The headline moves so far, the latest on the Jadon Sancho and Lionel Messi sagas, and the surprise deals you might have missed...
Wednesday 2 September 2020 17:55, UK
The summer transfer window has reached its halfway stage. Who's done business early? Who is still scrambling? Who could yet be on the move? And who needs what?
A new Premier League season kicks off on September 12, but the window remains open until October 5 - and an additional domestic-only opportunity for trades between top-flight and Championship clubs runs to October 16.
From the big deals done and those still on the boil, to the ongoing sagas and the offbeat moves you might missed, here is what you need to know about the transfer window so far as clubs step up their search for reinforcements before the big kick-off...
Could it really happen? Messi, in light blue, mixing it at Turf Moor in midweek?
The Barcelona forward has been absent from training, having told his club of 20 years he wants to leave, and showdown talks loom as all parties bid to resolve the impasse.
La Liga chiefs appear to have dashed his hopes of leaving Barcelona on a free transfer by stating his £627m-buyout clause will have to be paid if he is to leave the Nou Camp. But Messi's lawyers are arguing - in the spirit of the deal and good faith - his release clause remains active, given that the pandemic forced the season's dates to shift.
City are monitoring developments, wary of a power wrangle between club and player, but the prospect of a blockbuster reunion with former boss Pep Guardiola is gathering pace.
"Barcelona want Messi to sign a new contract and start again," says Sky Sports News' Gary Cotterill. "But Messi's team are saying, 'no, his heart and head are not here, he's made a decision' - he wants out and, it would seem, he wants to go to Manchester City."
While City fans hold their breath, could Sancho yet land in the red side of Manchester this window?
The England international has long been top of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's wishlist but Borussia Dortmund - who added another English talent in Jude Bellingham to their squad in July - have so far dug in their heels over an asking price of 120m euros.
"There's a feeling Jadon Sancho still wants to come to Manchester United so there is the will there," says Sky Sports News' James Cooper. "United will keep pushing. They have the finances but it's whether they think the environment is right. There is a chance, though nobody is saying it publicly, that it might go to next summer."
Step forward, Frank Lampard. After a transfer ban last summer, Chelsea are certainly making up for lost time. The Blues had already secured Hakim Ziyech from Ajax for £33.3m and RB Leipzig's Timo Werner for £45m before the coronavirus-afflicted 2019/20 season was done and they have since shelled out £50m for Ben Chilwell, with another £90m outlay for Kai Havertz imminent. Jamie Carragher is not convinced of their title credentials just yet, though. "They had to buy forward players but if they don't reinforce the goalkeeping situation, I don't see much of a change."
Manchester United have not yet wired £100m to Borussia Dortmund for Jadon Sancho - and they are not planning to, even though the England international remains their top target - but Donny van de Beek is on his way from Ajax for £40m. Gary Neville thinks Solskjaer's men remain "four or five" players away from being title challengers, though. "They have to sign a world-class centre-back," he told Sky Sports. "For me, another midfield player. I also think a right winger, a centre-forward and you have to look at left-back."
Manchester City, no strangers to big-money defensive signings, eclipsed what United are about to pay for Van de Beek near the start of the window when they splashed out £41m for Nathan Ake. Another £20.8m has landed Ferran Torres, though the sale of Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich means City's net spend stands at only £7m. Now, how about that 700m euro release clause for Lionel Messi?
While the usual suspects are flexing muscle, Leeds have not been shy so far. Marcelo Bielsa's newcomers spent around £40m in one day, smashing their club transfer record to land Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia (remember him at Bolton?) for £27m, as well as adding Robin Koch to their defensive ranks. They have also made Helder Costa's loan move from Wolves permanent, to the tune of £15m.
Arsenal moved early to lure Chelsea's Willian across London on a free and, having tied up Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares on permanent deals, Mikel Arteta looks to have persuaded Dani Ceballos to return on another season-long loan. In another coup, centre-back Gabriel has signed from Lille for £27m. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hoisted the Community Shield aloft safely after letting the FA Cup trophy slip; more silverware as further vindication of Arteta's blueprint should see that new contract finally rubberstamped soon.
