A saga that began a year ago — after the 2018 World Cup — came to an end as Manchester United finally reached an agreement with Leicester City for Harry Maguire. His £80 million fee makes him the most expensive defender in the world, beating Virgil Van Dijk’s £75 million transfer to Liverpool from Southampton last year. Making his way to Man United through Sheffield United, Hull City and Leicester, Maguire may just be what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team — which lacks confidence at the back — needs.
The other sensational deal every United fan hoped would go through before the deadline was the Romelu Lukaku-Paulo Dybala exchange with Juventus. But a Telegraph report has claimed that United has pulled the plug on the deal, amid reservations about Dybala’s desire to join it and his exorbitant wage demands.
It seemed like a perfect deal for both clubs. Lukaku had fallen out of contention at Old Trafford, with Solskjaer preferring Marcus Rashford up top. Fans, too, seemed to have lost their patience with the Belgian who has failed to live up to expectations.
Dybala had fallen out of favour at Juventus since Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival. It was reported that new boss Maurizio Sarri preferred the physically imposing Lukaku over the technical Argentinian to partner Ronaldo up front. The clubs had agreed to a deal in principle and Lukaku had also agreed on personal terms with Juventus but Dybala was unconvinced about moving to United and Sun had reported that only a significant pay rise from the €7.5 million he currently earns can persuade him. Solskjaer wants only those committed to United’s ‘long-term project’ and the club has decided against forcing a move and creating another Angel Di Maria-like situation.
It’s still not a dead end for Lukaku, with Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan waiting in the wings. It hasn’t been able to meet United’s valuation of £80 million yet. Meanwhile, there’s no word yet about what happens to Mario Mandzukic who was also reportedly a part of the swap deal and had agreed terms with Manchester United.
The Paul Pogba to Real Madrid rumours just won’t die despite the lack of developments. He missed United’s last pre-season friendly against AC Milan, which the club claimed was due to a back spasm. An Instagram story of his which said, “It’s never summer in Manchester”, probably referring to the rain, has also been recycled in the gossip mill as a cryptic message but that’s about it. Madrid has reached an agreement with Ajax’s Donny Van de Beek, who AS claims, could be ‘Plan B’.
Arsenal completed a club record signing of Nicolas Pepe from French side Lille for a reported £72 million. The Ivorian forward’s stats from a stellar 2018-19 season — helping his club finish second in Ligue 1 — suggest a complete attacking package. Only Lionel Messi (49), Kylian Mbappe (40) and Fabio Quagliarella (34) surpassed Pepe’s combined number of goals and assists (33) in Europe’s top five leagues last season.
He could be joined by Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho, who — much like Dybala — sees his club trying to get him off its wage bill to clear up space for Neymar’s return. Arsenal is reportedly in talks for a loan deal worth £27 million but reports in Spain insist Countinho doesn’t want to move.
Neymar’s situation, meanwhile, is only getting worse. His relationship with Paris Saint-Germain seems to be deteriorating with it reaching a ‘total war’-like situation, according to a Daily Mail report. PSG is yet to reach an agreement with Barca over the Brazilian’s transfer and Barcelona vice president Jordi Cardoner told the media at the presentation of new signing Junior Firpo that a Neymar deal is “ruled out” for the moment. We’re unsure who’s waiting for whom and it’s already quite a story to follow, but if this issue doesn’t see a resolution, we could be witnessing the most expensive player of all time being frozen out at his club that is known for being ruthless with wantaways.
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