England’s future is about to be defined – and it’s out of Gareth Southgate’s control

The spine of England’s team could be in very different places by the end of the transfer window

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Thursday 15 June 2023 12:31 BST
Jude Bellingham unveiled as Real Madrid player after £88m transfer

As the England players arrived at St George’s Park this week, there was more than one that got messages detailing their representatives’ latest discussions as regards their futures. It is likely to be a theme of this international break, along with jokes about Jack Grealish’s last few days.

Gareth Southgate may be largely set on the spine of his team, but the players that form that spine are very far from set on their futures.

All of Harry Kane, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Harry Maguire are currently negotiating their futures, with Jude Bellingham having just completed a deal with Real Madrid, and ongoing interest in Jordan Pickford. If any of them step out, as is likely to be the case in forgiving fixtures against Malta and North Macedonia, Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher also face uncertainty.

The potential Euro 2024 winners may well have a huge influence on the summer 2023 market. Some of them are still subject to wider forces, though.

The race for goalscorers is the main market this summer, but that has now been entirely reshaped by Kylian Mbappe’s simple decision to tell Paris Saint-Germain he won’t be extending his contract from 2024. It has already had an effect on Kane’s future.

Real Madrid have had serious interest in the striker, to the point they have made it clear they will meet any wage demands, and are willing to negotiate with Daniel Levy. Some well-placed sources even maintained last week that a deal was “a lot closer than has even been made out”. The Tottenham Hotspur chairman is increasingly mindful of losing out on around £100m of rebuilding money for the sake of a season of football and is seen as more willing to do business than ever before. There is also the gradual realisation that it might make some sense to take the money for a player going into his thirties, brilliant as he is, especially as Ange Postecoglou has his own ideas on a team.

Madrid could have offered a clean solution, especially as Levy does not want to sell to another Premier League club. It is suddenly a lot more complicated.

Harry Kane’s future has suddenly become complicated

Madrid had planned to bring in Kane for two years before then going big on either Erling Haaland or – more likely – Mbappe. The French star’s sudden willingness to move has changed that, especially as it could force PSG’s hand. All of a sudden, people are not talking about Kane to Madrid as so close.

It could open the way for Manchester United, who have gone back and forth on the idea of going for England’s top scorer this window. The long-held stance has been that they just don’t want to get into a stand-off with Levy but an increasing number of involved people have spoken of a shift in attitudes over the past few days. Kane’s first choice in this market would similarly be to go to Old Trafford, especially as he wants to win the Premier League and break the goalscoring record.

Erik ten Hag’s insistence on a forward will meanwhile work against any move for Rice, who the Dutch coach does greatly admire. Ten Hag has asked to be kept informed of what is happening between the midfielder and Arsenal. United know it would take the Kane price to persuade West Ham United to sell, though, and even then they could get into a bidding war where they are already behind. West Ham are very close to a £90m deal with Arsenal for Rice, with one of the remaining issues concerning the structure of the payments. The widespread expectation is that it gets done.

In any case, Casemiro’s influence puts off Ten Hag’s need for that type of midfielder, with the focus on a No 8. The United manager realised towards the last few months of the season that his team needs that greater energy, and few combine that with a profound understanding of pressing instructions as effectively as Mount. Managers love him.

There is currently a £15m difference in valuation between United and Chelsea on transfer fee, but the Stamford Bridge club’s need to sell indicates the deal should eventually get done. Ten Hag meanwhile needs to overhaul his squad, too, and it is striking that he wants to move on many of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s signings. This was something that became apparent much earlier in the season. Ten Hag doesn’t have enough players sufficiently trained in that high-pressing approach.

Mason Mount is edging closer to a move to Man Utd

The most prominent of Solskjaer’s signings is Harry Maguire, whose status has been diminished in the last two years. It hasn’t helped that, in the last few weeks, Southgate has told him he has to move in order to keep his England place for Euro 2024. Many Premier League managers still share Southgate’s admiration for Maguire, though, despite a difficult two years. Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur are two clubs who would be willing to do a deal this summer, but the player’s high wages mean that could be on loan.

Should he go, United have had a look at Crystal Palace’s Guehi, but their interest is not as strong as Arsenal’s. Conor Gallagher meanwhile has a series of upper mid-table sides interested, although his own future could be influenced by that of James Maddison. Whoever doesn’t get the Leicester City midfielder may move for Gallagher. That is if anyone does get Maddison.

Relegation has not seen Leicester’s demands change, though, and their asking price is described as “exorbitant”.

While Tottenham and Newcastle United had designs on paying £45m for Maddison, Leicester want closer to £80m.

Financial Fair Play constraints mean Newcastle can’t quite go to such levels in the way their Saudi Arabian owners would want. The player’s current preference is also to go to London for family reasons, although the reality of the market may change such ideals.

It has very much changed the mood around Southgate’s squad right now. Talk of transfers and who might join who has trumped jokes about Grealish’s hangover. Club managers have of course detailed players to have a word with targets over the next few days.

Some of those chats could influence their next few years.

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