Jose Mourinho salvaged Tottenham's 2019/20 campaign and has been busy despite the swift turnaround. Joe Hart has arrived as goalkeeping back-up while Matt Doherty has been poached from Wolves and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg snared from Southampton for midfield bite.
Sheffield United need reinforcements elsewhere on the pitch but they moved decisively for goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale in an £18.5m deal, once it became clear Dean Henderson's wages as part of a bumper new Manchester United contact would be prohibitive.
Crystal Palace beat off competition from several Premier League clubs to sign QPR's exciting forward Eberechi Eze for a fee rising to £20m, while Brighton won a transfer scrap of their own to land Adam Lallana on a free transfer from Liverpool, shrewdly triggered a release clause to snap up Ajax defender Joel Veltman for just over £900,000 and have finally convinced in-demand defender Ben White to sign a new deal.
Fulham spent big last time they were in the top flight but highly-rated Antonee Robinson has arrived from crisis club Wigan for a cut-price fee of just under £2m. Harrison Reed and Anthony Knockaert have been signed permanently and Mario Lemina arrives on loan from Southampton, who themselves have so far spent £23m on Mohammed Salisu and Kyle Walker-Peters.
David Moyes kept West Ham up but will hope to do more in the market than securing the services of Tomas Soucek - as impressive as he was last term - to avoid another troubling season.
Newcastle know all about turmoil; after the agony of another takeover that failed to materialise, supporters are braced for another season of just trying to keep heads above water. Steve Bruce has added Jeff Hendrick to his ranks but with Joelinton misfiring and Dwight Gayle out injured, their forward line remains a worry. Callum Wilson is a target but the Magpies have competition for his signature.
West Brom boss Slaven Bilic might well be getting twitchy having seen Leeds and Fulham get busy; the Baggies boss has secured the star of his attack last term, Matheus Pereira, permanently from Sporting Lisbon but will need more in defence and attack if his side are to stick around in the Premier League.
Aston Villa, who only just survived last season, have plenty of names on their wishlist judging by transfer reports but have yet only signed Exeter youngster Ben Chrisene. Burnley boss Sean Dyche - a man used to modest trading - has only so far added Will Norris from Wolves to his goalkeeping department, while Sheffield United's Chris Wilder, who must also work shrewdly after masterminding a Blades rise at breakneck speed, needs cover and competition for a thin squad.
Everton are working hard to put the finishing touches to several deals - including an eye-catching move for James Rodriguez - while Jamie Carragher reckons Merseyside rivals Liverpool could do with fresh legs to help them in their title defence. Thiago Alcantara remains of interest - but the club are out to haggle rather than shell out 30m euros for a 29-year-old entering the final year of his contract. "The only worry for Liverpool is that the team hasn't changed too much," Carragher told Sky Sports. "Sometimes you just need a bit of freshness, mentally as much as anything. Thiago would bring something different to midfield - he'd be more technical. I think he would be a really good addition."
Wolves and Leicester have yet to make any signings, though full-back Timothy Castagne could soon arrive at the King Power.
Arsenal: A new centre-back has arrived in the shape of Gabriel and Dani Ceballos is on his way back. Retaining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is next on the list but surely close. After that, a central midfielder must be near the top of the agenda if the Gunners manage to offload Matteo Guendouzi or a new creative force if Mesut Ozil accepts his time at the Emirates is up. Much now depends on how many fringe players Arsenal can move on before October 5.
Aston Villa: A striker. Wesley's form even before his cruciate injury in January was a concern, while Ally Samatta and Keinan Davis managed one Premier League goal between them. Preferably someone who can also play wide when needed, as wingers are a close second on the priority list.
Burnley: Burnley's more experienced heads like Ben Mee and Jay Rodriguez have continued to do the business but Sean Dyche is keen to add depth and freshness to bring down the average age of his squad. An attacking spark to reduce the reliance on Dwight McNeil would be handy, while defensive cover is required. But given his continued achievements with modest resources, keeping Dyche happy is top of the agenda.
