Manchester United have added Kylian Mbappe to their list of striker targets for next summer — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Why Raphael Varane almost missed his grand entrance.
Manchester United make Mbappe a target
United are open to the possibility of adding another player to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad in this transfer window, with the club holding an interest in the central midfield and right-back position ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline. United are also building for the future, and plan to sign a centre-forward in the 2022 summer window with Solskjaer and the recruitment team drawing up a list of options.
Edinson Cavani is expected to leave Old Trafford at the end of this season — possibly returning to South America with Boca Juniors — and Solskjaer is keen to bring in an established striker to fill the gap. Mbappe is one of the options on the table, along with Borussia Dortmund‘s Erling Haaland, Tottenham striker Harry Kane and Inter Milan‘s Lautaro Martinez.
Mbappe has entered the final year of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain, and United are maintaining a watching brief on his situation. Real Madrid officials openly discussed the possibility of signing the 22-year-old, who has also been linked with Liverpool, this summer during the negotiations for the transfer of Raphael Varane from the Bernabeu to Old Trafford. A source said that Madrid required funds generated from Varane’s departure for their “Project Mbappe” initiative, though the LaLiga side privately admit a transfer this summer is unlikely.
Sources said that United are mindful of Madrid’s long-standing interest in Mbappe and appreciate that a move to the Premier League is the unlikelier of the two options if it comes down to a choice between Spain and England. A source at PSG added that Mbappe sees Real Madrid as his preferred option, though he has told senior teammates that he expects to stay in Paris for another year, which would then spark a scramble for his signature next summer.
Mbappe being a free agent would make the deal a particularly attractive proposition, as he would not command a transfer fee, though only a select few clubs in world football could afford his salary and signing on fee. Mbappe is the second-most expensive footballer in history, following his €180 million move to PSG in 2018. Neymar, at €222m, remains the most expensive.
Manchester City are keen to sign Kane from Tottenham before the transfer deadline this summer, but there is hope at United that the England captain and Mbappe will still be available next year. Kane is valued at more than £150m by Tottenham because he still has three years left on his contract, which has led to an impasse between Spurs and City.
Varane almost missed his big United reveal
After United missed the deadline of noon BST on Friday to register Varane to play in their opening game against Leeds United, a plan was put in place to announce the France international’s arrival on the pitch ahead of kickoff.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 14, 2021
The build-up to games is handled by the Premier League, and United had to seek special permission to walk Varane out in front of the fans. And the 28-year-old, who signed from Real Madrid for approximately €41m, nearly missed the cut-off point after being delayed by traffic on his way to the stadium, according to ESPN sources. United had earlier sent out warnings to supporters to arrive early for the 12.30 p.m. BST kickoff because of potential disruptions.
The stunt was well received by Old Trafford, housing a full crowd for the first time since March 2020, with United going on to start their campaign with a 5-1 win.
Varane watched part of the game at Old Trafford before returning to Carrington for a training session. He did not feature in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Burnley on Tuesday but could make his debut against Southampton on Sunday. — Rob Dawson
The ESPN FC crew look at all the factors that will affect how Raphaël Varane meshes with the Manchester United defense.
Messi frenzy big … but not that big
The arrival of Lionel Messi at PSG has sent the city into a frenzy. The deal shook football, and “Messimania” is well underway among fans of the French capital side.
Shirts with Messi 30 on the back sold out on the club’s website within a few hours when they were first put on sale.
Sales have continued to rise since then but, despite various reports, PSG have not yet reached 800,000 Messi shirt sales in a little over a week.
“It is crazy to mention figures like that,” Fabien Allegre, PSG’s head of brand diversification, said. “It is true that the sale trend has been exceptional, but we are far from a million shirts sold. We are not magicians. The deal with Messi happened very quickly, so we have to do with the time that our kit manufacturer takes to produce shirts.” — Julien Laurens
Steve Nicol explains why Mauricio Pochettino, not Lionel Messi, is under the most pressure to win at Paris Saint-Germain.
Benzema’s Real deal
On Monday, Madrid announced a two-year extension for goalkeeper Courtois to keep him at the Bernabeu until 2026. Next in line is a new contract for forward Benzema, 33, whose deal expires in June 2022. The terms of the renewal — for an extra year, until 2023 — have already all been agreed, with the club viewing the France international as a veteran leader in the dressing room alongside Casemiro and Modric.
