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Hamilton

General Transfer Talk

Started by Hamilton,

Hakimi, the turbo full-back: wanted in London, Madrid, Munich and Dortmund

https://theathletic.com/1713314/2020/04/04/dortmund-achraf-hakimi-tottenham-arsenal-chelsea-bayern-real-madrid/

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It was back in early October when Ondrej Kudela, an experienced defender and Czech Republic international, attempted to put into words what it is actually like to confront Achraf Hakimi in full flight. Slavia Prague had just succumbed to Borussia Dortmund at the Eden Arena with the Moroccan scoring both the Champions League group game’s goals. Kudela, like his team-mates, had been left scorched by the whole sorry experience.

“We obviously made a few mistakes which you can’t afford to do at this level and we’re still adjusting to this competition… but those counter-attacks were lethal,” he offered in the immediate aftermath. “It was like Hakimi climbed on his motorbike, revved it up and then roared away from everybody. There was absolutely no chance of catching him.”

Plenty of fellow full-backs and centre-halves who have been left gasping in pursuit of Hakimi, his No 5 shirt forever powering further out of range, would empathise with that nightmarish feeling of hopelessness endured by Kudela that night. Dortmund’s tearaway loanee has subjected better players than him to a blistering run-around. The 21-year-old has rampaged through more impressive teams than Slavia, too.

At his best, he can feel unstoppable: a force of nature whose rise to prominence has been charted forensically by elite clubs from the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga. Not to mention Real Madrid, his parent club back in Spain.

Chelsea have been long-standing admirers while Tottenham Hotspur, back when Mauricio Pochettino was in place and influencing their transfer policy, had salivated at the possibility of luring him to London once his deal at Borussia had concluded. Across the capital’s northern divide, Arsenal are also credited with a keen interest, attracted as much by his versatility and excellence across a number of positions. Paris Saint-Germain made enquiries last year and Juventus have tracked his progress. Then there’s Bayern Munich, well aware of his blistering impact in the Bundesliga and Dortmund’s own desire to retain his services beyond the expiry of his two-year loan.

At some stage, once football returns to something akin to normality and the frenzy of the transfer market is resumed, those suitors still eager to prioritise the youngster’s addition face the daunting challenge of talking Real into a sale. Logic suggests they will be met with stern resistance.

Not that it is actually that outlandish to suggest the Getafe-born full-back-cum-winger could depart the Bernabeu. Everything will hinge on the pathway to first-team involvement. After two years of regular game-time, and rapid development, in Germany this is a player who would be reluctant to play second fiddle to a team-mate, whether that be Dani Carvajal or Ferland Mendy on either flank. Real will not be welcoming back a rookie when the loan expires. Maybe the focus has been drawn more towards the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold on Merseyside or Alphonso Davies in Munich, but everything Hakimi has achieved in Westphalia has been startling.

So what is all the fuss about? Well, it is born of the reality that Hakimi appears to have everything. He stands a shade under 6ft and, during the barnstorming 3-3 draw with RB Leipzig earlier this season, was clocked at 22.49 mph on one of his runs upfield, the quickest sprint recorded in the Bundesliga since detailed data collection began nine years ago. Dortmund’s coach, Lucien Favre, has described that pace as “a weapon”. “He’s so unpredictable with that speed, though,” added team-mate Mario Gotze. “That makes it so hard for defenders. He seems to know instinctively when to join in the attack, and appears from nowhere.”

The basic numbers establish his reputation: no other player classed as a defender can match his rate of assists (0.4 per 90 minutes) or expected assists (0.21) in the German top-flight during the current campaign. He is a natural dribbler, ever eager to singe past a marker with the ball glued to his instep into attacking areas, particularly at the far post, from where he so regularly supplies those loitering in the six-yard box. Indeed, his own energy, and Dortmund’s attacking dominance in so many matches, sees him camped for long periods in enemy territory with the two-time Africa young player of the year basically operating as an auxiliary winger, ever eager to overload on beleaguered opponents.

His delivery may lack Alexander-Arnold’s vicious whip or precision from further out, but there have been 10 assists in the league to date this season – all summoned from open play, whereas the Liverpool full-back tends to take set-pieces – and three goals. Nobody in Dortmund’s ranks mustered as many as his four goals in eight appearances in the Champions League this term, where the Germans exited in the last 16 with a 3-2 aggregate defeat to PSG.

Furthermore, Hakimi has flourished whether starting out in a back four or five-man rear-guard, as a full-back or wing-back, or even as a more conventional winger – he shifted upfield during a Champions League tie against Inter Milan in November and scored twice – on either flank. So smooth has his adaptation been to life on the opposite side, a la Philipp Lahm, that he admitted late last year to being unsure as to where he is now strongest. “I’ve learned a lot playing on both flanks and that ability is a real string to my bow: any coach who has a player able to play on both wings, someone versatile, knows that this benefits the team,” he told Spanish sports newspaper AS. “When I’m on the right, it’s more about getting up the wing and crossing; on the left, it’s about linking up with others, cutting inside and shooting if I can.

“I decided to come here because I wanted to keep on developing as a player, and the path you have to take isn’t always what you might have initially imagined. Sometimes you have to go somewhere else so you can get to where you want to be. In my case that meant coming to Germany. I also knew I had to improve a lot. And, bit by bit, I’ve been doing that. I’m a better player and am getting regular football. It has a real impact on your confidence. That’s what allows you to express yourself and play with freedom. I’m now a different Achraf.”

He has certainly come a long way from the days when he and his friends would chalk up three goals on the walls of their street in southern Madrid and enjoy chaotic mass kickabouts on what was, in effect, a triangular pitch. He had played at CD Colonia Ofigevi in his youth before drawing the attention of Real’s scouts.

His father, a street vendor, picked him up from school one day and produced a letter inviting the disbelieving youngster to a trial. He ended up joining La Fabrica, their academy, at the age of eight. “The training area, my team-mates, the whole organisation, the changing-rooms… I felt like I was already a professional player.” Money had been tight at home. This was a glimpse of a different world, and a chance even the young Hakimi felt had to be taken.

That bond with family remains – his parents are Moroccan, with his instinct always to represent their homeland rather than Spain – with his desperation to progress partly born of a desire to repay them for the sacrifices they made when he was young. “We come from a modest background and my family has always struggled to earn a living,” he said. “But they gave themselves up for me. They deprived my brothers of many things for me to succeed. Today, I fight every day for them.”

