The New Year brings with it plenty of excitement for football fans. The Premier League reaches its business end, the UEFA Champions League – as well as the Europa League and Conference League – both see their knockout rounds get underway and, the January transfer window opens up.
Over the years, some stunning deals have been completed in the opening month of the year, and 2024 promises to be no different.
Here are two players that could be on the move in the not-so-distant future.
Conor Gallagher: Chelsea
Has there been a stranger transfer policy than the one at Stamford Bridge in recent years? Ever since Todd Boehly’s acquisition of the club almost two years ago, the club have abandoned the policy that saw them become both domestic and continental contenders under Roman Abramovich.
Instead, they have simply opened up the chequebook and signed everyone under the sun. Certain betting sites in the UK still make them contenders on certain fronts this season, specifically listing them as 10/1 fourth-favourites for the FA Cup. But after spending over £1bn on players since being taken over by the American business mogul, is that really good enough?
Well, if their transfer spending has been questionable, the rumoured departure of star midfielder Conor Gallagher beggars belief. The talented young Englishman is in the midst of a breakthrough year for the Blues, starting all but one game in the Premier League this term and even captaining the side 13 times. But that doesn’t appear to have been enough to stop the powers that be from moving him on, and a fee of £50m appears to be the asking price for the 23-year-old.
Should he leave Stamford Bridge – and we’re not saying that he definitely will – the move would certainly be a head-scratcher. Less so on the player’s part and more so on the club’s. They have moved heaven and earth to bring in a number of players that aren’t in Gallagher’s league when it comes to importance, and he has now added consistency to his game as well. Will he fight for his place in the team, or will he accept that his fate has already been decided for him?
Lionel Messi: Inter Miami
Ever since Lionel Messi’s shock departure from Barcelona two and a half years ago, many have wondered when – not if – will the Argentinian magician return to his adopted home. Many thought that would be in the summer. With his contract with Paris Saint-Germain winding down, it seemed as though all roads led to the Nou Camp.
But then, the premise of Saudi millions reared their head. Some of the planet’s top names such as Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane followed Cristiano Ronaldo to the Arabian Gulf throughout the course of the summer transfer window. The allure of a more laidback lifestyle in Miami also seemed appealing.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup winner opted for the latter, but with the MLS now in the midst of its postseason, a move back to Catalonia could well be on the cards. That deal would most likely be a loan deal such as the one which saw Thierry Henry return to Arsenal and David Beckham – the owner of Inter Miami – make the move to AC Milan. Whatever happens, it would certainly make football purists happy to see Messi in the famed blue and red stripes one last time before his retirement, however, there is no guarantee that it will come to pass.
As mentioned, Saudi Arabia will be loitering once more, with many keen to unite Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the same dream team. Premier League giants such as Manchester City could also be interested in giving him one last chance to play in England and do so under former manager and friend Pep Guardiola.