Thierry Henry to Arsenal: 5 Premier League Stars Who Should Return Next January
With the opening of the Premier League transfer window precisely three weeks away now, the rumour mills are cranking up a notch and linking plenty of players with January moves into or out of England's top flight.
One of the most common sights in rumour columns over the past few years has been that of the aging star Thierry Henry of the MLS returning to England for one last hurrah. Or several last hurrahs, in consecutive seasons.
Sometimes it's a success—think Landon Donovan, for example. Other times, perhaps not quite so much.
Last year, Henry made the emotional return to Arsenal to good success, and by all accounts, his return this time around seems to be settled too. Manager Arsene Wenger will hope that his goals and experience can aid the team into getting back in the Champions League places.
Henry has scored 175 Premier League goals, the third-highest ever since the inception of the Premiership. He is a true legend of the game, and Arsenal fan or not, plenty of followers of the league would delight in seeing him grace the game on England's shores once more.
Here are five other top footballers who once graced the top flight and would be terrific signings for Premier League sides still.
Fair warning: These are not rumours, nor transfer speculation. While some players have been linked with a transfer, this is simply a collection of Premier League greats who have left the division but would still do a sterling job back in England.
Former Spurs, Liverpool, Coventry and many other clubs striker Robbie Keane is currently playing in the MLS, against Henry of course, and has just recently helped LA Galaxy lift the MLS Cup.
He spent last winter on loan at Aston Villa, and this season, the same club reportedly want him back on loan, while QPR and Norwich City also seem to have him on their list of possible targets.
It remains to be seen whether Keane returns to the Premier League, but he enjoyed great success in the league, particularly in his first spell at Tottenham Hotspur, and he would certainly have no shortage of takers if he decided to return on a short term basis.
Keane also featured for Wolves, Leeds and West Ham while playing in the Premier League after a spell in Italy with Inter Milan. A loan stint in Scotland with Celtic was his other club.
Have a guess which club would love to take Xabi Alonso back to the Premier League?
Alonso played almost 150 times for Liverpool before heading back to Spain with Real Madrid, where he remains an integral part of Jose Mourinho's team.
As recently as November, he was linked with a surprise move back to the Premiership after discussions over a new contract seemed to be failing, but in truth there appears little likelihood of the Basque midfielder returning just now.
Real Madrid are lagging behind domestically but they will be one of the favourites for the Champions League—which Alonso won with the Reds in 2005.
The Spain central midfielder is one of the finest players in the game and has tallied over 100 international caps for the best nation on the planet—he would walk into any Premier League team.
If Alonso's departure from Real Madrid is unlikely then Cristiano Ronaldo's would be almost impossible.
The world's most expensive player has been described by his former manager Alex Ferguson as "unbuyable" but the Scot also admits he would love to one day buy him back.
Ronaldo is a brand name, a match winner, a phenomenal athlete and a real cash cow all rolled into one. Needless to say, his current club would be loathe to give him up easily on every scale.
It is barely feasible that he could leave without running down his contract significantly, but even then there are only a handful of teams worldwide who could sign him—and certainly, surely, only one in the Premier League.
Goalscoring midfielders are at a premium, always, and in Tim Cahill, Everton had one for several seasons who could be counted upon to reach close to double figures.
His final campaign was less impressive, and he moved on to MLS side New York Red Bulls last summer, but there are still plenty of teams who look like making a move to lure the Australian back to England this winter.
Those teams down at the bottom looking as though they might be struggling against the drop will of course be mentioned; Sunderland, Aston Villa and QPR all need goals.
Former club Everton, Newcastle and Tottenham are also talked about as possible destinations.
Cahill might be regarded as more of an impact substitute now, at 33 years of age, but there will be no doubt that he has the fire and quality to help teams on an interim basis to amass enough points to reach their objectives.
No list of former Premiership greats could be complete without Didier Drogba, who scored exactly 100 Premier League goals in his time at Chelsea.
Before fans of the London club—or any other, for that matter—get all excited, it has to be acknowledged that Drogba is ineligible for a transfer back to England this winter. As per FIFA's statement on the BBC website:
Fifa has informed him about the relevant regulations, that players may only be registered during one of the two annual registration periods fixed by the relevant association.
This summer, of course, Drogba completed a move to Shanghai Shenua in China, where the season has now finished.
It may be that Drogba is able to appeal once the transfer window is open, with the African Cup of Nations just around the corner, or it may be that he has to wait until the summer for a move back to England.
Either way, the force of nature that is the Ivorian striker would still be welcomed back by the team who signs him, and he certainly retains the quality to make an impact in the Premier League.