What are Europe's biggest clubs' preseason priorities and tour schedules?

Published on: 05 June 2024

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The 2023-24 European club football season is finally over. When Real Madrid defeated Borussia Dortmund on Saturday to win the UEFA Champions League, the curtain fell on a campaign that began in earnest midway through last August.

Everyone can exhale, letting go of all the anxieties that come with supporting your club through a long, arduous season. OK, have you caught your breath? Good, because the 2024-25 season is just around the corner.

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The stars of Europe's biggest clubs have only just embarked on their summer holidays, but you can bet their bosses already have their minds firmly fixed on their return-to-action dates next month. Most teams will begin their preseason training camps at the start of July and by the midpoint of the month, many will be crisscrossing the globe on money-spinning preseason tours of North America and Asia.

So, now that we've definitively closed the book on 2023-24, what are the champions of Europe's Big Five leagues -- Madrid, Manchester City, Bayer Leverkusen, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain -- and some of the other biggest clubs on the continent working toward over the summer, and where and when will their preseason preparations take place? ESPN's writers have broken down teams' offseason priorities and detailed their preseason friendly schedules. Join us as we look ahead already to 2024-25!

Arsenal

This summer, Arsenal's main priority is to extend Mikel Arteta's contract. The Spanish manager has only a year left on his contract, and considering the job he and the club have done together in the past two seasons, pushing Manchester City all the way in the Premier league title races, agreeing fresh terms is vital for the club. Both parties want to continue together, so the agreement shouldn't be too difficult to find.

After securing most key players in the squad on long-term contracts, the Gunners, led by sporting director Edu, will not make many changes to the team, but could add a signee or two if they find an exit for some of their lesser-used players. The idea would be to bring in even more depth to allow Arteta & Co. to compete both domestically and in Europe -- and go all the way this time.

The team's progression in the past 2½ years has been impressive. The aim is to keep improving again next season with another year's worth of experience for the second-youngest squad in the English top flight. -- Julien Laurens

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 27: Manchester United; Los Angeles
- July 31: Liverpool; Philadelphia

Chelsea

Chelsea will want to build on the momentum created at the end of last season, when they won their last five games to clinch a place in Europe. Mauricio Pochettino's departure was a surprise given Chelsea's late-season form, and there will be something of a reset under the new manager, but the overall aim will be to build on that their sixth-place finish.

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As such, the preseason -- once their new manager is appointed -- will be vital for the club to build a cohesive squad and mould a group that has, at times, appeared to be thrown together by Todd Boehly. Chelsea have profit and sustainability rules (PSR) concerns, so there are likely to be some creative departures over the summer, but there will be additions too, with a focus on increasing goals to help ease the burden on Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku.

Chelsea will hope they can get their new signees in early and have the whole squad together in the United States. They started last season on the back foot after winning just one of their first six league games, and they need to be sharper in the early going this time around if they're to credibly challenge for the UEFA Champions League places. -- Rob Dawson

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 24: Wrexham; Santa Clara, California
- July 27: Celtic; South Bend, Indiana
- July 31: Club América; Atlanta
- Aug. 3: Manchester City; Columbus, Ohio
- Aug. 6: Real Madrid; Charlotte, North Carolina

Liverpool

Liverpool's priority this summer is to make sure the transition from Jürgen Klopp to Arne Slot is as smooth as possible. It won't be easy for Slot to follow one of the greatest ever Liverpool managers, but it's vital that he gets off to a positive start.

David Moyes had a disastrous summer after taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and never recovered. Recruitment was scattergun and the summer tour was chaotic, leading United's senior players to question the appointment very early on. Moyes never recovered and was sacked the following April. The Anfield outfit needs to ensure that it doesn't make similar miscalculations.

In the transfer window, Liverpool will be looking to bolster their defence over the summer and add a reliable goal scorer. The main focus for Slot, though, will be to get key players to buy into what he is trying to do. Naturally, these preseason games in the U.S. will be the first chance for the Dutchman to get across his vision and show that his methods can work.

