Premier League fans should be salivating at the thought of where the bulk of the big money has gone this summer. It hasn't been spent on one-dimensional defenders or water-carrying holding midfielders, but on dazzling creative players with a dusting of magic on their boots.
Oscar and Eden Hazard to Chelsea. Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United. And now Santi Cazorla to Arsenal.
Let's call these men the "flair four" and begin to contemplate what they'll bring to the world's richest and most-watched league this season. At a combined cost of around £90 million, they ought to bring quite a lot, and I don't think we'll be disappointed.
Oscar is just 20, and he's already Brazil's No. 10. He cost £25 million from Internacional and is being billed as one of the brightest talents to come off the most famous production line of them all. Only Neymar is surrounded by greater hype and carries greater hopes for the football-obsessed nation who will host the 2014 World Cup.
Oscar is currently embedded with the Brazil Olympic squad and has played a full part in taking them to the gold-medal match against Mexico this coming Saturday, August 11. Mano Menezes is their coach, and the young team we're watching this summer will not be far off the one he sends out under intense pressure to win their home tournament in two years' time.
Menezes cannot speak highly enough of Oscar. Here's what he told The Guardian on Brazil's arrival to London:
Put it this way. He wears the No. 10 for Brazil and we don't give that shirt out to just anybody.
Chelsea's fans can expect a very intelligent player. He is somebody that is able to read the game and solve any problems that arise for his team. He does not rush and dribble with the ball at this feet but he finds good things to do with the ball.
Chelsea fans are in for a treat. Oscar will likely slide into an advanced central role behind the main striker—let's call him Fernando Torres—and bring another dimension to their attack. He's remarkably composed, can pick a pass, beat his man and finish. The tools are there for him to be a huge star in England.
There's no guarantee he'll get straight into the Chelsea team, of course. Roberto Di Matteo is not short of attacking midfielders and has also added the hugely talented Hazard to his squad this summer—albeit after the most protracted deal since LeBron James joined the Miami Heat.
Hazard is already proven in Europe. Twice French Player of the Year, the 21-year-old was the most in-demand talent on the market this summer. Chelsea pulled off quite the coup by signing him, and the evidence suggests the £32 million they paid Lille will be well spent.
"He should be part of the best players on earth, it is his destiny," Lille manager Rudi Garcia told L'Equipe (as per Sky Sports). "He has learnt football is not always played with ball. On a tactical level, he has hugely improved."
Hazard, like Oscar, is likely to be deployed as one of three players behind Chelsea's main striker. His strength may well be found coming in from the flank, however, which would allow the two signings to play alongside each other and deliver Chelsea potentially one of the most exciting attacks in club football.
Joe Cole played alongside Hazard last season and billed him as a combination of Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney. The only potential downside is Hazard appears all too aware of his powers, and it remains to be seen how his ego might deal with spending a few games on the bench next season.
The flip side, of course, is that Chelsea have signed a precocious talent with no shortage of confidence.
Next on the list is Shinji Kagawa, the Japanese international who made his name in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. Kagawa was implicit as Dortmund won a second successive title in Germany last season. Manchester United were clearly taking notice.
United paid around £17 million for the 23-year-old, who scored his first goal for the club in a friendly against Shanghai Shenhua last week. He was also named man of the match—putting in a performance that drew high praise from his manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Here's what Ferguson told MUTV, per United's official website:
I think we had plenty of possession of the ball and Kagawa was involved in most of that. He was man of the match and he deserved that. He took his goal quite well, although it was a deflection.
... Kagawa has settled in well. He's going to be a really good player and he impressed tonight. His awareness of receiving the ball, his speed in turning and how he attacks defenders is an asset to us.
Kagawa played as a support striker against Shanghai, and it's that position he covets at United this season—potentially in behind Wayne Rooney. "I feel like that's where I play my best football," he told the Kyodo News Agency (as per the Daily Mail).
Like Oscar and Hazard, he's technically immaculate. Kagawa's first touch is superb, and he has a sharp football mind that can pick a pass almost instinctively. He can also bring goals from midfield, and to that end might be seen as the natural successor to Paul Scholes at United.
Japanese journalist Koki Harada has likened Kagawa to Samir Nasri and Luka Modric (manutd.com), so we should expect plenty of guile and artistry, too.
Last, but certainly not least, we move to Arsenal's signing of Spanish international winger Santi Cazorla from cash-strapped Malaga. The fee is believed to be £16.5 million, and most experts agree the Gunners have gotten themselves an absolute steal.
Here's what Arsene Wenger had to say about the deal (Arsenal.com):
Santi Cazorla is a great signing for us. He is a player with good experience at both club and international level, who will add significant quality to our squad.
He is a versatile, attacking midfield player who can play comfortably on either side of the pitch or centrally. He has good pace, is technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal Football Club. We are delighted that he is joining us.
The Mirror's La Liga expert David Cartlidge described Cazorla as "a pocket-sized magician," while Ben Hayward at Goal.com believes the 27-year-old represents the best signing of the summer window so far.
Cazorla certainly has the potential to light up The Emirates this season and provide plenty of ammunition for fellow new signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. Who knows? He might even be the man to bring back the good times for the Gunners.
Whatever happens, Cazorla seems certain to entertain us—as do Oscar, Hazard and Kagawa. And for that we can only thank the boards at Chelsea, United and Arsenal for seeing fit to bring the "flair four" to our shores this season.
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