The coronavirus pandemic made the summer transfer market unlike any before it, but there were still plenty of deals done, and you can check out the major ones here. The window might be closed across the top leagues in Europe, but here are the best rumours from around the globe.
TOP STORY: Chelsea enter race for Messi
It looks increasingly likely that Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona when his contract expires in the summer, and according to Guillem Balague, Chelsea are in line for a sensational swoop to sign the Argentina forward.
The Blues are said to be “in the equation” for the 33-year-old should he indeed leave the Catalan capital. Messi tried to leave last summer but was forced to see out the final year of his contract.
Chelsea will be buoyed by the fact there would be no transfer fee, and they might feel they can afford his wages despite having spent £220 million over the summer.
Manchester City remain in the hunt too, and with Pep Guardiola signing a contract extension, being reunited with Messi could form part of the manager’s grand plan at the Etihad.
12.28 GMT: Former Manchester United captain Antonio Valencia has completed a deal to join Liga MX side Club Queretaro.
The club announced the deal on social media on Friday as Valencia, 35, becomes their third signing of the season.
LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez welcomed his former United teammate to the club with a message on Twitter. The two players spent four years together at Old Trafford.
Valencia joined United in 2009 where he won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the Europa League.
🎥 | Próxima estación: ¡Querétaro! 🚂
¡El TREN llegó para pintarse de azul y negro! 🔵⚫
— Club_Queretaro (@Club_Queretaro) November 27, 2020
11.51 GMT: Gerard Pique has pleaded for Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona and says the club will do all they can to “seduce” him into signing a new deal.
Messi, 33, is out of contract in June and is free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with any club from January.
The forward wanted to leave Camp Nou after August’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with sources telling ESPN that Manchester City led the race to sign him, but he was eventually forced to stay put.
“You will have to ask Leo, I don’t know,” Pique said in a question and answer session for the CRIS Cancer Foundation when asked if Messi would remain at Barca beyond the summer.
“We hope he stays. It’s a personal decision. We will see. But for as long as he’s wearing the Barca shirt, there is always hope. We hope to seduce him to stay for many more years.”
11.10 GMT: Erling Haaland is back on the front pages in Spain, with Diario AS describing the forward as a “luxury item” who Real Madrid will have to fight to sign from Borussia Dortmund amid competition from “half of Europe.”
Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc — speaking in a news conference ahead of their game with FC Koln — said the club are “planning for the long term” with Haaland.
“He exudes a positive dynamic,” he said. “It’s good for all of us. And I don’t believe in slowing down a positive development. I see him as being with us for a long time.”
According to AS, Madrid “will prioritise the purchase of [Kylian] Mbappe in 2021… but plan to go for the Norwegian in 2022.”
Gab Marcotti and Craig Burley react to Erling Haaland’s latest star showing in Dortmund’s 3-0 win over Club Brugge.
10.31 GMT: Former Chelsea and Brazil midfielder Ramires has left Palmerias after a year-and-a-half at the Sao Paulo club.
Palmeiras released a statement on Friday confirming that the 33-year-old’s contract had been terminated by mutual agreement.
Ramires played 45 games for Palmeiras after joining them in June 2019, following a three-year spell at Chinese club Jiangsu Suning.
09.42 GMT: Derby County’s Wayne Rooney is prepared to call time on his playing career if asked to fill the position of manager left vacant following Phillip Cocu’s sacking, the former England captain said on Friday.
Player-coach Rooney has been assisted by Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker following Cocu’s departure this month and will take sole charge of the Championship (second-tier) club when they host Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
“If I’m managing the team for a longer scale, I don’t think it’s possible to manage and play, so that [no longer playing] is a possibility,” Rooney was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. “If I’m not managing the team, and I’m part of the coaching staff then I’ll continue to play, but if I’m asked to manage the team on a full-time basis then, of course, that will be the end of my playing days, yes.”
Bottom-placed Derby have lost their past two matches, against Bristol City and Middlesbrough.
09.00 GMT: Pep Guardiola has said Sergio Aguero has earned the right for “fair talks” when it comes time to discuss his Manchester City future. The striker has a contract at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the season and could leave the club for free in the summer if fresh terms are not agreed.
Guardiola has backed Aguero to get back to his best after returning from injury and said the 32-year-old will be given the right to decide whether or not to extend his contract.
“He is a guy who deserves with the club, fair talks to do what is the best for him, for the club and for everyone,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. “In that you should not doubt. As I said many times, I was lucky to play as a football player and manager with incredible football players.
“He is one of these ones, for sure. But especially as a human being. I never found a bigger star like him to be like Sergio is. He is going to give us a good moment this season. He is still not in his best condition; we cannot forget how long he was injured and come back and injured again.
“In the middle of the season, he’s a guy who needs to be so sharp but the quality to score in the box is always, always was and always will be. We don’t have doubts about that.”
PAPER TALK (by Nick Judd): Barca, Liverpool turn to Garay
Barcelona and Liverpool are two clubs in desperate need of defensive reinforcements, and Sport reports that both are tempted to sign free agent Ezequiel Garay, who hasn’t played since suffering a cruciate injury with Valencia in February.
The experienced Argentina centre-back would be a short-term solution for both clubs as they look to deal with an increasing number of injuries.
Barcelona are now missing Gerard Pique for a number of months, with Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo also on the sidelines. Ronald Koeman was forced to field Barca B team defender Oscar Mingueza at Dynamo Kiev in midweek, and although he played well, the Barca boss will no doubt want more experience to help guide his side through until the end of the season.
Chelsea to enter talks with Alaba in January
Bayern Munich and David Alaba are at a stalemate after discussing terms to extend the centre-back’s contract beyond its expiration this summer. Having been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in previous weeks, it seems increasingly likely that the 28-year-old will leave the Allianz Arena as a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Adding fuel to that fire, Alaba’s agent, Pini Zahavi, is preparing to hold talks with Chelsea in January over a potential move to West London, according to Bild. With a deeply competitive field standing between Bayern and their ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, and the prospect of repeating as Champions League winners, it would seem unlikely that the Bavarians would sanction Alaba’s sale midseason.
– Manchester United are being linked with another “new Lionel Messi,” this time in the shape of Velez Sarsfield’s Thiago Almada, Tuttomercatoweb writes. United tried to sign the youngster in the summer but failed to get the deal over the line, and although Manchester City also are said to be interested, United are in the hot seat.
– Jurgen Klopp remains positive he can keep Georginio Wijnaldum at Liverpool, according to the Mirror. The report suggests that despite interest from Barcelona, Klopp feels there is still time for the Netherlands international to agree an extension to his contract, which expires this summer. However, Wijnaldum can sign a pre-contract with an overseas club in January, and the longer he drags his heels over penning a new deal, the more likely it would appear that he will leave.