Tuesday marks officially one week to go before the summer transfer window closes for 2021, meaning all the big clubs are racing to fill gaps in the squad, find new clubs for fringe players or figure out the financials to make the signing of the season. Where do Man City and Tottenham stand in the saga around Harry Kane? Have Chelsea finished spending after bringing Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge? Can Barcelona balance their books in the wake of Lionel Messi’s exit? And will Manchester United, Liverpool or Real Madrid make any further moves before 11 p.m. on Aug. 31?
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ESPN’s correspondents and writers take you through the notable moves and biggest questions for the top teams in Europe, as well as predicting what might happen over the next seven days.
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Premier League teams
Notable Ins: DF Ben White, MF Martin Overgaard, GK Aaron Ramsdale, MF Albert Sambi Lokonga
Notable Outs: DF David Luiz, MF Joe Willock, MF Matteo Guendouzi
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Arsenal have plenty of players available for the right offer — including Willian, Lucas Torreira, Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolasinac — but the big dilemma for Mikel Arteta and the club’s financial team is what to do with strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Lacazette is out of contract in June 2022 and has so far attracted no takers, but to unlock further funds for late reinforcements, the Gunners are prepared to offload Aubameyang despite the danger of losing their most experienced goal scorer.
Now 32, and earning £250,000-a-week on a contract that runs until June 2023, Aubameyang has scored just seven Premier League goals in 2021 and is providing little value for money. If Aubameyang goes — his track record suggests clubs might need to offer a transfer fee in the region of £25m — it is tough to see where Arsenal’s goals will come from.
What we think will happen: Arsenal have left themselves too much to do in terms of moving players out and bringing in adequate replacements, but their pointless start to the season and desperate need for reinforcements points to a frantic final week and the risk of mistakes being made.
As for Aubameyang, the former Borussia Dortmund striker could be a last-minute option for Manchester City if they fail to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham. Goalscorers often find new clubs in the final days of transfer windows because they are so important to a team, so a move for Aubameyang could be the big one that defines Arsenal’s window and, potentially, their season. — Mark Ogden
Craig Burley discusses the pressure on Mikel Arteta after Arsenal’s two losses to open the Premier League season.
Notable Ins: FW Romelu Lukaku
Notable Outs: FW Tammy Abraham, DF Fikayo Tomori, FW Olivier Giroud
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Thomas Tuchel claimed after Sunday’s 2-0 win at Arsenal that he was “absolutely happy” with his squad, an assessment based on the European champions already addressing their most obvious weakness by signing striker Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m.
Chelsea have an excellent defensive record under Tuchel — goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has kept 11 Premier League clean sheets since the German replaced Frank Lampard as head coach in January, more than any other in the division — but they remain keen on strengthening their centre-back options. Sevilla’s Jules Kounde remains their preferred option, but Chelsea will likely look to offload before they can bring anyone in. Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez is another player they’ve monitored for some time, but it remains to be seen whether they pursue a deal given the balance of the squad.
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What we think will happen: This has been a difficult market in which to offload players, as most clubs have tightened their belts while dealing with the financial effects of COVID-19. However, Chelsea are better than most clubs at moving on unwanted members of their squad and should they continue that track record, a late move for Kounde is a distinct possibility. Yet that could hinge on Kurt Zouma’s future. West Ham remain interested in pursuing a deal for Zouma, but he has so far shown little willingness to leave Stamford Bridge.
Zouma would ideally prefer to stay at Chelsea and fight for his future, but the Blues have agreed a fee in the region of £25m. Zouma’s departure would create space (and some cash) for Kounde. Tiemoue Bakayoko is expected to leave again on loan, perhaps to AC Milan. — James Olley
Janusz Michallik assesses Jack Grealish’s home debut, and picks out his star player.
Notable Ins: Ibrahima Konate
Notable Outs: Georginio Wijnaldum, Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Manager Jurgen Klopp has no major holes to fill in his squad, so the priority in recent weeks has been finalising new contracts for Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Alisson Becker. Talks are also planned with Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
The summer exit of Georginio Wijnaldum to PSG has left Liverpool without one of their most consistent performers of recent seasons and a decision could be made to find a replacement. But right now, Klopp has is happy to rely on Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones to fill the gap.