His progression eventually took him into the side at Real Madrid Castilla – the club’s B team – and, with Zinedine Zidane having persuaded him to reject the chance to move on loan to Alaves, into a first-team debut in October 2017. The man assigned to be Carvajal’s back-up ended up playing 17 times that season, including twice against Spurs, to ensure he ended with a European Cup winner’s medal. Zidane, he said, treated him “like a son”. “The fact he asked for the deal (to Alaves) to be called off and wanted me to stay… that meant a lot. He made me the footballer I am today by giving me that chance to play with the professionals. I learned something every day. Whatever happens, I’ll always have a good relationship with him.”

Yet he still classes joining Dortmund, ahead of mooted loan moves to Napoli or Juventus, as “the best decision I ever made” and key to the speed of his development. He signed a new long-term deal at the Bernabeu through to 2022, with an option to extend, before departing, with the Bundesliga club, who did not pay a loan fee, actually trumping the wage the player would have earned in Spain over his two-year stint. There was no option written into the deal for Dortmund to make the move permanent, for all that they would be keen, now, to instigate talks. In truth, given the calibre of other clubs keen to secure the player, they may not be able to compete. Indeed, PSG’s Thomas Meunier has been suggested as a replacement.

Hakimi has carried himself like a Real Madrid player at times, though that self-confidence – “airs and graces,” as one person close to Borussia put it – have actually been welcomed by a young squad. They have helped add an edge, with that strut pepping the group. It has certainly not affected his work ethic or eagerness to settle.

It helped that Paco Alcacer, a fellow Spanish speaker, was on the books at the time, but he speaks English – like many of his club-mates – and has since made progress with his German. He is popular, both at Dortmund and with his national team’s set-up. He is a father himself these days after his partner, the Spanish actress Hiba Abouk, gave birth to a son at Madrid’s Ruber Internacional hospital in February.

Hakimi, already capped 28 times, has graced a World Cup and points to his tussles with other African nations as having toughened him up. He already feels integral to a national team crammed with lavish attacking talents, from Ajax’s Chelsea-bound Hakim Ziyech to AZ Alkmaar’s rising star Oussama Idrissi. “Achraf was shy when he first joined up, but he laughs a lot and is a good room-mate,” Morocco captain and Wolves defender Romain Saiss told France Football recently. “He is very respectful and serious about what the does.”

Hakimi also recognises there are aspects of his game that need to improve. Even Favre has winced at times at his defensive positioning, albeit that burst of pace tends to extricate him from awkward situations. “Look, he grew up at Real Madrid, where all the teams are used to having possession,” said Saiss. “It’s pretty much the same at Dortmund. When they play with five across the back, he has a bit more freedom to express himself. He’s still young, at 21, and still has huge scope to progress, above all defensively. When he plays for the national side in particular, he needs to be better at anticipating what to do when we lose possession.

“He makes up for it all with his speed. When he’s in full flight, he’s difficult to stop even if, sometimes, I tell him, ‘It’s great that you run upfield, but think about tracking back now and again.’ He’s still a very good defender and hard to get past. He’s tough, too. In the years ahead, he has all the qualities to become the best in the world.”

That tactical awareness will come. For now, it is the dynamism and attacking flair which catch the eye. Those link-ups with Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, or Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt, have taken the breath away in such a vibrant line-up. His absence will be keenly felt next season if, as Dortmund anticipate, he ventures elsewhere.

The real dilemma, of course, lies with Real. Alvaro Odriozola, a €30 million addition from Real Sociedad in the summer of 2018, has disappointed and was loaned to Bayern in January. Carvajal, the regular right-back, is 28. They may want to freshen things up. Logic might suggest the time has come to fling Hakimi in as first-choice.

Yet, if the club have other ambitions in the market and are looking for a means of raising funds, they might be tempted by offers up to €60 million, complete with a buyback clause, for the youth-team graduate. Therein lies the hope for Bayern – who enjoy an excellent relation with Real – or the English contingent, who would argue he is tailor-made for Premier League football.

“Pace, it’s all about pace,” added the Dijon and Morocco defender Fouad Chafik. “He has a turbo in his legs.” An afterburner of which Ondrej Kudela was all too aware in Prague back in the autumn.

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.

on Lacazette: 'Atletico Madrid don't have money. They have joined the government [furlough] scheme in which the goverment will pay some of the wages of the non-playing staff. They are at the limit of the money situation and they will go for free [transfers]'

Hey Atletico you owe us 60m for Morata. 

Vesper likes this

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8 hours ago, NikkiCFC said:

.

on Lacazette: 'Atletico Madrid don't have money. They have joined the government [furlough] scheme in which the goverment will pay some of the wages of the non-playing staff. They are at the limit of the money situation and they will go for free [transfers]'

Hey Atletico you owe us 60m for Morata. 

I really wonder if we get fucked over with Morota. :rant:

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7 hours ago, Vesper said:

I really wonder if we get fucked over with Morota. :rant:

They can't do that as it is a signed, sealed and delivered type of deal. If they default on that they'll have to explain themselves to the authorities. The only out for them is if UEFA/FIFA allow some sort of leniency. 

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1 hour ago, King Kante said:

The only out for them is if UEFA/FIFA allow some sort of leniency. 

Bingo!

This is my fear.

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‘Fundamentally, football is fucked’ – what agents are doing and thinking now

https://theathletic.com/1725847/2020/04/11/agents-transfers-wage-talks-lallana-willian-bosman/

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As usual, their mobile phones haven’t stopped ringing. The only difference for football agents is that it’s not the sort of calls they’re used to taking at this time of year. Sporting directors, chief executives and managers have other things on their mind right now than making signings. “I’ve had two inquiries from clubs asking about a player and that’s it,” one of the country’s leading agents says. “It’s dead quiet.”

Instead, the voice at the other end tends to be a player, asking for advice about pay cuts and deferrals — a subject that has driven some footballers around the bend as they canvass opinion among their squad about the latest proposal. More often than not, the player at the centre of it all ends up going round in circles. “This is carnage, I’ve been on the phone for 12 hours,” one Premier League captain told his agent this week.

“No one can agree,” the agent adds. “You’ve got lads at Manchester City, Man United and Liverpool who all want to do one thing, then you have the lads at Burnley and Norwich. Pay cuts and deferrals will be individual, for sure. It just makes sense.”

While the 20 Premier League captains did come to an agreement this week on the formation of an initiative that will help to provide funds for the NHS in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, accepting pay reductions at clubs is a totally different matter. Some players are hugely sceptical, according to their agents. “A lot of the players at one club were saying, ‘I know what’ll happen, we’ll take a deferral, a cut, then we’ll go and sign some crap player from abroad for £30 million who plays five games for the club and we’ll pay them off three years later.’”

