LONDON, England (Reuters) - With no international tournament this year and two long months before the resumption of the Premier League, English football supporters are indulging in their summer sport of choice - speculation on the transfer market.
There is much to mull over with England’s 20 top-flight clubs heading towards breaking their own spending record of 1.17 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) in last year’s window when a cool 155 million pounds changed hands on a frantic final day.
Further riches have since flowed into the world’s most lucrative league with champions Chelsea netting 153.2 million pounds as last season’s share of the record 5.14 billion-pound TV rights deal and Sunderland’s relegation being cushioned by a 99.9 million-pound prize for finishing bottom.
Only a select few clubs across Europe can access such riches and so the Premier League, and its inflated wages, is again looking the destination of choice for many players across the world.
Manchester City have begun the binge, lavishing 43 million pounds on Monaco midfielder Bernardo Silva and 34.9 million on Benfica’s Ederson, a British record for a goalkeeper.
Liverpool appear poised to break their own transfer record by paying AS Roma in excess of 35 million for winger Mohamed Salah.
The Reds have also been linked with a host of other signings, including Red Bull Leipzig’s Naby Keita and Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, although the 50 million-rated centre half is also attracting interest from Chelsea and Manchester City.
All this comes before the most likely big spenders, Manchester United, even enter the market. In manager Jose Mourinho’s first summer at the club, United invested 145 million pounds in new talent, including a world-record 89 million on France midfielder Paul Pogba.
Although Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann have distanced themselves from moves to Old Trafford, another Real Madrid player, Alvaro Morata, is being linked with the club, possibly as part of a deal that would send keeper David De Gea in the other direction.
Also likely to exit Old Trafford is Wayne Rooney, United’s record goal scorer, with Stoke City or Everton possible Premier League destinations if the 31-year-old England striker decides against opportunities to move abroad.
Arsenal are also expected to spend heavily after the disappointment of missing out on Champions League football.
The Telegraph reported that they have had an 87 million-pound bid turned down for teenage French striker Kylian Mbappe, a move that is leading to speculation over the future of Alexis Sanchez and a possible move across London to Chelsea.
Promoted Newcastle United appear ready to pay 15 million pounds for full back Kieran Gibbs, who is struggling to hold down a place in the Arsenal defence.
By coincidence 15 million was the fee they paid for striker Alan Shearer 21 years ago in a deal that smashed the world record at the time. Shearer, now a newspaper and TV pundit, has predicted manager Rafa Benitez will need to spend 10 times that amount on recruits to compete in the top flight next season.
“He now needs, at the minimum, a 150 million-pound investment in new players,” Shearer wrote.
By Premier League standards, that might make him one of the more conservative spenders.
Editing by Ed Osmond