Craig has been watching South America’s best (for the most part) strut their stuff, and a few players could make their way to England sooner rather than later.
This yearâ€™s Copa America has shown the world how football should be played, and no doubt many Premiership fans will be hoping to see some of the stars of the tournament coming to their clubs before the start of the season. With the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City Newcastle, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and West Ham flush with cash there will have been plenty of scouts from England watching. And while Robinho and Messi may be unrealistic targets, these players could all be open to moving to the Premier League.
On to the scouting…
Juan Sebastian Veron (Argentina) â€“ A failure at Manchester United and Chelsea, Veron has a point to prove in England. Now a free agent after his Chelsea contract finally expired. Spent 2 years on loan at Inter Milan, then last season guided Estudiantes de la Plata to the Argentinian Apertura Championship. His form with Estudiantes led to a recall for Copa America and has played a major part in their run to the final. At the age of 32, Veron may want one final contract in Europe before he retires.
Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay & Bayern Munich) â€“ Scored a hat-trick for Paraguay against Colombia as Paraguay cruised into the quarter-finals. Had a very impressive tournament but is surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich after the arrivals of Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Jan Schlaudraff. Still only 25, Santa Cruz could prove a great signing for a Premiership club, and Blackburn, Everton and Birmingham have been linked with a move.
Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina & Villareal) â€“ Words donâ€™t do this player justice. 5 goals and a few more assists already with the final to come, Riquelme has shone on his comeback from international exile. Went to Boca Juniors on loan in January and inspired them to win the Copa Libertadores. Fell out with the Villareal management and is almost certain to leave the club, but Boca canâ€™t afford him so he will probably stay in Europe. Few Premiership clubs play with a playmaker, so Riquelme may prefer to move to Italy or remain in Spain. However a move to one of the big 4 might be hard to turn down. Linked with Aston Villa and West Ham already.
Juan Arango (Venezuela & Real Mallorca) â€“ Helped the hosts through the group stage for the first time in their history and scored in the defeat to Uruguay in the quarter finals. Plays just off the main striker and sets up a lot of goals as well as scoring his fair share. His contract with Mallorca expired this summer, and at the age of 27 he might be looking for a new challenge. Recently obtained a Spanish passport, so no work permit would be required.
Cristian Rodriguez (Uruguay & PSG) â€“ Left winger who shone in Uruguayâ€™s quarter final win against Venezuela. Has the brilliant nickname of â€œthe onionâ€ in Uruguay because he makes the opposition defenders cry. Came into the PSG team in the second half of last season when Paul Le Guen took over, and he was instrumental in keeping the club in Ligue 1. Only 21 and would find a move to England hard to turn down.
Elano â€“ (Brazil & Shakhtar Donetsk) â€“ Scored twice in Brazilâ€™s win over Argentina at the Emirates Stadium playing wide right, but has been used as a central midfielder in Copa America. Plays in a very similar style to his manager, and has been a key part of Dungaâ€™s side during the tournament. The 26 year-old might want to move away from the Ukranian League to further his career, but it would take a large offer to tempt Shakhtar to sell him.
Afonso Alves (Brazil & Heerenveen) â€“ Not been used all that much by Dunga during the tournament, but has shown that he has a game well suited to the Premiership. Alves is a strong striker who is very good in the air and a lethal finsher, but was unheard of in Brazil when he was named in the Copa America squad, having left Brazil at the age of 21 after failing to make the grade. He played in the Swedish League for 4 years before moving to Heerenveen last summer for Â£3m, but was a sensation in Holland, scoring 34 goals in 31 league games. Tipped with a move away from Heerenveen but is unproven at a higher level.
Humberto Suazo (Chile & Monterrey) â€“ Scored twice in the opening game to seal a victory over Ecuador and then scored this sensational goal against Brazil in their 6-1 quarter final defeat. Looks a bit like Ronaldo in his prime and certainly has the same questionable attitude. Recently joined Mexican club Monterrey for just under Â£3m but the 26 year-old looks to be worth a lot more than that and the Mexicans might be tempted to sell if they received a big offer.
Rafael Marquez (Mexico & Barcelona) â€“ Captain of Mexico and guided his side to the semi-final where they lost to Argentina. A superb passer of the ball with a great footballing brain, Marquez loves to move forward out of defence and start attacks. With the arrival of Gabriel Milito at Barcelona, Marquez has been linked with a move away but at the age of 28 he still has a lot to offer. He would strengthen any Premiership side but his wages of around Â£90k a week could prove a stumbling block.
Gerardo Torrado (Mexico & Cruz Azul) â€“ A hard tackling defensive midfielder who was linked with Tottenham a few years back. Would be well suited to the Premiership, Torrado has 70 caps for Mexico. Starred in the 2-0 victory over Brazil and played in all Mexicoâ€™s matches. The 28 year-old has experience in the top European leagues having spent 6 years in Spain before returning home in 2005. Would surely like one more crack at a major European league before the end of career.
Nery Castillo (Mexico & Olympiakos) â€“ Possibly the player of the tournament, Castillo could also have played for Uruguay, Greece and Italy, but finally chose Mexico at the start of this summer. A similar player to Lionel Messi (in height as well as style) but at 23 he is older than the Argentine. Scored 3 goals for Olympiakos in last yearâ€™s Championsâ€™ League and has already been linked with Valencia, Juventus and Arsenal. Almost joined Manchester United on trial at the age of 16, but United ended their interest when he failed to get a work permit.
Cristian Mora â€“ (Ecuador & LDU Quito) â€“ An eccentric goalkeeper who is very athletic and a great shot stopper. Only 24, he played in all of Ecuadorâ€™s matches at the World Cup where he was instantly recognisable by the Ecuadorian flags painted on his face . Saved a penalty from Luca Toni on his international debut and kept 2 clean sheets at the World Cup. Strongly linked with a move to Europe this summer.