.
This summer will likely see 24-year-old Rodríguez as the man shipped out to make way for a major import, with interest from Manchester United and Juventus. Spain international midfielder Isco is another who is thought to be on thin ice at the Bernabéu. And, if a striker of Aubameyang’s ilk is brought in, Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid career would likely be brought to an end.
At Barcelona, things may be a little different this summer.
The Catalan giants have yet to secure a shirt sponsorship deal for next season. If they are unable to do so over the coming months, and with the costly planned redevelopment of the Camp Nou, manager Luis Enrique may find that the purse strings have been tightened somewhat.
Perhaps more important for Barça than any transfer business, is the pressing matter of contract renewals for Neymar and Sergio Busquets.
Neymar has been agitating for a new deal for some time now. The gifted Brazilian is believed to earn much less than his MSN partners in crime, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, so a new contract would have to include a hefty pay rise.
As will be the case with Sergio Busquets. Although rarely a goal-scorer, and less headline-grabbing than the aforementioned front three, Busquets is quite possibly the player Barça miss the most when he’s not around. The midfield pivote is the man responsible for breaking up opposition attacks, and setting his side off on their trademark free-flowing passing moves. His importance to the team cannot be underestimated, and he will want his contract to reflect that.
Despite a reduced budget, Barcelona are looking to strengthen in a few key areas. Their primary concern is recruiting a young, top-class centre-back to work with Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano.
Top of their list is Paris St. Germain’s 21-year-old Brazilian, Marquinhos. The former AS Roma defender has had to be back-up to compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva in the French capital, and is now considering his future with the club.
Other names on Barça’s shortlist include Everton’s John Stones and Athletic Club’s Aymeric Laporte. However, the reigning Treble champions are likely to be priced out of a move for either man by interest from the Premier League.
The second priority for Barcelona this summer is to find a striker who will be content with a supporting role, yet possesses the requisite quality to deputise for Suárez. For this, they have their sights set on a couple of Frenchmen: Olympique Lyonnais’ Alexandre Lacazette and Sevilla’s Kévin Gameiro.
Lacazette is thought to be Barça’s first choice, but the 24-year-old French international is an ambitious young man who is unlikely to be happy as a mere back-up option. Gameiro, however, may be more receptive to the idea. The former PSG striker has netted 22 goals this season and, at 29-years-old, would likely jump at the chance to join one of the biggest clubs in the world and add to his medal collection.
As ever, all eyes will be on Real Madrid and Barcelona when the transfer window opens again in July. Both clubs are expected to be busy to varying degrees. With the futures of many star players uncertain, and with big-money transfers anticipated, there promises to be plenty of action to keep fans entertained until the new season kicks off.
About the author – Ryan Baldi
Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.