Who’s On The Move? Top 10 Transfer Sagas Of The Summer

by Joshua McGehee

Summer is all about player movement in the world of sports.  NBA free agency started yesterday.  NHL free agency began today.  While the number of players that change teams and the money they receive is astronomical, it pales in comparison every year to what happens in international soccer. 

In soccer, player transactions are called transfers and the period of which they happen in is called the transfer window.  The window for European soccer officially opened today and won’t close until the start of the new season for most of the bigger leagues.  While the deals weren’t made official until today, we’ve already seen several of the world’s best players swap jerseys. 

Eden Hazard left Chelsea after seven fantastic years to join Real Madrid in their effort to become the kings of Europe once again.  Frenkie De Jong became the latest youngster from Ajax to move to Barcelona.  And Mats Hummels will be returning to his former club in Borussia Dortmund after several successful years with their German rivals Bayern Munich. 

However, with several months left before the window closes, what other big stars could be on the move?  In honor of my 10/10 Podcast (click here for latest episode), here are the Top 10 Transfer Sagas of the Summer, from least to biggest name:

10. Harry Maguire

We see it all the time in soccer: a player has a tremendous showing at the World Cup and secures a big money move to a big club that off-season.  That seemed to be the case last year for the Leicester City defender who helped lead England to the semifinals in Russia.  However, a move never materialized, and Maguire had another fine season with the Foxes.  The rumors of a move have been swirling once again, with Manchester United and Manchester City being the main interested parties.  The holdup seems in large part is due to the huge transfer fee that Leicester have put on Maguire, as they wish to maintain their form of staying near the top of the Premier League title.

9. Philippe Coutinho

The former Liverpool star was thought to be Andres Iniesta’s successor when he moved to Barcelona in January 2018.  Since then, a combination of injuries and inconsistent playing time has led to the winger becoming a shell of the player who fetched a £142 million transfer fee.  For a while now, Coutinho seemed to be a part of a deal that would bring someone who is also on this list back to Barcelona, but the latest reports are that Liverpool have left the door open for him to return.  Regardless of where he ends up, a change in scenery is badly needed.

8. James Rodriguez

Before there was Kylian Mbappé, there was James Rodriguez.  The Colombian international burst onto the scene at the 2014 World Cup, shortly making a dream move to Real Madrid that same summer.  However, he was never able to break into the starting lineup, which led to a two-year loan to Bayern Munich.  Bayern declined their option to sign him permanently this summer, which leaves the winger in limbo.  A potential move to Napoli in Serie A had been discussed, but this star’s immediate future remains a mystery.

7. David De Gea

The Manchester United goalkeeper has yet to agree to a new contract as he only has one year left on his current one.  The Spanish international has been a part of persistent rumors of a move to Real Madrid for the past few seasons, but United have been able to hold onto him despite their struggles.  PSG are also rumored to be interested considering they just let Gianluigi Buffon go.  Negotiations for a new deal are ongoing, but United might have to prepare to search for a replacement.

6. Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian forward moved to Manchester United in July 2017, scoring sixteen goals in the English Premier League that season.  Last year, he only managed to score twelve, as a sever dip in form and injuries led to the lowest number of minutes played in his EPL career.  Now, the big forward has his eyes set on a move to Inter Milan, who will be playing in the Champions League next season unlike United.  If they are able to replace him with a big star, look for United to cash in on Lukaku before the window closes.

5. Gareth Bale

It is amazing to think that Bale outlasted even the great Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.  The winger was once the biggest transfer in the world but has now been seen riding the bench in key matches for the Spanish side over the past few years.  Injuries haven’t helped his cause, but manager Zinedine Zidane has clearly lost faith in the Welshman.  Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Inter Milan are all interested in attaining Bale’s services, but so far, his intention is to fight for a spot in Madrid’s starting eleven.  If he is unable to impress in pre-season, a move could finally be on the cards.

4. Antoine Griezmann

The French striker has had five spectacular seasons at Atletico Madrid, but very few trophies to show for it.  On May 14th, he announced he would be leaving the club.  While PSG has shown some interest, Barcelona have been linked to him for years now, and are probably the favorites to sign him.  They will have to pay the €120 million buy-out clause in his contract in order to pair him with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

3. Matthijs de Ligt

No one has seen their stock rise in the past year than the likes of Matthijs de Ligt.  Captain of Ajax at just nineteen years old, the center back led them to the Champions League semifinals last season and another domestic league title.  Every major club in Europe have been after him, with Barcelona and PSG separating themselves at times from the pack.  However, recent reports seem to suggest that Juventus have leaped ahead of them and have begun negotiating terms with the player and club.  No matter where he goes, the Dutchman will continue to rise up the ranks of best defenders in the world.

2. Paul Pogba

It seems like it was just yesterday when Pogba set a new world transfer record when he returned to his boyhood club Manchester United after a couple of great years with Juventus.  Under manager Jose Mourinho, Pogba never lived up to expectations, and was constantly blamed by the manager and some fans for United’s struggles.  When Ole Gunnar Solskjær was appointed caretaker manager in the middle of last season, Pogba went on a scoring tear and seemed to be on the verge of unlocking his full potential.  However, he finished the season poorly to the point that supporters were seen hurling curses at him as he walked off the pitch at Old Trafford in their final league game.  While United have little interest in letting him go, Pogba has expressed that it might be time for a change.  Juventus would love to have him back, but Real Madrid are also interested in bringing in another huge star.  If the offer is right, it will be hard for United to resist letting Pogba go for the second time.

1. Neymar

As Vito Corleone said in The Godfather, “How did things ever get so far?”  When Neymar moved to PSG after several years of Barcelona, it seemed to be because he didn’t want to play in the shadow of Lionel Messi.  Now, he might be having second thoughts.  While his tenure at PSG has been filled with goals, their trophy case is still missing a Champions League title.  Their latest attempt was foiled by Manchester United last season, with Neymar missing both legs because of a foot injury.  Now, the rumors of Neymar wanting to return to Barcelona have begun to gain steam.  The Spanish club will have to sell a few players to finance the move, as PSG will look to recoup as much of what they paid for the Brazilian as possible.  After Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus last season, nothing should come as a surprise these days.  If Barcelona are able to pull this off, the addition of Neymar will certainly change the landscape of Europe next season and may be the missing piece that Barcelona have been lacking to get back to Champions League glory.

While this list is comprised of some of the biggest names in soccer, there will be plenty of other moves made that will have an impact across Europe next season.  Just another summer in the world of international soccer.