Vitesse Arnhem striker Wilfried Bony will have alerted plenty of scouts in the top flight after declaring his intention to leave the club as soon as possible, with a switch to Russia on the cards, but with several Premier League sides retaining a long-standing interest in the player, which one would benefit from his presence the most?
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international is currently the top goalscorer in the Eredivisie this season with 22 goals in 21 league games, marking him out as one of the continent’s leading forwards this season, leading the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Newcastle to contemplate moving for him in the past.
They will have to be quick if they want to stop him from moving elsewhere, though, with Bony’s agent Dalibor Lasinio telling Izvestia just last week of interest from both Anzhi Makhachkala and Liverpool’s Europa League conquerors Zenit St Petersburg: “I have already spoken to Zenit about Bony. They are investigating the possibility to buy Wilfried. We expect a concrete proposal very soon.”
The player himself seemed to spark rumours surrounding his future beforehand, telling Voetbal International: “I still hope to leave [Vitesse] this winter. The transfer window in Russia isn’t open very long any more, I know. But what can I do? I can only work and wait, work and wait. I’m hoping for that one chance.”
It’s clear that Bony is dying to move to a bigger club while he can, and with the transfer window shut here in England at the moment, the prospect of a top flight club snapping him up is slim until the Russian window shuts, but plenty of deals are conducted and set up behind closed doors between now and the end of the season and it’s not out of the realms of possibility to state that he could still end up on these shores.
At first glance, his style looks tailor-made for English football; possessing a low centre of gravity, stocky build and a powerful shot from distance, his versatility, age and potential make him an extremely attractive proposition, with African footballers having a great impact in the last few years and any deal which sees him leave at the end of the campaign rather than February is likely to be brokered at a much fairer price.
The immediate frontrunners for a club in dire need of Bony’s talents are Newcastle, who look to have put a terrible first six months of the season behind them, with their January recruits helping to steady the ship as they move away from the relegation battle beneath them.
Losing top goalscorer Demba Ba to Chelsea last month will have come as a hammer blow, though, and Papiss Cisse, with just six league goals to his name all season, has looked a shadow of the player we saw last season and he’s quickly coming to encompass that most dreaded of cliches for a striker – a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew clearly still has a liking for Liverpool’s on-loan man Andy Carroll, with the likelihood that West Ham take up the £17m buyout in his agreed move getting smaller by the month, but despite both sides wanting the move, it still looks an awful big gamble and would signal a regression in the team’s more fluid approach play these days. The fee alone would be enough to put most clubs off and there are better ways of spending upwards of £10m on a striker, namely one that actually guarantees a consistent stream of goals than the England international, with Bony something less of a risk, even if he will have to adapt first.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has been continually hindered in the market by the club’s chairman Daniel Levy, but a summer bid for top target Leandro Damiao looks on the cards still, but the nature of the fee, plus the fact that they will have to negotiate over the matter of third-party ownership of the player’s rights, a common theme in Brazil, which could potentially complicate matters even further.
What is clear, though, is that while the side seem reasonably well set at the moment due to the emergence of Gareth Bale into a player bordering on world-class proportions, the team’s fluid midfield cannot compensate for the lack of a quality striker for too much longer, particularly while the debate over the Welshman’s future continues to rage on. Both Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor look decent squad players but incapable of helping the club make much of an impact in the Champions League next season, should they qualify.
Much depends on whether Bale stays in the summer, but Bony already looked like a Levy type signing, a canny deal done on the cheap and while Villas-Boas actually wants Damiao first and foremost, he rarely seems to get his preferred targets at Tottenham. Bony, though, could simply just be more of the same for a side with lofty ambitions of continued European success in the future and they may have to set their sights a little higher.
With Arsene Wenger reluctant to spend money and Brendan Rodgers seemingly content with his strike duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Newcastle comfortably look a good fit for Bony, with Pardew keen to spend in the summer and avoid the mistakes that were made this year again. He looks a safer bet than Carroll and a cheaper one at that, and should he move to Russia instead, they will rue this as a missed opportunity.