15 Players Set to Dominate the Summer Transfer Window
We have just passed the halfway point between the January transfer deadline and the official opening of the summer window, but as ever the reports and rumours surrounding star players have barely subsided during this fallow period.
With the biggest games of the club season still to come and then a European Championship in the summer, there is ample opportunity for all manner of players to put themselves in the shop window.
We are bound to hear many names repeatedly throughout the offseason as clubs, agents and the media conspire to draw out transfer sagas: some players will be new to the rumour mill, others will be rearing their heads for yet another round of speculation.
Here are 15 players who we are likely to be hearing a lot about over the summer.
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Perhaps the most ubiquitous name of the past few transfer windows, Wesley Sneijder has long been linked with a move to Manchester United.
The Inter Milan playmaker has not been able to reproduce the excellent form of the 2009-10 season, when he was an integral part of the Nerazzurri, claiming a league, cup and Champions League treble, as he has struggled for fitness and form since then.
With new manager Andrea Stramaccioni in charge until the end of the season and possibly beyond, the 27-year-old Dutchman may be shipped out as the club embark on a major rebuild of the squad.
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Ever since he announced himself upon the wider football world with his eye-catching hat-trick against Inter last season, Bale has been one of the most coveted players around.
A whole host of major European clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter themselves have been touted as potential destinations for the Welsh winger, who is still just 22 years of age. Some truly mind-boggling amounts of money are supposedly being offered for his services.
It looks likely that Bale's future at Tottenham hinges on two factors: Spurs achieving Champions League football for next season and retaining the services of Harry Redknapp as their manager. Should both or even either of those factors conspire against the Londoners, they may be forced to cash in on one of their prized assets.
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The last couple of transfer windows have left many football fans in Europe sick of the name Neymar, such was the frequency with which the Brazil international was mentioned in dispatches about a move to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala…
However, now that the young striker has signed a new contract at Santos, the attention has turned to a clutch of other starlets hailing from the same country.
Sao Paulo attacking midfielder Lucas is one such player, and when he scores goals like this one he made recently against Ituano,it's not hard to see why.
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Another widely-touted Brazilian talent, Ganso is a teammate of Neymar at Santos, where the pair won the Copa Libertadores last year.
The rangy attacking midfielder is just 22 years old but has already made more than 100 appearances for one of Brazil's biggest clubs, and he was also part of the Brazil squad at last summer's Copa America.
Ganso gave his club's fans a fright earlier this week when he tweeted: "Today I say goodbye to Santos' fans with a broken heart. Thank you for all! Good Sunday, everyone!"
Much to their relief, it was just an April Fool's prank, but they may have gotten a taste of what to expect this summer if he is tempted to make the move to Europe.
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It would certainly be an extreme set of circumstances to see Liverpool part with their star striker after just a season and a half at the club, but don't expect that to stop the rumour mill from churning out plenty of stories to that effect.
The Uruguayan has endured a torrid first full season in England for a number of reasons. While he has been performing well on a personal level, he has not been able to carry the goal-scoring burden, as so many of his other expensively-acquired teammates have foundered in front of goal.
There doesn't seem much point in retreading old ground as to why he spent eight matches suspended, only to say that it must have tarnished his attitude towards the Premier League as a result.
If Liverpool are offered a sum for Suarez that represents a profit on their investment and allows them to invest more in the squad, will they be able to resist? We may soon find out.
Robin Van Persie
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Robin van Persie has been nothing short of a force of nature this season, scoring goals for fun for Arsenal and leading them as their captain with distinction.
However, the spectre of the Dutchman's contract expiration at the end of next season is looming large over the Emirates Stadium.
Van Persie has said that he has put off sorting out his future until the end of the current campaign, meaning it may be a nervy summer for Gunners fans, who have already seen several stars grow impatient at the lack of silverware at their club.
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The standout player in the Benfica midfield, which helped eliminate Manchester United in the Champions League group stages, is sure to be high on several teams' shopping lists this summer.
