LONDON: The season has yet to finish and already the transfer market – out in public and behind the scenes – is in full swing with the main, high-price focus on the north-west and the traditional regional rivals from Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.
United have already secured the signing of £25m Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven and his arrival could signal a readiness to sell unsettled Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint-Germain and release young winger Adnan Januzaj on loan to gain game time and experience elsewhere.
An expected fourth place finish will bring United back into the Champions League next season – at least, into the playoff round – but they may also have to find a new goalkeeper before then. David De Gea, just hailed as the club’s player of the year, appears increasingly likely to be on the move home to Spain with Real Madrid as successor to Iker Casillas.
De Gea is said still to be undecided about leaving United, where his contract has a year to run, but manager Louis Van Gaal’s guarded comments have indicated that the Dutchman expects De Gea to be heading back to the Spanish capital. Inevitably any deal might involve a return of Gareth Bale to the Premier League.
United are already considering replacement options for De Gea. Victor Valdes, signed this spring, is considered ‘only’ a No2 and a bid for Petr Cech, leaving Chelsea, is unlikely because Van Gaal’s need is for a top-quality long-term keeper. Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris is the most obvious target with the north London club unable to satisfy his ambition for Champions League football.
On the other side of Manchester City will be first in the queue for Liverpool’s young England forward Raheem Sterling.
The 20-year-old’s agent is expected to tell chief executive Ian Ayre and manager Brendan Rodgers on Friday that the club’s offer of a £100,000-a-week contract extension is insufficient.
Sterling has two years remaining on his present deal so Liverpool’s American owner, Fenway Sport Group, may refuse to countenance a departure and insist on keeping him for at least a further year – as they did with Luis Suarez before his eventual departure for Barcelona.
The problem here for Rodgers is that he needs significant funding for further team strengthening in the transfer market and Sterling’s departure for £35m or £40m would come in useful.
Sterling’s attitude has angered many Liverpool fans. He was booed by a number of fans on Tuesday night as he collected his club young player of the year award. No such problems for Philippe Coutinho who was unanimously acclaimed and applauded as Anfield’s player of the year.