Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea v AC Milan, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid

AC Milan, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked with the Premier League in a host of transfer rumours, and the top 3 (Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United) all have players in demand.

Let’s take a quick look at the status of these transfers (rumours):

AC Milan

Milan are after a proven goalscorer with their immediate targets being Arsenal’s Adebayor and Chelsea’s Drogba. Their problems are compounded by the transfer fees demanded by the clubs in question as well as the fact that Milan have missed out on a place in the Champions League (which has at least cooled Drogba’s interest in moving to them).

Milan are also close to signing Ronaldinho, with Chelsea reportedly not interested and Manchester City not considered good enough by the Brazilian (Milan have a better chance of qualifying for the Champions League in 09/10 than City, it’s that simple).

And then there are Milan’s two crown jewels – Kaka and Pirlo. Both would be welcome additions to any of the top clubs in Europe but their future, at the moment, seems set at the San Siro. Despite rumours of interest from Chelsea in Kaka and expected interest from England and Spain if Pirlo was available, both players are expected to give at least one more season to their club and help it qualify for the Champions League.

Milan will most likely get their man in Ronaldinho but their search for a striker is more difficult. Adebayor is unavailable and Drogba would be more tempted by Barcelona than Milan if both clubs came calling. Eto’o is unlikely to move there either, so Milan will wait and short of convincing either of those two, will probably go for someone like Huntelaar (who again is linked with Manchester United).

Inter Milan

One shouldn’t forget Inter’s interest in Frank Lampard and their belief that they can sign the England midfielder either this summer or the next. Lampard was due to sit down for final contract talks with Chelsea and has repeatedly said that he wants to see his career out at Stamford Bridge, but he’s not being offered the money that Chelsea are paying Terry / Ballack and he’s not being offered the type of long-term deal that Terry has either.

In my view he deserves that much at least but the key here will be Scolari’s opinion of Lampard and whether he pushes for his inclusion or not. As things stand Deco is a Scolari signing and therefore Lamps’ chances of staying are slim, although it’s still possible.

I don’t think that Mourinho will go after any of the other candidates mentioned here even though Drogba has been linked frequently with Mourinho. Eto’o could be a possibility but right now Lampard remains their priority.

FC Barcelona

Barcelona earmarked 3 players for sale – Deco, Ronaldinho and Eto’o – and with Deco gone to Chelsea and Ronaldinho expected to move to Milan, Eto’o is the only one whose future is uncertain. The press is going with Chelsea but personally I think either Arsenal or Manchester United are more likely to make a move for the Cameroon striker.

Chelsea already have 5 strikers and with their 4-3-3 style of play and no ACN to interrupt them this summer they will be looking to sell at least 2 strikers before buying someone and apart from Drogba (Kalou isn’t going anywhere) I’d be surprised if they get good offers for anyone else. On the other hand, Arsenal could offer a swap deal for Adebayor and Eto’o and United are already looking for a striker to supplement their squad (although if Ronaldo stays and Saha gets fit they would probably go for a young striker / winger).

Eto’o could end up in Italy next season if the interest from the Premier League doesn’t pan out as expected, but as far as replacements go Barca seem to have been priced out of a move for Adebayor and there are much cheaper and better options available in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introductions. They’re after the best young players most marketable players in football and as a result their annual target list includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas and Kaka. This summer Fabregas is off their radar but the Madrid club are after Ronaldo and they’ve done everything in their power to create discord between player and club.

While Ronaldo hasn’t come out and denied the speculation he has been professional about the whole situation and has never mentioned Madrid by name, keeping his comments to ‘i want to follow my dreams’ and ‘such opportunities only come along once’. He hasn’t talked about asking for more money from United or threatened to leave – in his words ‘its up to United, not me’.

United won’t let Ronaldo leave this summer, so Madrid may now be forced to look somewhere else (and also repair relations with Robinho, although the Brazilian could still leave with Chelsea seemingly very interested). Milan’s absence from the Champions League could prompt Madrid to go after Kaka again, although it seems that this summer they will push for Ronaldo and create as much trouble as they can with a view towards signing the winger next summer.

Transfer season is tough on the fans. Before yesterday I had come to dislike Ronaldo and dislike Madrid, while everyone I speak to seems to dislike Chelsea for their business model and some poke fun at Arsenal for being stingy and holding players against their will.

Sometimes as fans and observers of the game we need the proper perspective to appreciate what’s happening in the game. Comparing Adebayor and Ronaldo, you can’t help but notice the lack of professionalism in the former and despite the speculation and false rumours flying around, the dedication of the latter to his principles and the game itself above everything else.

Chelsea’s millions are often mocked but their business strategy is sound (taking losses in the short term to dominate and profit in the long run) and one that’s often used by investors to break into and gain a strong foothold in a competitive market. Football is a business and despite our best efforts you can’t put this genie back in its bottle.

Arsenal and United have both taken principled stands over their players and that’s to be respected. Despite Wenger’s fears footballers will not start dictating their own transfer fees – clubs will just have to get better at attracting and holding on to their players and focus on building a great team instead of building a squad of great players.

This summer is far from over but it’s more of the same – 99% BS and 1% of actual quotes and insider information. And (I know we’re guilty of this) there’s way too much focus on the big teams, so pretty soon you’ll see us covering more of the non top-4 stuff (and non-Premier League stuff as well).

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