The COVID-19 crisis has reaped unforeseeable havoc in the world. Thousands of people have lost their lives, businesses have gone bankrupt, and sports has been suspended.
The total damage of the virus can only be calculated once everything comes back to normal, and one of the things that are set to be impacted heavily is the football transfer market. Lower-tier clubs are facing the threat of bankruptcy, while even rich super clubs such as Juventus and Manchester United are facing tough choices after COVID-19 has left them reeling.
Once again, the Red Devils find themselves at a crossroads. One the one hand, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been showing signs that he can be the one to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January. On the other hand, Solskjaer’s record as permanent manager is far less appetizing than, say, Mauricio Pochettino.
But in the 8 matches since the winter break in England, United have scored 22 goals which have amounted to 6 wins, 2 draws and 0 losses. The arrival of Fernandes has brought a newfound creativity and swagger on the field.
The Norwegian has the backing of both the Manchester United board and many of the fans. But does he have enough time to gather a strong enugh squad to challenge for the Premier League?
Looking at the current squad, United will doubtless scan the market for a top striker. Harry Kane has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for a few years, but he has seen his value drop due to increasingly common injuries.
Having been brought in on deadline day in January, Odion Ighalo has had an immediate impact since joining on loan from Shanghai Shenhua. The Nigerian has registered 4 goals in 8 games, and with just a £15 million asking price, it seems likely that United will still sign him on a permanent transfer.
The biggest issue at Old Trafford happens to be the Paul Pogba situation. After an injury-filled season and a barrage of transfer rumors, it’s fair to say that his stock is at an all-time low at United.
Both Scott McTominay and Fred have earned the right to start for United due to their performances this season, and with Pogba’s contract set to expire in 2022, United will be considering whether or not to cash in on their record signing.
PSG looked set for a redemption year this season, with Les Parisiens crawling back from the first leg defeat against Borussia Dortmund to eliminate Lucien Favre’s men, despite star midfielder Marco Verratti being unavailable.
The biggest question with regards to PSG no longer happens to be Neymar, who looks set to stay no matter what, but Mauro Icardi. The Argentine started off his loan spell in France on the right foot, but since February, he’s seen his minutes trimmed by Thomas Tuchel, who has preferred Edinson Cavani instead.
With the relationship between Tuchel and Icardi seemingly burnt, it may be in PSG’s best interest to sign him on a permanent deal and sell him to Juventus for a slight profit. If not, Icardi will have to return to Inter Milan with his tail between his legs.
Just before COVID-19 slammed the door shut on Italian football, Juventus defeated Scudetto rivals Inter Milan 2-0 to take a firm grip on the title race. But despite leading in the league, Maurizio Sarri’s side has seen their fair share of struggles this season, and it’s clear that they are in desperate need of recruitments.
Miralem Pjanić’s best days are behind him, as are the likes of Blaise Matuidi and Douglas Costa, both of which have suffered major injuries this season. With Cristiano Ronaldo turning 36 next year, Juve are running out of opportunities to win Ol Big Ears.
It remains to be seen whether or not Juventus will be able to spend big given their bloated wage bill. But in order to win the Champions League trophy that has evaded them for 24 years, they need to bring in some star players, and fast.
Before COVID-19 slammed the door shut on football, the biggest topic was Manchester City’s two year ban from UEFA competitions due to the breach of Financial Fair Play rules.
Despite the controversial ruling, the Sky Blues produced their greatest European result under Pep Guardiola, a 2-1 victory against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu. Nevertheless, with the future hanging in the balance, it remains to be seen whether or not they can convince top players to join their project without the promise of Champions League football.
With his contract expiring in 2021, Leroy Sané is one of the many players who could depart the Etihad. The German winger has recovered from an ACL injury that kept him out of action this season, and with Bayern Munich on the prowl for a new winger, it is likely that he returns to his home country this (or next) summer.
Guardiola and Sané haven’t always enjoyed the smoothest relationship, and with Bayern in need for someone to fill the gap left by Arjen Robben, it’s likely only a matter of time before the winger makes the move to Bavaria. City will need to bring in a winger, as well as a center back to cope with their squad’s flaws.
Aside from Liverpool’s brilliance, the biggest reason why Manchester City surrendered the title race is their bad defense. Guardiola did not buy a replacement for Vincent Kompany when the City captain left last season, and John Stones has not been able to step up into the void as many had otherwise expeected.
City are facing not just the financial blowback from COVID-19, but the potential loss of Champions League football as well. Put these two together, it may be the end for Pep’s dynasty at City.
By: Hammad Pervez
Photo: David Ramos / Getty