EPL: The 7 Most Important Transfers so Far This Summer
The upcoming European Championships will occupy the attention of world footballing (or at least the European contingent) fans for some three weeks when they begin on June 8.
But amidst the flurry of pre-tournament preparations and friendlies, some major work has been accomplished in the transfer market. Several Premiership sides, including some of next season's likely title contenders, have already reeled in some of the biggest coups that will likely be seen all summer.
I've taken the liberty in a couple cases—Hulk, Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson—to link them to clubs that are nearing deals to bring the players in.
More are sure to be on the way, but here are the seven most important ones so far.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea
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The Belgian wunderkind leapt onto the world's radar back in 2009, when Real Madrid director of football and former superstar Zinedine Zidane said he "would take him to Madrid with [his] eyes closed."
Hazard had just won the first of what would become consecutive Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year awards in that 2008-09 season, when he became the whirling dervish on the wing for Lille.
In 2010-11, Hazard made the jump to Ligue 1 Player of the Year (he was just 20 at the time) and enjoyed a sensational 2011-12 campaign for Les Dogues which saw him net 20 goals and contribute a league-leading assists in Ligue 1 play. (His 20 goals were good for third-best in the standings.)
It was no surprise, then, that the Belgian was awarded this second consecutive Ligue 1 Player of the Year award.
Now, after one of the most protracted transfer sagas in history, Hazard has announced he will join Chelsea next season—a move that was completed after the winger passed a medical on Monday. The paperwork appears done, but Hazard will have to wait until the Ligue 1 transfer window opens on June 13 to finalize the move.
Shinji Kagawa, Manchester United
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He's currently on duty with the Japanese national team, but Shinji Kagawa will be sporting Manchester United red and black before long.
The talented 23-year-old attacking midfielder is set to sign with Sir Alex Ferguson's club for a fee believed to be in the range of £16 million. He has yet to pass a medical and acquire a work permit, but both those appear to be mere formalities at this point.
Like Hazard, Kagawa had been high on many clubs' transfer lists for the past season, and his scintillating play with the repeat Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund only augmented his stature in many managers' eyes.
After missing out on Hazard, Ferguson must be pleased that he was able to tie up Kagawa's signature so promptly. The Japanese is renowned for his wonderful technique and distribution, and he is a deadly finisher.
After being linked so long to Wesley Sneijder, United finally have a top-class trequartista. That could be the missing link that ties them to a 2012-13 Premiership winner's medal.
Hulk has hinted at a move to England.
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Few players can attest to the type of return Hulk has provided for FC Porto since joining the Portuguese giants in 2008 from Tokyo Verdy.
Fifty-seven goals over the past two seasons (91 games) and 76 in his four-season Porto career have vaulted the winger onto the proverbial transfer table.
Chelsea were believed to have finalized a deal for the burgeoning Selecao force, but Hulk has hinted at a move to the Premiership, coyly saying "If the time has come to move on, I'll do so with a good feeling."
He is fresh off a scintillating brace against Denmark while on duty with Brazil, the first two goals of his international career.
No player is hotter right now.
Lukas Podolski, Arsenal
The Bundesliga stalwart (he nabbed 18 league goals for relegated FC Cologne this past season) was the first major shaker of the 2012 offseason, finalizing a move to Arsenal at the very end of April.
It was a signing that was hailed by Arsenal fans, who had grown accustomed to seeing manager Arsene Wenger dispense chump change for talented, but unproven youngsters.
Not the case with Podolski. The forward has been a fixture at the international level since the 2006 World Cup, earning 97 caps and bagging 43 goals.
At 27, he is in the midst of his prime and has the ability to play a number of positions in Arsenal's attack, something that must have intrigued Wenger, who was lacking in adequate depth behind a certain Dutchman at the striker position in 2011-12.
Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham
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Another player that has been linked to the Premier League for a long time, Jan Vertonghen's agent has said that Vertonghen "is likely to join Tottenham in the near future," even citing this week as a potential end date.
Able to play in central defense or at left-back, Vertonghen has been a regular starter for Ajax, a club he joined as a youth player in 2003 and has made 155 appearances for at the senior level since 2006. (He was on loan for the '06-07 season.)
Still only 25, Vertonghen has all the abilities—physicality, technical proficiency and good positioning)—required of a center-back at the Premiership level. Should the transfer go through, Tottenham are getting a good one here—and a much-needed addition to the defensive ranks, where injury-plagued Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate deputize with the aging William Gallas.
A Younes Kaboul-Vertonghen central defensive partnership would be one of the better ones in the Premier League.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Liverpool?
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The 22-year-old Icelandic international had looked set to sign with Swansea City on a permanent basis for £6.8 million (he was on loan from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim this past season), but that was before Swans manager Brendan Rogers took the Liverpool job.
Here's where things get a bit complicated. There is a clause in Rogers's Anfield contract that prohibits Liverpool from bidding on any Swansea players for 12 months, but as Sigurdsson has yet to finalize his permanent transfer with the Welsh club, he is technically still a Hoffenheim player, and therefore exempt from the rule.
Sigurdsson has now said that he hopes to follow Rogers to Anfield. Should Liverpool nab this talented youngster for £6.8 million, it would be one of the steals of the nascent transfer season.
Four goals and seven assists, production which helped him earn the March EPL Player of the Month award, testify to his viability.
Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool
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He got Swansea City playing some of the most attractive football seen in the Premier League this past season, and he has now made a switch to one of England's most prestigious clubs.
Brendan Rodgers will have his work cut out for him at Liverpool, but Anfield can rest assured that they will have an excellent manager on their march back to the top four of the Premiership table, a realm they haven't occupied since the 2008-09 season.
Rodgers will get the Reds playing good football, but the question is how quickly the results will accompany that aesthetic quality. He'll have some players to choose from in the transfer market and doesn't exactly have a dearth of quality facing him at the club.
There's hard work ahead of him, but Liverpool got the right man to do the job.