20 World Football Players Who Need a Change of Scenery Come January
The new season has proven interesting for a number of reasons, but in this Twitter age of now, now, now, patience is no longer a virtue—just ask any manager who has been sacked already in the current campaign.
And for footballers, in what is a relatively short career, they need to maximise the time they have.
Unfortunately, in these days of big squads, there are a number of players left on the outside looking in who run the risk of stagnation.
Additionally, at the other end of the scale, there are others who simply outgrow their current circumstance. In these cases, it is often a change of scenery that brings the best out of both sides of the coin.
In January, the transfer window reopens, allowing players to swap clubs once again. And with it being a World Cup year, it could be an increasingly important time for players with aspirations of being in Brazil.
For some others, it could simply provide an opportunity to better their personal circumstance, whether it be through pushing onto a higher level, finding more playing time or simply heading somewhere fresh, where they're made to feel important.
With all of that in mind, here's a look at 20 players who could do well to find a change of scenery.
Demba Ba (Chelsea)
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Having arrived at Stamford Bridge in January as an alternative to Fernando Torres, the Senegalese striker now finds himself behind Torres and Samuel Eto'o in Jose Mourinho's plans, having been granted a stay of execution when a deadline-day loan move to Arsenal didn't quite pan out, as reported in the Daily Mail.
Only two goals in 16 Premier League appearances have been forthcoming for Ba since his move from Newcastle—where he scored 29 times in 54 league matches—and so far this season, he's been left out of the match-day squad for five of the Blues' eight Premier League games.
Simply, it appears Mourinho doesn't fancy him. Even more simply, at this stage in his career, the 28-year-old needs to be playing regularly. That won't be at Chelsea.
Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal)
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Arsenal's start to the season has been rather excellent, and much of the reason behind it has been the form of central defensive pairing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
However, their form has seen Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen remain on the fringes, despite his status as club captain. Thus, he's only figured once in the Premier League this season—for a mere 11 minutes.
Tenacious and rugged, the 27-year-old remains a fine defender, also adept at starting attacking moves from the back with his ability to pick a forward pass. But the fact of the matter is that neither him being paired with Koscielny, nor Mertesacker, offers Arsenal the same solid base as the French-German partnership.
Next summer sees an excellent Belgum side look to make a splash at the World Cup. They've a number of solid central defensive options—Vincent Kompany, Daniel van Buyten, Nicolas Lombaerts, Jan Vertonghen—and Vermaelen was left on the bench for the important recent qualifier with Croatia, where they secured qualification.
If he wants a starting place in Brazil, he needs regular action at club level before then. And his best hope may just be a move away from the Emirates Stadium.
Nikica Jelavic (Everton)
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When the Croatian moved to Goodison Park from Scottish club Rangers in January 2012, he made quite the splash in English football.
As the figurehead of a dogged Toffees outfit, Jelavic struck 11 times in 16 games, impressing with his aerial ability and movement in the final third.
However, things haven't worked out nearly as well in the 16 months since. Eight goals in 43 matches was a struggling Jelavic's total last season and he has fallen down the pecking order this campaign following the arrivals of Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone, whom Roberto Martinez is backing to improve, as reported in The Mirror.
As such, the 28-year-old needs a move to reinvigorate himself, particularly with a potential World Cup on the horizon.
Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)
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Largely outstanding during his time with Borussia Dortmund, the Japanese star underwent something of a transitional period last season under Sir Alex Ferguson with a general feeling that this would be his breakout term at Old Trafford.
However, since the managerial changeover, new boss David Moyes has shown little inclination to deploy Kagawa in his first-choice midfield and even less to start him in his preferred No. 10 position.
Certainly his showing against Real Sociedad will have given Moyes food for thought and left the former Toffees boss impressed, according to the Manchester Evening News. But with Moyes apparently wedded to a variant of 4-4-2 and the Wayne Rooney-Robin van Persie strike partnership, there appears to not be a natural role in the side for Kagawa.
The 24-year-old is a fantastic creative talent, all clever movement and incisive passes. He's too good to just sit on the bench, and if he continues to be overlooked for the majority of United's bread-and-butter games, then only a change of scenery would appear the solution to his conundrum.
Two stand-out performances at Old Trafford tonight were Shinji Kagawa and the Singing Section. United should use both more often.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) October 23, 2013
Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
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A striker who thrives on the kind of sharpness that only comes with regular action, Javier Hernandez has been pretty much stuck on the bench for Manchester United so far this season, with just 88 minutes of Premier League action to his name.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have been David Moyes' preferred front pair, and the Mexican has been left twiddling his thumbs. His showing in the Champions League win over Real Sociedad—where he started and got 80 minutes under his belt—was perhaps indicative of a player struggling for confidence: there was plenty of movement and channel running, but you never really thought he'd find the net.