For now, agents are doing a lot more listening than negotiating. Essentially, they are providing support and guidance to their clients at a time of huge uncertainty — the majority of professional footballers aren’t millionaires who are set up for life.

“It’s advice on wage cuts at the moment,” says one agent. “Your players will ask you, ‘What do you think?’

“Say a player is on £10,000 a week, and he pays 50 per cent tax, so he’s on £5,000 net. Then the club want another 30 per cent? Not to say someone couldn’t live off that, but it’s all relative. He’s got a 15-year mortgage because he’s due to retire when he’s 35. He bought his house when he was 20. So it could’ve been £600 a month over 40 years, but instead he’s paying back £5,000 a month. The outgoings are geared up to these boys retiring at 35.”

Most agents are keen to avoid becoming directly involved in negotiations around pay cuts and deferrals. The cynic would say that is because there is no money in it for them, although that is not strictly true. In theory, a pay cut for a player should mean a pay cut for his agent, bearing in mind they normally get a percentage of their client’s salary.

“I’d expect to feel the same pain as the players felt,” one agent says. “Sometimes clubs want a specific figure as an agent’s fee instead of a percentage. If you’ve got a specific figure put in, you won’t be affected. I would say one out of five deals are done like that, and that’s usually the club being smart because they don’t want to incorporate add-ons into the agent’s fee.”

Generally, agents see these pay discussions as an issue for the players to resolve in talks with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and their club. In that respect, a player’s representative is little more than a sounding board. “We’re trying to stay out of it really,” another agent explains, “because we need to maintain good relationships with the clubs as well as the players. The PFA are fighting for them, that’s what the players want them to do.”

The negotiations are anything but straightforward, not least because financial circumstances will differ greatly within the same dressing room, never mind within leagues. “A unilateral agreement was never going to happen in a million years,” one agent says.

A sports lawyer, who works with Premier League agents and also represents Football League clubs, agrees. “You cannot just impose a blanket pay cut,” he says. “You need to show the players why the money needs to be saved in each individual case. It may be a certain number of weeks for a deferral, that is fair. But a 30 per cent cut just isn’t fair. Can you imagine walking in one day to Morgan Stanley and telling everyone ‘you are docked 30 per cent wages’? It just wouldn’t happen.

“I had a chat with an agent yesterday. He was saying a banker would earn £2 million annually, he would have a longer career, he would have a university degree and a private school background, as well as family wealth. A footballer might have grown up in a council house, can’t believe where he came from and has a soccer school in his local area. That’s what these guys are really saying and thinking.”

There is another intriguing aspect to all of this and it should probably be filed in a boardroom folder marked “reap what you sow”. Some football club owners have generated a lot of goodwill within their club over the years because of their personality, the way they interact with players and staff, and more generally how they run the business.

Others have little or no meaningful contact with the players and have done next to nothing to build up any debt of gratitude over time. Not surprisingly, those relationships will have a significant impact on how players feel about helping their owner or chairman in a time of crisis and whether they believe the situation is as grave as they are being told.

“The thing you have with the Brighton boys is that they like the owner,” an agent says. “Tony Bloom, Brighton’s owner, does everything he can to help the players. They know that if they went to him in any other circumstance with a problem he would help them. But some of these other owners would say, ‘It’s not my problem.’”

It’s not hard to imagine players at Tottenham Hotspur or Newcastle being reluctant to assist chairmen or owners who have a reputation for penny-pinching and were quick to furlough staff at the first opportunity. One agent suggested that Tottenham’s players may struggle to have sympathy for billionaire owner Joe Lewis, particularly those who have been aboard his yacht and seen the lavish decor.

While pay talks are occupying the minds of agents and dominating their conversations with players at the moment, there is a bigger picture for them to consider when it comes to their role within the game. Some are worried about their livelihoods — not every agent is signing off multi-million pound deals like Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes — and wondering when, realistically, they can expect to be paid the fees they are owed. Others are trying to imagine what sort of state the summer transfer window will be in when it finally opens for business.


Bosmans and bargains — that’s the transfer market theme for the 2020-21 season, according to those who make a living out of moving footballers. It will be a buyers’ market, for sure — and that, naturally, suits the clubs who don’t need a helping hand in the first place.

“For Man United, Chelsea and Man City, buying players will be like businessmen buying businesses that are on the floor. They will see this as a way of maintaining their place at the top of the table for the next five years with no big transfer fees needed,” one agent said.

That comment was made before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked about how United “might just be in a situation you can exploit”. For some wider context to that remark, Solskjaer was responding to a question from Gary Neville, who later accepted that he shouldn’t have used the word “exploit” when he asked his former team-mate about United’s transfer strategy in the wake of a global pandemic.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of that episode, the reality is that Solskjaer was saying what everybody in the game already knows. United, along with football’s other financial powerhouses, will be able to capitalise on the dreadful state that many football clubs will be in when the summer window opens, and that could have severe consequences for some.

In the Championship, where 11 players were sold for fees in excess of £10 million last summer and the 24 clubs made a collective £140 million profit on transfer deals to partly offset the financial mess elsewhere on their balance sheets, the market is expected to collapse. One agent described it as “a broken division”. Another predicted the big clubs will pick up the best young talent in the second tier for knock-down fees. Expect more fees closer to £5 million than the £25 million Tottenham spent on Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon last summer.

Some agents — and this, whether you like it or not, is how the business side of football works — are already sensing that doors are opening in a way that wasn’t possible before this pandemic. “I spoke to an agent and the situation has sorted him out big time,” adds the sports lawyer. “The club that has his prized asset now needs money. There will be so much less resistance. You go from public enemy No 1 to being the guy who was sold to save the club.”

Warming to his theme, the lawyer says that he senses a chance for a select group of Premier League clubs to do exactly what Solskjaer spoke about, aided by a growing belief that Financial Fair Play rules will have to be loosened.

“Leicester should be going for it in the summer,” the lawyer adds. “Or Everton. Go for it big time. FFP will be a bit relaxed. You can go big without spending too much money. You can get two £60 million players for £30 million this summer. Leicester or Everton could not normally do that. Now they could. They can say to clubs in Italy or Spain, take it or leave it, because the money isn’t coming from anywhere else. Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Ajax… players will be there for the taking. You could have a real go.”

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Not every club will have that financial wherewithal, which is why another agent thinks that free transfers will be in vogue again. Willian at Chelsea, Jan Vertonghen at Spurs, Liverpool’s Adam Lallana and Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth are among those who stand to benefit as their contracts wind down. At the very least, the pool of clubs interested in signing them will have grown.

