The last week of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is about to begin and only four games remain to be played, three of which will determine the new (or old) champions of the world.
The world has seen plenty of great football, plenty of superb team and individual performances over the last month, and as it’s always the case, they are sure to have an impact on the transfer market over the next couple of windows. There are clubs who need their squads rejuvenated, others need to rebuild theirs for other reasons. Some just need to increase depths in certain areas, but one thing appears certain – there will be a lot of business done in the summer at least, possibly even in January.
Unfortunately for the clubs targeting younger, up-and-coming players, many of those have had an excellent tournament and their respective prices will only go up. Let’s take a brief look at some of them.
The Borussia Dortmund star is arguably the chief topic of transfer talk around the globe. At the age of only 19, he had already proven his quality in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, and now at the world’s biggest international stage as well. One of England’s top performers, he was a constant source of energy, creativity, as well as a goal threat for Gareth Southgate’s side.
Bellingham is reportedly being courted by Real Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool at the moment, and despite strong efforts from both the La Liga champions and the Premier League champions, the youngster and his family are reportedly most keen on returning to England for him to play for Liverpool.
While away with his national side, Bellingham has apparently established a strong relationship with Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, the two Liverpool players called up by Southgate for the Qatar adventure which ended in defeat to France in the quarterfinals on Saturday. While Alexander-Arnold barely played in the tournament, Henderson put in several fantastic performances, and the moment when he scored the opening goal in England’s round-of-16 win over Senegal revealed the closeness between him and Bellingham, who provided a pin-point assist to make it happen.
Wherever he ends up, personal terms aren’t expected to be a problem for Bellingham. All three reported suitors pay very good wages, and a potential difference between them in that aspect shouldn’t really play a big part in his decision. But there is still Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham’s current employers to reckon with, and their price certainly won’t be small.
In fact, Dortmund MD recently said that even though he himself prefers Liverpool as Bellingham’s destination, the Merseysiders shouldn’t expect “any gifts” regarding this transfer. With no release clause in his contract, the Bundesliga club will surely demand the full market value for Bellingham, which, according to Transfermarkt, currently stands at €100 million.
Worse yet, Bellingham was reportedly valued more than that by Dortmund even before going to Qatar.
So while it apparently is the wish of everyone involved, it will be very interesting to see if
Bellingham’s transfer to Anfield actually happens, or if the high price opens the door a bit wider for City and Real, neither of which has ever shied away from an expensive transfer.
Another name that has been attracting plenty of attention over the past few months is RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol.
Linked most strongly with Chelsea through the summer and later as well, the 20-year-old has been marvelous for Croatia in Qatar. Deployed in the heart of defence and supported by the experience of Dejan Lovren by his side, he has played a big part in everything Zlatko Dalic’s men have achieved at the World Cup, and unlike Bellingham’s England, they are still in it, with a chance of repeating the success of 2018 and maybe even going a step further to actually lift the trophy.
Yes, Croatia have one of the best midfield units out there, with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic adding to their defensive stability, Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic working his socks off at both ends of the pitch, and Real Madrid star Luka Modric acting as the playmaker-in-chief, but without the brilliance of Gvardiol behind them, it would be hard to imagine them getting this far.
What’s even more impressive is that Gvardiol has been playing in Germany only a year and a few months, having spent his youth and first senior seasons at Dinamo Zagreb. Transfermarkt have him valued at €60 million, but the race for his signature next summer, after everything we’ve seen in Qatar in addition to the Bundesliga and Champions League exploits, is sure to bump up that price significantly when the time comes.
As has been said, the superb performances at the World Cup are likely to increase the prices of Bellingham and Gvardiol, but those players were widely recognized as top talents and in high demand before the Qatar trip already. Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco, on the other hand, has probably been one of the chief revelations of the tournament for those not following the Serie A too closely.
Playing for Fiorentina, currently in 10th place in the Italian top flight, Amrabat may have gone under the radar so far, but his ability to anchor the midfield and control the tempo while making sure the opposition didn’t do too much behind his back has now got him on all kinds of lists. He isn’t as young as Bellingham or Gvardiol, but at the age of 26, he’s still very much a possibility for any top club that needs a defensive midfielder.
It’s not very likely that Amrabat joins forces with Bellingham next season at Liverpool, it would probably cost too much to get both these players after such a fantastic World Cup, but his potential move to Anfield to provide competition for Brazil’s Fabinho has been mentioned in the press recently. On the other hand, some reports claim that Amrabat’s brother recently issued a public plea to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi to take him to the French capital instead.
Be that as it may, Amrabat is likely to succumb to temptation and tell Fiorentina he wants to leave, as soon as concrete offers from clubs playing in the Champions League start pouring in. And after this World Cup, it feels safe to say that they will. There has been a claim the midfielder, whose contract with Fiorentina runs until the summer of 2024 with an option of a 12-month extension, would cost more than €35 million this January. That figure is surely too small after he helped Morocco become the first African nation to reach the semifinals of the World Cup.
Back to England.
Another one who did superbly for the Three Lions in Qatar is Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka. His obvious talent and game intelligence has been attracting attention for a long time, and he remains reportedly on the radar of a number of top clubs across Europe.
The Gunners are reportedly working on getting the 21-year-old to recommit, but despite their hints, mostly coming from manager Mikel Arteta and director of football Edu, about the talks progressing and everything being fine on that front, Fabrizio Romano’s claim that those talks have been going on since February and haven’t been concluded yet does put a question mark over his future. His current deal at the Emirates expires in 2024, which means that if he doesn’t put pen to paper before the season is out, Arsenal might well consider parting ways with the young England star in the summer.
On the other hand, Arsenal are actually competing for the Premier League title after a long, long time, and if they win it and prove that they can actually get the biggest trophies out there, it might help them persuade players like Saka to remain in North London for a long time yet and get those talks to move a little faster.
What Saka’s price would otherwise be, it’s hard to say. Some believe a fee in the region of €60 or 70 million would represent good value for money, but having once again proven he is ready to deliver at literally any stage and against any opposition, Saka is likely worth quite more than that in the craziness of the current transfer market.
Like Gvardiol and Amrabat, Enzo Fernandez has been a big player for a country that has made it into the World Cup semifinals. When people talk about Argentina, it’s obviously Lionel Messi who pops into mind first, and then the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria, and more recently Lisandro and Emiliano Martinez. But Enzo’s name should surely be among them too.
Fernandez has been one of the standout players for Benfica for a while now, and he’s another young name reportedly considered by the usual suspects, the top clubs seeking to add to their midfield ranks – Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City.
As things stand, Benfica are believed to be demanding a fee well over €100 million for the 21-year-old holding midfielder, valued at the moment by Transfermarkt at only €35m. Real are said to be considering him an alternative to Bellingam should the England starlet indeed snub them for Liverpool, and as for the Reds, again, it’s very hard to imagine them going in that hard for both Bellingham AND Fernandez. It would simply cost too much, particularly if the stories about Benfica’s demands are true.
Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the player, who has four and a half years left on his contract, leaves Lisbon next summer or not, but the fact that his excellent displays at the World Cup have increased his value cannot be disputed.
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