Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is creeping closer but Borussia Dortmund continue to drive a hard bargain — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling’s uncertain Man City futures.
Jump to: City’s Grealish move could be funded by Mahrez, Sterling exit | Gundogan to stay amid Barca interest | Dembele told: sign deal or leave | Xhaka’s Mourinho desire behind Arsenal exit | La Liga stars attract MLS interest | Wanda move unlikely for Real
Sancho to United progresses as Haaland looks set to stay
Manchester United are confident of landing top target Jadon Sancho this summer but there remain concerns that Borussia Dortmund‘s asking price is higher than expected, sources told ESPN. Meanwhile, sources added the €350 million package it would take to land Sancho’s teammate Erling Haaland means the striker is set to stay put in Germany for now.
United are in talks with Sancho’s representatives over a move to Old Trafford, and negotiations so far have been described as “smooth,” with the majority of obstacles, including wage demands and agent fees, overcome 12 months ago.
A deal last summer collapsed because the two clubs were too far apart in their valuation of the 21-year-old, and while Dortmund are no longer asking for €120m, sources told ESPN their demands are still higher than United anticipated. Sources said Dortmund are looking for around €100m for Sancho, with the clubs around €20m apart in their valuations of the player.
Sancho has two years left on his contract, and although Dortmund are open to the England winger leaving after four seasons in the Bundesliga, they want the best deal possible in an effort to deal with the financial hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic and are pushing for the full €100m, while United are looking to drive the fee down as much as possible.
Despite the gap in valuations, United remain confident it can be overcome — more so than last summer — although it will rely on Dortmund’s willingness to accept an agreement based on a fee paid in installments as well as bonuses related to how well Sancho performs in the Premier League and Champions League.
Any transfer will be complicated by Sancho’s involvement in the European Championships with England. Should Gareth Southgate’s side reach the final, Sancho would not be released from international duty until after July 11. Dortmund, meanwhile, are set to begin their preseason preparations in Switzerland on July 23.
Dortmund are confident Haaland will remain at the club for another season, sources told ESPN. BVB are holding out for a transfer fee in the €180m region and with agent fees, wages and bonuses, a deal for the 20-year-old would be around €350m.
Recent reports have suggested Chelsea are exploring the possibility of moving for Haaland, and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a long-standing interest too. But sources added that Haaland is happy to stay in Germany for another season and then consider his options, with a release clause for his signature believed to be around the €70m mark kicking in next year. — Rob Dawson and Stephan Uersfeld
Grealish in, Mahrez and Sterling out at City?
Manchester City’s pursuit of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish could be funded by the departure of at least one high-profile forward this summer, with sources telling ESPN that Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez face an uncertain future at the Etihad.
Sterling, 26, has two years remaining on his contract with the Premier League champions and is not close to signing a new deal, according to sources.
Mahrez, meanwhile, has frustrated manager Pep Guardiola with his inconsistency since arriving in a £60m transfer from Leicester in 2018. Although the Algeria winger produced a match-winning performance in the Champions League semifinal second-leg victory against Paris Saint-Germain last month, sources told ESPN that the 30-year-old is not guaranteed to be at the club next season.
With central defender Aymeric Laporte also open to a move back to Spain after losing his place in Guardiola’s team due to the title-winning partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones, City could raise in excess of £100m if Sterling, Mahrez and Laporte move on this summer.
Phil Foden‘s emergence and Guardiola’s determination to sign Grealish and Harry Kane have left the City manager focusing on a re-shaping of his attacking options next season with Mahrez and Sterling the most vulnerable.
The England midfielder signed a five-year contract at Villa Park in 2020, but sources said that City are confident of being able to seal a deal for the 25-year-old. — Mark Ogden
Mark Ogden assesses the stacked lineup of attacking talent Man City would have if Jack Grealish joins.
Gundogan to stay amid Barca interest
Manchester City have no intention of letting Ilkay Gundogan leave this summer, sources told ESPN. Gundogan has two years left on his contract at the Etihad Stadium and while there are no talks planned to discuss an extension, the midfielder remains a key part of Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Gundogan will turn 31 in October and sources told ESPN it is not club policy to enter contract negotiations with players of his age with more than a year left on their existing deals. Sources added that Spanish giants Barcelona are one of the clubs monitoring Gundogan’s situation but any approach this summer is set to be rejected.
The Germany international joined City from Borussia Dortmund in 2016 and has won eight major trophies in his five full seasons, including three Premier League titles. He last signed a new deal in 2019 that will keep him at the club until 2023 when he will be 32.
The midfielder scored 17 goals in 46 appearances last season as City regained the Premier League title and reached the final of the Champions League. — Rob Dawson
Sergio Aguero dons the Barcelona uniform for the first time at Camp Nou for the media.
