Fabrizio Romano’s latest column for CaughtOffside takes a look at the big transfer stories dominating the headlines as the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Eddie Nketiah near decisions over their futures.
Pogba’s future is open, but he should say no to City
We’ve seen some major headlines about a possible move across Manchester for Paul Pogba this summer, and my understanding is that the Frenchman is absolutely open to discuss many different options for his future.
At the moment, no official communication has arrived to Manchester United from the player, but this silence that has lasted for so many months now makes the club think that Paul will leave as a free agent.
Pogba is open to discussing with all clubs including Paris Saint-Germain, while I can confirm Manchester City have been discussing his name internally as an option for midfield. At the moment there is no advanced negotiation between Man City and Pogba but there’s interest for sure on City’s side.
Pep Guardiola is evaluating together with the club board several candidates for the role of the new midfielder who will replace Fernandinho, but there are still no official offers. This will be one of City’s top priorities this summer as it won’t be easy to replace an important, experienced figure like Fernandinho, who has confirmed he’ll be leaving the Etihad Stadium at the end of his contract.
In my opinion, Guardiola’s tactical approach could help Pogba express himself to the best of his potential, unlike what we’ve seen of him down the years at Man United; but I’m not sure if a shocking and controversial move like this would be the best solution for him. Pogba has always performed when he has found himself in peace, like with Juventus or with the French national team. He’s definitely good enough for City, but I feel he’d be better off taking a different path.
Arsenal assess midfield transfer targets but fourth place is key
Another club prioritising a new midfielder this summer is Arsenal. The Gunners are considering several candidates because a new midfielder will arrive in the summer, there is no doubt, but who it will be will hinge on whether or not the club can qualify for the Champions League.
Arthur Melo has been an option for months but is no longer the priority, unlike in January; Douglas Luiz can leave Aston Villa and there has been talk of interest from Arsenal, but there is no negotiation in progress yet.
Before choosing the best candidate, Arsenal want to be sure of qualification for next season’s Champions League: Ruben Neves is on the list for sure but the price could be too expensive, Youri Tielemans is certainly appreciated and Arsenal are among the clubs interested in buying them if the transfer conditions are favourable, around €30-35m because his contract will expire in June 2023 and he’s 100% leaving Leicester in the summer.
We could see midfielders leaving Arsenal as well: Granit Xhaka has always been on Jose Mourinho’s list for his AS Roma, but has not received communications from Arsenal so far. He will talk about it with the club at end of the current season, but no distractions during the UCL spot race.
Why it’s gone wrong for Lukaku at Chelsea as he plans talks with Tuchel
As of today, there are no negotiations to sign Romelu Lukaku in the summer. The sanctions have obviously blocked any kind of approach from other clubs, because no one knows what Chelsea will want to do with Romelu: what is the price after spending €115m on him 10 months ago? What would be the conditions for a transfer?
So far it is too early to think about his future, but certainly Lukaku intends to speak with Thomas Tuchel at the end of the current season to understand the club’s plans as Romelu wants to be a key player for next season.
It’s a surprise that it’s come to this, but I personally believe it hasn’t worked for him with Chelsea for three reasons: Tuchel’s system tactically isolates him too much from the two-man attack he was used to at Inter with Lautaro Martinez; physically, Lukaku needs to play every game, the work he did with Antonio Conte and his staff made the difference; moreover, the impact of that famous interview in December certainly created a problem that only so many goals will eventually be able to heal.
Nketiah not short of suitors as Arsenal try to keep him
Eddie Nketiah has been excellent recently, and that’s in a large part down to Mikel Arteta and the director Edu Gaspar, who believed in him despite the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January. Another two goals against Leeds yesterday will only have taken his stock even higher.
Arsenal want him to stay and have been trying to extend his contract for months. Nketiah will decide at the end of the current season, but the proposals he is receiving are many: West Ham and Crystal Palace have been interested for months, but keep an eye on Bundesliga clubs that are ready to offer an important contract and, above all, a guaranteed regular starter position.
We will see if Arsenal will be able to change his mind.
Crazy money needed for Nkunku transfer
The interest around Christopher Nkunku has not been lacking for months. Man United interim manager Ralf Rangnick, for example, knows him very well and considers him a top player; Paris Saint-Germain have sent their scouts to monitor him several times.
However, RB Leipzig have no plans to sell him this summer, as they have stated in public: top clubs will need a crazy offer to change the situation, also because Leipzig are offering Nkunku a new deal with the possibility of including a release clause for a future sale around €70/75m, but negotiations are still at early stages.
After 34 goals and 14 assists this season, interest in Nkunku is no surprise, but so far there is nothing advanced and a deal will not be easy. Leipzig are determined to keep him, so let’s see if they can do it.