Brighton: Adam Lallana has been secured and Brighton have persuaded Ben White to commit to a new deal after rebuffing three bids for the defender from Leeds. A new striker before September 12 would complete a positive summer on the south coast.
Chelsea: It has to be a goalkeeper. Chelsea have moved impressively and decisively through the market this summer, signing Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva to bolster their defence, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech for extra firepower, and, barring an unexpected late complication, Kai Havertz as a high-class additional option in midfield. Which leaves, after Kepa's struggles last year, finding a new goalkeeper as the clear remaining priority.
Crystal Palace: Can they defy expectations - and possibly even the player's own ambitions - for a second successive summer and keep Wilf Zaha? Having got so close to the new season with Zaha still at the club, it would be big blow to the Eagles if he were to depart over the next month.
Everton: Signing James Rodriguez from Real Madrid would arguably be Everton's most powerful signing in a decade. Carlo Ancelotti wants defensive midfield reinforcements too though.
Fulham: Defensive recruitments are a necessity for Scott Parker. Wigan left-back Antonee Robinson has already joined for an undisclosed fee but Parker will be hoping a centre-back and a right-back quickly follow.
Leeds: Marcelo Bielsa's side were in for a centre-forward, winger and centre-back - and have so far landed all three, with £27m Rodrigo Moreno an all-rounder who should suit the system and wideman Jack Harrison returning on loan. Their failure to secure the return of Ben White is a big blow but Robin Koch has arrived from Freiburg. A goalkeeper could be next on Bielsa's list; is Kiko Casilla the man to thwart Premier League forwards?
Leicester: While the disappointment of losing Ben Chilwell has been offset by James Maddison signing a new contract, a replacement left-back is still required and Leicester are also believed to be in the market for a centre-half.
Liverpool: To quote Jamie Carragher, Liverpool are world-class in every position with the exception of midfield. Which is why their link with Thiago Alcantara makes so much sense if a good deal can be reached. Otherwise, cover for the 'fab three' up front remains the only arguable weak link in a squad which dominated the league last year.
Man City: Two words: Lionel. Messi. (A real defensive presence is also needed, in truth. City still look short in that area even after Nathan Ake's arrival, with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly widely believed to be City's main defensive target)
Man Utd: Assuming Donny van de Beek's transfer is completed without a hitch, Sky Sports has been told Manchester United's priority this summer remains Jadon Sancho. Some would argue, however, that a centre-half should be first on the list - although United currently have plenty of them, so it may be a case of focusing on quality over quantity. And does Anthony Martial need more help to propel United to title contention? Neville certainly thinks another striker is needed.
Newcastle: A centre-forward. Joelinton, signed for £40m last summer, managed just two Premier League goals, while Dwight Gayle is injured and Andy Carroll's fitness remains a worry.
Sheff Utd: A goalscorer. While Chris Wilder frequently rotated an otherwise settled side up front, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie managed only six each last season. Pace and a fresh creative spark would also be welcome. The Blades' defence was rock solid last term but competition is sought at wing-back on both sides.
Southampton: With Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mario Lemina departed, a midfielder with the energy Ralph Hasenhuttl demands is required. A centre-back should be high on the list too.
Tottenham: Given their playing style and Tottenham's weaknesses last year, the signings of Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty have reassuring strategic sense. If they can continue in that quietly effective vein, the headline item of Spurs' summer may be a talking point nobody is talking about right now: keeping Harry Kane. But that's a task which could be altogether more challenging if, say, Barcelona suddenly find themselves with a large amount of money to spend...
West Brom: Can the likes of Charlie Austin, Hal Robson-Kanu and Ahmed Hegazi cut it week in, week out in the Premier League? The Baggies need reinforcements in both boxes, in truth. They must also convince West Ham to let them borrow Grady Diangana again - or find a replacement.
