Gareth Bale and the 25 Most Wanted Players in World Football
As the transfer rumors begin circulating once again, it's easy to get a grasp of which players have managed to catch the attention of major clubs throughout the world, and which player's talent and work ethic are bound to pay off for them sometime in the near future.
Europe's biggest teams have their eyes on a quite a few names these days, either preparing bids for January, or keeping tabs on them for sometime in the future.
Every manager has their wish list, and powerful owners and board members are like parents trying to decide which items to get the kids for Christmas—without missing the electrical bill.
Just like how every year you see all of those lists of most wanted toys and gifts for the holiday season, this is the world's wish list for footballing talent.
These are 25 of the most wanted players in world football right now.
It seemed certain that Gary Cahill would be on the move during the summer months, but nobody quite met Bolton's demands for the coveted defender before the deadline.
That means that Cahill is still on the market, with it still being common knowledge that he could move for the right price.
Interest has expanded out of England now, too. Inter Milan and Barcelona are both rumored to be interested in adding him to their ranks come January.
An attacking midfielder with an edge, Marek Hamšík caught the attention of Manchester City after the club's clash with Napoli in the Champions League earlier this season.
His forward-thinking style of play and impressive skill set will have had a number of other clubs keeping tabs, as well.
Widely considered to be the best young Slovakian footballer in the modern game, Hamšík has been linked to a possible move to Manchester United for months. And in the summer months, Arsenal strongly considered trying to make him the heir to Cesc Fabregas when the captain left for Barcelona.
Don't get me wrong, I know that the rumors of David Beckham's return to European football are largely based in pure speculation at this point in time. However, there's so many of them that I couldn't leave him off the list.
The biggest rumor right now is that PSG is closer than we all thought to signing the LA Galaxy star when his MLS contract expires.
Tottenham Hotspur and QPR have been heavily linked as well.
Mateo Kovačić has drawn a lot of praise in his young career, being called (at just 17 years old) the "Croatian Lionel Messi" and "the next Luka Modric."
Time will tell if he truly has it in him to develop into a player that can live up to such compliments, but a lot of clubs would like to find out.
Kovačić has said that he's happy to stay with Dinamo Zagreb for now, but anyone his age would surely be tempted when clubs like Manchester United, Juventus and Arsenal come knocking.
Chelsea's legendary striker may have fallen down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, and has yet to sign a new contract to keep him at the club that's defined his career.
Though age may be a concern to some onlooking parties, the Ivory Coast international has given plenty of reason over the years to think he might be worth a look if he's available. And it's looking like he might be.
Bayern Munich and Inter Milan are believed to be interested in Drogba's services, but other rumors have ranged from Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal to a number of smaller leagues still in development.
Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic has stated that he'd like to move to one of Europe's bigger clubs while he's at the peak of his game, and that's really all it takes to get some heads turning.
Handanovic earned the starting role at Udinese in 2008 after several loan spell, and has since been the club's go-to man for the job. Not to mention his regular starting position for Slovenia, who gladly took him with them to the 2010 World Cup.
Arsenal were supposedly interested in the keeper during the summer, but AC Milan have expressed interest as well.
At 16 years old, Caen striker M'Baye Niang is one of the youngest first-team footballers in the modern game, but he's already finding ways to beat experienced defenders and find the back of the net.
With plenty of skill to his name, and room for development, many clubs are viewing the lad as a very promising prospect to fill long-term needs. Clubs are more than willing to take him off of Caen's hands and continue his development for their own benefits.
According to reports out of France, Niang's talents have caught the attention of four big name English sides: Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester City, all of whom could make a bid this January.
Leandro Damiao is off to another great start for his Brazilian side SC Internacional, and every big club looking to add a quality striker to their ranks is keeping close tabs on him.
Tottenham Hotspur were chasing the 22-year-old over the summer months, but never managed to reach an agreement. Since then, Liverpool ramped up their interest as well.
But the English clubs will have some stiff competition, as Inter Milan and Barcelona are said to be interested and perhaps willing to pay big bucks to get him on board.
