Top 25 January Transfer Window Targets: Torres, Muntari, Forlan, Bale and More
When the transfer window opens at the start of January, plenty of managers will be attempting to sign new players to strengthen teams that have perhaps been under-performing or plagued by injury. Maybe there's a new owner ready to splash the cash on players previously out of their price range, or perhaps a wanted player has become available.
Whatever the reason, here is a list, in no particular order, of the top 25 transfer prospects for the midseason transfer window.
Larsson's deal only runs until the end of the season, and Brimingham will be looking to renew the influential midfielder's current deal. Both West Ham and Blackburn are reported to be interested in the midfielder, who may have to be sold in January if a new contract for Larsson isn't agreed upon.
Having made over 170 appearances for Birmingham, Larsson has proved to be a very capable right winger, and he could be a good addition to newly wealthy Blackburn Rovers. West Ham, who are stuck at the bottom of the league, are in desperate need of any new players they can get their hands on. Larsson's set pieces and ability on the right wing could be crucial in helping West Ham avoiding the drop.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder is a potential target for Manchester United, as they look to appease Wayne Rooney in the wake of his contract saga. He is also a reported target of Liverpool.
Standard Liege expect to lose their captain, with Defour saying: "I know that Manchester United are monitoring me. If everything goes well and I continue playing as I am, there is a better chance of me leaving than there was at the start of the season."
Defour is untested in the Premier League but is highly rated and may be available for around £12 million, something of a bargain for a club that has Rooney on £250,000 a week and John O'Shea at £80,000. The deal may be financed by selling Darren Gibson and Michael Carrick.
Averaging more than one goal every two league games for Wolfsburg, including five goals in five games this season, Edin Dzeko has become hot property with several big sides, including the two Manchester sides and Bayern Munich, said to be interested in the Bosnian striker.
Dzeko is reported to prefer a move to an Italian club, with Juventus and AC Milan reported to be suitors. He still has two and a half years left on his contract, and Wolfsburg will be less than willing to let go of their stars, especially given that Wolfsburg are currently eighth in the Bundesliga—a situation that probably won't be improved by losing the 24-year-old Dzeko.
Having been one of the first names on the team sheet last season for Manchester City, Shay Given must be pretty upset to have lost his berth to Joe Hart. With Hart showing that he is more than capable of being City's first choice between the posts, Given may well need a new club if he is to get week-in, week-out football.
In many people's opinions, Given is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. Plenty of teams could use a new goalkeeper, and it is rare for such a high-quality player to be in such desperate need of a new club. He could be something of a bargain for any top level club in any league. There are certainly at least a couple of top-level clubs that could use Given; I don't think he'd mind playing for them either.
Liverpool's goalkeeper is reported to be unsettled at Anfield due to the lack of on-pitch success in recent times. The lack of big-name signings over the summer, as well as the restrained policy the new owners seem to want to pursue, may well have got Reina thinking about a move away from Anfield. With Edwin van der Sar in probably his last season at Old Trafford, Sir Alex is said to be very interested in signing the Spaniard as his replacement.
Reina has spent five years at Anfield, playing over 50 games every season and racking up 126 clean sheets in the process. Still only 28, Reina has plenty of goalkeeping left in him and will want to be playing for a top-level club if he is ever going to unseat Iker Casillas as Spain's first-choice goalkeeper.
Ghana's powerful midfielder is struggling to get game time under Rafa Benitez, and if the situation remains unchanged come January, Muntari could be on the way out of Milan. Muntari has said that he will do everything he can to get back into the first team at Inter but has said he "will talk around January" about a potential transfer if he has been unsuccessful.
Muntari has already spent a season in the Premier League at Portsmouth, where he was influential in Pompey's FA Cup triumph under Harry Redknapp. It is now thought that the Tottenham manager would like to bring one of his former stars to his latest team.
Redknapp already has plenty of options in the midfield department, but a player or two could be sold in order to finance a deal that could be fairly costly. Muntari's exit from Inter could be aided by the fact that Benitez will have to "sell to buy" during the January transfer window.
Everton are interested in taking Muntari on loan, a deal that might interest Muntari as he would get game time at Everton and maybe show Benitez that he is worth a starting berth back at Milan.
Still only 21, Gareth Bale has been a familiar name for a few years now. It took Bale 24 Premier League appearances and two years before he was on the winning side of a league game—a record he finished after he came on as an 85th-minute substitute.
Since then, Bale hasn't looked back. This season he has been particularly impressive; having moved to the left side of midfield he has so far scored six goals, including a hat trick in the Champions League against Inter Milan.
This form, and the fact that he can play at either left midfield or left back, has got some big names interested in him. The main potential suitor is Manchester United. The Rooney situation means that United are likely to be more proactive in the transfer market, and Gareth Bale would be a potential replacement for some of the older United midfielders.
Afellay hasn't signed a new contract at PSV and his current deal only runs until the summer. Afellay will therefore be available in January, as PSV don't want to lose a player who would otherwise demand a large fee for free come the summer.
