It’s been just under a week since the English summer transfer window officially opened, but the early business conducted (or not conducted) already has fans brimming with optimism or in meltdown. With more than two months to go until the window shuts, we highlight one player who could boost each club’s expectations heading into the 2023-24 Premier League season.
Note: Estimated transfer values provided by transfermarkt.com.
Arsenal: Declan Rice
Club: West Ham | Position: Midfielder | Value: £90 million
Rice has been linked with Arsenal for some time now. On the surface, the union seems like a match made in heaven. The England international would address Arsenal’s need for a holding midfielder in the wake of Granit Xhaka’s expected departure, and the Gunners would match his wish to evolve further as a player in London. Despite Rice’s success with both club and country, there’ll be lots of pressure on the 24-year-old to make a smooth transition and deliver results immediately. He’s reportedly set to become the club-record signing, and Arsenal are expected to compete for the Premier League title after falling short last term.
Aston Villa: Harvey Barnes
Club: Leicester City | Position: Winger | Value: £30M
To build on their seventh-place Premier League finish, Villa must first identify a left-winger with the ability to challenge and replace Leon Bailey and Philippe Coutinho. While the rest of Villa’s squad upped their game, Bailey and Coutinho regressed, leaving their attack vulnerable to dry spells. Bailey’s injury record is of particular concern. Enter Barnes, who’s unlikely to drop down to the Championship with Leicester City. Barnes is a clever player who can cut in and score with regularity, and that would take some of the goal-scoring burden off striker Ollie Watkins.
Bournemouth: Che Adams
Club: Southampton | Position: Forward | Value: £19M
Bournemouth need goals. They can’t possibly go another season with central midfielder Philip Billing as their joint-top scorer. Even if the Cherries aren’t the most attractive destination – they’re one of the bookies’ favorites to go down next year – they have an ambitious owner in Bill Foley, who’s already had success building the NHL’s Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights’ roster. In the meantime, though, they’ll have to focus on more realistic targets. Adams, 26, has both Premier League experience and upside, and it won’t take a huge fee to pry him from recently relegated Southampton.
Brentford: Brennan Johnson
Club: Nottingham Forest | Position: Striker | Value: £30 million
Brentford might find the solution to their attacking needs in Nottingham. Ivan Toney, who scored a team-high 20 Premier League goals last season, is suspended until January after admitting to over 100 charges related to betting breaches. Atop their target list to replace him is Johnson, who’s been on their radar since January. He’s once again their primary target heading into the summer, with reports suggesting the Bees are ready to pay a club-record £30 million to pry the gifted forward from Nottingham Forest.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Conor Gallagher
Club: Chelsea | Position: Midfielder | Value: £40 million
Brighton’s bid to replace the gaping hole left after Alex Mac Allister’s departure north to Liverpool might involve an attempt to bring Gallagher to the south coast. The 23-year-old could benefit greatly by continuing his once-promising evolution under the tutelage of Seagulls manager Roberto De Zerbi. But it won’t be cheap, as Chelsea could price Brighton out with a ludicrous demand.
Burnley: Amad Diallo
Club: Manchester United | Position: Winger | Value: £15 million
If Burnley can’t broker a return for Nathan Tella – the Southampton winger who logged 17 goals and five assists during last season’s loan at Turf Moor – Vincent Kompany will need to look elsewhere to upgrade his attack. Diallo recently finished an impressive temporary stint with Sunderland, where he scored 14 goals and provided three assists. He’ll still find it difficult to break into Manchester United’s starting XI, giving Burnley an opportunity to pounce. The Ivorian constantly dribbles inside from the right and strikes with his left foot, but like Bayern Munich legend Arjen Robben, his predictability doesn’t make him any easier to stop.