Riccardo Montolivo's contract with Fiorentina is set to expire at the end of the season, a fact that has been of a great deal of interest for certain big-name clubs, particularly in England.
The Italian midfielder has never been one to post extraordinary statistics, but that's not why the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United are interested. Rather, it's his ability to control the pace of the game and unselfish nature with the ball.
He's also extremely versatile, while at his best when pressing forward, he also adds a defensive spark to any midfield.
Leading the EPL in goals scored over the course of a season is certainly an achievement, but you have to do it with a bit more consistency than Dimitar Berbatov did to maintain a starting spot on the roster. Especially if you're playing for a side as loaded with talent as Manchester United.
Out of favor, overpaid and warming the bench, it's no secret that United are probably going to offload the Bulgarian sometime soon.
His success in England last season, a true testament to his skill or not, has convinced many clubs that they should be at the front of the line when United do decide to let him go.
Tottenham Hotspur were rumored to be interested in buying him back, given their need for a long-term striker solution. But Valencia and PSG seem to be the front-runners, with PSG looking to have an edge.
After recording 25 goals in 32 starts to help Lille win the French Ligue 1 title last season, Moussa Sow has become a hot commodity on the transfer market—at least in England.
Though Sow has had a much slower start to the new season than last year's campaign, he's still proven himself to be a quality goal-scorer that Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are all interested in adding to their rosters.
After the summer window closed, rumors began circulation that Inter Milan and Sevilla are hoping to win him over, as well.
Gareth Bale was one of the biggest breakout stars of last season after Harry Redknapp moved him up from the left-back position. Turns out, the Welshman is a bit rubbish in the defensive line, but spectacular in his attacking game.
The debate over whether or not Bale is overrated at Tottenham is one of the fiercest I've seen in modern discussions. But in any case, his sheer speed down the touchline has been incredible, along with almost everything he does with his left foot, even to those who think he leaves a bit to be desired.
But hey, if he is as overrated as some critics have insisted, maybe Spurs would be better off selling him before Chelsea, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid (all reportedly interested) figure that out.
Lucas (Rodrigues Moura Da Silva)
While Lucas may not be quite ready for a move to Europe, having stated that he's happy at Sao Paulo at the moment, his performance at the most recent Under-20 World Cup turned some heads.
Lucas proved that he's quick with the ball and demonstrated some of the most impressive footwork at a youth tournament in recent memory. There's also still plenty of time for further development.
Liverpool, Tottenham and Inter Milan have all been tracking the 19-year-old since the tournament. However, Roma has recently been rumored to be in talks with Sao Paulo for his signature along with, of course, Real Madrid—who seem to be involved with every rumor out of Brazil these days.
There's little doubt that QPR fans are in love with Adel Taarabt after he helped them secure promotion into England's top tier. But recent drama at Loftus Road, and player feuds between him and teammate Joey Barton, have led some to suspect that he might be ready for a move.
That's good news for those who have noticed Taarabt's speed and skill on the wing, and hope to lure him away. If he does move, a transfer to much bigger organization than modern-day QPR is almost certain.
Clubs reportedly interested in the Moroccan include Arsenal, Roma, PSG and Lazio.
Last month, Montenegro winger Stevan Jovetić delayed talks with his current club Fiorentina in the hope of securing a move away. The move quickly sparked the interest of a number of sides throughout Europe.
Jovetić did eventually sign new papers that would keep him with the club until 2016, but some organizations are still hoping to buy him out of it.
Jovetić has been very talented in his position since joining Fiorentina in 2008, and Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have all taken notice.
Chelsea in particular seems motivated to do whatever it takes to bring him to Stamford Bridge.
Another young prodigy, this time from Ajax. Christian Eriksen has played a pivotal roll in the Eredivisie side's midfield, helping the club win their first domestic title in seven years. He already has 18 senior-squad international appearances with Denmark to go with that accomplishment.
Along with Liverpool and AC Milan, Arsene Wenger is reportedly under pressure to try to secure his transfer in order to help his ailing Arsenal squad.
But, even with all of the interest, Eriksen has insisted that the only club he'd leave Ajax for is Barcelona.
