Transfer window: Which one player should the top clubs sign?

The summer transfer window is edging closer and teams are looking to conduct their business as soon as they can. Clubs will need to get creative to boost their squads within their financial limitations. But which one player should the best teams in Europe be looking to land if they can?

*All transfer values are estimated with assistance from Transfermarkt.

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AC MILAN
Youri Tielemans, 26, central midfielder, Leicester City
Transfer value: Free

Though Milan exceeded all expectations by winning the Scudetto last season, this season has been a domestic disappointment (despite reaching the Champions League semifinals.) Their decline is due to many factors, but the lack of goal threat and options in midfield are two.

As financial limitations restrict the club in the transfer market, picking up Tielemans on a free would be a coup. While his goals may have dried up amid Leicester’s relegation battle this season, the Belgium international’s well-timed runs and spectacular long-range shots mark him out as a fine player.

ARSENAL
Moises Caicedo, 21, DM, Brighton
Transfer value: €80m

After a season of significant progress, Arsenal don’t need wholesale changes this summer. Revisiting the dossier from January’s failed £70m move would be wise, though signing the 21-year-old Ecuador international is more a question of how than why, especially after he signed a new contract following his attempts to leave six months ago.

After only a season-and-a-half in the Premier League, Caicedo has proven he possesses the technical, tactical, physical, and mental qualities to improve any of the top clubs in England. And although Arsenal’s surprise title challenge this season has been built on the solidity of Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka and, more recently, Jorginho in the deeper midfield roles, Caicedo’s mobility, consistency and ball-winning skills would add another dimension. The catch, however, is purely financial: are Arsenal in a position to meet Brighton’s demands?

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Why Lionel Messi might not fit Barcelona right now

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BARCELONA
Lionel Messi, 35, FW, Paris Saint-Germain
Transfer value: Free

The return of the Argentina superstar to Camp Nou would be welcomed by lovers of football worldwide … unless you’re a Real Madrid or Al Hilal fan that is.

In spite of Barcelona running away with the LaLiga title this season, the sporting reasons need not be unpicked in great detail; neither should there be any concerns about the 35-year-old being able to make a decisive impact at the top level of the European game for another few seasons. Making the move financially viable is a hurdle, given the club’s ongoing struggles with debt and salary cap restrictions placed on them by the league, but president Joan Laporta wants to make it happen.

Messi’s homecoming would provide a massive PR boost and possibly reopen huge global income streams for the Spanish champions, while the prospect of Messi leading the club to another Champions League trophy is also tantalising.

BAYERN MUNICH
Randal Kolo Muani, 26, CF/FW, Eintracht Frankfurt
Transfer value: €100m

Bayern have managed pretty well without finding a direct replacement for striker Robert Lewandowski this season. With no defined centre-forward, the goals have come from elsewhere in the team (89 from 32 games, which is slightly behind last season’s goal-scoring average) and, even in a turbulent year, the Bundesliga title is theirs to lose with two games left.

The club are still on the lookout for a goal scorer this summer and Kolo Muani fits the bill perfectly after netting 22 goals in 43 games for Frankfurt this season. A possible transfer fee of over €100m might appear steep, given the fact the France international joined on a fee last summer, but he could be worth it. With speed, a fine hold-up game, physical presence and expert finishing, signing the 26-year-old is undoubtedly appealing to new manager Thomas Tuchel.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Carney Chukwuemeka, 19, CM, Chelsea
Transfer value: €25m

As 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham looks set to leave Dortmund for a €150m move to Real Madrid or Man City this summer, the German club will be scouring Europe for his replacement. And although Chukwuemeka signed for Chelsea from Aston Villa for €18m last summer, he could be an intriguing prospect considering Dortmund’s knack of turning young English talents into superstars.

Chukwuemeka is among the most promising No. 8s in Europe and his performances for England at last summer’s U19 European championship gathered plenty of attention. He shares some traits with Bellingham — namely his athleticism, well-rounded overall game, clever timing of attacking runs and ability to carry the ball in midfield — and has only made one Premier League start at Chelsea so he could be available.