Chelsea: Nicolas Jackson
Club: Villarreal | Position: Forward | Value: £26M
Jackson, a 21-year-old striker who scored nine goals in his final eight appearances for Villarreal last season, is Chelsea’s type. The club has almost exclusively recruited young players since Todd Boehly took control in May 2022, spending hundreds of millions of pounds in the process. Jackson’s reported £29.8-million release clause makes him a much more economically friendly signing. Chelsea could also save money by selling or loaning out Romelu Lukaku for another season. Their priority must be signing someone who can offer more of a threat up front than the chameleonic Kai Havertz.
Crystal Palace: Mike Tresor
Club: Genk | Position: Winger | Value: £13 million
It might be time for Crystal Palace to plan for life without Wilfried Zaha as his contract nears its conclusion. Tresor’s acceleration, trickery, and tendency to cut in from the left onto his stronger right foot are slightly reminiscent of Zaha. But where he sets himself apart from the Eagles favorite is how he constantly has his head up in possession. The 24-year-old’s vision and excellently weighed passes helped him to a gargantuan 24 assists in Belgium’s top tier – twice as many as the player who ranked second – and he also contributed eight goals. The Genk winger should be on plenty of clubs’ radars this summer.
Everton: Moussa Dembele
Club: Lyon | Position: Forward | Value: Free
Dembele could be the transformative piece Everton need after they produced the second-fewest goals last season. When healthy, the French striker, who has experience playing in Britain with Fulham and Celtic, has proven himself to be a lethal finisher who doesn’t require a lot of touches to be effective. His presence in Sean Dyche’s attack – which struggled to fill the void for the ineffective and oft-injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin – would offer an upgrade in quality and help ensure the Toffees don’t find themselves in a dogfight to avoid relegation again next spring.
Fulham: Kyle Walker-Peters
Club: Southampton | Position: Right-back | Value: £21M
Walker-Peters is one of Southampton’s most valuable players from both a tactical and financial perspective. He proved his versatility during the 2021-22 season, moving to left-back to accommodate the development of right-back Tino Livramento. An injury to Livramento allowed Walker-Peters to shift back to his natural position on the right, and he thrived, moving the ball up the field with purpose and efficiency over 30 Premier League starts. Walker-Peters will end up at a bigger club one day, but a pit stop at Fulham could suit him well. The Cottagers need reinforcements across their defensive line, making the adaptable 26-year-old the perfect signing.
Liverpool: Nicolo Barella
Club: Inter Milan | Position: Midfielder | Value: £64M
Everyone knows Liverpool need midfielders. Even with the signing of left-sided playmaker Mac Allister, the Reds have a lot of questions to answer. Can Trent Alexander-Arnold reinvent himself as a right-sided midfielder? Are Fabinho’s best days behind him? Can Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones take the next step? With a return to the Champions League nonnegotiable, Liverpool need more of a guarantee, and Barella is exactly that. A bustling central presence, the Italian is a far more dynamic force than Fabinho and just as comfortable pushing forward on the right side of a midfield three.
Luton Town: Tom Heaton
Club: Manchester United | Position: Goalkeeper | Value: £500K
Manchester United still have plenty to resolve with their goalkeeping situation. David De Gea is negotiating a new contract, Dean Henderson is desperate for first-team football, and Jack Butland joined Rangers after his Red Devils loan expired. But doesn’t 37-year-old Heaton want to start matches? Luton are on the lookout for a new goalkeeper since Ethan Horvath returned to Nottingham Forest, and Heaton’s presence between the sticks and in the dressing room could be a considerable boost for Rob Edwards’ squad.
Manchester City: Mateo Kovacic
Club: Chelsea | Position: Midfielder | Value: £34M
Manchester City have acted fast here. The treble winners are reportedly finalizing a deal worth £34 million to sign Kovacic from Chelsea, giving them a solid option in midfield and a potential replacement for Ilkay Gundogan. Even though Kovacic has struggled to maintain consistency over the years, he remains a well-rounded player who can progress play and create chances. Pep Guardiola loves midfielders who can do a bit of everything and could help Kovacic realize the potential he’s shown under several managers at Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Chelsea.
