Well, it’s been interesting hasn’t it? The Premier League has been more closely contested this season than it has for a very long time, and whilst Chelsea are nearly there, the boys in blue are not quite over the finish line just yet. Arguably, the League has been more competitive owing to the fact that the Premier League’s ‘big four’ all curbed their spending in last summer’s transfer window, with Manchester United and Liverpool in particular emerging from pre-season as weakened outfits.
This has been duly reflected in the performances of the ‘big four’ as a whole, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal losing a remarkable 28 games between them this season, with four games still left to play. Last term, at the end of the season, the combined number of defeats was just 17. Further, the fact that no English team has made the semi-final of the Champions League for the first time in seven years can only lead to one conclusion: this summer, the Premier League big boys are going to spend, and spend big.
It can be asserted therefore, that this summer will not be quite as slow as the last in terms of transfer activity, especially with the World Cup coming up. The top clubs have been linked with a whole host of talent over the course of the season, and so here-nice and succinctly just for you-is a list of this summer’s most wanted footballers…
1. Name: Givanildo Vieira de Souza, aka ‘Hulk’
Interested: Manchester United, Arsenal
The price quoted (£20m) suggests that Wenger won’t be stopping by Estadio de Dragao anytime soon to begin negotiations, but the player has nevertheless been linked with both United and Arsenal. The Hulk is fast, fearless player, equipped with a cannon of a left foot, and last season, the Brazilian scored 15 goals in 25 matches in the league for Porto. This term however, the Hulk has been restricted to four goals, largely owing to the fact that he received a four match suspension from the Portuguese FA after assaulting a steward in a match between Porto and Benfica…
The Porto centre forward signed for the Porto after rising to prominence in the J-League in Japan. It was there that the ‘Hulk’ earned his nickname, as the supporters of Hulk’s club, Tokyo Verdy, cottoned on to the passing resemblance between the Brazilian striker and the body builder Lou ¬Ferrigno, who played the comic book hero in the 1970s television series.
Manchester United would be the most likely destination for the Brazilian, were he to join the Premier League. However, the £20m price tag is a little steep, and United are likely to do a spot of haggling.
2. Name: Franck Ribery
Interested: Chelsea, Manchester United
Whilst United apparently launched a £63m move last season, Chelsea have been the side most fervently linked with the French international. However, unfortunately, it does not look as though Ribery has a desire to play in the Premier League. Ribery, who’s contract has just one year left to run, told German Sport Bild magazine that:
“Although Chelsea is obviously a big club, if I were to decide against Bayern, then I would certainly go to Spain.”
Real Madrid is believed to be his most likely destination, and so, with another ‘galacticos’ set to join Real, the likes of Chelsea and United should perhaps set their sights on picking off Los Blancos ‘scraps’. After all, Inter Milan’s acquisition of Wesley Sneijder hasn’t exactly proved a disaster…
3. Name: Sergio Agüero
Interested: Manchester United, Chelsea
Fans of the Atletico Madrid forward will have the opportunity to see the diminutive striker close-up when Liverpool and Atletico lock horns in the Europa League semi-final next week.
As is the case with Franck Ribery, the Argentine is hardly an unknown quantity, and is one of Europe’s hottest properties. Chelsea came close to securing the player’s signature last season in a £45m move, only for Atletico to pull out late in negotiations.
Manchester United have also allegedly expressed their interest, but unfortunately, Agüero appears to have his heart set on a move to Inter Milan. The striker told Calcio Mercato:
“I am very happy that a club like Inter Milan is following me. It is something that makes me happy.
“Now is not the time to talk about the transfer market. Together with the club, we’ll see in June. The priority is that the clubs agree. We’ll evaluate the various offers that will arrive.”
The forward has ten league goals this season, and is capable of playing as a wide, or central forward.
4. Name: Mario Balotelli
Interested: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool
Jose Mourinho has spent most of his two seasons in Milan fighting primarily the Italian media and football federation, but in his spare time, Mourinho has enjoyed a good old tear-up with troubled teen Mario Barwuah Balotelli.
Mourinho wants the 19 year old out the club at any cost, and is trying to entice Arsenal or Liverpool into unlikely swap deals for the player, which would involve Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas going the other way.
I would love to see this transfer happen. Balotelli has great pace and power, whilst his physicality is supplemented with immense technical ability. The teenager can shoot with either foot, can take set-pieces, and for one so young has good awareness. All that is required is for someone to sort the boy’s head out…
5. Name: Angel Di Maria
Interested: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea
The left forward, currently plying his trade for Benfica, is likely to become one of the most sort after players this summer. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League, as well as Barcelona and countless others on the continent, are known to be interested in the Argentine winger.
