Cesc, Mario Balotelli and the 20 Players Who Should Return to the Premier League
The transfer rumours for Premier League sides are really starting to get into gear now, with plenty of teams hoping to get some business done before the World Cup kicks off.
Several of those transfers involve foreign-based players who have already been in the Premier League earlier in their careers, with stars Cesc Fabregas and Mario Balotelli two such big names.
Here are 20 one-time Premier League players who could ideally look to get back to the English top flight, this summer or in the relatively near future, and who would bring a level of quality back to the game with them.
Cesc Fabregas had a transfer saga all of his own, every transfer window, when he was at Arsenal.
Now at Barcelona, he seems to have achieved the same feat; every window he seems to be close to departing his club in La Liga.
Arsenal don't want him this summer, but Liverpool and Chelsea may do, according to the Daily Mail's Rob Draper. The Premier League would be richer for a player of his calibre returning.
Arsenal do want Mario Balotelli, though, reports John Cross of the Mirror.
The former Man City striker has found his scoring boots at AC Milan but never appears truly settled in any one place. He'll partake at the World Cup for Italy this summer, but will he remain in his home country thereafter?
Balotelli brings no shortage of column inches for both his on- and off-field exploits.
Clint Dempsey was excellent at Fulham, marginalised at Tottenham and is now playing some of his finest football once more in his home country with Seattle Sounders.
Spurs, fighting for a top-four place at the time, might have just been one level too high for him, but he is absolutely a Premier League-class player who could still make a big contribution to most teams who are just below that notch.
Like Spurs now, perhaps.
Rafael van der Vaart
Another former Spurs man is Rafael van der Vaart. The Dutchman misses the World Cup through injury, capping off what has been a pretty awful campaign for him.
His side, Hamburger SV, have struggled against relegation all season long, and his own form has been very hit-and-miss.
A change of scenery could do him the world of good, while he still undoubtedly has the natural attributes that made him one of the top attacking midfielders around, playing for the likes of Real Madrid before Tottenham.
Zoran Tosic barely featured for Manchester United during his spell at the club, before heading out on loan and then permanently to CSKA Moscow in Russia.
There, he has become a far more stable and reliable attacker over the past four seasons, with his pace and wing ability making him one of the top attackers in the Premier League.
He would make a far bigger impact on the English game now than when he struggled to break through as a United player.
OK, Thibaut Courtois hasn't permanently left the Premier League...but he hasn't been in it, either, and his future is far from clear.
What is clear is that the Belgian has developed into one of the best young stoppers in world football, winning almost everything in three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid.
Despite how good Petr Cech has been, both Chelsea and the Premier League would be well off if Courtois came back to take his place.
Arsenal's Alex Song hasn't really made a name or a position for himself at Barcelona. He's very much a backup part of the squad and hasn't progressed as a player in his time in Spain.
The Premier League suited his box-to-box athleticism perfectly, rather than the stilted, controlled defensive midfielder that the Catalan side wanted him to be.
Song would have several offers, no doubt, if he wanted a return to England.
Salomon Kalou has been busy scoring goals for Lille for the past two seasons, 30 in Ligue 1 in all, and has frequently been linked with a move back to the Premier League.
Rather than in the wide positions where he most frequently played for Chelsea, the Ivorian forward has thrived playing through the middle with his current club.
Arsenal and Liverpool have both previously been mentioned as potential destinations if he were to return, as reported by Simon Osborn in the Metro.
England's World Cup squad contains just one non-Premier League based player in the 23: third-choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
The Celtic man was previously at Newcastle United but didn't really get a look-in at the time, but he is highly rated north of the border.
He's as good a shot-stopper as Ben Foster and a better all-round keeper; playing at a higher level than the SPL would almost certainly install him as England's No. 2.
Oriol Romeu has enjoyed a decent season of football with Valencia in La Liga, though perhaps looks as though he needs to play one level down for now to get a place in a team week-in, week-out.
He won't be likely to get into Chelsea's side next term, but a loan spell in the Premier League could suit him nicely.
Romeu certainly showed he is capable of performing well in England during his initial campaign with the Blues.
Michael Mancienne never really made the step up in quality that he threatened to early on in his career, but he still is regarded as a good defender, returning to the Hamburg team in the latter part of the campaign to help them survive relegation in Germany.
Xabi Alonso won the FA Cup and Champions League with Liverpool, before going on to league titles with Real Madrid after leaving.
The midfielder has constantly been speculated about over a move back to England, usually with his old club, and would certainly still grace most teams' centre of the park today.
He's known to be a fan of the English game, though a departure from Real Madrid would need a big enticement.
Along the same lines as Alonso, Luka Modric has developed into a very complete midfielder in his time at Real Madrid.
He's not likely to leave this summer after winning the Champions League and becoming an integral part of their system, but the nature of Real's ever-evolving side inevitably means he'll become surplus sooner or later.
When he does, every top Premier League side should be chasing for his signature.
Joel Campbell isn't ripping up trees at Olympiacos, nor did he briefly with Arsenal, but he has shown enough in the Champions League that he should be able to be an asset for clubs in the lower half of the table.
Goalscorers are always regarded as a huge commodity, and Campbell hit 11 in all competitions this term. Now with a work permit to play in England after three years in different countries abroad on loan, he should be looking to make his mark in the Premier League next term.
Only 21 years of age, a good season elsewhere in the table might see Arsenal look upon him favourably.
Continuing with our out-on-loan starlets, Thorgan Hazard was playing well enough in Belgium on loan from Chelsea to be linked with Liverpool, as per Metro's Jamie Sanderson, along with others including Valencia.
The attacking midfielder surely has a place with a higher-profile team than Zulte Waregem next term, though again, Chelsea might not be his best route to first-team football.
If a loan period rather than a permanent move is required, it should certainly be Premier League teams looking to take advantage.
Karim Rekik's form for PSV, on loan from Manchester City, has seen him in the Dutch national squad this season.
Whether centrally or on the left side in defence, Rekik has shown the capability to step up and be an important player, even still as a teenager.
Rekik could do worse than to find himself a Premier League club for a loan spell next term, to add to the handful of appearances he made in England both at City and on loan at Blackburn.
Our final out-on-loan player is Tiago Ilori, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Granada in Spain.
The Liverpool centre-back performed well, either side of a frustrating spell out injured, and won plaudits for some of his resilient performances despite his young age.
At 21 years of age, Ilori could well feature in the Reds' squad next season, but if the club want him to get regular game time then a host of Premier League clubs should be offered his services.
We'll finish up with three players who have only just departed the Premier League scene—but not by choice. And the league should want them back, immediately.
Gary Medel was one of Cardiff's better performers, mixing his aggression and tenacity with good technical and tactical performances. He's a better player than Cardiff were as a club, in truth, and though his capture was a coup for them, he should be snapped up by a bigger club in the Premier League this summer.
Norwich City's relegation means Nathan Redmond's spell in the top flight lasts a single season, which was more than enough time to show what he could be capable of.
One-dimensional at times and with not enough end product, Redmond's slight failings can be largely attributed to the dross around him and the stunted, unambitious tactics of his side.
He was a clear stand-out for the club in the first half of the season and will have learned a lot about playing in the top flight. He won't cost an awful lot, has great pace and is a homegrown player—it would be a huge surprise if he didn't have offers to move back up this summer.
The same goes for Steven Caulker, our final player.
Another one relegated with Cardiff, Caulker has shown himself to be on the verge of being an England international, something he'll surely become when established at a bigger team.
He has plenty of good attributes that he can improve on further with more time, but the 22-year-old is clearly too good for the Championship and should be looking to make an immediate return to the Premier League.