Summer transfer window opens but it’s the era of player power

Paris (AFP) – The summer transfer window officially opens in England on Friday with Premier League clubs again set to splash the cash while the futures of a selection of out-of-contract stars dominate headlines on the continent.

Clubs in England will have a period of almost 12 weeks, until September 1, to strengthen their squads, although one of the biggest moves has already been announced, with Erling Haaland heading to Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund.

There will be the usual headlines of Premier League sides flexing their financial muscle, with a huge increase in income from overseas rights deals reportedly taking broadcast revenue for the three-year cycle to 2025 over £10 billion ($12.5bn).

With the financial rewards only getting greater, the chances are English clubs will again collectively splash more than £1 billion on transfers, as they have done in the last six summer windows.

Haaland’s move will cost City what might be considered a modest sum of £51 million (60 million euros, $63 million) due to the release clause in his contract at Dortmund.

The prolific Norwegian is unlikely to be the most expensive new arrival in England’s top flight — Liverpool and Manchester United are being linked with moves for Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez, valued at 100 million euros by Benfica.

Yet it is often the transfers happening beyond the Premier League’s biggest clubs that confirm just how powerful England’s elite have become.

A prime example is Aston Villa, who finished 14th in the season just ended but have already announced the signings of Diego Carlos from Sevilla and Boubacar Kamara from Marseille.

Brazilian defender Diego Carlos will move for a reported £26 million while holding midfielder Kamara — who has just broken into the France squad — is a free agent with his contract at Marseille expiring.

Both turned down Champions League football next season to head to Villa Park.

Kamara’s move, meanwhile, is indicative of something else.

– Free agents –

This is the era of player power, with more and more of the biggest stars happy to let their contracts run down — that way the huge transfer fees that might be paid between clubs are more likely to end up in the pockets of the players themselves as signing-on bonuses.

Kylian Mbappe allowed his contract at Paris Saint-Germain to come to an end before opting to stay in the French capital rather than sign for Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba leaves Manchester United for the second time in his career and, having moved to Old Trafford from Juventus for a world-record fee in 2016, the France midfielder is now being tipped to return to Turin as a free agent.

Paulo Dybala is on his way out of Juventus and expected to join Inter Milan, while Ousmane Dembele could depart Barcelona for free as well.

Others like Sadio Mane at Liverpool and Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich are ready to move on and know their clubs must sell now if they don’t want to lose them for free when their contracts expire next year.

Dembele has been linked with a move to PSG, who will again be busy in the market with the transfer window also opening in France on Friday.

– French renaissance? –

The Ligue 1 champions dominated headlines last year with the acquisition of Lionel Messi after his contract at Barcelona expired.

This time expect fewer glitzy new arrivals at the Parc des Princes, where the main priority was keeping Mbappe.

After two years of enforced belt-tightening due to the pandemic and the collapse of a lucrative broadcasting deal with Mediapro, the outlook is now brighter for French clubs in general.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who have previously bought a stake in La Liga, are investing 1.5 billion euros for a 13 percent stake in Ligue 1’s newly-created trading company.

That means an immediate significant cash injection for clubs, at a time when more and more foreign investors are being attracted to French teams.

Yet, PSG apart, Ligue 1 clubs will for the time being still struggle to compete with those in the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga, where the transfer window officially opens on July 1.