Soccer  

LIVE Transfer Talk – Barcelona turn to Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku to solve striker quandary

The summer transfer window is approaching, and there’s plenty of gossip swirling about who’s moving where. Transfer Talk brings you all the latest buzz on rumours, comings and goings and, of course, done deals!

TOP STORY: Barcelona turn to Lukaku

Barcelona are targeting Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku as signing a striker remains the LaLiga club’s biggest priority for the summer transfer window, according to Marca.

Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski had originally been Barca’s favoured options, but deals for the Bundesliga frontmen have seemed increasingly difficult to complete.

This is where Lukaku comes in, with the Belgium international currently unhappy at Chelsea.

While he had appeared on the verge of leaving Stamford Bridge during the winter window, the 28-year-old is set to depart in the summer with various clubs interested in signing him.

Lukaku’s 12 goals in all competitions for the Blues this term isn’t representative of his best, after the Belgian managed 64 goals in 95 games in two seasons with Internazionale.

Barcelona officials Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff have already met Federico Pastorello, Lukaku’s representative, about a possible move, though it seems this deal could also be complicated.

Chelsea paid a hefty fee for Lukaku, which Barcelona would be unable to replicate.

To date, there has been no concrete move for Lukaku, but both parties are aware of the situation and are waiting to see what happens with Chelsea’s ownership, as well as what any potential new owners intend to do with the stirker.

– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

LIVE BLOG

12.23 BST: Mauricio Pochettino has not yet been told by Paris Saint-Germain he is being sacked at the end of the season, sources told ESPN’s Julien Laurens, but the expectation is he will leave this summer.

Sources added that Pochettino’s days in Paris are numbered and discussions over his exit have taken place recently. Zinedine Zidane is the club’s No. 1 choice to replace Pochettino while Tottenham manager Antonio Conte is also said to be keen on the job.

Pochettino is preparing as normal for PSG’s game away at Strasbourg this weekend, with the club crowned Ligue 1 champions for the 10th time in their history. But the former Spurs boss is likely to pay the price for an underwhelming season in the French capital. PSG may have won the league at a canter but their humiliating exit at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League weakened Pochettino’s position at the club.

Pochettino was defiant at his prematch news conference on Thursday, when he insisted that he is “100%” sure both he and Kylian Mbappe will remain with the club next season.

“One hundred percent in both cases. Today,” he said. “That’s just how I feel today, what I can see and what I can tell you,” he added when asked whether he had talked to Mbappe about a new contract. “I can’t say anything else because it is really what I feel and what I see. This is football, we never know what can happen. But I have to answer your question based on what I feel today and this is what I feel.”

– Mbappe for president? PSG star received votes in French election

11.32 BST: Arsenal are prepared to let club-record signing Nicolas Pepe join another Premier League club in the summer, the Daily Express reports.

Pepe, 26, signed from Lille for £72m in the summer of 2019, but he has struggled to live up to that fee for much of his time in England.

The Ivory Coast international has started just five Premier League games this season, and has scored just three goals this term.

The Express reports that Arsenal would be willing to let Pepe move for as little as £25m, with London rivals West Ham one of the clubs interested in a deal.

10.44 BST: Ralf Rangnick has said he will urge Manchester United to sign younger players in the future rather than focusing on signing established star names.

The 63-year-old — who on Friday was named as Austria’s new head coach and signed a contract until 2024 — will advise on recruitment and said his preference would be for United to target young players while moving away from a philosophy that has seen the club spend heavily on the likes of Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba.

“My opinion is the club should try to find future top players and try to develop them,” Rangnick said. “We just need to look into the other top clubs in England and also in other countries in Europe and what players did they sign in the past and you get the answer.

“It is obvious the club and team needs new players. Some players have no contracts and some might want more game time and are on loan already. “It is obvious the club needs quite a few new players. You need mentality, quality, physicality and skill — the full package.”

09.51 BST: Wolves are preparing for life after Ruben Neves as they have sounded out agents and contacts over replacements for the midfielder, sources told ESPN’s Tom Hamilton and Rob Dawson.

Clubs have sent out wanted lists to top agents, and Wolves’ list includes a replacement for their 25-year-old midfielder. Manchester United have been offered the option to bid for Neves, according to ESPN sources, but there is firm interest from clubs in LaLiga and others in the Premier League as well.

Wolves are also in the running for a forward this summer, but finding someone to step into the sizeable shoes of Neves is top of their list. ESPN sources say there is desire on both Neves and agent Jorge Mendes’ part to move the player this summer.

Neves had been linked with moves to Barcelona and Arsenal, but has stayed put this season under Bruno Lage. He has made 28 appearances in the Premier League, contributing four goals and two assists.

He has been sidelined since mid-March with a knee injury, and is contracted to Wolves through to 2024.

– Notebook: The inside stories from around the world

09.00 BST: Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo has told ESPN that money was not the most important factor after confirming he rejected more lucrative offers from Premier League clubs before signing a new deal with the Blaugrana this week.

Araujo, 23, signed a contract extension on Friday that will keep him at Camp Nou through to 2026, with his release clause rising to €1 billion. The defender’s previous terms were due to expire in 2023 and ESPN previously revealed that Manchester United and Liverpool were prepared to better Barca’s proposal.

Speaking to ESPN, Araujo said his first choice was always to stay at Barca, whom he joined in 2018, despite the money available elsewhere.

“I am really happy and I am convinced that staying is the right decision because there are good years ahead for the club,” the Uruguayan said. “I was always certain I wanted to stay. There were big offers from abroad, but I’m happy at Barcelona. My family love it here and the fans and my teammates have always made me feel at home.

“I’m grateful for the effort the club have made. We all gave a little bit to reach an agreement, which is what we all wanted.

“[The Premier League interest] didn’t distract me at all. I was convinced what I wanted. It’s true money is a factor, but for me it’s not the most important thing. I am happy at Barcelona.”

PAPER GOSSIP (by Danny Lewis)

– AC Milan are showing interest in making an ambitious move to sign RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku during the summer, reports Calciomercato. The Frenchman is wanted by some of the biggest clubs across Europe and while this is only an idea for Milan at the moment, they would be very keen to bring in the man who has contributed an incredible 30 goals and 20 assists in 47 appearances across all competitions this term. Nkunku’s transfer would cost at least €60m.

– Real Madrid are one of many clubs who have approached Chelsea right-back Reece James about a possible summer move, claims Goal. James is under contract until 2025 and Chelsea will do all they can to keep him, while Real Madrid’s priority remains ensuring Paris Saint-Germain talisman Kylian Mbappe joins them.

– Chelsea are considering paying the release clause for Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, according to Ekrem Konur. The Blues are looking to bring in reinforcements at the back with Antonio Rudiger set to leave for Real Madrid, and Torres has been a key man in Villarreal’s commendable Champions League campaign this term.

– TSG Hoffenheim are hoping to sign Karlsruher striker Philipp Hofmann as a free agent when his contract ends in the summer, reports Kicker. It is felt his heading ability would make him the perfect addition, but it is far from a certainty that the 29-year-old will join them, as he could be set to go to VfL Bochum instead.

– Wolverhampton Wanderers and Celtic are both hoping to sign Bodo/Glimt goalkeeper Nikita Haikyn during the summer, reports Football Insider. The 26-year-old impressed during the Norwegian champions’ run to the Europa Conference League quarterfinal, who are willing to accept £500,000 due to his contract running out in December.