What we think will happen: More outgoings could happen in the final week, with the likes of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita all potentially available for the right offer. But in terms of big arrivals, Liverpool are unlikely to make significant moves. Liverpool believe their squad is strong enough to compete on all fronts, meaning a quiet final week of the window is the most likely outcome at Anfield. — Ogden
Luis Garcia discusses Angel Correa’s quick start for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga as Luis Suarez returns to fitness.
Notable Ins: MF Jack Grealish, GK Scott Carson
Notable Outs: FW Sergio Aguero, DF Eric Garcia
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Pep Guardiola says he’s happy with his squad, but after the departure of Sergio Aguero to Barcelona, there’s clearly room for a striker. City aren’t hiding the fact they want to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham, but they face a decision about his valuation before the deadline. They haven’t yet made an offer to tempt Daniel Levy to agree to a move and ultimately, the ball is in their court: either they think Kane is worth a £150 million fee or they don’t.
It’s also worth noting that in the past, City have dug their heels in, walked away from the table and waited a year to strengthen like they did with Rodri in 2019 and Ruben Dias in 2020.
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What we think will happen: City are expecting the Kane saga to go right to the wire, and there’s a feeling at the Etihad Stadium that it could still be up in the air late on deadline day. With Dimitar Berbatov and Gareth Bale, Tottenham played hard-ball all summer before eventually deciding to do a deal, and that will give City hope a deal for Kane is still possible.
It would not be a huge surprise if Kane was a Tottenham player on the morning of Aug. 31 and a City player 24 hours later. To do it, City would need to break the British transfer record twice in the same summer, but their financial might means anything is possible. — Dawson
Notable Ins: FW Jadon Sancho, DF Raphael Varane, GK Tom Heaton
Notable Outs: DF Axel Tuanzebe, MF Andreas Pereira, FW Facundo Pellistri
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: United have had a good window so far, but they’re still interested in bringing in a midfielder and a right-back before the deadline. It’s unlikely both will happen and the priority is a midfielder, although most of the summer budget has been spent on fees for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. There was a hope they could raise additional funds through players leaving, but that hasn’t happened.
If an opportunity to sign young Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga for a reasonable transfer fee presented itself before the deadline, United would be interested, but the feeling at Old Trafford has been that he would rather move to Spain or stay in France and join Paris Saint-Germain.
What we think will happen: It’s gone very quiet at Old Trafford since a deal was agreed for Varane, and Solskjaer himself told ESPN in early August that any other arrivals would be a “bonus.” The club will not pass up a good opportunity in the final days of the transfer window, but Solskjaer would also be happy to go into the season with what he’s got. It’s likely that United won’t make any other major signings even as they still field calls from agents and intermediaries, you never know.
There are still positions Solskjaer would like to strengthen. If it doesn’t happen now, the rebuild will continue next summer. — Rob Dawson
Notable Ins: MF Bryan Gil, DF Cristian Romero
Notable Outs: DF Toby Alderweireld, FW Erik Lamela, FW Gareth Bale (end of loan)
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: The longest-running transfer saga of the summer is likely to go down to the wire. Harry Kane wants to join Manchester City, but Tottenham don’t want to do it. A huge bid — perhaps as much as £150m — is required to break the impasse, but City have not yet shown any willingness to go that high.
City have a history of leaving things late — Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is also synonymous with last-minute activity — but should they decide to let Kane leave, Spurs will have to move fast on at least two deals to compensate. They were willing to meet Inter’s valuation of Lautaro Martinez, which was £60m prior to letting Romelu Lukaku rejoin Chelsea. That asking price has since gone up, and there are doubts over whether the striker would join Spurs in any case. They also retain an interest in Wolves winger Adama Traore and were previously looking at fresh options in the centre-back and right-back positions as well.
Harry Kane is still a Tottenham player, but will that still be the case on Sept. 1? Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
What we think will happen: The great unknown here is whether City will decide to pay a fee Levy would consider for Kane. However, leaving it to the final week makes a deal for Kane less likely if the only previous comparable situation involving Tottenham is anything to go by.
In 2013, it was a near certainty that Gareth Bale would join Real Madrid, but the deal — then a world-record €100m fee — was only completed in the final days of the summer window, as Spurs used the summer to sign seven players to rebuild the team.
Spurs have made a couple of notable acquisitions, but they’ve not spent big in a manner that would suggest they’re about to receive a huge transfer fee, a point with heightened relevance given how hard the club has been hit financially by the coronavirus. And, for what it is worth, sources at the club suggested when their interest in Martinez was revealed that Tottenham wanted to sign him to play alongside Kane, not replace him. They are also set to complete a deal for Pape Matar Sarr, but are likely to loan the midfielder back to Metz for the season. — Olley
Alejandro Moreno shares his thoughts on Barcelona’s 1-1 draw vs. Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga.
