The January transfer window is now firmly closed but there are only six months until the summer market opens. In a World Cup summer, with the Premier League bringing forward the deadline to halt deals being done after the season kicks off, it is likely to be a frantic period of buying and selling.
So what can we expect from the summer window?
Real Madrid go big
It will be a big summer of ins and outs at the Bernabeu and not even Cristiano Ronaldo can be certain of starting next season with the current European champions. With an ageing squad and a lack of big-money investment in the future during recent summers, president Florentino Perez is preparing a huge raid on the market as Real get ready to outspend their European rivals.
Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and David de Gea are all potential targets, with Raheem Sterling another name of interest. Perez will want some box-office names to keep his club’s demanding supporters on side.
Harry Kane becomes the first £200 million player
If Kane has a good World Cup with England and Tottenham miss out on a place in the Champions League, the centre-forward will become the most sought-after player in the world this summer. But Spurs will fight tooth-and-nail to keep their talisman and chairman Daniel Levy will regard the world record £198m fee it took Paris Saint-Germain to sign Neymar as the starting point of any potential transfer talks.
With Real desperate to spend big this summer, Kane could become a world record breaker.
Antoine Griezmann moves on from Atletico Madrid
They say you should strike when you’re hot and take advantage of any interest when it arises, so Antoine Griezmann might look on last summer with regret that he did not take the chance to move to Manchester United.
Griezmann chose to give Atletico one more year in a show of loyalty, but United have now signed Alexis Sanchez and the door to Old Trafford has closed. Manchester City and Barcelona are both keen, though, so expect Griezmann to move on regardless this summer.
Manchester United have a clear-out
Jose Mourinho’s decision to sign a contract extension at Manchester United last month was an indication of his determination to fast-track the team’s return to the top, but he still has too many players he cannot rely on. Expect many of them to be shipped out of Old Trafford this summer.
Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will all go, but Mourinho may also part company with Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and others, too.
It won’t be all outgoings, however, as United will also spend big on a defender and midfielder.
Beware spending big on the World Cup’s stars.
One of the biggest risks in any tournament year is to splash out on signing whichever new name star emerges. James Rodriguez was the star of Brazil 2014 and Real Madrid won the race to sign him, but the Colombia international ultimately didn’t set the Bernabeu alight.
It is a similar tale over recent tournaments of a player starring in the summer but flat-lining once he returns to the grind of club football, so buyers should be wary of falling into the same trap after Russia 2018.
Tug of war for Eden Hazard
Chelsea will face a battle to hold onto their star player this summer unless the club makes a serious move in the transfer market.
Antonio Conte’s frustration over the apparent downsizing of Chelsea’s ambition is one thing, but if Hazard grows unhappy, the club will be fighting a losing battle to keep him.
Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are all interested in Hazard, so watch this space.
Panic buying in the Premier League?
As a consequence of the decision to impose a transfer deadline before the Premier League kicks off on Aug. 11, all top-flight clubs in England must have their summer business done by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9.
With the World Cup final not being played until July 15 in Moscow, there are only 25 days between the tournament ending and the transfer window closing. Factor in summer tours across the globe and it promises to be a chaotic summer for Premier League clubs, with deals being left late and some serious panic-buying taking place.
Will Arsenal buy a defender?
Arsenal showed their intention to rebuild Arsene Wenger’s squad with some high-profile ins and outs in January, not to mention the success of tying Mesut Ozil to a new contract. But the time has come for Wenger to stop playing fantasy football with forwards and invest properly in some world-class defenders and a top-class goalkeeper to replace the declining Petr Cech.
A new back four and a commanding midfielder are what Arsenal need but whether it happens is a different matter.
Zlatan heads to America
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has struggled to overcome his serious knee injury at Manchester United this season, so this will be the big striker’s farewell campaign in major European football. But with LA Galaxy leading the chase for the striker, his next destination will be Major League Soccer.
At 36, the former Ajax, Juventus, AC Milan, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain target man still has at least one good year left in him.
Evans finally gets a move.
Jonny Evans is probably starting to feel like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” seemingly stuck in a place (West Brom) that he cannot get out of despite interest from Manchester City and Arsenal during the past two windows.
However, the former Manchester United defender has a clause that allows him to leave for £3m this summer if West Brom are relegated. And with Alan Pardew’s outfit currently bottom of the table, four points from safety, Evans might suddenly become one of the bargains of the summer if Albion go down.