- With plenty of time left in the transfer window and a number of big moves already completed, here are the biggest names who will rule the remainder of silly season.
The summer transfer window the year before a World Cup is always one to watch. With players balancing their transfer value and their current contract statuses with their playing time leading into the grand summer showcase, this specific window always makes for an intriguing period of player movement.
We're not quite at the point where deadline desperation is sinking in, but this summer has already seen the likes of Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Everton), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Dani Alves (PSG) and Douglas Costa (Juventus) move elsewhere. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) are among those who have secured their long-term futures by staying put (and PSG's Marco Verratti appears to be doing the same despite Barcelona interest and a firestorm created by his agent). Meanwhile, the piece-by-piece dismantling of Champions League semifinalist Monaco figures to continue and is among the major storylines to watch going forward as the summer continues and the closing of the window approaches.
With all that said, here are the 10 transfer sagas we're still watching intently as silly season marches on with the window wide open:
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
It seems as if the hysteria around Ronaldo's desired exit from Real Madrid has cooled, after his participation in the Confederations Cup was followed by his swooning over his new twin baby sons. With Manchester United seemingly out of the running (was it ever actually in the running to begin with?) for a reunion, it would appear that Ronaldo's most realistic course of action would be to return to Real, collect his fifth Ballon d'Or and continue his evolution as a player in the most friendly environment in which he can thrive and collect more trophies. Don't read anything into his exclusion from the club's roster for its USA tour, given that's likely for sporting and legal reasons. If club president Florentino Perez isn't convincing enough in his efforts to retain him, though, it would, again, make for the story of the summer.
Kylian Mbappe, Monaco
The apple of the world's eye, the 18-year-old Mbappe burst onto the scene with his breakout performance for the Ligue 1 champion, saving some of his best action for the bright lights of the Champions League. Monaco is reported to have turned down Arsenal's big-money offers thus far and is said to be holding out for a world-record-shattering figure for its star forward–one that would certainly keep Real Madrid on-brand if it were to pay up and add another jewel to its treasure trove of attacking riches. Should Real land Mbappe, it would surely put Gareth Bale on transfer watch, too.
Andrea Belotti, Torino
The 23-year-old Italian is in demand after his breakout season, and Chelsea appears to be the in-need, big-spending power ready to make the move. With Diego Costa on the outs and Lukaku gone, the defending Premier League champions have quite the center-forward void to fill. There could be some who may question whether Belotti can cope with the spotlight of an elite club, having played most recently under the radar at Palermo and Torino, and that could be a consideration for Chelsea before it comes close to triggering a reported €100 million buyout clause. There's no doubting the talent, though.
Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid
Like Belotti, Morata is directly impacted by Lukaku's move to Manchester United. It seemed like a foregone conclusion for a while that it was Morata who was destined to wind up at Old Trafford, but whether that was a smokescreen or just a move that didn't pan out, his future remains in the balance. Chelsea appears to be the prime option remaining, though Morata could certainly do way worse than staying put at Real Madrid–and he's playing the part by joining the squad in its summer trip to the USA. Chelsea, meanwhile, can't afford to go into the new season without Diego Costa's successor in the fold.
Diego Costa, Chelsea
Diego Costa is unwelcome back at Chelsea, that much has been made clear by Antonio Conte. He reportedly will wind up back at Atletico Madrid after apparent flirtations with the Chinese Super League's checkbook, but the problem with Atletico Madrid is that it can't register new players until January thanks to a FIFA transfer ban. When making headlines on the field, there are few as prolific as Diego Costa–it's just a matter of when and where he'll be able to get back to doing what he does best.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund
Aubameyang, weeks removed from winning the Bundesliga's golden boot, was rumored to be bolting for China in a sensational move for a player of his stature. While PSG and Real Madrid (and now Chelsea) are more natural rumored destinations and have been for some time, China was the one said to be offering loads and loads (and loads) of money for the Gabon striker. He's with Dortmund for the preseason, and the China talk has seemingly cooled. At 28, though, this may be his last chance to cash in, and Dortmund has shown time and again that it'll move on from high-priced talent and reinvest elsewhere.
Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Alexis was Arsenal's shining star a season ago, and the club can ill afford to lose him for nothing after next season, hence the transfer rumors. Even with Lacazette in the fold, Arsenal would be wise not to mess this one up, and if it can convince the Chilean, who scored 24 league goals last season, that the future is bright at the Emirates, that would be a best-case scenario. Watching him walk to Manchester City, or anywhere else, even for a large fee, would be a bitter pill to swallow for Arsenal fans.
Kyle Walker, Tottenham
Dani Alves snubbing Manchester City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola for PSG is music to Tottenham's ears. Spurs may well lose Walker, but they can increase their leverage with Man City missing out on the Brazilian star, who left Juventus after one sensational season. Paying £50 million or more for a fullback may seem like lunacy, but then think about how invaluable the likes of Dani Alves and Marcelo were for Juve and Real Madrid in their runs to the Champions League final last season, and perhaps it's not so outrageous for Man City to consider as it remakes its back line.
(UPDATE: Reports suggest Manchester City will indeed sign Walker for that massive fee.)
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen
Chicharito is apparently too rich for MLS's blood, but he has one season left on his deal at Bayer Leverkusen, so the time is now for a move elsewhere. Moving in the winter prior to a World Cup is quite a risky proposition, even for Mexico's all-time leading scorer, but if Leverkusen is going to cash in and not risk losing Chicharito for nothing, it'll have to survey its current options and act swiftly. West Ham and Tottenham have been recently mentioned as destinations for the 29-year-old.
Thomas Lemar, Monaco
Will Arsenal capture a Monaco "consolation prize" if it can't sign Mbappe? It certainly appears that it's going to try–although it will apparently take more than the £30 million and £40 million it has already offered. There's no way Monaco is missing out on its chance to cash in, and if Lemar is to join Bernardo Silva and potentially Mbappe, Fabinho, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko on the outs from the Principality, it'll make sure it maximizes its windfall.
Go figure that it's the season when Arsenal finally misses out on the Champions League that it is on the verge of acquiring the players necessary to fill out the squad and plug the holes that have plagued it for its consistent round-of-16-and-out years.