REAL MADRID FIRESALE COULD TRANSFORM TOP OF PREMIER LEAGUE
There is nothing subtle about Real Madrid's transfer campaign this summer. Toni Kroos has arrived to occupy the No.8 shirt vacated by Kaka for a fee of around €20 million (£15.8m) but the European champions will not stop there.
James Rodriguez, one of the outstanding players at the World Cup, is reported to be on the verge of a €90m (£71.2m) move to the Santiago Bernabeu after Monaco accepted that Colombia international will leave once his buyout clause is met.
There is still the strong possibility that Radamel Falaco could sign from Monaco along with James with an agreement said to have been reached in early July for a move. Madrid's doubts over the state of the Colombia forward's knee following a ruptured anterior ligament remain a stumbling block as well as the fact that Monaco would demand at least the €60m (£47.5m) that they paid to Atletico Madrid and associates for his signature last summer.
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Angel Di Maria and Isco are reported to be surplus to requirements, although Madrid would prefer to keep Sami Khedira at the club. The German World Cup-winning midfielder is at the centre of a tug-of-war between Chelsea and Arsenal but his personal terms look to have placed him outside the reach of the Gunners. Khedira wants a basic £200,000-a-week in wages and, given the presence of his former coach Jose Mourinho on the Stamford Bridge bench, west London looks a more likely destination.
Di Maria, meanwhile, is coming off a hot World Cup of his own and, despite establishing himself as one of Madrid's most important players last season, looks likely to depart in order to generate funds for the fresh faces. Los Blancos seem resolute in their demands to receive a €40m (£31.7m) fee for the 26-year-old with Manchester United battling Paris St-Germain for his signature, though quotes of up to €60m (£47.5m) have been reported in the Spanish press.
The attraction of Champions League football could yet clinch the deal for the Parisians but Di Maria is reported to have already agreed an outline of personal terms with the team from Old Trafford. Only the fee between two clubs, who have done plenty of business in the past, needs to be ironed out.
With James incoming, there will be no room at the Bernabeu for last season's chief signing, Isco. The 22-year-old was left out of Spain's under-performing World Cup squad to cap off a disappointing season on a personal level as he failed to convince Ancelotti of his merits. With Madrid's need to raise funds for the James deal, it brings Liverpool into the picture. Brendan Rodgers has plenty of cash left over following Luis Suarez's transfer to Barcelona and could be tempted to use some of that to convince Isco that his future lies on Merseyside.
However, the long-standing interest from Manchester City could scupper Liverpool's aspirations. Coach Manuel Pellegrini extracted the best from Isco during their period together at Malaga and the attacking midfielder was close to Eastlands last summer before opting for the challenge at the Bernabeu.
WHAT NEXT FOR POGBA AND VIDAL AMID JUVE CRISIS?
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Deals for Alexis Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado went up in smoke and Juventus were left considering inflated purchases for inferior players. Juan Iturbe was quoted at €30m (£23.7m) by Verona while Alvaro Morata, who signed on Saturday morning for €18m (£14.2m) and with a buy-back option, is a glorified loan deal. Conte was not pleased and walked away.
What is not clear yet, however, is whether or not Conte's departure had anything to do with two of his most important players and their futures. Arturo Vidal is a long-term target of Manchester United and has not definitively committed his future to the Old Lady. Any bid of €60m plus would be enough to tempt Juve into selling.
Also, Paul Pogba, once a free agent who left Old Trafford for first-team football, is also valued around that price by Juventus and was top of Chelsea's shopping list but the Blues have since been put off by the fee. One thing is for certain: just because Pogba and Vidal remain on the books of the Italian champions, that does not mean that they are there for the long-term.
There is no way that Agnelli could face the wrath of supporters, and indeed the rest of the squad, to sanction the departures of the two most-bankable assets so soon after losing Conte and appointing the underwhelming Massimiliano Allegri in his place.