The most expensive buy in the summer 2011
As the top leagues in Europe reach crunch time, speculation grows surrounding which players will be on the move this summer. Numerous top clubs have under performed this season, and their under achievements could lead to a free-spending summer.Though the world's economy has affected clubs the world over for the past few years, the big clubs have continued to wheel and deal for the most part.
French-side Paris Saint-Germain spent over $133 million last summer and will possibly lead the way again in 2012. However, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich may be forced to spend big if Chelsea find themselves outside the Champions League. New-money club Malaga—who is owned by the Qatari Royal Family—may invest big as they attempt to close the gap on Spain's big two.
Meanwhile, Arsenal has $172.8 million in cash reserves, according to the Telegraph. It's anyone's guess if Arsene Wenger will be allowed to make use of that money. If he is, the Gunners could go on a spending spree that may shape this summer's transfer window.
I have predicted what I believe could be the 10 biggest possible transfers of the summer.
One of Blackburn's bright spots this season
Even before FIFA announced their list of the 13 players to watch in 2012—a list that included Junior Hoilett—the winger already had numerous admirers.
Hoilett's stock has risen sharply in the last two years, as the Canadian has eased into a starting position for Rovers. This season, Hoilett has been a bright spot in several abject team performances. The club currently sits in 17th thanks to goal difference.
Last season, Hoilett was a joint top-scorer with five-goals; however, this season he has turned into a provider, leading the team with five assists. He has also added three goals to a Rovers attack that has scored more goals than their relegation rivals.
One of Hoilett's key attributes is his pace and ability to go past defenders on the flanks, though he still needs to work on his delivery once he gets around a fullback.
It's no secret Arsene Wenger is a big fan of the Canadian. His pace would be a perfect addition to a Gunners' team that already contains two other speedy wingers—Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.
Thus far, Arsenal and Tottenham are the only top sides to show much interest in the youngster. Blackburn is dangerously close to the Championship with 11 matches to play, and relegation could ignite a fire sale. Defender Christopher Samba has recently left, and many players are rumoured to be unhappy with Rovers and manager Steve Kean.
Hoilett has been with Blackburn since he was 13 years old. Therefore, the club has put a great deal into the Canadian. He is currently evaluated at $10.5 million, but his price tag will ultimately depend on three factors: Blackburn's survival/relegation, how much money is going around in the summer and who's buying.
Wolves' leading scorer in 2011-12
Steven Fletcher has improved on his goal scoring every season since moving south of the border from Scotland. In 2009-10, he tallied eight goals while playing for Burnley—an extremely poor team all season—and finished as their leading scorer as they were relegated from the Premier League.
Fletcher moved to Wolverhampton prior to the 2010-11 season, but was typically used as an impact sub by former manager Mick McCarthy—until Kevin Doyle injured his knee toward the end of the season. Fletcher finished his first season at Molineux as the club's top scorer with 10 goals.
Fletcher has already equalled his goal return from a year ago, and he still has 11 matches to improve on it. Without Fletcher's 10 goals, Wolves would surely be worse off this season—their second-highest scorer Kevin Doyle has four—and despite missing matches due to injury, he has been their best player all year. He has a striker rate of one goal every other match this season.
Regardless of where Wolves end the year, Fletcher should be on the move in the summer. The Scotland international is a striker many of the top sides need on their team. He has improved his goal production each season playing for weak teams, and a move to a club with better players around him could see Fletcher near the 20-goal mark next season.
Tottenham and Liverpool could both use a player with Fletcher's scoring instincts. Spurs will lose Emmanuel Adebayor and Louie Saha at the end of the season—if their loans aren't extended or made permanent—and Jermaine Defoe has been sub-par when he has gotten on the pitch.
Liverpool could use a striker that can pick up the slack when Andy Carroll or Luis Suarez aren't getting the goals or are out of the lineup. Both players have also been linked with moves away from Anfield.
Arsenal is another team that could use a striker like Fletcher. Arsene Wenger has been a big fan of Fletcher's teammate Kevin Doyle, and could be swayed into taking the Scottish striker if he continues to play well. More than likely, Fletcher will move to a team below the sixth place in the table. Newcastle, Fulham, Everton, Stoke and Aston Villa are all likely destinations. If Everton can find the cash, Fletcher could thrive in David Moyes' side. Aston Villa could use Fletcher as the counterbalance to Darren Bent. Robbie Keane's recent loan move was highly successful, and Fletcher could slot into the same role Keane occupied.
