Matthew Smith, Deputy Sports Editor, here at Gulf News blogs about all things football, and this month the focus is on inter-team transfers across the board. Rumours, deals and speculations, no topic is off-limit here.
Wenger and Arsenal do not have their troubles to seek
Relentless rumbles of dissatisfaction from the fans as Ozil and Sanchez stall.
It has been a thankless task for Arsene Wenger to carry out his job as Arsenal coach in recent years – just look at the grey mop on his head to see the stress he is under.
And the charming fans of the London club are likely to be out in force calling for the Frenchman’s head again unless for quick and promising business is done in the transfer window this month.
With Manchester City reducing them to also-rans in the Premier League title race, Arsenal’s big issue is holding onto what they have. Alexis Sanchez, Mezut Ozil and Theo Walcott are all nearing the exit and only Lucas Perez being recalled from loan on the cards at the moment. Maybe Wenger has a trump up his sleeve from Germany or France but options look thin.
I honestly can’t see where they will get a quick-fix solution. Some names to have been bandied about are Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, Nabil Fekir of Lyon, Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and Sevilla’s Steven N’Zonzi.
Even if these potential targets become realities, City, Chelsea and United et al will hardly be quaking in their boots.
Maybe they should just bite the bullet and wait until after the World Cup in Russia this summer, when the real big targets will become apparent rather than impulse-buy now and end up with poorer players in an already large squad.
Wenger will also hope to move out some fringe players in his squad and Calum Chambers, Walcott, Mathieu Debuchy and Chuba Akpom could be on their way from The Emirates.
But if City come calling for Sanchez, whom they courted during the summer of 2017, a huge gap will need to be filled in Wenger’s midfield, and in his future plans.
Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho will use the January transfer window to lure Antoine Griezman to Old Trafford, offer Napoli £53 million for left-back Faouzi Ghoulam and make a move for Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Moura, according to The Guardian.
The Telegraph are reporting that Liverpool will want an "astronomical" fee from Barcelona for Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho.
Sky Italia says Giorgio Chiellini’s move to Chelsea from Juventus is in doubt after he signed a contract extension with the Turin side.
Swansea City have shown interest in West Ham United striker Diafra Sakho, according to The Guardian
And The Sun says Huddersfield and Watford are interested in Wolves defender Kortney Hause, 22.
Transfer talk across Europe’s top leagues
Get ready for more transfer market madness as the January window opens on Monday.
During the summer of 2017, Neymar’s record-breaking €222 million move from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain dominated the headlines, while Philippe Coutinho’s on-off and ultimately doomed transfer from Liverpool to the Catalan giants showed that there is no such thing as a done deal until the signature is on the dotted line.
With many of the top European leagues already taking shape with dominant championship contenders, only Serie A in Italy remains tight at the top.
The race for Uefa Champions League places and plans for the 2018-19 season will be high on the agenda for teams looking to strengthen their squad.
There is also the factor of the World Cup finals in Russia next summer and some players will be looking to make a move and guarantee playing time to force their way into the reckoning for their respective national sides.
Players who will be out of contract in the summer are now also permitted to speak to clubs and broker a deal to transfer in July.
Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang get his move away from stuttering Borussia Dortmund?
What about Everton’s Ross Barkley, who has been unsettled since failing to get a transfer in the summer?
Will any big names come in for Emre Can at Liverpool, given he will be out of contract after the season is over?
And will Philippe Coutinho complete his saga and swap Anfield for Barcelona?
All these questions and more will be answered over the next month and we will keep you posted with all the news right here.
Scroll down to see the list of 10 most expensive transfers yet.
Window of opportunity arrives just in time for Premier League leaders Manchester City
A 0-0 draw with lowly Crystal Palace is not the way Pep Guardiola would have liked to see out 2017, but he has far more pressing issues.
The transfer window of opportunity has arrived just in time for the Premier League leaders who have inherited two concerning injuries as they push on for the domestic title, and fight for silverware in three other tournaments.
City look to have the Premier League title in the bag after goalkeeper Ederson saved a late penalty from Luka Milivojevic at Selhurst Park to preserve their unbeaten record in the league this season and move 14 points clear of their rivals.
That gap is a record at this stage of the season but City have been shorn of the services of striker Gabriel Jesus, who left the field in tears, and star playmaker Kevin de Bruyne, who was stretchered off late on against Palace.
Both players are expected to be out for at least a month.
City only have one fit striker – albeit in the prolific Argentine Sergio Aguero – and coach Guardiola may look to bring in a fresh face in January rather than wait until the summer, when many top players will be busy at the World Cup in Russia.
The man top of the agenda will be Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean has found his form again for the London club, but rumours persist that he wants a move to a bigger side in the pursuit of silverware.
The Gunners rejected a move for the Chilean from City in the summer of 2017 but as time winds down on his contract, the powers that be may decide to cash in on him rather than let him go for free this July.
Real Madrid are preparing an opening £120m bid for Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard according to The Sun newspaper.
Southampton keen on 28-year-old Arsenal winger Theo Walcott on loan according to the Daily Mail, with Everton, Watford and West Ham also interested
Manchester United hope to lure Juventus striker Paulo Dybala to Old Trafford according to the Daily Mail.
In Germany, Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka is expected to move to Bayern according to Bild.
Let the games begin
Virgil Van Dijk, Southampton to Liverpool, £75 million
Done and dusted, the £75 million (Dh372 million) deal may seem like a lot for a defender, but Liverpool’s acquirement of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton could prove to be a savvy piece of business by Jurgen Klopp.
The Anfield coach had a £60 million bid for the defender rejected in the summer of 2017, but he finally landed his man for a fee which is a world record for a defender.
Klopp said on Friday the "last thing" he considers is the fee "because we are thinking about the player”.
The 3-3 draw with Arsenal highlighted Liverpool’s frailties and if Van Dijk can plug the leak of goals and the club go on to secure second place in the Premier League – let’s face it, Manchester City are winning the title – and denying arch rivals Manchester United the runners-up spot, it will prove to be money well spent.
It is also a nice piece of business for Celtic in Scotland, who will pick up more than £6 million as part of a contractual sell-on agreement when he moved from the Glasgow club to Saints.
While Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho continue to bang in the goals up front, Liverpool look likely to be active throughout the transfer window.
Several out-of-favour Liverpool players could be on the move, with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings piquing interest from a host of clubs in England and abroad.
But there is only one man hogging the headlines in red at the moment and if he hits his stride, £75 million could look like quite a steal for Van Dijk’s move to Anfield.
World’s most expensive transfers
1. Neymar, 2017 - Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, £200.6 million
2. Ousmane Dembele, 2017 - Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona, £96.8m
3. Paul Pogba, 2016 - Juventus to Manchester United, £89m
4. Gareth Bale, 2013 - Tottenham to Real Madrid, £85.3m
5. Cristiano Ronaldo, 2009 - Manchester United to Real Madrid, £80m
6. Gonzalo Higuain, 2016 - Napoli to Juventus, £75.3m
7. Romelu Lukaku, 2017 - Everton to Manchester United, £75m
8. Virgil van Dijk, 2018 - Southampton to Liverpool, 2018, £75m
9. Luis Suarez, 2014 - Liverpool to Barcelona, £65m
10. James Rodriguez, 2014 - Monaco to Real Madrid, £63m