CHELSEA
Dusan Vlahovic, 23, CF, Juventus
Transfer value: €70m

Having joined Juventus from Fiorentina for €70m in January 2022 as one of the most promising centre-forwards in world football — some scouts even backed the Serbian to have a better career than Erling Haaland — Vlahovic now cuts a rather sad figure. Often looking disconnected from the build-up at Juve and totally stripped of confidence in front of goal, even getting a shot on target has become a struggle and he has 13 goals in 40 games this season. But a change of environment could reignite the spark in the left-footed centre-forward.

Big-spending Chelsea need to trim their huge squad, yet they also desperately need to sign a central striker to solve their goal scoring woes. Romelu Lukaku will return after his loan spell at Inter, but a deal for Vlahovic involving a player or two moving to Turin in return might be attractive to all parties.

INTER MILAN
Evan Ndicka, 23, CB, Eintracht Frankfurt
Transfer value: Free

Despite reviving a mediocre domestic season with a run to the Champions League final, there’s plenty of work to be done for Inter over the summer. A new centre-forward or attacking players with the ability to take on defenders should be the top priorities, but with centre-back Milan Skriniar leaving for PSG and fellow defender Alessandro Bastoni attracting huge interest from the Premier League and beyond, a left-footed centre-back seems no less pivotal.

Although Ndicka does have his flaws — especially recurring lapses of concentration in the box, losing the ball during his attacking adventures and some suspect decision making — his speed, movement and aerial dominance are of a high standard. With a contract that expires this summer, the Frenchman should be perfect for a club that are struggling financially.

JUVENTUS
Marcus Thuram, 24, FW, Borussia Monchengladbach
Transfer value: Free

After years of heavy spending and a court case that almost derailed their season entirely, Juventus are set to adopt a more prudent, youth-driven recruitment strategy with the likely arrival of Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli.

Based on this year’s performances, you wouldn’t back any of the club’s current centre-forwards (Moise Kean, Arkadiusz Milik or Vlahovic) to hit 15 goals next season, so depth is needed up front. Thuram — son of Juventus defensive legend Lilian — is set to run down his contract at Gladbach after scoring 16 goals in 30 games and would offer the goal threat, the pace to stretch defences and a presence which has been lacking in the box.

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Gabri Veiga’s rise as Celta superstar in LaLiga

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LIVERPOOL
Gabriel Veiga, 20, CM, Celta Vigo
Transfer value: €40m

Even in the event that Argentina World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister arrives from Brighton, there’s still a case to be made that Liverpool should sign another midfielder. The breakthrough prospect of the LaLiga season, Veiga has exceptional physical and technical attributes, alongside versatility and industry. He also has an edge in the attacking side of his game and his willingness to get into the box to finish off the move is outstanding – as his nine goals from 32 LaLiga games show.

While Veiga’s impact may have tailed off in recent weeks (not unusual for a 20-year-old in his debut season), he has a reported €40m release clause which would make him a real bargain.

MANCHESTER CITY
Jude Bellingham, 19, CM, Borussia Dortmund
Transfer value: €150m

Sources have told ESPN that Real Madrid are leading the race to sign the €150m-rated generational talent, but Bellingham might be better suited to Pep Guardiola’s intricate brand of football.

At just 19, the midfielder would improve any side in the world and could conceivably slot into Ilkay Gundogan’s floating No. 8 role at the Eithad, feature deeper, or even cut in from wide areas, which is particularly pertinent given Bernardo Silva‘s uncertain future at the club. City should do everything they can to persuade him to reunite with Dortmund teammate Erling Haaland.

MANCHESTER UNITED
Harry Kane, 29, CF, Tottenham Hotspur
Transfer value: €100m

With one year left on his contract, it’s now or never for the record-breaking England centre-forward to leave in pursuit of silverware. Only Kane himself really knows what his future might bring, but if extending his contract at Spurs is off the table then Manchester United appear the most viable alternative if he stays in the Premier League.

