Transfer talk has dominated football’s headlines in recent weeks as clubs seek to strengthen their options ahead of the new campaign, the limited period of turnaround between campaigns leading to a desperate scramble for new recruits.
Amongst the most sought after talents are football’s finest midfielders, with games often won and lost in the heat of a midfield battle.
With the transfer window now in full swing, and Manchester United’s move for Donny van de Beek dominating the headlines in recent days, we’ve decided to look at some of the most sought after midfield players in European football at present.
Here are six of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe this summer.
Thiago Alcantara’s desire for a new challenge after seven seasons at Bayern Munich has led to the midfielder being at the forefront of the gossip columns, with Liverpool widely reported as the Spaniard’s most likely destination this summer.
Jurgen Klopp is known to be a huge admirer of the player and with good reason, Thiago one of the world’s very best in his position having won seven successive Bundesliga titles with the German giants.
Despite problems with injuries throughout his time in Bavaria, Thiago has emerged as the chief conductor of the Bayern midfield, his cosmopolitan background – born in Italy to a Brazilian World Cup winning father before spending his teenage years in Spain – providing the 29-year-old with a unique blend of skill and style.
Thiago’s style is aesthetically delightful, his touch and technique flawless with the star spinning and feigning away from opposition challenges as a deep-lying conductor at the base of the midfield.
Some have questioned whether those talents are suited to a Liverpool midfield trio famed for their work-rate and industry, but there’s no disputing Thiago would add a sprinkling of stardust to an already brilliant football side.
Long-term admirers Manchester United and Arsenal have also been tentatively linked with a player available for just £30m due to having just a year remaining on his current contract, a bargain buy in an ever-inflating transfer market for a player of undisputed pedigree.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been linked repeatedly with Europe’s leading clubs for several seasons following his displays in the colours of Lazio, a unique midfield talent with an almost complete skillset that allows him to thrive in whatever role he is designated.
The Serbian international is physically imposing but with the footwork to operate in tight areas, making him a nightmarish proposition with his uncommon blend of strength and skill.
Paris Saint-Germain have been strongly linked with a move for the 25-year-old who has drawn lofty comparisons with Zinedine Zidane for his style of play, Milinkovic-Savic scoring seven league goals to fire Lazio to a top four finish last season.
The capital club’s qualification for the Champions League proper for the first time in more than a decade means the Rome outfit are unlikely to sanction his sale easily, the midfielder one of the stand-out stars in an emerging side under Simeone Inzaghi.
Money often talks, however, though it would take a sizeable offer to persuade Lazio to part with their sublimely talented midfielder.
A long-haired and precociously talented Italian midfielder making a name for himself at Brescia, it feels like we’ve been down this road before.
Sandro Tonali has been unable to escape the comparisons to Andrea Pirlo ever since emerging as an exciting teenage talent, though the comparisons – striking as they are – are perhaps somewhat lazy, with the two players offering many differing qualities.
Tonali is arguably a more complete midfielder in skillset than the legendary Pirlo, providing more defensive-minded screening for the Brescia backline and with a deceptive burst of pace, often intercepting the play before driving forwards past opposition challenges.
A fine dribbler and passer, he has operated mostly as a deep-lying regista and his showings have not gone unnoticed, Tonali called up the senior Italy squad whilst playing in the country’s second-tier and earning interest from a who’s who of Europe’s superpowers.
Brescia’s swift relegation has only accelerated the interest in Tonali and it looks like AC Milan have won the race to secure his signature this summer, the 20-year-old the perfect player to build around as the seven-time European champions bid to rise from the doldrums of recent years.
Aston Villa secured their Premier League status by the finest of margins following their return to the top flight last season, the club’s fortunes largely helped by the performances of the influential Jack Grealish.
Grealish has long been heralded as a fine talent and showcased a maturity in his performances following Villa’s promotion to the Premier League, demanding possession and shouldering the responsibility of being his side’s creative force.
The 24-year-old scored eight league goals and provided a further six assists in the Premier League last season, whilst only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne created more chances for his teammates and no player in the division was fouled on more occasions.
Capable of playing centrally or in a front three, Grealish’s performances have won him plenty of admirers with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal amongst those to have been linked with the player in recent months.
Villa are unlikely to want to lose their prized asset but a move may be best for Grealish if he is to fulfil his potential in the coming seasons, his recent call-up to the England squad for the Nations League fixtures with Iceland and Denmark another opportunity to prove he belongs at the highest level.
Lyon emerged as one of the surprise packages of the Champions League this season with a memorable run to the semi-finals of the competition, the French underdogs eliminating tournament favourites in Juventus and Manchester City despite a disappointing domestic campaign.
The Ligue 1 outfit have a long history of producing fine academy graduates and Aouar is the latest homegrown talent to be linked with a move away from the club, the midfielder excellent throughout their European campaign.
The 22-year-old is a quintessential modern playmaker with flawless close control and plenty of creativity, his poise in possession marking the Frenchman out as a player capable of reaching the very top.
He has played in a variety of roles for Lyon including both centrally and out on the left-hand side, always willing to receive possession before moving the ball on quickly, a player who helps dictate the rhythm of the game.
Arsenal have been strongly linked with the player in recent weeks, though the likes of Juventus and Manchester City have both been mooted as potential destinations for the youngster who recently received his first senior call-up to the France squad.
Another player incessantly linked with a move to Arsenal, Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey is reportedly on the radar of several leading sides looking to add dynamism to their midfield this summer.
Partey has established himself as a key figure for Diego Simeone’s side over the past few seasons with his all-action style, the Ghana international a complete box-to-box talent who covers almost every blade of grass.
The 27-year-old is an excellent ball-winner and boasts elite athleticism alongside physical presence, his attributes seemingly perfectly tailored towards the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. Far from just a destroyer though, Partey’s ability to take the ball in tight situations and progress passes forward just as noticeable as his physical prowess at times.
Key to his future this season could be his reported release clause of just £42m, a figure which seems increasingly reasonable in the current climate for a player capable of influencing games at the very highest level.
Juventus have also been named as admirers of Partey ahead of a potential move and his signing would instantly improve the engine room of almost any of Europe’s leading sides.