Notable Ins: MF Rodrigo de Paul, DF Benjamin Lecomte
Notable Outs: FW Vitolo Machin, GK Ivo Grbic
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: This was never going to be a busy transfer window for Atletico, given their precarious finances and an already strong squad that just won LaLiga ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Rodrigo de Paul already looks like a shrewd addition who adds much-needed creativity.
The one outstanding piece of incoming business — which looks like being resolved imminently — is an alternative centre-forward to 34-year-old Luis Suarez. Coach Diego Simeone sounded unusually impatient on Sunday, saying “when we plan a squad, it’s to have two players in each position. Obviously we need a player.” In terms of outgoings, a departure for midfielder Saul Niguez would be considered if the right offer arrives from the Premier League. So far, it hasn’t.
What we think will happen: A deal is “very close” for Hertha Berlin’s forward Matheus Cunha, sources have told ESPN, with the Brazil international expected to cost around €30m. The move follows earlier interest in Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic — with Atletico being priced out of the race by the Serie A club’s demands — and Rafa Mir, who ended up joining Sevilla.
It will be interesting to see how Cunha adapts to Atletico: Simeone’s record in moulding talented creative players to suit his rigorous system and demanding style is mixed, to say the least. — Alex Kirkland
Craig Burley and Steve Nicol discuss Erling Haaland’s possible decision to transfer from Borussia Dortmund to another club after displaying frustration with the team.
Notable Ins: FW Memphis Depay, FW Sergio Aguero, DF Eric Garcia, DF Emerson Royal
Notable Outs: FW Lionel Messi, DF Junior Firpo, FW Konrad de la Fuente
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Barca would still love to bring in a new midfielder, another attacker, backup for left-back Jordi Alba and even another centre-back eventually. The financial reality, though, is that more signings are unlikely, if not impossible, this summer.
If some money does magically appear, sources have told ESPN that coach Ronald Koeman would prioritise the arrival of another forward. Despite already adding Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero (who’s out injured for two months) to the squad, Koeman still feels work needs to be done to replace the output of Lionel Messi, who was the top scorer in LaLiga last season with 30 goals.
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What we think will happen: While Barca would like to be strengthening their squad this week, they will instead be trying to reduce the wage bill as Messi’s exit hasn’t fixed all their financial problems.
Two big earners who they expect to leave are Samuel Umtiti and Miralem Pjanic. Umtiti will be allowed to leave for free if he accepts one of the offers he has on the table from France and Italy, while Pjanic is set to return to Italy, likely on loan.
Youngster Alex Collado will also be allowed to leave, while president Joan Laporta has admitted they will pretty much entertain offers for most of their players. However, at this stage of the window, a lack of solid interest in the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele means there are unlikely to be any big transfer fees coming in to improve the club’s financial health. — Sam Marsden
Notable Ins: DF Dayot Upamecano, manager Julian Nagelsmann
Notable Outs: DF David Alaba, DF Jerome Boateng
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Surely the biggest need for Bayern right now is to strengthen the squad at centre-back and in midfield.
At the back, we saw Nicklas Sule starting the season, but he is not good enough. They need Lucas Hernandez to be fit again to partner Upamecano, and they need to get another option in before the window closes yet they face the same issue in midfield. They want Marcel Sabitzer, from RB Leipzig, to offer a very strong third option alongside Kimmich and Goretzka.
The biggest decision that Bayern face is what to do with Robert Lewandowski’s contract. It expires in two years, but the recent stories about the Poland international wanting “a new challenge” could push Bayern to extend the 33-year old deal for a few more years.
What we think will happen: I think that Bayern Munich will recruit Sabitzer before the end of the transfer window. He only has a year left on his contract at RB Leipzig and wants to join his former manager at Bayern. The transfer fee will be really low for a player of his caliber, meaning it’ll be yet more great business for Bayern.
Toulouse’s talented French striker Amine Adli, only 21 years old, is also set to become a Bayern player. Midfielder Corentin Tolisso will leave, but I don’t think they will sign another centre-back. I also reckon that they will start talks with Lewandowski and his agent, Pini Zahavi, during the season to extend his current deal and keep him at the club for a bit longer. — Julien Laurens
Alejandro Moreno dives into Vinicius Junior’s performance in Real Madrid’s draw with Levante.
