Sir Jim Ratcliffe has heard nothing from Manchester United since declaring an interest in buying the club — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Barcelona are worried about Antoine Griezmann’s future at Atletico Madrid.
Jump to: Barca and Atletico in Griezmann row | Leicester’s financial fears | Ten Hag wants to keep Maguire | Bellerin set for free transfer | Celtic star eyed by Prem giants
Britain’s richest man given short shrift by Man United
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has heard nothing from the Glazer Family about his interest in Manchester United, more than a week after announcing his interest in buying the club, sources have told ESPN.
Ratcliffe, worth a reported £9.8 billion ($11.6bn), has suggested he is willing to open negotiations about a takeover at Old Trafford as fan pressure mounts on the Glazers.
Sources have told ESPN the Glazers are looking for investment to help fund the redevelopment of Old Trafford, although Ratcliffe, who made a £4.25bn ($5.2bn) bid to buy Chelsea in May, would be keen for a full takeover. However, there has been no indication the Glazers are looking to relinquish control.
The Glazers have faced opposition from United fans since launching their leveraged buy-out in 2005.
They have been accused of saddling United with hundreds of millions in debts and draining the club of money through dividend payments. Meanwhile, the protests are being played out against a backdrop of very little success on the pitch.
Around 10,000 supporters joined a protest against the Glazer Family’s ownership ahead of the 2-1 win over Liverpool on Monday. Fan groups say they are planning similar demonstrations at every home game this season or until the club is sold.
United have not won the Premier League title since 2013 and have not won a trophy of any kind since 2017. They finished sixth last season to miss out on a place in the Champions League.
When Chelsea were sold earlier this year, the club fetched a price of up to £4.25bn and it is estimated United would be valued at considerably more if a sale was to go through. Sources have told ESPN that Ratcliffe’s position is unchanged. — Rob Dawson
Barcelona, Atletico in dispute over Griezmann transfer
Barcelona are concerned about what might happen with Antoine Griezmann next summer, sources have told ESPN, with the LaLiga club believing Atletico Madrid will seek to avoid paying the agreed €40 million to make the forward’s move permanent.
Griezmann returned to Atletico last year on a two-year loan deal, with a clause stating that they would be obliged to pay Barca €40m if the France international played at least 45 minutes in 50% of the games for which he is available over the two seasons. Last year, Griezmann did so in 30 of the 37 games for which he was available, fit and not subject to suspension — but in Atletico’s two league games so far this campaign, he has played just 28 minutes against Getafe and another 28 minutes against Villarreal.
Barca and Atletico held a series of meetings over the summer to discuss the situation, with sources telling ESPN that Atletico were trying to convince Barca to offer them a better deal.
Sources said Diego Simeone still believes Griezmann is capable of finding his best form — after scoring just three league goals last season, his worst ever tally, and going nine months without finding the net in LaLiga — but the club believe €40m is excessive for a player who turns 32 next year. Barcelona are not keen on taking Griezmann back either, and his annual salary of over €20m would cause further problems for a club already struggling to meet LaLiga’s squad spending limits.
Various potential solutions have been discussed — including Griezmann lowering his wage demands, or the clubs renegotiating the terms of their agreement — with Atletico pointing to the example of Philippe Coutinho, who Barca allowed to join Aston Villa for half the original €40m sum specified in his loan deal. — Moises Llorens and Rodrigo Faez
Leicester sweating on financial future
Leicester City face a frantic end to the transfer window as a consequence of the brinkmanship employed by several rivals relating to the Foxes’ future accounts, sources have told ESPN. Multiple intermediaries with knowledge of the situation believe that Leicester are under pressure to move players on due to Financial Fair Play concerns and their projected losses for the 2021-22 season.
Defender Wesley Fofana has been linked with a move to Chelsea for weeks — Leicester turned down a third offer worth £70m on Tuesday — while Newcastle have had two bids rejected for playmaker James Maddison.
Midfielder Youri Tielemans has one year left on his contract and is unlikely to sign an extension amid interest from Arsenal and other clubs, but remains at Leicester with less than a week left in the window.
Furthermore, other players deemed surplus to requirements, including Jannik Vestergaard and Caglar Soyuncu, have not attracted offers close to their valuations.
Sources have told ESPN that Leicester’s financial difficulties are widely known and as a consequence, clubs are lowballing them with offers below the respective asking prices. Tielemans, for example, is a free agent next summer but Leicester are thought to want as much as £40m, while they continue to demand £80m for Fofana, a world-record fee for a defender.
