This article explores several potential summer transfers that could change the complexion of the world of football, were they to come to pass.
With no major international tournament this summer, more time than usual is sure to be dedicated to the transfer sagas and rumours that can come to dominate the close of the season.
This time around, the gossip columns are brimming with potential movers; players and coaches keen to capitalise on their recent successes or eager to escape from a sticky situation.
With the rise of Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City, it feels like there are more moneyed clubs than ever, competing for the same superlative talents, and determined to capture the managers that are most likely of bringing success to their club.
As pointed out by my colleague Will Tidey, several of last summer's key signings have gone on to shape the outcome of Europe’s major leagues this time around. Could some of the protagonists mentioned here go on to make similar impacts in 2013-14?
Read on to assess some of these potential movers and shakers, and to explore how these transfers might change the complexion of Europe’s major leagues.
I can’t remember the last time that Arsenal’s goalkeeper convinced. Jens Lehmann was creaking long before Wenger pulled the plug, while Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski have rarely convinced for a sustained period.
The Frenchman’s recent ruthlessness, in dropping Szczesny for the return against Bayern Munich, indicated that he is no longer prepared to tolerate uncertain goalkeeping.
Two men that may well put his mind to rest once and for all are Liverpool’s Pepe Reina and Barcelona’s Victor Valdes, Spanish stoppers who may be primed to move this season.
With Valdes’s contract coming to an end in 2014, it has been suggested that Barcelona might choose to cash in on him this summer, beginning succession plans in the process. My colleague Michael Cummings suggested recently that the Catalonians would prefer to hold on to their No. 1 for the time being, but would they be able to resist a head-turning offer from North London?
The perception is that Reina has stagnated in the North West. No longer the sturdy stopper he has been in seasons past, the Spaniard has had a patchy season, his solid game occasionally giving way to complacency.
Could a change of scene, and a move to London, be the ideal opportunity for the international keeper to reignite the final stages of his career?
Either man would be a significant upgrade on the current keeper.
Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen has long promised to blossom into one of Europe’s finest attacking midfielders. Now 21, the time might be now for him to move away from Ajax and the Dutch Eredivisie and test his mettle in the Premier League.
After a slow start to the current campaign, Eriksen has begun to once again demonstrate his abilities, and recently it has appeared that he is operating at a higher level than ever before.
He has become assertive, more efficient and just generally, more devastating. With eight major contributions (goals or assists) in the last six games , and 10 in games against the top five this season, he has demonstrated that he can carry the side and have a regular, major say in the outcomes of the season’s biggest games.
With one year left on his contract, it seems unlikely that Ajax will let him run that down and leave on a free next summer. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have both been linked with the player, and while both have no shortage of central creative/attacking talents, they might provide him with the perfect environment to continue his development and get the high-end experience he needs to be considered among Europe’s finest.
Could a move for Eriksen to Anfield be a solution to a potential Luis Suarez departure? Matthias Sammer has indicated that while Bayern will continue to look to signing young German stars to augment their team, the Daily Mail reported in January that incoming boss Pep Guardiola could have a sizeable ‘war chest’ to play with.
Under contract until 2018, any transfer for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez would likely gobble up a large portion of that money. However, a move for the Uruguayan forward may not be as far-fetched as one might imagine.
He has indicated that he is not prepared to tolerate Liverpool’s extended stay away from the Champions League indefinitely, and a chance to play a central part in Guardiola’s revolution would be hard to turn down.
Could Suarez be an ideal fit for a re-modeled Bayern, and would his influence as a ‘fashionable false nine’ in a 4-3-3 formation mean another spell of European dominance for the Bavarian heavyweights?
It would doubtless be agonising for Liverpool to stomach…
While ‘El Tigre’ Falcao has recently denied any interest from Manchester United, few observers would bet big money against him heading over to the Premier League this summer.
Having scored over 20 goals in less than 30 appearances for Atletico Madrid, making them a genuine threat to local rivals Real, Falcao is hot property, and has the talent and the consistent scoring record to grace any of Europe’s top sides.
Reports that Manchester United have put a deposit down for the Colombian are unconfirmed, but the prospect of the Red Devils adding the Atleti frontman to their already-burgeoning stable of attacking talents is tantalising.
While Falcao and Robin Van Persie could, in principle, function together and meld into an extraordinary offensive prospect, any move would throw doubt upon the futures of the likes of Chicharito, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney. However, expect Chelsea and Manchester City to have a major say in his future destination.
Rooney - Counting down to Manchester departure?
