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KEVIN BAXTER / ON SOCCER

A lot of moving and shaking going on

Some of the sport's biggest names (Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez) might be switching teams before the fall season begins.

August 03, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, right, talks to Real Madrid teammates Kaka, center, and Carlos Henrique Casimiro during a training session at UCLA on Friday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, right, talks to Real Madrid teammates Kaka, center,… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Clint Dempsey is in Seattle and Gareth Bale could be headed to Madrid.

Neymar has gone from Brazil to Barcelona, Mario Goetze went from Dortmund to Munich and while Cristiano Ronaldo was at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, no one seemed sure where he was headed from there.

After two relatively quiet summers, international soccer's summer transfer period has been especially noisy this year with more than 400 top players changing teams in the last seven weeks, including Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who jumped to AC Monaco, and Napoli striker Edinson Cavani, who joined Ligue 1 champion Paris Saint-Germain.

And the biggest deals are yet to be done. In addition to Real Madrid's Ronaldo, others waiting to see where they'll be playing this winter include Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski.

When — or if — those moves get done could be determined by what happens to Bale.

If the Tottenham Hotspur winger moves to Real Madrid — as he either hopes or doesn't hope, depending on the time of day — that could topple a number of dominoes, potentially sending Madrid's Luka Modric or Barcelona's Fabregas back to the English Premier League and hastening Rooney's departure from Manchester United.

Bale, 24, was the EPL's top player last season, but Real Madrid reportedly has made a record $160-million transfer offer for him — swamping the $87 million deep-pocketed Paris Saint-Germain spent for Cavani, the previous high price for a transfer this summer. Other reports have put the price in the $130-million range.

Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy recently said Bale, who did not travel with the team to Monaco for a preseason friendly played Saturday, is not for sale at any price. But that stance appears to be based largely on posturing, not principle.

"I believe the club is in talks to find a solution and we will see what happens," Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti said after a training session at UCLA last week.

As for what Bale wants, that's anyone's guess. On the same day last week, dueling reports insisted Bale is both pushing the team to let him go and urging Spurs to keep him.

And while Real Madrid is the most valuable sports franchise in the world, media reports say it still has more than $700 million in debt to worry about, so it probably would have to finance a deal for Bale, something it could do by sending either Ronaldo or Modric back to England.

The first move, once a longshot, appears to be picking up steam. Reports in the British press say Real Madrid and Manchester United have spent the last two weeks working out the framework of a deal said to be worth more than $120 million.

As for Modric, Ancelotti tried to quell that rumor last week.

"It is not true that Modric is going. He is a very important player for us and he will be here this season," Ancelotti said.

Any move involving Manchester United — which reportedly told new Manager David Moyes he has up to $105 million to "go after a stellar player" — probably would trigger a chain of events that could end up making Rooney expendable, especially now that the Old Trafford faithful have grown tired of his constant pouting.

And where does all that leave Liverpool bad boy Suarez, who will miss the first six games of the EPL season for biting the arm of Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic? Apparently in Liverpool, which has turned down two lucrative bids from Arsenal for the talented — if perhaps crazy — Uruguayan striker.

But the Reds also appear to be posturing in an effort to drive up the price for Suarez, who is said to be considering legal action to force a transfer.

Lewandowski is angry with his club too, with the Polish striker saying he feels "cheated" by Borussia Dortmund for blocking his desire to follow teammate Goetze to Bundesliga rival Bayern Munich.

The club apparently has told Lewandowski he will have to finish the remaining year of his contract before becoming eligible to leave on a free transfer next summer. Lewandowski reportedly is owed $2.4 million this season after turning down an $8-million raise Lewandowski characterized as a bonus offer for him to see out his contract.

"We are acting normally and Borussia's management is not,'" Lewandowski was quoted as telling a German reporter.

"That they keep me is not fair."

But if Bale's move turns out to be the most expensive and Ronaldo's remains the most uncertain, Dempsey's decision to leave the EPL for Major League Soccer is undoubtedly the most surprising.

The U.S. national team captain, Dempsey has been among the most productive American imports to European soccer, scoring 23 goals for Fulham in the 2011-12 season and winning a transfer to Tottenham last season. But he started only 22 games, scoring seven times.

Still, at the age of 30, Dempsey is in the prime of his career and hardly seemed ready for semiretirement in MLS. According to published reports, the Sounders spent big to change his mind, paying Tottenham a $9-million transfer fee and giving Dempsey a four-year, $32-million contract, the largest base salary in MLS history.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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