Squad turnover to continue at Eastlands?
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There is clear progress being made at Manchester City under Roberto Mancini.
Striker Mario Balotelli recently said that the current Eastlands forward line of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and himself (naturally) is the best in the world.
Better than Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain at Real Madrid, and better than David Villa, Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez.
Now a strikeforce with Lionel Messi and I would probably be one of the best in the world, and I’d collapse with a stitch after 10 minutes.
Nevertheless, I am still reluctant to disagree with Balotelli just yet as I believe Carlos Tevez is the best striker in the Premier League at the moment.
Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba are not playing anywhere near the heights they reached last season due to various reasons, while the top goalscorers at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are midfielders.
Dimitar Berbatov may lead the charts with 14 goals alongside Tevez, the fact that 10 of the Bulgarian’s goals came in 260 minutes at Old Trafford against Liverpool (3), Blackburn (5) and Sunderland (2) make the Argentine the more consistent performer.
Similarly, Balotelli has a fine record for City himself – and is backing up his own gloriously arrogant words with box office performances.
He has scored a Premier League goal every 117.4 minutes this season according to Opta statistics, and though of course it is early days, that is better than Thierry Henry’s record of a goal on average every 122 minutes – the best in the division’s history for players who have played more than 1000 total minutes.
Provided he develops in the right way and cuts out the petulance, Balotelli could be quite some player indeed.
I will reserve comment on Dzeko until he has played more games, and I will not dispute Balotelli’s claim until I have seen Manchester City’s strikeforce against the best teams in Europe.
It certainly looks as if they will qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season at the very least, and a title challenge cannot be far off.
Could a few players help Manchester City to the next level – that of regular trophy challengers on all fronts?
Certainly Manchester City are not far from the finished product – but there will still be some sales of some of the dead wood, and some purchases to replace them.
Here are ten potential transfer targets for the club for the January window and beyond – with the fine line between realism and fantasy most certainly crossed.
1. David Luiz
It is difficult to find many weaknesses in Manchester City’s team, and squad as a whole.
Roberto Mancini has mostly shored up the back line, with clean sheets at the likes of the Emirates Stadium and Old Trafford, but seems unsure of his best selection defensively.
Vincent Kompany has generally proved the best of the Man City defenders this season – a calm presence able to step up the physicality when required – but there are question marks over who should partner him.
This naturally leads to speculation that the best option may not be currently at the club.
Benfica central defender David Luiz is a wanted man, with Chelsea also interested in the dreadfully coiffed Brazilian – and most probably favourites.
With the club having won 12 of their 16 games so far this season and conceding less than a goal a game with seven clean sheets in their run, the 23 year-old Luiz’s stock is rising.
Unfortunately for prospective buyers, Benfica are loathe to let their man go, and the €40m (around £33.9m) price tag on his head is rather a lot for a player who is yet to be tested in one of the top European leagues or truly at international level.
Of course, there are two rather good footballers called Pepe: Udinese’s right Italian international winger on loan at Juventus, and the Real Madrid centre half.
It is the Portuguese international at the Santiago Bernabeu that is being linked with Manchester City, and it would be an unusual move for a number of reasons.
Players rarely seem to leave the big two La Liga clubs of Real Madrid and Barcelona at their peak unless they are surplus to requirements.
They run their contracts down to leave on a Bosman even less frequently, but that is what Pepe is threatening to do at Real Madrid.
Having given up a large amount of his salary to sign for the club in July 2007 to help fund the move, the 27 year-old remains one of the lowest paid players at the club on approximately £29,000 per week.
Big money to me and you, but loose change to a footballer, and Pepe is reportedly questioning why he has not been brought in line with the pay of the rest of the first XI at Real Madrid.
3. Daniel Carrico
Another central defender, Daniel Carrico plies his trade at Sporting Lisbon, who are third in the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
Manchester City have watched the player for the last year, and have certainly been considering a move, but there are some factors stopping them making an immediate move.
Carrico is 22 years of age and 6’0 tall – not huge for a centre back. He undoubtedly has potential, but the asking price of £14.4m seems a little steep for a player with no international caps – even for the limitless resources of Manchester City.
It remains doubtful whether he would be a more useful option than the likes of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott.
4. Cristian Zapata
Udinese defender Cristian Zapata is a better bet.
Not only is he capable of playing at centre half, but he can also fill in at either full back position – and the 24 year-old is comfortable using either foot.