Captain Virgil van Dijk will help shepherd Liverpool into the Arne Slot era this summer. Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

If Slot can get the likes of Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk onside then that will be a huge step in the right direction. Following Klopp will be a daunting task, but a hot start would certainly help. -- Dawson

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 26: Real Betis; Pittsburgh
- July 31: Arsenal; Philadelphia
- Aug. 3: Manchester United; Columbia, South Carolina

Manchester City

Manchester City will use the summer to put themselves in position to win an unprecedented fifth straight Premier League title. After winning the trophy in six of the past seven seasons, including the past four in a row, they know what they're doing. City have shown in the past that they can deal with key players leaving, and they'll back themselves to do it again.

As usual, money will be made available to strengthen the squad, and although there's not much wrong with Pep Guardiola's starting XI, he will want more depth in some areas ahead of another campaign challenging in the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

City will also want to know what Guardiola's plan is for his future. He has a contract at the Etihad Stadium until 2025, and if he's not going to sign a new deal, club bosses will want as much warning as possible so they can begin making a succession plan. City would like Guardiola to sign an extension, but there is an acceptance that he has already stayed in Manchester longer than he planned and that, after a golden era of success, he might be running out of motivation to remain in club football. -- Dawson

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Summer friendly schedule:

- July 23: Celtic; Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- July 27: AC Milan; New York
- July 30: Barcelona; Orlando, Florida
- Aug. 3: Chelsea; Columbus, Ohio

Manchester United

With uncertainty still surrounding the future of manager Erik ten Hag, United's summer will largely be dictated by the identity of the coach and some specific needs in terms of squad rebuilding. While every coach will have different requirements, last season's eighth-place showing in the Premier League -- United's lowest finish since 1990 -- highlighted areas of weakness that must be addressed no matter who is in charge.

United simply need reinforcements in every department of the squad. Raphaël Varane's exit as a free agent means a new centre-half is high on the agenda, while younger, more durable midfielders are required to bolster a problem area on the team. With Sofyan Amrabat returning to Fiorentina at the end of his loan spell and Casemiro expected to leave, United clearly need new blood in midfield. Up front, United need at least one experienced striker to ease the load on Rasmus Hojlund, in terms of both goals and match rotation.

Off the pitch, United will hope to end the summer having negotiated Dan Ashworth's release from Newcastle United in order for him to start his role as director of football at Old Trafford. -- Mark Ogden

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 15: Rosenborg; Trondheim, Norway
- July 20: Rangers; Edinburgh, Scotland
- July 27: Arsenal; Los Angeles
- July 31: Real Betis; San Diego
- Aug. 3: Liverpool; Columbia, South Carolina

Tottenham Hotspur

Ange Postecoglou wants to reshape his Tottenham squad this summer, and it has been reported that as many as 11 players could leave the club in order to raise funds and clear space on the wage bill for new signings.

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Richarlison, Emerson Royal, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Giovani Lo Celso are among the experienced players that Postecoglou is ready to move on, while the likes of Sergio Reguilón, Tanguy Ndombele and Joe Rodon are similarly unlikely to have a place at Spurs following the end of their loan moves away from the club last season. Postecoglou wants players more capable of making his high-energy attacking game work, but there will also be a need to bolster his squad depth due to Spurs facing European commitments in the Europa League, having missed out on Europe entirely last season.

Tottenham's priority will be to boost their attacking options having failed to sign a striker to replace Harry Kane last season. The goals of Son Heung-Min helped soften the blow of losing their talisman to Bayern Munich last August, but Postecoglou has now charged the club's recruitment team with the difficult challenge of filling the gap left by Kane's departure. -- Ogden

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 17: Hearts; Edinburgh, Scotland
- July 20: Queens Park Rangers; London, England
- July 27: Vissel Kobe; Tokyo, Japan
- Aug. 3: Bayern Munich; Seoul, South Korea
- Aug. 10: Bayern Munich; London, England

Atlético Madrid

"The club has to work. An important summer is coming." Coach Diego Simeone -- speaking after Atlético's last game of the season -- couldn't have been much clearer.

