Crazy about the boy
So, the whole "End of an Era" title for the last column was a tad dramatic given that Cristiano Ronaldo is clearly staying at Real Madrid. The real talk, however, is about how much Kylian Mbappé is going to cost when he moves to join the Portuguese superstar and link up with legendary compatriot Zinedine Zidane—the first manager to win successive Champions Leagues since the coaching institution that is Arrigo Sacchi.
There is no reason why Mbappé should move anywhere else. Karim Benzema turns 30 in December, Ronaldo faces his 33rd birthday early next year, Gareth Bale is injury prone and hits 28 next month, and Álvaro Morata will leave to help finance the deal. Mbappé needs to play, but crucially, he doesn't need to play every single game at 18 years of age. He played 1501 minutes in Ligue 1, 536 minutes in the Champions League, and 598 minutes in domestic cup games last season.
Zidane has shown a fine ability to rotate his squad and keep as many top attackers involved as possible. For a striker with Mbappé's considerable precociousness and potential, this could be a world record move that actually suits a young and swift attacker. Vacancies will soon pop up at the kings of Europe where the 18-year-old will be in a position to fully exploit. As nurturing as Liverpool or Arsenal may be, both clubs simply cannot compete with the allure of Real Madrid.
From Mbappé's performances for AS Moncao, Real Madrid may have found the crown prince and legitimate successor to Ronaldo. A front three of Isco, Mbappé, and Marco Asensio under Zidane's aegis could be the real deal in the next couple of seasons as the powers of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano wane. Real Madrid might just be getting a hang of this succession lark.
There is a new head coach at Southampton. Mauricio Pellegrino has signed up for three years at a club that provides an excellent platform for players and coaches to earn opportunities elsewhere. Claude Puel reached the EFL Cup final and achieved a top ten finish, but there was a perception that the players and fans were not united under him. As for Pellegrino, he spoke of his excitement at what is a fantastic opportunity as recent history has shown.
"My philosophy and the culture of the club will work well," the former Liverpool defender and coach said. "I want to win matches, be successful and develop a team spirit where everyone gives 100% and supports each other.
"I am excited and passionate about what the future holds."
The 45-year-old former Deportivo Alavés trainer has the chance to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino to earn his spurs before moving on. It's another smart appointment, and boosted with the money from the likely sale of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool, Pellegrino should be able to count on some smart signings to aid his cause. There's also this fine piece by Sid Lowe on Pellegrino that is worth some of your time.
Frank de Boer is quite the coup for Crystal Palace. The 47-year-old spoke about his ambition to manage a team in the Premier League and the possibility of entering the transfer market, something that may be of interest to Liverpool and Mamadou Sakho.
"I had a good feeling about the club and the prospect of managing a team in the Premier League was exciting," De Boer said. "This club can grow further and further. They spend a lot of money and there is the possibility to do something well with that money.
"I've not met the players yet. We will look at one or two signings, but I think it is necessary to see all the players here first."
Again, this club is a platform not a destination. However, De Boer was singed by a short stint at Internazionale. Perhaps this is the time to spend at least two seasons at Crystal Palace as Koeman did at Southampton before seizing a better opportunity with a reputation forged in over-achievement.
Done deals and happenings
Manchester United and Chelsea will be very active this week. To start, Tiemoué Bakayoko is close to signing for Chelsea from Monaco for £40 million. A direct consequence is that Nemanja Matić to Manchester United is happening. Reportedly the club's third-choice midfield target, Matić will experience life in England at a second club as José Mourinho looks to add to the signing of Victor Lindelöf. Eric Dier and Radja Nainggolan were preferred targets, but the £40 million transfer of Matić should go through this week despite the death of Mourinho's father. The 28-year-old can expect to earn £155,000 a week at Old Trafford, but this probably means that Cesc Fàbregas will stay at Chelsea for another season.
Fabinho is reportedly tempted by Manchester United, but will he and Morata complete the set of four players Mourinho reportedly wants to strengthen the first eleven? A title challenge will be the minimum requirement next season, but this summer is not the time for half measures. Antonio Conte, Mourinho's successor at Chelsea, was rumoured to be at the centre of a bit of a transfer row of sorts after telling Diego Costa to hawk his striking wares elsewhere. With the signing of Bakayoko, though, Chelsea seem to be back in the spotlight.
