World Football

Top 20 Players to Poach from Europe's Relegated Clubs

Laura GreeneFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

Top 20 Players to Poach from Europe's Relegated Clubs

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    Oriol Riera, Osasuna
    Oriol Riera, OsasunaAlvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

    Relegation may spell disaster for the clubs involved, but for other sides circling like player-hungry vultures for talent on the cheap, it's the perfect time to pounce.

    In this slideshow, we look at 20 of the best potential targets for the 2014 summer transfer window from teams that have been relegated across the European leagues.

    The following choices have been selected on the back of how well they performed for their respective clubs in 2013/14—we're talking goals, assists, defensive records and the interest they seem to be attracting from other clubs. Arranged in an order that we feel best reflects how "poachable" these players are—with the top choice coming in at No. 1—we have taken all these factors into consideration. 

    Of course, these names have not been Europe's star players (they did get relegated, after all), but we think you'll agree that there will be some decent cut-price buys available when the window opens on July 1.

20. Domi Kumbela, Eintracht Braunschweig

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Top scorer in the Bundesliga 2 last season, Domi Kumbela managed to score nine goals for Eintracht Braunschweig this term. 

    However, with only 29 goals scored by the team all season, staying up proved to be too much of an ask in their first attempt at the Bundesliga after a 28-year absence.

    The 30-year-old's contract expires next month. This bicycle kick, scored against Mainz on March 25 won't have damaged Kumbela's chances of being picked up by another club.

19. Marc Valiente, Real Valladolid

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Javi Guerra has already agreed to a move to join Cardiff City over the summer, as reported by the Daily Mail's Riath Al-Samarrai, and Real Valladolid look set to lose a few more of their players.

    Marc Valiente, former B-team captain for Barcelona, could also be on his way out of the club following their slip down into the Segunda division.

    The 27-year-old defender has been at Valladolid since 2010 when he made the switch from Sevilla. In that time, he has clocked up more than 100 appearances. 

    With a contract that runs until 2016, perhaps Valiente will stay with the Pucela and try to help them back into La Liga at the first time of asking. But as an experienced central defender with a market value of just €2.5 million, he could prove a canny acquisition for another top-flight side.

18. Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Norwich City

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    Alex Broadway/Getty Images

    Ricky van Wolfswinkel started his Premier League career brightly with a goal scored on his debut for Norwich City against Everton.

    It all went downhill from there.

    By May 11, the Dutchman had failed to find the back of the net for a second time, and he did not even make the bench for the Canaries' final two games of the season.

    However, while playing for former club Sporting Lisbon last term, the 25-year-old managed to put away 20 goals (in all competitions).

    This may prove to be a contentious choice, but during the summer transfer window, there may be a decent amount of clubs that would be willing to take a gamble on Van Wolfswinkel—in the hope that he can reproduce his scoring figures from the 2012/13 season. 

17. Omar Elabdellaoui, Eintracht Braunschweig

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    Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

    Omar Elabdellaoui is only 22, but he already has a good amount of experience at both club and international levels.

    Elabdellaoui came through the ranks at Manchester City after joining them as a 16-year-old in 2008. After loan spells at Stromsgodset, Feyenoord and Eintracht Braunschweig, the Norwegian signed for the latter in 2013 in search of regular first-team football.

    Over the course of the 2013/14 Bundesliga campaign, he made 29 appearances for the German side. Primarily a right-back, Elabdellaoui can play anywhere on the right-hand side of the pitch.

    An active international for Norway, he has represented his country at every youth level. With a market value of just €1.5 million, he could make a good, cheap addition to many squads around Europe.

     

16. Roberto Torres, Osasuna

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Roberto Torres has played for Osasuna for his entire career so far.

    The 25-year-old may decide to stay at the Estadio El Sadar to help his club fight their way back up to La Liga, but after getting relegated this season, the club may not be able to resist any bids that come in for the attacking midfielder.

    Torres put away six goals and five assists in his 36 games (in all competitions) this season. With a WhoScored.com overall rating of 6.8, the Pamplona-born player's strengths lie in his set-piece delivery, crosses and passing. 

    According to Inside Spanish Football, Athletic Bilbao may be interested in signing Torres this summer. 