West Ham: A striker. Michail Antonio's restart form was sensational but can he be relied on to consistently find the net over a full season? Moyes will want an alternative, especially after last summer's expensive striker signing, Sebastien Haller, failed to deliver.
Wolves: Matt Doherty fulfilled a unique role in Nuno's finely tuned system; his departure to Tottenham leaves Wolves with a problem to solve. Left-sided defensive cover is also needed, while alternatives to Joao Moutinho and Raul Jimenez would be worthwhile to shoulder the burden. And crucially, Adama Traore must be kept from rival clutches.
Manchester City said goodbye this summer to David Silva, as well as Sane. El Mago, the magician, has joined Real Sociedad on a free transfer, though his day of unveiling brought an unforseen positive coronavirus test.
Liverpool sold Dejan Lovren to Zenit St Petersburg for £10.9m, while Jan Vertonghen finally left Tottenham for Benfica after opting against a new deal and Pedro swapped Chelsea for Roma - a club at which Manchester United defender Chris Smalling could yet end up on a permanent basis after a successful loan spell.
And, there was closure for the two protagonists in one of the game's most ill-fated swap deals.
Alexis Sanchez, who scored just five goals in 45 games at Manchester United, joined Inter Milan on a free, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan has stayed put at Roma after terminating his Arsenal contract by mutual consent.
Who saw Aaron Mooy - 37 appearances for Brighton last season - trading the south coast for the Chinese Super League? "It's a good move for all parties," said Graham Potter after the Australian's surprise switch to Shanghai SIPG for an undisclosed fee.
Angel Gomes, to Solskjaer's disappointment, left Manchester United for Lille earlier in the window - and was promptly loaned to Boavista in Portugal - while another Old Trafford youngster, Tahith Chong, will spent this season on loan at Werder Bremen.
And, if you thought Ricardo Fuller had hung up his boots years ago, you would be wrong. The former Stoke striker has just joined non-League Hanley Town - at the age of 40.
Five weeks remain for Premier League clubs to do their main business - ample time for transfer twists and turns.
Jack Grealish has finally got his England call-up but could Manchester United yet move for Aston Villa's talisman? United cooled their interest in a player rated £80m following Villa's Premier League survival but Solskjaer - who has also been monitoring Kingsley Coman as a potential Sancho alternative - remains an admirer.
Ismaila Sarr has a fan of his own in Gary Neville, while Liverpool have watched the Senegal international, whom Watford value at more than £40m. The Hornets could yet be raided for Abdoulaye Doucoure - Everton are keen - and Troy Deeney, who is interesting West Brom.
Could Kalidou Koulibaly arrive in England's top flight after repeated transfer links? Manchester City have kept tabs on the Napoli man, while RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano has previously interested both Manchester clubs.
Brentford duo Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma are in demand - Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Fulham are interested in Championship player of the year Watkins, though the Bees are holding out for £25m.
And what next for Gareth Bale? Left out of Real Madrid's Champions League defeat to Manchester City because he "preferred not to play," according to Zinedine Zidane, the Wales forward remains on the periphery and at a career crossroads...
Plenty of players with pedigree could be lured on a free transfer, even if wages still need to be negotiated.
Edinson Cavani, 33, scored almost 200 goals over seven years at PSG and is looking for a new club, as is 34-year-old Mario Mandzukic following a short spell with Al-Duhail.
Former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge told Sky Sports recently he feels he has "unfinished business" in the Premier League, while two other former Reds, Nathaniel Clyne and Jordon Ibe are currently without an employer.
Ryan Fraser, like Ibe, is available for free after his Bournemouth contract expired, while Mario Goetze - still only 28 - is another attacking player looking for a fresh challenge.
The summer transfer window will run for 10 weeks from July 27 and close at 11pm on October 5. A domestic-only window for trades between the Premier League and EFL then runs from October 5 and closes on Friday October 16 at 5pm.
Follow all the news and analysis on Sky Sports News and across Sky Sports' digital platforms, including with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.