The January transfer window has only just closed, but already two of Europe’s biggest clubs are targeting a player who could move for a nine-figure fee in the summer. ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest.
Jump to: PSG anger at Chelsea over Ziyech | Man United to be first $10bn team? | Mendy’s Madrid future in doubt | Nani first of many marquee names Down Under? | Transfer threatened by staff on strike
Osimhen summer move could be for big money
Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain will be expected to pay a transfer fee of at least €100 million ($109m) if they are to win the race for Napoli striker Victor Osimhen’s signature during the summer transfer window, a source with knowledge of the player’s valuation told ESPN.
Osimhen, 24, has become one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe this season by leading Napoli’s pursuit of a first Serie A title since 1990. The Nigeria international has scored 15 goals in 20 games in all competitions and, with 14 league goals, is two clear of Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman in the chase for the Capocannoniere award as Serie A’s top scorer.
With Erling Haaland (Manchester City), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool) and Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona) all moving to their present clubs last summer, Osimhen has emerged as the leading option for the clubs looking to bolster their attacking options for next season.
Sources told ESPN last month that United were also considering moves for Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and FC Salzburg’s Benjamin Sesko. Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic could also become an option if the Italian club are forced to sell the Serbia international, who was signed in a €70m transfer from Fiorentina in January 2022, due to the financial impact of being demoted 15 points for transfer irregularities. But Osimhen’s form for Napoli this season has led to both United and PSG putting the forward high on their list of priority targets.
A source has told ESPN that Napoli will not part with Osimhen for less than €100m, however, and that the prospect of United and PSG both making a serious effort to sign the player has raised the possibility of an even greater fee. Osimhen has two years left to run on his contract at Napoli, having arrived at the club in a €70m move from Lille in 2020.
Sources told ESPN last month that United completed a six-month loan deal for Burnley’s Netherlands international forward Wout Weghorst in order to avoid committing to an 18-month contract for a permanent signing, thereby enabling the club to be free to pursue the top-class centre-forward manager Erik ten Hag has identified as a priority this summer. — Mark Ogden
PSG still angry with Chelsea over bungled Ziyech deal
Paris Saint-Germain won 3-1 at Montpellier on Wednesday, but the main topic of conversation among people at the club was the failed deadline-day transfer of Hakim Ziyech the previous night. Sources at the Ligue 1 champions have told ESPN that they are furious with Chelsea for allowing the deal to collapse, and are claiming that they will never do any business with the London club again.
PSG are blaming Chelsea for being late in sending the correct paperwork to finalise the loan of the Morocco international on three occasions: the first document included a mistake, while the next two were received without being signed.
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The documents were all in order at the fourth attempt but by that time it was 12:03 a.m. GMT in France, three minutes after the deadline, and the deal could not to be registered by the French league.
What made things worse from PSG’s point of view was that, after the first mistake, they tried to call Chelsea five times but no one answered. The English club have apologised, explaining that they were focused on finalising the British-record transfer of Enzo Fernandez, but PSG remain unhappy. — Julien Laurens
Man United owners split over club sale
The Glazer family remain undecided about whether to accept a full sale of Manchester United or partial investment, with sources telling ESPN that some within the ownership group believe that the value of the club could skyrocket if manager Erik ten Hag can oversee a sustained period of success on the pitch.
The Glazers are exploring “strategic alternatives,” which include a sale or outside investment and designated financial advisors The Raine Group fielding expressions of interest ahead of the submission of formal proposals.
Sources have told ESPN that The Raine Group believe United could sell for $7 billion — a world-record price for a sports franchise — but there is a feeling within the Glazer family that if Ten Hag, who has enjoyed a good start to life at the club, can oversee prolonged success in a redeveloped or rebuilt Old Trafford, that value could eventually reach $10bn.
One of the options on the table is having work on Old Trafford, or a new purpose-built stadium, paid for by accepting an equity investment, before selling for a higher price in the future.
United have not won a Premier League title since 2013 and haven’t won the Champions League since 2008, but Ten Hag has made a positive start as manager and is on course to secure a return to the Champions League and win a trophy in his first season. United are still in four competitions and face Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final on Feb. 26 (stream LIVE on ESPN+ in the U.S.), and a victory at Wembley would give United their first trophy since 2017.