Wolves paid around $10.5 million for Fletcher in 2010. If Wolves stay in the Premier League, he may go for around $12 million, though, if they're relegated he may go for far less (under $10 million) to get him off the club's wage bill.
Always prolific for the German national team
Lukas Podolski turned down a move to Arsenal in January of this year, according to the Guardian, so he wouldn't endanger his chances with the German national team at this summer's European Championships.
Podolski has 95 caps for his country, and has continually succeeded at the national team level—despite his club form not living up to the same standards. There are rumours that Podolski has already agreed to join fellow German Per Mertesacker in North London for $24 million in the summer. Podolski's current club, Koln, is continuing to have boardroom problems, and the club would like to cash in on their prized asset before it's too late.
Podolski has already made one high-profile move in his career when he signed with Bayern Munich in 2006. However, Podolski's time with the Bavarian giants wasn't a personal success. In his three seasons at Bayern he only scored 26 goals in all competitions, and was demoted to backup status after the club signed Italian Luca Toni in 2007.
Since his return to Koln, Podolski has slowly put his club career back on track, and is having a fantastic 2011-12 season. He has 16 goals in 20 games thus far, and should be a major part of Germany's national team at this summer's European Championships.
If Arsenal has already agreed terms with Koln and Podolski, they will be getting a player that can play on the left or through the middle. However, if Podolski has a good tournament this summer there could be other clubs attempting to hijack the deal.
It's worth noting Koln still owe Bayern and a club supporters' trust—a group that helped raise cash to bring the German international back to the club—money for Podolski's transfer in 2009. This could play havoc with any deal.
There are other clubs that could come in for the German. Liverpool has been linked with the striker previously, and there could be an interest from Italy. Arsenal is leading the way, but nothing will be confirmed for at least three more months.
Rumours are circulating Koln will allow Podolski to leave for $24 million. They signed him for $16 million from Bayern, the same amount he was originally sold for, and that money will be put to good use by a club that continually flirts with relegation.
Giovinco's "Cruyff Turn
Sebastian Giovinco is a well-kept secret. Many football fans outside of Italy probably know very little about the one they call formica atomica. Giovinco began his professional career with Italian giants Juventus at the age of nine, and worked his way up through the club's youth system. Since 2010, Giovinco has played for Parma—an extremely unfashionable side in Italy—after falling out of favour in Turin.
This season, the former Juventus youth team product has been one of the bright spots of a Parma side that sits four points above the Serie A relegation zone. Despite being their best player, the diminutive Italian hasn't had the help around him to propel his club away from danger.
Giovinco has scored or created half of Parma's goals this season, and his excellent form led to a call-up from the Italian national team for their recent friendly against the USA. Though Giovinco isn't seen as an integral part of national team manager Cesare Prandelli's squad, he has been given a chance to prove himself.
Giovinco has been compared to Manchester City's David Silva in the past, and though both players have similarities they also have their differences. Like Silva, Giovinco is a fantastic dribbler of the ball and can pick out a pass with precision. However, unlike Silva, Giovinco relies more on his pace—he is only 5'4''—to create space and take on defenders.
Giovinco should be on the move regardless of Parma's final position in the league table. Juventus has already expressed interest in bringing the playmaker back, though, that currently looks unlikely. If Inter finally sell Wesley Sneijder, it could trigger a chain reaction that takes Giovinco to the blue and black side of Milan. However, don't be surprised if the red and black half get involved and attempt to bring the Italian international to their side. Giovinco would be brilliant as a trequartista, playing behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho.
Giovinco has been evaluated $13.2 million; however, Parma's final league position will truly dictate the price tag.
One of the world's top fullbacks.
Gregory van der Wiel is another in a long line of players to come through the Ajax youth system. Many consider Van der Wiel to be one of the top right-backs in world football.
Van der Wiel has been courted by big clubs from the Premier League, La Liga, France and Russia. It is believed PSG will be his next destination. The Dutchman has been a solid presence at the back for Ajax, playing over 120 times for the club and winning one Eredivisie title, two Dutch Cups and one Cruyff Shield.
Van der Wiel had a prominent role in the Netherlands World Cup 2010 squad, starting five of the team's matches. In the build up to Euro 2012, Van der Wiel has been the first choice at right-back for the Dutch, and will feature at this summer's tournament.
