Transfer fees keep rising, here is how this summer compares to twenty years ago

How times have changed.
In this summer Manchester city has spent over $300 million on defenders and a goalkeeper. Manchester United has spent over £100 million on two players. Chelsea paid £70 million for a striker who only scored 15 league goals.

If you said that twenty years ago you would have been mocked and call crazy.The numbers today are bigger than anyone thought they would ever be and each summer they keep on rising.To showcase the drastic rise in transfer fees the last 20 years in this article I compared this summer’s transfer window with the one twenty years ago of the 1996-1997 season.

In that summer only three players in the whole transfer window went for over £10 million, now every English team has at least one £10 million signing each summer. The top three leagues spent a combined of £288 million, which sounds about the number Manchester City will end up with this summer. That’s a single team spending as much as 60 clubs did twenty years ago.

Yet, that wasn’t the most shocking thing I found. Here are the top four things that surprise when you look back and compare transfer windows.

Zidane to Juventus for only £3.2 million

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Zidane joining Turin back for only 3.2 Million.(Image: Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane would have been the second cheapest signing in the premier league so far this summer. Besides the free signing and the players on loan, only Eldin Jakupović has come at a lower price. He was named Ligue 1’s Player of the Year for 1995/1996 playing for Bordeaux and France’s Player of the Year for 1996 before coming to Turin. Zidane would finish the year third in the Ballon d’Or and win it the next season. What’s mind-blowing is 20 years ago 3.2 million you could sign one of the best players in the world and today that money only gets you a backup goalkeeper like Jakupovic. If you said that Zidane twenty years from now would actually be worth 100 million you would have been laughed at but you would have been right.

Barcelona’s signing Ronaldo from PSV for a £12.8million fee. (image: Getty Images)

 

Jay Rodriguez cost the same as Ronaldo did

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Jay Rodriguez picking West Brom (images: Getty Images)

In that summer Barcelona paid the second largest transfer fee of £12.8 million for Ronaldo, who was coming off scoring 42 goals in 46 appearances for PSV. He would go on become La Liga’s top scorer with 31 goals and finish second for the Ballon d’Or that season. That is what £12 million got you 20 years ago, now you get Jay Rodriguez. At the beginning of the month, West Brom paid £12 million to Southampton for Rodriguez. Who in his whole career has only scored 26 first division goals, something Ronaldo topped in only one season, and has had chronic knee problems. These problems that have to force the striker to miss 75 premier league games. This is the perfect example of how big the inflation has been. Jay Rodriguez, a middle of the road striker, hasn’t scored more than five goals in a season for three years now. Yet he goes at a rate that only three players went for 20 years ago. £12 million used to buy one the best players in the world in the middle of his prime, in today’s market it gets a 27-year old project that has suffered chronic knee injuries. Something you couldn’t have imagined back then.

31 goals used to cost £15 million now 15 goals cost £70 million

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Alan Shearer signing for Newcastle United for a what was then world record amount of £15million (image: Chronicle Live UK)

Alan Shearer was the most expensive signing that summer when Newcastle paid £15 million. He was coming off scoring 34 and 31 goals in back to back seasons and winning the title with Blackburn the year before. He was 26, right in the middle of his prime, a proven goalscorer and a central part of a championship team. It only made sense he would be the most expensive player that summer. Now compare that to today’s time when a proven 30 goal striker would go upwards of 100 million. Morata just signed to Chelsea for 70 Million having scored only 15 league goals. He was only a rotational player in his club, and while still productive he has yet to prove to anybody he can the focal point of an elite team’s offence. The market for strikers is increasing by the summer. In Today’s game proven goal scorers are hard to find and to buy even more. It leaves teams in desperate search for any of them and to keep them once they do have. Morata has only 40 career first division goals while Shearer scored 65 in two seasons before his transfer. 15 goals in today’s game are almost five times more expensive than 31 twenty years ago.

Lukaku cost the same as the money spent by English clubs 20 years ago.

