10 World Cup stars heading for the Premiership

With the tournament approaching its climax, English clubs have their chequebooks poised. Jason Burt suggests who is going where
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The Independent Online

With the World Cup nearing an end and England once more home before the semi-finals, supporters' attentions could be forgiven for drifting back to domestic affairs and who from the global jamboree will have tickled their club's fancy.

Unsurprisingly the biggest beneficiaries are likely to be from Ghana. At least four of their World Cup squad - Asamoah Gyan, Derek Boateng, John Mensah and Sulley Muntari - are tipped to join Michael Essien in the Premiership while several managers would also like to persuade Fenerbahce to sell their captain Stephen Appiah.

Every World Cup throws up a country that suddenly becomes hot property and the powerful performances of the Black Stars in Germany drew scouts from across Europe - but especially from England.

Four years ago, of course, it was another African team, Senegal, who were attracting interest. However, the experiences of Liverpool with El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao - who cost £15m between them - and Birmingham City with Alou Cissé and Ferdinand Coly will also serve as a lesson.

It's a lesson that the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, famously stated as a maxim: never buy a player from a World Cup. And although he broke that himself four years ago with the £4.5m purchase of the relatively little-known Brazilian Gilberto Silva, managers should take note of the warning delivered by Ghana's coach Ratomir Dujkovic. "The players give their all in the hope that a European club will sign them," he said.

Arsenal are being linked with players from this year's tournament but it may be that their most significant piece of business, the £8m signing of Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Rosicky, was completed before a ball was kicked. Indeed, there has been relatively little transfer activity around this World Cup - with Chelsea also striking early for Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko - but, it appears, the market is set to burst into life as the tournament draws to a close.

Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager who was at the tournament as a pundit but also to scout players, said: "There are some players from the World Cup that we are now trying to pursue who I think will make an impact with us. But there are players who have stood out in the competition that have become expensive and beyond our budget, but things will settle down and change for the better.

"It has been unfruitful so far and we have had a few knockbacks. But when the tournament finishes there'll be more movement in the market." It's thought that one player who may now be too expensive for his liking is Muntari while Bolton's attempts to sign the Ivory Coast defender Abdoulaye Meite have floundered.

But never before have so many Premiership clubs been considered "buying clubs" - from Manchester United, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur through to Wigan Athletic, West Ham, Portsmouth and the newly promoted trio of Sheffield United, Watford and Reading. All are looking to part with significant amounts of money - in Portsmouth's case as much as £25m while United will spend big on Fernando Torres and Michael Carrick.

It's a far cry from the last World Cup when Wenger was warning that the "financial state of football in Europe is disastrous" with the collapse of television deals and spiralling wages. The Premiership will face stiff competition for its targets from Spain, especially now that the presidential election at Real Madrid is settled, and maybe even Germany whose clubs are likely to have been emboldened by the success of this year's World Cup.

More difficult to assess is the effect of the corruption scandal in Italy especially, as appears likely, that at least Juventus will be relegated, possibly to Serie C. Alessandro del Piero, for example, has said he wants to stay but it's unlikely the club could afford their leading players' £3m-a-year wages. If Juve do go down there could be a fire-sale.

It has certainly got agents such as Pini Zahavi, who has also predicted a flood of Ecuadorean players into England, smacking their lips. "I'd expect at least three or four [Serie A] stars to be heading to the Premiership," he said. "There is already interest from Spain and other clubs not involved in the scandal in Italy. But several English managers have been talking to me about the fallout and one or two players could be farmed out on loan.".

Fabio Capello, set to arrive at Real Madrid from Juve, is likely to take Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gianluca Zambrotta and possibly Emerson with him but clubs in Spain and England will try to secure the likes of Fabio Cannavaro and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon while Patrick Vieira could return. The fees - and wages - would be formidable.

They will be prohibitive to most. Indeed, it appears that the World Cup is not quite the global market-place it once was - partly because scouting networks are wider, meaning that few players now are unknown quantities before they arrive at major tournaments.

But clubs are also more cautious. Some have noted the success that Alan Pardew has had at West Ham in returning to the lower leagues for British players, whose prices have come down, and realise they represent a safer bet. It's a policy likely to be pursued by Watford's Adrian Boothroyd and Sheffield United's Neil Warnock. There are, though, still bargains to be had - plus the fact that fans still quite like the attraction of seeing World Cup players turning out at their local club.

Coming to a ground near you? Premiership clubs' likely targets

1. Fernando Torres Striker, 22 (Spain and Atletico Madrid)

Background: Has all the qualities to be one of the world's great strikers. There's one drawback - he plays for a club who, once again, have not qualified for the Champions' League. This summer seems the right time for Torres to move on and, because of his support of Atletico Madrid, he's likely to leave Spain. But he wants an extremely high salary to do so.