Were he younger, you'd suggest it may be best for Chicharito to bide his time. But now, at 25, he's approaching a point where he needs to be playing regularly and being the main man to take his game to another level.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur)
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Only intermittently have Spurs fans seen the best of the Togolese striker since penning a permanent deal at White Hart Lane.
Now he finds himself down the pecking order where Andre Villas-Boas' striking options are concerned, with Roberto Soldado first pick and Jermain Defoe his backup.
As such, it appears the nomadic career of the striker could do with yet another destination.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Newcastle United)
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Strong, aggressive and talented, he had led his club to the French title in 2011-12 and was on the borderlines of the French national squad, for whom he has three caps, and it appeared quite the coup.
However, things haven't worked out at St. James' Park. Positional deficiencies have been highlighted, as have a number of glaring errors as he has struggled to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.
There's a good player in there somewhere, but Newcastle supporters have yet to see it. Perhaps a return to his former club, something chairman Louis Nicollin has spoken about, as reported by talkSPORT, could be his best option come January.
Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus)
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Mirko Vucinic, Fernando Llorente, Carlos Tevez and Fabio Quagliarella: four strikers all ahead of Sebastian Giovinco at Juventus.
The Atomic Ant has made seven appearances for the Bianconeri so far this season, but only one of them has been as a starter, and in total, he's played just 163 minutes of action.
The 26-year-old should now be entering his peak years, but how can he when Antonio Conte is handing him so few minutes? In what way can he possibly perform in a similar manner to his second year at Parma in 2011-12, when he struck 15 times in Serie A?
And having been a part of Cesare Prandelli's Confederations Cup squad last summer, Giovinco needs to be playing regularly to ensure a place at next summer's World Cup—particularly if the returning Giuseppe Rossi stays fit and continues his current form.
As such, to kick-start his career as much as anything, Giovinco needs to move to pastures new.
Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan)
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When Antonio Nocerino joined AC Milan in August 2011 for a mere €500,000 from Palermo, it's fair to say not much was expected.
However, his debut season was quite excellent, featuring 10 goals in 35 league appearances, marking him out as perhaps the best pound-for-pound signing in 2011-12.
Since then, however, the Italian international has experienced something of a dip in fortunes, and during the past 16 months, though he has seen regular action, he hasn't been a first-choice selection for Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri.
This season has seen the midfielder play 90 minutes only once in his seven league appearances, four of which have seen him only used as substitute, with Nigel De Jong, Riccardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari more often than not preferred in Milan's midfield trio.
Pablo Armero (Napoli)
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The Colombian is a fantastic athlete, quick and powerful down the left side, with the kind of vertical running that can break open a game.
However since Rafael Benitez's arrival at Napoli and the move away from a 3-4-2-1 formation to a 4-2-3-1, Armero doesn't fit naturally. Certainly he has been used as Benitez has rotated his squad so far this season, but Armero is neither a left-back nor a left-winger; perfect for Walter Mazzari's wing-back plan, not so much for Benitez's new system.
And the feeling has to be that the Spaniard doesn't fully trust the 26-year-old with right-sided defenders Juan Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto having both been chosen ahead of Armero at times already this season.
Armero remains a key component of a fantastic Colombia side that will look for glory in Brazil next summer, but his club future could perhaps benefit from a change of environment.
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
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However, with Jurgen Klinsmann's side set for next summer's World Cup in Brazil, the structure of the MLS season doesn't lend itself kindly to home-based players given the gap from 2013's end in December and the likelihood of next year's schedule beginning in April once again.
Thus, Dempsey and the likes of Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans are likely to go without any competitive action for four months. which may (or may not) have a detrimental effect ahead of the World Cup.
Therefore, a three-month loan back to Europe could be the change of scenery needed to keep Dempsey ticking over between seasons and to allow him to remain fully fit ahead of next summer.
Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid)
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The Belgian defender finds himself in a similar predicament to his national colleague Thomas Vermaelen, albeit at a new club.
Having left Ajax for Atletico Madrid during the summer, the versatile defender has struggled to oust either right-back Juanfran or central defensive pairing Diego Godin and Miranda in Diego Simeone's starting XI, until making his La Liga debut in their first defeat of the season, the 1-0 loss to Espanyol.
And like Vermaelen, with a massive summer in Brazil set for 2014, Alderweireld needs to be playing regularly to ensure his starting place in Marc Wilmots' XI.
Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)
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The Croatia midfielder has been in outstanding form for Sevilla so far this season, contributing six goals and seven assists in 14 matches.
However, while the 25-year-old creator continues to improve personally, Sevilla are shrouded in mediocrity, having won just two of their opening nine Primera Liga matches, while remaining without an away win in over a year.
Therefore, perhaps now is the time for the talented schemer to leave the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to take the next step in his career.
There are plenty of teams that could do with a player of Rakitic's technical talents, and January sees him move into the last 18 months of his contract. A move to fresher, greater pastures could unlock even more of the Sevilla skipper's potential.