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Lukaku’s transfer fee is bigger than the sum of all English transfers twenty seasons ago. (image: Getty Images)

Lukaku signed for United for £75 million which is the exact same amount as English clubs spent in the summer transfer window of twenty years ago. Before teams could be composed of players all worth under a million dollars, have an elite team and never really splash the cash. In today’s market that would be impossible. Teams in today’s market are desperate to get players a spend millions on millions and find success. With TV money coming in now, big money flops aren’t as hurtful for a team. Back then every transfer was a huge investment and a mistake could be crucial and set your club up for years in the second division or financial trouble. The TV money has come in and given teams more wiggle room to work with and take a risk. Yet that explains why the lower clubs in the English premier league have been breaking transfer records left and right but not the powerhouses. Teams like Manchester United in today’s game get so much money from a global market besides just the normal TV deal that £75 million is nothing to them. So while the transfer fees keep rising it’s driven due to European elite clubs taking advantage of globalization and creating income that soccer clubs could not have imagined twenty years ago. Which is why a 24-year-old Belgian could cost the same as every player transferred in England twenty years ago.

 

Soccer is truly a global sport and the globalization of the soccer has been the catalyst of transfer fees exponentially rising to places where no one would have thought. In just twenty years we have gone from paying just over £10 million for the best players in the world to buying was seen as hard spending to having multiple players in the news rumored to be having £100 million moves. How times have changed.

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Top 5 Current Transfer Stories

Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal

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Alexis Sanchez,who has yet to sign an extension and would be free to go next summer (Image:Getty Images)

Alexis Sanchez is on the last year of his current contract and there has still been no announcement of him signing an extension. This means even thou Arsenal has started preseason with him in the squad if no contract is signed they will be forced to sell the player or face the fear he leaves on a free transfer next summer(which Arsenal will never let happen). Currently Manchester City and Bayern Munich are looking for the Chilean signature and if Alexis Sanchez doesn’t sign a contract it  might just force Arsenal to sell there main man. While Arsenal will demand a lot of money for the Chilean, teams know the situation and low ball their offers. Sanchez score 24 goals and gave 10 assists for the Gunners last season. What also adds stress to the situation is Arsenal missed out on Champions League Football and it would be very hard to find a proper replacement for the Chilean. They may have the money but Emirates Stadium is not that attractive without Champions League Football. It is essential for Arsenal to try to keep Alexis.

To understand how essential it is for Arsenal I posted a link HERE of Sanchez highlights last season.

Ivan Perisic To Manchester United

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Inter Milan are asking £50 million for Perisic. Who scored 11 and had 8 assist last season.(Image: Getty Images)

This transfer negotiation has been going on back and worth for a while now. The sides are supposedly only £9 million apart with pricing. Ivan Perisic is coming off one of his most productive season with Inter Milan netting 11 goals and creating eight assists, dominating the left-wing. The Croatian is a quick player who is also big and great in the air, things that are usually needed to succeed in the physical English premier league. Manchester United look to bring in the player to bolster their attack, which only scored 53 goals last season. Perisic’s play style also fits the Mourinho classic counter attack style and fits well with United latest signing Romelu LukaKu. From the Inter Milan point of view their isn’t much to do except try to get a much as you can for him. Inter want to keep Perisic but he his trying to force the move and its never smart to try to keep a player if they want to leave.

Highlights explaining his £50 million price can be seen HERE.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid or Arsenal

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Where will he be “the main man” next season? (Image: REUTERS)

The Mbappe saga has been the longest of the summer since it started before the summer had arrived. Kylian Mbappe broke into the scene last season as an 18-year-old earning his spot in Monaco’s starting XI. With that spot he became the best player on the side scoring 15 and totaling eight assists in Ligue 1 and netting six goals in Champions League play. He led the team that won the French league and reached the Semifinal of the biggest tournament in Europe at such a young age. It is no wonder why the 18-year-old kid is rumored to be going for the biggest transfer fee in history, or close to it. Real Madrid seem to be the front-runners but they still haven’t sold Alvaro Morata to make the money and clear the space for French International to come. Arsenal on the other hand can’t offer him Champions League play, a tournament he would be able to participate if he doesn’t move. No deal is close, leaving Monaco worried it all might come down to the deadline. Monaco is trying to convince the youngster to stay one more year in the French league before moving to one of the big teams in Europe.This would give Monaco more time to get the right deal. Ultimately Mbappe has said to press he wants to play for Madrid and it is only a matter of time until the Spanish giants get the financial and squad space together.