Yet the move for the well-rounded but slightly overrated Bakayoko will be overshadowed by the possibility of Alex Sandro becoming the most expensive defender in football history for £61 million. Juventus cannot match the £150,000 a week wages on offer from the Premier League champions but apparently still hold hope of convincing the excellent left back to stay. Good luck with that. It will be most intriguing to see what 30-year-old Leonardo Bonucci makes of such wages.
Nathan Aké is expected to cost £20 million as AFC Bournemouth would like to secure the 22-year-old talented defender who spent half of last season on loan at Dean Court. Southampton and West Ham United are reportedly interested in the young defender, but Bournemouth are believed to be leading the race to sign the Chelsea youngster. Playing regularly and impressing as a young defender in a league with generally horrific defending earns a young player his spurs and a big move down the line, as Kyle Walker has will soon show.
The Tottenham Hotspur right back is already at a top six club with a group of players that can continue to improve over the next 12 to 18 months, but the 27-year-old expects to be a Manchester City player within two weeks. Money talks. Money talks even louder with a top manager attached to it as Red Bull Leipzig will soon find out. Walker, though, will not be the only new right back to satisfy the demands of Pep Guardiola. Dani Alves to Manchester City 34-year-old will happen at some stage, but the question is the form of the deal. There has been talk of a mutual termination, but whatever form the deal will take, it will happen.
Arsène Wenger has got skills, but can he secure a £57 million move for Alexandre Lacazette? Any jealous Liverpool fans should really sit down and appreciate Roberto Firmino's importance in a system where goals come from all over the pitch, facilitated greatly by the club's new number nine. Even so, a striker that scores plenty of goals remains as enticing and desirable as ever. Compatriot Olivier Giroud will experience far fewer minutes as a result; Danny Welbeck, though, has the flexibility to play wide and fill in up front that Giroud simply doesn't. Giroud is a favourite of national team manager Didier Deschamps and generally turns up for the French national team so won’t want to be on the sidelines ahead of World Cup 2018. Being behind your international rival at club level for a starting spot for the national team seems unwise, but Lyon have secured a replacement in Chelsea’s Bertrand Traoré for £8.8 million.
Mario Balotelli is staying at OGC Nice, which is a fine decision for a player that turns 27 in August and needs some stability in his career. It is undoubtedly the right move ahead of next year's World Cup in Russia and a potential Champions League campaign. 17 goals in 28 appearances last season proved he still has the capability to score goals, but this season will provide a chance to improve his poor disciplinary record for Nice. Three red cards in 23 league appearances is a desperately poor record and worrying for any future buyers. More goals and fewer red cards will do his chances of an international recall wonders.
Watford FC have signed Will Hughes from Derby County for £8 million on a five-year-deal as the 22-year-old will finally play in the Premier League after being linked with a move to a top flight club for so long. Håvard Nordtveit has returned to the Bundesliga after an unsuccessful season at West Ham United. Nordtveit has joined Hoffenheim for an undisclosed fee (£1.8 million or thereabouts for the curious) to bolster Julian Nagelsmann's options ahead of a potential Champions League campaign. Nordtveit's former club, Borussia Mönchengladbach, signed Reece Oxford on loan from West Ham to hopefully give the talented 18-year-old experience. Huddersfield's record signing is now Laurent Depoitre from FC Porto for a fee believed to be around £4.4 million despite being reported as undisclosed.
Marseille have picked up Monaco forward Valère Germain on four-year contract for an undisclosed fee as the dismantling of the Ligue 1 winners continues. The 27-year-old is a hard-working forward that has produced solid numbers over the past two seasons at Monaco and on loan at Nice. There might be more money at Marseille these days, but this could be one of the more sensible deals of the summer.The goalkeeper who could have received all the adulation that Manuel Neuer did has moved to Mainz 05. Yes, René Adler has left Hamburger SV—a German giant that specialises in excessive underachievement in the modern era—to play for a third Bundesliga club.
Oh, and Liverpool signed Mohamed Salah; he's not bad at all. Now it's time for Monchi to work his magic.