The European season now has just one game -- its biggest game, the Champions League final -- remaining, but for most clubs the task of strengthening their squads this summer has already begun in earnest. The 2015 summer transfer window promises to be one of the liveliest yet, with the Premier League set for a huge windfall from its new television deal and continental giants like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich both keen to make amends for seasons that ended in disappointment.
Here are the details on where some of the biggest targets could be moving in the next three months.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) The man who became the world’s most expensive player when joining Real Madrid from Tottenham two years ago has endured a tough season at the Bernabeu. Having been criticized by fans and the media, Bale was also the player to miss key chances as Madrid crashed out of the Champions League. Throughout the campaign he has been linked with a move back to the Premier League.
Interested: Manchester United lost out in the race for Bale in 2013 and have since repeatedly been suggested as his likeliest destination were he to leave the Bernabeu.
Verdict: Indications from the Spanish capital are that Bale is not yet ready to give up on what was his dream move to Real Madrid, while club president Florentino Perez isn’t prepared to admit defeat having invested so much in bringing the player to the Bernabeu. He looks set to stay put for at least another season.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) The Belgian suffered through injury and poor form following a standout first season in England, but has found his scoring boots again spectacularly in the last two months, firing 12 goals in his last 13 appearances. With 49 goals in 101 appearances overall for Aston Villa, the physically imposing striker is now thought to be on the lookout for a move to a bigger club. His manager, Tim Sherwood, however, has said that he will not be allowed to leave for anything less than his £32.5 million buy-out clause.
Interested: Liverpool have reportedly already approached Villa, while Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United could also hold an interest.
Verdict: Aston Villa’s asking price should scare off any suitor, but Benteke’s desire to leave and Liverpool’s desperation for new firepower could see a move to Anfield happen.
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain) The former Serie A top scorer’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain appeared a strange move at the time and has continued to do so for much of the two years since. With the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cavani has spent much of his time at the club playing out wide -- a situation he has made clear is not to his liking.
Interested: Manchester United are in need of at least one striker and are thought to be keen on the Uruguayan. Juventus have also been strongly linked, although the Italian champions’ recent signing of striker Paulo Dybala would appear to rule them out.
Verdict: When Cavani was disciplined after returning late from a winter break he appeared certain to leave this summer, however recent events mean he could now be staying. After finishing the season in prolific form, including scoring the winner in the final of the Coupe de France, and with doubts over the future of Ibrahimovic, PSG’s president has said that Cavani is going nowhere.
Petr Cech (Chelsea) It’s not often that one of the world’s best goalkeepers comes readily onto the market. But, with Chelsea welcoming back Thibaut Courtois last summer, Cech has found himself playing backup after 10 years as No. 1 at Stamford Bridge. While he accepted his new role with ultimate professionalism this season, the 33-year-old has made it clear he isn’t keen to continue the situation for another year.
Interested: Arsenal would appear to make the most sense, with Cech able to stay in London and Arsene Wenger getting the top-class goalkeeper he has long lacked. Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Turkish side Besiktas have also been linked.
Verdict: While doubts remain about whether Wenger sees his goalkeeping department as in need of strengthening and Chelsea won’t be overly enthused to lose a leading player to a rival, a move to the Emirates still looks the likeliest outcome.
Kevin de Bruyne (Wolfsburg) Discarded by Chelsea and Jose Mourinho just 18 months ago, De Bruyne is now one of the very best and most sought-after creative midfielders in Europe. This season the 23-year-old Belgium international has scored 16 goals and contributed a ridiculous 27 assists in all competitions to make the €22 million Wolfsburg invested in him look like small change.
Interested: The two Manchester clubs, United and City, are believed to be very keen, while Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.
Verdict: Having made it into the Champions League and having significant funding behind them, Wolfsburg will be resistant to sell. It is likely to take an offer far in excess of €50 million to lure him away and that may not be forthcoming.
David de Gea (Manchester United) Having looked lightweight and a liability from crosses when he first arrived in England, De Gea continued his development last season to prove himself one of the world’s very best goalkeepers. Manchester United will be desperate to keep him, but the fact that the 24-year-old has just a year left on his contract may mean they have little choice but to see him leave.
Interested: Real Madrid require a successor to Iker Casillas and De Gea is thought to be very keen on a move back to the Spanish capital.
Verdict: Anything other than a transfer to Real Madrid would be a significant surprise.
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) After excelling at Real Sociedad, the 24-year-old enjoyed a fine first season at Atletico Madrid, scoring 22 goals in La Liga. A versatile, skillful, quick forward, Griezmann’s list of admirers is thought to be growing and once again Atletico find themselves in the position of fighting to hold onto one of their leading talents.
Interested: Only Europe’s biggest clubs need apply for Griezmann’s signature. Chelsea, who could do with extra cover for Diego Costa, Manchester United, needing to replace Radamel Falcao and Bayern Munich, perhaps seeking a replacement for Franck Ribery, have all been linked.
Verdict: Having only moved to Atletico a year ago for a substantial fee of €30 million, it would take a massive outlay to prize him away from Diego Simeone’s men.
Paul Pogba (Juventus) Able to do everything you could ever wish of a midfielder, and with added style to boot, Pogba could well be the subject of the biggest transfer this summer. Still aged just 22, the France international’s increasingly dominant and consistent performances for Juventus have proved that it was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever mistakes not to ensure that Manchester United kept hold of him before he walked out to Turin three years ago.
Interested: It has long been rumored that Manchester United would be willing to spend big to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford, while he has also been strongly linked with a Manchester City in recent weeks. Fellow Premier League rivals Chelsea and French champions Paris Saint-Germain could be interested, too, but reports have suggested that Pogba favors a move to Spain and either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Verdict: With Barcelona still under a transfer ban, a deal that sees him move to the Camp Nou next summer could make sense for all parties.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton) For the past two seasons Schneiderlin has shown himself to be one of the very best defensive midfielders in the Premier League, playing a major role in establishing Southampton in England’s top flight. With Southampton having refused to grant his wish to leave last summer, Schneiderlin’s desire to join a bigger club looks set to be fulfilled in this transfer window.
Interested: Arsenal would appear a perfect destination, but the emergence of Francis Coquelin could well leave Wenger to believe that he has the defensive midfield position covered. Manchester United and Tottenham now appear favorites.
Verdict: A reunion with former manager Mauricio Pochettino at White Hart Lane remains a distinct possibility, but latest reports suggest he will be heading to Old Trafford.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) Fresh from winning the prestigious Golden Boy award for the best young player in Europe last year, Sterling has made it clear that he sees his future away from Liverpool. The 20-year-old has said publicly that he won’t sign a new contract, while there are strong reports that he has told the club he wants a transfer this summer.
Interested: Arsenal, Manchester City and Real Madrid are thought to be keenly monitoring the England international.
Verdict: With Sterling still having two years left on his contract, Liverpool have no imperative to sell and will surely hold out for a mammoth fee. Given that Sterling is still more potential than realized talent, it would be a surprise were any club willing to meet Liverpool’s valuation.