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
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So the Iker Casillas saga continues.
Certainly he has been Ancelotti's man in the Champions League, but his showings have hinted at a goalkeeper lacking the sharpness and comfort that comes with being the undisputed main man—Juventus' goal in their recent clash, when Casillas should have done better, is a case in point.
And with no longer being Los Blancos' main man, Casillas place in the national team's goal becomes open to debate, with Victor Valdes having been rotated in during recent fixtures.
Perhaps Saint Iker's time at the Santiago Bernabeu has reached its end.
Martin Montoya (Barcelona)
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That Barcelona defender Martin Montoya was first choice for Spain's under-21 side during their European Championship success this summer, ahead of the highly rated Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal, is a testament to his ability.
Tactically and technically, the 22-year-old is an excellent right-back, assured in possession, and he reads the game very well.
However, with Dani Alves still in front of him at club level, there is little room for advancement, and he has figured just twice in 14 fixtures this term.
Now, with his contract at Camp Nou up next summer, Montoya is on the radar of a number of clubs, as reported by talkSPORT. A move could add fresh impetus to his career and could see him push on towards a spot with the senior national side.
Luuk De Jong (Borussia Monchengladbach)
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However, the Dutch international striker has struggled for form in Germany, and simply, the move has yet to show it can be a success.
Only six goals were forthcoming in his debut campaign (23 matches), and he looked decidedly short of confidence leading the line for the Dutch under-21 side at the summer's European Championships.
And this season has seen the 23-year-old firmly out of favour with coach Lucien Favre, with de Jong having failed to start a single match for his club so far.
The question now is how long until both sides decide to cut their losses, and whether Luuk de Jong looks to move somewhere new for regular playing time in January. It certainly seems like his only option.
Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim)
The highly talented 22-year-old is one of European football's most promising playmakers, rich in potential.
So far this season, the Hoffenheim man has starred on a wildly inconsistent team—they've scored 21 and conceded 22 goals in nine Bundesliga matches already—scoring eight goals and assisting seven more in 10 games across league and Cup.
But the question is, how good can the Brazilian playmaker be? And can he realise that potential at the Rhein-Neckar Arena?
Certainly his star continues to rise. But there is a possibility that if he remains with Hoffenheim, it could hit a ceiling sooner rather than later.
A move elsewhere could be just the ticket to take Firmino to the next level—testing himself in the Champions League could really push on his career.
Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro)
Over the past 18 months, Yevhen Konoplyanka has grown into a key component of the Ukraine national side, much of their attacking play being based around the fleet-footedness of either him or Andriy Yarmolenko.
Yet with his club, Dnipro, Konoplyanka has been somewhat inconsistent since the beginning of 2012-13, infuriatingly so for a player of his substantial gifts.
Last season saw him score only twice in the Ukrainian league—both in the same game—while this season he has three goals in 12 matches, but has managed the full 90 minutes on only three occasions.
Next month sees him line up for Ukraine in their World Cup playoff with France, and he'll need two big performances in the Eastern Europeans to qualify for Brazil.
But after that, the 24-year-old should maybe look at moving to fresh pastures, or else risk stagnating in Ukraine's Premier Liga.
Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain)
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The first mega-money signing of the Qatari-era at Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentine star is very much the traditional enganche, someone who needs the entire side built around him, a platform from which he can bring the best out of other players.
However, since the Parc des Princes became the home to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Pastore has become somewhat lost amongst a sea of stars.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a rather excellent debut season with Le Parisiens, scoring 13 goals in 33 Ligue 1 outings, but his level dropped in 2012-13 as he was used in a variety of different positions.
This term has seen Pastore even further on the outside, having played only 434 minutes of a possible 1,260. Very talented Pastore may be, but without that feeling of importance that comes with regular playing time in a regular position, he has shown a tendency to go missing.
A move away from Paris to somewhere where he can be the big fish, as was the case at Palermo, may be exactly what he needs to find his best once more.
Pastore left out by PSG yesterday not because of injury but as he didn't fancy it after being booed at Parc des Princes last time (L'Equipe)— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) October 20, 2013
Jordan Ayew (Olympique Marseille)
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The 22-year-old Ghanaian international remains at Olympique Marseille, but he is still yet to make a first-team slot definitively his own.
Certainly he's been getting more minutes in recent weeks and has started four of OM's past five league matches, but for as long as Ayew remains at the Stade Velodrome, he will always be in the shadow of his older brother Andre.
With Andre Ayew, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Dimitri Payet the preferred front trio of Elie Baup and the wildly precocious youngster Florian Thauvin on the fringes, Jordan, who is yet to play an entire 90 minutes this season, certainly has his work cut out for him to carve a starting spot for himself.
He continues to be linked with a move away from his present employers, and perhaps that may not be the worst idea for the younger of the Ayew siblings.
More football talk, contact me on the Twitter: @AA_Richards