It's that time of the year again, just as all the teams are returning for pre-season training, and the silly season is in full swing. With newspaper headline writers earning their weight in gold, football journalists throughout Ireland and the UK and across Europe are providing their adoring public with all manner of made-up, kind of true, "EXCLUSIVE" stories as to which player is going where.
So we here at College Times have decided to provide a brief guide of all the potential and likely destinations of some of the biggest names in the game, from Luis Suárez to Gareth Bale to Cristiano Ronaldo. Let the speculation commence!
Easily the most high profile player that is potentially on the market this Summer, the perennial second best player in the world Ronaldo has been linked with a move away from Real Madrid since way back in September when he revealed that he was "sad", with a move back to his beloved Manchester United being the most likely destination should he be allowed to leave. But why would Real Madrid allow their star asset to leave just as Ronaldo is reaching his physical prime? Simple. He only has two years remaining on his current contract, and if Real refuse to sell now, they run the risk of Ronaldo not signing a new deal and leaving for free in two years time, which would be bonkers. Player power, people. The thing is, even if Ronaldo was to leave with Real's blessing, would his preferred destination of Old Trafford be able to stump up the moolah? Apparently, with a little help from sponsors Nike and Chevrolet, they are willing to stump up over €80M to bring Ronnie back.
Most likely outcome: Ronaldo stays on for at least another season at Real Madrid and gets knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United, then re-joins the club next season for a cut-price fee. Yes I'm hedging here but that's all part of the fun.
You either hate him or hate him. Unless you're a Liverpool fan of course. Yes, the controversial Uruguayan might not be everyone's cupáin tae, but by the gods is he a class footballer. Last season was almost a turning point in his career as he let his goalscoring exploits do the talking; that was until he decided to have a tasted of Branislav Ivanovic's arm at the tail end of the season. Now he wants out of England because the media have treated him unfairly, apparently. Luckily for Luis, Real Madrid have for a while been interested in acquiring his services, which has lead to much of the speculation about Ronaldo and Higuaín leaving and going to Manchester United and Arsenal, respectively. While Liverpool's squad would surely miss the qualities of Suárez, they won't miss the controversy he brings to the club, and with Liverpool's form during his recent ban being more than decent with Sturridge and Coutinho in particular impressing, now could be the time for Merseyside Red to cash in on their star asset.
Most likely outcome: We get another one of those long, drawn out "will he, won't he?" sagas where Liverpool say he's not for sale, but the player keeps pushing for a move, and Real just don't go away. In the end, Suárez will sign for Real Madrid for around €50m, which seems to be the going rate for top tier strikers these days.
The two-time PFA Player of the Year (both of which are highly disputable) is one of the most coveted and exciting talents in world football right now. His form for Spurs, especially post-Christmas, was mesmerising, yet wasn't enough to secure Spurs a Champions League place. While linked with Manchester United a lot in the past, that has died down with their own interest in Ronaldo, and it is Real Madrid that remain favourites to capture his signature. Openly speaking of their interest in the player, in the same vein that they pursued Ronaldo years ago, Real have set out their ambitions early. Even Bale himself has admitted his admiration for Spanish football, preferring it above all other leagues. It might not matter though, as the ever stubborn Spurs chairman has been adamant that Bale ain't for sale this Summer.
Most likely outcome: Spurs reject several massive bids from Real Madrid for the player and eventually fend off interest from the Spanish capital for at least one more year.
Another brilliant Uruguayan, the Napoli striker has been linked with everyone from Manchester City, to Chelsea, to Real Madrid, Manchester United and more. The problem with the transfer of this man, who scored three goals in the recent Confederations Cup, is that he will only be allowed to leave Napoli should his release clause be activated, and €63m is an awful lot of money for any player, let alone one that probably isn't nearly worth that. The man himself admits as much. He is the flavour of the month though, and with City selling Tevéz to Juventus, and Edin Dzeko out of favour, the blue side of Manchester may be where he ends up.
Most likely outcome: Cavani wears blue next season (see what I did there?). Whether it's the blue of City, Napoli or Chelsea is another matter. If I was to put money on it, he'll end up in a Chelsea shirt under José Mourinho.
One of the Champions League's stand-out performers, the 24 year-old Dortmund striker has been coveted for a while now by Manchester United and Bayern Munich in particular. The things is, United don't exactly need his type of player, considering the form of one Robin van Persie. Bayern on the other hand, have openly expressed their interest in the player, with the player mirroring their desire to make Lewy their new target man. Dortmund on the other hand, have stubbornly said he ain't for sale, thanks no doubt to Bayern already splashing out for another of their star players in Mario Gotze just before their Champions League Final match back in May.
Most likely outcome: Lewandowski stays put with Klopp's Dortmund for the coming season, before making the switch to Bayern Munich or maybe even Manchester City if they're still struggling for striking options.
Another season, another transfer request from England's most talented footballer. One of the most baffling aspects of Rooney handing in yet another transfer request is that there is little or no logical reason for it. When he said he wanted out a few years back, many sort of understood the reasons, considering United had failed to bring in any big names after Ronaldo left for the Spanish capital for €93m. But since then, United have signed Robin van Persie and won two Premier League titles. So clearly trophies and star players aren't the issue anymore. In fairness, Rooney's camp have come out and said that the player never actually handed in a transfer request, but that hasn't stopped the intense speculation about the player's future, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain all being touted as suitors.
Most likely outcome: If he is to leave, then Barcelona or Arsenal seem the likeliest destination. More than likely though, Rooney will have a sit down with new gaffer David Moyes and sign a new contract with the club before Christmas. United would gain nothing from letting a player of his calibre leave.
The would-be heir to Xavi's midfield maestro role at Barcelona has been playing a game of 'Cat & Mouse' with the Catalonian giants over the Summer over a more lucrative contract, and more importantly, a guarantee of first team football. Manchester United looked to have all but secured his services after his agent and father were in Manchester a few weeks back, apparently sorting out the finer details of the transfer. What United can offer Thiago right now, is something Barcelona cannot, and that is a lot more first team action. Thiago would be what United are crying out for: a creative and skillful central midfielder, something they've sorely lacked as Paul Scholes has added to his mileage. The latest though is that Thiago may be about to accept a 'double-your-money' deal with Barca, though reports in Spain suggest that he's set to reject the offer and join the champions of England.
Most likely outcome: This transfer is as 50/50 as they come, with it just as likely he signs for Manchester United as renewing with Barcelona. For me, he'll end up joining United, with the lure of first team Champions League and Premier League football too enticing especially with the World Cup in Brazil only a year away.