“There was so much money out there before that clubs would pay for the player they really wanted. They wouldn’t take a Bosman because he’s a Bosman — he had to be good enough,” an agent explains. “But this summer it might switch around. Now, because of this crash, we don’t know where the transfer market is, so Bosmans might be more valuable than at any time since Steve McManaman’s days. Bosmans could have their heyday again.”

Another agent echoes those sentiments. “I am already getting calls from clubs asking, ‘Is he going to be a free? We’ll have him.’ Before the coronavirus they weren’t even looking at that player, they were looking at spending £3-4 million abroad. They can’t be thinking along those lines anymore. Now the coronavirus has struck, those free transfers are going to become premium players, they will be snapped up at the earliest point.”


Forget the violins. Few will have any sympathy for football agents when they think about the fallout from the coronavirus and the jobs that could be lost in this profession. The 92 professional clubs spent about £318 million on agents last season (£260 million of that expenditure was in the Premier League, including £43 million from Liverpool alone), which is a staggering sum. It is little wonder that supporters — and some club executives for that matter — believe that far too much money is going out of the game and into the pockets of agents.

The reality, though, is that footballers need representation and, as with any industry, there are good and bad people making a living out of being agents (or “intermediaries”, as FIFA decided they should be known after the world governing body controversially abandoned its licensing system in 2015).

Agents normally get paid their percentage of the player’s salary, or a fixed fee if that is what was agreed, in two installments: in February and September. All payments made by a club to an intermediary have to go via the FA’s “clearing house” first, along with the paperwork. The process at the FA can be slow, but nothing compared to how long some clubs take to transfer the money in the first place — and that was the case when football was operating as normal.

While the big agencies in the UK (such as Stellar, Wasserman, Base Soccer, New Era and Unique Sports Management) will be able to ride out this storm, some of the smaller companies — and especially those intermediaries working in League One and League Two — may well struggle to survive.

“God knows how some of the agents operating at, say, Doncaster will get paid,” says an agent working for one of the five mentioned above. “Clubs at that level will eventually turn £3,000 in February into £500 a month from October, when the season is up and away and they’ve got fans in the ground. And then they’ll be so far behind in terms of September’s payments.”

It is not uncommon at Championship level for agents to pursue payments for six months or more and to send letters threatening to sue before seeing their money. Nobody wants to go down that route, but it is often a case of needs must. One agency spent two years chasing a five-figure sum from a League One club, eventually agreed an installment plan, received the first payment and then the money dried up again.

“You have to send letters a lot,” says an experienced agent. “We aren’t getting paid at the minute. We’ve got it in our heads that we might not get paid for six months. But I know I’ll get paid by certain clubs. In theory, agents could say to all clubs, ‘We want our money, pay it or we’re going to sue you.’ But do you want to sue a football club at this moment in time? We won’t do that. But some agents will if they need to survive.”

It is understood that one Championship club has already said that it will defer all agent payments for a year. The way things are going, that could be one of the better agreements in the Football League. Another agency told The Athletic that, in the wake of the pandemic, they are basing their financial forecasts on not receiving a penny of the money they are owed from League One down. It is almost unthinkable in this financial climate to chase an invoice at that level.

Then again, Premier League clubs present their share of challenges too. “Agents are always the last people to be paid — every time,” says the sports lawyer. “I had a chat last week with an agent of a Premier League player. He was due money in a few months’ time — you are normally paid in February or September, but some installments can be paid in June. I said to him I wouldn’t be surprised if you get asked by this actually quite healthy club to defer it. He said he would defer, within reason.

“But there is so much paperwork that goes into these agency agreements. You need to tweak the FA paperwork, there are forms to be doing. Will agents want interest? Will agents want legal fees paid by clubs for the amending of agreements? They would be absolutely entitled to expect that.”

Except what people are entitled to, and what people can expect to get, are two different things in the world right now. Plus, there is a balance to be struck in all of this — nobody wants to burn bridges. “Realistically, agents are in a weird position,” the sports lawyer adds. “If I have a player in a first team at a club, I am not going to present a winding-up petition to that club. It would affect your client and future relationship.

“I expect agents to have a lot of offers made for payments deferred. Clubs will use that to their advantage. There are cases when agents are due money owed nine months ago. Now you hear from clubs, ‘We were going to pay, but coronavirus…’ I am sorry, but that is bollocks.

“One of those particular clubs has a wealthy owner who doesn’t put his hand in his pocket. We are talking five and six-figure payments here. These agents are not millionaires in most cases, they do their accounts and their VAT and are good guys. You cannot just write off money like this. Junior agents will be on £20,000 per year plus commission. It is going to be really difficult for agents, balancing between upsetting clubs they are dealing with and protecting their own agency.”


In truth, there are so many unknowns in all of this, right down to how long the summer window will be open for business. One leading agent envisages everything being crammed into a few weeks, which is how clubs often end up doing their deals anyway. Another says the total opposite. “It won’t be condensed. It will be 12 weeks. The law (as laid down by FIFA) is 16 weeks, of which January is one month. So they’ll then do three months from a sensible date.”

Then there is the question as to what exactly happens with the players who are out of contract on June 30, especially as we now know that the season will almost certainly be extended in the Football League as well as the Premier League. Agents are being quizzed every day by players who are in that position of being on a free transfer in the summer, and unable to come up with a clear answer, with FIFA’s vague guidance earlier in the week doing nothing to help matters.

Realistically, none of those soon-to-be out-of-contract players — and there are hundreds of them in the Championship alone — will want to take a pay cut or defer wages unless it is imposed on them. Some of those players actually stand to benefit by the season being extended, given they are on salaries that they will not be able to command elsewhere. But will they even want to play on if they are jeopardising a long-term deal for a short-term contract extension?

As for loan players, that is another huge issue. One Premier League player is costing the Championship club where he is on loan £20,000 a week, which is a lot of money at the best of times. It is financial suicide when that club has no realistic prospect of winning promotion.

“Loans are a problem,” an agent says. “It doesn’t affect them (the players) because they’re getting paid by their parent club (which is what happens with all domestic loans). But say a Championship club is mid-table, the season is extended for six weeks, they’re going to have to keep paying the parent club until the season is over even if they don’t want those loan players. And it’s not like they’re playing for prize money, like in the Premier League. It will kill some of the Championship clubs.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Agents anticipate Championship clubs being open to renegotiating transfer clauses that would ordinarily have been triggered further down the line — for example, payments that are due depending on Premier League survival or a player reaching a certain number of appearances. That could mean clubs writing off six-figure sums to get their hands on cash now.