Price: £30m.

Suitors: Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs.

Prediction: Talk is United have already secured their man. Could be wearing Ruud van Nistelrooy's shirt on the first day of new season

2. Javier Mascherano Midfielder, 22 (Corinthians and Argentina)

Background: Excelled as the holding midfielder for his country, providing a platform for the forward players. Slight of build but disciplined and tough, he's been tracked by the Premiership's leading clubs for two years. His move to Brazil from River Plate was deemed a staging post to Europe but whether it's to England or Spain remains to be seen.

Price: £20m.

Suitors: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea.

Prediction: Despite his undoubted talent, the price tag may be prohibitive.

3. Simao Sabrosa Winger, 26 (Benfica and Portugal)

Background: He can play wide on either wing, although he prefers the left so that he can cut in on his right foot. Is deadly with set-pieces - as Manchester United found out last season. He usually manages at least 10 goals a season. Nevertheless the Portuguese believe he's not quite a "big game" player and often flatters to deceive.

Price: £12m.

Suitors: Liverpool, Manchester United (if Cristiano Ronaldo leaves).

Prediction: Liverpool thought they had him for £8m last summer. Benfica have proved to be tough negotiators so a deal is not a foregone conclusion - but all parties want one to happen.

4. Oguchi Onyewu Central Defender, 24 (Standard Liege and United States)

Background: A 6ft 4in defender who went to the World Cup with high expectations, but who proved a nervous disappointment, lacking mobility. Born in Washington DC, of Nigerian parents, he came through the college system before moving to Metz in France and then on to Belgium. Recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Price: £2m.

Suitors: Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic, Reading, Fulham.

Prediction: Middlesbrough have apparently pulled out of deal due to his poor performances but Villa may take the plunge especially as Olof Mellberg looks set to leave.

5. Sulley Muntari Left-sided Midfielder, 22 (Udinese and Ghana)

Background: Clever and quick, he formed part of Ghana's formidable midfield although he clearly suffers from disciplinary problems. Has made no secret that he is desperate to join his international room-mate Michael Essien in the Premiership and was scouted by several managers during the competition. Had trials with Manchester United as a teenager.

Price: £7m.

Suitors: Bolton Wanderers, Portsmouth.

Prediction: Udinese have now slapped on a big price tag that may scare off interested clubs.

6. Darijo Srna Right-sided Midfielder, 24 (Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatia)

Background: A talented midfielder who can also fill in at full-back. He has a vicious shot, is good at free-kicks and was his country's joint top-scorer in the qualifiers. Was once labelled the Croatian David Beckham. Many clubs had a look at him at the World Cup.

Price: £5m.

Suitors: Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool.

Prediction: Likely to join Portsmouth.

7. Dirk Kuyt Striker, 25 (Feyenoord and The Netherlands)

Background: Has scored 122 goals in the Eredivisie but has resisted offers to move to England - until now. A strong centre-forward who can hold up the ball well and link play. Did not have the greatest of times in Germany, despite taking Ruud van Nistelrooy's place in the Netherlands starting XI. Scouted by Arsène Wenger last season.

Price: £10-12m.

Suitors: Liverpool, Newcastle United, Arsenal.

Prediction: Resisted Spurs and may still prove too pricey for others but Liverpool are expected to make a bid. Could end up in Spain.

8. Hatem Trabelsi Right-back, 29 (Ajax And Tunisia)

Background: An impressive World Cup campaign has rekindled interest in the experienced defender, who has spent five years at Ajax but who has long been linked with a move to the Premiership. Has made it clear he is not staying in the Netherlands and wants to be playing Champions' League football.

Price: Free agent.

Suitors: Liverpool, Arsenal, West Ham United, Manchester City.

Prediction: Almost certain to join Liverpool who appear to have failed to sign Seville's Daniel Alves.

9. Sidney Govou Striker, 26 (Lyon and France)

Background: Has spent his entire career with Lyon, winning five Ligue 1 titles, but now wants to leave and has been told he can go at the right price. Govou can play as an out-and-out striker or on the right-wing and was a late call up to the French World Cup squad following an injury to Liverpool forward Djibril Cissé.

Price: £3.5m.

Suitors: Fulham, Manchester City.

Prediction: Likely to move to Craven Cottage, especially if Steed Malbranque leaves.

10. Carlos Salcido Defender, 26 (Guadalajara and Mexico)

Background: Greatly impressed with Mexico in last year's Confederations Cup and followed those performances up with some fine displays this summer. Generated such interest that his club president has flown to Europe to negotiate his sale. Has lots of pace, vision and is good in possession.

Price: £2.5m.

Suitors: Arsenal.

Prediction: An announcement is expected this week as to whether he is moving to Spain or England.

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