United have been crying out for a focal point to their attack for some time and Kane, with his proactive and dynamic interpretation of the No. 9 role, would easily adapt and score goals from day one. The most intriguing factor here, though, is time: with the ongoing takeover bid at Old Trafford no closer to conclusion, does the summer transfer window come too soon for such a massive move to materialise?

NAPOLI
Jonathan David, 23, CF, Lille
Transfer value: €30m

The new Italian champions’ transfer market priorities will likely rest on who leaves this summer. Inevitably, star centre-forward Victor Osimhen has attracted interest and is yet to make any unequivocal statements about staying. In the event of the Serie A top scorer moving on — he’s likely to fetch a €100m+ transfer fee — a replacement is duly needed.

David, who replaced Osimhen at Lille, might not have the same extreme pace and persistent movement off the shoulders of the defenders, but the Canada international has developed into a magnificent finisher. He has scored 21 goals in Ligue 1 this season and has a fine hold-up game, which should see him link up well with Napoli’s high-scoring wingers.

NEWCASTLE UNITED
James Maddison, 26, AM, Leicester City
Transfer value: €30m

Given their impressive season, Newcastle won’t be approaching the transfer period with any desperation. With the wealth of Saudi Arabia behind them, they have addressed immediate shortcomings well over the past windows, but Maddison possesses the sheer quality and tactical versatility to offer Eddie Howe’s side even more end product in the final third.

With one year left on his contract and Leicester struggling against the drop, it’s virtually unthinkable that Maddison would stay beyond the summer. An expert set-piece taker who operates naturally between the lines, as well as being technically gifted with intensity and industry to match, the England international is one of the most productive attacking midfielders in the Premier League.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, 22, FW, Napoli
Transfer value: €80m

As yet, there are few hints as to what PSG have planned this summer. But with Messi leaving on a free transfer and speculation over Neymar‘s future, a mini rebuild seems to be in offing. Attacking reinforcements are the order of the day and Rafael Leao would have been perfect here if he hadn’t signed a new contract at Milan.

Napoli would drive a hard bargain for Kvaratskhelia into €100m+ territory, but PSG rarely take no for an answer. The Georgia forward would not just bring the trademark flair and creativity PSG seem obsessed with, but also an impressive work ethic, avid pressing and an unassuming team-focused mentality that the French side are often accused of lacking.

REAL MADRID
Goncalo Ramos, 21, CF, Benfica
Transfer value: €80m

In the absence of available world-class right-backs — the obvious position due for an upgrade — a young developing centre-forward to provide more options up front and act as an understudy to 35-year-old Karim Benzema seems a route to explore.

Ramos, who is also capable of featuring as a wide forward on the right, has radically developed many aspects of his game over the past year and possesses all the intrinsic qualities to go far in his career. Deceptively quick and physically strong with good balance, the Portugal international has scored 18 league goals this season — many of which have come via pulling away from his marker inside the penalty area.

Contracted for another three years (with a €120m release clause), a substantial transfer fee is required to secure his services, but Benfica usually let their star players leave for the right price.

TOTTENHAM
Kouadio Kone, 21, CM, Borussia Monchengladbach
Transfer value: €40m

There’s so much rebuilding to be done for Spurs that one transfer window is unlikely to suffice. And while the whole spine of the team is due a revamp — including a goalkeeper who can build from the back, ball-playing centre-backs, and a high scoring centre-forward if Kane leaves — a mobile, technically sound, all-round central midfielder who covers vast areas is a starting point.

It’s a reasonable assumption that Spurs’ incoming head coach is likely to play an aggressive, high-pressing brand of football, so Kone’s athleticism and agility would prove valuable assets, as would his ability to beat opponents in crowded areas. Ripe for a move to a bigger club, Kone is in close contention for his first full cap for France and could be a star of the future.