World Football Transfer News: 20 Most Wanted Players
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As the January transfer window approaches, the world's elite clubs will be plotting the next moves to help them push forward with their respective projects.
For example, Real Madrid have the so-called Operation 2014, whereby they plan to buy the world's best young stars and thus have more value for the big bucks they pay, and for once have players who will have exceptional re-sale value—all important with UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.
Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, are looking for global superstars to improve their brand equity and accelerate their projects financially, and as a direct result later on the pitch, too.
The same goes for clubs in Russia, the United States and the Middle East, with team owners hoping more players will follow the likes of Asamoah Gyan in seeking a luxurious lifestyle more than anything.
Then there are teams like Chelsea, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Juventus looking to plug gaps in their respective sides to give their performance on the pitch that extra boost that has been somewhat lacking lately.
All the while, clubs such as Arsenal and Bayern Munich, which have no particular squad issues, do have money to burn and are seeking to sign the right superstar for the right price in order to take them to that next level they strive to reach.
And lastly we have the likes of Napoli and Newcastle United, clubs that are suddenly doing well again and now fancy a chance at reliving past glories, hopefully with the right signings to help make that dream happen.
So with all that in mind, here are the 20 most wanted players in world football right now.
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Montpellier HSC centre-back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, 22, may not be the biggest superstar to get this list under way, but he's a talent who's been lighting up Ligue 1, shining brightest in a surprisingly talented Montpellier side this season.
He's been heavily linked with a move to Premier League surprise-package Newcastle United, while there have been rumours on fan forums that Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich may also be interested, with Liverpool fans expressing their interest in the player, hoping Kenny Dalglish will snap him up.
He was also linked with Arsenal in the summer.
And it's no surprise given his immense reading of the opposition's game and ability to intercept play, as well as his versatile style in being able to start play from the back like a classy defender, or adopting a more no-nonsense, clear-the-lines approach.
Read more on this burgeoning superstar here.
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Following the sales of Alexis Sanchez, Gorkan Inler and Cristian Zapata, many worried how Udinese would cope in Serie A this season.
They needn't have been concerned, with Antonio Di Natale maintaining his sparkling form, along with Samir Handanovic, Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah.
However, the one player who has been the most instrumental to the team is their answer to Nemanja Vidic—Mehdi Benatia.
Tackling? He's one of the league's best. Interceptions? Again, one of the best. Headers? Same again, one of the best. Clearances? The best.
Fittingly enough, Manchester United see the 24-year-old as a potential replacement for Vidic (or Rio Ferdinand), having been linked with the Morocco international.
Trouble is, Chelsea see him as the successor to John Terry, while Juventus also want him, along with Real Madrid and AC Milan, supposedly.
Back in March, then-Gunner Samir Nasri publicly pleaded with boss Arsene Wenger to sign him for Arsenal. Considering the defender is now worth around £15 million, perhaps Wenger should've listened to Benatia's best friend.
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Like Montpellier, Borussia Monchengladbach are one of Europe's surprise teams, currently sitting second in the Bundesliga, level on points with leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund.
As a result, world football is starting to take a lot more interest in their burgeoning talents, with one of the best ones being Patrick Herrmann.
The 20-year-old, who is an established Germany U-21 international, has been linked to Arsenal, Napoli and Juventus, and it's clear to see why.
The playmaker has a great eye for the clinical pass, making three assists this season, and creates on average three clear-cut goalscoring chances every four games.
Herrmann has been called the next Andres Iniesta, and such comparisons could well be on the mark in the future, with his potential clear to see, and noticed, by all in world football.
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Whilst Patrick Herrmann has shown great potential, the real star of the Borussia Monchengladbach show is of course Marco Reus.
We're all starting to know him as a household name in world football, and here's why.
He's scored 10 goals in 14 Bundesliga games this season for one of the league's minnows, winning a whopping six man-of-the-match awards in those 14 matches.
He's an all-around great team player, winning on average 2.4 tackles per game, and also makes 1.2 key interceptions per match.
He creates 2.6 clear goalscoring chances per game for teammates, has put teammates through one-on-one six times this season, and is the best ball-carrier in the league, completing four dribbles per match.
Marco Reus is undoubtedly one of the most complete players in Germany at the moment, all at the age of just 22.
So that's why he's been linked to Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, amongst others.