The landscape is constantly shifting in the top flight, too. One Premier League club held a video call with an agent recently with a view to signing a player who was in line to join another top-flight team for the 2020-21 season. The selling club are desperate for money, but the original buyer is stretched to the limit financially, so they are at the risk of being outbid. The player’s new buyers are confident they can land him for as little as £500,000 more than the fee that was previously agreed. That a Premier League club could lose out on a signing over that small a sum says everything.

One agent is working round the clock with two clubs to extend an option-to-buy in a loan deal. The option is to buy for £15 million, but it expires on May 5. The player wants to make the move permanent but the loan club will not be in a position to make a decision or pay the money by that date because of the uncertainty. The parent club will probably seek a higher fee if the clause expires, but equally in the current climate they might not get a higher fee. So the agent hopes brokering an extension will suit all parties, but it’s a race against time.

There are brutal mind games at play, too. One agent talks about a young Premier League defender who is destined for a multi-million pound transfer this summer and says that the player’s chances of leaving could be helped if he refuses to give up a chunk of his wages. The agent’s theory is that the player’s employers will be in a more desperate state as a result and therefore likely to accept a lower offer for him when the window opens.

Another agent — and this illustrates just how confused the thinking is in football right now — takes the opposite view and believes that his client has a far better chance of getting a big move to another Premier League club if he “doesn’t piss the owners off now” and instead accepts a pay deferral. “It could get to the summer and they say, ‘We’re gonna ask for £30 million for you.’ He can turn around and say, ‘Well, hold on a minute, I helped you out a few months ago. Now you’re holding me to ransom?’

Football, like so many other businesses, is in uncharted waters and there is an awful lot of second-guessing going on. It is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen over the coming months because there is no precedent for this sort of crisis. Indeed, that raises an interesting question in itself: will future contracts protect against loss of earnings in the event of a pandemic?

“A couple of my clients abroad have income protection insurance, so they should be OK theoretically,” the sports lawyer says. “Standard contracts in England don’t have force majeure clauses if a season is suspended. But in Scotland, they do.

“At Hearts, all the players got a letter saying there will be a 50 per cent reduction. The agent called and asked if it was allowed. It turns out it is. The Scottish contract has a cover page and then three schedules attached to it. These are standard PDF documents for the standard SPL contract. But it is there, in black and white, schedule 3, paragraph 12, ‘In the event of the Scottish FA deciding that the game shall be suspended, either entirely or in any district or districts as provided for in the articles of association of the Scottish FA, this agreement shall be correspondingly suspended, unless the club is exempted from such suspension or the club otherwise determines.’

“That’s all it says. There is no explanation. Nobody has foreseen it happening. That’s why a club like Hearts can turn around and say: ‘Take a 50 per cent pay cut or we suspend your contract.’ The players have signed this. Hearts and other clubs are relying on it.”

It is understood that Hearts are not yet enforcing the clause and still hope to agree a deal with the players before there is a need to resort to it.

Elsewhere, the conversations carry on, between the leagues and the union, between the union and the players, between the players and the clubs, and between the players and their agents, to try and somehow find a resolution. Maybe it is easier to look for a conclusion. As one agent put it rather succinctly, “Fundamentally, football is fucked.”

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4 hours ago, Vesper said:

‘Fundamentally, football is fucked’ – what agents are doing and thinking now

https://theathletic.com/1725847/2020/04/11/agents-transfers-wage-talks-lallana-willian-bosman/

Football-Agents-scaled-e1586535273863-1024x684.jpg

As usual, their mobile phones haven’t stopped ringing. The only difference for football agents is that it’s not the sort of calls they’re used to taking at this time of year. Sporting directors, chief executives and managers have other things on their mind right now than making signings. “I’ve had two inquiries from clubs asking about a player and that’s it,” one of the country’s leading agents says. “It’s dead quiet.”

Instead, the voice at the other end tends to be a player, asking for advice about pay cuts and deferrals — a subject that has driven some footballers around the bend as they canvass opinion among their squad about the latest proposal. More often than not, the player at the centre of it all ends up going round in circles. “This is carnage, I’ve been on the phone for 12 hours,” one Premier League captain told his agent this week.

“No one can agree,” the agent adds. “You’ve got lads at Manchester City, Man United and Liverpool who all want to do one thing, then you have the lads at Burnley and Norwich. Pay cuts and deferrals will be individual, for sure. It just makes sense.”

While the 20 Premier League captains did come to an agreement this week on the formation of an initiative that will help to provide funds for the NHS in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, accepting pay reductions at clubs is a totally different matter. Some players are hugely sceptical, according to their agents. “A lot of the players at one club were saying, ‘I know what’ll happen, we’ll take a deferral, a cut, then we’ll go and sign some crap player from abroad for £30 million who plays five games for the club and we’ll pay them off three years later.’”

For now, agents are doing a lot more listening than negotiating. Essentially, they are providing support and guidance to their clients at a time of huge uncertainty — the majority of professional footballers aren’t millionaires who are set up for life.

“It’s advice on wage cuts at the moment,” says one agent. “Your players will ask you, ‘What do you think?’

“Say a player is on £10,000 a week, and he pays 50 per cent tax, so he’s on £5,000 net. Then the club want another 30 per cent? Not to say someone couldn’t live off that, but it’s all relative. He’s got a 15-year mortgage because he’s due to retire when he’s 35. He bought his house when he was 20. So it could’ve been £600 a month over 40 years, but instead he’s paying back £5,000 a month. The outgoings are geared up to these boys retiring at 35.”

Most agents are keen to avoid becoming directly involved in negotiations around pay cuts and deferrals. The cynic would say that is because there is no money in it for them, although that is not strictly true. In theory, a pay cut for a player should mean a pay cut for his agent, bearing in mind they normally get a percentage of their client’s salary.

“I’d expect to feel the same pain as the players felt,” one agent says. “Sometimes clubs want a specific figure as an agent’s fee instead of a percentage. If you’ve got a specific figure put in, you won’t be affected. I would say one out of five deals are done like that, and that’s usually the club being smart because they don’t want to incorporate add-ons into the agent’s fee.”

Generally, agents see these pay discussions as an issue for the players to resolve in talks with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and their club. In that respect, a player’s representative is little more than a sounding board. “We’re trying to stay out of it really,” another agent explains, “because we need to maintain good relationships with the clubs as well as the players. The PFA are fighting for them, that’s what the players want them to do.”

The negotiations are anything but straightforward, not least because financial circumstances will differ greatly within the same dressing room, never mind within leagues. “A unilateral agreement was never going to happen in a million years,” one agent says.