Sources have told ESPN that Joel and Avram Glazer would be keen to retain control of the club if they can but that other family members believe now is the right time to sell, while a full sale is still the most likely outcome but will depend on the size and details of the investment offers received by Raine. – Rob Dawson
Madrid’s faith in Mendy being tested
There are doubts at Real Madrid over Ferland Mendy’s long-term future as the club’s first-choice left-back, sources have told ESPN, with concerns over the defender’s form exacerbated by his latest injury setback.
Mendy, 23, picked up a thigh problem in Madrid’s Copa del Rey win over Atletico Madrid last week and will now miss the FIFA Club World Cup campaign in Morocco as well as the first leg of Madrid’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Liverpool. With David Alaba also unavailable, coach Carlo Ancelotti was forced to pick an out-of-position Eduardo Camavinga at left-back last weekend.
Sources told ESPN that concerns have been voiced within the club about Mendy’s performance level in recent months. Madrid signed Mendy from Lyon in a €48m deal in July 2019, handpicked by then coach Zinedine Zidane as the intended successor to an ageing Marcelo. The full-back has been a first-team regular since then, but persistent injuries have hindered his progress and the quality of his attacking output has been questioned.
Madrid moved this week to agree a deal for Rayo Vallecano left-back Fran Garcia — also 23, and a Madrid youth product — who will return to the Bernabeu this summer. The club have been monitoring Garcia since his departure in 2020 and have been impressed with his development.
Despite worries over Mendy’s performance level over the last year, Madrid are hopeful that he will fulfil his potential and remain as first-choice in the position, with Garcia a capable deputy. They are also aware that, should they decide to try to move him on, it would be difficult to recoup the fee they paid to sign him three-and-a-half years ago. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
A-Leagues pursuing marquee player policy despite Nani’s false start
Despite former Manchester United star Nani underwhelming after moving to Australia before suffering an ACL injury, the A-Leagues will continue to target well-resumed and high-profile signings in a bid to boost interest in their men’s and women’s divisions, their CEO has told ESPN.
The Australian top-flight launched an ambitious “marquee” strategy during the offseason, drawing up a list of high-profile players that the league would recruit in partnership with clubs in the hopes of boosting flagging attendances and television ratings.
However, Nani, the lone signing partly funded by league administrator the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) under this policy, failed to score in nine games between his Melbourne Victory debut in October and being ruled out for the rest of the season, while targets such as Cesc Fabregas, Dries Mertens, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez all landed elsewhere.
“This is a three-year strategy,” APL CEO Danny Townsend told ESPN. “You’re going to see a settling down after the World Cup now of players and we’ve we’re still every day out there looking and talking through agents and others to find the next one.
“All of our metrics were reflective of [Nani making an impact to interest].
“Those things come with business cases and you make assessments based on what’s going to deliver the best outcome for the least amount of money. So we can certainly afford [marquee players], whether or not you want to keep ploughing more money proportionately into marquees over other parts of the strategy is about balance.”
According to ESPN sources, A-Leagues clubs have approached the league seeking help in funding up to 15 players under the marquee strategy, including women’s stars Ji So-Yun and Denise O’Sullivan, only to be turned down for failing to meet the criteria. — Joey Lynch
What happens when the person handling transfers is on strike?
PSG were not the only French club to have a fraught deadline day, with a source telling ESPN that another Ligue 1 club had a shock when they realised the member of staff meant to process transfers was on strike.
The club had just agreed a deal to sign a new player for a substantial amount of money. It was a player that the manager really wanted, in a position where the team needed an upgrade, and everyone in the organisation is delighted by the move. The only thing which needed doing was filing all the paperwork to register the transfer.
At this club, there is one person with that responsibility. They have has been doing it for years, and they are the only at the club who knows how it all works.
But Tuesday was not just transfer deadline day in France; it was also a major day of strikes and protests against planned pensions reforms that President Emmanuel Macron’s government is trying to pass. Reuters reports the French interior ministry saying a total of 1.272 million people took part in protests across the country on Tuesday, as demonstrators decided not to work and instead fill the streets of Paris and France’s other major cities, while many more simply did not go to work — including the person dedicated to the transfer filing in the aforementioned football club.
When the club realised that this key person was on strike and absent, one panicking director had to call a counterpart at another club to learn how to file the paperwork and register the new player. They managed to do register the move in time, but it was a close call. — Julien Laurens