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Marco Reus is one of the Bundesliga's most complete players, Borussia Dortmund star Mario Goetze is the most complete.
And Goetze is three years younger than Reus, a league champion and an established international in the senior Germany team, already winning 12 caps at just 19 years old.
Hence why Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich have all been linked with him, probably amongst many others.
We all know how good he is, so I'm going to stick my neck on the line and say this—Mario Goetze will be the best footballer in German history.
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It is just not possible to overrate Eden Hazard; the 20-year-old Lille OSC winger is simply that good.
And don't world football's elite know it! Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid have all been admiring his talents like teenage girls at a One Direction concert, while Chelsea and Inter Milan are also getting flirty with the Belgian.
Unfortunately for all those guys, Lille have slapped a £43-million price tag on him.
However, that most likely won't wane the interest from the aforementioned clubs, and will probably get Anzhi Makhachkala excited, seeing as they seem to genuinely love paying huge money for players.
I can't Eden Hazard a guess as to where the young Belgian will end up in January.
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The UK papers reckon Manchester United and Manchester City will fight it out like love rivals over Ajax and Denmark superstar Christian Eriksen, with a price tag of £20 million for his services.
Apparently he's at the top of Sir Alex Ferguson's list, which is why Roberto Mancini wants him as well.
Along with half a million of the other clubs in world football.
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It's no wonder Manchester United are interested in Athletic Blibao's rising superstar Iker Muniain, who has been dubbed the Spanish Wayne Rooney.
Both United and Chelsea reportedly want the £38-million-rated midfielder, with Real Madrid also keeping tabs on the 18-year-old as part of their Operation 2014.
Why is Muniain so wanted? He's only 18, yet has made over 100 professional appearances, scoring 17 goals.
Put it this way: Neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo were showing anywhere near that kind of promise or experience at that age.
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It seems that Arsenal are linked with every young player in world football, with Fiorentina and Montenegro star Stevan Jovetic no exception.
Along with Chelsea and Liverpool, Arsene Wenger is hoping to lure the 22-year-old to his team for £20 million, even if he has signed a new contract until June 2016.
And it's clear to see why. Jovetic has scored five goals in 10 Serie A games this season from the left wing, as well as chipping in with two assists and 1.3 key passes per game, bouncing back after spending the whole of 2010/11 out through injury.
He's also a great ball carrier, successfully completing 2.8 dribbles per game, which is much harder to do in Serie A than most other leagues in Europe.
On top of all that, he's also a decent all-around winger, with good tracking back ability emphasised by his 1.4 tackles won per match.
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Targeted by Manchester United amongst others as a world-class option at holding midfield, Fiorentina enforcer Riccardo Montolivo is a popular man in world football at the moment.
The 26-year-old may have no significant re-sale value and just one big contract left in him, but it's a price worth paying for the Italy star, who's undoubtedly the best in his position in Serie A.
His reading of the game is stellar, as backed up by the 3.3 key interceptions he makes per game, complementing the same amount of tackles he wins during a match.
On top of that, he also has an almost Paul Scholes eye for a pass, hitting on average seven accurate long balls each game, and is the heartbeat of his team at the moment, making the most passes on average every match.
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Like Riccardo Montolivo, Inter Milan star Wesley Sneijder is a huge talent wanted by several clubs in world football willing to pay a huge price, despite the fact that he has no significant re-sale value.
At 27 years old, Sneijder has just one big contract left in his career, but it's a deal numerous clubs are willing to offer him, as everyone knows just how good he is.
Manchester United are apparently set to rekindle their interest with a £30-million move, while cash-rich vultures Chelsea and Manchester City are also circling.
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According to his agent, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, 33, is now at the stage of his career where he needs to get the most money in order to pay his bills.
Hence why he rejected a loan offer from AC Milan.
Anzhi Makhachkala and the Los Angeles Galaxy are interested in the Ivory Coast superstar, with Drogba's global star status making him a marketing dream for any burgeoning club in world football.
As his agent said, teams in Qatar and other rich areas of Asia are also a possibility.
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Like Didier Drogba, Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov has been targeted by football's rising powers more for his potential off the pitch than on it.
The 30-year-old is reportedly a £15-million target for Paris Saint-Germain and Anzhi Makhachkala.
