Summer in the soccer world means that it’s the season for transfer rumors as clubs across the world cut deals for new players. The names change every summer, but every year transfer stories seem to follow one of three patterns.
One features an established star who is “reportedly unhappy” with his current situation. This summer, that player is Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite being the best-paid player in the world on the best team in the world, he is the center of story after story about how he wants out of Madrid. As always, his team laughs off these reports as obvious falsehoods while teams across the continent — Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, and so on — are supposedly making outlandish offers for his signature.
These are the truly entertaining transfer stories, especially when the player goes nowhere before the summer, and then claims that he was never unhappy in the first place.
The second involves a good young player, such as Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe this summer. With every story about the potential transfer of this type of player, the legend grows to where it seems not only every team in the world is after him but they all view him as the greatest player in the game today. Mbappe had a wonderful season last year for the French champions — scoring 26 goals at age 18, a fine haul for any player — but hardly the stuff of instant legend.
These players typically make a big-money move to one of Europe’s elite clubs, then struggle to see the field with the new team. Eventually, they are loaned to a smaller team, or sold entirely, and everyone tries to forget the hype that was once heaped upon them.
Striker Michy Batshuayi, who moved from Marseille to Chelsea last summer, fits this mold. Nearly every team tried to sign him last summer. He went to Chelsea, scored five goals but made only one start, and now Chelsea is looking to loan him out.
The third kind is perhaps the most intriguing: the somewhat unknown player who suddenly is moving up in the world. Usually these players come from a lesser league, or from the second division of a bigger league. Think of them as late-round draft picks in other sports. The only way for fans to truly get excited is to believe that, somehow, their team’s scouting staff has identified something in the player that everyone else missed.
Mostly these players disappear without a trace, of course. But in June, when the beginning of the season is still months away, it’s these players who can give fans — desperate for a reason to hope — the most to cling to.