The various delays have caused issues within the squad — Fofana was left out of last weekend’s defeat to Southampton, with manager Brendan Rodgers saying he was not in the right state of mind to play, and will also miss this weekend’s game against Chelsea for the same reason.
They have taken just one point from their opening three Premier League games and required a penalty shootout to edge past League Two side Stockport County in the Carabao Cup second round.
Rodgers wants to revamp his squad but knows Leicester have to raise funds before they can sign new players. Other clubs know Leicester need time to act and therefore believe the pressure created by Thursday’s deadline will build to the point they accept a lower offer for at least one of their star names. Either way, a hectic finale to the window awaits. — James Olley
Gab Marcotti and Don Hutchison debate whether Casemiro will suit Erik ten Hag’s style of play.
Ten Hag determined to keep Maguire
Erik ten Hag wants to keep Harry Maguire at Manchester United despite dropping the defender for the victory over Liverpool, sources have told ESPN.
Club captain Maguire was criticised for his performances during defeats to Brighton and Brentford and despite public backing from Ten Hag, lost his place for Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Monday. It has raised the possibility that Maguire could leave the club ahead of next week’s transfer deadline and the 29-year-old has been linked with a move to Chelsea, who are facing resistance from Leicester in their bid to sign Fofana.
But sources have told ESPN that Ten Hag wants to keep Maguire, even if he has to wait to win back his place. Ten Hag wants four senior centre-backs in his squad ahead of a busy season that will also include a break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar during November and December.
Eric Bailly has been loaned to Marseille, while Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are both available for transfer, leaving him with Maguire, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof. — Rob Dawson
Bellerin and Arsenal in talks to terminate deal
Hector Bellerin’s future remains uncertain with less than a week of the transfer window remaining as contract termination talks with Arsenal continue, while both Barcelona and Real Betis face complications in signing the defender, sources have told ESPN.
In what one source close to the situation describes as a complicated deal with “a lot of moving parts,” Bellerin is in negotiations to agree a financial package for the final year of his contract with the Gunners which would then free him to join another team. Arsenal have agreed contract terminations with several players in recent years — including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi among others — and talks are ongoing with Bellerin to do the same.
Betis and Barcelona are yet to indicate they are willing to pay a transfer fee and so the emphasis is on Bellerin and Arsenal to reach a deal first. However, sources have also told ESPN that Betis and Barcelona need to resolve issues with registering players as they seek to comply with La Liga’s financial regulations.
Betis need to raise funds, most obviously through player exits, to register some of their existing players while Barcelona’s problems are well documented — Jules Kounde, signed from Sevilla for €55m in the summer — is still unregistered.
There are other clubs who have expressed an interest in Bellerin, but the 27-year-old is keen on returning to Spain after moving to Arsenal as a teenager in 2011. — James Olley
Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal track Celtic starlet
Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley is attracting plenty of attention from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, according to ESPN sources.
O’Riley moved to Celtic from MK Dons in January for £1.5m and his form and statistics have caught the eye of teams all around Europe, with sources saying there could yet be a late move for him in this transfer window. Celtic have no interest in losing the 21-year-old, sources said, but a bid in the region of £15m-£20m could be tempting in this window, though it is expected his value will increase this year if he continues his impressive run.
If a bid is forthcoming in this transfer window then sources told ESPN that Newcastle United and Leicester City are the most likely who’ll be trying to tempt the English-born Denmark U21 midfielder to the Premier League. Scouts from Wolfsburg and Lille have also watched O’Riley play and have come away impressed. — Tom Hamilton
Lyon upset by Forest’s transfer approach
Only a few days ago, it looked like it was just a matter of time before midfielder Houssem Aouar became Nottingham Forest’s 18th signing of a busy summer.
The 24-year-old France international had an agreement with the Premier League club and Forest were about to make an offer to Lyon for him. However, their bid was somewhat surprising, sources have told ESPN. The amount — €10m with add-ons — was good value for a player with one year left on his contract and who under-performed the previous season.
But what surprised Lyon was the structure of the deal proposed by Forest, who wanted to pay the €10m in six instalments of €1.6m over the length of his contract.
Lyon, who want a €15m transfer fee for Aouar, were not happy with the proposal and felt disrespected. The two clubs are still in touch and the transfer remains a possibility, sources have told ESPN, but Forest have some work to do. — Julien Laurens