Barcelona and Real Madrid love to stick £1bn release clauses on players but this bunch have fees which will tempt big spenders like Man Utd this summer.
10) Manuel Ugarte (Sporting)
Little more than collateral damage in the continued aggressive flirting between two of the world’s richest clubs, Ugarte has ticked a great many transfer window boxes already with a hijack, some Todd Boehly nonsense, conflicting information and Jorge Mendes shenanigans. Chelsea said they withdrew interest in the midfielder because Paris Saint-Germain offered personal terms they were unwilling to match; PSG insisted the Blues were the ones who went higher but Ugarte chose them anyway. Both clubs, in any event, seemed prepared to commit to his £52m release clause, with the ‘incredible drama’ of his future absolutely certain to be entirely forgotten by July.
9) Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton)
The one thing which has received unanimous agreement when it comes to the release clause in Mac Allister’s Brighton deal is that there is no unanimous agreement over the release clause in Mac Allister’s Brighton deal.
The details of the fine print are murky. Liverpool have been quoted fees between £65m and £45m, with some vague talk of ‘a mechanism’ in the contract ‘which can be used to help facilitate a move’.
That was the ambiguous phrasing adopted by David Ornstein long ago, underlining that this is not ‘a typical release clause other clubs may simply trigger… but a more complex feature that gives Brighton a say over the outcome’. They have to be different, don’t they? Those Seagulls absolutely love the smell of their own transfer sh*t. And quite frankly they’re so good at this you can hardly blame them.
8) Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Impressive as it was that Dembele managed to earn a contract extension with Barcelona when the club’s record signing seemed certain to have his economic levers pulled in summer 2022, the Frenchman also probably wouldn’t mind if anyone activated the reduced release clause which was inserted. Any club inclined to part with the requisite £43m will be sending half of that sum directly into the pocket of Dembele and his representatives, as per the new terms.
Barcelona’s continued penny-pinching meant Dembele agreed to forego a signing-on bonus, while his agents similarly sacrificed their commission after having the prospect of a mega pay day dangled in front of them. The negotiations seemed complicated enough that they might not have even noticed: Dembele actually has two release clauses, with one for €100m active throughout the entire year expect for the months of July and August, when it is lowered to €50m. Which does beg the question as to which club would ignore the latter to pay twice as much for business carried out either too early or too late. And that subsequently prompts the answer of probably Chelsea. Wait until Todd finds out he’s a profligate wide forward
7) Paulo Dybala (Roma)
Another player with more release clauses than they know what to do with is perennial Premier League target Dybala. All manner of English clubs have been linked with the Roma forward and €12m – a fee only applicable to foreign clubs – might be his lowest valuation of the past decade. Any Serie A rival is staring at a higher bill of €20m but even that is tempting for a player who scored 18 goals and assisted another eight in 38 appearances under Jose Mourinho, casually netting a World Cup final shootout penalty in between.
Last summer Juventus let Paulo Dybala go for free.
Yesterday Dybala’s goal for Roma gave them a 2-1 victory which meant…
Juventus got knocked down to Conference League and Roma to Europa League.
Crazy 🤯 pic.twitter.com/GO1Y7QbHoP
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) June 5, 2023
6) Ivan Fresneda (Valladolid)
“The truth is that he has hardly aroused interest in Spanish football, but in Germany, France or England there has been interest,” said the agent of Valladolid right-back Fresneda in January, when Arsenal, Newcastle, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund were known to be courting the teenager. A La Liga-flavoured £25.8m release clause was designed to put suitors off but Valladolid’s subsequent relegation has brought that figure down to £17.2m, which might tempt Mikel Arteta into action.
Fresneda’s senior first-team career amounts to 26 club games, with six international youth caps at different Spanish age groups; it would be an undeniable risk and a clear investment for the future for teams who may not be able to afford such long-term patience. But his ability and potential has shone through even in relegation and the defender could thrive in happier surroundings.
