Neymar, Bale, Pogba, Eriksen and Dybala were each banking on a move away from their respective clubs this summer. But, with the Premier League transfer window already shut, and others not far behind, time is running out.
It wouldn’t be summer without a Neymar transfer saga and this year is no different.
The 2019 edition has focused heavily on Barcelona's reported interest in bringing Neymar back to Camp Nou. Paris Saint-Germain, his current club, were initially dismissive, but their stance has gradually changed. Neymar epitomizes player power more than any other athlete on earth. Indeed, it was his own gravitational pull that lured him to PSG against Barcelona’s wishes to begin with.
Now, though, the tables have turned. Neymar has grown tired of the PSG project and has realized Lionel Messi's shadow was, in fact, the brightest place of all.
Barcelona are yet to lodge a bid, however, and murmurings of a Real Madrid hijack have simmered down after their expensive capturing of Eden Hazard. A move for Neymar needs to be an early one, it seems, when the coffers are still full. But never say never. On his day, Neymar is priceless.
The best-paid golfer in world football. Gareth Bale’s love for a freshly cut fairway is often used as a stick with which to beat him during his lengthy injury layoffs. Bale’s astronomic talent is matched only by his unreliability and Zinedine Zidane has grown tired of his excuses.
His stock had fallen so low earlier in the summer, Zidane was willing to let him join Jiangsu Suning of the Chinese Super League for nothing just to get him off the wage bill. While the Welshman was keen to accept the offered wage of €1-million ($1.12 million) tax-free a month on the table, things fell through at the last minute, and no clubs in Europe appear keen to take on his wage.
Club President Florentino Perez wasn’t prepared to let a once-prized asset leave for nothing, and unless that stance changes, he may be footing a €600,000 weekly bill for a player the coach doesn’t want for a while longer. Still, at least Bale’s short game is improving.
The Spurs midfielder is well and truly aboard the transfer merry-go-round and praying it stops at a convenient destination soon. He made it clear at the end of last season that he fancies a move abroad, but whether or not he gets his wish depends heavily on others.
"I feel that I am at a stage of my career where I would like to try something new," Eriksen told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet recently. "I have the deepest respect for everything that is happening at Tottenham and it would not be something negative to stay. But I have also said that I would like to try something new."
One of the people affecting his ambitions is Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba – more on him below – whose inherent swagger would make him a more natural fit at a club where appearances mean so much. Eriksen is hoping the Spanish giants grow tired of that pursuit and refocus their attention in his direction.
Ironically, Manchester United themselves registered an early interest in the Dane, with a view to potentially replacing Pogba with his mercurial talents. He reportedly turned them down, however.
With less than a year to run on his contract, Tottenham are said to be unwilling to let him go for free next summer – though the Dane could secure terms at a foreign club as early as January – and may be forced to accept a cut-price deal before the transfer window shuts.
The man that may hold the key to every other deal on this list. Should Paul Pogba leave Manchester United this summer, the knock-on effect could be huge, with both former club Juventus, and Real Madrid said to be considering eye-watering offers for the French World Cup winner.
Imagine for instance, Real Madrid stumped up enough cash to test United's resolve. The deal would almost certainly rule out any chance of Neymar joining Madrid, given the expense. Gareth Bale's wages would become more than a minor nuisance and Christian Eriksen would have to admit defeat on his dream move to the Spanish capital.
If he joined Juventus, Dybala, the final player on this list, would need to leave to free up cash and suddenly Madrid would seem a likelier destination for Neymar and Eriksen.
But, with Manchester United unable to sign any players until January now, and in no need to raise funds, the likeliest outcome is Pogba staying put until next year at the earliest.
That Juventus have spent most of the summer dangling their Argentine forward on the line in hope of raising some funds is interesting for a number of reasons. Given his situation, it’s especially interesting that no club have managed to tempt him away from Turin. Manchester United and Tottenham were linked with moves but both hit the wall when negotiating over image rights and agents' fees. Is he really so unwilling to budge? Maurizio Sarri has made it abundantly clear that Dybala is not part of his plans and may not even be included his Champions League squad.
It’s a sad state of affairs for a player of his abilities but, as is increasingly the case in modern football, money talks.