15. Steve Sidwell, Fulham

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Out of contract this summer and already being linked with a move to Stoke City, as reported by Alan Nixon in the Mirror, Steve Sidwell stands a good chance of remaining a Premier League player next season. 

    The former Reading, Chelsea and Aston Villa midfielder was Fulham's highest-scoring player this term with seven goals in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup.

    As seen on EPL Index, Sidwell also won the most tackles, ground duels and aerial duels for the Cottagers as they struggled under a series of new managers—seemingly one of few players with enough gumption and drive to try and avoid defeat. 

    A seasoned pro in the Championship and in the top flight, the 31-year-old would be well-suited to a summer switch to Premier League outfits such as Stoke City, West Ham or Newcastle United.  

14. Robert Snodgrass, Norwich City

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    It reads like a contradiction in terms; however, Robert Snodgrass did impress for Norwich City this season.

    In the Premier League, the 26-year-old was the club's joint highest-scorer with six goals, a number he shared with Gary Hooper. As seen on SkySports.com, his average of 2.2 key passes a game was more than anyone else in the Canaries squad, and he was voted Player of the Season by the club's fans. 

    The Glasgow-born winger is already being linked with a move away from Carrow Road. As reported by Alan Nixon in the Mirror, Snodgrass is a long-term target of West Ham.

    Elsewhere, there are rumours that suggest the former Leeds United player could be on his way to Celtic. Snodgrass told the Daily Record newspaper (h/t SkySports.com):

    I'm flattered to be linked with Celtic as I've watched them since I was a kid. I was also in Scottish football and there's always a part of me that thinks I've a point to prove there.

    Celtic hold a place deep in my heart because I've watched them and they're the team I support, but it's all about being the best you can and playing at the highest level possible.

    The Premier League is where it's at and I'd be lying if I said anything other than that. But if other options come up in the summer, I'll look at them.

13. Odil Ahmedov, Anzhi Makhachkala

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    Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

    Anzhi Makhachkala's demise has been quite staggering.

    The Russian club were relegated this season, just two years after being able to boast a raft of expensive players that included Samuel Eto'o, Willian, Lassana Diarra and Christopher Samba, not to mention Guus Hiddink as manager.

    Budget cuts by owner Suleyman Kerimov saw most of the club's players sold off last year—a move which has resulted in Anzhi winning just three games all season and finishing bottom of the Russian Premier League. 

    There's not much left in the way of exciting players who can be targeted this summer. However, former Arsenal and Juventus target Odil Ahmedov is likely to depart. The 26-year-old was linked with the two clubs at this time last year, as reported by Jamie Sanderson in Metro, although a move failed to materialize. 

    The defensive midfielder, who can also operate in central defence, has a current contract that is set to expire in 2015. With Anzhi set to play in the Russian National Football League next season, Ahmedov should be heading for the exits.

     

12. Nathan Redmond, Norwich City

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    With 28 goals, Norwich City had the lowest strike rate of any other team in the Premier League this season. After a summer of record spending, it was not meant to go down this way.

    However, despite their low-scoring campaign, several of Norwich's attacking players have managed to look like reasonably attractive prospects for circling top-flight clubs.

    Nathan Redmond, formerly of Birmingham City, will be a wanted man this summer. He may have only scored once and registered four assists this term, but his talent is obvious. Lightning quick and able to play on either wing, Redmond was often a bright spark in Norwich's otherwise gloomy season.  

    This week, the 20-year-old scored a hat-trick for England's Under 21 side in a European Championship 2015 qualifying match against Wales. 

11. Paulinho, Livorno

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    Paulo Sergio Betanin, or Paulinho, managed to put away 15 goals and six assists for Livorno this season. For a team that only scored 39 goals over the course of the Serie A campaign, it's an impressive tally.

    The Brazilian has already experienced relegation and subsequent promotion with the Tuscan side. However, at 28 and on the back of a solid season in individual—not club—standards, he may be on the move this summer.

    Last season, Paulinho notched 20 goals and managed 19 assists in Serie B.

    Finding an attractive transfer target at a club who managed just 25 points all season is easier said than done, but in Paulinho, Livorno have a €7 million asset who should have plenty of fans.