5) Pedro Goncalves (Sporting)
Considering the many millions Sporting have raised in recent years by selling Nuno Mendes, Joao Palhinha, Matheus Nunes, Pedro Porro, Bruno Fernandes and so very many more, the Portuguese club must know there is a buck or two to be made on Pedro Goncalves. But a release clause of almost £70m might be set just out of reach for those clubs who might otherwise be interested.
Since sneaking out of the Wolves back door due to homesickness in 2019, with nothing but a League Cup second round appearance to his name, Goncalves has gone from strength to strength. He powered Famalicao to the top of the Portuguese league and earned himself a move to Sporting, for whom he has 58 goals and 34 assists in 129 games.
The numbers are not dissimilar to those which earned Fernandes his big move three years ago: 63 goals and 50 assists in 137 games. There is talk of Aston Villa lurking in the shadows but that Europa League goal from the halfway line against Arsenal alone should guarantee Pote a leaving party.
4) Goncalo Ramos (Benfica)
While the World Cup shop window was placed far more awkwardly than usual this season, some managed to crack it open wide enough at the time to ensure months’ worth of fresh transfer air. A knockout stage hat-trick will do that, with Ramos otherwise scoring 27 goals in 47 games for the Portuguese champions and Champions League quarter-finalists of Benfica.
All manner of clubs have been linked with the striker, including Southampton before his Qatar jaunt and their Championship slump. Chelsea and Man Utd’s respective searches for a competent centre-forward have included focused looks at Ramos, who does not bring the same cast-iron assurance of success as Harry Kane, but is considerably younger, would cost a similar amount and is and far less involved with Daniel Levy.
3) Pau Torres (Villarreal)
There is an alternate universe in which Man Utd listened to their recruitment department, overruled Erik ten Hag and signed Torres instead of Lisandro Martinez. Another chaos timeline includes Spurs properly bending to the whims of Antonio Conte and delivering the centre-half on a silver platter instead of Clement Lenglet in some sort of borrowed receptacle.
But in this reality the Villarreal centre-half is looking at a broad downgrade in options, even if a reunion with Unai Emery at Aston Villa would likely be a more suitable first permanent move from his boyhood club.
A release clause of €50m makes any transfer theoretically easier, but Torres entering the final year of his contract in Spain means Villa will push for a knockdown price in the knowledge that there is a ceiling on the 26-year-old’s value.
2) Diogo Costa (Porto)
For those who might consider Costa brushing Man Utd links off with a “that’s the internet” to be the end of any potential move, it was at the very least a curious line to use in the same week Karim Benzema blamed talk of him leaving Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia on “the internet”, before subsequently deciding to leave Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia.
The cost might dissuade Man Utd as much as anything. Eggs are still being placed in David de Gea’s basket after 12 years and even though the Spaniard keeps dropping and cracking them, Ten Hag is in too deep to start activating £65m release clauses.
The manager’s public stance is that De Gea is his man. That might not reflect Ten Hag’s private opinion; it certainly doesn’t account for the many thousand supporters who have grown tired of pinning the blame for every conceded goal on their keeper. But more pressing squad renovations might steer Man Utd away from a potential upgrade, with Costa twiddling his gloves for at least another year.
1) Kim Min-jae
One of those areas Man Utd will be most keen to improve in is central defence. For as good as Martinez and Raphael Varane are, Maguire and Victor Lindelof might be either dissatisfied with back-up roles or not of the desired standard, while Luke Shaw has excelled in the middle but is needed at left-back.
Manchester City have shown that Tony Pulis was a visionary: the more centre-backs you can get in a team, the better. It is a fine path to follow and Man Utd want Kim Min-jae to help them deal with their assault on as many fronts as possible.
Napoli would be loathe to lose their centre-half but a €50m release clause leaves them susceptible to the usual vultures when it becomes active in the first 15 days of the window.