The summer transfer window is back to normal this year (whatever normal is), though given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the global financial crisis and Euro 2020 being pushed back, clubs are still finding things tough.
Free transfers of big names like Sergio Aguero, Georginio Wijnaldum and David Alaba have been one way for the clubs to get their business sorted, while RB Leipzig have been busy with defenders Dayot Upamecano (€42.5m) and Ibrahima Konate (€41.5m) leaving for Bayern Munich and Liverpool respectively. But with the window closing on Aug. 31 for all European's top leagues there's plenty of time left for other deals to be done.
So which one player should the best teams be looking to land this summer?
While there are quite a few areas for Arsenal to address, the arrival of a dynamic central midfielder with an intense pressing game and ball-carrying abilities seems a no-brainer. With Granit Xhaka expected leave for Roma, and Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard headed back to Real Madrid after their loans expired, Arsenal's midfield is not just short in quality but also quantity. Capturing a rival Premier League player worth having is a tough task in this market and Brighton will hold out for a big fee, but the Mali international's abilities make him worth pursuing. Sources have told ESPN that the Gunners have already tried to sign Brighton defender Ben White.
City are clearly more than happy to keep such an excellent centre-back as a third-choice option behind Ruben Dias and John Stones, but rotation alone probably doesn't satisfy the player. The Spain defender started just 14 Premier League games last season (despite being fit for most of it), nor did he did he figure much in the latter rounds of City's run to the Champions League final. At 27, being a bit part is not an ideal situation and, with the financially stricken Barcelona rebuilding their side with free transfers (including Aguero and Eric Garcia from City), a loan deal for Laporte could ultimately benefit both parties.
One of the most financially well-run clubs in Europe, even Bayern are feeling the pinch of the pandemic and the noises coming out of the Allianz Arena are that there will be no further big transfers after the arrival of Upamecano. However, with Camavinga's contract running out next summer, beating the competition to his signature would be a spectacular statement and Bayern may have the funds to make it happen if they move on Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman. Though the elegant 18-year-old midfielder failed to reproduce the highs of his breakthrough season at Rennes' last campaign, Camavinga will be world-class one day.
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With Jadon Sancho likely to move to Manchester United, Dortmund will have already started work on finding a replacement. With his amazing speed, dribbling and vision, Sancho is a hard act to follow, and Malen is no carbon copy. While Sancho is essentially a roaming, agile playmaker playing from wide positions, Malen is more of a wide forward -- less effective in his pressing duties, but potentially an even greater goal threat (as well as being able to assist, as seen for Netherlands at Euro 2020).
Chelsea appear to be in the market for a top-level striker to challenge Timo Werner (with Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud seemingly set to move). While the Blues may not have given up the €180m chase for Dortmund star Erling Haaland just yet, Vlahovic -- who scored 21 Serie A goals last season and seemed to improve week-on-week in 2021 -- is a highly credible fall-back option. Chelsea are well connected with Fiorentina as well as the player's agent, so a deal for the 6-foot-3, left-footed Serbia international can be struck without entering a battle with other clubs.
Due to their dire financial situation, Inter will have to adopt a creative approach to this summer's transfer dealings. Achraf Hakimi's impending departure sees the need for a reliable right-back/wing-back, which means the 29-year-old Roberto, with just one year left on his contract at Barcelona, could be worth considering. Though no transfer deals in modern football are ever easy, Barcelona, who are operating under pretty much the same constraints as Inter, might welcome an offer.
Locatelli has been on the Juventus shortlist for months, so his headline-making displays at Euro 2020 may not play to their advantage. The strong central midfielder has now attracted interest from the Premier League, but it would be surprising if Juve don't end up landing the 23-year-old, albeit for a higher fee. Given the financial challenges for Serie A clubs, Juve may try to include a player like Radu Dragusin in the deal, while it may be the end of their spending this summer if they can land him.
Liverpool have already spent €41.5m to bring in a defender, Konate from Leipzig, but there's a void to be filled in midfield after losing Wijnaldum to PSG, and Leicester's Tielemans is one the most creative, intelligent and incisive central players in the Premier League. The Belgium international has a contract until 2023 but would surely be tempted by the prospect of playing in the Champions League or regularly fighting for the title. With all due respect to Leicester to what they have achieved in recent years, it's only a matter of time before a bigger club makes a move for the 24-year-old.
After over a year of intense speculation, Sancho finally looks set to move to Old Trafford if the two clubs can bridge a €20m gap in the transfer fee. Sources have told ESPN that negotiations are ongoing as United look to add more sharpness and quality to their attack. As a consequence, Mason Greenwood -- who's mainly been occupying the right-wing slot that Sancho prefers -- should be given more opportunities as the central striker. Though he has been under-utilised for England at Euro 2020, Sancho is one of the top young attacking players in the world and will prove a significant upgrade for United.
If Manchester City weren't already in need of a top-quality centre-forward this summer, they certainly are after the departure of Aguero. Like the rest of Europe's elite clubs, City are keeping close tabs on Haaland, but Guardiola seems to prefer the all-round game of Kane. The 27-year-old wants to leave Tottenham, and sources told ESPN that City are prepared to pay £100m, plus players, to land him. It's hard to turn down the opportunity to sign the most proven centre-forward in the Premier League.
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PSG: Achraf Hakimi, RB
Club: Inter Milan
Second place is never good enough at PSG, so the French giants, still licking their wounds following a disappointing season in losing the Ligue 1 title to Lille, are likely to hit back in the transfer market. The full-back positions have long been an area of concern for PSG and, though they have plenty of options, few are convincing. Hakimi is arguably one of the best right-backs in the world and, with Inter needing to raise funds amid a financial crisis, if PSG can land the Morocco international from under the noses of Chelsea, then they will be delighted.
Real Madrid live in hope of signing a Galactico-type player to partner Karim Benzema up front -- with a possible €150m-plus move for either PSG's Kylian Mbappe or Haaland -- but offering Ferland Mendy more competition at left-back is another immediate issue to address, especially if Marcelo leaves. New arrival David Alaba is required at centre-back, with Sergio Ramos and possibly Raphael Varane departing, and from an emerging group of exciting young full-backs in Europe, Sporting's Mendes is widely considered to have the most potential. The 19-year-old Portugal international is excellent going forward and keeps developing his defensive game. He may not have the marketing power of Mbappe or Haaland, but with finances tight at the Bernabeu, he would make a great addition for the next decade.
TOTTENHAM: Sven Botman, CB
While the main focus at Tottenham revolves around the appointment of a new head coach, new managing director of football, Fabio Paratici, is an experienced operator in the business and used to juggling several balls at once. Spurs have been heavily linked with Lille defender Botman for some time as the squad clearly lacks a commanding, left-footed centre-back who's safe in possession. Even with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the transfer market, it's surprising that the 21-year-old hasn't already been signed by a Premier League club.