Zapata is 6’2″, and a very good player on his day, but his team had a poor season in 2009-10, finishing 15th.
They are having a more encouraging charge this time around and sit in 8th, but Pepe is easily the most proven of the prospective central defender signings – if also the most senior at 27.
5. Sergio Ramos
As stated above, it is very rare for a player to leave one of the biggest clubs in the world at their peak – much less when it is either Real Madrid or Barcelona, but rumours are rife Sergio Ramos has also demanded to leave the Spanish capital after a row with Cristiano Ronaldo in training.
This naturally harks back to when the Portuguese winger had a bust up with Ruud Van Nistelrooy when both at Manchester United, and it appears that like Sir Alex Ferguson did back then, Jose Mourinho has taken Ronaldo’s side.
The 24 year-old Ramos can also fill in at centre back if required, but is better used out side.
A world class right back, Ramos has won the European Championships and World Cup with Spain in the last two international tournaments, and Manchester City may deem his availability as too good an opportunity to miss out on.
Perhaps David Silva, who rivals Carlos Tevez as Manchester City’s player of the season, can put a good word in?
6. Daniel Alves
Dani Alves is a similar option to Ramos at right full back, in that he can cover the whole of the flank at will – a precedent that fellow Brazilian Cafu laid down.
27 years of age, Alves is sturdy in defence in the rare moments he has to help out, but a quite brilliant attacking threat – contributing more goals and assists than is usually expected from a wide defender.
Alves is in a contract dispute with Barcelona that has dragged on for over 12 months, and with Manchester City less than delighted with their options of Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng and seeing Pablo Zabaleta more as a utility player for contingency, they are sure to be watching Alves’ situation carefully.
7. Yoann Gourcuff
If there is another area that Manchester City have room for improvement, it is in terms of creativity.
Yaya Toure was generally utilised at Barcelona as a spoiler, and was even used at centre back at times. For Manchester City to use him as their furthest forward midfield player does strike as odd.
The younger Toure brother is undoubtedly an excellent player with great strength and driving runs, but if City are to unlock defences such as Manchester United’s and Arsenal’s away from home (they don’t seem to struggle with Chelsea’s), they could certainly benefit from a more creative player there.
Toure could then rotate the holding midfield roles with Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong.
Yoann Gourcuff is one such creative player, and though he has failed to make the impact expected either when transferred to AC Milan or internationally with France, there are signs that he is now ready for his big move.
The 24 year-old midfielder was thought by many to be the natural heir to Zinedine Zidane for Les Bleus, but certainly has competition from Arsenal player Samir Nasri thanks to his stellar performances.
A similarly vital role for a title challenging team in the Premier League would certainly aid Gourcuff’s case for selection.
8. Javier Pastore
Another option in that position would be Javier Pastore.
Pastore is an Argentine attacking midfielder, but is not built like the short and stocky Diego Maradona, Sergio Aguero or Lionel Messi.
The 21 year-old Palermo ace is 6’2″, and would certainly be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League, but his physique does not mean he lacks the flair of those players.
Far from it.
Pastore is constantly employing tricks, flicks, backheels and nutmegs successfully, and is one of the most highly coveted young talents in Europe.
Palermo president Mauro Zamparini said he turned down a €25m offer from Barcelona in the summer, and the Catalan club have yet to come back with an improved offer.
Manchester City may well do.
9. Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale lit up the eyes of the European elite with his UEFA Champions League displays against reigning title holders Inter Milan towards the end of last year, and ever since then Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has had to stave off a host of enquiries about the talented Welshman.
Manchester City of course are interested.
“Last year Bale had already proved his value and now he has improved, so you’d need a lot of money to sign him,” said Roberto Mancini in December.
“He will be our strongest target – if Tottenham decide to put him on the market in the summer.”
Let’s face it: Tottenham Hotspur are not going to ‘put Gareth Bale on the market’, but Manchester City could instead make them an offer they cannot refuse of a huge amount of cash.
10. Andres Iniesta
Andres Iniesta is Barcelona through and through, but that didn’t stop reports circulating late last year that Manchester City were to make a €100m bid – equivalent to around £84.7m and comfortably shattering the world record transfer fee of Cristiano Ronaldo.
It almost certainly won’t happen, but the Ballon D’Or runner up would offer City brilliant passing, dribbling, vision and technique.
As great as it would be to see Iniesta in the Premier League, I wouldn’t put money on this one.
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