The festive period in football can mean many things for teams across the various leagues in Europe. Some have fixtures congestion, others have winter break while many go to warm training camps around the world. One thing that binds all of them together is the shadow of the looming transfer window in January.
Apart from strengthening squads midway through the season, it also serves a very important purpose. Players whose contracts run out in summer 2022 are free to sign a pre-transfer agreement now, and the list is filled with star names this time. FootTheBall looks at the 10 biggest deals that can happen next month.
Without doubt the most talked about player for next year, alongside Erling Haaland. The mercurial Frenchman recently became the quickest to 30 goals in the Champions League and his goal scoring exploits are known to everyone. Mbappe was the subject of much speculation last summer itself, with PSG trying desperately to get him to commit his future while rumours of Real Madrid waiting in the wings swirled.
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) December 6, 2021
Indeed, Los Blancos are the team most likely to land the 22-year-old, given Mbappe’s strong affection for them and the fact that very few other teams can offer that kind of salary. Furthermore, Mbappe has also spoken of his love in playing with Karim Benzema for France, and that could be another factor that sways him to sign the much awaited contract to secure his future in January.
Mino Raiola’s comments yesterday have kicked off a fresh storm of speculations regarding where Pogba will go next year. The superagent spoke of there being “many offers” including a “contract extension proposal.” The latter is no surprise given the arrival of Ralf Rangnick, who has spoken of using Pogba in his team when he returns from injury.
Man United contract extension proposal for Paul Pogba is on the table since last July. The proposal is still valid. No decision yet. 🔴 #MUFC
"Man United – massive club. I don’t think that anyone in the club would ever need convincing to stay here". Clear message from Rangnick. pic.twitter.com/9PNddIscnE
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 11, 2021
But the midfielder has most often been a divisive player with the fanbase, equally capable of moments of absolute genius and ineffectiveness. Pogba is another whose salary demands will leave the club pool very exclusive, as Raiola has already ruled out Bayern Munich. The next month will be crucial in negotiations with Manchester United, and then there can be more clarity on his future.
One of the players who have benefited massively since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. Rudiger has become a leader of the defence along with a potent offensive threat from set-pieces. His agility and reading of the game has increased manifold as evident by Chelsea conceding the least goals in the Premier League so far.
Thomas Tuchel had no update on the future of Antonio Rudiger earlier today but once again re-iterated he wants to keep the centre back at #CFC beyond the end of his contract in the summer. https://t.co/O9anfSM3iL
— Sam Inkersole (@Sam_InkersoleTM) December 10, 2021
However, the off-field situation is far from ideal for both player and club. Rudiger is adamant in becoming one of the highest paid players in the league, wanting a weekly wage of £350-400k. The Blues have not really shown an overt indication of giving him that kind of money. Among the four defenders out of contract in 2022, the negotiations with Rudiger have progressed the least.
Real Madrid have made Rüdiger a priority to sign this winter.
But Tuchel absolutely wants to keep him for the rest of the season, because finding a suitable replacement would be too expensive at this time.
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 10, 2021
Recently, there have come rumours of Real Madrid coveting the player in order to strengthen as they bid to mount a challenge for La Liga and the Champions League. Los Blancos certainly have the financial might to pay those kind of wages and this will be one of most keenly watched storylines in January.
Another summer, another first team player leaving Milan over differences in salary. After Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu were allowed to go, now it might be the time for Kessie. The defensive midfielder is asking for around €9m per year, that the Rossoneri consider a big no-no.
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) December 6, 2021
Under sporting director Paolo Maldini, it is looking extremely unlikely that talks will progress any further if the wage demands are not reduced significantly. Kessie has attracted offers from Europe, including Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. However, his sub-par performances in the Champions League might see the market cool down a bit for him.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) December 8, 2021
Nevertheless, he can be an all-round action player in many teams and no doubt will stay amongst the elite teams next year.
Napoli’s fourth-highest goal scorer in history, the pair have a love-hate relationship with each other often. The team are firmly entrenched as one of the best in Italy, but look far away from lifting silverware. Napoli have started strongly this season, currently sitting two points behind leaders Milan.
🚨 Tottenham are plotting a swoop for Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne when his contract ends in the summer.
(Source: Calciomercato) pic.twitter.com/UphpUcyFDe
— Transfer HQ (@Transfer__HQ) December 6, 2021
Still, the contract talks have not advanced as Insigne waits to see what kind of offers materialize in the near future. It will be a huge loss for Napoli to lose their captain, who showed at Euro 2020 just how deadly he remains in front of goal.
— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) December 9, 2021
Toronto FC have emerged as one of the unlikely frontrunners in chasing Insigne, with Inter, West Ham United and Newcastle United also monitoring the situation.
The longtime Torino striker and now captain has already turned down the club’s latest contract proposal some months back. It was revealed in October by the president Cairo himself, who also stated that it was a “huge proposal” and he feels Belotti has “no intention to do it.”
Andrea Belotti has chances to leave Torino as free agent next summer, as things stand now. He’s out of contract in June 2022 and he has not accepted yet last Torino proposal to extend current deal 🚫🇮🇹 #transfers
Zenit and Inter were interested last July – gonna be an open race.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) October 11, 2021
The striker’s situation had been looked at by Zenit and Inter, though the latter went on to sign Edin Dzeko. The Russian side, meanwhile, can renew their interest, especially if Sardar Azmoun (who is also a free agent in 2022) leaves. Spurs are another candidate who can offer a viable contract, with Harry Kane’s future also shrouded in mystery in the long term.
The ace hitman was one of the shining lights for Atletico Madrid last season, racking up 20+ goal contributions as they won the La Liga title. The return of Antoine Griezmann has lightened the burden on Suarez somewhat, but he still remains a key offensive piece for the team.
Barcelona told Luis Suarez he was too old.
He joined Ateltico Madrid and helped them win their first La Liga title in seven years 👏 pic.twitter.com/B0AL8sDGha
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 22, 2021
Atletico have the financial muscles to bring in new strikers over the summer, but it does look like he will be staying for another year. MLS can provide another alternative though he would much rather prefer to play in Europe for now. Suarez’s age might rule out an overseas move which means La Liga remains the most viable option.
It is mind boggling how little Isco’s name can be heard nowadays. The midfielder has only started two matches this season in La Liga, appearing in a further five as a substitute. Carlo Ancelotti clearly does not see him as a gamechanger, as the case under Zinedine Zidane towards the end of his reign.
🚨| Isco has "disappeared". Ancelotti wanted to recover him but now he is the last choice for the midfield. Ancelotti prefers the strength of Valverde and Camavinga to Isco. @diarioas pic.twitter.com/ItqXVJz7WS
— Blancos Central (@BlancosCentral) November 2, 2021
However, Isco remains a player who can decisively impact matches if given the proper backing and support. Real Madrid’s signing of Eduardo Camavinga has further pushed him down the pecking order and it is no surprise that he is nailed on to leave in 2022. There has not been too much excitement regarding a future club though there surely will be quite a few teams in the race for his signature.
“Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order.” It has been more than two years since Bale unfurled the iconic banner after Wales’ qualification for Euro 2020. Having spent last season out on loan back at Spurs, he has only appeared in three league games this season.
— Madrid Xtra. (@MadridXtra) May 21, 2021
Once again, Ancelotti has preferred other players to the Welshman, with the likes of Rodrygo and Marco Asensio being the regulars. In his prime, Bale was a one-man destructive force who could run through defences at will with his speed and tenacity. These days, his best play comes as part of a front three or two.
Moreover, his desire in playing golf is no secret either with Bale hinting that he could even retire in order to pursue it. However, there will definitely be some offers for him and could yet end up continuing to play in Europe.
Safe to say it has not exactly been a honeymoon for Dembele at Barcelona. He has suffered multiple injuries and missed months of action at a stretch ever since signing in 2017. Dembele started only 19 times last season in the league, and has only appeared two times this term.
🚨 Barcelona's Ousmane Dembélé wants a change of scenery as he looks to rebuild his injury-ridden career and that desire may land him in the Premier League.
(Source: Mundo Deportivo) pic.twitter.com/91NEhpdkT1
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) December 7, 2021
Xavi’s arrival was set to herald a new start for Dembele and provide him with fresh opportunities to stake his claim in the side. Both the manager and president Joan Laporta have openly stated that they would like to extend his stay at Camp Nou. However, money can become a pivotal sticking point in those negotiations as Barcelona are hamstrung under a mountain of debt.
Xavi: “Extending Ousmane Dembélé’s contract is one of our priorities, yes! He could be the best player in the world in his position”.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 8, 2021
The one positive thing in the club’s favour is Dembele is unlikely to be a starter elsewhere, unless he goes for a club inferior in stature to the Blaugrana.