IN FOCUS: JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW
WITH THE SEASON MID-WAY THROUGH, SOME PLAYERS HAVE BOOSTED THEIR REPUTATIONS, WHILE OTHERS HAVE FOUND THEMSELVES SURPLUS TO REQUIREMENTS. GREG MURRAY PICKS OUT ONE OF EACH FROM EUROPE’S TOP FIVE LEAGUES.
The live-wire winger has been amongst the top players outside the top six for the past three seasons, and has been almost single-handedly dragging Crystal Palace up the table at times. An ill-fated move to Manchester United back in 2013 has dissuaded suitors in recent years, but Zaha has moved on from the 20-year-old that struggled to fit into the post-Alex Ferguson era. Should a big club to make a move this winter, they would be getting an electric, exciting winger who got nine goals last term, despite his club breaking the record for the worst start to a season.
Drinkwater’s move to Chelsea in the summer of 2017 reeked of a panic-buy at the time, and there has been little evidence to the contrary since. The Premier League winner with Leicester can be forgiven for visions of re-uniting with his former teammate N’Golo Kante, with the duo’s partnership for the Foxes earning both players plaudits. However, the English midfielder has failed to establish himself under both Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, and recently has been touted for a move to West Ham, or to re-unite with Claudio Ranieri at Fulham.
A perhaps slightly more controversial inclusion in the list given Marco Verratti’s Paris SAINTGERMAIN are top of Ligue 1 and qualified for the Champions League knock-out stage. However, for a man previously described as the next Andrea Pirlo and the future of the Italian national team, the diminutive midfielder has failed to take his game to the next level. This is not to say that the former Pescara man is not a top-level player, but for whatever reason, be it dearth of competition, managerial instability, or a lack of emphasis on transitional play, Verratti may be better off taking his talents elsewhere, with Juventus harbouring a long-term interest.
A far less surprising mention goes to Lyon’s
Fekir, who saw a move to Liverpool fall through over the summer, reportedly on medical grounds. The versatile attacking player has failed to quite replicate the goalscoring form that saw him notch 18 strikes in Ligue Un last season, but has continued to impress in the Champions League. Despite the French side’s stellar performances in the European competition, their business model relies heavily on the selling of star players, with Alexandre Lacazette, Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso and Michael Essien all coming through the Lyon talent factory. As Liverpool are still sniffing around, Fekir’s name may soon add to the list of Lyonnais alumni.
The Borussia Dortmund winger is an interesting case, as he has found himself on the sidelines having starred last season for the Bundesliga heavyweights. The emergence of Jadon Sancho, who has made the left flank his own, has made Pulisic old news at the club, at just 20, and limited him to sporadic League starts this season. Blessed with blistering pace and lethal in a one-on-one situation, while willing to work hard on the pitch, the American winger would be an ideal fit for the Premier League, and has recently been linked with Chelsea.
James Rodriguez’s career trajectory hasn’t quite gone in the direction that many predicted when the midfielder burst onto the scene at the 2014 Brazil World Cup. A move to Real Madrid that summer saw the Colombian struggle to break into the first team, overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, leading to a two-year loan move to Bayern Munich last season. However, with the Bavarian club unlikely to exercise their option to buy, Rodriguez will be looking for yet another move and another new start this summer, and will certainly attract attention from the world’s top clubs.
One of the lesser known names on the list, Barella came up through the Cagliari youth system before breaking into the first team in 2014. Since then, the diminutive midfielder has become one of the hottest prospects in Italian football, making his debut for the Italy senior side this season, aged just 21. Comparisons to Andrea Pirlo fail to represent Barella’s dynamism, with his playing style more akin to a young Steven Gerrard than any of his legendary Italian compatriots. The Sardinian native has made no secret his desire to move to the Premier League, although he may benefit from experience with a bigger Serie A club before he makes the switch.
Candreva has been a victim of Inter’s recruitment policy, with the Milan club’s purchases of Keita Balde and Matteo Politano leaving the former Lazio man down the pecking order on the right wing. Far from a fan favourite, the Italian international did his reputation little good by failing to score for Inter last season, despite making 36 appearances, not to mention playing a key role in Italy’s failed World
Cup qualification campaign. With his 32nd birthday approaching, Candreva has lost the pace that made him a star in Rome, and only has a few years left at the top level. However, the Coppa Italia winner offers top-level experience, not to mention a real threat from set-pieces, and, with a point to prove, would be a valuable addition were he to move.
Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, better known as Isco, is a bizarre case, as he fits both into the categories of a top-level player, but also one that has lost favour at his club. With Real Madrid currently a team in transition, Santiago Solari has placed his faith in Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez on the wings over Isco, leaving the Spain international side-lined. Aged 26, the attacking midfielder should be entering his prime, and will want to be the first name on the team sheet, although due to Madrid’s strong financial position, a reported $800m release clause means it will take a massive offer to prise him away from the Champions League holders.
Another relatively unknown quantity, the Celta Vigo player has attracted the interest of a number of foreign clubs for his impressive performances this season. Mendez, who can operate on either flank and through the centre, is at his best cutting in from the right wing, utilising his thunderbolt of a left-footed shot, which has also seen the Spaniard pose a threat from setpieces this season. Far from a traditional winger, Medez is a physical presence, convincing Leicester City to reportedly make an inquiry for a January transfer.
Could Marco Verratti benefit from leaving Paris Saint-Germain? Marco Verrattihas failed to take his game tothe next level’
Crystal Palace would hate to lose Wilfred Zaha in January
A move from Borussia Dortmund would give Christian Pusilic a fresh start
James Rodriguez’s future at Bayern Munich remains unclear‘James Rodriguez is looking for yet another newstart’
Real Madrid’s instability has been bad news for Isco