By Ade Ojeikere
THE countdown to the 2020/21 European season has been very intriguing in terms of transfer speculations across all the leagues, with many pundits ascribing the downward trend to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Talks on big stars have been ongoing with only Chelsea hitting the bull’s-eye with Timo Werner for £47.5 million and Hakim Ziyech for £33 million completing their moves to England on July 1. The Blues know what to do with transfers thanks to the expertise of Marina Granovskaia, the Russian-Canadian who replaced our own Michael Emenalo as director at Chelsea F.C.
The London club are odds favourites to sign Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen this summer, with the forward asking to leave his German side. And according to German publication Bild, Havertz has had enough at the BayArena and told the Bundesliga side of his desire to seek pastures new. But Chelsea will have to match his £90m buyout clause if they wish to prize him away. The west London outfit are willing to pay that fee but in instalments. Obviously not like Arsenal is currently doing with Nicolas Pepe whom they snatched from Lille last summer.
This Havertz transfer would come with all the trappings of the movement of big players with other top teams trying to hijack the forward. Yet, there won’t be anything to celebrate with Havertz’ move since he has chosen his career path, which interestingly is Chelsea despite Real Madrid being in the picture. The Blues look like big contenders for the EPL title next season having been funded by their proprietor, Roman Abramovich. Not to forget that Chelsea were handicapped in the transfer window business following the UEFA ban on the team for certain rules infractions. New dawn for Chelsea. Watch out for the Blues.
The usual star treks involving celebrities such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Cavani, Antoine Griezmann, Thiago Alcantara, Jack Grealish, Moussa Dembele, Hector Bellerin, Paul Pogba, Eduardo Camavinga, Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman, Emerson Royal, André Schürrle and possibly Neymar have been fraught with denials, although agency reports Sunday suggested that Neymar has succeeded in pulling out of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) to rejoin FC Barcleona.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has sneezed at Neymar’s likely return to Nou Camp pointing out that: “Such an operation is unlikely because the situation of all the clubs in Europe is very difficult.” Well said, Bartomeu, obviously referring to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, although Neymar’s movement to Barca has become a major distraction – it is either both parties are in and out of court or enjoying rave discussions in the media of a protracted transfer since the Brazilian left Nou Camp.
Just like Pep Guardiola shut down talks of a possible return for Jadon Sancho to Manchester City with Manchester United unwilling to meet the price-tag set by Borussia Dortmund.
Guardiola said: “No, no, no. He decided to leave. Why should he decide to come back? “We wanted him to stay like Eric Garcia and Phil (Foden) but he decided like Leroy now and myself, when I decided to move to other countries to be a manager, to move.
“When he decided to move to Dortmund it’s not because he is going to decide to come back one year later. It would make no sense. He didn’t want to be here, so that is why I think he doesn’t want to come back here.”
Kylian Mbappe isn’t staying on with PSG, probably because of their lack of ambition. He has stopped further discussions with the French side on a new contract leaving the door ajar for big spending clubs such as Real Madrid. Mbappé is joint-top scorer of the French Ligue 1 and is one of the new boys Zinedine Zidane would love to recruit to rev the Spanish side’s attacking onslaughts next season. Neymar and Mbappe remain with Paris Saint Germain (PSG), with Messi and Ronaldo staying at Barcelona and Juventus.
Africans have had their fair share of the transfer window with no words on a likely exit from Liverpool for the two of the continent’s best Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Mane has been mentioned in several deals, most on a swap deal which is rather insulting given his achievements in the last three seasons. Mane has scored 16 goals while Salah has netted 19, with four games left for either of them to upstage Leicester City’s striker Jamie Vardy, who has scored 22 goals, which the figure that tied the trio of Salah, Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang as last season’s (2018/2019) joint highest goals scorers in the Barclays English Premier League.
Aubamenyang, a Gabonese has shown remarkable understanding of how he has scored goals for Arsenal, having joined the Gunners from Borussia Dortmund. He scored 22 goals last season and has so far scored 20, raising his chances of winning the Barclays English Premier League’s Golden Boot alone unlike last season when he shared it with Mane and Salah.
The most interesting African transfer, if it happens would be Kalidou Koulibaly’s, given his £100m price-tag which would be a mountain to climb for Liverpool, Paris Saint German, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the Manchester clubs, eager to secure the Senegalese in their fold.
The extension of Odion Ighalo’s stay at Manchester United was worth all the trouble. After protracted discussions with Shanghai Shenhua, United agreed a loan extension of the deal, which does not include an option or obligation to buy, will keep him at the club until January 31, 2021 and the 30-year-old was overjoyed to stay. Ighalo agreed to a hefty 40% cut on his £300,000 weekly wages at Shanghai Shenhua, excluding his weekly £180,000-per-week take home.
For Simon Moses, these are good times after being dropped due to injury from the Nigerian side to the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. Simon Moses was pivotal in the Super Eagles’ qualification for the Mundial. Last ditch attempts to get Simon Moses in the World Cup train failed. But at the club level, he can smile to the bank weekly with a bountiful harvest. Simon Moses signed a four-year deal from Levante to Nantes due to his impressive performances in Christian Gourcuff’s team after he was named the Canary player of the Season for the 2019-20 campaign. He joined the Canaries on a temporary deal from Levante last summer after struggling to make an impact in La Liga last season.
Nigerians such as Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheancho and Samuel Chukwueze have been mentioned in transfer stories for the 2020/2021 season, especially the figures attached to such deals. But it appears that nothing concrete would come out from these speculations as the players are ready to remain where they are for fear of being dropped, if they take the plunge by joining a new club. Many former European players have urged Manchester United to sign Ndidi, stressing that the Nigerian would fix the wobbly midfield set up at the Red Devils. It would be the biggest transfer shocker if any of the three players changes his club. Which clubs want them?
However, the only Nigerian likely to make a big European move in the summer is Victor Osimhen. Already, he has shown tremendous understanding of the transfer gimmicks when he politely rejected Italian giant Napoli FC of Naples, made popular by the iconic Diego Armando Maradona. Osimhen’s reservations towards playing in Italy are known to lovers of the beautiful game as it concerns the untoward attitude of racists during matches. These vexatious acts have attracted worldwide condemnation making Osimhen’s decision one to be celebrated for the good of the game.
Footballers have a right to eke a living for themselves under a conducive environment not humiliated because of the colour of their skins. Osimhen’s agents may quarrel with him for raising their hopes with his flowery comments about what he saw in Naples. Osimhen’s decision not to play in Italy is timely and should serve as a marker for change.
Already, Osimhen has given indications about the kind of club he wants to play for. He has told those who care to listen that he wants to dance on the podium for the next winner of the UEFA Champions League diadem. Tall order, but one to dream about. high profile clubs want his services. it would be foolhardy to dissuade Osimhen from aiming high since he has the skills to compete favourably for shirt weekly, provided the manager of such a club would be fair with his match selections.
It is always a pleasant exercise to report Nigerians doing well for their Europeans teams at the UEFA Champions League level. It is always more edifying watching a Nigerian or even Nigerians dance with their winning sides on the podium receiving the Champions League trophy with the competition’s medal glittering around their necks.
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