Highlights of the wunderkind can be seen HERE.

Nelson Semedo to Barcelona

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After missing out on Bellerin,Semedo has become Barcelona’s main right back target (Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Barcelona has been desperate in their look for a right back. Most of last season they played with Sergi Roberto at the position, a natural midfield player. Their long transfer target for the position. Hector Bellerin, has officially ruled out the move and Barcelona in recent weeks have changed their focus to the Portuguese international Nelson Semedo. The 23-year-old right back started 31 of the 34 games for the Portuguese champions, Benfica, and created seven assists coming from the back. Semedo also has great passing and dribbling skills which goes hand in hand with Barcelona’s system. The negotiations have been slow but expect them to speed up quickly now that it’s official Bellerin is not coming and preseason is starting.

Highlight of the player you might be seeing in every Classico next season HERE

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the last proven striker left in the market, Where will he land? (Image:Getty Images)

Chelsea is desperate to get a world-class striker into the building after missing out on Romelu lukaku and telling Diego Costa he is not wanted. They don’t have a proven goal scoring threat up top. While Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang is not the greatest fit to Antonio Conte’s style, the other strikers Chelsea are looking at are to overpriced. Morata and Andrea Belotti are more ideal targets for Conte but both are priced slightly lower than Aubameyang and are not as proven. The Gabon striker scored 31 goals in 32 appearances and Borussia Dortmund seem to want to cash in on the striker. Chelsea made an 70 million offer for the forward late Thursday night and negotiations are starting to begin. Aubemeyang has become Chelsea’s main target for the position. If the Costa situation isn’t resolved then don’t be surprised if the Blues go a spend as much as they can on Aubameyang, as he really is the last proven world-class striker left in the market.

HERE are highlights of all the goals Aubameyang scored in this year’s Bundesliga.

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Romelu Lukaku to United, what now?

Lukaku chooses Manchester over Chelsea

Manchester United completed the £75 million signing of Romelu Lukaku yesterday, beating out Chelsea who were rumored to sign the player all summer. The 24-year old Belgium International comes to United on a five-year deal reuniting with his former boss, Jose Mourinho.

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Mourinho coaching Lukaku back in 2013(Photo by GETTY IMAGES)

To many people, the move comes off as a surprise. Many believed the big Belgian was on his way back to the Stamford Bridge and to join last year’s champions. Antonio Conte had denounced Diego Costa in the news and sold Chelsea’s young prospect Dominic Solanke to Liverpool, in order to create room in the squad for the striker.

The transfer would have followed Chelsea’s recent trend of repurchasing players they had sold. The main examples of this being David Luiz and Nemanja Matic, who were both instrumental in Chelsea getting the title. Moves like those lead many to believe Lukaku would continue the trend, but it turns out the allure of playing for the champs and his former home just wasn’t enough. Manchester United, at the last moment, hijacked the deal by offering more than Chelsea and when the Blues matched the offer it was too late.

Another element that makes the move interesting is it was Jose Mourinho himself who sold the striker from Chelsea to Everton back in July 2014. So ultimately Lukaku ended up picking the manager who quit on him before over Conte, who was the one cutting people from the roster to make room for him.

Comments on the move

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Mourinho happy with the signing (Image: Matthew Peters)

Jose Mourinho, who was delighted with the move and said, “Romelu is a natural fit for Manchester United. He is a big personality and a big player,”

“He will be a great addition to the group. I am really looking forward to working with him again.”

Lukaku, when explaining his surprising decision said, “When Manchester United and Jose Mourinho come knocking at the door, it is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that I could not turn down.”

