While Real Madrid has wasted no time adding new pieces to bounce back from a miserable season, the rest of Europe’s top teams have not yet made many splashes.
Below are five questions worth considering this summer as the Premier League looks to follow up on an incredible season in Europe. How will the rest of the continent’s top teams look to dethrone Champions League winner Liverpool, Europa League champ Chelsea and FFP violating Manchester City?
1. Will the EPL give us two more all-England European finals?
I doubt it. I have no questions about how loaded Liverpool and Manchester City will be. And honestly, even if they stagnated or regressed a bit, they’d likely be the two best teams in Europe again next season.
Tottenham, however, was extremely fortunate to make it as far as they did in the Champions League. I expect Spurs to finish around the top four in the Premier League again next season, but elimination in the UCL round of 16 seems as likely as another trip to the final. This club has a fascinating summer ahead. Will Manager Mauricio Pochettino return? Will Christian Eriksen leave for another club? Last but not least is the question of whether this team will finally make a notable offseason addition or two.
As for Chelsea, their best player, Eden Hazard, is already gone. Manager Maurizio Sarri also has a very uncertain future with the club. The addition of Christian Pulisic will make them fun to watch, especially for U.S. fans, but the loss of Hazard and a managerial transition will make it tough to finish in third place in the Premier League again.
Arsenal narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification for ’19-20, but along with Manchester United, they will be major threats in the Europa League (not exactly music to the ears of either team’s fans). Manchester United, as usual, promises to have one of the most interesting offseasons of anyone. Could Matthijs de Ligt join them and shore up the defense? Is Paul Pogba on his way out?
*Want more on this topic? Check out this week’s High Press Pod.
2. Will Real Madrid’s marquee transfers return the club to European glory?
Club President Florentino Pérez is clearly not going to spare any expense this summer.
Luka Jovic and Hazard have already moved to the Spanish capital, and will surely not be the last high-profile moves by RM. The question is whether Zinedine Zidane and his new players can make a run in the Champions League or La Liga after finishing 19 points behind Barcelona this year – and eight behind second-place Atlético Madrid.
Few teams will be more interesting to watch early next season as we see whether the new-look squad can make Madridistas forget a nightmarish first season without Cristiano Ronaldo.
3. Where will Antoine Griezmann land, and how will his absence affect his former team?
When Griezmann first announced his departure from Atleti, a move to Barcelona seemed like a certainty. So why haven’t we heard an announcement yet? There are a couple possible explanations. For one thing, it’s been reported in several places that the Frenchman’s release clause in his Atlético contract will drop from €200M to around €125M on July 1. That would certainly explain why Barcelona would want to wait a few more weeks.
Speaking of reports to be taken with a grain of salt, Barcelona-based Sport has claimed the Barça locker room is opposed to a Griezmann signing. Could this be the reason Griezmann ends up elsewhere? (I admit I have no idea how to answer that). What I do know is that Atleti’s top striker is leaving a team that often struggled to score with him in the line-up, making his exit a huge blow to Los Rojiblancos.
4. How depleted will Ajax be by the end of this summer?
We know that stars Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) and Matthijs de Ligt (??) are leaving Amsterdam. Those players’ departures have been certainties for months.
A slew of their teammates are also going to be in high demand after shining in the Champions League. Hakim Ziyech (26), Donny van de Beek (22) and David Neres (22) are at the top of the list because of their age. Will the massive fees the club receives for de Jong and de Ligt be enough to keep the rest of the roster largely intact? You would like to think so if you’re an Ajax supporter.
However, if a top EPL or La Liga side goes all-in on one of them with an offer of around €50M or €60M, it will be extremely interesting to see how Ajax reacts.
5. Will João Félix move to the EPL?
The 19-year-old Benfica star has been one of the most widely discussed teenagers in the world for quite some time. The question is whether this was his last season outside the continent’s top leagues. The hype around Félix is about more than flashy YouTube highlight videos, as he scored 15 goals and added seven assists in Portugal’s top flight this year in just 1,736 minutes. He alone is reason to tune in (if for some reason CR7 alone isn’t enough for you) to Sunday’s Nations League final between Portugal and the Netherlands at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.
Right now, it seems to be a battle between Manchester United and Manchester City, despite Félix having no shortage of suitors. Benfica’s buyout clause for the player is €120M. He said this week that he will decide on his future after the Nations League final. Time will tell whether he means next week or next month, but either way, it will be one of the most important decisions of the summer.
For a quick look at what he’s capable of, check out what he did vs. Eintracht Frankfurt in Leg 1 of this year’s Europa League quarterfinals.
3 goals, an assist, and a penalty-forcing pass from 19-year-old Joao Felix 🇵🇹— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) April 11, 2019
Not bad at all 👏 pic.twitter.com/wvNIdcM7Wf