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August 28th, 2013 by Michael Cox
While some transfers have rumbled on all summer, and clubs have had a particular player lined up for months, other players are very much ‘up for grabs’ – often because they’re set to become surplus to requirements following other big moves, and need to play regularly ahead of the World Cup.
So, while we all know Gareth Bale will shortly be joining Real Madrid, the future of many other players is much more uncertain. Here are ten top-class footballers that could make a surprise move in the final week of the transfer window…
Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid
Spending €85m on Gareth Bale represents a significant risk by Real Madrid, but even an even greater risk is marginalising – and perhaps losing – their most creative midfielder. Over the last five seasons (two at Werder Bremen and three at Real Madrid) no player has recorded more assists than the German, and in one sense, buying Bale and losing Ozil would be classic Real Madrid: turning to a finisher at the expense of a selfless facilitator.
Ozil’s defining features are his brilliant appreciation of space and his decision-making – few players make such intelligent runs, or are so perfect for counter-attacking football. Aside from a Bayern Munich side overloaded with attacking midfielders, every club in Europe should be chasing him.
Samuel Eto’o, Anzhi
Signed as the world’s highest-paid footballer two years ago, Anzhi’s sudden financial crisis means their entire playing staff is up for grabs – with Chelsea chasing both attacking midfielder Willian and veteran striker Eto’o.
In truth, the Cameroon striker’s spell in Russia has been steady rather than spectacular – there’s a sense that he’d achieved everything he wanted in club football, winning back-to-back trebles with Barcelona and Inter, and was happy to move for the money. His success at a future club would depend primarily upon his motivation and appetite for the game.
Having excelled under Jose Mourinho at Inter (often in a wide position) the obvious options are a return to the Nerazzurri, or being reunited with Mourinho at Chelsea.
Juan Mata, Chelsea
One of the first notable stories from Jose Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea was the suspicion that Mata wouldn’t play a major role – and having played just 65 minutes in the opening three league games of the season, it seems Chelsea’s best footballer over the past two campaigns could leave the clun.
Supposedly, Mata’s style of play doesn’t fit with Jose Mourinho’s insistence upon defensive structure and counter-attacking, although it’s somewhat difficult to believe that he wouldn’t adapt. One wonders whether there’s a more personal reason for Mourinho’s distrust in him – because of his friendship with Real Madrid players Mourinho fell out with, perhaps?
Regardless, Mata is another who should be attracting the interest of every club in Europe. Arsenal, who attempted to sign him back in 2011, and Tottenham appear likely bidders.
Adem Ljajic, Fiorentina
The Serbian playmaker is one of the more intriguing footballers in modern football. Over the last three years, Ljajic has endured a mini-breakdown after his proposed move to Manchester United fell through, been criticised for playing too many video games, eating too much chocolate and not cutting his hair by one manager, been punched after being substituted by another coach, and been dropped from his national side for not singing the national anthem.
Amongst these problems, Ljajic is a tremendously exciting attacking midfielder who drifts across the pitch creating overloads and playing one-twos with other attackers. Roma seem in pole position to sign him, but knowing Ljajic, there’s some late drama to come.
Fabio Quagliarella, Juventus
The archetypal scorer of great goals, rather than a great goalscorer, Quagliarella has found himself marginalised at Juventus following the arrival of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez. Quagliarella is versatile enough to play in conjunction with either, but Juve simply have too many options upfront, and need to get one of their strikers off the wage bill.
West Ham and Norwich seemed his most likely Premier League suitors, but realistically Quagliarella could do better – Shakhtar Donetsk have reportedly taken an interest in signing him, and the Italian deserves a move to a Champions League club. Whoever he moves to, Quagliarella guarantees about ten goals a season, of which one will be a Goal of the Season contender.
Christian Eriksen, Ajax
Continuously linked with a move away from Amsterdam over the past three years, Eriksen has grown from a promising but raw playmaker into a dominant number ten who can simultaneously dictate the rhythm of the game, and provide the difference in the final third.
Ajax are a selling club, of course, and the Dane’s versatility and maturity means he should adapt well wherever he moves – rumours suggest he turned down a move to Zenit recently, and a switch to the Premier League makes more sense. Liverpool have been interested but would be unable to compete with new favourites Tottenham, given their Bale money.
Victor Moses, Chelsea
Perhaps not considered in the class of other players on this list – nevertheless, Moses’ ability shouldn’t be judged simply by his Premier League form, but also by his displays at international level. At the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, Moses was arguably the standout player for Nigeria, the eventual champions – proving he’s capable of leading a side, as well as being a decent squad member.
Chelsea’s continued pursuit of other attacking midfielders suggests Moses is up for grabs – he’s the type of player suited to a loan, perhaps another Premier League side.
Iker Casillas, Real Madrid
When Casillas was dropped by Jose Mourinho last season, it was widely assumed to be solely based around their personal dislike of one another, and Real Madrid’s captain expected to be reinstated immediately after Mourinho’s departure.
However, Carlo Ancelotti has continued to favour Diego Lopez – a very talented goalkeeper in his own right, and a player signed while Casillas was injured, rather than as a back-up. It seems inconceivable that Casillas would sit on the bench for the duration of a season immediately before the World Cup, and if he’s desperate to make the squad, he might have a desperate fight to secure a move before deadline day, perhaps on loan.
Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle
Strongly linked with Manchester United and PSG before last weekend’s controversial bid from Arsenal, there’s a good chance the French midfielder will be playing his football away from St James’ Park this season.
A decent all-round midfielder sometimes seen as a creator, but with a tendency to put in particularly hard tackles, Cabaye is unlikely to be the star man for a Champions League club – but would certainly be a reliable squad member, capable of playing alongside a variety of tactical options. Arsenal still seems most likely, but PSG could do with a player in his mould, too.
Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid
Di Maria is often viewed as a pure winger, but he’s naturally a deeper, more responsible player. He made his name at Benfica on the side of a midfield diamond, played in a similar role for Argentina at World Cup 2010, and was used by Jose Mourinho in a deeper position than Cristiano Ronaldo or Mesut Ozil – a midfielder rather than attacker.
Di Maria is another whose future depends upon Bale’s move being completed – and another who can’t afford to sit on the bench ahead of the World Cup. A move to the Premier League beckons, although he would provide Ancelotti with a more selfless alternative to the shot-obsessed Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, and could stay in Madrid.
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