Barcelona tell Dembele: sign up or leave
Barcelona will tell Ousmane Dembele to look for a new club if he doesn’t sign a contract extension at Camp Nou this summer, sources have confirmed to ESPN. The France international has just one year to run on his terms and Barca don’t want to run the risk of losing him for nothing in 2022.
After a move to Manchester United collapsed in last year’s summer transfer window, Dembele remained injury-free, making 44 appearances for Ronald Koeman’s side.
Sources explain that Barca are happy with his performances. However, the club are also disappointed at the lack of urgency being shown to negotiate a new deal after they stuck with him through various long-term injuries during his first three years at the club. Dembele, 24, said recently he was in “no rush” to sort out his future at Barca because he is focused on preparing for Euro 2020 with France.
Barca acknowledge they don’t have many players with Dembele’s profile in the squad but also feel Ansu Fati, who missed the majority of last season injured, and Memphis Depay, who is set to sign from Lyon, can perform similar duties in attack.
Sources told ESPN the club have not ruled out another attacking signing this summer, either, especially in the event they lose Dembele, who joined for €145 million from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Xhaka’s Mourinho desire
One of the key factors behind Granit Xhaka‘s impending move to Roma is the midfielder’s desire to play under Jose Mourinho, sources told ESPN.
Arsenal are in advanced talks with the Serie A side to let Xhaka go for a fee of around £16m as manager Mikel Arteta looks to raise funds to rebuild his squad, having missed out on European qualification for the first time in 26 years.
Xhaka is keen on a fresh challenge after five seasons at Emirates Stadium during which he has endured a mixed relationship with coaches and supporters. Sources claim the Switzerland international is enthused by the prospect of working with Mourinho because he believes his strict positional discipline will suit his game. Xhaka became frustrated by the lack of detail in this regard under Arsene Wenger and although Unai Emery’s methods were more focused on this area, he ended up being stripped of the captaincy following a heated altercation with supporters upon being substituted against Crystal Palace in October 2019.
However, he became a trusted member of the team under Arteta, to the extent he was part of Arsenal’s leadership group last season. Arteta’s coaching methods are widely respected and his desire to install a more rigid defensive framework helped Xhaka improve his form last season.
But the chance to work with former Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho — even at a stage where he is looking to rebuild his own reputation after dry spell in his trophy-laden career — is said to be an important reason why he now looks set to leave the Gunners. — James Olley
Gab Marcotti looks into the future as he discusses Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Roma’s next manager.
La Liga stars attract MLS interest
Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution are tracking Real Betis forward Juanmi, sources have told ESPN, while the La Liga side’s winger Cristian Tello has also attracted interest from several MLS clubs.
Juanmi, 28, was an €8m signing for Betis in 2019 after impressing at Real Sociedad but has scored just three league goals in two seasons at the club. The former Spain international missed most of 2019-20 with a heel spur setback that kept him out of action for nine months. He has a contract until 2024 and Betis would be open to moving him on, sources said, to free up space in the squad and on their wage bill.
Barcelona youth product Tello — who had more of an impact in La Liga last year, scoring five goals — is also available with just a year left on his contract. Toronto FC were one of the MLS clubs to make enquiries about him earlier this year, sources told ESPN, although as with New England Revolution, their three Designated Player spots are currently full.
Betis are looking to build on a sixth-placed La Liga finish under coach Manuel Pellegrini. They would like to add to their squad in defence and attack after qualifying for the Europa League and have already brought in right-back Youssouf Sabaly on a free transfer from Bordeaux after a bid for Arsenal‘s Hector Bellerin — a boyhood Betis fan — was ruled out on financial grounds. — Alex Kirkland and Rodri Faez
Sid Lowe is surprised by Carlo Ancelotti’s return to Real Madrid’s but calls him a safe choice for the club.
Real Madrid likely to play away despite Wanda rumours
Marca reported on Wednesday that Real had “sounded out” the possibility of playing their first home matches of the 2021-22 campaign at their local rivals’ stadium. But sources said a more likely solution was for Real to ask La Liga to begin next season by playing a series of away games, before returning to the Bernabeu in September with a significantly reduced capacity.
Real haven’t played at their usual home since March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced La Liga to take a three-month break, with behind-closed-doors matches taking place since at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium at the Real Madrid City training complex. That has enabled work to speed up on the €800m New Bernabeu, due to be finished in 2022, but it will not be ready to host the team when the season begins in August.
The Spanish Government and La Liga have not yet specified now many fans will be allowed to attend at the start of 2021-22, but the 6,000 capacity Di Stefano would not be seen as an acceptable venue with fans present, sources told ESPN, and even with a delayed return to the Bernabeu, Real Madrid expect to play initially in front of fewer supporters than other top La Liga teams.
A switch to the Wanda Metropolitano has effectively been ruled out, although executives at both clubs have a good relationship — presidents Florentino Perez and Enrique Cerezo were pictured eating lunch together on Wednesday — and last year Cerezo said Atletico “would be at Real Madrid’s disposition” if they needed to play at the stadium. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez