Those already feeling withdrawal symptoms from the end of the 2014/15 Premier League campaign will undoubtedly have refocused their attentions to the Copa America already.
It may not be quite as exciting as Premier League football – or for that matter its European counterpart – but the South American tournament (this year featuring Mexico and Jamaica for added measure) boasts some of the most exciting talents in world football, not least including Champions League-winning Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Neymar.
They’re just the cream of the crop, however; every nation has one or two stand out performers, and South American footballers in general are impacting the European domestic game like never before.
So with that in mind, we at Football Fancast are doing a bit of scouting on behalf of the Premier League’s top clubs – in other words, using nightly football matches as an excuse to turn up late to work in the morning.
Here’s a list of FIVE Copa America stars Manchester United should be keeping their eye on…
Jose Gimenez has just come to the end of an incredible breakthrough campaign at Atletico Madrid, proving himself a worthy centre-back partner to Diego Godin with impressive averages of 2.1 tackles, 2.7 interceptions, 5.6 clearances and 3.4 successful aerial duels per match from his 20 La Liga outings, and is now carrying his impressive form into the Copa America.
Accompanying Godin once again, the 20 year-old played a pivotal role in Uruguay claiming a clean sheet against Jamaica on Saturday, continuing to demonstrate a maturity and awareness beyond his years.
Gimenez faces one of his toughest tests to date this evening as he squares up against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. But if the 6 foot 1 defender manages to keep the four-time Ballon d’Or winner relatively quiet, clubs of Manchester United’s stature will undoubtedly take notice.
A Vincente Calderon departure this summer seems unlikely; the Mattress Makers are attempting to flog veteran centre-back Miranda to make room for Gimenez in their starting Xi long-term.
But the Copa America provides the perfect platform for Giminez to continue proving he’s one of La Liga’s most exciting prospects – and the Red Devils would be wise to monitor his progress from afar.
Carlos Bacca may not be the greatest striker to ever grace Old Trafford but he’s certainly got enough firepower to keep the Red Devils ticking over for a season or two, amid copious rumours Robin van Persie could soon follow loan flop Radamel Falcao out of the Carrington exit door.
He’s just fired Sevilla to a second consecutive Europa League title, producing 49 goals in 106 appearances during his two campaigns at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and looks more than capable of upping his game to Champions League level.
Admittedly, at 28 years of age the former Club Brugge star represents a bit of a gamble – even with a release clause of just £21.5million.
But in terms of his stocky build, power, pace and unorthodox style, the 5 foot 11 striker seems almost tailor-made for Premier League football. Impressive performances for Colombia at the Copa America could convince the Red Devils to activate Bacca’s buy-out fee.
Some sources claim Manchester United have already agreed personal terms Roberto Firmino, so impressive performances at the Copa America will almost certainly get the deal over the line.
The attacking midfielder has been in sensational form over the last two campaigns, bagging 23 goals and 21 assists in 66 Bundesliga outings for Hoffenheim, whilst proving equally proficient in a variety of roles, spanning both wings, central midfield and centre-forward.
He’s had a huge impact on the international scene too since first emerging in Dunga’s plans for Selecao in October 2014, with three goals in his first six outings for Brazil despite never representing his country at youth level.
The 23 year-old struggled to impact in Brazil’s Copa America opener against Brazil on Sunday, but he’ll get another chance to impress against Colombia on Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, Firmino’s agent has confirmed he’ll be moving to the Premier League this summer.
Manchester United have already been linked with Argentina international Nicolas Otamendi – the only problem is Valencia’s refusal to budge on his £35million release clause.
No doubt, domestically the 6 foot centre-back has been in emphatic form this season, netting six times in 35 La Liga appearances whilst averaging 2.9 tackles, 3.1 interceptions, 7.3 clearances and 3.5 successful aerial duels per match.
But the 27 year-old’s progression at international level leaves a little more to be desired, managing just 19 appearances since his Albiceleste debut six years ago.
The former Porto star, who claimed three Primeira Liga titles and a Europa League title during his three-and-a-half years with the Dragons, was given his chance at the weekend during a 2-2 draw with Paraguay.
If Otamendi can maintain his starting berth whilst showing the quality and experience United currently lack at the heart of defence, Louis van Gaal might deem his lucrative buy-out fee worthwhile.
Manchester United came close to signing Arturo Vidal last summer only for a knee injury to stand in the way – which also prevented the Juventus star from dazzling as brightly as the rest of the Chile national team at last summer’s World Cup.
But Louis van Gaal still wants a world-class addition to United’s engine room and the 28 year-old’s performances so far at the Copa America, bagging three goals and one assist in just two outings, suggests he firmly belongs in that category.
Of course, this is nothing new. As a industrious, athletic, technical and goal-scoring centre-mid, Vidal is widely viewed as one of the most complete midfielders in world football – illustrated by his pivotal role in Juve claiming four consecutive Serie A titles since joining them from Bayer Leverkusen in 2011, not to mention reaching this season’s Champions League final.
The Old Lady announced the signing of Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira on a free transfer earlier this month, so they might be willing to part with Vidal during the current transfer window.
Performances at the Copa America could convince the Red Devils to revive their interest.