Morata’s overpricing pushed United to make Lukaku move

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Morata’s price pushed United to Lukaku (Photo: Getty Images)

Ultimately the signing of Lukaku was not United’s first choice for replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the team grew increasingly frustrated in chase of Alvaro Morata. Real Madrid would make ridiculous counteroffers every time the Red Devils made a bid, to the point Morata would have cost more than Lukaku.

So United made the focus change and swept up a more productive and proven striker. It might turn out that not signing Morata and ending up with Lukaku was the better move. When you compare the two strikers it’s almost hard to believe Morata is rumored in the same price range. Romelu Lukaku has 168 senior first-team goals, a month after turning 24 meanwhile Alvaro Morata has only 67 senior first-team goals, 8 months after turning 24.

The next step now for United is to keep securing the spine of the team. The two summer signing so far have helped but now the key is finding someone that can sit next to Paul Pogba in the middle.With the main target being Eric Dier from Tottenham. Spurs will probably be reluctant to sell the player but that hasn’t stopped United before.

Everton and Chelsea dealing with the aftermath

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Rooney returns to his boyhood club (Image@waynerooney / Twitter)

As for the other team involved in the transfer, Everton will have to replace Lukaku. Which is easier said than done. The Belgian scored 40% of the Toffees goals last year and most of the team game-play revolved around him on the pitch. So no matter who they signed you will see a new Everton going into next season.

However, Everton is not waiting to get talent into the squad having already done nine transfers. Including bringing Wayne Rooney from United alongside one the most promising prospects in Sandro Ramirez. This two striker as of now will have the huge responsibility of replacing Lukaku’s goals or Everton will be taking a step back next season.

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After losing out on Lukaku Chelsea might need to make Costa happy (Image: Getty Images)

The other team this deal affects is Chelsea who are now left in the hunt for a new striker with preseason right around the corner. The champions will have to act quickly to get a forward because as of now it looks like they only have one in Michy Batshuayi, who only scored five goals last season. That is nowhere near what is needed to win a title.

Missing on Lukaku might mean trying to reconcile with Diego Costa, who at the beginning of the summer was told he was not needed. The Blues have to act fast and get a world-class striker or they might struggle to defend the title without a pure striker. Without one they will have to change the way they played from last year. Many reports are now coming out that they want the former Manchester United target Morata, Chelsea will have to make a decision overpay for a striker that is their second choice or try to make things work with Costa. Either option is not ideal but keep an eye on what Chelsea does in the coming days.

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Bale or Ronaldo for Manchester United?

Should a team spend over £100 million for 32-year-old?:

At the beginning of this summer’s transfer window former Manchester United great Cristiano Ronaldo proclaimed to the world he no longer wanted to play for the Spanish giants Real Madrid.This leads many to believe that return to United was imminent but the move has failed to materialize and it’s looking less likely by the day.

While Ronaldo may very well be the best player in the world, he is 32 and should be slowing down on a yearly basis. If Manchester United decided to spend the huge amount of money that is rumored it would be for a depreciating asset. United would have to spend most of their transfer budget on a player and only get a few years of his service.Which is why the smart move for Manchester is to focus on the younger Gareth Bale rather than getting Ronaldo.

Gareth Bale is only 27 and would probably come at a cheaper price. Meaning United would spend less money for a younger player.which is what you always want. The move would give you more years of service than Ronaldo would and they still get one the best players in the world in the middle of his prime. Another factor is Bale’s age gives you the option of re-selling him if he doesn’t fit. Something that wouldn’t be an option if Ronaldo ends up coming since he would then be in his mid-thirties.

So Bale ultimately is the better asset since you’ll get more out of him and he has room to improve. Ronaldo meanwhile could end up getting slower and scoring less but you’ll be stuck with his insane wages while he sits in the bench. Something nobody wants to get stuck with.

The Isco Factor

Isco’s form to finish the season got him in the starting XI over Gareth Bale

Bale finished last season falling out favor in Zidane’s starting XI, which is the another factor why buying the Welshmen this summer would be the smarter choice. Bale’s price will never be cheaper than it is at the moment and it’s even harder to find a world-class player like him on the market. This is why United should make the move now since unhappy megastars are hard to come by.