Even if he doesn't move in January, teams can sign him to a contract that begins when his current deal with PSV expires. Manchester United, Liverpool, Atletico, Barcelona and Valencia have all been linked to the winger, with Barcelona and United looking to be the most likely destinations.
Bastian Schweinsteiger can play anywhere in midfield and has endless supplies of energy—qualities that have made him invaluable to both Bayern Munich and Germany. The same qualities have also created demand for him among many of Europe's highest profile clubs.
Schweinsteiger has a contract that only runs until June 2012, and Bayern are trying desperately to get him to sign a new deal. He may want out though, as the success of last season hasn't been matched so far this year as Bayern are currently 11th, 12 points away from first position.
Chelsea and Manchester City were repelled over the summer, and both may renew their interest. Real Madrid may well be looking to add to their German contingent, and United could be interested as well.
Daniel Alves only arrived at Barcelona in 2008, but he could be moving on if the Catalan side fail to meet his wage demands, which according to Alves is some way away from happening.
As it is, Alves has a contract that runs until 2012, and Barcelona are thought to want to extend the deal until 2015. If that doesn't happen, Alves claims that there is interest from the Premier League, but he hasn't specified, saying that it is "up to my representative."
The 27-year-old right back has been impressive for Barcelona, especially going forward, where he provides plenty of assists and even the odd goal and spectacular free kick.
Any top side would be lucky to have him, and although the move is unlikely to happen in January, you never know in the mad world of football.
The 31-year-old Uruguayan striker shot back to prominence courtesy of an incredibly productive World Cup that saw him lead his side to the semifinals. He won the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament, scoring five goals in the process.
His performance led to him being one of the hottest names during the summer transfer window, but he chose to stay put at Atletico. However, there are rumours that the striker is unhappy in Madrid, with Liverpool cited as a possible destination if Fernando Torres departs, with Tottenham and Inter other possible destinations.
Forlan flopped while at United, managing just 10 goals in 63 appearances. Since then, however, he has found greater success, contributing 69 goals in 109 games for Atletico. Despite his lack of success, Forlan said that he enjoyed his time in England and would be open to a return.
After suffering an injury that left him sidelined for almost two years, Milito has struggled to nail down a first-team place. Perhaps because of this, Barcelona are looking to offload the 30-year-old.
Barca are preparing to offer the centre back to Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool as they attempt to raise funds to bring in new players. He has played just twice this season, a situation that looks like it is unlikely to change if he remains at Barca.
As long as he doesn't suffer the same sort of injuries, his hard work and ability to be in the right place at the right time could be of immense value to either Arsenal or Liverpool.
The 23-year-old striker has constantly been linked with a move to the Premier League, with all the top clubs involved. His incredible return of 49 goals in 48 club games last season even led to the Ajax player being touted as a potential replacement for Wayne Rooney. However, he may be heading to Spain to play for Madrid in a move that some have speculated he would prefer.
A move to Real Madrid would add to an incredible front line that already boasts the likes of Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
Liverpool's star striker can't be happy with the situation at the Merseyside club at the moment. Liverpool are at the wrong end of the table and have been suffering from some severe off-field issues. Although those issues have now been resolved, the new owners have made it clear that there won't be a Chelsea-style eruption of signings. Instead, an Arsenal style of financial management looks likely, with value for money being key.
Such a strategy isn't likely to bring rapid success. The prospect of a return to the Champions League looks unlikely for Liverpool, and even qualification for next season's Europa League is in doubt.
Despite being short of form, Fernando Torres is still one of Europe's leading strikers. He cannot afford to be playing for a club that may well not be in with a chance of winning a trophy for some time. As demonstrated by the speculation over the summer, Torres is a popular player among Europe's leading managers. Any club would be more than happy to have him, and if Torres wants out, plenty of other clubs will want him in.
Closely linked to Luis Suarez's potential transfer to Madrid is Benzema's move away from the Bernabeu. If Suarez does move to Madrid, Benzema may well be surplus to requirements. This could lead to a tussle among some of the Premier League's biggest teams as they try to land a player who has flopped in La Liga.
He has also been linked with a move to Serie A, with Inter and Juventus possible destinations.
Benzema has said that he doesn't wish to leave Madrid, but he may be given no choice if he is used as a make-weight. He has featured rarely under manager Jose Mourinho, and a move away might suit him regardless of whether or not Suarez, or any other striker, arrives. He has managed just 10 goals in 43 matches since moving to Real from Lyon, and a fresh start could reboot his career.
The 17-year-old striker has been described as the next Didier Drogba and could well ignite a bidding war between the likes of Chelsea, Inter, Tottenham and Arsenal.
After 13 matches this season for Anderlecht, he already has seven goals, while last season he netted 19. Not bad for somebody who still goes to school.
His brother, who plays for the Anderlecht youth academy, could also be part of any potential deal, with both Mourinho and Arsene Wenger interested in signing the siblings.
The real Didier Drogba has called Lukaku to tell him to sign for Chelsea, while Tottenham had a bid of £17.5 million turned down over the summer. Lukaku may not be on the move until the end of the season, as he wants to finish school in Belgium. However, if a large enough offer is made, he may be finishing school early.
