The 2022 World Cup is almost over. There are only four games left to play, three of which will decide the new (or old!) champions of the world.
The world has seen plenty of great football, plenty of superb team and individual performances over the last month, and as it’s always the case, they are sure to have an impact on the transfer market over the next couple of windows. Some clubs need to revive their squads while others need to rebuild them for other reasons. Some just need to increase depths in certain areas, but one thing appears certain – there will be a lot of business done in the summer at least, possibly even in January.
Unfortunately, for clubs that target younger, up-and coming players, many of them have had an excellent tournament, and their respective prices will only increase. Let’s take a brief look at some of them.
Borussia Dortmund’s star is undoubtedly the most talked about topic in transfer circles around the world. At the age of only 19, he had already proven his quality in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, and now at the world’s biggest international stage as well. One of England’s top performers, he was a constant source of energy, creativity, as well as a goal threat for Gareth Southgate’s side.
Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool and Bellingham are all reportedly in pursuit of Bellingham, but despite strong efforts by both the Premier League champions La Liga and the Premier League champions, the youngster’s family is most keen to return home to England to play at Liverpool.
Bellingham is believed to have developed a strong relationship while away from his national team. Bellingham was also able to communicate with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson, two Liverpool players who were called up by Southgate for their Qatar adventure. The quarterfinals of the Qatar tournament ended in defeat for France. While Alexander-Arnold barely played in the tournament, Henderson put in several fantastic performances, and the moment when he scored the opening goal in England’s round-of-16 win over Senegal revealed the closeness between him and Bellingham, who provided a pin-point assist to make it happen.
Wherever he ends up, personal terms aren’t expected to be a problem for Bellingham. All three reported suitors pay very good wages, and a potential difference between them in that aspect shouldn’t really play a big part in his decision. But there is still Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham’s current employers to reckon with, and their price certainly won’t be small.
In fact, Dortmund MD recently said that even though he himself prefers Liverpool as Bellingham’s destination, the Merseysiders shouldn’t expect “any gifts” regarding this transfer. With no release clause in his contract, the Bundesliga club will surely demand the full market value for Bellingham, which, according to Transfermarkt, currently stands at €100 million. Worse, Bellingham was reportedly valued at more than Dortmund even before he moved to Qatar.
So while it apparently is the wish of everyone involved, it will be very interesting to see if Bellingham’s transfer to Anfield actually happens, or if the high price opens the door a bit wider for City and Real, neither of which has ever shied away from an expensive transfer.
Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig defender) is another name that has attracted a lot attention over the last few months.
The 20-year-old was most closely linked to Chelsea during the summer and later as a player, which has made him a great ambassador for Croatia in Qatar. Deployed in the heart of defence and supported by the experience of Dejan Lovren by his side, he has played a big part in everything Zlatko Dalic’s men have achieved at the World Cup, and unlike Bellingham’s England, they are still in it, with a chance of repeating the success of 2018 and maybe even going a step further to actually lift the trophy.
Yes, Croatia have one of the best midfield units out there, with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic adding to their defensive stability, Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic working his socks off at both ends of the pitch, and Real Madrid star Luka Modric acting as the playmaker-in-chief, but without the brilliance of Gvardiol behind them, it would be hard to imagine them getting this far.
What’s even more impressive is that Gvardiol has been playing in Germany only a year and a few months, having spent his youth and first senior seasons at Dinamo Zagreb. Transfermarkt have him valued at €60 million, but the race for his signature next summer, after everything we’ve seen in Qatar in addition to the Bundesliga and Champions League exploits, is sure to bump up that price significantly when the time comes.
Although the World Cup’s outstanding performances will likely increase Bellingham and Gvardiol’s prices, those players were already highly sought-after and widely recognized as top talent before the Qatar trip. For those who don’t follow the Serie A closely, Sofyan Amrabat, from Morocco, was probably one of the most important revelations of the tournament.
Playing for Fiorentina, currently in 10th place in the Italian top flight, Amrabat may have gone under the radar so far, but his ability to anchor the midfield and control the tempo while making sure the opposition didn’t do too much behind his back has now got him on all kinds of lists. He isn’t as young as Bellingham or Gvardiol, but at the age of 26, he’s still very much a possibility for any top club that needs a defensive midfielder.
It’s not very likely that Amrabat joins forces with Bellingham next season at Liverpool, it would probably cost too much to get both these players after such a fantastic World Cup, but his potential move to Anfield to provide competition for Brazil’s Fabinho has been mentioned in the press recently. On the other hand, some reports claim that Amrabat’s brother recently issued a public plea to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi to take him to the French capital instead.
Be that though, Amrabat is likely not to give in to temptation and tell Fiorentina, he wants out, as soon as concrete offers come in from clubs participating in the Champions League. It seems safe to assume they will after the World Cup. There has been a claim the midfielder, whose contract with Fiorentina runs until the summer of 2024 with an option of a 12-month extension, would cost more than €35 million this January. After helping Morocco reach the semifinals at the World Cup, this figure is undoubtedly too low.
Return to England
Bukayo Saka, Arsenal’s winger, was another one who performed admirably for the Three Lions in Qatar. His obvious talent and game intelligence have been attracting attention for a while and he is still reportedly on the radars of many top clubs across Europe.
The Gunners are reportedly working on getting the 21-year-old to recommit, but despite their hints, mostly coming from manager Mikel Arteta and director of football Edu, about the talks progressing and everything being fine on that front, Fabrizio Romano’s claim that those talks have been going on since February and haven’t been concluded yet does put a question mark over his future. His current deal at the Emirates expires in 2024, which means that if he doesn’t put pen to paper before the season is out, Arsenal might well consider parting ways with the young England star in the summer.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are competing for the Premier League title. If they win it and show that they can really get the biggest trophies, it might help them persuade Saka to stay in North London for a longer time and make those talks move a little faster.
What Saka’s price would otherwise be, it’s hard to say. Some believe a fee in the region of €60 or 70 million would represent good value for money, but having once again proven he is ready to deliver at literally any stage and against any opposition, Saka is likely worth quite more than that in the craziness of the current transfer market.
Enzo Fernandez, like Amrabat and Gvardiol, has been a major player for a country that reached the World Cup semifinals. When people talk about Argentina, it’s obviously Lionel Messi who pops into mind first, and then the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria, and more recently Lisandro and Emiliano Martinez. But Enzo’s name should surely be among them too.
Fernandez has been one of the standout players for Benfica for a while now, and he’s another young name reportedly considered by the usual suspects, the top clubs seeking to add to their midfield ranks – Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City.
As things stand, Benfica are believed to be demanding a fee well over €100 million for the 21-year-old holding midfielder, valued at the moment by Transfermarkt at only €35m. Real are said to be considering him an alternative to Bellingam should the England starlet indeed snub them for Liverpool, and as for the Reds, again, it’s very hard to imagine them going in that hard for both Bellingham AND Fernandez. It would simply cost too much, particularly if the stories about Benfica’s demands are true.
It remains to be seen if the player, who has four-and-a-half years remaining on his contract, will leave Lisbon next summer, but it is clear that his outstanding performances at the World Cup have increased the value of his contract.