10 Premier League Storylines Set to Dominate the Offseason Agenda
The 2012-13 Premier League season is drawing to a close. While that means the action in the field of play has ended, it also means that the offseason grind that is the rumor mill is about to begin.
Most of the top teams—namely Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea—will look at strengthening their teams significantly for the expected 2013-14 challenge.
Some players—Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney among them—may even find themselves homes in new cities like Madrid, Paris or even Newcastle.
Here, Willie Gannon looks at 10 Premier League storylines that could dominate the offseason agenda.
What storylines do you see affecting your team and the EPL during the close season?
Leave your comments, suggestions and potential Premier League storylines in the comments section below!
Gareth Bale's Future at Tottenham Hotspur
There are no two ways about it, Tottenham Hotspur will do well to hold onto Gareth Bale for next season.
Bale has been one of the best players in the EPL by a country mile this term and has improved immeasurably as a player since he won the PFA Player of the Year award in 2011.
The Daily Mirror is reporting that the Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, has slapped a £65 million price tag on his star player's head to fight off the inevitable interest that will arise during the summer.
This particular transfer story could roll all the way until the end of the summer transfer window as Levy is a well-known and hard-nosed negotiator. If Spurs do sell their best player then expect an influx of talent to White Hart Lane to replace him.
Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson, Paris Saint-Germain and Whoever Else
Rumors of Wayne Rooney potentially leaving Manchester United can be traced directly back to January 27, 2013.
That was the fateful day that Rooney was relieved of penalty-taking duties by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Since then, the forward has been snubbed and only used as a substitute against Real Madrid and has generally seen his importance diminish at United.
Rooney, out of contract in June 2015, is now almost linked with a transfer away from the Red Devils daily.
Sir Alex Ferguson has said Rooney is going nowhere, of course.
However, if memory serves correctly, he also said similar things before.
In April 2003, he said of David Beckham, "There is no way we would sell him, or any of our best players.” Yet two months later the English international was winging his way to Real Madrid.
And in 2009 he gave the immortal quote about Ronaldo's potential transfer to Real Madrid when he said "Jesus Christ, no chance, I wouldn’t sell them a virus.” Six months later Ronaldo joined Madrid.
Rooney is a special player and would interest every major team in the world.
He is eligible to negotiate a free transfer in just 20 months.
His future at Old Trafford might even be decided by another manager if Sir Alex retires...
David Moyes' Future
Everton could be dealt their biggest blow since English teams were banned from Europe this summer if David Moyes leaves the club.
Speculation is growing that the respected Scottish manager will not sign a new rolling contract with the Toffees, and will seek a new challenge elsewhere. The Daily Mail is also speculating that Marouane Fellaini will also leave the club if a £23 million escape clause is triggered.
The 49-year-old has managed Everton since 2002 and has done a fantastic job on a shoe-string budget.
Chelsea are said to be leading the chase for Fellaini. It is worth noting that Moyes is the third favorite at 10-1 to replace Rafael Benitez at Stamford Bridge. Moyes is such a good manager that he would almost definitely have the choice to take any EPL job if it came up.
If Moyes does leave Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez is the early leader to replace him at 9-2.
Harry Redknapp is at 20-1 and Cardiff City's Malky Mackay, yet to enter the betting, expected to be priced around 8-1.
Will Arsene Wenger Spend All His Millions, and on Whom?
Arsenal have money to spend, or so the rumor mill says.
Actually, the Gunners seem to have serious money to spend every summer but then don't.
Either way Arsenal need to strengthen significantly to buy their way back into the title race and have been linked with a number of high-profile players.
As ever it will either be a feast or a famine with the Gunners, so stay tuned for a guaranteed story that will run right through the summer.
The Next Chelsea Manager
Who will replace Rafael Benitez at Chelsea will be one of the biggest stories of the summer.
The Blues will be looking for the 11th full-time manager since Roman Abramovich took over in 2003, that's less than one manager per year.
Needless to say the League Managers Association have called the Russian's administration an "embarrassment" to the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola was previously linked with the job but decided to join Bayern Munich, where he will take over the full running of the club this summer when Jupp Heynckes retires.
The leading candidates to replace the interim Benitez are long and varied. Chelsea fans are hoping against hope that the 8-13-priced Jose Mourinho will return. The Daily Mail are reporting that the Blues are talking to Manuel Pellegrini who is priced at 11-4 but that Mourinho all but has the job.
The Daily Mirror, however, are saying that Mourinho will snub the return to Stamford Bridge. Most football pundits see Mourinho as the natural successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He is believed to desperately want the job and could potentially take the Chelsea job and then leave for Old Trafford when Ferguson retires.