A naturally left-footed winger blessed with plenty of pace and skill, Nicolas Gaitan has registered the joint-highest number of assists in the Champions League this season, with five.
The Argentinian makes a quarter of one of Europe's most creative midfields, but it remains to be seen if he will be taking his talents elsewhere next season.
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Even before he upstaged England's own young midfield prospect, Jack Wilshere, in a friendly appearance for Denmark in December 2010, Christian Eriksen has been touted as a star in the making.
The Ajax midfielder, who only turned 20 in February, was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup, but he still stood out as his country was eliminated at the group stage in South Africa.
Rumours of moves to several major clubs have surfaced periodically over the last couple of years, but it looks as though Ajax will have to struggle to hold on to him this summer.
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Perhaps the most eye-catching player in the crop of young talents to have emerged from Belgian football in the past few years, Eden Hazard has already proven his credentials by helping Lille to the French league title last season.
His exploits for LOSC have led to him being linked with a whole host of clubs this season, and the attacking midfielder has only fuelled that talk by naming Tottenham as a possible destination.
He said in February, soon after confirming that he plans to leave Lille this summer: "Maybe it will be Tottenham. It is a great English club. I said that I would go to England and there is very good players (at Spurs)."
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In spite of losing star forward Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona last summer, Udinese are again making their presence felt in Serie A. At this late stage in the season, they are still within a shout of achieving a Champions League playoff spot for a second year in a row.
While plenty of the credit for that must go to veteran striker and captain Antonio Di Natale, Mauricio Isla also deserves a fair share of the plaudits.
However, the winger has already stated his intention to leave the Stadio Fruili at the end of the season, meaning Udinese are facing the prospect of losing a Chilean attacker for the second season in a row.
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Yann M'Vila is the latest French midfielder to be described as the new Patrick Vieira, and it's not hard to see why.
The tall defensive midfielder has performed well for Rennes and for the French national team with his ability to screen the defence and distribute the ball well when he wins it.
Typically, given the Vieira comparison, Arsenal are the club most mentioned whenever talk of the 21-year-old moving on comes up.
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This year is set to be a landmark one in the career of Valencia striker Roberto Soldado.
He is well on course to better his previous season-best total of 18 goals in La Liga, and the continued struggles of Fernando Torres in front of goal and the uncertainty over David Villa's fitness mean the former Real Madrid trainee is set to feature for the defending champions at this summer's European Championships.
A decent showing in Poland and Ukraine this summer will surely see his stock rise even higher than it already is and lead to plenty of interest from across Europe.
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The Marseille forward came close to joining Tottenham in the January transfer window, but with Spurs riding high in the table and winning game after game, they decided not to lay out the big fee the French club was looking for.
However, even after the transfer window closed, Spurs have still been monitoring the France striker since the winter.
Spurs will be faced to with a dilemma over whether or not to invest in making Emmanuel Adebayor's loan move permanent come the summer. Remy may be a viable alternative if the London club baulks at the fee Manchester City demand for their striker.
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Who would have thought back in September that Carlos Tevez would ever play for Manchester City again after refusing to warm up as a substitute against Bayern Munich?
However, after a few months on a virtual sabbatical playing golf in Argentina, which passed for a club suspension, the former City captain is back in the fold to try and help the club's stuttering title challenge.
Even if he makes a significant contribution in the short term, will his position really be tenable on a long-term basis next season? There are several clubs in Europe and South America who seem willing to take Tevez on if City decide they can no longer trust him.
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The spearhead of Napoli's "Holy Trinity," along with Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani has greatly impressed all who have seen him play up front for the Partenopei.
The Uruguayan fired Napoli into this season's Champions League last season with 26 goals in Serie A last term, and he proved he was no flash in the pan, with 19 so far in this campaign.
If Napoli fail to book a return to the Champions League next season, the temptation to jump ship for a bigger club may prove too much.