The latest Brazilian sensation seems to be Ganso. The attacking midfielder turned down a new contract offer from Santos that has got Manchester United and Chelsea interested.
He is said to be more of a talent than Neymar, whom Chelsea pursued over the summer. Reports suggest that Manchester United didn't go after Neymar as they wanted a clearer run on Ganso if he became available.
Manchester City are also said to be interested in the latest player to come off the Brazilian production line. Although untested in the Premier League, he isn't cup-tied as some of the more established European names would be.
He plays in a style similar to that of Kaka and was called up to the Brazilian national side after their disappointing World Cup.
The German centre back was subject to plenty of speculation over the summer, with a possible move to Arsenal in the cards. The same rumours have resurfaced, with the potential price thought to be at around £14 million.
Alternatively Manchester United may make a bid for the 26-year-old as they look to strengthen their defence. Rio Ferdinand's injury issues, Chris Smalling's lack of top-level experience and the club's recent pledge to sign top players make a move for Mertesacker possible.
Mertesacker is happy at Bremen, but his contract only runs until 2012—and a big money move to Old Trafford would be hard to turn down. He may not move until the summer, but a bid in January could be successful. Even if it isn't it might still unsettle Mertesacker and give a summer bid a greater chance of success.
Roque Santa Cruz
Manchester City paid £17.5 million for Santa Cruz in June 2009, but he has hardly featured for City, scoring just four goals in 23 matches.
Having played only once this season, manager Roberto Mancini has now said that Santa Cruz is free to leave in January. Fulham are interested in signing the striker; he has already played for Mark Hughes at both Blackburn and Manchester City. Hughes also tried to sign him on loan in the summer, a move that could have provided Santa Cruz with a chance to prove his worth to City.
Now it looks like any potential move will be permanent. So far, only Fulham have expressed an interest, but more clubs, such as Aston Villa, are reported to be interested in a player who could be available relatively cheaply.
The Paraguayan striker has netted 61 times in 90 games for Benfica and is now been touted as a possible addition to the Liverpool squad. With a good record in terms of goal-scoring, Cardozo could be just what Liverpool need as they look to recover from a disastrous start to the season.
At 6'3" tall, he is an imposing player who could fit in well with Fernando Torres. He isn't the highest profile name and isn't worth a massive bid—something that would go down well with Liverpool's new owners.
He is valuable to Benfica and may not be for sale; his goals were invaluable as Benfica won the Portuguese league last season, and he could help them overcome a four-point deficit to climb back to the top of the league.
The Argentinian striker has been impressive since arriving at Lyon in the summer of 2009. He was named player of the season for the French league, scoring 15 goals in the process. He can play as a striker or as a winger.
Juventus may try and sign the striker, with Liverpool also in the running. Equally, Atletico may make a bid to sign the Argentinian if a replacement is needed for Diego Forlan.
Considering that Lyon paid €24 million for him just a year and a half ago, it seems unlikely that they will want to let him go for anything less than that. With interest from multiple clubs, Lyon could well receive offers that are hard to turn down.
The French centre back has become a regular under new coach Laurent Blanc but hasn't been having such a good time of it at club level. He is no longer an automatic starter under Claudio Ranieri, and with less than a year left on his current deal, he could be moving away from Roma.
Liverpool have been leaking goals, and Roy Hodgson is reported to be interested in signing the Frenchman. AC Milan and Juventus are also thought to be monitoring his situation, but Mexes has expressed a desire to play Premier League football in the past before so Liverpool may have an advantage.
Mexes is dependable and experienced at the top level and should be able to fit in to any new team with relative ease.
The 22-year-old Chilean right back impressed at the World Cup and has now attracted the attention of Manchester United. United need a new right back, with Gary Neville not what he once was. Isla can also provide cover across the whole back four and right across the midfield as well.
Udinese are currently bottom of Serie A, and a move to Manchester United must seem especially attractive given the situation of his current club. Udinese will probably accept an offer, as they are suffering financially, and Isla is likely to want to leave if United are prepared to act on their interest.
Explosive pace and fantastic close control, as well as a good eye for goal, Alexis Sanchez is a player with huge potential. At just 21 years old, he still has plenty to learn and will need to improve his scoring record before he can be considered an out and out striker.
His fantastic ability has got Manchester United interested, as well as newly rich Malaga. With Udinese struggling, a move to Manchester could be the best way for the Chilean to further his career.
With winger Valencia out for much of the season, United could use another pacey winger, while his ability to play as a striker could also come in handy.
Blaise Matuidi is attracting interest from a variety of clubs, including Juventus, Arsenal, Liverpool, Sevilla, Valencia and Borussia Dortmund.
Matuidi has stated that he would prefer a move to the Premier League as it would suit his style of play more than the Italian and Spanish leagues. Arsenal targeted the defensive midfielder last summer, and with Matuidi looking set to leave Saint-Etienne, Wenger may want to renew that interest before he is snapped up by any of the other suitors.
Matuidi was handed has international debut against Bosnia and Herzegovina in September. A move to the Premier League might help him further his international career, especially in the wake of France's World Cup failure.