Valencia, Chelsea and Spartak Moscow have been linked to Van der Wiel in the past, but PSG looks to have the inside track on the Dutchman.
Van der Wiel is valued at $12 million.
Olivier Giroud exhibits all the intangibles a target forward needs, and should be on every club's wishlist this summer. The 25-year-old Frenchman has all the tools to become one of the top strikers in the world.
Though many will not have seen Giroud, they may get their chance at this summer's European Championships. He has only played three times for Les Bleus, grabbing one goal in their recent friendly against Germany.
Giroud's domestic form has turned heads, as he has tallied 16 goals in 24 matches this season, while setting up another seven goals.
At 6'3'', Giroud is prolific with his head, and his ability to bring the ball down and hold it up is as good as Arsenal's Robin Van Persie or Chelsea's Didier Drogba. Yes, those are comparisons to two of the best strikers in Europe, but Giroud is a very similar player and a well-kept secret. The Frenchman isn't just a big man to lump the ball to, but he also has a fantastic left foot, as well as the pace to go around a centre-back or strike from long range.
Giroud has worked his way up from lower league French football over the past few years. In 2009-10, he netted 21 goals in France's Ligue 2, convincing Montpellier to buy him upon their return to Ligue 1. In his first Ligue 1 season, Giroud notched 12 goals as Montpellier staved off relegation. This season, he is one of the reasons Montpellier is flying high in Ligue 1, and a big move is definitely on the horizons for the target striker.
Arsenal seems to be linked with everyone this season, and Giroud is no different. He would be a ready replacement for Van Persie if the Dutchman decides to move. However, he would also be a fantastic addition to the Gunners if Van Persie decides to stay. PSG, Lille and Marseille have also been linked with the Frenchman, and would be alternatives if Giroud chooses to stay on French soil. Though Montpellier is near the top of Ligue 1, they aren't one of the big clubs, but Giroud may be influenced to stay with the club if they make the Champions League or win Ligue 1.
This week Liverpool have been linked with the Frenchman with a proposed $22.5 million deal.
One scouting website has Giroud evaluated at $16 million, though, if Javier Pastore cost $52.5 million a season ago, Giroud should be much higher. However, the only club that will pay inflated rates is PSG, and they won't pay another French club over-the-odds. If Montpellier can get over $16 million for Giroud, it will be a fantastic piece of business by a small French club that originally paid $2.7 million for his services.
Robben's time in Munich maybe up
Arjen Robben has been a success at Bayern Munich; however, the honeymoon seems to be over. Robben has been criticized by supporters and club officials this season for his poor performances, and club legend Franz Beckenbaur recently labelled the Dutchman as a "selfish player."
Robben has admitted he has struggled with injuries—something he has done at every club—but more importantly, he believes his manager doesn't have confidence in him, which has led to Robben's poor form.
Despite not being 100 percent fit and starting on Bayern's bench in two of their last three games, Robben netted a brace against England in last week's international friendly. He remains a vital part of a Dutch side that many believe will win the European Champions. His performance also put him in the shop window as the pressure at Bayern continues to grow.
Robben's ability is well known to most football fans, and his strengths come in his ability to take on defenders. Though Robben is a fantastic talent, many clubs will be turned off by a combination of injuries, high wages and Robben's moodiness. Robben's moodiness has not only led to speaking out in the press, but he has allegedly attacked teammates Phillip Lahm and Thomas Muller physically on separate occasions.
Robben is under contract until 2013, and an extension is highly unlikely at the moment—but that doesn't mean it won't happen. Teammate Franck Ribery lobbied for a move previously, only to cool his talk when his form and fitness improved. If Robben does move, he may land in either Italy, France or Spain. Inter could be tempted, but would be put off by Robben's high wage demands. PSG could look to Robben if they are unable to sign Lille's Eden Hazard. Malaga, a team most forget, have immense Qatari wealth backing them and could splash out on the Dutchman. Malaga may be playing Champions League football next season, and would relish a top star in their side.
Robben is evaluated at $42 million, though that seems too steep for a player that is out of form and often injured.
When three become one
Edison Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik make up one of the most feared and talented attacks in all of football. The trio ripped Chelsea's defence to pieces in their Champions League first-leg, and they are powering Napoli back up the Serie A table—a third-place finish is within reach.
