The January transfer window failed to live up to expectations for a number of different reasons.
Manchester United finally secured the signature of Bruno Fernandes and Tottenham Hotspur have replaced Christian Eriksen with Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes, but the difficulty numerous different Premier League clubs experienced in attempting to recruit a new forward encapsulated the difficulties of the January market.
United, Spurs, Chelsea and others had all hoped to recruit a new striker, only to struggle to recruit players with the desired profile. Gone are the days when such clubs could pick off the likes of Louis Saha from Fulham or Nicolas Anelka from Bolton Wanderers. Now top-flight clubs from around Europe have little incentive to sell their star assets mid-season, particularly if worried by the prospect of relegation.
That is why – despite constant speculation – Jack Grealish remained at Aston Villa, Max Aarons did not leave Norwich for Spurs and Lewis Dunk stayed put at Brighton & Hove Albion, even though he was a target for Chelsea.
This emerging trend of the biggest and richest clubs struggling to sign new players in the January window is not unique to the Premier League, however.
Much has been made of Barcelona’s struggles this window. The Spanish giants wanted to sign a new striker to replace the injured Luis Suárez and quickly began offloading their deadwood in order to raise the necessary funds.
Two forwards were offloaded – Carlos Pérez to Roma and Abel Ruiz to Braga – but Barcelona failed to replace them with tentative interest in Everton’s Richarlison and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to lead anywhere. Things then went from bad to worse for Barcelona on Tuesday, when it was announced that Ousmane Dembélé will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured tendon in his thigh.
There are also serious question marks over the future of Lionel Messi, after his very public dispute with Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal.
However, with the summit of the European game in flux and with so many clubs both home and abroad now scrambling to catch up with Jürgen Klopp’s brilliant Liverpool, a busy summer market is anticipated.
That will be exacerbated by Euro 2020, which takes place across Europe from June to July. The tournament will inevitably witness the emergence of plenty of new talent, while for scouts and agents it will be something of a feeding frenzy with deals to be cut and bargains to be had.
There will also be a deluge of high-profile free transfers, as numerous international superstars were unsuccessful in finding a new club this winter, as new Inter Milan signing Eriksen managed.
Dries Mertens – who came close to joining Chelsea in the winter – is out of contract at Napoli and is poised to leave the club. Edinson Cavani, another player to be linked with a move to the Premier League, will surely leave Paris Saint-Germain, while Layvin Kurzawa, Mario Götze and Luka Modrić will also become available.
Closer to home, Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal and Willian has yet to be offered a new Chelsea deal. The 31-year-old had made it clear that his preference was to stay at Stamford Bridge, before he was dropped for the recent draw with Leicester over a failed move to Barcelona. His days in south west London now appear to be numbered.
As for the reigning European and world champions, Liverpool are planning to be active in the market despite enjoying the most successful season in the history of the club. The Independent understands that the Reds will continue to stick to the principles that have seen them return to their perch and will attempt to prioritise variety over depth. That likely means an audacious bid for Kylian Mbappé is out of the question, but do not be surprised to see them spend on other players.
With all that in mind, we have assessed some of the biggest potential deals this summer.
Check the above gallery to see the players we believe will be the biggest movers when the transfer window reopens around Europe.