Isco, who took his place in the Starting XI, has become a fan favorite and the team looks more cohesive and fluid when he is on the field.  Isco looks to have taken firm control of the position going into next season after starting in the Champions League Final in Bale’s hometown.

If the team continues to play well and get results with Isco, than it is hard to believe Zidane would force Bale in the lineup. Madrid might be inclined to get rid of Bale in order to avoid future locker room trouble, since there is no way Bale would be happy coming off the bench. Isco is younger, a fan favorite and Spanish. The Real Madrid fan base has grown to like him, something that has been difficult for Bale to do during his time in the Spanish capital.

David de Gea the key for something to happen

From the Real Madrid point of view, they will have to offload some of their attacking players if they are trying to make budget and space for their transfer targets Kylian Mbappé and Eden Hazard. That is beside their main target for a couple of summers, now Manchester United’s David de Gea.

De Gea is the key for any deal to go down for both teams. As the Spanish keeper will probably be included in any kind of payment for either Ronaldo or Bale. Meaning any transfer could be convenient to both parties.

The Spanish keeper is the key for any deal to happen between the clubs

Despite all that, Bale is still going to be relatively expensive and Real would still insist on a fee of around £100m. Madrid will also be using the situation to leverage their pursuit of David De Gea. While £100 million with or without de Gea seems a lot. Ronaldo is still rumored to be more expensive, asking £150 million for a player that is older.

Assuming that the Red Devils have an open choice between both players it would be dumb to pick Ronaldo over Bale. Any player over the age of 30 that cost more than £50 million is just a bad investment because the player will probably have no resale value and you will only get a couple of years of service.

United have so far been resolute in their refusal to even countenance the sale of their goalkeeper, De Gea since they simply do not need the money. Although some sources feel a swap is the only way a deal goes done as Real Madrid may hold out to finally get David de Gea back to the Spanish capital.

All images by Getty Images

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Premier League Summer

Four potential summer signings that could change the Premier League landscape

As clubs start turning their attention towards next season, the task at hand for managers is to “cut out the fat” of their teams and use the money to sign better replacements. With the latest Premier League TV deal, teams are going to have the money to make a splash in the summer transfer window.

1. Antoine Griezmann to Manchester United

This rumor has gained significant traction in the past few days following the French striker rating his chances of joining United as “a six out of 10.” He also said he was “ready to leave [Atletico Madrid].” Griezmann netted 26 goals in all competitions for Atletico, and his pace, creativity and finishing prowess make him perfect for Jose Mourinho’s side, who struggled to find the net at times this season.

With Wayne Rooney likely leaving the club and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future uncertain, Griezmann could fill a major void. Not since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2009 will Manchester United have had as dangerous a player wearing the No. 7 shirt as Griezmann.

2. Kyle Walker to Manchester City

With one of the highest-regarded managers in Pep Guardiola and a seemingly endless supply of cash, big things will be expected this summer and next season at the Etihad. One of the issues that plagued City in Pep’s first season at the helm was defense. Particularly at full-back, City switched between underwhelming Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at left back and the aging Bacary Sagna at right back.

With Sagna and Clichy leaving this summer, Walker would be a massive upgrade at right back, and City would deal a major blow to fellow title contenders Tottenham. The England International has improved massively under Mauricio Pochettino. His pace allows him to get forward more than other right backs because he can recover quickly.

3. Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would help cure Liverpool’s defensive woes. (Photo by Sky Sports)

While center backs aren’t usually considered “massive signings,” a player as talented as Van Dijk signing for a club that has struggled at the back like Liverpool could be just that. Van Dijk made WhoScored.com’s Team of the Season for both the Premier League and UEFA Europa League. Before injury in the spring, Van Dijk was playing as well as any defender in England.

If Jurgen Klopp were to acquire the Dutchman’s services, Van Dijk would immediately start alongside Joel Matip at the back for the Reds. A major upgrade over Matip’s old partner Martin Skrtel, Van Dijk is still just 25 and can certainly improve under Klopp. Having conceded 42 times this season, Klopp will certainly take a long look at Van Dijk and how he can sure up the defense.

4. Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton

Just as the Toffees seem to be on the verge of breaking into the top level of the Premier League, their two biggest stars are rumored to be on their way out. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, who combined for 30 goals and 14 assists this season appear to be headed to greener pastures. However, Ronald Koeman still remains manager and he is excellent at fostering young talent as well as bringing the best out of his players.

Sigurdsson is on the verge of joining from Swansea, where he scored 10 goals and had 13 assists in all competitions. One of the most creative players in England’s top flight, Sigurdsson could possibly be considered a slight upgrade over Barkley by some. The Icelandic international can create goals regardless of the talent around him. If Everton secure Sigurdsson and spend wisely with their Lukaku/Barkley money, they should avoid a decline.

 

Featured Image by 101 Great Goals

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Alec’s Premier League XI of the 2016-17 Season

With Chelsea clinching the title and Hull claiming the final relegation spot, the dust has mostly settled in the Premier League this season. The time has come to reflect on the most outstanding performances of the season and determine who were the eleven best. In honor of Antonio Conte’s successful three back formation, the team of the season will be the 3-5-2 with which the Blues won thirteen straight matches during the season.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea, Manchester United

In a mostly underwhelming season for the Red Devils, De Gea has been a bright spot. He has made crucial plays to save United several points throughout the season. Most recently, De Gea guided an undermanned and outmatched United to a draw at rivals Man City by keeping a clean sheet despite an assault on his goal throughout the match.

Consistently rated among the top three keepers in the world, the Spaniard is said to have an eye for Real Madrid and his potential departure would leave a massive hole to fill in goal for Jose Mourinho.

 

Centre Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

Before this season, the Spaniard typically played left back for the Blues. But under new boss Conte, he has thrived as a central defender in the Italian’s three back system. Azpilicueta has earned an excellent 7.29 match rating on WhoScored.com in the 28 matches he has played centrally.

The Spaniard’s rise was a major reason why Conte’s formation was able to be a success and why Chelsea are champions of England. Azpilicueta figures to continue to be a major part of the club’s plans next season.

Cesar Azpilicueta thrived in Antonio Conte’s three back formation at Chelsea this season.

 

Centre Back: Eric Bailly, Manchester United

Moving to Old Trafford last summer from Valencia, Bailly was a bit of an underrated signing as the media focused on the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, the Ivorian has arguably been the Red Devils’ most productive signing this season. With the United back line being plagued by injury and inconsistency, Bailly has been a constant and has shown his quality, as well as his potential, as he is only 23 years old.

Bailly certainly looks to be following in the footsteps of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and other legendary United defenders as his future looks bright and United plan on him being a defensive cornerstone for years to come.

 

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

The best defender on the best defensive team this season, Alderweireld has been everything Spurs could have hoped for and more since moving to the club from Southampton his summer. Alderweireld was at the center of a back four that conceded just 24 times in the league this season, eight less than anyone else. Alderweireld is a very smart player who doesn’t make mistakes at the back and can provide an occasional goal from a set piece header.

Although there are a few reports suggesting the Belgian international is hesitant to sign a new contract at Tottenham, there is no concrete evidence to believe he won’t be spearheading Spurs’ back line at the start of next season as well.

 

Centre Midfielder: N’Golo Kante, Chelsea

Voted PFA player of the year, no player has had a greater impact on the Premier League in the past two seasons than Kante. A central piece of Leicester’s title winning side a year ago, Kante’s high energy has put less pressure on his Chelsea teammates this season. As of May 8th, Kante had covered the fifth most distance in the Premier League this season. Kante became the first outfield player to win back to back league titles with two different squads since Eric Cantona with Manchester United in 1993.

Kante figures to be a key player in Antonio Conte’s midfield next season. The Frenchman will seek to follow in his countryman Cantona’s footsteps with a third consecutive triumph.