Though they are fantastic together, Napoli isn't the same team when one or more is missing. The three bring out the best qualities in each other.
Cavani currently sits on 16 goals, and will surely reach the 20-goal mark for a second straight year. Typically, Napoli's day is determined by Cavani's performance, and he has been known to go missing on occasions, though rare.
Despite getting the same headlines in the foreign press, Lavezzi isn't the same calibre of goal scorer as Cavani. He currently sits on nine goals in all competitions, and does a lot of his best work off the ball. Hamsik on the other hand, links the midfield with the attack, and sets the table for his strikers. He leads the club with seven assists to go with six goals.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has continued to play hardball regarding his prized assets, and recently put a $300 million price tag on the three. Napoli seem to be in a power position as well, having relatively balanced books. However, De Laurentiis could be forced into a sale if one of the three wants out of the club.
Keep in mind, last summer Javier Pastore's transfer fee was continually talked up in the media thanks to Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini. Zamperini came down in his asking price, but did get PSG to pay more than Pastore was truly worth. De Laurentiis is doing the same, and may get a team foolish enough to part with a large sum of cash.
They obviously won't go to the same team, and Napoli won't sell all three at one time. There's only a select few clubs that can afford the transfer fees and wages of Cavani/Hamsik/Lavezzi.
De Laurentiis wants $300 million, which is $100 million a piece. However, Cavani is the best player of the three, and a 20-goal season as a striker is always in fashion. Therefore, it makes sense he will go for more than Lavezzi or Hamsik.
There are not enough superlatives to describe Lille's Eden Hazard. He is a fantastic dribbler in the vein of Arjen Robben. However, unlike Robben, he has more tricks in his assault on defenders. Hazard is an advocate of the left foot, but is comfortable with the ball on either side. He is simply a fantastic footballer.
Last summer, Hazard was tipped to move away from Lille following their first French title since 1953-54. However, it seemed everyone else but Hazard left Lille, who is well off the pace of this year's league title.
The 2010-11 French Ligue 1 Player of the Year will be on the move this summer, and clubs are lining up for the Belgian's signature.
Hazard typically plays on the wing of a front three, but can play centrally as well. He often drifts inside when playing on the wing, and his ability to beat defenders with the dribble makes him difficult to handle. Hazard can play on either wing, and is comfortable with the ball on both feet—still rare in this day and age.
Hazard's only weakness may lay in his ability to adapt to other leagues. Former teammate Yohan Cabaye has succeeded in his time at Newcastle, becoming an important part of their team. Another former teammate, Gervinho, has struggled to make an impact with Arsenal, and both Hazard and Gervinho play a similar positon. However, Hazard possesses far more talent than the Ivorian, which should help him settle quickly.
Arsenal is linked with Hazard, which makes them linked to nearly every possible player this summer. PSG is also interested in the Belgian, but may be reluctant to buy from a fellow Ligue 1 team—though Hazard will improve that side dramatically. Juventus and Tottenham have been linked with Hazard as well. Juventus is extremely interested in Hazard due to their need of a left-sided creative midfielder. They attempted to sign Lyon's Michel Bastos last summer to no avail, therefore they may try to lure Hazard to Turin. Spurs already have Gareth Bale on their left side, but could use Hazard on the right or as a creative midfielder if Luka Modric moves on.
Hazard will not come cheap, and is currently evaluated at $36 million. That's a price the four teams previously linked can pay, but the big question is will they pay?
RVP, Premier League Player of the Year elect
Robin van Persie has been the Premier League's most outstanding player this season. The Dutchman has scored 25 times in 27 games, and has carried Arsenal at times this season.
There is no definitive proof Van Persie will be on the move this summer, but speculation grows as contract talks have been put on hold. The striker is having his best Premier League season to date. He joined the club in 2004, and part of his great form can be attributed to being fully fit for the first time. Van Persie has spent much of his eight years with Arsenal on the treatment table, and he has already played more times in the Premier League this season than any previous year.
Like van der Wiel and Robben, Van Persie will feature at Euro 2012 with the Oranje.
Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich have all expressed interest in Van Persie. If the Dutchman moves away from the Emirates, it will be based on his desire to win trophies rather than money. All five clubs that have been linked to Van Persie have won a trophy in the past two seasons, and are all in the running to win another this season.
Van Persie is evaluated at $60 million.