EPL: Top 10 Transfer Window Rumors of the Week
This week, the frantic Christmas football schedule kicks off in the Premier League.
With 20 teams wrestling for points and seeking morale-boosting victories, next month's transfer window may prove crucial to determining which teams can push on for the title or to escape relegation, and which teams will be left behind in the cold.
Last season, January was an unusually quiet month, with only defenders Chris Smalling and Younes Kaboul making big-money moves, to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.
However, the marketplace seems to be more stable currently and there are several teams poised to make the first move.
In the following slide-show, I highlight ten transfer deals mooted last week in the British press, discuss their credibility and the impact each move may have. These are sorted in reverse order, based on the potential values of each deal.
10: Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy to Birmingham, Loan)
With 19 goals in 28 matches in last year's MLS, USA striker Buddle, 29, is seen by Birmingham City manager Alex McCleish as a potential solution to his team's goalscoring problems.
Last week, the Midlands club welcomed the international to their training ground on a trial, with a view to a loan move in the off-season. Although City refused to confirm whether there would be any further developments, it is clear that the prolific goalscorer, who made two substitute appearances at this year's FIFA World Cup, could do no worse than current forwards Cameron Jerome and Nikola Zigic.
Transfer Value: N/A
Move Potential: 6/10
9: David Beckham (LA Galaxy to West Ham United, Loan)
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David Beckham's move to American football was met with some derision and much skepticism.
Why did a world superstar, who still had the ability to make a positive contribution to most of the greatest European football teams, move to a weak MLS competition where he would surely be frozen out of international football?
Was it to re-build the profile of football Stateside? Was it a financial decision? Was it so that his wife Victoria could crack the lucrative American market as a celebrity and fashion designer?
Whatever the reason, he has eventually made a success of this move and his profile remains strong, his public image largely untarnished and, last season, led LA Galaxy to the top of the league and the Supporters Shield.
Having been pictured eating pie and mash and eel in his favourite East End London takeaway and reiterated his desire to return to England to play football, the international football press have linked him with a move to struggling club West Ham, who would relish his experience, pedigree and professionalism.
Value: N/A (possibly wage contributions)
8:Steven Sidwell (Aston Villa to West Ham United)
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Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy has today told the Express and Star newspaper that he is disappointed to have missed out on signing former Chelsea midfielder Sidwell.
Apparently, the player still owns a house in London and is keen to re-locate to the capital to help West Ham United out of their quandary.
''I'm disappointed because he's an experienced player and he would have been good for us," said McCarthy, whose own team is also struggling against potential relegation to the Championship.
With Gerard Houllier replacing Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa this season, Sidwell seems to have been given the cold shoulder at Villa Park, but would still bolster the Hammers' midfield and is a value-for-money at £3 million.
Value: £3 million
7: Michael Johnson (Manchester City to Liverpool)
22 year-old English midfielder Michael Johnson's short but promising career has been hampered by a recurring abdominal injury, and then a serious knee injury last December, from which he has only just recovered.
Unfortunately for the Mancunian, the football club has evolved quickly in that time and he now finds himself at the back of a long line of talented midfielders including James Milner, Nigel de Jong, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure.
Nevertheless, beleaguered Liverpool coach Roy Hodgson thinks that Johnson could add youth and vibrancy to his midfield - especially as Dane Christian Poulsen has failed to impress and Steven Gerrard is still not fully fit.
Value: £4 million
6: Kenny Miller (Rangers to Birmingham City)
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With 47 goals in 78 starts for Rangers, 12 goals in international football and at least three years of top-level football to offer, Scottish forward Miller has plenty to offer to any Premier League club seeking a bit of brains and know-how.
One such club is Birmingham City, whose Scottish manager is very aware of Miller's capabilities. And if the former Celtic, Derby and Wolves player feels fed up of life north of the border and wants one last chance to finally prove he is good enough to make an impact on English football, he may be tempted to make the move to the Midlands.
With Scottish football struggling with its finances, Rangers will demand a lot of money to release their best player, but Brummie owner Carston Yeung has enough in his coffers to back his manager here.
Value: £5 million
5: Robert Huth (Stoke City to Liverpool)
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Hodgson is clearly looking for more recruitment after he virtually admitted that ex-Chief Executive Christian Purslow may have been speaking sense when he suggested at the start of the former Fulham manager's reign at Anfield that he needed to replace some sub-standard stars if Liverpool was to achieve success.
Stoke City's German centre-back Robert Huth is known for his no-nonsense physical approach to defending. He can be expected to shore up a vulnerable defence in which Sotirios Kyrgiakos has failed to find his feet.
Given that the Potters paid Middlesbrough £5 million for the tall defender, Liverpool will need to offer his club a decent return on their investment.
Value: £7 million
4: Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur to Aston Villa)
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Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is resigned to losing talisman club captain and record Irish goalscorer Robbie Keane next month, but is talking up his worth in a bid to garner enough money for any move to strengthen his squad in other positions.
''He is a boy who has played all of his career...and would still grace most Premier League clubs,'' Redknapp added.
Now 30 years old and at his seventh club, Keane will need to consider the long-term implications of any move, but he did prove in his spell with Celtic last year that he still has the skill to fire a team to success. His confident and lively character is a valuable quality.
Value: £8 million
3: Scott Parker (West Ham United to Tottenham Hotspur)
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This is one of the most popular stories circulating the British press.
However, there is bad blood between the two clubs following Tottenham's announcement that they have also submitted a bid to occupy the new Olympic Stadium after 2012, despite its location in the east of London, West Ham's traditional stomping ground.
And Hammers boss Avram Grant has reiterated Parker's crucial role to the team remaining in the Premier League.
Although Spurs have a clear need for a battling midfielder who can break up the play and get up opponents' noses, they may need to look elsewhere. Club chairman Daniel Levy is unlikely to meet West Ham's financial demands and it is also questionable whether the Englishman would actually improve a team that is already a dark horse for the league title.
Value: £12 million
2: Andy Carroll (Newcastle United to Liverpool)
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Former Irish striker John Aldridge is a legend at Anfield, having scored 63 goals in 104 appearances and led the team to an F.A. Cup trophy and the First Division title.
Now he has called for the club to sign another burly striker who is quickly becoming an icon on the other side of Britain, Geordie Andy Carroll. His sparkling form has led to an international call-up at the tender age of 21.
With just the perennially injured Spaniard Fernando Torres as the club's only good forward, the club must focus on recruiting a player with presence and an eye for goal.
Carroll is already a good player and has the potential to form a brilliant partnership with Wayne Rooney up front for England. The fact that he has huge resale potential is another bonus in case the move does not quite work out.
However, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley would be signing his own death note if he even contemplated any deal offered by the Reds.
Value: £15 million
1: Eden Hazard (Lille to Arsenal)
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Last week, Lille's Belgian midfield sensation Eden Hazard stated that he is now ready to move to a bigger football club, having rejected the opportunity to move abroad last year.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be encouraged that the 19 year-old suggested that he would carefully consider any proposal from the Londoners, pointing to the club's record in nurturing young talent into superstars by giving them more playing time.
Although his record in French football of one goal every eight games does not suggest he is particularly potent, statistics do not explain the full story. Hazard, recently compared to Lionel Messi, has skill and speed in abundance and is still very young.
Although he would be a fantastic addition for any club, would Arsenal be prepared to part with a large amount of money to buy another attacking midfielder given that they already have Andriy Arshavin, Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott on the books?
Value: £20 million