Arsenal have emerged as the frontrunners to secure a deal for Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from Barcelona this summer.
Addressing a lack of creativity is at the forefront of Mikel Arteta’s plans this window – along with the obvious defensive issues – having struggled desperately in that area throughout the 2019/20 season.
One avenue the Gunners are following in a bid to bring in a creative player is to offer outcast Matteo Guendouzi as a makeweight in any deal, something that has been proposed to Barça as they attempt to lure Coutinho to the Emirates.
However, per the Evening Standard, this player-plus-£9m cash deal to secure him on a permanent contract is not something the Spanish side are overly keen on. Due to that, another loan appears the more likely scenario, with Arsenal leading the chase.
A temporary move to Bayern for Coutinho failed to end in a permanent switch, but Barça had still hoped to sell the Brazilian in the current window to inject some desperately needed additional funding into the club. Due to the effects of the coronavirus, this is nigh on impossible as they’re seeking €120m.
Coutinho’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has close ties to the Gunners’ board, with the relationship he has with the club and his client accelerating the possibility of Arsenal securing a temporary deal. The 28-year-old has been offered to Premier League rivals Tottenham as well, but Arteta is thought to be most enticed about bringing him to north London.
With three years left to run on his deal, Barça are resigned to keeping him on their books for another season at least, therefore shipping him out on another loan with the club in question paying a chunk of his wages is as good as they’ll get. Their wage bill is the highest in world football.
The 28-year-old’s annual wages of around €13.7m are too much for Arsenal to pay by themselves though, therefore La Blaugrana willing to subsidise half of that salary and charge the Gunners a €10m loan fee.
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There’s a lot to dislike about strikers if you think about it. They always get the glory, most of them don’t seem to do much running and they can often be prima donnas on the pitch.
However, it’s probably fair that they get cut a fair amount of slack as it’s the most challenging position on the pitch. Centre-forwards spend most of their time isolated from their teammates, knowing that any missed chances will be greeted with a maelstrom of abuse from the crowd.
At the turn of the last decade it had seemed like strikers might be destined for the scrapheap with two-man strike partnerships seen as retrograde and false nines ruling the roost at the top level. More recently though, the role has enjoyed a resurgence with a host of top centre-forwards banging in goals all across Europe.
Here are five of the very best doing exactly that right now…
Kicking off our top five, it’s the man that everyone loves to hate – or just hate in some cases.
Signing for Liverpool on the same day as Andy Carroll, the two players’ careers have since taken very different routes.
While Carroll has becoming a punchline to a joke about injuries, Suarez has carved out a reputation as a lethal finisher who will do anything to win. We mean anything by the way, as Giorgio Chiellini and Branislav Ivanovic know only too well.
While his recent Barcelona career has been hampered by injury, it hasn’t stopped him hitting the back of the net enough times to see him rise to second place on the club’s all-time goalscorers list.
Despite being divisive figure, you cannot deny that Suarez is one of the best players of his generation.
From one diminutive South American forward to another, Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero is number four on our list.
No other human being has scored more goals for the Citizens than the Argentine. There’s magic in those bulging calves and he loves a memorable strike.
Often overlooked when discussing all-time Premier League greats in the past, public opinion is finally starting to sway on Aguero.
He recently overtook Thierry Henry as the Barclays™ highest ever overseas goalscorer, a stat which beautifully illustrates his brilliance and longevity.
In the past Karim Benzema has frequently been the bridesmaid and never the bride.
During Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at Real Madrid, the Frenchman mainly played the role of facilitator, making decoy runs to pull defenders away from CR7.
During the 2019/2020 season, Benzema stepped out on his own and become Los Blancos’ most valuable forward. 29 goal involvements in 37 La Liga appearances tells its own story as the 32-year-old continues to get better with age.
He is a self-sacrificing superstar who has nothing to prove to his doubters.
A Ligue 1, Coupe de France and World Cup winner all before his 21st birthday, Kylian Mbappe is set to dominate European football for the next decade.
Like a string of French strikers before him, Mbappe’s principal weapon is his frightening pace but there is so much more to the Paris Saint-Germain star’s game.
Blessed with freakish footballing intelligence, he is constantly popping up in the right place at the right time. He also possesses a fearsome box of tricks and feints that rival any other player in the world.
A forward of Mbappe’s quality coming along is truly a once in a lifetime event, so make sure you make the most of him while he’s still around.
Few people would have been as peeved off as Robert Lewandowski when it was announced that the 2020 Ballon d’Or would not be awarded.
The Polish hitman has been in the form of his life recently, scoring with a frequency to rival some of the best strikers of all time.
The Bayern Munich star – who 90min interviewed back in May – in the archetypal complete centre-forward scoring goals with his head, either foot and various other body parts. As long as the ball nestles in the back of the net, he doesn’t care.
Lewandowski is a born goalscorer in his prime years and could hold onto his title as 90min’s best centre-forward in the world for some time yet. That’s better than winning a Ballon d’Or anyway…
Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has admitted Thiago Alcantara has expressed a desire to ‘try something new’ this summer, further fuelling speculation that the midfielder could join Liverpool in the weeks ahead.
Thiago has been linked with the Reds persistently over the past month or so, with reports in Germany adamant that only finances have so far scuppered a move that both the player and the Anfield giants are keen to happen.
