Transfer predictor...who will spend the most cash this summer?
The transfer window is about to crank through the gears in what is likely to be the biggest summer of spending in history for Premier League clubs.
Here is your Sunday World guide to the most realistic transfers in a summer when wild rumours are already flowing:
Areas to strengthen: Squad depth, back-up strikers, replacing John Terry.
Linked with: Virgil van Dijk, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Romelu Lukaku.
Just 13 Chelsea players made 10 or more Premier League starts as they romped to a confortable title triumph, yet that remarkable statistic confirms how fragile the back-up options were for boss Antonio Conte.
The squad he inherited from Jose Mourinho last year was loaded with quality, but lacking in depth and Conte was fortunate that he did not need to replace star men David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for extended periods last season.
With Champions League football added to Chelsea’s agenda, Conte will need at least five more reliable first team performers to call upon next season and even if striker Michy Batshuayi remains as a squad player, he needs quality back-up for Costa.
Everton forward Lukaku (above) is an obvious contender for that role, while Monaco midfielder Bakayoko is believed to be Chelsea’s top midfield target, while a £70m move for Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk would confirm the transfer market has gone mad.
Areas to strengthen: A-list performer in central midfield.
Linked with: Ross Barkley, Douglas Costa, Luke Shaw.
Spurs pieced together an impressive season despite their relatively modest wage bill, but they face a challenging summer that is likely to feature the departure of Kyle Walker to Manchester City and a contract dispute that needs to be resolved with centre-back Toby Alderweireld.
Adding a couple of big name stars would give Tottenham an extra dimension, yet their refusal to sanction wages in excess of £100,000-a-week may rule them out of many deals in a summer when their Premier League rivals are expected to spend big.
Signing Barkley (below) from Everton would give boss Mauricio Pochettino a chance to develop one of brightest or possibly most over-rated players in England, depending on your perspective.
The Spurs boss would also relish the chance to work with Luke Shaw once again after he was frozen out at Manchester United, while a £30m move for Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa would improve their options in wide positions.
Areas to strengthen: Defence, balance of the team.
Linked with: Kyle Walker, Virgil van Dijk, Benjamin Mendy.
Pep Guardiola was essentially a flop in his first season as City manager, with the pre-season hype replaced by a reality that this serial winner did not have a magic formula to win the Premier League.
The response will be a predictable splurge of the spare change handed to them by their oil-rich owners, with the wages and fees City can offer bumped up by a reality that they still don’t have the pulling power of clubs with bigger global reputations.
City have already starting their spending with Monaco midfielder Bernardo Silva and Benfica keeper Ederson sign for a combined fee of almost £80m. Expect City to double that figure by the end of their summer spending.
Areas to strengthen: Centre-forward, wide positions.
Linked with: Alexandre Lacazette, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah.
After securing a top four finish in the Premier League, Liverpool need to confirm they are serious about competing for top players in a competitive transfer market.
New Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore has vowed not to be held to ransom in his pursuit of fresh talent, but he will need to shatter the club’s spending structure if Lyon forward Lacazette or Southampton defender Van Dijk are to be signed.
A move to snap up former Chelsea winger Salah fits into the Liverpool transfer model, with the 24-year-old offering a sell-on value if he succeeds or fails at Anfield, but the club’s fans are demanding more now.
The danger must be that Liverpool will be out-bid for their first choice targets and end up signing B-list options who will not improve their squad.
Areas to strengthen: Complete revamp of the squad is required.
Linked with: Kylian Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette, Riyad Mahrez.
Arsenal have vowed to transform their transfer policy after manager Arsene Wenger signed a new two-year contract on Wednesday, but it was easy to be cynical about their first big bid of the summer for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.
While an £87m bid for the teenage wonderkid looked impressive, Arsenal were fully aware that Real Madrid had a bigger offer rejected last month.
Was Arsenal’s ‘offer’ for Mbappe a PR stunt to convince their fans they mean business? It certainly looked like that.
More viable targets are Lacazette and Mahrez (above), with the latter of those two a possible replacement for the departing Alexis Sanchez.
Whatever happens, Arsenal need to make some serious statement in the transfer market this time.
Areas to strengthen: Forward line, full-back.
Linked with: Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Ivan Perisic, Alexandre Lacazette, Alvaro Morata, Andrea Belotti.
Make no mistake, United’s spending plans were dealt a heavy blow when Antoine Griezmann opted to stay with Atletico Madrid for another year.
United manager Jose Mourinho saw Griezmann as the answer to his scoring problems and he is now fishing in the reserve pool for back-up options.
Lacazette would be a gamble as he has not proved himself outside of the French league and the same could be said of 23-year-old Torino striker Belotti, who scored 26 Serie A goal this season.
Talks over a deal to sign Inter Milan winger Perisic (above) are at an advanced stage, yet reports that Morata is on the brink of signing for United appear to be wide of the mark, with Real Madrid insisting they have yet to receive a bid for their Spain striker.
As for the rumours that Cristiano Ronaldo will be making a return to Old Trafford, we can all calm down and forget about that little fantasy as United officials do not expect to sign their former No.7 from Real Madrid despite all the stories in recent days.