Manchester United: Mason Mount
Club: Chelsea | Position: Midfielder | Value: £55 million
Manchester United might let Chelsea stew on this one. The Red Devils’ opening £40-million offer was reportedly rejected last week, but their confidence that Mount won’t sign a new contract means there’s no rush for them to improve their bid. Either Chelsea climb down from their hefty £70-million asking price or risk losing the English international for nothing next summer. One thing’s for sure: Mount would be a fine addition to Erik ten Hag’s squad after Christian Eriksen appeared fatigued toward the end of last season.
Newcastle United: James Maddison
Club: Leicester City | Position: Midfielder | Value: £50 million
Ahead of their return to the Champions League next season, Newcastle are expected to flex their financial power this summer. The Saudi-backed team has already shortlisted several targets, but none spark the same excitement so far as Maddison. The 26-year-old would likely be a central figure in Newcastle’s campaign – both domestically and in Europe – if the Magpies can seal a deal with relegated Leicester City.
Nottingham Forest: Carlos Borges
Club: Manchester City | Position: Winger | Value: £11 million
Borges might be about to get an opportunity to shine in the Premier League. Fresh off being named Premier League 2 Player of the Season, the Manchester City academy winger has caught the attention of a Nottingham Forest side that’s eager to revamp an attack that ranked third-last in scoring last season. While it’s difficult to predict how well his scoring success last season – 21 goals in 24 games – will translate to England’s top flight, he has the breakout potential to evolve into a star in Steve Cooper’s team.
Sheffield United: Tommy Doyle
Club: Manchester City | Position: Midfielder | Value: £6 million
Doyle and James McAtee enjoyed excellent loan spells at Sheffield United from Manchester City last season, but attracting the latter would prove difficult given Pep Guardiola wants to include him in his first-team plans next season. The 21-year-old Doyle, an intelligent midfielder who joined City when he was eight, would be a more realistic transfer target – and it’s safe to say he’s grown attached to the Blades. “I love the place, and I would love to come back. I’ve got a special bond with the club and the fans so we’ll see what happens,” Doyle said in May.
Tottenham Hotspur: Jadon Sancho
Club: Manchester United | Position: Winger | Value: £60 million
With Sancho’s future at Old Trafford reportedly at a crossroads, Tottenham Hotspur could be an ideal landing spot for the winger to revive his career. Signing for the north London club could be beneficial for both sides, as Spurs will be eager to rebuild this summer and improve on last season’s disappointing eighth-place finish ahead of Ange Postecoglou’s first season in charge. Adding to speculation over Tottenham’s interest is the club’s need for attackers with the recent departure of Lucas Moura and the possibility of star striker Harry Kane leaving this summer.
West Ham United: Joao Palhinha
Club: Fulham | Position: Midfielder | Value: £30 million
West Ham can soften the blow of Rice’s expected departure with the addition of one of the 2022-23 Premier League campaign’s standout midfielders. Palhinha was the most important cog for Marco Silva’s Fulham as they finished 10th in their top-flight return. Palhinha lacks Rice’s driving runs through the middle, but he’s a destroyer. He registered 147 successful tackles last term – the highest total from the past seven Premier League seasons. One note of warning for West Ham, though: The importance of Harrison Reed, Fulham’s lively No. 8, beside Palhinha can’t be underestimated. Tomas Soucek is ill-equipped for that role.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: James Ward-Prowse
Club: Southampton | Position: Midfielder | Value: £50 million
The competition for Ward-Prowse this summer could get heated as Southampton are expected to offload the 28-year-old free-kick specialist following their relegation. Of all the teams linked with the Saints star, Wolverhampton Wanderers could be the most ideal place for him given their need to revamp their midfielder. With club hero Joao Moutinho gone and Ruben Neves on the way out, there may not be a better option out there who’s as capable of delivering game-changing moments and showcasing leadership qualities.