There have been a few inconsistencies in reporting on the situation, but one fairly constant factor has been the midfielder’s reluctance to pen an extension to his contract which expires in 2021. Rummenigge, speaking to Sky in Germany, confirmed sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has been unable to talk him round, and that the player has expressed a desire to take on a fresh challenge.
“The talks Hasan had with him have always been very productive. And at some point it actually seemed that it was done [a new contract at Bayern],” said Rummenigge, who tends to talk straight when it comes to transfers.
“But then Thiago informed Hasan that he would like to do something new. We have to accept that.
“We have a contract with Thiago that is still valid for one year and if he reaches an agreement with any club then that club should pay a transfer fee of a certain amount.
“I do not want to make any public comment about the fee that we have in mind. As I have already said, we’ll not have a summer sale at Bayern. There will always have to be a certain amount that will make us sell a player.”
It’s been reported that Bayern will seek a fee in the region of €30m if they are to sign off on a departure this summer.
It’s worth noting that for all the noise linking Thiago with an exit from Bayern, the past couple of weeks have been quiet in terms of implicating Liverpool directly. While most headlines involving the Spain international name-drop the Reds, the latest which actually involved Liverpool came from Bild in mid-July, who claimed that Jurgen Klopp has asked the club to sign him.
Logically, the move doesn’t make the most sense, given that it flies in the face of the transfer policy that has established the Reds as one of the best in the world over the past two seasons, but only time will tell if there is smoke without fire.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has received interest from both Chelsea and Bayern Munich while he considers extending his contract at Camp Nou.
Tying Ter Stegen down to fresh terms is one of Barcelona’s top priorities this summer. Talks have rumbled on for months, with the coronavirus shutdown making things harder than they already were, and there is yet to be an agreement.
As noted by Cadena SER, both Barcelona and Ter Stegen are interested in thrashing out a renewal, but given the difficulty in doing so, Chelsea and Bayern have lodged offers with the German’s representatives.
Barcelona have asked players to take pay cuts in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and Ter Stegen is believed to be slightly frustrated by that. When recently asked by reporters (via Marca) whether he planned to extend his contract, Ter Stegen bluntly responded “we’ll see”.
Barcelona are still said to be ‘more than optimistic’ about getting a deal done, but the added pressure of interest from elsewhere will be an unwanted obstacle to overcome.
How genuine the interest actually is is another question entirely. For Bayern, they still have club captain Manuel Neuer in their starting lineup, while young Alexander Nübel is seen as the future of the position, so there is nowhere for Ter Stegen to really fit in at the Allianz Arena.
Chelsea’s interest seems a little more plausible. The English media have already confirmed that the Blues are potential suitors of Ter Stegen, although the huge cost of any potential deal has stopped any real progress from being made.
It’s likely that Chelsea have simply thrown out an optimistic offer in the hope of actually getting lucky, but the focus remains on cheaper targets like Ajax’s André Onana, Manchester United’s Dean Henderson and Burnley’s Nick Pope.
One other unlikely target on the radar is Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, who has previously been described as the Blues’ preferred replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga. Like Ter Stegen, the problem with this one is the cost of the deal – with Oblak boasting a €120m release clause – and Christian Falk notes that Atléti are not concerned about losing their star goalkeeper.
Los Rojiblancos do not believe that Chelsea can afford a £80m deal for Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and a huge move for Oblak, and with the Blues still pushing forward with their pursuit of the German, it does seem more than a little unlikely that they will be able to afford the Slovenian as well.
Bayern Munich’s flying left-back Alphonso Davies has named his top five full-backs currently operating in world football.
Davies was a revelation on Bayern’s left flank this season, as the Bavarians stormed to an eighth straight Bundesliga title.
The Canada international made his Bayern debut in 2018/19 but rocketed to stardom this season as the club’s first choice left-back – scoring three times and registering five assists in 29 appearances.
The 19-year-old was also shortlisted for 2020’s Golden Boy award, named as the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year and was ranked by 90min as one of the 25 best full-backs in the world. On top of all that, the teenager can boast he is the fastest footballer in Germany, having also clocked the Bundesliga’s top speed – at 36.51 km/ph.
Having started his career as a winger in MLS, Davies has been at the forefront of move in football tactics that has seen the full back become an increasingly popular and integral position – with those in the position expected to chip in with goals, assists and lung-busting runs forward, as well as defend.
Speaking to 90min, Davies named his own top five full-backs operating currently in world football – with three from the Bundesliga and two from the Premier League.
“[Achraf] Hakimi is one of them,” he said. “I really like how Benji [Pavard] plays, scoring goals and getting assists, so those two.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold definitely and I really like [Bukayo] Saka from Arsenal. He’s a really good player.”
And when asked if he would nominate himself for the final pick of the five, Davies added smiling: “and me too!”
On whether he sees himself continuing as a full-back next season, or reverting to a more forward role, Davies insisted that he is happy to stick where he is, saying: “Right now, definitely left-back. I like the position, I like how everything is going well with my centre-back partners.”
On for an historic treble this season, Bayern take on Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on 8 August.
The German champions lead 3-0 from the first leg back in February, a game in which Davies tormented the Blues right side, grabbing an assist for the third goal.