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EPL clubs set to splash cash as transfer window opens
MANCHESTER City have yet to hold their victory parade after outlasting Liverpool in a thrilling English Premier League (EPL) title race but already they are plotting for next season. The champions are not alone.
A huge summer splurge on transfer fees is likely after EPL spending fell last year, in part due to a short window for clubs to complete their business between the end of the 2018 World Cup and a new transfer deadline, which fell before the season began in August.
The EPL's transfer deadline will again come before most of the other European leagues, on Aug 8, which means the English clubs don't have much time to deal.
The window for domestic deals opened on Thursday this week, and international transfers can be completed from June 11. Here's a look at where the top six teams are looking to strengthen their respective squads.
The new champions may have claimed a remarkable 198 points over two title-winning campaigns, but manager Pep Guardiola promised they will come back stronger next season and are likely to invest heavily.
A potential transfer ban due to a Fifa investigation over the recruitment of foreign minors and third-party ownership means this may be City's last chance to sign players for at least 18 months. City could also face a one-season ban from the Champions League by UEFA over financial fair play irregularities. If imposed, the sanction would likely be enforced for the 2020/21 season, giving City another chance next season to win the competition for the first time.
Atletico Madrid's Rodri, who has a 70 million euros (S$107.4 million) buyout clause, has reportedly been targeted as the long-term replacement for 34-year-old Fernandinho in the holding midfield role. A centre-back is also thought to be a priority, with City among several clubs chasing the signature of Ajax Amsterdam's 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt. Nicolas Otamendi and, perhaps, captain Vincent Kompany could also depart in the next few weeks.
Liverpool were the biggest EPL spenders by a mile last summer and their £170-million (S$298.2 million) investment was richly rewarded with the third-highest EPL points tally ever and a return to the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1.
No such splurge is expected at Anfield this year as manager Juergen Klopp fine-tunes his plans to dislodge Manchester City. Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge are set to leave on free transfers, and cover is needed for Andy Robertson at left-back and up front as a back-up for Roberto Firmino.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has worked wonders to reach the Champions League final and secure a place in the competition next season, despite not signing a single player since January 2018.
The Argentine has been putting pressure on the famously frugal Tottenham board to back him this summer now that the club have finally moved into a new 62,000-capacity stadium, which cost more than £1 billion to build and has slowed Spurs' spending in recent seasons.
Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon is a target as competition for Danny Rose at left-back, while the club needs a more potent back-up to Harry Kane than what they have now in Fernando Llorente.
The club has also been linked with midfielders Andre Gomes from Barcelona, Youri Tielemans (who shone on loan at Leicester from Monaco), and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.
They could be replacements for Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, both out of contract in 2020.
Chelsea may not do any business at all as they are currently banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows by Fifa. The club plan to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and hope to have the ban suspended until the judgement.
Star midfielder Eden Hazard finally looks set to move to Real Madrid, leaving the Blues without their best player in recent seasons.
Christian Pulisic was signed in January to fill that void and will soon arrive from Borussia Dortmund, but Chelsea may have to rely on talented youngsters currently out on loan.
The Gunners' summer business depends largely on whether they beat Chelsea in the Europa League final on May 29 in Baku to seal a return to the Champions League next season.
An ageing defence that conceded 51 goals in the EPL cost Arsenal a top-four finish and reinforcements are needed across the whole backline. Aaron Ramsey's departure to Juventus leaves a big hole in midfield.
The Red Devils face by far the biggest rebuilding job after a disastrous season, especially in the final two months. They failed to qualify for the Champions League and finished as close to the relegation zone as to rivals Manchester City in the table.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has promised big changes this summer but much will depend on how many players on big contracts United can get jettison to free up funds.
Paul Pogba could be sold to Real Madrid, while Romelu Lukaku has attracted interest from Serie A clubs in Italy. A centre-back remains the priority with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly the prime target, but the Senegalese is likely to cost a world-record fee for a defender.
Borussia Dortmund's talented Jadon Sancho has been linked with a return to England, but it would cost more than £100 million for the 19-year-old to leave the German club. AFP