Di Maria, 22, has a buyout clause of 50 million euros, but it is widely reported that a fee of close to 25 million euros would prise the Argentine away from Estadio Da Luz.
Di Maria has eight goals and 12 assists this season, and is simply a joy to watch at times. He is fast, ludicrously skilful, and has the ability to turn his flair into end-product. He will no doubt star for Argentina in the World Cup this summer, and so, Benfica could have a bidding war on their hands in the foreseeable future.
6. Name: Yoann Gourcuff
Interested: Manchester United
Yoann Gourcuff has been linked with the Red Devils mostly owing to the fact that he is an attacking central midfield player, and so, with Paul Scholes not getting any younger, some have simply put two and two together and come up with four.
Gourcuff has a release clause in his contract of €25 million, and so it is doubtful that Ferguson could afford a top striker, and shell out for a midfield player, without selling one of his own assets.
As an elegant attacking midfielder, the player has received the customary comparisons to Zinedine Zidane that most players of his ilk receive. However, Gourcuff is a real talent, and his balance, control and goal scoring ability have left the French media frothing at the mouth.
The 23 year old contributed 13 goals as Bordeaux won the French title last season, ending Lyon’s seven year domination. Gorcuff was named the French League Player of the Year, and there was little surprise when Bordeaux took up their option of signing Gourcuff permanently from AC Milan for €13million last summer.
7. Name: Igor Akinfeev
Interest: Manchester United
Another player linked to United… it could be a busy summer at Old Trafford.
Akinfeev is the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper that has seen his profile rise throughout Europe after a string of impressive performances in the Champions League this season. At just 24 years old, the goalkeeper has 40 international caps for Russia, and is Guus Hiddink’s regular number one. The player is a prodigious talent, and Akinfeev made his national debut at just 18 years of age. He has also tasted success at club level despite his age, and was an integral part of the CSKA side that lifted the UEFA Cup in 2004/5.
His slight frame has seen the Russian compared to Iker Casillas, and the player is noted for his agility and penalty saves.
Akinfeev has European and international experience, and as his contract expires in 18 months, the player might not be too pricey, as Ferguson attempts to replace Edwin Van Der Sar.
8. Name: Edin Dzeko
Interested: Chelsea, Manchester City
According to the Daily Mail, Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko is not available for anything less than £35m.
The 24 year old had previously suggested that he desires a move to AC Milan, but the Bosnian may be warming to the idea of playing in the Premier League if his recent comments are anything to go by. Dzeko is good in the air, strong, with quick feet and excellent finishing capabilities.
Dzeko fired Wolfsburg to the title last season with 36 goals in 42 games. Whilst this term, Dzeko’s return of 26 goals in 41 appearances represents another excellent season.
9. Name: Eden Hazard
Interested: Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool
The attacking midfielder has strongly been linked with Arsenal in recent months, with the Mail reporting that Arsene Wenger put in a personal call to Lille’s talisman in a bid to tempt him to join Arsenal. Hazard, who has scored nine goals and provided four assists so far this season, has been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo for his pace and skill, but in stature has been compared with Joe Cole.
The 19-year-old playmaker would not come cheap however, and it is unlikely that Wenger would depart with the £26m it is reported Lille want for the Belgium attacking midfielder. Arsenal have so much talent in that department with Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri and Fabregas to name but a few, why Wenger would be so closely linked with another attacking midfielder is a real quandary.
Hazard has singled out Arsenal as a preferred destination however, admitting that:
“Real Madrid and Arsenal are the clubs I dreamed of joining as a child”.
Hazard recently signed a new deal to stay at Lille until 2014, but it is thought that a large bid could persuade Lille to sell.
10. Name: Marouane Chamakh
Perhaps the worst kept secret in the game, Chamakh is expected to sign for Arsenal at the end of this season on a free. The Bordeaux forward was an integral part of the Bordeaux team that won the French title last season with Laurent Blanc, and the target man’s aerial prowess and physical presence is just what the doctor ordered for Arsenal.
Chamakh said last week:
“I’ve just five weeks left here, It’s up to me to have nine great matches to go as far as possible with Bordeaux.”
The Ligue 1 striker, who represents Morocco at international level, is not a prolific striker (he has 10 league goals this season, 16 in all competitions), but the target man’s style will suit Arsenal perfectly, and his ability to lead the line at the Emirates will no doubt prove priceless next term.
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