The speculation linking Moyes, priced at 10-1, and Pellegrini to the Chelsea job suggests that Roman Abramovich may be considering this possible eventuality.
In truth, Abramovich could be hedging his bets on Guardiola's success at Bayern. If it does not go well he could be prepared to offer his old No. 1 target the job and not balk at sacking a manager of Pellegrini's or Moyes' standing.
Whatever the outcome, the next Chelsea manager will get one of the best-paid jobs in the sport—it just might not last all that long.
Who Will Liverpool Buy?
Like Arsenal, Liverpool are expected to buy big during the summer.
The Brendan Rodgers revolution is taking its time to get into full swing. The Reds have crept up into seventh place in the Premier League.
Next season, however, they will hope to push for a place in the Champions League.
To achieve that they will need to strengthen significantly.
According to The Mirror, Liverpool will try yet again to lure Blackpool's Tom Ince back to Anfield this summer. The Reds are also linked with Swansea City's Ashley Williams, with The Guardian saying they are confident of beating Arsenal to the centre-back's signature.
Rodgers, however, has already gone on record to warn fans not to expect many new faces next season.
Talking to The Daily Mirror, he said the Reds would not go on a spending spree.
"It is simple," he said,"I just don’t have the resources. I believe we will improve again next season, but we will have to do it in a different way."
The problem with Liverpool and their finances is that they may have to sell before they buy...
Will Liverpool Sell Luis Suarez?
Before Liverpool played Chelsea on April 21, anyone speculating that Luis Suarez's future was away from Anfield would have been deemed mad by the Reds' many fans.
After the biting incident on April 21, his future may only be away from Anfield.
There is little doubt that Suarez is a talented player. This season, along with Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie, he has been one of the Premier League's best players.
However, his track record at the club and a possible multi-game suspension could make his stay at Liverpool untenable next season.
Their will be a queue of teams interested in the striker, with Manchester City and Chelsea sure to monitor the situation closely in England. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are three other clubs who could also easily afford the expected £40 million transfer fee.
Definitely one to watch.
Roberto Mancini and Manchester City
Roberto Mancini has not done a great job this season.
Manchester City, as defending Premier League champions, have been lacklustre for most of the season. They were also embarrassingly knocked out of the Champions League at the first hurdle.
The early runners to replace Mancini at the Etihad are also the early runners to replace Benitez at Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrini is the current favorite at 3-1, Jose Mourinho is at 7-1 and David Moyes is at 11-1. The outside bet here is Carlo Ancelotti, currently at PSG, who is priced at a favorable 20-1. Michael Laudrup, who is expected to win the LMA Manager of the Year Award, is currently priced at 50-1.
Will Liverpool Take Andy Carroll Back?
When Brendan Rodgers joined Liverpool last summer his first real action at the club was to force Andy Carroll out on loan to West Ham.
Carroll joined the Reds to much fanfare in January 2011 for the staggering fee of £35 million.
His loan period with the Hammers is coming to an end, with West Ham saying they can no longer afford Liverpool's estimated £20 million valuation.
Liverpool paid £35 million for Carroll and £22.7 million for Luis Suarez for an overall £57.7 million.
Should Suarez be sold for £40 million, almost doubling his purchase price, the Reds will need to sell Carroll for over £17 million to break even.
Suarez's recent actions have placed the club in a precarious financial position they do not need.
Recent betting on Carroll's future has the striker priced at 8-11 to leave the Reds. However, the recent Suarez incident may change this betting field significantly.
Newcastle is apparently the favorite destination at 8-13, West Ham are at 7-2 and Fulham are a 9-1.
Considering his goalscoring record in recent years, he may yet turn out to be a target for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, or he could end up as Liverpool's unwanted main striker next season.
Cardiff City's Transfer Policy Compared to Swansea City's
Who Cardiff City buy will cause great speculation over the coming months.
Bankrolled by Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun, who has an estimated fortune of £800 million, Cardiff are expected to sign big in an effort to stay in the Premier League.
The Championship-winning side are already priced at 4-7 to avoid relegation next season, and that is down to their potential transfer kitty.
It will be more than interesting to see who the Bluebirds sign, and for how much. And then to compare the Cardiff philosophy for success in the Premier League with Swansea City's philosophy for success.
Huw Jenkins deserves huge credit for the intelligent running of the club and for their ultra-intelligent management recruitment policy.
His stewardship of Swansea since 2002 is seen as textbook in most modern football circles on how to turn a small club around and to a highly successful model. The Swans have the smallest stadium in the EPL and will look to rival Cardiff for the hearts and minds of Welsh and EPL fans next season.
The impending philosophical battle could turn out to be the most interesting off-field storyline next season.