Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to love … and transfer rumors. Yes, men and women all over the world are waking up to dazzling sunshine, only to run to their computers to check the latest player linked with their beloved soccer club.
The problem arises when said player plies his trade in a league you’re not watching. Sure, you can fall back on the wisdom granted you in late-night sessions with your FIFA 15 save, but for real knowledge, step away from the YouTube videos and let one who regularly watches and suffers with Serie A guide you through the hottest names predicted to leave Italy this summer.
Best position: Central midfield
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United (England), Barcelona (Spain), Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Likely cost: $88 million
“Actual value:” $66 million
Everyone knows the story of Pogba, the French midfielder whom Alex Ferguson didn’t see fit to keep around at Old Trafford. In the three seasons since arriving at Juventus, Pogba has revealed that the Manchester United manager wasn’t always right about everything. He’s proved himself to be cream of the crop, nearing the title of “world-class,” combining physicality with grace and a lethal long-distance shot.
Juventus has claimed it has no need to sell Pogba, but considering he might be the world’s most-wanted player, it’s hard to believe offers approaching 100 million euros will be turned down. And with the infamous Mino Raiola representing the Frenchman, 100 million could well be the final price.
As the Old Lady continues to age, that sum could go a long way towards keeping her top of Serie A. As for Pogba, his strength and technical skill make him one of the few players likely to continue to thrive away from Italy.
Best position (alternate positions): Striker
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal, Chelsea (England), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Juventus, Napoli (Italy)
Likely cost: $44 million
“Actual value:” $27 million
He’d just turned 21, playing for a team freshly promoted to Serie A, yet Dybala was already attracting all sorts of attention: four goals and two assists in 11 games, kicking off a streak in which he’d score or assist in 9 of 10 games. As it stands now, the Argentine has 13 goals and 10 assists for Palermo, more than doing his part to ensure the club remains in the top division. He’s pacy, he’s dribbly and he can destroy on the counter – a rather ideal player for Serie A.
But Palermo has been here before, and Maurizio Zamparini knows exactly what to do in this sort of situation. It wasn’t all that long ago that Paris Saint-Germain paid $46 million for fellow Argentina Javier Pastore, after all – but sold Edinson Cavani for just $13 million, only to see Napoli turn around and get nearly $71 million from PSG two years later.
Zamparini will be holding out for the highest offer, which might benefit his club but probably won’t do Dybala any favors. To go from one year against the competition of Serie A into the rigors of the Champions League might leave him as despised as poor Cavani.
Best position (alternate positions): Right wing (attacking midfield)
Teams in pursuit: Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool (England), Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Likely cost: $44 million
“Actual value:” $16 million
Lazio wants nearly $90 million for Felipe Anderson, crazy money for a 22-year-old who’s never played a Champions League or World Cup match – a breakout player that’s really only managed to catch the eye while helping lift a team of under-performers toward third in the Serie A standings. After all, all those showing up to Santos games a couple years back weren’t eager to spend the same Neymar-esque sums on the Barça star’s partner.
But there’s no denying Anderson is a talented player able to provide a spark to his side. He can pop up on both sides of the pitch, speed through defenses, and toy with his opponents by dribbling and jinking the ball. Oh, and he can score – 10 goals thus far this season.
He’s on the rise, to be sure, but being afforded freedom of the field in a league that moves slowly and values flair doesn’t necessarily mean he’s yet got the goods to be a starter in a side willing to meet Lazio’s demand.
Best position (alternate positions): right back (right wingback, left wingback, center back)
Teams in pursuit: Manchester United (England), Barcelona, Real Madrid (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Roma, Fiorentina, Napoli (Italy)
Likely cost: $17 million
“Actual value:” $11 million
Who doesn’t want Darmian? He’s Italy’s most talented fullback and had a good shout at being the best for the Azzurri at the 2014 World Cup. He’s also the man who just scored against Torino’s local rivals Juventus, paving the way for his side’s first derby victory in 20 years. If he wasn’t on your club’s radar before that goal, whoever’s in charge of wooing players likely added his name to the fruit basket list.
The trouble with Darmian is that, while he’s versatile enough to slot in across the defense, he’s been well-drilled in Giampiero Ventura’s 3-5-2 formation. He’s disciplined enough that he should be able to transition back to fullback – a shift that other players have had trouble making – but if any team pulls him away from Torino, its fans should remember Darmian is likely to need some time to adjust.
Nationality: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Best position (alternate positions): central midfield (wide midfield)
Teams in pursuit: Liverpool, Manchester United (England), Barcelona (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany)
Likely cost: $33 million
“Actual value:” $33 million
Pjanić’s the player on this list that’s here more by reputation than by actual talent. The midfielder had a fantastic 2013-2014 as one of the driving forces behind Roma’s challenge for the scudetto. Then he went to Brazil and just sort of … fizzled out. Perhaps Bosnia’s World Cup performances were more emotionally draining than outsiders can imagine, or maybe Pjanić is just tired of Roma never truly being a contender. Either way, he hasn’t dazzled like he did last year.
Still, Pjanić is only 25, which means for a midfielder, he’s coming into his best years. Although he’s able to score goals, he’s best at controlling play from deep, and he’s got an eye for the perfect pass. His play should translate well to any team that prioritizes possession, and if Roma is ready to move on, that club may well get a bit of a bargain.
Best position (alternate positions): Head Coach
Teams in pursuit: Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham United (England)
Likely cost: $4.5 million
“Actual value:” How do you put a price on trophies?
Rafa started tongues wagging back in winter, when he refused to discuss a new contract with current club Napoli. The team got off to a shaky start this season, failing to win its Champions League qualifier and looking unimpressive in the league. But the partenopei are now headed to the Europa League semifinals and even back in contention for a top two finish in Serie A, leading many to believe Benítez still has the magic touch.
And it’s well known he wants to bring that magic touch to England. He’s a frustrating coach to be sure – a control freak that often burns bridges at his current club, while alienating the fans with head-scratching lineup rotations. But there’s no denying the Spaniard can still get the job done, cracking the whip and getting the most of his players. If Napoli lifts the trophy in Warsaw, even more suitors will be lining up.