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With the January transfer window just days away now, attentions will soon turn to just how could be on the move.
Indeed, while the winter market is a notoriously difficult one to navigate, it does often represent the first flirting between clubs and players, particularly those heading towards the end of their contracts.
Some of the biggest names in the game will be able to talk to foreign clubs in January and, though pre-contract agreements are reasonably rare, the next few weeks will provide some sort of indication as to where many of them will go.
With that in mind, Standard Sport’s reporting team have identified the major narratives you need to keep across as contracts across Europe and beyond wind down.
Mbappe attempted to force a move to Real Madrid in the summer transfer window and is expected to run down his contract at Paris Saint-Germain. PSG hope to negotiate a new deal with the 22-year-old but a move to Real next summer seems the most likely outcome. Real could face competition Liverpool and Manchester City, but Mbappe has made it clear his desire is to move to the Bernabeu.
Manchester United appear to have accepted that Pogba will run down his contract at Old Trafford and become a free agent next summer. United will not allow the 28-year-old to leave in January so he is a free to negotiate a summer switch to a non-English team from January 1. Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid all have a long-term interest in Pogba.
Lingard’s bid to force his way back into the Manchester United side after his stunning loan spell with West Ham has fallen flat. He has not started a Premier League game all season, having rejected West Ham’s summer advances in favour of one last crack at Old Trafford.
The Hammers remain keen in January but it’s thought some in the Lingard camp would prefer to wait until the summer and move with a wider choice of clubs. A key factor in any move will be England. Leaving a move until the summer risks giving the midfielder little time to force his way back into Gareth Southgate’s plans for the World Cup in Qatar.
London, Madrid or... Newcastle. Niklas Sule appears to have a number of offers on the table should he run down his deal at Bayern Munich. The 26-year-old has never quite clicked at Bayern and reportedly feels underappreciated at the club and therefore wants out at the end of the season. There have been struggles with fitness and form but the defender has stepped up since the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann and will be a good catch for whoever lands him.
Now in his tenth season at Tottenham, the Frenchman is showing no signs of letting standards slip and has probably been the club’s outstanding player of 2021. Lloris and his manager, Antonio Conte, have been coy about the prospect of a new deal for the 35-year-old but Spurs are expected to ramp up talks in the new year. The Les Bleus captain is open to finishing his career in MLS and might fancy a stint in his native south of France. Before then, he will surely want one last crack at winning a trophy with his adopted club.
After a strange but not unimpressive season at Tottenham, Bale has returned to the familiar position of Real Madrid outcast, and his next move is shrouded in mystery. The 32-year-old played down talk of retirement after the Euros and he will not hang up his boots if Wales reach the Qatar World Cup, making him an intriguing option as a free agent for somebody. A big-money move to China is no longer at option, but perhaps MLS or the Middle East could tempt him. Or how about a third stint at Spurs? A good golf course in the area is the only pre-requisite.
He might just be the most sought-after free agent this summer and is set to become the highest paid defender in world football. Europe’s giants are queuing up for the Chelsea centre back, who has been reborn under Thomas Tuchel.
It is remarkable to think he was considered surplus to requirements by Frank Lampard, given his role in the club’s revival under Tuchel. A key part of their Champions League triumph in May, he has arguably been the finest defender in the Premier League over the calendar year.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are believed to be prepared to pay in the region of £300-400,000k-a-week to lure him away from Stamford Bridge. And do not rule an English rival entering the bidding too.
The strong belief within Chelsea is that the Dane will sign a new deal, despite protracted negotiations. But the longer he goes without committing his future to Stamford Bridge, the more nervous Chelsea fans will get.
He has been outstanding under Tuchel and established himself as one of the best defenders in Europe over the 12 months. And as a free agent, he will be seriously tempting to host of suitors at home and abroad.
The ongoing delay over his contract has tested the patience of Tuchel, who does not usually get involved in such issues. But the Chelsea manager has recently taken the unusual step of calling Christensen out and dropping him to the bench. The hope for Chelsea is that it will finally convince him to sign on the dotted line.
The striker’s importance has risen in recent weeks after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy. Lacazette is now wearing the armband and leading the line for Arsenal, but he is still unlikely to sign a new contract. Instead, the 30-year-old is expected to leave for free in the summer and he shouldn’t struggle to find a move.
A return to his boyhood club, Lyon, has been mooted, while Atletico Madrid are also long-term admirers of the Frenchman. Arsenal could try and persuade Lacazette to sign a short-term extension with them, but it is thought he would prefer a long-term contract.
It was only back in March that Paris-Saint Germain were scrambling to tie Di Maria down to a new deal, but here they are once again. Back then, they managed to persuade the winger to sign a one-year extension, with the option for a further 12 months if both parties agreed. As of yet, Di Maria and the club have not activated that and it has sparked interest from clubs around Europe.
The 33-year-old is still in impressive form, despite his age, and the fact he can be signed for nothing next summer is appealing.