It’s that time of the year again. It’s a time when football players become the commodities and clubs become the traders – the summer transfer window is here. A few clubs enter the market to strengthen their squad, to make a marquee signing for increasing their fan-base/shirt-sales; while others enter to auction their prized possession to the highest bidder. The other players part of this highly lucrative game, apart from the usual suspects, are the negotiators (read agents) and the speculators (read media).
TheHardTackle tries to look beyond the hype and find just the right player needed by the four English clubs, before the world forgets about this intriguing aspect of football, dons its national colours and focuses on South Africa. Here are the missing pieces of the Jigsaw Puzzle.
Puzzle One: Chelsea
The English Champions from West London do not need to break the bank, at least not now. With UEFA’s directive pertaining to the Champions League participation looming large and the club overshooting its 2010 deadline for achieving self-sustainability, it needs to show some restraint. That’s exactly what has been the philosophy for the past few seasons – Chelsea has not been the big bull of transfer market ever since the 30 million Ukrainian failed in the premier league. They are now even looking to cut down on their wage-bill. All these developments point to a reasonably calm summer.
Carlo Ancelotti has won the double in his first season in English football, so the monkey is off his back. The club will be patient with him, ergo he can try-out the youngsters at his disposal, for an year. Depending upon how Kakuta, Borini, Sturridge, Stoch, Matic, Bruma and Van Anholt fair in the coming season, a plan can be drawn on restructuring the team. Everyone’s in a dilemma regarding Chelsea’s priority now – an attacking midfielder or a striker. After an year, the club would be in a better position to take a call – if a young midfielder successfully graduates to the first team, then the club can purchase a striker or vice-versa.
TheHardTackle’s Missing Piece(s): Two invaluable signings – Patience and Persistence (No high-profile signing, but the scenario can change if a first-team player is sold).
Puzzle Two: Manchester United
When Karim Benzima turned down Sir Alex Furguson’s offer and moved to Real Madrid last summer, not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that it would cost him a place in France’s World Cup squad. If one wrong decision derailed his career, a right one can put him back where he belongs. Last season, in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Man United’s attack looked toothless. The other options in their armoury are not United material – one is an eternal crook and the other has failed to take his chances.
Players like James Milner and David Silva have being linked with a move to Manchester, but Karim Benzema should be a priority this season. Giggs and Scholes can support others like Gibson, Fletcher, Nani and Valencia in the midfield for at least another year. Benzema and Rooney can form a devastating partnership and the young Frenchman can also operate on his own, in his partner’s absence.
Moreover, by giving Higuain a contract extension, Madrid have made their intentions known and they may offload Benzema to United at a discounted price.
TheHardTackle’s Missing Piece: Karim Benzema
Puzzle Three: Arsenal
It’s time Le Professeur realises that even if he manages to convince his captain to stay put at the Emirates, he would just be delaying the inevitable – Cesc Fabregas’ home-coming. The Spaniard would leave, if not now, then in a couple of years, to reunite with his childhood sweetheart.
Arsenal should extract as much cash as possible from Barcelona and utilise the money for strengthening its team. They have Nasri, Ramsay and Wishere to take over from Cesc, so Arsene Wenger should ideally invest in a young and talented goalkeeper like Lyon’s stopper Hugo Lloris. He wouldn’t come cheap as is the case with all good things in life. Moreover, Arsenal’s French Connection will help here.
TheHardTackle’s Missing Piece: Hugo Lloris
Puzzle Four: Liverpool
Rafa Benitez has left, but if Liverpool are to challenge for silverware next season, the club has to ensure that no Anfield icon – Torres, Gerrard, Reina or Mascharano – follows him out of Merseyside. This should be the top priority of the management, other than finding a decent manager and signing a striker of considerable quality.
There’s a striker who was once rated as the next big thing in world football, when he used to score goals for fun while playing for Ajax. He moved to Real Madrid but as is the case with majority of recent Madrid signings, he had to move to AC Milan, to salvage his declining career. He still has a decent goals-to-matches ratio and a move to Liverpool may just reignite his career. Liverpool should hunt The Hunter.
TheHardTackle’s Missing Piece: Klass-Jan Huntelaar
These are not predictions, nor are they the only signing required by the clubs in question, but they certainly are the most critical pieces missing from the puzzle.
Chelsea may still sign Kun Ageuro, but the best way would be to hold Real Madrid to ransom if they come looking for Ashley Cole. The important point here is sell to buy.
Man United may decide to persist with Berbatov as Rooney’s partner and sign David Silva, which would not be such a bad move, only if the Bulgarian can force himself to finish the chances their midfielders are bound to create.
Arsenal may not buy Lloris and settle for a lesser alternative, but this again would be a compromise and may hurt them in the long run.
Liverpool may still lose Torres, Gerrard or Mascharano to the Spanish Armada; if that happens, then not even Rijkaard and Huntelaar can guarantee Champions League to them.
Here’s hoping better sense prevails and the English teams utilise this transfer window to good effect, rather than shooting themselves in the foot. After all, who wouldn’t want the Premier League to regain its lost aura?