There’s another Ronaldo on the horizon. Or so they say about Portuguese teenager Joao Felix who Atletico Madrid signed from Benfica for €126 million, making him the fifth-most expensive player of all time. The 19-year-old only made his first-team debut with Benfica last season, but his 15 goals and seven assists in 21 appearances put him on the radar of most top clubs. Atletico got to him first. It’s uncommon for the “smaller” club from Madrid to get mentioned in the biggest deals as the buyer and not the seller. But there’s more money coming in than going out at Atletico this summer.
Manchester City signed central midfielder Rodri for €70 million as Fernandinho’s replacement, and the never-ending saga of Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona could see an end soon. However, for Barcelona, which is also looking to bring back Neymar and all his panache from Paris Saint-Germain, things are complicated. Can the Blaugranas sign both Neymar and Griezmann to complete the most audacious attacking line-up of all time? It’s possible, according to a high-ranking Barcelona official quoted by ESPN , but the club will have to move some people and some serious amount of money around.
Spanish outlet Marca claims that Griezmann and Barcelona had signed a pre-contract agreement in March, much before the relationship between Neymar and PSG had soured beyond repair.
Now that the Brazilian’s return looks possible, Barca is prepared to have their cake and eat it too. But the club needs to cut down on its wage bill, which was already 84 percent of its income last season, according to Marca . It’s looking at multiple options to accommodate both these stars.
Offloading Philippe Coutinho and/or Ousmane Dembele (who were the third- and fourth-most expensive signings) in a player-plus-cash deal for Neymar has been considered. PSG, which is willing to sell, will not be willing to let the superstar go for anything less than the equivalent of the €222 he was bought for. For Barca, it makes sense to add players like Coutinho and Dembele, who have failed to satisfy expectations but receive hefty salaries nonetheless, in the deal. Players like Samuel Umtiti and Ivan Rakitic have also reportedly been considered make-weights.
An even wilder idea is to convince Griezmann to join PSG. Neymar, despite the Blaugranas’ beef with the way he left the club, could be preferred over the Frenchman if push comes to shove. And the memory of Griezmann’s Barcelona snub through a documentary a year ago does him no favours.
Whatever the nuances of the deal, Barca is treading lightly for now. Spanish daily Sport claimed Barcelona had asked Neymar to return to Paris until anything was official, lest it draw the ire of PSG – something Adrien Rabiot, who completed a transfer to Juventus from the French club, has known. The midfielder was “indefinitely benched” after he declared he wouldn’t extend his contract in December last year.
Things are not as tense across the English channel, where Chelsea announced the return of a club legend as manager. Frank Lampard joins the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the “one of our own” club that has its equal share of detractors and supporters. But a successful first year in charge at Derby County has raised hopes and spirits among Chelsea fans. What is to be seen is whether his performance as boss is going to eclipse his 211 goals-scoring performance on the field for the club.