With two and a half months to go and a World Cup in between, the January 2023 market has taken on a dimension it has never had before.
It is strange that three of the most sought-after players are looking to change teams. It tends to be an emergency market, where teams and players look for quick solutions or ones out of necessity rather than high-level operations.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix are looking for a team – three world stars who have turned the market upside down when least expected.
The first has been unhappy with his situation at Manchester United since the summer, but the other two have surprised with unexpected complaints in the middle of the campaign.
They have not thought twice and have not measured the impact of demanding something like leaving their team, in this case PSG and Atletico in October, with everything at stake and with a World Cup ahead of them.
On top of that, there is the uncomfortable situation of Neymar and Messi at PSG, especially the Argentinian, who is already being openly earmarked as a potential transfer target for January.
The shadow of Barcelona follows the Argentinian and, moreover, president Joan Laporta has announced signings could be made in the next transfer window. So anything is possible, even if it seems impossible.
What is happening in football to make top players of their respective teams put the structure of their clubs at risk? They are different cases, but the three of them and others that may appear, such as Messi and Neymar, belong to the pure and simple elite of football, with salaries that place them among the best paid in the world, but which show that money is not everything when talking about the best.
Mbappe wants to open a door that he himself closed just four months ago. He succumbed to a huge amount of money and power that should never fall to a footballer. Now he wants to leave.
PSG themselves showed weakness by accepting a short contract – it is not clear whether it is for two or three seasons.
Joao Felix is struggling for game time at Atletico Madrid but it’s not like he is entitled to it. Diego Simeone is clear about the situation – he does not play because of his attitude or even his aptitude, as the coach has stated.
In the summer, the Premier League came for him, but the club refused outright, which proves to have been a mistake. Now he wants to find a solution, which does not seem easy.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s case is more akin to not finding a place at the end of his career, rather than looking for the right place to become bigger.
He is not comfortable in Manchester because he does not play Champions League football and his record cannot grow with the performance of his team. He left Juve in a distasteful manner and it looks like he is going to leave Old Trafford in the same way.
All of them have mega contracts, they have chosen their team and destination, but they believe they are in the position to decide without counting the damage they will do to clubs and fans. It doesn’t matter. In today’s football, it’s the player in the shirt who calls the shots. Even more so when it comes to stars.
The Haaland clause
Another example of stars having more and more power is the alleged clause that was included in Erling Haaland’s contract with Manchester City. The Norwegian is said to be able to leave the English club for 200 million euros in 2024 and 175 million euros in 2025, as long as a team outside the Premier League pays this amount.