The team’s attack has become increasingly reliant on Benzema since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018. He scored 23 league goals last season and began the new LaLiga campaign with a brace in a 4-1 win at Alaves last Saturday (Watch Benzema’s Real Madrid double on ESPN, U.S. only).
Madrid are also close to securing an extension for midfielder Valverde, 23. The Uruguayan is highly rated by new coach Carlo Ancelotti. Valverde still has four years to run on his contract, which was agreed in 2019, but the terms of a new deal would reflect his growing importance to the team. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Editor’s note: Real Madrid have since confirmed Benzema’s new contract. Full story.
Craig Burley shares his thoughts on Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Alaves in their opening game of the season.
Lyon indiscipline is no laughing matter
After a humiliating performance, manager Peter Bosz first told his players how unhappy he was by their display and then Dubois tried to rally his troops but Marcelo, 34, laughed at him.
Marcelo also had a verbal altercation with teammate Maxwel Cornet. The Brazilian, who is considered one of the leaders of the team and scored an own goal in the defeat, will now train with the reserve team as the club look to move him on. That will be no easy task as he signed a contract extension last March and is under contract until June 2023.
Lyon’s dressing room has been rife with ill discipline of late. Sporting director Juninho Pernambucano and Bosz are also unhappy with some other players’ behaviour. As well as Marcelo, Thiago Mendes, Islam Slimani and Rayan Cherki are believed to be on the transfer list alongside Arsenal target Houssem Aouar. But there is no suggestion those players are available to leave because of what happened last weekend.
Lyon have started poorly in Ligue 1 with a draw and a defeat. Bosz is unhappy by the lack of reinforcements for his squad, although the club are trying to sign Xherdan Shaqiri from Liverpool and Sardar Azmoun from Zenit St Petersburg. — Julien Laurens
Arsenal expect Ramsdale to take Leno’s No.1 spot
Arsenal‘s decision to commit £30m on Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has surprised many but senior figures at the club increasingly believe this will be Bernd Leno‘s final season in north London, sources told ESPN.
Rather than signing Ramsdale as Leno’s understudy, the pair are expected to fight for the No. 1 spot this term.
Arsenal’s lack of European competition means manager Mikel Arteta does not have as many games as he would like to rotate his squad and offer fringe players more minutes, but Ramsdale’s arrival will ease any pressure on the club at the end of the campaign should Leno’s situation not change. Leno’s contract expires in 2023 and he has previously hinted at seeking a new challenge having joined the club from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018.
Arsenal have allowed players to run down their contracts in the past, or been susceptible to lower offers from teams for those with a year remaining on their contract, which has weakened their bargaining power. But Ramsdale’s imminent arrival will put them in a stronger position to move Leno on for a fee when he has one year left on his deal.
No final decision has been taken on Leno’s future but Arteta pushed hard to sign Ramsdale, overcoming resistance from Sheffield United, who were originally holding out for £40m before accepting a lower fee with the player desperate to join Arsenal. — James Olley
Ian Darke and Julien Laurens react to Arsenal’s moves of signing Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale.
Tottenham to keep faith with Winks
The 25-year-old started nine Premier League games last season and was an unused substitute in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Manchester City.
However, Winks was involved in Thursday night’s Europa Conference League play-off first-leg defeat against Pacos Ferreira and sources claim he is keen to fight for his place under new head coach Nuno Espirito Santo.
Spurs are thought to be keen on offloading a number of players including another midfielder Tanguy Ndombele — who was offered to Lyon in a possible swap deal for Houssem Aouar — but sources told ESPN that Winks, who also attracted interest from Sevilla and Valencia, has not been informed he is among those deemed surplus to requirements.
Barring a late change of heart, Winks will spend another year at Spurs aiming to revive his club and international career, having last featured for England in November 2020 against Iceland. — James Olley
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Harry Kane’s potential transfer from Tottenham to Man City.
Wolves look to LaLiga in Guedes pursuit
The Premier League side have let Valencia know, through agent Jorge Mendes, they will soon make their opening offer. Mendes works closely with both clubs and will oversee all aspects of any deal.
Valencia decided at the beginning of the summer to let Guedes leave the club, with the player keen to go. They are looking for a fee between €25-30m for the Portugal international — an amount that Wolves have indicated they are willing to pay.
Valencia were keen on landing Wolves’ Rafa Mir in the deal but Sevilla have beaten them in the running for the striker, who will return to LaLiga next season. Sevilla are also keen on Guedes and will look to do a cash-plus-players deal, but Wolves remain in the driving seat for the 24-year-old. — David Cartlidge