A busy transfer window is expected at Atlético, with a major overhaul planned after a disappointing end to 2023-24. Yes, they finished fourth in LaLiga -- the minimum requirement for a team that has aspired to much more in the past decade under Simeone -- but some chastening results, including a 4-1 home defeat to Osasuna in May, highlighted the need for change.

After a disappointing fourth-place finish in LaLiga in 2023-24, Atlético Madrid will need to regroup and rebuild this summer. Getty Images

A shake-up is expected in defence, midfield and attack, with a number of senior players departing. Sporting director Andrea Berta will look to build a new spine for the team, making signings in central defence, central midfield and at centre-forward. It will then be down to Simeone to blend those new faces with veterans who remain key players, like captain Koke and forward Antoine Griezmann. At the very least, Atlético will look to put themselves in a position to wrest the title of "LaLiga's third team" back from Girona; at best, they'll want to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title, as they did successfully in 2014 and 2021.

Atlético haven't made their preseason plans official yet, but they're expected to travel to China, as well as playing friendlies in Europe. -- Alex Kirkland

Barcelona

Barcelona go into the summer with a new coach after the confirmation that former Bayern Munich and Germany boss Hansi Flick has replaced Xavi Hernández. However, the change in manager does not massively change the team's needs after a trophyless campaign. Addressing the lack of balance in midfield is the priority. Xavi said that was the team's biggest problem last season and the reason they went from conceding 20 goals in LaLiga in 2022-23 to 44 last term.

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Any signings, though, are once again dependent on outgoings and the club's financial situation. They remain in excess of their LaLiga-imposed annual spending limit, which the most recent figures revealed has been reduced to €204 million, and must raise money before they can spend it. Sources, therefore, don't rule out a big-name departure if a satisfactory offer arrives and the player is willing to leave.

From there, once they have addressed their defensive midfield issues, Barça will assess whether they're capable of strengthening in other positions. Another forward, preferably a winger, would be next on the list of requirements. They were outscored by Real Madrid and Girona in LaLiga last season and should be wary of putting too much weight on teenager Lamine Yamal's shoulders. -- Sam Marsden

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 30: Manchester City; Orlando, Florida
- Aug. 3: Real Madrid; East Rutherford, New Jersey
- Aug. 6: AC Milan; Baltimore, Maryland

Real Madrid

Real Madrid's summer revolves around the conclusion of the longest-running transfer saga of recent years: the belated arrival of Kylian Mbappé. From finally making his free transfer signing official, to finding time in the player's busy summer schedule with France for a blockbuster presentation at a packed Santiago Bernabeu, to his integration into the Madrid squad for preseason training and the club's high-profile U.S. tour, the spotlight on Mbappé will be relentless.

Otherwise, Madrid's focus is on how to repeat a hugely impressive 2023-24 and whether they can match, or even improve on, last season's domestic and European success. Not much work is needed on a well-balanced squad. Further additions would be welcome in defence, where strengthening may be required at centre-back and left-back.

Tactically, the task for coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff will be helping the team adjust to life without Toni Kroos, who will retire after the European Championship. Kroos has set the tempo in Madrid's midfield for a decade, and despite the club's host of talented young midfielders, the German's influence -- as seen in Saturday's Champions League final -- won't be easy to replace. -- Kirkland

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 31: AC Milan; Chicago, Illinois
- Aug. 3: Barcelona; East Rutherford, New Jersey
- Aug. 6: Chelsea; Charlotte, North Carolina

Real Madrid will have to get used to life without Toni Kroos in 2024-25, with the Germany international calling time on his playing career after 10 years at the Bernabeu. Diego Souto/Getty ImagesBayer Leverkusen

While the final stretch of the 2023-24 campaign did not exactly go as hoped, with Leverkusen losing decisively to Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League final, the Werkself can nevertheless move forward with an overall feeling of great satisfaction after clinching a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double. Xabi Alonso and his staff's attention will now turn to defending their Bundesliga title.

