It’s not quite the talk of the town yet, but the January transfer window is starting to move into view on the horizon.
For some clubs, this is a time to bury their heads in the sand and hope no one swoops in to steal their star players. For others, though, it’s the point in the campaign where they try to right the wrongs in their squad and add that bit of quality to elevate themselves to a new level.
The opening of the window is less than two months away and the rumour mill is starting to spin, so we’ve put together a list of the biggest transfer stories right now and graded their likelihood.
Read on for the facts and quotes behind the biggest current transfer rumours.
Memphis Depay (from Lyon to Tottenham Hotspur)
Gone are the days when Memphis Depay was a Manchester United flop. Now, the 25-year-old is a key part of Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands side thanks to his scintillating form with Lyon. International recognition isn’t the only outcome of Depay’s turnaround, though, as the former Red Devil is now being linked with a return to the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur, who are said to be lining up a £50m offer.
Unfortunately for Spurs, there appears to be a huge sticking point: Manchester United have first refusal when it comes to Lyon selling Depay.
“It’s true that Manchester United have a priority to buy back Memphis,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho.
Could it happen? Depay has refused to rule out a return to England, telling Dutch outlet VoetbalPrimeur: “It’s a very nice competition. It’s up to the club that is interested. I belong in a team that plays good football and can play around me, so that I can do my thing. I never rule it out.” His international coach, Koeman, has also publicly advised him to join a bigger club.
Depay’s contract runs until 2021 and Juninho has admitted it will be quite difficult for Lyon to extend beyond that, meaning the French club will likely want to cash in before then. United have first refusal and have been linked with bringing their former player back in the past but right now, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have great faith in his front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James – Depay is far more likely to get minutes on the pitch in north London.
Ivan Rakitic (from Barcelona to Inter Milan or Man Utd)
Ivan Rakitic has started just one La Liga game for Barcelona this season and after spending the past five years as a Blaugrana stalwart, he’s well and truly lost his place in the side to the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Arthur Melo.
The Croatia international recently admitted he feels ‘sad’ at his lack of playing time at the Camp Nou and that his service to the club warrants more time on the pitch than he’s currently receiving.
Manchester United continue to be linked with Rakitic, while Inter Milan head up a clutch of Italian giants rumoured to be considering a bid.
Could it happen? At 31 years old, Rakitic still has plenty more left in the tank and there are a number of clubs who could use his vast experience. Juventus and AC Milan have also been linked with his signature but the former’s plethora of midfield options and the latter’s struggles in recent years make both destinations unlikely.
Man Utd are in great need of more midfield options with Paul Pogba struggling for fitness and seeing his name linked with Real Madrid, while Fred and Nemanja Matic simply aren’t the solutions. There’s only so much Scott McTominay can do in the middle.
The same can be said for Inter. Despite sticking close to Juventus in the Serie A title race, Antonio Conte hasn’t settled on a consistent midfield line-up and partnering Rakitic with compatriot Marcelo Brozovic could be something of a masterstroke.
Rakitic’s contract runs until 2021, meaning Barcelona are likely to command quite a hefty fee. According to Sport, the midfielder’s preference is to remain in Spain or move to Italy but it’s no secret that United have far more financial firepower than Inter right now. A big decision lies ahead for Rakitic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (from LA Galaxy to Bologna)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s time in MLS appears to be at an end, with the 38-year-old striker’s LA Galaxy contract set to expire on 31 December. The former Sweden international has had more individual success stateside, scoring 53 goals in 58 games, but failed to make it beyond the Western Conference semi-finals during this year’s playoffs and will leave Galaxy fans with a sense of regret at his exit.
But, according to Corriere dello Sport, their loss looks like it could be Bologna’s gain, with the Italian club emerging the surprise favourites to be Ibrahimovic’s next destination, ahead of bigger footballing powers such as Man Utd, Napoli and AC Milan.
Could it happen? Who really knows what Zlatan is planning to next? A quick look across his social media shows he’s been enjoying the high-life of the MLS offseason in LA, going for runs on the beach and catching, quite frankly, monstrously large fish.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 2, 2019
But Ibrahimovic did drop a huge hint regarding a possible return to Italy recently, insisting he would still do a better job than the players currently plying their trade in Serie A.
“I know I could still make the difference, both in Italy and in other countries,” he said last month.
“I’d do better than the players who are there playing now.”
As mentioned, Solskjaer seems set on quick, mobile forwards at Old Trafford, so that move looks off the table but MLS commissioner Don Garber recently revealed Ibrahimovic is being “recruited” by AC Milan.
“Zlatan is an interesting character. He’s a thrill a minute. You need to have those guys that are breaking through like David Beckham did,” he said. “A 38-year-old guy, who is now being recruited by AC Milan, one of the top clubs in the world.”
The Rossoneri would represent stiff competition for Bologna and Ibrahimovic has spoken of his love for Milan on many occasions – it’s hard to see him turning down the opportunity to return there for a smaller club.
Granit Xhaka (from Arsenal to AC Milan)
In the space of a few short weeks, Granit Xhaka has gone from being Arsenal’s club captain to a complete outcast thanks to his altercations with supporters during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. From the outside looking in, it’s hard not feel for the Switzerland international who, according to the Daily Express, is now house hunting in Italy amid reports of a move to AC Milan.
Could it happen? Xhaka released a statement shortly after the incident against Palace revealing the level of abuse he and his family have been subjected to and in all honesty, it’s hard to see a way back from here. The midfielder has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and head of the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat to Leicester last week, Unai Emery was less than convincing regarding Xhaka’s long-term future.
“It is important to stay without Granit Xhaka now but I don’t know, maybe he can play in the future maybe he cannot,” he said.
From a footballing perspective, Xhaka has constantly had to fight to stay in the Arsenal team and has often been the scapegoat for poor performances. AC Milan are in real need of midfield reinforcements having not found a settled line-up in the middle and former Arsenal chief Ivan Gazidis is currently managing director at the Italian club, giving them even more leverage in negotiations.
Football.London also see Newcastle United and Borussia Monchengladbach as potential destinations, but Milan remain the favourites.