 

Centre Midfielder: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

In his second season at White Hart Lane, the young England international has continued his ascent towards stardom with 17 league goals, which leads all midfielders. The 21 year old came up big during important games. Including scoring both goals in a must-win 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Dele provides an extra dimension to his arsenal with his ability to be a threat in the air.

While he has been linked with Real Madrid. It is hard to envision Spurs letting their budding superstar leave at the tender age of 21. Expect Alli to continue to flourish next season as he looks to lead Tottenham to their first Premier League title.

 

Right Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool

Looking back on last summer, Mane was arguably the best signing made by any Prem side in 2016. The former Southampton standout scored 13 goals for the Reds in 26 matches before going down injured in April. When he was in the side, Mane’s pace was electric and freed up space for fellow attackers Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Mane’s impact on Liverpool has shown when he is not on the pitch. Liverpool earned 59 points in the 26 matches Mane featured (2.3 ppg). In the 11 that he missed, the Reds managed only 14 (1.3 ppg).

Just 25 years old, the Senegalese international is only just hitting his prime. With Jurgen Klopp set to spend in the summer, Mane will enjoy plenty of help in the attack if he manages to stay healthy.

Liverpool has struggled mightily without the presence of Sadio Mane on the wing.

Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Although his teammate N’Golo Kante claimed the honor of PFA player of the year, Hazard made a strong case for the award as well. Following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the Belgian has bounced back to the tune of 15 goals and five assists in the league. The threat he provides when he is on the ball forces extra attention from opposing defenses. Hazard made a habit of scoring in key matches throughout the season and none was more spectacular than his solo goal to clinch a vital three points against Arsenal in April.

Antonio Conte will surely fight hard to keep his playmaker, but Real Madrid lurks. If Hazard stays, it will be interesting to see if he can stay motivated or if he will drop off as he did last season.

 

Attacking Midfielder: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City

Despite an overall disappointing season for Man City, de Bruyne’s second season in Manchester has been anything but. The Belgian has been among the Premier League’s most unlucky players when it comes to finishing, but has still managed six goals. Where he has really contributed is with his 16 assists, tops in the league.

Next season, the pressure will be building for Pep Guardiola at the Etihad and he will look to de Bruyne to be one of the key contributors.

 

Right Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Despite having less talent around him than his peers on this list, Lukaku has still amassed 24 goals in the league. With one game to go, he is in the driver’s seat to win the Golden Boot for most goals. Perhaps the most physical player in England, Lukaku’s blend of size, strength and speed make it nearly impossible for opposing defenders to stop him when he gets moving with the ball.

While he is clearly a level above Everton, questions remain regarding whether Ronald Koeman and the Toffees will let the 24 year old Belgian leave in the summer. Lukaku played at Chelsea in the past and could potentially replace Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge if the former decides to leave.

Romelu Lukaku’s physicality makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Left Striker: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

In the past, Sanchez has featured at wing for the Gunners. However, Arsene Wenger utilized the Chilean this season at striker and Sanchez responded. He is the only player to have double digit goals (23) and assists (10) this season. His brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland kept Arsenal’s top four aspirations alive and showed how important he is to the side. Sanchez will have a shot at the Golden Boot on Sunday when he faces off with Lukaku’s Everton.

Sanchez is said to be quite unhappy at Arsenal and a summer exit looks imminent. Chelsea, Juventus and Paris-St. Germain are said to be monitoring the situation. Wherever he ends up next season, Alexis will make a major impact.

 

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What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

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EPL: What Next Season’s Contenders Need to Do to Improve in the Summer (Part 1)

With Chelsea having one hand on the Premier League trophy, those who fell short are already looking to new hope next season. A highly anticipated transfer window awaits in the summer, and there are improvements to be made for all the top clubs.

Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku is seen as a potential replacement for Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Goal.com)

For presumed champions, Chelsea faces quite a bit of uncertainty heading into next season. Rifts between manager Antonio Conte and striker Diego Costa have caused the latter to be linked with a move to China. Real Madrid is also reportedly interested in superstar Eden Hazard.