Key personnel should remain, with only one or two players expected to move on. We might not see much transfer activity from Leverkusen, but they could make a few specific additions in order to increase depth. Aleix García is expected to arrive from Girona to provide an alternative to Granit Xhaka in midfield. And if Jeremie Frimpong does depart, club bosses will be tasked with finding an equally dynamic wing-back to take his place.

Due to the draining 2023-24 campaign that saw Leverkusen play a total of 53 competitive games, the team will not go on tour overseas. Instead, the club are planning to work on a programme for the preseason. -- Constantin Eckner

Bayern Munich

The talk of the town has been Bayern's extended and bumpy managerial pursuit, but Max Eberl, the board member overseeing transfer activities, and sporting director Christoph Freund had already attempted to tweak the squad for 2024-25 without knowing who the next manager would be.

Uncertainty exists regarding the future of Alphonso Davies, as the Canada international has yet to sign a new contract, with his deal expiring in 2025. As for potential signings, Bayern will attempt to bring in players aged 26 or younger while maintaining the balance between well-known names and prospects with considerable upside. Incoming manager Vincent Kompany already has a few names Bayern in mind.

Bayern plan to kick off preseason training July 15, although those starring at Euro 2024 will join up later. Labelled the "Audi Summer Tour," Bayern will travel to South Korea, the home country of centre-back Kim Min-Jae, for promotional purposes. This will be Bayern's fourth trip to Asia in recent years. -- Eckner

Summer friendly schedule:

- Aug. 3: Tottenham; Seoul, South Korea
- Aug. 10: Tottenham; London, England

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund's summer break has officially begun after Saturday's Champions League final at Wembley. It has already been decided that the club will move forward with Edin Terzic as their manager despite some dire moments during a Bundesliga season (they finished fifth).

Their focus will be tying up permanent deals for Ian Maatsen and Jadon Sancho, on loan from Chelsea and Manchester United, respectively. Dortmund could even accept an extension of the loan agreement for Sancho until the end of 2024-25. Other than that, the club's transfer business will involve trying to sign a few talented, Bundesliga-proven players for a variety of roles, including central midfield, a winger as well as in attack.

For preseason, Dortmund will travel to Japan to reunite with Shinji Kagawa and take on the former BVB playmaker's Cerezo Osaka. In early August, Dortmund will once again hold a training camp in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, a destination for hot springs and wellness retreats. -- Eckner

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Summer friendly schedule:

- July 17: Erzgebirge Aue; location to be confirmed
- July 24: Cerezo Osaka; Osaka, Japan
- Aug. 6: Villarreal; location to be confirmed
- Aug. 10: Aston Villa; Dortmund, Germany

AC Milan

Milan are another club starting the new season with a new coach after moving on from Stefano Pioli, who had been in charge since 2019 and steered them to the Serie A title in 2021-22. Former AS Roma and Lille manager Paulo Fonseca is widely reported to succeeded him.

In addition to a new manager, Milan will also need a new striker. The Italian side have been reliant on Olivier Giroud, who scored 49 goals across the past three seasons, but have lost the Frenchman to MLS side LAFC. Replacing the former Arsenal man will be one of sporting director Antonio D'Ottavio's biggest tasks this summer.

However, the Rossoneri also need to improve defensively. They may have finished second to Inter in the league last season, but no side in the top 10 conceded more goals than them -- 49 in 38 games. Like Giroud, veteran centre-back Simon Kjaer has also left the club upon the expiry of his contract, so there is space to add bodies at the back. -- Marsden

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 20: Rapid Vienna; Vienna, Austria
- July 27: Manchester City; New York
- July 31: Real Madrid; Chicago
- Aug. 6: Barcelona; Baltimore

AC Milan face a difficult task of replacing the production of Olivier Giroud, who left the club for LAFC of MLS after the 2023-24 season. Claudio Villa/AC Milan via Getty Images Inter Milan

Inter's summer sees them face the daunting task of replicating a staggeringly successful domestic season under coach Simone Inzaghi in 2023-24. They won Serie A at a canter -- finishing 19 points clear of nearest rivals AC Milan -- with an eye-opening plus-67 goal difference, thanks to the division's best attack, led by Lautaro Martínez, and meanest defence.

