1. Douglas Costa to Tottenham
The Wembley Issue looms for Spurs in the new season and, while Mauricio Pochettino and his players retain the complete faith of the supporters, there’s a lingering concern that the broader pitch will expose the side’s lack of width. Tottenham are a narrow side with a gifted, resilient middle and the close confines of White Hart Lane accentuated those strengths in a way that Wembley (and the pitch at their new stadium) will not.
Bayern Munich’s brilliant Brazilian Costa - who’s been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena – would be a fabulous addition. An unrealistic one, of course, and the kind of transfer which would put great strain on the club’s wage structure, but a move which would equip Pochettino with both a previously missing ingredient and an authentic difference-maker.
2. Radja Nainggolan to Chelsea
Antonio Conte has already enquired twice about Roma’s peerless box-to-box midfielder and for very good reason: if you didn’t know better, you’d think that Nainggolan had been custom bred to play in Chelsea’s 3-4-3.
Roma have again had to reject a flurry of advances for the Belgian and – realistically – he’s probably not moving. But imagine pairing him with N’Golo Kante and adding his thrust to the existing stability. A shame for Chelsea that he’s unlikely to join this summer, but a relief for everybody else.
3. Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United
At the time of writing, and particularly given the player’s reported contract demands, Sanchez is expected to leave Arsenal and head to Manchester - but to City rather than United. Logical, of course, because he’s an outstanding player who Pep Guardiola has managed before.
But he doesn’t necessarily fix any of the team’s pressing issues. He’s neither a competent, ball-playing centre-half, a dependable goalkeeper, nor a first-rate defensive midfielder.
Across the way, United are desperate for attacking dynamism. Old Trafford remains home to an impressive batch of players, but - even if Jose Mourinho is able to add Romelu Lukaku in the coming days - they collectively remain oddly lifeless. Sanchez, with his relentless vibrancy and stratospheric standards, would infuse that team with something it desperately needs.
4. Leonardo Bonucci to Manchester City
Bonucci’s relationship with his manager Massimiliano Allegri was strained last season, so while interested clubs were slapped away in the summer of 2016, Juventus might be at least willing to discuss a sale a year on.
And what a move that would be for Manchester City. Vincent Kompany has been creaking for some time, Nicolas Otamendi remains a boom-and-bust defender who provides great theatre rather than a healthy goal difference and John Stones, in whom Pep Guardiola evidently has more faith than many, would clearly benefit from playing alongside someone of Bonucci’s profile.
A fabulous all-round defender, of course, while his more traditional qualities would also provide the stable defensive environment which the adventurous Stones probably needs to flourish.
5. Andy Carroll to Newcastle
Why? Because we’re all suckers for symmetry. Carroll left Newcastle at a strange time in their history and there would be something appealing in seeing him return under better conditions. He’s not the same player: older, more fragile, and probably with only a few years of peak career left. Yet it would still be the kind of righteous homecoming that every fan loves to see.
Some players belong in certain shirts and, while West Ham supporters will no doubt disagree, that’s certainly the case with Carroll. Had he not been sold - and had St James’ Park not been a theatre of the absurd during his formative years - he would have become the next great Geordie No.9. There’s still time for the 28-year-old to realise at least part of that prophecy.
6. Diego Costa to Arsenal
Bear with us… In all likelihood, Costa will be heading back to Atletico Madrid before much longer and, of course, Arsenal have just signed Alexandre Lacazette.
But imagine if inter-London rivalries weren’t what they are – and consider what Costa could have brought to Arsenal. First and foremost, he’s a bully and about as stylistically opposed to the common notion of an Arsene Wenger player as it’s possible to get. But therein lies the charm: he could have been the steel to the silkier talents around him.
Tactically, it would also have been very smart. Costa isn’t a player of any great finesse, nor is he quite the lethal finisher he’s often assumed to be, but he occupies defenders in a way that few others do, creating all kinds of space for attacking midfielders. It’s not a coincidence, for example, that Eden Hazard’s performances at Chelsea have often seemed to hinge on Costa’s form.
7. Virgil van Dijk to Tottenham
Think about that back three: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Van Dijk. Add Hugo Lloris into that group and Tottenham - by far the meanest Premier League side last season – might even be giving Juventus a run for their money as the best defence in Europe.
Given Southampton's asking price, Van Dijk remains a long way out of reach for Spurs and will almost certainly touch down at Manchester City before the end of the summer. But patching the Dutch international’s passing range, ease on the ball and defensive strengths into Pochettino’s formation seems such an obvious move to make. That’s even before considering the knock-on benefit of restoring Eric Dier to a permanent midfield role.
It won’t happen, but in a more sensible world it would.
8. Alex Sandro to Liverpool
James Milner is a lot of things - most of them positive - but he’s not really anybody’s idea of a first-choice, world-class left-back. The 31-year-old filled in there sufficiently well last season, but if Liverpool are looking to upgrade to the highest level, one name stands out above all others.
Antonio Conte is desperate to snatch Brazil international Sandro from Juventus and it’s easy to see why. He’s a superb crosser and an attacking threat, while he’s also shown that he can be a reliable component in a defensive unit. Perfect for Chelsea - but qualities that Liverpool need even more.
Of course, the 26-year-old looks unlikely to leave Juventus at all this year - and even if he did, Liverpool would need to compete with Chelsea’s financial muscle. An extremely long shot, then - unless he finds himself locked in a room with Jurgen Klopp for five hours, in which case he’ll be begging for a move to Anfield by the time he emerges.
9. Andrea Belotti to Everton
Everton are about to become £75m richer with the sale of Romelu Lukaku but, having spent the off-season systematically improving their spine, will also lose their only reliable source of goals. One step forward, at least one back.
Unless, of course… let’s be frank, Belotti wouldn’t leave Torino for a club outside the Champions League - or at least not without earning the kind of basic wage that even a newly-enriched Everton might be unable to offer. But, beyond his goals, the emotion with which he plays the game would allow him to chime perfectly with the Goodison Park culture.
He’s an old-fashioned, grafting sort of forward who depends on anticipation more than any outstanding physical attribute. He also just loves - loves - scoring goals, in that rather Filippo Inzaghi way, where the act of putting the ball in the net seems essential to the player’s very existence.
It’s an unachievable signing, but one which would nevertheless make sense. Someone who plays with Belotti’s boundless, infectious enthusiasm would become an instant hero to one of the great traditional crowds in England. He’s all honesty and heart and it will be a great shame if he plays somewhere where that doesn't resonate.
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