Chelsea on Neymar alert as PSG look to ax €222m Brazil star
Neymar is considering his options after deciding the time is right to leave Paris Saint-Germain — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Erik ten Hag sent warning over Manchester United dressing room leaks.
Neymar considering PSG escape routes
Contact has been made with Chelsea, one of the few clubs capable of recruiting Neymar, due to new owner Todd Boehly’s desire to make a big statement in the transfer market this summer.
Meanwhile, Brazil teammate and close friend Thiago Silva has spoken in favour of Neymar joining him at Stamford Bridge. However, it remains to be seen if Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel are keen to recruit the 30-year-old.
Neymar’s agent, Pini Zahavi, is working to identify other potential suitors but is aware only two or three teams would be able to come close to the money that Neymar earns at PSG.
Neymar signed a new contract with PSG 12 months ago, with an annual salary of €43 million gross without bonuses, and has five years left on that deal now after a clause was reportedly triggered to extend it until 2027.
PSG are open to Neymar’s departure as they look to overhaul their squad and change their culture from star players to a team ethic. Kylian Mbappe will be the focal point at the heart of the project, following his surprise decision to snub Real Madrid and sign a new contract.
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona for a world-record fee of €222m in August 2017, and his five years in France have been mixed. Although he has won Ligue 1 four times, PSG have failed to win the Champions League, with the 2020 final loss to Bayern Munich the closest they have come. — Julien Laurens
The ESPN FC crew discuss Manchester United wanting to start over and Erik ten Hag’s reluctance to work with Ralf Rangnick in his proposed consultancy role.
Ten Hag sent warning over Man United leaks
Erik ten Hag has made building a dressing room spirit at Manchester United one of his key goals this summer after being briefed about a series of leaks from within the squad last season, sources told ESPN.
Ten Hag, who took charge of his first day of training at Carrington on Monday, has been informed a number of stories of unrest among players circulated during a disastrous campaign that saw United finish sixth in the Premier League.
Sources told ESPN the players will be encouraged to be more open in interviews next season but have been told that disagreements between individuals should be handled in-house and not publicised. Players have also been told to pass on the message to family members and agents. Ten Hag’s assistant, Steve McClaren, will be asked to act as a bridge between the players and management in an effort to solve any issues that arise.
Sources added the club believe mistrust among the players — particularly during the second half of the season under interim manager Ralf Rangnick — contributed to a poor end to the campaign that saw United win three of their last 14 games. United are hopeful the preseason tour of Thailand and Australia, set to begin on July 8 and run for two-and-a-half-weeks, will help the squad build a stronger bond ahead of the new season.
Sources said the players who returned to Carrington this week have been impressed with Ten Hag during his first few days as manager. He has been keen to lead sessions instead of leaving the coaching to his assistants, like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick did.
Ten Hag has already laid down the law, too, after bringing the first wave of players back to Carrington a week early. The squad were initially told preseason training would start on July 4 until Ten Hag brought the date forward by a week. — Rob Dawson
Shaka Hislop explains why he’s completely on board with Messi returning to Barcelona when his PSG contract is up.
Barcelona’s transfer struggles frustrate Xavi
Barca’s preseason gets underway officially on July 4, but Xavi was at the training ground this week for a series of meetings with sporting director Mateu Alemany and sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff. He was brought up to date with the latest on incomings and outgoings but has been left frustrated with the lack of concrete activity since the season ended in May.
Before heading off on holiday, the Barca coach communicated to several players they were no longer part of his plans. However, only B team forward Ferran Jutgla has left the club so far, with sources admitting to ESPN there is concern about the lack of movement out of Camp Nou.
Xavi, who accepts the financial situation makes things difficult, has also drawn up a list of transfer targets for the club to work on, including Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde, but incomings are heavily dependent on outgoings and commercial deals.
Barca’s players return to training on Monday and then head to the United States for four friendlies. Xavi hopes Alemany and Cruyff will have some good news for him before then. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Craig Burley speaks about Romelu Lukaku’s time at Chelsea and his return to Inter Milan on loan.
Chelsea feared Lukaku problem
When the idea of a loan move back to Inter Milan was first considered, the Blues made it clear they were seeking a fee of at least €20m — a high figure but one designed to offset the 12-month depreciation of a player the club paid €115m for only last summer.
However, sources told ESPN there were fears internally that Lukaku could become a problematic figure at Chelsea with the players due to depart on their preseason tour to the United States at the end of next week.
Manchester United had problems with Lukaku’s behaviour in 2019 prior to him moving to Inter, fining him two weeks wages as he trained away from the first-team squad without permission as he agitated for a transfer.
Lukaku’s relationship with Thomas Tuchel was strained ever since the striker gave an unsanctioned interview in December citing his frustrations at Stamford Bridge and desire to return to Inter.
Given there was only one likely destination, Chelsea decided to cut their losses and facilitate a quick departure with chairman and interim sporting director Todd Boehly keen to draw a line under Lukaku’s troubles at the club rather than risk any further issues.
Sources have indicated Inter ended up agreeing to pay €8m up front with approximately a further €5m in add-ons and will cover Lukaku’s £300,000-a-week wages. — James Olley
Lucy Bronze speaks about joining Barcelona on a free transfer after leaving Man City.
Barcelona all shook up by Elvis tweets
Elvis did not even make it into the building at Barcelona. The club pulled out of appointing Elvis Coca as a scout this week after old tweets surfaced praising Real Madrid and criticising the Catalan side.
Coca, working in a similar role at second division side CD Mirandes, had already reached an agreement with Barca when the social media posts surfaced. In the tweets, which have since been deleted, Coca celebrated Real Madrid wins and complained about Barca receiving help from referees.
“I’ve missed the opportunity of a lifetime,” Coca lamented on Spanish radio after Barca informed him that their offer had been taken off the table.
It’s not the first time Barca have backtracked on a deal because of historic social media posts. They pulled out of signing striker Sergi Guardiola in 2015 because of a series of anti-Catalan tweets.
Sources told ESPN it has led to internal complaints about why these situations can’t be avoided with a more thorough background check when signing players and appointing staff. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Tottenham keen on set-piece guru
Tottenham are in talks to add set-piece specialist Gianni Vio to their backroom staff, sources told ESPN.
Spurs are making strides in the transfer window with Richarlison and Clement Lenglet set to join Ivan Perisic, Fraser Forster and Yves Bissouma as new arrivals in north London, but head coach Antonio Conte is also hoping to make an important addition to his backroom staff.
Vio, 69, has previously worked with AC Milan, Leeds United, Brentford and Fiorentina before forming part of Roberto Mancini’s staff as Italy won Euro 2020 last summer. Rumour has it Vio created 4,830 set-piece routines.
If a deal can be agreed — and talks are ongoing — Spurs should be nothing if not innovative in dead-ball situations next season. — James Olley
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.