On Friday, several high-profile players will likely be announced as free transfers at their new clubs, including Divock Origi (AC Milan), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Andreas Christiansen (Barcelona), Ousmane Dembélé (likely Chelsea) and Jesse Lingard (seemingly West Ham).
Not all of the announcements will come on the same day — some might take a few more days — but in what is becoming a bit of a trend, big players are moving on free transfers in order to take a slice of the saving a team makes on a transfer fee for themselves.
As Juventus sign Pogba for nothing (at least in terms of a transfer fee, if not in signing on fees and wages), though, another of their players is leaving for free.
The difference with Argentina forward Paulo Dybala, however, is that it is not yet clear where he will be going. At 28, Dybala should have been one of the most coveted out-of-contract players.
In 2019, Tottenham agreed a €70m (£64m) transfer deal for Dybala but the move broke down because of his wage demands. This summer, Dybala did not want to leave Juventus but no offer was on the table for an extension (there was one tabled in the autumn, but that has long been withdrawn following the arrival of Dušan Vlahović).
Even with Juventus changing tact in attack — like Liverpool, building around a more typical number nine — Dybala would have expected more suitors. Having netted 113 goals in 283 appearances for Italy’s biggest club and being in the prime years of his career, Europe’s elite should have been lining up to take him.
And yet they have not. Inter Milan were thought to be the likely destination for him, but they have now got a chance to re-sign Romelu Lukaku. AC Milan could be an option but they have not made an offer yet, while AS Roma and José Mourinho have been linked but that would appear a step down.
Across the continent, Dybala would seem a signing that would appeal to PSG and Barcelona among others, but neither have made a move. In the Premier League, Spurs have not come back to the table. Sevilla are reportedly interested but that would not be a move fitting of a player once labelled — and more reasonably than most young players coming through in Argentina — as the ‘next Lionel Messi‘.
So what about Liverpool? Wages, for one, would need to be reasonable for the Reds to even countenance a move for Dybala. But given the lack of stellar competition, Dybala might be forced to accept less than he would have with a proper bidding war.
On a free, he could offer Liverpool a back-up forward option capable of playing across their forward line or as a number 10, with the potential of being a younger version of Roberto Firmino as the false nine.
With just days left on his deal, if Liverpool were keen on the idea of bringing Dybala to Anfield, they would no doubt have already made their move. It seems unlikely that Dybala will end up in the Premier League and unlikelier still that it would be with the Reds.
But it will be curious to see where he pops up. With Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi having moved on, there is a reasonable argument that another attacker could be found to supplement the Reds’ attack — not least to facilitate a possible switch, at times to 4-2-3-1, a formation that Dybala would excel in.
It would also be a very Moneyball move to sign a player recently valued at €70m for nothing — a cut-price deal for a superstar like Thiago Alcântara.