Antoine Griezmann, Eden Hazard, Matthijs de Ligt, Rodri, Tanguy Ndombele, Aaron Wan-Bissaka… they’ve all been the subject of mega-money transfers this summer. Indeed, this window has been a busy one, because aren’t they always busy? And yet there remains a sense that a chain reaction will, at one point or another, be set off across the European transfer market.
For all the hundreds of millions already spent, all the glossy social media announcement videos already produced, European football feels wound tight over a stack of dominos that could fall at any moment. It’s a trail that snakes around most major clubs and all it could take is one transfer for things to start falling.
That one transfer could be Gareth Bale’s departure from Real Madrid. While the Welsh winger has been linked with an exit for a long time Zinedine Zidane’s comments this week have raised the likelihood of his imminent sale. It’s the kind of move that could have repercussions not just for Real Madrid, but for many of their rivals.
If Bale is sold to a club in the Chinese Super League, it could free up some funds for Real Madrid to finally make a move for Paul Pogba. The Spanish giants have done little to veil their admiration of the French midfielder, but have so far found themselves priced out of signing him, with Manchester United reportedly demanding a fee of around £140 million.
Pogba’s departure from Old Trafford could see United forced into the market to find a replacement, with Christian Eriksen seen by many as a natural target. But the Dane, who has admitted his desire for a new challenge, has also been linked with a switch to Real Madrid. He could be the consolation prize for whichever team starts the 2019/20 season without Pogba.
Real Madrid could feasibly use an agreement for Bale to push through a deal for Eriksen. Indeed, Tottenham Hotspur have reportedly weighed up a move for their former winger, but in the past few days Paris Saint-Germain have instead emerged as the European club leading the pursuit for the Wales international.
It is in PSG’s best interests to enquire about Bale’s availability given the saga they find themselves a part of concerning the future of Neymar. The Brazilian has voiced his desire to leave the French capital this summer with a return to Barcelona seemingly on the cards before this week. Bale, it has been speculated, could be part of a deal that sends Neymar to Real Madrid instead.
Of course, PSG are likely to receive at least one player in part-exchange for Neymar if they sell to Barcelona. Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Samuel Umtiti have all been mentioned as potential makeweights with the Catalans unwilling, and perhaps unable after the signing of Griezmann, to make a straight cash offer.
Either way, it seems that Bale’s and Neymar’s futures could end up tightly intertwined this summer. Most likely, the Welshman will become the highest paid player in the history of the sport by moving to China with the Brazilian pitching up at Camp Nou again having wasted the last two years of his career.
Even if that comes to pass, though, the impact will be felt across the European game. One event will be enough to set in motion a chain that could see as many as five world class players switch clubs before the start of the season. Bale’s departure from Real Madrid would be newsworthy in its own right. He is, after all, one of the best players in the world on his day. But there is more than just his future at stake with this move.