A sports lawyer, who works with Premier League agents and also represents Football League clubs, agrees. “You cannot just impose a blanket pay cut,” he says. “You need to show the players why the money needs to be saved in each individual case. It may be a certain number of weeks for a deferral, that is fair. But a 30 per cent cut just isn’t fair. Can you imagine walking in one day to Morgan Stanley and telling everyone ‘you are docked 30 per cent wages’? It just wouldn’t happen.

“I had a chat with an agent yesterday. He was saying a banker would earn £2 million annually, he would have a longer career, he would have a university degree and a private school background, as well as family wealth. A footballer might have grown up in a council house, can’t believe where he came from and has a soccer school in his local area. That’s what these guys are really saying and thinking.”

There is another intriguing aspect to all of this and it should probably be filed in a boardroom folder marked “reap what you sow”. Some football club owners have generated a lot of goodwill within their club over the years because of their personality, the way they interact with players and staff, and more generally how they run the business.

Others have little or no meaningful contact with the players and have done next to nothing to build up any debt of gratitude over time. Not surprisingly, those relationships will have a significant impact on how players feel about helping their owner or chairman in a time of crisis and whether they believe the situation is as grave as they are being told.

“The thing you have with the Brighton boys is that they like the owner,” an agent says. “Tony Bloom, Brighton’s owner, does everything he can to help the players. They know that if they went to him in any other circumstance with a problem he would help them. But some of these other owners would say, ‘It’s not my problem.’”

It’s not hard to imagine players at Tottenham Hotspur or Newcastle being reluctant to assist chairmen or owners who have a reputation for penny-pinching and were quick to furlough staff at the first opportunity. One agent suggested that Tottenham’s players may struggle to have sympathy for billionaire owner Joe Lewis, particularly those who have been aboard his yacht and seen the lavish decor.

While pay talks are occupying the minds of agents and dominating their conversations with players at the moment, there is a bigger picture for them to consider when it comes to their role within the game. Some are worried about their livelihoods — not every agent is signing off multi-million pound deals like Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes — and wondering when, realistically, they can expect to be paid the fees they are owed. Others are trying to imagine what sort of state the summer transfer window will be in when it finally opens for business.


Bosmans and bargains — that’s the transfer market theme for the 2020-21 season, according to those who make a living out of moving footballers. It will be a buyers’ market, for sure — and that, naturally, suits the clubs who don’t need a helping hand in the first place.

“For Man United, Chelsea and Man City, buying players will be like businessmen buying businesses that are on the floor. They will see this as a way of maintaining their place at the top of the table for the next five years with no big transfer fees needed,” one agent said.

That comment was made before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked about how United “might just be in a situation you can exploit”. For some wider context to that remark, Solskjaer was responding to a question from Gary Neville, who later accepted that he shouldn’t have used the word “exploit” when he asked his former team-mate about United’s transfer strategy in the wake of a global pandemic.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of that episode, the reality is that Solskjaer was saying what everybody in the game already knows. United, along with football’s other financial powerhouses, will be able to capitalise on the dreadful state that many football clubs will be in when the summer window opens, and that could have severe consequences for some.

In the Championship, where 11 players were sold for fees in excess of £10 million last summer and the 24 clubs made a collective £140 million profit on transfer deals to partly offset the financial mess elsewhere on their balance sheets, the market is expected to collapse. One agent described it as “a broken division”. Another predicted the big clubs will pick up the best young talent in the second tier for knock-down fees. Expect more fees closer to £5 million than the £25 million Tottenham spent on Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon last summer.

Some agents — and this, whether you like it or not, is how the business side of football works — are already sensing that doors are opening in a way that wasn’t possible before this pandemic. “I spoke to an agent and the situation has sorted him out big time,” adds the sports lawyer. “The club that has his prized asset now needs money. There will be so much less resistance. You go from public enemy No 1 to being the guy who was sold to save the club.”

Warming to his theme, the lawyer says that he senses a chance for a select group of Premier League clubs to do exactly what Solskjaer spoke about, aided by a growing belief that Financial Fair Play rules will have to be loosened.

“Leicester should be going for it in the summer,” the lawyer adds. “Or Everton. Go for it big time. FFP will be a bit relaxed. You can go big without spending too much money. You can get two £60 million players for £30 million this summer. Leicester or Everton could not normally do that. Now they could. They can say to clubs in Italy or Spain, take it or leave it, because the money isn’t coming from anywhere else. Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Ajax… players will be there for the taking. You could have a real go.”

ADAM-LALLANA.jpg

Not every club will have that financial wherewithal, which is why another agent thinks that free transfers will be in vogue again. Willian at Chelsea, Jan Vertonghen at Spurs, Liverpool’s Adam Lallana and Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth are among those who stand to benefit as their contracts wind down. At the very least, the pool of clubs interested in signing them will have grown.

“There was so much money out there before that clubs would pay for the player they really wanted. They wouldn’t take a Bosman because he’s a Bosman — he had to be good enough,” an agent explains. “But this summer it might switch around. Now, because of this crash, we don’t know where the transfer market is, so Bosmans might be more valuable than at any time since Steve McManaman’s days. Bosmans could have their heyday again.”

Another agent echoes those sentiments. “I am already getting calls from clubs asking, ‘Is he going to be a free? We’ll have him.’ Before the coronavirus they weren’t even looking at that player, they were looking at spending £3-4 million abroad. They can’t be thinking along those lines anymore. Now the coronavirus has struck, those free transfers are going to become premium players, they will be snapped up at the earliest point.”


Forget the violins. Few will have any sympathy for football agents when they think about the fallout from the coronavirus and the jobs that could be lost in this profession. The 92 professional clubs spent about £318 million on agents last season (£260 million of that expenditure was in the Premier League, including £43 million from Liverpool alone), which is a staggering sum. It is little wonder that supporters — and some club executives for that matter — believe that far too much money is going out of the game and into the pockets of agents.

The reality, though, is that footballers need representation and, as with any industry, there are good and bad people making a living out of being agents (or “intermediaries”, as FIFA decided they should be known after the world governing body controversially abandoned its licensing system in 2015).

Agents normally get paid their percentage of the player’s salary, or a fixed fee if that is what was agreed, in two installments: in February and September. All payments made by a club to an intermediary have to go via the FA’s “clearing house” first, along with the paperwork. The process at the FA can be slow, but nothing compared to how long some clubs take to transfer the money in the first place — and that was the case when football was operating as normal.

While the big agencies in the UK (such as Stellar, Wasserman, Base Soccer, New Era and Unique Sports Management) will be able to ride out this storm, some of the smaller companies — and especially those intermediaries working in League One and League Two — may well struggle to survive.

