When analysing the Premier League, one position in particular stands out as being inferior to other leagues around the world – the quality of the full-back options available to the top sides. With this in mind, should any of the last season’s top eight consider making a move for Porto defender Alvaro Pereira?
The Uruguay international has been a consistent presence at the back for both the 2011 Copa America winners as well as the Portuguese giants, where he’s won two league titles and the Europa League since joining them back in 2009 from Romanian outfit CFR Cluj.
Comfortable on either flank and with both feet, capable of lung-bursting runs forward and possessing the ability to supply accurate crosses from out wide, he represents one of the most underrated full-backs in world football today and it appears as if he’s open to offers this summer, prompting talk of a move to the Premier League.
The 26 year-old agent Flavio Perchmen stated earlier in the week: “I spoke with Alvaro last week and he is calm. We are waiting to find out if there is any offer. We think everything will go well and that he can leave the club, but right now we do not have any concrete offer.” While Juventus, Napoli and PSG have been strongly linked with moves this transfer window, it’s England which offers the best football on offer and strongest league, but which club could do with his talents?
Manchester United have been heavily touted for a move for Everton left-back Leighton Baines all summer as manager Sir Alex Ferguson appears to be trying to prepare a long-term replacement for 31 year-old Patrice Evra, whose form has steadily been on the slide for the past year or so.
To my mind at least, when you factor in the inevitable premium that you pay for English talent and Everton’s well-known negotiating skills and obvious reluctance to sell one of their most-prized assets, then Baines will surely cost around the £15m mark. When you consider that he’s got only eight caps at international level and has made just 14 appearances in Europe, then it doesn’t quite offer the value for money that Ferguson will be looking for.
I’m not entirely convinced that he’s got enough defensively to make the step up either, or that he’s that much of an improvement on Evra anyway. Pereira on the other hand is a year younger and has far more experience at international and European level and while he may not have quite the dead-ball delivery of Baines, is more consistent and better at the nitty, gritty of defending, which he’ll need to be if the club are to succeed in Europe again any time soon in the future.
Chelsea are another obvious contender, having released Jose Bosingwa at right-back at the end of last season, with Branislav Ivanovic stating a preference for playing in the middle. Rumours of a move for Ajax’s Gregory van der Wiel appear to have gone cold after a terrible showing at Euro 2012 with Holland and Periera, while he may be left-footed, can play on the right.
Lest we forget, that the greatest left-back of all-time, Paolo Maldini, was predominantly right-footed, so the transition is less difficult than you’d imagine for players of proven continental class. Even though Ryan Bertrand has shown himself to be an able deputy to Ashley Cole, Pereira could even step in at his stronger position within a couple of years to cover the ageing Englishman if Bertrand doesn’t progress quite as we’d imagine and he’s a good insurance policy and would provide some excellent strength in depth.
Tottenham and Liverpool are the other two clubs to have been strongly linked, but considering they have Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique at full-back, they both seem pretty well covered – Pereira is certainly as good as if not better than all of them, but both sides have more pressing needs to strengthen elsewhere this summer.
Arsenal are the final club which I would suggest, with Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs struggles with injury well documented and both are weak links at the back whenever they play. The club have invested heavily so far this summer, with Giroud and Podolski already signed and Cazorla and Sahin close to making their respective moves and Pereira would help add depth to a reasonably lightweight back four which struggles when it’s not at full strength and with Gibbs and Santos having made a combined total of 31 league appearances between them last term, Thomas Vermaelen was at times pushed out wide to provide cover to the overall detriment of the side.
Pereira has a contract which runs until 2016, so Porto are in a decent bargaining position at the moment, and with no pressing need to sell, so it could take an offer as much as £23m to tempt them into doing business. However, when you factor in his quality and his age, that’s a position pretty much tied down for the next five to seven years, which works out at approximately between £3.2-4.6m per year, which seems a decent price.
World-class full-backs don’t grow on trees, but once you’ve got one, such is its importance in the modern game, your side can be greatly improved both defensively and going forward – for Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, they should snap him up before it’s too late, otherwise they might regret not making a move in the future.
Agree – let me know on Twitter @JamesMcManus1