La Liga Transfer Gossip: FC Barcelona's January Shopping List
With the recently agreed deal to sign Dutch international Ibrahim Afellay from PSV Eindhoven confirmed to go through on January 1st, attention now turns to the other potential targets for Barca during this upcoming transfer window.
Despite this summer's financial troubles and subsequent financial loans, Barca still appears to have money to spend, something that was evidenced by their summer-long pursuit of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.
While Fabregas remains a target, this list takes a look at the other players who may have caught the eye of the decision makers at Camp Nou.
(There may be more added to the list in coming weeks, so feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section.)
Patrice Evra (Manchester United)
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Likely Cost: €35m
Evra is a truly elite full back, with many believing him to be the best left back in the world, or at the very least a close second to Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.
After a troubled summer as captain of France’s disastrous World Cup campaign, (the fallout of which sees him currently serving an international suspension) Evra has returned to his top form at club level in the past few weeks.
Born in Senegal, the much travelled Evra lived in both Belgium and France before beginning his playing career in Italy, but since moving from AS Monaco to Manchester, he has looked at home in the English Premier League.
Evra has been instrumental in everything United have achieved in recent times, winning three league titles and a Champions League crown during his almost five years at the club.
Likelihood of Signing? In January? 1/10 Next summer? 5/10
The French international would certainly interest Barca were he to become available. While the club are well stocked with left backs in the form of Eric Abidal, Maxwell and Adriano, none of them are close to the level of Evra.
The English press has speculated recently over Evra’s desire to leave United and move to either Barca or Real Madrid, something the 29-year-old refused to comment on in post match interviews last weekend. A move in January seems near impossible given Evra’s importance to United and their hopes of domestic and European glory.
Beyond that, it’s certainly a possibility, especially if Evra is intent on moving to Spain.
Look out for further speculation in the summer, with Barca also able to offer one of their own left backs in part exchange, although there would almost certainly be stiff competition from Madrid were Evra to become available.
Yann M'Vila (Stade Rennais)
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Likely Cost: €20m
The defensive midfielder is fast becoming one of the hottest properties in European football with his performances for both club and country. Six feet tall and powerfully built, M’Vila is improving with every passing month and has reportedly attracted the attention of most of Europe’s top clubs.
Such is his importance to Rennes that the club have extended his contract twice in little over a year, a rapid rise for a player who only made his first team debut in September 2009, but is now the jewel in the crown of a side which is competing at the top of Ligue 1.
M’Vila is far from your typical 20-year-old footballer; married with two children, he is mature beyond his years, something that translates into a tactical intelligence on the pitch that few players his age possess.
M’Vila is at the forefront of a new generation of French players who Les Bleu’s supporters are hoping will lead the national side out of the troubles of the last few years.
Likelihood of Signing? In January? 2/10 Next summer? 4/10
Barca are always in the market for the most talented young players in world football, particularly those who have already displayed the technical qualities and tactical intelligence that would suggest they could fit into the club’s system. Yet while M’Vila’s ability is not in question, the problem with any potential move for the Frenchman is that in new signing Javier Mascherano and manager’s favourite Sergio Busquets, the club already possesses two high quality defensive midfielders.
Were M’Vila available at the right price, it is possible that Barca could be interested, although the recent improvements made by Mascherano and the emergence of talented youngster Thiago Alcantara mean that any move for M’Vila is far less likely than it would have been six months ago.
Javier Pastore (Palermo)
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Likely Cost: €40m
Another player who has had a huge year in 2010, the young Argentine is a highly gifted playmaker whose technical brilliance and creativity have brought him a host of suitors from across Europe. It is less than 18 months since Pastore moved to Italian club Palermo as an inexperienced youngster, but right now he is one of the hottest properties around.
Pastore usually operates as the creative spark behind Palermo’s front two, but this season has developed a real eye for goal, with his seven goals in 12 games so far putting him amongst Serie A’s top scorers.
Far from a typical Argentine playmaker, at 6’2”, Pastore can dominate opponents physically as well as technically and has every attribute necessary to succeed at the top level.
Likelihood of Signing? In January? 1/10 Next summer? 6/10
The links between Barca and Pastore have been frequent in both the Italian and Spanish press since the summer, with Pastore either inviting Barca to make a bid, or reaffirming his commitment to Palermo depending on who you believe.
One thing is for sure, if Barca are to sign Pastore, they will have to part with big bucks, as the youngster price tag seems to rise every time he takes to the field. After establishing himself in Argentina’s national squad, Pastore has shown himself to be one of Serie A’s top young stars so far this season and recently scored his first career hat-trick in Palermo’s local derby against Catania.
Barca will be counting on Pastore’s relationship with close friend Lionel Messi and international captain Javier Mascherano to put them in pole position for the midfielder, with Real Madrid and AC Milan also strongly linked. Palermo chairman Maurizio Zamparini has claimed Pastore will only leave the club for €70m, although the outspoken Italian has a penchant for outlandish claims, particularly when it comes to the value of his playing staff.
A move in January seems unlikely, particularly with Pastore’s price tag and the imminent arrival of Ibrahim Afellay, but next summer will likely be an eventful one in the Argentine’s future. Barca will have to weigh up whether to pursue Pastore or return with a bid for Cesc Fabregas, as signing both seems out of the question financially, but if they don’t act fast then they may miss out on one of the most talented youngsters in world football.
Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao)
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Likely Cost: €36m (buyout clause)
Llorente was already a very good player, but this year is one of La Liga’s most improved players, with his performances for both club and country becoming increasingly dominant. The 25-year-old is fantastic in the air, perhaps predictably given his height (6’5”), but also has great technical qualities and is now deadly in front of goal.
Llorente was far from prolific in his early career, but has reached a level this season where he is expected to score every game, something he is not far off of at the moment, with his nine league goals so far leaving him as La Liga’s third top scorer behind Messi and Ronaldo.
He is a rarity in La Liga; a forward who wins the aerial battle against most defenders but also possesses the pace and trickery to beat them on the ground. Now that has learnt to harness those abilities and produce his top form on a regular basis, it appears the time has come for Llorente to make the step up to one of Europe’s top clubs.
Likelihood of Signing? In January? 2/10 Next summer? 6/10
There seems little doubt that Llorente would be a real asset to the Barcelona squad; the 6’5” hitman possesses great technical and physical attributes allied to a work rate and team ethic that would see him fit in well at Camp Nou. Llorente has the potential to provide everything Barca hoped for from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, without the ego problems and occasional lack of effort that saw the Swede’s spell at Barca end so quickly.
It also quite possible that at the right price, Barca would be very interested in the forward, but what is less clear is whether they will pursue him as aggressively as Real Madrid are likely to, or who Llorente is likely to choose if offered the choice between the two clubs. Jose Mourinho is rumoured to be interested in a ‘true number nine’ in the mould of previous favourite Didier Drogba, a forward who can offer something different to Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema.
Be prepared to see Spain’s two biggest clubs battle it out for Llorente this summer, and be prepared for a sizeable transfer fee, with the Basque club determined that their star player will command a huge fee. Were Llorente to leave, his departure would shatter the club’s record sale, with whoever signs him likely to have to pay somewhere near his buyout clause of €36m.