Exclusive: Liverpool’s Bellingham transfer alternatives, Man Utd star’s uncertain future & more – Ben Jacobs

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Liverpool out of the race for Jude Bellingham, but alternatives won’t be straightforward either

Liverpool are out of the race for Jude Bellingham. They did a lot of legwork, and never lost confidence they could persuade the player to join if it only came down to that aspect. But in the end a decision had to be made on whether it was worth getting sucked into a protracted bidding war and ‘overpaying’ as a result if successful.

The total cost of Bellingham if he leaves this summer, with no release clause in his current deal, could be around £130m, plus agent fees and wages. Some people will argue Liverpool always knew this was the ballpark, but price is also fluid and dictated by demand, and the club’s budget is also altered by a lack of Champions League football. As previously reported, the fear was always that another Premier League club came in, allowing Dortmund even more bargaining chips. Manchester City are making their move and Real Madrid are still intent on signing Bellingham as well.

Although Champions League isn’t mathematically beyond Liverpool yet, especially after thrashing Leeds 6-1, when the club began their Bellingham pursuit it was considered almost a given, which shows how far Liverpool have fallen this season on the field. This is an important point because when clubs near-automatically qualify for Champions League they start pre-budgeting for it. Clubs not in the UCL as regularly are a little more cautious with their financial forward-planning.

So right now Liverpool would rather spend their ‘Bellingham budget’ on a handful of players and, as importantly, get their business done early and with more certainty. The other option would be to go all in for Bellingham – a player Jurgen Klopp would still love at Anfield – and find it was either at the expense of strengthening other areas, or just a race they didn’t win.

My understanding is Liverpool are now pretty confident on some other targets, and quite far along for this stage before the window opens, and that may also have informed why they chose to walk away from Bellingham now. I fully expect Liverpool to get multiple deals done early in the summer window. It’s easy to focus on the Bellingham backlash, and I am sure many fans are disappointed, but I would judge Liverpool after the first 2-3 weeks of the window rather than now.

There is a real chance Mason Mount joins from Chelsea. Mount is no closer to signing a Chelsea extension and Liverpool see a chance to get him for a bargain. Chelsea will still try, and their new manager could be a key factor, but right now Mount can be pitched a more defined and integral role at Liverpool. And although Chelsea may try for £70m, Liverpool believe the price will be less.

Alexis Mac Allister is another player to watch, and from Liverpool’s perspective more so than his Brighton teammate Moises Caicedo. Liverpool have long admired Caicedo, dating back to his time at Independiente del Valle, but they didn’t join Chelsea and Arsenal in bidding in January because the price was too high, and for much of the window (until Fútbol División officially started) Caicedo’s agent situation was complicated.

Like Caicedo, Mac Allister signed a new deal quite recently, just before the World Cup, but is still pushing for a move. Manchester United are also considering him. Mac Allister won’t come cheap (Brighton players never do), especially considering those tracking Mac Allister before the World Cup had a ballpark of under £40m. Now Brighton have all the control and will want a lot more money than that. They also really won’t want to lose Mac Allister and Caicedo in the same window either, especially if they qualify for Europe.

Bayern’s Ryan Gravenberch is another player Liverpool like and have already looked at in the past. As previously reported, I am told a summer move is unlikely unless both Bayern and new manager Thomas Tuchel change their position.

Ryan Gravenberch in action for Bayern Munich

The 20-year-old probably would have left this summer if Julian Nagelsmann was still in charge. Nagelsmann never got the best out of Gravenberch and got frustrated at times by his lack of defensive discipline. One of Tuchel’s first tasks was to speak to Gravenberch and make it clear he had a clean slate. For now, Bayern will oppose any sale, but there’s no doubt the player himself is open to options.

The same can be said about Levi Colwill in some respects. I understand Chelsea are currently categorical. They will bring him back from Brighton and won’t sell or loan out next season. They also have an option to extend Colwill’s contract by an extra year, until 2026, if he plays a set number of games. That makes it hard for suitors unless the player really drives his way out. Chelsea simply aren’t thinking about a sale. They view Colwill as an elite-level centre back who they want to play for the club for many years to come.

Liverpool do want a centre-back, though. Frankfurt’s Evan Ndicka (who is available on a free with several clubs looking, including Jose Mourinho’s Roma), Napoli’s Kim Min-jae (who has a release clause active for 15 days this summer) and Josko Gvardiol have all been considered to name but three.

