Brentford’s star striker Ivan Toney is back on the park after his gambling ban and his days at Brentford appear numbered. What are the Englishman’s feasible transfer destinations?
Eight months is a long time to be absent from anything. Imagine eight months off the gym; the rounding of the belly and heaviness of breath. Or work; forgetting which keys sit where and not being able to use the office printer.
For Ivan Toney, that’s kind of what he’s been dealing with. But he’s now returned to the English Premier League, following a lengthy gambling ban. Although he’s been able to train, and feature in certain matches since, he’s been getting his feet underneath him and has already shown some real moments of class.
On his day, few strikers can do what Toney does. A multi-faceted striker, he blends imposing physicality with a creative midfielder’s deft touch and link-up play, as well as both delicate and powerful finishing. In short, he’s a nightmare for defenders.
Goals are a luxury in football, a commodity both highly valued and hard to come by. With that in mind, Ivan Toney is a rare gemstone; the kind you’d be unsurprised to watch Indiana Jones snatch from an exotic cave.
Despite an exorbitant price tag, he remains highly sought after by several top clubs desperately crying out for goals. Brentford, knowing his value and familiar with the economic principle of supply and demand, will demand an ‘unbelievable price’ to sanction his exit from the club.
Toney admits to owing a lot to the club, who’ve supported him unbelievably since his ban began, and will be digging deep to help ensure the London outfit don’t flirt too closely with the drop zone, after a fairly lean campaign so far.
Yet for a club like Brentford, who lack rich financial resources common amongst the rest of the Premier League, one must wonder how long they can knock back bids exceeding £100 million for their star man. And those are the thoughts, too, of club manager Thomas Frank.
🚨🏴 Brentford manager Thomas Frank: “Ivan Toney will most likely be sold in the summer”.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 7, 2024
“He’ll only have a year left on contract with us, so it’s quite obvious”.
“This winter, we actually had NO bids for him”, told Tipsbladet. pic.twitter.com/zYwTcpo4Sm
Football news-breaker Fabrizio Romano dropped a bombshell on social media that it’s more likely than not Toney’s time with Brentford is nearly up, confirming that Frank believes ‘he will most likely be sold in the summer’.
What was also interesting is that no bids came for him in the summer. But there’s also a logical reason, given he was out for the entire first half of the Premier League season.
So the end of Toney’s four-year fairytale at the Bees appears a matter of when, not if. And like when a new iPhone drops, clubs will be lining up for days to secure the Englishman’s services.
Where are the 27-year-old’s most feasible destinations? Our football experts run their eye over the European football landscape, providing three options (two realistic and one wildcard) for when Toney eventually departs Brentford.
Where to next for Ivan Toney?
Fourth place in the Premier League, at the time of writing, is far from a crisis. Unless you’re Arsenal, who ran Manchester City closer than anyone not from Merseyside in recent memory during the 2022-23 season, and were expected to further hammer their title credentials in 2023-24.
That they haven’t is a by-product of a myriad of reasons; the Premier League strengthening this season, blooding new signings, and a head-scratching and self-imposed goalkeeping conundrum. This isn’t to say a reliable goalscorer wouldn’t help their cause.
Let’s defer to the club’s favourite son and second-highest-ever goalscorer, Ian Wright:
His plead follows another lacklustre showing in front of goal for Arsenal. Add it to an ever-increasing list of wasteful performances and missed chances. Every side needs, as Wright says, a killer, who can help them smash-and-grab games when their overall performance isn’t there.
Gabriel Jesus is a fine forward, just far from a clinical goalscorer. Everyone knew that when the Brazilian traded Manchester for London. Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka are victims of extra defensive coverage, while Leandro Trossard isn’t much of a point of difference from the rest of the front line.
To put it plainly, they all are fantastic footballers, but they’re not killers.
Do you know who is a killer? Ivan Toney. Do you know who offers something different to the rest of Arsenal’s front line? Ivan Toney.
Mikel Arteta is a strict adherent to pre-determined patterns of play and as such may question Toney’s ability to slot into his system that’s created more fortune for Arsenal than misfortune. He may also be dissuaded by the striker’s lack of positional fluidity like, for example, Jesus’ ability to drift wide left and open inside spaces for Martinelli or Kai Havertz.
Above all else, Mikel Arteta isn’t an idiot. He’s an astute footballing brain. He’ll know his Arsenal completes more crosses than just about any other Premier League side and needs a physically dominant aerial presence to meet the end of them and find the back of the net with foot or head, something his forwards have been unable to adequately do in 2023-24.
He’ll also know about Ivan Toney’s wonderful link-up play and Harry Kane-esque ability to involve runners such as Jesus, Saka, Martinelli, and Havertz, into play. Not only does Toney steal defensive eyes, even for a split-second, but he’s also capable of dragging teammates into space to capitalise on these concentration lapses.
Arsenal might not need a goalscoring forward to compete; maybe just a return to form for the rest of their forward line, but would any Arsenal fan oppose Ivan Toney’s arrival?
If all else fails, sign, and sign, and sign. That ladies and gentlemen, appears to be the modus operandi of Todd Boehly and the rest of Chelsea’s newish leadership consortium. Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku both recently arrived to solve the club’s seemingly unwavering goalscoring woes.
How are they faring? The jury’s still out. Jackon is an inconsistent, increasingly maligned striker and Nkunku operates better off as a traditional threat.
Enter Ivan Toney. Desperation makes people do silly things, especially when money isn’t an issue. Paying £100 million for Ivan Toney is inconceivable for most. This iteration of Chelsea isn’t like most.
It’s no certainty Toney’s arrival will shift Chelsea’s current lacklustre trajectory. Having a willing and able striker, with a 20-goal Premier League season to his name, to act as an outlet for Chelsea’s clutter of attacking talent, providing Nkunku, Raheem Sterling, and Cole Palmer a backboard to play off, and ultimately finish chances, will do more good than harm.
Such is his overall technical ability, the dazzlingly quick feet, the equally sharp speed of thought, the deftness of touch, understated passing and resounding physical strength, that Jamie Carragher once claimed Ivan Toney was ‘reminiscent of Harry Kane.’
Imagine Toney’s skillset in this Chelsea side, under Mauricio Pochettino, the manager who created Kane as we know him.
I know what you’re thinking. Napoli, are you mental? Maybe I am, but here’s the rationale. Aside from Kylian Mbappe, Victor Osimhen is football’s most desired striker at present and his relationship with Napoli has become increasingly fractured in 2023-24, owing largely to some inexcusably vile social media posts earlier in the season.
Many expected the Nigerian to depart the Italian south coast in the January transfer window. His participation in the African Cup of Nations and a recently signed new contract means the likelihood of sides prying Osimhen from Naples this January is next to zero.
A 130 million euro release clause inserted into that new deal, however, means a summer departure, when funds are more readily available to European clubs and Naples will be more willing to sell, is feasible.
The Nigerian has served Naples well, bringing them their first Scudetto since the Maradona years. Yet all good things must come to an end.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal are reportedly massive admirers of Osimhen, as too are Manchester United and just about every major club in Europe desperately needing goals.
When the time comes for Naples to hunt Osimhen’s replacement, they need look no further than Toney. A ready-made striker who’d undoubtedly excel at the club, once he adjusts to a new culture.
For Ivan Toney, this is a wildcard option. Uprooting your life and migrating abroad is no easy feat, especially with a young family to think of, but Harry Kane’s warm start at Bayern is the blueprint for pulling off such a move.
Besides, he seems like the kind of guy who likes warm weather, Aperol spritz’, and Spaghetti Alle Vongole, doesn’t he?