Lille midfielder Eden Hazard is one of the most sought-after players in the game right now, with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool rumored to be keeping a close eye on him.
It now appears that Real Madrid might be interested, as well.
After being named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year twice in a row, and helping Lille win the domestic title in 2010-11, the big clubs are taking notice. It certainly helps that he's currently leading the league in assists, as well.
Before the commenters get started on how Wesley Sneijder is happy at Inter Milan and probably not on his way out, rest assured that I already know that.
If I were a betting man (and I am, actually, so there you go) then I'd say that Sneijder probably isn't leaving anytime soon.
But this isn't about whether or not he's going anywhere. It's about whether or not teams are hoping he will. And boy, are they ever!
Though the front-runner in the efforts to lead him away have always been Manchester United, plenty of other clubs would love to get in the effort as well. Although, with the sort of wages that Sneijder commands these days, many clubs would struggle to write that paycheck every week.
Over the summer, Manchester United and Chelsea both expressed interest in Luka Modric, hoping to lure him away from Tottenham. United eventually dropped out of the race and focused their attentions elsewhere, but Chelsea most certainly did not.
The sheer amount of attention that Modric got from this one lone club is enough to land him on a list of most wanted players in Europe.
The Blues just wouldn't take no for an answer, and incrementally increased their bids for the midfielder, eventually reaching astronomical figures, right up until deadline day. All the while whispering in his ear promises of higher wages and champions league football just to stir up drama.
With an expired contract looming on the horizon with Barcelona, Éric Abidal has suddenly become one of the most sought-after defenders in the game.
He's currently in talks to renew that contract and stay in Spain, but has noted interest from Manchester City, PSG and AC Milan as well.
I think it's pretty clear where Abidal wants to be (right where he is), but you can't blame those other teams for dreaming.
Robin Van Persie
Whether Robin van Persie is really leaving Arsenal or not is still up for (surprisingly heated) debate. But, when there's even the slightest hint of a player of his caliber preparing for an exodus, the big clubs start lining up.
The Dutch striker has said that he would like to remain in the Premier League, but that hasn't stopped Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus from keeping tabs on the situation at Arsenal.
The most probable destination seems to be Manchester City, who seem to think that they can get former teammate Samir Nasri to convince RvP to ditch London and head north.
There may not be much of a chance that Manchester United is willing to give up their Mexican star so soon after landing him in 2010. But there are plenty of teams that would love to have a striker of his talent in their ranks nonetheless.
Still, few players have seen such a sharp increase in value over so little time, so there's always a chance that United could look to cash in for the right price.
The highest rumored price thus far has been £30 million, which is supposedly what Real Madrid is willing to pay to lure him out of England. That's more than four times what United paid to Chivas.
19-year-old Mario Gotze has been called, more than once, the next Lionel Messi (or Bundesliga's Lionel Messi). Those comparisons may be a bit premature, but there's no doubt that the lad has skills.
Gotze already has a domestic title under his belt, as well as Champions league experience and is a recent breakout star of the Germany national team. He has a way of making the ball stick to his feet that rival's the world's best.
Manchester United and Arsenal are interested in the youngster, but Inter Milan and Real Madrid are keeping tabs as well.
As recently as this week, Neymar's current club Santos continues to insist that the Brazilian prodigy will remain with them until his contract expires in 2015. Many of us aren't quite sure about that, though.
There's no doubt that Neymar will eventually end up at one of Europe's top clubs. The only questions are when, and which one?
At 19, the kid already has the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and many more scrambling for his signature.
"Wanted" doesn't even begin to describe the amount of attention he's getting from Europe right now.
You would think, after the stunt Carlos Tevez pulled at Manchester City in the middle of a Champions League match, that the Argentine striker's career in Europe would be all but over.
But big clubs are always looking for a bargain when they can get one, and Roberto Mancini effectively lowered the market price for Tevez by millions when he told the whole world that he wants the man gone.
Suddenly, Carlos Tevez is one of the most wanted players in all of football, as manager after manager convince themselves that his talent would be worth dealing with that attitude every day.