The Athletic FC: DealSheet debut; Inside Mbappe move to Madrid – and where he’ll fit

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Hello! Today, we’re letting the transfer beast out of its cage.

Coming up:

👋 Say hola to The Athletic’s DealSheet

🇪🇸 Why Mbappe and Real Madrid fit like a glove

🇰🇷 Leeds United creating South Korean culture

🤔 How should England use Cole Palmer at the Euros?

DealSheet Debut: The biggest transfer news, every week, in one place

Transfer DealSheet

The first thing I get asked by Twitter at the end of each and every season — and, trust me, this happens like clockwork — is ‘any news, Phil?’

It’s a running joke and what it really means is: which players are Leeds United signing next? Because transfer news makes the world go round, and supporters’ appetite for it is insatiable.

This summer, The Athletic is giving its transfer coverage an injection of steroids. I want to introduce you to DealSheet, our new and definitive guide to what’s hot and what’s not in the market. It kicks off today.

We’ll publish DealSheet on a weekly basis throughout the European window, and it will abide by certain rules. All of our stories in it have been sourced from two people or more. All of the clubs involved have been given the right of reply — so, no clickbait and no fillers.

Let’s get to it.

Arsenal chase Sesko, Man Utd eye Branthwaite

It’s early in the window and, for the past few weeks, coaching hires have been consuming the Premier League (Enzo Maresca to Chelsea was confirmed yesterday — more on that in a bit).

You can feel the player market starting to move, though. These were the lines that stood out in DealSheet:

Also, look out each week for David Ornstein’s One to Watch. Today, he’s highlighting Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise as a target clubs are about to fight for, including Manchester United. If you’ve got the money, you’d be activating his release clause fast.


United are interested in Branthwaite (Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Inside Mbappe’s move: How Frenchman sealed deal, and where he’ll fit

Despite general inaction on the transfer front, we might have witnessed this summer’s show-stopper already: Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid.

Madrid got it done yesterday, and it comes as no surprise to see Mario Cortegana reveal that their ducks were in a row as far back as February. Mbappe to the Bernabeu was nailed on from the moment he signalled his intention to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe becomes Madrid’s highest earner overnight but it’s telling (and it says something about PSG’s model) that his wages are lower in Spain than they were in France. It’s striking too that not everyone at the Bernabeu was totally on board with signing him.

Certain people there worried about the cost. Some fretted about the addition of another big dog to a kennel packed with countless big dogs. And beyond any of that, tactically he has to find his groove.

Football is increasingly intolerant of free spirits. Everything is systems and structure, and Mbappe cannot just turn up in Madrid and make it all about him. But I think Liam Tharme has hit the nail on the head here in explaining why the transfer should work (their potential starting XI, below, is frightening).

RMCF Tharme XI 1

Beyond his exceptional ability, Mbappe is adaptable. So is Carlo Ancelotti. And if Madrid’s head coach can build a box midfield with the flick of a switch, he can squeeze the pips of a generational talent.

When were your Leeds Days? Alan Smith and a cultural phenomenon

0423 LeedsDays scaled

Getty Images: design Eamonn Dalton

Question: why are Leeds United big in South Korea?

Answer? They’re not, or not in the way you’d think. But the club from God’s Own County (Yorkshire, for the uninitiated) somehow spawned a national phrase for the South Korean lexicon.

This takes some explaining, so I’m going to let you read Stuart James’ feature on why Koreans refer regularly to ‘Leeds Days’. It starts with ex-Leeds and Manchester United striker Alan Smith and ends with Stuart studying Twitter profiles of middle-aged Korean women — all in a day’s work.

My assumption, having written about Leeds and their numerous crises for years, was that ‘Leeds Days’ defined moments when everything went wrong; ‘Doing a Leeds’, as it’s known around here.

In fact, ‘Leeds Days’ in Korea are the times in your life when everything was golden. Who knew?

Banking On Maresca: Five-year contract could ward off Man City

Enzo Maresca had to meet seven different criteria to land the Chelsea head coach job (and no, they didn’t involve passing through the seven layers of Hell).

Just a hunch: ‘Being willing to work within the structure built at the club’ might be the most pivotal.

Maresca is an example of how club owners have to hedge their bets. Chelsea have given him a five-year contract, which could be viewed as ludicrous since coaches there do well to see out five months.

But as The Athletic’s long read notes, there’s a suspicion that Maresca will be in the frame for the Manchester City vacancy should Pep Guardiola say ‘adios’ to the Etihad next year.

If Maresca fails at Stamford Bridge, it will cost Chelsea (again). If he thrives, a long deal means poaching him will cost someone else a mint. Place your chips on red or black.

Around The Athletic FC: Southgate’s selection headache

Catch A Match

UEFA Women’s Championship qualifier: France vs England (UK only, 8pm), ITV4.

International friendlies: USWNT vs Korea Republic (U.S. only, 8pm ET), Fubo, Peacock Premium; Italy vs Turkey (UK only, 8pm), Premier Sports; Republic of Ireland vs Hungary (UK only, 7.45pm).

(Top photo: RANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

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