10. Steven Caulker, Cardiff City

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    Richard Sellers/Getty Images

    Sold by Tottenham Hotspur to Cardiff City last summer, Steven Caulker has had a fairly positive season in the Premier League.

    Despite being relegated with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, Caulker—who played every minute of every Premier League game this season—has emerged as one of the league's most talented central defensive prospects.

    Just 22, Caulker came through the ranks with Spurs before being sold to Cardiff for £9 million. According to Simon Jones in the Daily Mail, Caulker has a relegation release clause in his contract, and Liverpool and Southampton are both said to be interested in signing him over the summer.

    However, the centre-half is quoted as saying, "I signed a four-year deal here so I'll be looking to get us back promoted next season."

9. David Marshall, Cardiff City

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    The upside? David Marshall made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. The downside? Cardiff City let in 74 goals.

    However, there is no doubt that this would have been a much larger figure were it not for the shot-stopping abilities of Marshall. As seen on Squawka, the 29-year-old made an average of 3.49 saves a game over the course of the season, which has apparently alerted other clubs as to his availability.

    It seems that Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are interested in signing Cardiff City fans' Player of the Year, according to Ben Jefferson in the Express. As Jefferson writes, "Reports suggest that while Cardiff are keen to retain Marshall's services - having only signed him to a new contract in February - they would find it hard to resist a bid in the region of £8m."

    However, the former Celtic and Norwich man has been quoted as saying:

    We worked really hard to get here and I've loved my first season in the Premier League. It's the best league in the world, it's where you want to play and we would all miss it.

    But being relegated wouldn't change anything. I've just signed a new contract in February so I'm more than committed to the club.

8. Guillermo Ochoa, Ajaccio

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Mexico's No. 1, Guillermo Ochoa, has been at Ajaccio since July 2011. In his short time at the club, the 28-year-old has become a crowd favourite and was voted Player of the Season for the last two Ligue 1 campaigns.

    With his contract set to run out in June, Ochoa will be available for nothing this summer. 

    Rumours are already suggesting that he has a legion of admirers. As David Wright reported in the Express, AC Milan and Liverpool are keen. Ochoa was quoted as saying, "I am evaluating several offers from different countries."

    Impressive performances at the 2014 World Cup for Mexico will only serve to heighten the speculation surrounding the goalkeeper, who will face Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon in Group A this summer. 

7. Jordon Mutch, Cardiff City

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    In terms of poachable players, Cardiff City's Jordon Mutch is right up there. The former Birmingham City man has performed so well this season that he deserves to stay in the top flight.

    Individual high points include goals scored against fellow relegation strugglers Fulham and Sunderland, not to mention three goals and one assist across two games against Liverpool, one strike against Chelsea and an assist in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

    In his first season in the Premier League, the 22-year-old stepped up with seven goals in total—making him Cardiff's top scorer, with seven assists to boot. It was not enough to keep the side in the top division, but it proved that the midfielder can cut it with the big boys.

    Mutch has represented England at Under-17, 19, 20 and 21 levels and was genuinely instrumental for Cardiff this season.

    Any Premier League clubs looking for a central midfielder on the cheap this summer could do a lot worse than Jordon Mutch. 

6. Hiroshi Kiyotake, Nurnberg

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    Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

    It's hard to imagine that Japan international Hiroshi Kiyotake will still be at Nurnberg when the 2014/15 season kicks off.

    The 24-year-old has appeared in all but one Bundesliga game for Roger Prinzen's side this season, bagging three goals and eight assists as Der Club battled to avoid the drop.

    Nurnberg's top provider this season, Kiyotake can play as a No. 10 or on either wing. Good at set pieces and an excellent dribbler, he's young, experienced and fast, and he's suited to a much bigger club. Most importantly for sides who are hoping to poach the attacking midfielder, he'll probably be available for a very good price.

    As reported by Liam Prenderville in the Mirror, Nurnberg teammate Josip Drmic has already agreed a deal to join Bayer Leverkusen this summer. Expect Kiyotake to be next. 