“God knows how some of the agents operating at, say, Doncaster will get paid,” says an agent working for one of the five mentioned above. “Clubs at that level will eventually turn £3,000 in February into £500 a month from October, when the season is up and away and they’ve got fans in the ground. And then they’ll be so far behind in terms of September’s payments.”

It is not uncommon at Championship level for agents to pursue payments for six months or more and to send letters threatening to sue before seeing their money. Nobody wants to go down that route, but it is often a case of needs must. One agency spent two years chasing a five-figure sum from a League One club, eventually agreed an installment plan, received the first payment and then the money dried up again.

“You have to send letters a lot,” says an experienced agent. “We aren’t getting paid at the minute. We’ve got it in our heads that we might not get paid for six months. But I know I’ll get paid by certain clubs. In theory, agents could say to all clubs, ‘We want our money, pay it or we’re going to sue you.’ But do you want to sue a football club at this moment in time? We won’t do that. But some agents will if they need to survive.”

It is understood that one Championship club has already said that it will defer all agent payments for a year. The way things are going, that could be one of the better agreements in the Football League. Another agency told The Athletic that, in the wake of the pandemic, they are basing their financial forecasts on not receiving a penny of the money they are owed from League One down. It is almost unthinkable in this financial climate to chase an invoice at that level.

Then again, Premier League clubs present their share of challenges too. “Agents are always the last people to be paid — every time,” says the sports lawyer. “I had a chat last week with an agent of a Premier League player. He was due money in a few months’ time — you are normally paid in February or September, but some installments can be paid in June. I said to him I wouldn’t be surprised if you get asked by this actually quite healthy club to defer it. He said he would defer, within reason.

“But there is so much paperwork that goes into these agency agreements. You need to tweak the FA paperwork, there are forms to be doing. Will agents want interest? Will agents want legal fees paid by clubs for the amending of agreements? They would be absolutely entitled to expect that.”

Except what people are entitled to, and what people can expect to get, are two different things in the world right now. Plus, there is a balance to be struck in all of this — nobody wants to burn bridges. “Realistically, agents are in a weird position,” the sports lawyer adds. “If I have a player in a first team at a club, I am not going to present a winding-up petition to that club. It would affect your client and future relationship.

“I expect agents to have a lot of offers made for payments deferred. Clubs will use that to their advantage. There are cases when agents are due money owed nine months ago. Now you hear from clubs, ‘We were going to pay, but coronavirus…’ I am sorry, but that is bollocks.

“One of those particular clubs has a wealthy owner who doesn’t put his hand in his pocket. We are talking five and six-figure payments here. These agents are not millionaires in most cases, they do their accounts and their VAT and are good guys. You cannot just write off money like this. Junior agents will be on £20,000 per year plus commission. It is going to be really difficult for agents, balancing between upsetting clubs they are dealing with and protecting their own agency.”


In truth, there are so many unknowns in all of this, right down to how long the summer window will be open for business. One leading agent envisages everything being crammed into a few weeks, which is how clubs often end up doing their deals anyway. Another says the total opposite. “It won’t be condensed. It will be 12 weeks. The law (as laid down by FIFA) is 16 weeks, of which January is one month. So they’ll then do three months from a sensible date.”

Then there is the question as to what exactly happens with the players who are out of contract on June 30, especially as we now know that the season will almost certainly be extended in the Football League as well as the Premier League. Agents are being quizzed every day by players who are in that position of being on a free transfer in the summer, and unable to come up with a clear answer, with FIFA’s vague guidance earlier in the week doing nothing to help matters.

Realistically, none of those soon-to-be out-of-contract players — and there are hundreds of them in the Championship alone — will want to take a pay cut or defer wages unless it is imposed on them. Some of those players actually stand to benefit by the season being extended, given they are on salaries that they will not be able to command elsewhere. But will they even want to play on if they are jeopardising a long-term deal for a short-term contract extension?

As for loan players, that is another huge issue. One Premier League player is costing the Championship club where he is on loan £20,000 a week, which is a lot of money at the best of times. It is financial suicide when that club has no realistic prospect of winning promotion.

“Loans are a problem,” an agent says. “It doesn’t affect them (the players) because they’re getting paid by their parent club (which is what happens with all domestic loans). But say a Championship club is mid-table, the season is extended for six weeks, they’re going to have to keep paying the parent club until the season is over even if they don’t want those loan players. And it’s not like they’re playing for prize money, like in the Premier League. It will kill some of the Championship clubs.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Agents anticipate Championship clubs being open to renegotiating transfer clauses that would ordinarily have been triggered further down the line — for example, payments that are due depending on Premier League survival or a player reaching a certain number of appearances. That could mean clubs writing off six-figure sums to get their hands on cash now.

The landscape is constantly shifting in the top flight, too. One Premier League club held a video call with an agent recently with a view to signing a player who was in line to join another top-flight team for the 2020-21 season. The selling club are desperate for money, but the original buyer is stretched to the limit financially, so they are at the risk of being outbid. The player’s new buyers are confident they can land him for as little as £500,000 more than the fee that was previously agreed. That a Premier League club could lose out on a signing over that small a sum says everything.

One agent is working round the clock with two clubs to extend an option-to-buy in a loan deal. The option is to buy for £15 million, but it expires on May 5. The player wants to make the move permanent but the loan club will not be in a position to make a decision or pay the money by that date because of the uncertainty. The parent club will probably seek a higher fee if the clause expires, but equally in the current climate they might not get a higher fee. So the agent hopes brokering an extension will suit all parties, but it’s a race against time.

There are brutal mind games at play, too. One agent talks about a young Premier League defender who is destined for a multi-million pound transfer this summer and says that the player’s chances of leaving could be helped if he refuses to give up a chunk of his wages. The agent’s theory is that the player’s employers will be in a more desperate state as a result and therefore likely to accept a lower offer for him when the window opens.

Another agent — and this illustrates just how confused the thinking is in football right now — takes the opposite view and believes that his client has a far better chance of getting a big move to another Premier League club if he “doesn’t piss the owners off now” and instead accepts a pay deferral. “It could get to the summer and they say, ‘We’re gonna ask for £30 million for you.’ He can turn around and say, ‘Well, hold on a minute, I helped you out a few months ago. Now you’re holding me to ransom?’

Football, like so many other businesses, is in uncharted waters and there is an awful lot of second-guessing going on. It is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen over the coming months because there is no precedent for this sort of crisis. Indeed, that raises an interesting question in itself: will future contracts protect against loss of earnings in the event of a pandemic?

