With the new football season just a matter of weeks away, managers up and down the country are frantically trying to put the last pieces in their respective jigsaws for the 2015/16 campaign.
So with around a month until the summer transfer window slams shut, who are the players being linked with big-money moves?
Charlie Austin – Man United/Aston Villa
When a 26-year-old striker, an English striker no less, bags 18 goals in 35 Premier League games in his debut season, it’s no surprise when his signature is lauded from Land’s End to John O’Groats – especially when his current employer has finished in the relegation zone.
That’s exactly the position that Charlie Austin finds himself in, with QPR demoted back to the Championship after just one season, and it seems inevitable that the former Poole Town hitman is set for pastures new.
QPR have slapped a £15 million price tag on him however, and that has already put off the likes of Newcastle and West Ham, although – in truth – £15 million for a proven top flight goalscorer with plenty left in the tank seems fair enough.
And so it appears there are two clubs left in the hunt for his capture: Aston Villa and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Manchester United. The Villains will have the £32 million or so to reinvest from the sale of Christian Benteke, and Austin fits the bill – you can just imagine him signing for the Villa.
Louis Van Gaal at Man United will be very much aware that Wayne Rooney is the only experienced striker on the books, and he will surely need to recruit a back-up. A move to Old Trafford would excite Austin very much, the projected fee would not be enough to put Van Gaal off and he would be able to land a hot-shot willing to play second fiddle to Rooney as United look to oust the favourites and claim another EPL title.
Angel Di Maria/Edinson Cavani – Man United/PSG
That Charlie Austin transfer saga could be solved by the outcome of the ongoing battle for Angel Di Maria. Manchester United’s record signing, at a cool £59.7 million, failed to live up to expectations in his first season, although many would expect him to improve during this upcoming campaign with a bit more domestic experience under his belt.
However, it has been widely reported that Old Trafford chief have already been in talks with PSG to offload the Argentinean winger, although no deal has yet to materialise. Noticeably, Di Maria has yet to link up with his teammates on their American pre-season tour.
Tellingly, Van Gaal has failed to dismiss the speculation either, and when asked about Di Maria’s future gave a typically surreal answer. ‘I cannot answer that,’ he said. ‘You can ask every time but it’s a process, what I’m always saying, and when we think we shall have to say something I shall say it.’
Di Maria’s potential sale could open the door for Uruguayan hitman Edinson Cavani to move the other way to fill the Red Devils’ attacking void, although it is alleged that he has told his agent he is not interested in leaving PSG at this time.
Karim Benzema – Arsenal
It’s very much paper talk and speculation this one, but the rumours of Karim Benzema exiting the Bernabeu simply won’t go away.
Apparently Rafa Benitez wants to offload the Frenchman to fund his pursuit of either Thomas Muller or Marco Reus, and it is well known that Arsene Wenger is a fan of Benzema’s talents.
And with the Arsenal boss seemingly unconvinced by Olivier Giroud’s ability to prosper at the very highest level, the signing of his compatriot would make sense. However, the £35 million price tag may prove too much for a club known for its relative austerity.
Pedro – Man United/Liverpool
One of the most overlooked members of this Harlem Globetrotters style Barcelona squad, it is rumoured that Pedro is unhappy with the lack of playing time he is enjoying at the Nou Camp.
This has naturally alerted the interest of many a suitor, particularly Man United and Liverpool, who crave a player who has won all of the major trophies in the game, scored nearly 100 goals for the Catalan giants and who can play as a main striker, an old-fashioned number 10 or out wide.
Still only 27, Pedro is rumoured to have a £22 million release clause in his contract – and that certainly wouldn’t put off Van Gaal or Brendan Rodgers either.
John Stones – Chelsea
After a very public fall-out, in which Everton boss Roberto Martinez informed the media that he had turned down a £20 million bid for Stones from Chelsea, it is rumoured that Jose Mourinho is ready to up his initial bid in order to land his man.
He knows he will probably have to break the English transfer record for a defender, but that won’t faze a manager looking for a long-term successor to club captain John Terry.
You get the impression that once Mourinho sets his sights on something, he won’t stop until he gets what he wants.