5. Kostas Mitroglou, Fulham

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    After appearing in a grand total of 153 minutes of Premier League football, Kostas Mitroglou could not be blamed if he wanted to leave Craven Cottage this summer.

    And there would be clubs interested in the striker, who netted 17 goals for Olympiacos earlier in the season before swapping Piraeus for SW6.

    It is a curious situation—Fulham paid £12 million to bring Mitroglou to the club in January. However, the 26-year-old ended up appearing in just three top-flight games, with Cottagers boss Felix Magath declaring the player unfit, as reported by Duncan Bech in the Daily Mail.

    Despite his lack of playing time, Mitroglou has been included in Greece's provisional 29-man World Cup squad and could be seen as a reasonably attractive transfer target over the summer months.

4. Gary Medel, Cardiff City

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    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    Gary Medel joined Cardiff City last summer for a club-record fee of £11 million, as seen on BBC Sport. Thirty-four top-flight games and one relegation later, it looks like the Chilean won't be in South Wales next season. 

    The player, described by Sid Lowe in The Guardian as "Chile's dog of war," will be representing his country at the World Cup in Brazil in the coming months. 

    It's hard to imagine that he will return to play in the Championship in 2014/15.

    As SkySports.com reported this week, Medel is said to have a relegation release clause in his Cardiff contract, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitting that it's unlikely we'll see the 26-year-old next season, "Gary is a top, top player who deserves to be playing at a higher level than the Championship and he has proven that," he said. "Nothing has come up yet, no offers have been received."

3. Oriol Riera, Osasuna

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Relegated with Osasuna, Oriol Riera is likely to attract offers from a number of clubs across Europe when the transfer window opens for business.

    The 27-year-old striker, who started his career in the youth teams of both Espanyol and Barcelona, was Osasuna's top scorer over the last campaign, with 13 goals scored in La Liga for Javi Gracia's side.

    On the final day of the season, Riera scored against Real Betis in a 2-1 win. However, the victory was not enough to keep Los Rojillos in the Spanish top flight—with both the home side and the visitors consigned to relegation.

    Riera signed for Osasuna in July 2013 after spending two years with Alcorcon, where he registered 27 goals in 86 games.

    Thirteen strikes scored in his debut season in La Liga? Riera will be on the move this summer. 

2. Alvaro Vadillo, Real Betis

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    Toni Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Alvaro Vadillo, the 19-year-old winger, is almost certain to leave Real Betis behind this summer, and he could be available for a bargain price.

    It seems that the Spaniard already has his admirers in Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, by Metro's reckoning. 

    Since making his Real Betis debut in 2011 at the tender age of 16, Vadillo's appearances for the side have been limited due to injury. This season, he was back in the side and racked up 21 La Liga games. Vadillo has also represented Spain at Under-17, 19 and 20 level.

    Betis finished the 2013/14 season on the bottom of La Liga—relegated with three games to play, a far cry away from their seventh-place finish last term.

1. Sebastien Corchia, Sochaux

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    Thibault Camus/Associated Press

    Sebastien Corchia, a highly rated young right-back at Sochaux, is certain to have a number of admirers who have been tracking his progress in Ligue 1. 

    The 23-year-old made 33 appearances during the 2013/14 campaign, where he switched from a right-back position to the right wing halfway through the season, bagging himself three goals and four assists from the wide position.

    As written by B/R's Allan Jiang in early May, "Corchia makes shrewd runs, is light on his feet, possesses excellent balance and routinely relies on a short-area burst to get himself into advantageous positions."

    He has represented France at Under-17, 18, 19 and 21 levels and seems keen on a move away from the Stade Auguste Bonal. When a move to Lille failed to go through in January, he told L'Equipe (h/t SkySports.com):

    I was visiting houses in Lille when I got a phone-call to get the news (that the move had been cancelled). I was completely lost. That event affected me a lot, but didn't crush me.

    On the contrary it will make me stronger. I am disappointed with the decision. No one can understand. Anyway, I won't give up, I want to join LOSC either now or in June. I understand the Lille officials will fight for me too. Even if I have to join Sochaux, it has already been set I will join Lille in June.

    Be it Lille or elsewhere, Corchia is unlikely to remain at Sochaux beyond the summer.

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