“A couple of my clients abroad have income protection insurance, so they should be OK theoretically,” the sports lawyer says. “Standard contracts in England don’t have force majeure clauses if a season is suspended. But in Scotland, they do.

“At Hearts, all the players got a letter saying there will be a 50 per cent reduction. The agent called and asked if it was allowed. It turns out it is. The Scottish contract has a cover page and then three schedules attached to it. These are standard PDF documents for the standard SPL contract. But it is there, in black and white, schedule 3, paragraph 12, ‘In the event of the Scottish FA deciding that the game shall be suspended, either entirely or in any district or districts as provided for in the articles of association of the Scottish FA, this agreement shall be correspondingly suspended, unless the club is exempted from such suspension or the club otherwise determines.’

“That’s all it says. There is no explanation. Nobody has foreseen it happening. That’s why a club like Hearts can turn around and say: ‘Take a 50 per cent pay cut or we suspend your contract.’ The players have signed this. Hearts and other clubs are relying on it.”

It is understood that Hearts are not yet enforcing the clause and still hope to agree a deal with the players before there is a need to resort to it.

Elsewhere, the conversations carry on, between the leagues and the union, between the union and the players, between the players and the clubs, and between the players and their agents, to try and somehow find a resolution. Maybe it is easier to look for a conclusion. As one agent put it rather succinctly, “Fundamentally, football is fucked.”

This is how I have been seeing it. Be interesting to see how Chelsea/Roman go about things.

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Kai Havertz: "I'm ready to take a big step, and I like challenges. For me, this also includes abroad"

https://bulinews.com/news/4974/kai-havertz-ready-take-a-big-step

Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz says he feels 'ready to take a big step' in his career.

Prior to the corona crisis, Havertz looked certain to leave BayArena this summer, but in the last few weeks, Leverkusen boss Rudi Völler has suggested that the 20-year-old could perhaps stay for another season after all.

But while Havertz admits he can't predict how the coronavirus will affect the upcoming transfer window, he still seems keen on a summer move.

"I'm ready to take a big step, and I like challenges. For me, this also includes abroad," Havertz told Sport Bild and added:

"Leverkusen are a great club, I feel good. I have always said that. But of course I want to take the next step in my career at some point. That's my ambition."

When choosing his future employer, the coach will be a key factor for Havertz.

"The coach is a very important person for me. It must be a good fit. You can see that with our coach, Peter Bosz. For me, the sporting direction of the club is also reflected in the choice of coach," the midfielder emphasized.

Havertz's contract with Leverkusen expires in 2022. He has been linked with the likes of Bayern München, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool.

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Real want to bring in Haaland and Mbappe to play alongside Benzema

https://www.eurosport.co.uk/football/transfers/2019-2020/_sto7729080/story.shtml

2805904-57883090-2560-1440.jpg?w=1750

Real Madrid want Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, Brighton plan for empty stadiums, Manchester United target Purvis Estupinan and Chelsea aim for huge pay cut.

 

Real target Haaland

Real Madrid continue to target Erling Haaland despite the likely contract extension to be handed to Karim Benzema in the coming months. The Daily Mail reports only coronavirus stopped the extension from being confirmed, and that the Borussia Dortmund forward will arrive to provide competition for the French striker. The 32-year-old forward may also be joined by Kylian Mbappe in 2021.

Paper Round’s view: It is not made clear why Borussia Dortmund would be prepared to let Haaland go after less than a year at the German club, but with Mino Raiola involved there is every chance that he will be on the move regularly to earn plenty of commissions for the agent. Mbappe as well would give Real the pace they have lacked since Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo lost their youth.

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Can not see this happening. Arsenal is to small for him. Why would he leave Atletico for them?

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23 hours ago, NikkiCFC said:

Can not see this happening. Arsenal is to small for him. Why would he leave Atletico for them?

Play in the PL for big money I guess.

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On 22/04/2020 at 5:45 PM, NikkiCFC said:

Can not see this happening. Arsenal is to small for him. Why would he leave Atletico for them?

Thomas at Arse is bad for us, he is a world class DMF who also is a great passer. His release clause is only (pre COVID only) £42m too.

He is a MASSIVE upgrade on the dullard Granit Xhaka and the midget Lucas Torreira (who is overrated IMHO.).

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10 hours ago, NikkiCFC said:

Would rather have him than Coutinho.

Two different types of players, Coutinho is an AMF/LW, where Aouar is more a CMF/LMF (can play at No 10 or AMF if needed) who is very good at dribbling and passing, and MAY become a great scorer. They could easily both start on the same side for many (if not most) teams. 

I would be more than happy with both (especially if we fail on Sancho, as their combined price would/should be less than what Sancho will end up costing alone (COVID-19 hedge, as usual)

 

Here are the only CMF's in the world I rate over Aouar atm (the ones in bold are now too old to buy)

Saúl Ñíguez 
Frenkie je Jong
Marco Verratti    
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic 
Paul Pogba (when his head is right)
Thiago (Bayern)
Toni Kroos (last year in top 10 maybe)
Artur
Miralem Pjanic (last year in top 10 for CMF, but he can also play DH DMF, where he is also WC)
Federico Valverde

 

and the ony AMF's in the world I rate over Coutinho (and Coutinho is versatile enough to play LW)  


Kevin De Bruyne    
Kai Havertz 
Bruno Fernandes
James Maddison (maybe, and especially due to age)

I would rather we go for Grealish, but Coutinho is probably my 2nd choice, and again, in FM world, ALL THREE could start on the same side, Grealish at No 10/AMF, Coutinho at LW, and Aouar at CMF

I so doubt that is going to happen, my overall expectations are massively lower now, until Roman proves me otherwise

with FFP out the window, if the bloke cares to the level he needs to care to put together a top 5 in the world squad (which we have been for the past 16 year in agregarate, we are 4th over the past 15 in UEFA coefficient, 5th over the past 10) he needs to spend big and grab WC players to compliment our youth

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On 11/04/2020 at 7:27 PM, MoroccanBlue said:

Lautaro’s agent confirmed Chelsea link

We have very little chance of getting him if any at all as theres some sort of gentlemans agreement place with Inter that if they are open to selling/the player is open to going that they get first refusal, as well as the fact multiple sources have said that he has already agreed personal terms more or less.

Barca want him and have a collection of players Inter like that they could offer such as Rakitic, Semedo and Umtiti to sweeten the deal. They also wanted Arthur but that was a no go apparently. 

I am 90% sure he will be a Barcelona player just like I am 90% sure Werner will be a Liverpool player. We need to wait and see but Martinez, Werner, even Sancho I imagine we will not be their first choices not by a longshot. 

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