Perhaps a potential Falcao move to United could be eased by a Wayne Rooney departure.
Since openly announcing his discontent at the club back in 2010, Rooney has struggled to consistently recapture the electric form that he displayed earlier in his career. Certainly, the flashes of brilliance have been there, but his influence has waned. Robin Van Persie has led the line and is, emphatically, the club’s chief goal threat, while Wayne has often found himself shunted to the peripheries and absent from some of the truly big occasions.
While his eventual deployment in midfield is beginning to feel inevitable, there could be a more convenient solution to his current predicament.
French giants PSG have long courted ‘Wazza,’ the relationship has been fairly clumsy, and at times unforgivably muddled, but a profound association is beginning to develop between Croxteth’s golden son and the urbane Parisians.
Even though he may not be as comfortable strolling along the Champs Elysees with his baguette and his bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges as David Beckham, Rooney has the prerequisite star power to command the attention of the orchestrators of ‘Le Project’—they could certainly stump up the cash should the opportunity arise.
If ‘Uncle’ Rigobert Song is anything to go by, then Alex Song’s sojourn in Catalonia is unlikely to be lasting long beyond this season. Speaking to Metro, the Cameroonian legend suggested that his cousin is unhappy with the lack of playing time and thus the lack of opportunity that has come his way at Barcelona.
Since leaving Arsenal, and arriving in La Liga for £17 million last summer, Song has struggled to force his way into regular contention. He has made 15 appearances in the side’s charge for the Spanish league title, but has not had the influence he would have hoped.
Reportedly not content at going from captain and central figure with the Gunners to bit-part player with Barca, a move back to North London may well suit.
Mikel Arteta has been a solid and mature component in Arsenal’s midfield over the last two seasons, but at 31, is unlikely to continue having the same influence for too long into the future. Perhaps Song might be wise to return to the club where he made his name and continue the excellent progress he has made in seasons past.
A midfield triumvirate of Song, Wilshere and Cazorla would surely be appealing to fans and staff at the Emirates.
The pattern is a familiar one for Spurs fans. The club signs an unpolished gem, he has a tricky, uncertain start, then begins to flourish, establishes himself as a key star, one of the league’s finest, and then departs, only ever to return as a torment for the fans who loathe the memory of the treasure they once possessed.
Could this summer be the time when Gareth Bale adds his name to an illustrious list including the likes of Luka Modric, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov?
Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle certainly believes that the time isn’t right for the Welshman to depart. Speaking to Metro, he recommended that Bale stuck around and became a figure as iconic as former captain Ledley King, pushing Tottenham to the top level of English football.
It may all depend on whether the Lilywhites make the top four this season. Bale’s awesome talent surely deserves to be showcased at the elite level of European football, but if Tottenham are constantly going to stutter in their bid to get there regularly, then the left winger may choose to achieve his potential elsewhere.
Having signed a contract last summer, the North London heavyweights are in no need to sell urgently. They have slapped a £70 million price tag on their star asset, and would surely endeavour to prevent a move to one of Europe’s giants.
A Bale switch to the continent would surely change the landscape of whichever league he graces next, but Spurs fans will be praying that he sticks around to continue to change the complexion of the Premier League for a little longer yet.
Reports all season have indicated that Jose Mourinho is unlikely to remain at Real Madrid beyond the summer. Things have long lost their romance in the Spanish capital and now, tenth Champions League or not, it’s hard to imagine a long and illustrious continuation between Jose and Real.
So, where to next?
The affair between Mourinho and the Premier League has long been enduring, and last week the Daily Star suggested that Chelsea is his destination of choice.
Rafa Benitez is certain not to continue his West London stint beyond this summer—his relationship with the Chelsea faithful soured long ago—and the fans would rather no one but Jose to replace him.
The Special One is still revered at Stamford Bridge, having won two consecutive league titles back in the mid-Noughties. It was failings in his relationship with chairman Roman Abramovich that led to his initial departure from the post, and if those wounds can be overcome, there is no reason why Mourinho can’t return to the job that still holds sway over the sentiments of his heart.
However, according to the Guardian, it may not be so straight forward. The paper announced recently that Chelsea have met with advisors to the Chilean boss, current Malaga manager and former Real Madrid chief, Manuel Pellegrini.
Pellegrini, like Mourinho, endured a torrid time at Real Madrid, also falling foul of the infamous politics that can engulf the club. His reputation has been rebuilt since leaving, and after guiding Malaga to their best-ever season, he may feel the time is right to cash in on his success.