With the obvious exception of Leipzig’s Gvardiol, who will command a fee of at least £80-85m, Liverpool could probably get 3-4 of the above players for the same outlay as Bellingham with all costs considered. That’s ultimately why they have decided to exit the race for the Dortmund star.

Amadou Onana could already be set for £60m move away from Everton

Amadou Onana is a name to watch this summer even though he’s only been at Everton since last summer.

“I see myself, God willing, at one of the biggest clubs,” he told So Foot recently. “I remember being amazed by the public at Stamford Bridge [when playing for Lille].”

Chelsea and Arsenal both considered Onana in January but it was clear he didn’t want to move mid-season. As with Jordan Pickford, it’s going to be difficult for the Toffees to keep hold of Onana if they go down.

Everton also really need more outgoings due to their financial situation, even after the £45m sale of Anthony Gordon to Newcastle. Farhad Moshiri continues to seek investment, with US firm 777 Partners the latest to show interest. It’s tricky, though, since suitors can pitch to players now and offer something stable. Everton, on the other hand, must wait and see what league they are in first. Both investors and players are unlikely to commit to anything now until they know whether Everton have secured their Premier League status. Even with Pickford, who did sign a new deal recently, there is an understanding (if not an actual clause) he can leave if Everton get relegated.

The Toffees paid £33m for Onana to Lille last summer and given his form may be able to get £60m+ for him if they sell. From what I am told Arsenal and Chelsea have other priorities. Both want West Ham’s Declan Rice, with Arsenal frontrunners right now. But more broadly both clubs want a defensive midfielder, as do Newcastle. Atletico Madrid could be one to watch as well. Onana’s Belgium teammate Axel Witsel has been full of praise for Onana, but given dream is to play in the Premier League it might be hard for a non-English suitor to prize him away after an impressive first season at Goodison Park.

Price tag could be an issue for permanent Marcel Sabitzer transfer

Marcel Sabitzer has impressed at Manchester United since joining on loan from Bayern. He scored both goals in the 2-2 Europa League quarter-final draw with Sevilla.

Erik ten Hag would love to keep the Austrian and in doing so strengthen his midfield, even though his number one priority is to land a traditional forward, with Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen two names on at this stage quite a ‘longlist’ of strikers.

A lot of how Manchester United move, and with how much financial muscle, will depend on securing Champions League football, which they are on course to do, and whether a new outright owner comes in. The April 28 final-offer deadline is key to understanding the Glazers true intentions.

Bayern are happy to let Sabitzer leave but having seen his form at Old Trafford expect around £25m. Manchester United see this as too high for the 29-year-old, but he’s under contract at Bayern until 2025 which allows Bayern to be a bit more bullish with negotiations.

There is perhaps a bit of gamesmanship at play. Sabitzer was struggling for minutes at Bayern prior to his loan and now suddenly the German champions want almost twice what they paid Leipzig for him in 2021.

Sabitzer’s agent Roger Wittmann has made it clear his client is happy in Manchester. There is a willingness to make the move permanent, so it’s really going to hinge on finances. From what I understand Manchester United don’t want to overpay, especially with other targets requiring allocated budget, but Sabitzer is nonetheless a player they’d love to keep. The next step is Manchester United understanding whether the price for Sabitzer will come down. But Tuchel’s arrival hasn’t  prevented or complicated a transfer. It will just come down to price.

Don’t read too much into the Gavi to Chelsea links

Gavi of Barcelona

Chelsea are not chasing Gavi. Admittedly, almost everyone in world football appreciates him, but Chelsea’s meeting with Ivan de la Pena, Gavi’s agent, was about Luis Enrique. De la Pena represents Enrique, too, who is a candidate for the Chelsea vacancy and wants to manage in the Premier League.

The Gavi links remind me of the Neymar ones with Chelsea. It is true that Todd Boehly met Nasser Al-Khelaifi before PSG’s home Champions League tie with Bayern, but it was informal, largely to smooth over the fallout from the failed Hakim Ziyech loan on Deadline Day in January. A Neymar transfer was not discussed.

Gavi is currently not registered as a first-team player for Barcelona because LaLiga ruled the club exceeded their salary cap by offering him a new contract last September. That means he reverts back to his old deal, which expires at the end of this season. So in theory Gavi could be available on a free. But Barcelona aren’t too concerned. They know Gavi wants to stay, and Chelsea also have plenty of other midfield options they are working on.

More Stories Alexis Mac Allister Amadou Onana Evan Ndicka Gavi Josko Gvardiol Jude Bellingham Kim Min-jae Moises Caicedo Ryan Gravenberch