The 2013 summer transfer window opens when the clock hits midnight BST on Sunday. However, it isn't quite a case of everything else immediately falling into place. In many cases, deals have been worked for months, with many elements still extremely delicate. Here, we outline the state of play with the summer’s 10 most coveted transfer targets who may yet move, and attempt to analyse the various pieces, from the reported valuations to the most likely outcome. Information comes from a mix of ESPN sources and the wider media reports. As with all transfers, the situations are potentially volatile and can completely change on one wild-card move. At this exact point in 2012, for example, Manchester United had not been mentioned anywhere in connection with Robin van Persie. One of these may yet blow this window open completely.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid, £80 million
The situation: As rare as it is for one of the world’s greatest players to come on the market, a Ronaldo transfer would be all the more distinct for the extreme chain reaction it would trigger in the rest of the window. His departure from Real Madrid could condition the future of everyone else on this list and so many more beyond. The current situation was itself effectively set in motion by Ronaldo’s public declaration that he was “sad” back in September, before the player’s representatives reached out to Manchester United, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain in early 2013. For their part, Real Madrid have been very vocal about keeping the 28-year-old, and feel it would not fit the club’s status to lose both Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo in the same summer. The player, however, is understood to be dissatisfied with the club’s general approach to him, and only sparked further intrigue with a tweet simply saying, “All the news about my renewal with Real Madrid are false." It is a situation that remains very much open.
The suitors: Ronaldo’s previous club Manchester United have been working the hardest to make something happen since January, and detailed two employees to operate exclusively on any deal. The promise of funding from both Nike and Chevrolet has been secured, while a number of high-profile club figures -- from David Gill to Alex Ferguson -- have been involved at various points. It has been widely reported that the principles of a deal to return to Old Trafford were agreed, only for Ronaldo to reconsider when Ferguson retired. Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain both have the money to immediately act on any uncertainty, but it is also believed that the player would feel an element of regret at not winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. One other mooted scenario is that he stays for two more attempts before moving when his contract expires in 2015.
The likeliest outcome: As it stands, the situation is so delicate that it’s going to take something dramatic to force it along -- either Real accepting an actual offer or the player actively pushing for a move. One Manchester United source said the transfer is “entirely possible but still hugely difficult." For the moment, it seems a slightly unsettled Ronaldo will see out his contract.
2. Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur, £75 million
The situation: Real Madrid have been very loud about their interest in Bale; the player’s agent has been public about the fact that he has not yet signed a new contract with Tottenham Hotspur. Indeed, representative Jonathan Barnett actually speaking on the record to Marca in late May about his client’s future was curious in the extreme. Although Bale himself is known to currently be happy with his life in London and enjoys a warm relationship with Andre Villas-Boas, it is his ultimate ambition to play for Real Madrid. The 23-year-old’s camp has also been increasingly impressing on him the importance of getting back into the Champions League as soon as possible.
The suitors: While Manchester United and another elite Premier League club are known to have had very tentative enquiries turned down, Bale himself only has designs on Real. The feeling is very much mutual. In Spanish football circles, it is being spoken of in a very matter-of-fact manner that the transfer will definitely happen before next season.
The likeliest outcome: At the very least, a long drawn-out affair, as has become typical with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. Despite Real’s obvious interest, any actual move from them may still be dependent on the Ronaldo situation. Bale will likely end up at the Bernabeu eventually, but unless something radical happens, it may not be this summer.
3. Edinson Cavani, Napoli, £54 million
The situation: Cavani feels he needs a transfer now to move to the next level of his career; a number of top European clubs feel he is exactly the player to move their game along. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, however, has been quite strident about the fact that Cavani simply will not go unless his huge release clause is met. De Laurentiis has also played the media game quite cleverly, placing a fair amount of pressure on the forward, to the point Cavani has requested clear-the-air talks on returning from the Confederations Cup.
The suitors: In a summer in which buyable top-level forwards have been at something of a premium, Cavani’s situation means he is arguably being actively sought by more clubs than anyone else here. Leading the chase at the moment are Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City.
The likeliest outcome: Either Real Madrid or the English duo activating his release clause, although Cavani’s first choice is understood to be the Spanish club.
4. Luis Suarez, Liverpool, £31.5 million
The situation: Suarez very much wants a move, as he has made abundantly clear. The tone of his exit strategy has also evolved over the past few weeks, going from talk of the English media forcing him out to now speaking about how “every player aspires” to be the best and play for clubs like “Real Madrid or Barcelona.” Liverpool maintain he is not for sale, but in order to maintain a strong hand in negotiations, it is something they simply must do.
The suitors: Here’s where it gets tricky. Suarez’s specific talents would actually suit a few elite English clubs, not least Arsenal and especially Manchester City. His initial comments have made such transfers difficult, however, and it would be politically difficult for Liverpool to sell to another Premier League side. Although Real Madrid are clearly interested, meanwhile, they have a number of players above him on their list of targets. He may have to be patient.