However that on-field triumph has been followed by off-field uncertainty, after the U.S.-based investment fund Oaktree Capital Management took ownership of Inter last month when the previous owners, China's Suning, missed a loan payment. Oaktree say they're "committed to the long-term success" of the club, but it remains to be seen whether major changes will be implemented at the executive level.

Work improving the squad for next season has already begun, with director Dario Baccin confirming last month that deals are in place to sign midfielder Piotr Zielinski of Napoli and FC Porto forward Mehdi Taremi on free transfers. Inter may also look to tie down key players such as Martinez and midfielder Nicolò Barella to longer-term deals.

Inter are yet to confirm their summer plans, but reports in Italy have suggested they'll head to China on tour. -- Kirkland

Juventus

A new cycle is starting at Juventus this summer after the departure of manager Massimiliano Allegri. He was deemed to be too old-school and too defensive, and the club wanted and needed a change.

Thiago Motta is widely tipped to be chosen to pen this new chapter. After leading Bologna into the Champions League, facilitated by his attractive, attacking football with movement and freedom for his players, the former PSG midfielder is the complete opposite to Allegri. Whether it's Motta or someone else, Juve want to tap into the potential of starlets like Kenan Yildiz, Fabio Miretti, Samuel Iling-Junior, Carlos Alcaraz and others waiting for their chance in the Juventus Next Gen team.

This will be a younger squad in 2024-25 than it was last season, and that's before considering Adrien Rabiot, who is leaving as a free agent. Another big name, potentially Dusan Vlahovic or Federico Chiesa, could also be let go to help balance the books.

The Old Lady have yet to announce their plans for their preseason tour. -- Laurens

Paris Saint-Germain

This summer is all about filling the gap left by Mbappé, who will join Real Madrid. It is not so much finding a like-for-like replacement for the France captain but strengthening the squad to create a stronger team without Mbappé than it was with him. It won't be easy but manager Luis Enrique and sporting director Luis Campos are convinced it is not mission impossible.

As well as finding how to make up for the loss of Mbappé, the club is also working on extending the contract of Luis Enrique. The Spanish manager's deal expires in 12 months, and both parties are keen to add at least an extra year to it. The club is very happy with what the former Barcelona boss did in his first season in Paris, despite the disappointment of losing to Borussia Dortmund against the odds in the Champions League semifinals.

Preseason plans are yet to be announced, but Les Parisiens are expected to tour China this summer, including a stop in Beijing for the French Super Cup against AS Monaco. -- Laurens

Summer friendly schedule:

- Aug. 8: Monaco; Beijing, China

Wrexham

It promises to be a summer of change for Wrexham, with several players already having left the club since the end of last season. Team captain Ben Tozer, Jordan Tunnicliffe, Rob Lainton, Aaron Hayden, Callum McFadzean and Luke Young have all been released as manager Phil Parkinson attempts to strengthen his squad for a first season in League One -- English football's third tier -- since 2004-05.

The initial priority will be to overcome several rivals in the race to sign goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo. The 22-year-old enjoyed a successful loan spell at Wrexham last season, but with his contract set to expire at parent club Arsenal, Okonkwo is also the subject of interest from clubs in the Championship.

Wrexham have already missed out on the signing of Burnley's former England striker Jay Rodríguez, with the 34-year-old choosing to sign a new contract at Turf Moor, but with League One promising to be a huge step up for Parkinson's team following successive promotions from the National League and League Two, expect the club to be busy in the transfer market this summer. -- Ogden

Summer friendly schedule:

- July 20: AFC Bournemouth; Santa Barbara, California
- July 24: Chelsea; Santa Clara, California
- July 27: Vancouver Whitecaps; Vancouver, Canada

Source: espn.co.uk

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