However, given he was the Premier League's top scorer last season with Carlos Tevez, many clubs feel he's worth the money more for his talent on the pitch, hence why Juventus, Valencia CF and Galatasaray are also supposedly keen.
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The 25-year-old impressed in the Premier League last season, prompting Tottenham to make a £13-million summer move for Cahill despite the defender being in the last year of his contract.
And now, despite having only six months remaining, Chelsea and Spurs are back, willing to pay £7 million to get him now before even more world football superpowers chase his signature.
It's no surprise Cahill is in such high demand. He's one of the best centre-backs in Europe for blocking shots and clearing his lines, with such an efficient, no-nonsense approach desired by the more attractive footballing sides in the game.
Click here to read why Cahill is a perfect fit for Inter Milan.
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Heavily linked with Manchester City, and the most in-demand of the Napoli trio that also comprises Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik is a very wanted man in world football.
He's scored three goals this season from just one shot on goal per game, and he makes two key passes every three games. He's also hit 23 accurate long balls from 27 attempted and has the best relative pass-success rate of any Napoli player.
Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are also said to be interested in the £30-million-rated Slovakia international.
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Pele was at it again on Wednesday, bigging up Brazilian talent before then claiming nobody will ever be as good as him, the immortal Pele.
This time he claimed Neymar is "much better" than Lionel Messi.
"Making an individual comparison, I think Neymar is much better, more complete: [he] hits well with both feet, can dribble off either side, and scores goals."
"Messi is very good, but much depends on where he plays. He is doing very well in Barcelona, but [with] the Argentina team, which is not yet fully formed, he has difficulties. Neymar plays well for both Santos and the national team."
While that quite frankly is a total lie, many of world football's elite want Brazil's brightest star, with it widely reported that he's set to join Real Madrid in a £53-million deal.
Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Anzhi Makhachkala have all been linked in the past.
Not surprising, seeing as the kid is only 19 and yet is hugely experienced. He also has colossal re-sale value and even bigger on-pitch potential, having scored 80 goals and made 39 assists in over 150 professional appearances.
And of course, he's also won a staggering 15 caps for Brazil already, and even better has scored eight goals. One thing is for sure, he's not overrated.
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To put how good Neymar is into perspective, another Brazilian striker, Leandro Damião, has won fewer caps than Neymar and thus scored fewer international goals, and has also made fewer professional appearances as a footballer and scored fewer career goals, despite being three years older.
Nonetheless, Damião is one hell of a striker, having scored 40 goals in 51 games this season for Internacional, including 17 goals in 13 games in the Campeonato Gaucho.
And such form has attracted a supposed £40-million interest from Shakhtar Donetsk, while Premier League sides Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are also keen, along with Dynamo Kiev, Juventus and AC Milan.
However, it appears that La Liga giants FC Barcelona could be the front-runners for his signature, with the striker's agent having a "productive" meeting with Barca president Sandro Rosell.
In any case, if one thing's for certain, it's that Leandro Damião is a very wanted man in world football.
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While Chelsea have been credited with an interest in Juventus winger Milos Krasic, it's Manchester United who are seemingly most keen on him, with Borussia Dortmund having also been linked.
It's hard to see why this season, with Krasic struggling to make an impact or get much playing for the Bianconeri. And at 27, the Serbia international is a player who hardly has any re-sale value.
He was in sparkling form for a lot of last season in Serie A, which could explain continued interest, along with the fact Krasic is one of the most flashy and exciting players in Europe, as this video shows.
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Lukas Podolski is finally good again. Well, in club football anyway—the former Bayern Munich man has an annoying habit of raising his game when playing for Germany.
The FC Cologne striker has scored nine goals in 12 Bundesliga matches this season and has also made four assists. Not bad for a team languishing in mid-table mediocrity.
And it's such form which has seen Arsenal linked with a £20-million move for the 26-year-old, while Tottenham Hotspur (presumably because of the Gunners' interest) and Lazio also want dibs on the German forward.
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There's a strong case for Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez being possibly the most annoying, unwanted and physically repulsive man in world football at the moment.
However, that doesn't seem to have stopped a load of Serie A clubs lurking around in football's back alleys, making eyes with Tevez and propositioning him.
Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have also been mooted as possible candidates for signature.
Strange for a man who demands £250,000 a week not to play football.