The likeliest outcome: Jamie Carragher has said he thinks “Luis will stay” and that could well be the case if the English clubs fail to act and Real land both Bale and Cavani. If Real do not, a move for Suarez may well happen.
5. Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund, £25 million
The situation: An impasse. Lewandowski has agreed to a deal with Bayern Munich, but Borussia Dortmund have been obdurate in their utter refusal to sell to the German champions after the controversial capture of Mario Goetze. In order to prevent the Pole from leaving for free next year, Dortmund are actively trying to sell him to a foreign club. Although Lewandowski’s first choice is by far Bayern, he is understood to be open to the idea of another move and his representatives have made contact with a number of clubs.
The suitors: Beyond Bayern, all of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and especially Manchester United have expressed an interest. The Old Trafford club appear to have made the most significant progress with Lewandowski representatives so far, but City may now be moved into action after the sale of Carlos Tevez and missing out on Isco to Real Madrid.
The likeliest outcome: This is another transfer that could be highly dependent on Ronaldo’s future, in terms of how both Real and United act, while City’s next move will be extremely interesting. It is also not beyond Lewandowski to counter Dortmund and dig his own heels in to move to Bayern for free next summer.
6. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United, £30 million
The situation: It will become a lot clearer after this week’s showdown between club and player. While the situation has calmed after the retirement of Ferguson, who had made up his mind on selling Rooney, it is understood the 27-year-old himself may now see the benefit of a fresh start. Neither club nor player has yet wanted it desperately enough to make something happen, but that could change either way after this week’s meeting.
The suitors: Jose Mourinho is a known admirer at Chelsea, while Arsenal have been reported as investigating the possibility of funding a deal. Real Madrid turned down an offer to buy the player last season, but it is believed their interest may have been piqued again. Paris Saint-Germain would gladly buy, but Rooney would only move to France as a last resort.
The likeliest outcome: Despite Rooney’s fundamental talent, the scenario is greatly complicated by his age, form, price and contract demands. So far, other clubs have been reluctant to rise to that level. The dynamics could radically shift this week.
7. Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona, £15 million
The situation: Manchester United have agreed to terms with the precocious midfielder and are prepared to quadruple his wages, but with Barcelona desperate to get him to stay and doing all they can to stall his exit, he is still considering his status. Old Trafford sources have said the club are getting increasingly frustrated with the progress of the deal, but that they also realise patience is essential. It has been suggested that part of Barca’s negotiation strategy has been frustrating United to the point they are eventually forced to look at other options.
The suitors: While Chelsea hover and Bayern eye from a distance after Thiago’s sparkling displays at the Under-21 European Championships, it currently seems a straight battle of persuasion between United and Barcelona.
The likeliest outcome: The Old Trafford club feel they have “done all they can” to persuade Thiago, but although confident of ultimately signing him, United anticipate a very nervy wait. Thiago being swayed by Barca again is not seen as out of the question at all.
8. Christian Benteke, Aston Villa, £25 million
The situation: After Benteke’s sensational displays effectively kept Villa up last season, owner Randy Lerner has set his price at £25 million to ward off a very long list of suitors. While the player’s own desire is unclear, Paul Lambert has been working hard to persuade him that he should stay at Villa Park for at least one more campaign to properly finish his development and also earn a starting place in Belgium’s 2014 World Cup squad.
The suitors: All of Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid.
The likeliest outcome: While Villa’s new Danish recruit, Nicklas Helenius, would appear a potential replacement for Benteke, the 22-year-old does greatly respect Lambert. Another year at Villa is probable.
9. David Villa, Barcelona, £12 million
The situation: A late 2011 injury robbed Villa of the sleekness that made him the world’s finest forward between 2008 and 2010, as well as the ability to consistently play at Barca’s required level. As such, a move away to a team slightly below the Catalans’ level is imminent, particularly given how Neymar’s signing has further marginalised Villa at Camp Nou. One potential obstruction could be his price of £12 million with just a year left on his contract.
The suitors: Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal.
The likeliest outcome: Spurs and Barcelona eventually strike a deal.
10. Stevan Jovetic, Fiorentina, £26.5 million
The situation: After five years in Florence, Jovetic is now desperate to move and further his career. “I have nothing left to give here,” the 23-year-old playmaker said recently. “Juve have been after me for a year, and they say they want me and that I'm a top target. Who wouldn't be flattered by that? I want to move there so I can grow.” He is also open to the Premier League.
The suitors: Despite Jovetic’s surprisingly strident public comments, Juve’s evident interest could be complicated by the purchases of Fernando Llorente and now Carlos Tevez. At the same time, the Turin club have been reported as testing Fiorentina’s resolve in order to drive the price down. Arsenal are also extremely keen on the forward, who could complement impending arrival Gonzalo Higuain.
The likeliest outcome: Juventus eventually get their playmaker for a lower price.