Notable Ins: GK Gregor Kobel, FW Donyell Malen, manager Marco Rose
Notable Outs: FW Jadon Sancho
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Seeing Dortmund play under Rose so far this season, it is quite clear to see what they need the most: a defence! Axel Witsel, the Belgian midfielder who is deputising at the back, is not doing a great job there so far.
The Black and Yellow also need a wide player. Sancho has left and Rose need someone to replace him despite already having plenty of wingers in his squad. Dortmund really like Callum Hudson-Odoi from Chelsea and they believe that a deal to get the Champions League winner is really possible.
The biggest decision will not be around Erling Haaland, as he will stay for one final season, but more on what to do with Mats Hummels. The 2014 World Cup winner has one year left on his contract and has a clause that says that if he plays 22 competitive fixtures, then his deal at the club will be automatically extended for another season.
What we think will happen: It will be an interesting end of the transfer window for Dortmund as they will definitely strengthen their squad. Hudson-Odoi will be recruited, probably on loan. He fancied joining the Bundesliga a couple of years ago when Bayern Munich were pushing for his recruitment, but Dortmund are optimistic this summer. He’ll add a lot of pace on the right or left side and his arrival will have a positive effect.
That’s likely the only deal they will do before the end of the transfer window unless Thomas Delaney’s reported moves to Sevilla happens. In that case, Dortmund would replace him if he left, with Camavinga being one of the targets. Otherwise, they will wait until January to see if they need to readjust their squad and plan for more moves. For now, Rose should be happy with with he has. — Laurens
Notable Ins: FW Lionel Messi, DF Achraf Hakimi, DF Sergio Ramos, GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, MF Georginio Wijnaldum
Notable Outs: DF Mitchell Bakker
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: The biggest need for Paris right now is to thin their squad. They had planned before the summer to raise roughly €180m from player exits and are still far from that number, unable as yet to find clubs for fringe players like Pablo Sarabia, Thilo Kehrer and Layvin Kurzawa.
The biggest decision to make could well be, at some point between today and August 31, whether to accept or to reject any Real Madrid offer for Kylian Mbappe. PSG say they have not received any concrete bid for him and even if they did, they would turn it down. They are adamant that he’s not going anywhere this summer, even if that means he would leave for free in 12 months’ time at the end of his contract. However, if Real do make an offer, would the Parisians be tempted to accept it?
What we think will happen: I think PSG will keep Mbappe. If an offer comes, they will knock it off. They want their Neymar, Mbappe and Messi front three even if it’s just for one season, though they’ll still be active on the transfer front though. They will manage to offload some players like Sarabia and Kehrer, bringing some much-needed money into the club’s accounts, while also looking for one more last-minute deal.
Highly rated Camavinga is really keen to join Paris; manager Mauricio Pochettino and sporting director Leonardo like him a lot. He would only come if PSG make space in the squad first, but with just one year left on his contract at Rennes, it would be an absolute bargain at €30m or less. — Laurens
Alejandro Moreno dives into Vinicius Junior’s performance in Real Madrid’s draw with Levante.
Notable Ins: David Alaba
Notable Outs: Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Martin Odegaard
Biggest area of need/biggest decision to make: Real Madrid haven’t paid a transfer fee to add to their first-team squad since the summer of 2019. Part of that has been about adjusting to the new, post-pandemic financial reality; part of it has been a recognition that they can no longer go toe-to-toe as equals with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City; and part of it has been about saving up for president Florentino Perez’s first-choice, dream signing, Kylian Mbappe.
That financial prudence — including the money brought in from the exits of Varane and Odegaard this summer — has put Madrid in a position where they believe they could make a reasonable, market value offer for Mbappe given his contractual situation. It remains to be seen whether PSG would entertain it.
What we think will happen: Madrid have been incredibly careful not to put a foot wrong in their long-term pursuit of Mbappe, knowing that the slightest misstep could upset PSG and ruin any prospect of a deal. They won’t want to make any mistakes at this late stage either, even with time running out in this transfer window. If Madrid believed there was a realistic prospect of a deal being struck for the forward, they would take steps to initiate talks; if not, they would prefer to wait one more year in the hope that Mbappe resists the pressure to renew his contract in Paris and they could land him in 2022.
In short, it’s Mbappe or nothing. — Kirkland