Transfer activity heats up as football window approaches final month | Sports

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BARCELONA: The transfer speculation surrounding Barcelona star Neymar continued on Tuesday as the Brazilian forward heads back to the Catalan city following promotional commitments in China, as reported by ESPN FC.

Neymar is due to re-join his Barcelona teammates in training on Wednesday despite being at the forefront of a recording-breaking €222 million transfer to PSG.

The 25 year-old forward has so far remained tight-lipped regarding his future, fuelling speculation through ambiguous social media posts.

While in Dubai, Neymar quoted a passage from the Bible on social media when he stated, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

The cryptic posts provide no reassurance to Barcelona fans, who would be losing a world-class player, and only fuel speculation over Neymar’s seemingly imminent departure.

The buzz surrounding the 2011 FIFA Puskas Award winner’s departure is already beginning to anger fans, with home-made posters in Barcelona labeling Neymar as a ‘traitor’. This may only be the beginning of a backlash from a passionate fan-base that demands unwavering loyalty from all their players.

Various media sources have reported that, despite Neymar currently re-joining Ernesto Valvedero’s team, the Brazilian would continue with his proposed transfer to French giants PSG, with a medical likely by the end of this week.

ESPN FC also reported that that plans to unveil Neymar are already being discussed in Paris, hinting at the club’s confidence in capturing his signature as the transfer seems to edge closer to completion.

In a summer already containing a number of big-money moves, the transfer would not only break all sorts of records, it could also pave the way for many subsequent deals that would send waves across the football world as Barcelona attempt to cope with the loss of a player viewed by many as the successor to Messi.

Chesea eye Drinkwater as Matic replacement

Meanwhile, Chelsea are interested in signing Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater, according to Sky sources.

An integral figure in Leicester City’s 2015 Premier League winning campaign, Drinkwater is being touted as a possible replacement for Nemanja Matic, who has been sold to Manchester United for £40m.

Drinkwater’s performances in the 2015-16 season earned him an England call-up and a new four-year contract with Leicester. A possible move to Stamford Bridge would see him rejoin forces with N’golo Kante, who partnered Drinkwater in midfield during Leicester’s historic season.

The 27-year old however is currently only being viewed as one of a number of potential targets, with Blues manager Antonio Conte continuing his search for a midfielder following the sales of Matic to United and Nathaniel Chalobah to Watford respectively.

The lack of midfield options, despite the recent arrival of Bakayoko from Monaco, might be a cause of concern for Conte, whose side would have the added pressure of playing in the Champions League this season.

Last season, Chelsea were fortunate to have avoided any major injuries in their title run. However, if Conte is to continue playing his preferred two in midfield as part of a 3-4-3 system, midfield cover would be essential in maintaining quality and energy in the middle of the park, an earmark of Chelsea’s success last season.

Despite impressive performances during the back end of last season, Cesc Fabregas is expected to remain an option off the bench. Fabregas is undoubtedly an offensive asset, but his lack of athleticism and defensive limitations do not make him a smooth fit in Conte’s preferred formation, seen by his lack of first-team action.

Drinkwater is likely to be only a back-up to the pairing of Kante and Bakayoko as Chelsea aim to strengthen their squad in fashion to their Manchester rivals. However, he would prove as a useful and possibly cheaper midfield option, as his hard-working nature and comfortable passing ability would add dependable depth to a Chelsea team looking to retain their trophy.

Sanchez returns to training

Arsenal supporters can breathe a brief sigh of relief as Alexis Sanchez is seen to have returned to training, reported by Sky sources.

The 28-year old was given extended leave following his participation in the Confederations Cup, but reported back to training on Tuesday.

The Chilean forward has been at the centre of transfer speculation throughout this pre-season, with both Manchester City and PSG expressing interest in his services.

A player of Sanchez’ caliber would add quality to any side, and a move to Paris or Manchester would aid considerably in either team’s attempts to regain their league title and make a significant push in the Champions League, a competition Sanchez’ current club failed to qualify for this season.

Speculation regarding Sanchez’ future is unlikely to end soon, as other activity in the market continues. However, Sky Sports reports that for the time being, Sanchez will continue to report to training and also take part in an open training session on Thursday.

Busy August for Liverpool

What started off as a highly-encouraging transfer window for Liverpool, with the arrivals of Mohammad Salah, Dominic Solanke and Andy Robertson adding some much needed competition for places, is beginning to look slightly more complicated for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Having seemingly conceded defeat in their pursuit of Naby Keita from RB Leipzeig, following a number of rejected bids amid Leipzig’s firm stance that the player was not for sale. Jurgen Klopp now faces himself with the apparent task of keeping his prized possession, Phillipe Coutinho, at Anfield as the Brazilian is reportedly being looked as a possible replacement for Neymar at Barcelona.

Klopp remains adamant that Coutinho is not for sale in a similar fashion as RB Leipzig were with him regarding Naby Keita. He is now posed with the challenge of finding alternatives to Keita, with Renato Sanches of Bayern Munich being reportedly looked at as a possible alternative. The potential of the young Portugese midfielder is undoubted, although following a difficult first season at Bayern and still only 19 years-old, he currently lacks the defensive maturity that Liverpool need in midfield to make a serious title challenge.

A natural defensive anchor as part of his counter-attacking 4-3-3 system is a piece that remains to allude Klopp, if he is unable to capture Keita or any alternative by the end of this window, having finally found suitable options for other positions.

Moreover, Liverpool are attempting to revamp their attempts in signing Virgil Van Dijk, the Southampton captain, as Klopp aims to solve his side’s defensive deficiencies.

Liverpool’s interest in Van Dijk is no secret, as they have already issued an apology to Southampton following an illegal approach earlier in the window.

Van Dijk could be the answer to Liverpool’s defensive issues, with the Southampton captain impressing heavily in his two seasons in the Premier League, as leaking goals remained the Achilles heel of a Liverpool side that was able to find the net with relative ease during Klopp’s first full campaign.

Van Dijk himself seems keen for the move to go through, with reports that he is going to hold talks with manager Mauricio Pellegrino this week as Liverpool prepare another bid, according to Liverpool Echo.

If Klopp is able to capture the signature of Van Dijk and keep Coutinho away from suitors, Liverpool have the potential of being a very interesting and competitive side to watch in the forthcoming season. On the other hand, if the coming weeks do not quite go the Merseyside team’s way, fans should prepare themselves for a late August scramble for players and beginning the season with significant ground already lost on other title-challenging squads.