 

It is paramount that the Blues hang on to Hazard and find an adequate replacement for Costa if he leaves. Two options are Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. Both are quick, strong and left-footed handfuls for defenders. Lukaku once played with Chelsea and a deal featuring Hazard for Morata and money has been rumored as a possibility.

Chelsea will also want to make sure they hang onto goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is seemingly always linked to leaving Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino will be searching for the final piece to his Spurs title puzzle. After likely coming up short back to back seasons, the Spurs need to sign players to upgrade the wing and midfield positions.

Despite a great second half to the season, Son Heung-Min is not a true winger, and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has been linked to Tottenham, would be a great fit. He would add a pacy threat and could cross the ball into Harry Kane.

In the midfield, Moussa Dembele will turn 30 this summer. A young, dominant midfield presence alongside Dele Alli would boost the Spurs. The Monaco duo of Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko are options, as well as Nice’s Wylan Cyprien.

As far as departures, Kyle Walker has been linked to a move to Man City. While his departure would be a blow, the Spurs should be fine as long as they retain Kane, Alli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has continued to deliver results despite what many consider to be an underwhelming squad. Liverpool can perhaps improve more than any of their competitors with a good transfer window this summer.

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would sure up Liverpool’s woes at the back. (Photo by Sports Mole)

Klopp’s most glaring issue is at the back where Liverpool was repeatedly vulnerable. Alberto Moreno is not a true left back, and the Reds could use a solid center-back to pair with Joel Matip. Klopp is looking at Southampton duo Ryan Bertrand and Virgil van Dijk to fill the void. He also has his eyes on Burnley center-back Michael Keane.

Liverpool could also target a true striker this summer. While Roberto Firmino is great, he is not a true striker. Daniel Sturridge can’t stay healthy, and Divock Origi has been inconsistent. Romelu Lukaku or Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette could work in Klopp’s system.

The good news for Liverpool is that they aren’t expected to lose anyone major in the summer. If Klopp can be smart with his buying, the Reds could be really improved ahead of a likely Champions League campaign.

 

(Featured Image by Sportskeeda.com)

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Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

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Premier League’s Three Most Underrated Players

Despite being dubbed the “glamour league” and receiving the majority of the sport’s media attention, many class talents go unnoticed in the Premier League.

1. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool

While his more flashy teammates and lovable manager soak up the majority of the limelight, Henderson is vital piece of Liverpool as well as for England. Henderson is the leader in passes in the league this season by a wide margin. He often plays in the important defensive midfield role for Liverpool. With the Reds’ back line being very shaky, they rely heavily on Henderson for stability.

Henderson’s ability to play multiple positions (he has played on the right and the left for England) is also a major bonus. He doesn’t score very much and that is part of the reason why he is so underrated. Henderson is undoubtedly a major reason behind Liverpool’s recent rise.

2. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea

While Henderson doesn’t get the attention he deserves because of his position and style, Sigurdsson goes under the radar because he plays for a bottom tier club. Sigurdsson, who has played for Tottenham in the past, is an excellent attacking midfielder with excellent vision. He has amassed eight goals and 11 assists in the Premier League this season.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is undoubtedly Swansea’s most talented player.

Without the Icelandic international, Swansea would likely be deep in the relegation zone. Sigurdsson has had a hand in over half (19/37; 51%) of Swansea’s league goals. His build up play has also been key on other goals. Bigger clubs will likely come knocking for the 27 year old this summer, especially if Swansea are relegated to the Championship.

3. Ander Herrera, Man United

Like Henderson, Herrera has been a key player at a top club for a long time but has always been overshadowed by his peers. While he was inconsistent in the past, Herrera has stepped up as a trustworthy midfielder this season for Jose Mourinho. Herrera has had five assists and  joins Henderson and teammate Paul Pogba in the top three passers this season.

Herrera showed what he can do on Saturday in a masterful man of the match performance in United’s 2-0 win over Chelsea. Herrera completely neutralized Blues’ star Eden Hazard and scored the second goal for Man United. Herrera is reaching his prime and his play is certainly showing it.

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