The 10 most sought-after Euro 2008 players
Goals and glory for some, misses and misery for others. Club managers have been watching, says Jason Burt, but have they seen enough to splash out?
Saturday 28 June 2008
The football may not have been cautious at Euro 2008 – but the transfer market has been. Arsène Wenger's famous maxim – never buy a player based on his performances in a tournament – appears to have caught on, even if the Arsenal manager himself declared, somewhat mischievously, that he had arrived in Switzerland not just to commentate for French television but armed with his chequebook. And not just because the cost of living is so high in the cantons.
In truth, Wenger's targets were already set. He didn't learn any more about Samir Nasri because of France's appalling showing and it certainly hasn't put him off pushing through a £13.5m deal for the 20-year-old winger. And, similarly, if he reignites his interest in Lyons' Karim Benzema then it won't be because of how he performed for Les Bleus.
Wenger knows the dangers though. He was asked his opinion, as part of his role as a TV summariser, on Turkey's Arda Turan and spoke admiringly about the winger – then suddenly Arsenal are linked with a move for Arda with his club, Galatasaray, quoting a £10m transfer fee. Indeed, the Italian agent Claudio Pasqualin identified Arda – along with Andrei Arshavin – as the player who had increased his transfer value the most this past month.
Another telling comment by Wenger in the past week was when he said that the difference between a World Cup and a European Championship in terms of scouting players is that in the latter virtually all the performers are well-known to managers. In a World Cup players can emerge, primarily from the African nations, although that is happening less and less also. In this competition the exception has been the Russians – partly because only one of them, the Nuremberg striker Ivan Saenko, plays outside their own country.
Their reputations have grown and, as the agent Alexei Safonov has pointed out, so has the cost of buying and employing them. Also this summer, with Jose Mourinho arriving at Internazionale and Pep Guardiola taking over at Barcelona, along with Real Madrid's continuing ambition, the Premier League clubs are facing stiffer competition, again, from the rest of Europe.
The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, is one of those who agrees with Wenger's maxim (although Arsenal did break it themselves in 2002 in buying Gilberto Silva after Brazil won the World Cup). "I've been watching the European Championship, but I don't know if I will be going for players out there," Redknapp admitted.
He said that the stagnant transfer market was partly due to the Euros taking place. "There may not have been a lot of movement for players so far because of the competition," Redknapp explained. "But I don't know how many players there are out there who we could go for, who would make a difference.
"It's difficult when it comes around to a tournament and you are looking to bring in people. You turn up and see a player play brilliantly in one game. Just because he does enough in one game doesn't mean he's the right player. Someone may have a brilliant European Championship, but that doesn't mean he will be right for the Premier League.
"We've seen it happen so many times before. Someone plays well in the competition and lots of people are interested in him. His value goes through the roof and he ends up going for a lot of money, but doesn't do anything again," Redknapp explained. The name of Karel Poborsky springs to mind.
It doesn't stop managers from watching. Maybe they are also looking for tactical innovations but the busman's holidays – sometimes, such as in the case of Martin O'Neill, combined with media work, or with Roy Hodgson in his capacity as a Uefa technical director – have been taking place. It's even more vital for those stepping into the Premier League, such as West Bromwich's Tony Mowbray, who has spent a lot of time in Switzerland and Austria over the past three weeks. "The trick is to try and identify them before the tournaments and get them signed before they hit the rest of the world," he said.
Some reputations have soared – such as Switzerland's midfielder Gokhan Inler, many of those in the Turkish squad and the Russians – some have been restored, such as Portugal's Deco, while some, such as Germany's Mario Gomez have seen theirs slump. The Stuttgart striker will hope that managers follow Wenger's maxim. And don't make their decisions whether to buy or sell based on how he has performed this month – even if, tomorrow evening, Gomez may end up with a winner's medal.
Most Wanted Who's in demand – and where they could end up
1 Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Striker, 27
Background: Barcelona have now made their move for the Zenit St Petersburg playmaker, who has been one of the stars of the tournament, even if his burgeoning reputation took a dip in the semi-final defeat to Spain. Fantastic dribbling ability, combined with an eye for a pass, both short- and long-range, and a knack for scoring goals make for a rare talent. And he's quick. Only question mark is over his temperament.
Price £20m – which has gone up in last few weeks.
Suitors Barcelona, Arsenal always linked but Arsène Wenger may deem him too old, plus Manchester City, Everton and Newcastle United.
Prediction He'll join Barcelona unless they get cold feet.
2 David Villa (Spain) Striker, 26
Background: His hat-trick in Spain's opening game made everyone sit up and take notice but Villa's reputation is well established. Valencia will sell, but only at the right price. He has all the attributes needed for a top striker, although his lack of height and physical presence may concern some.
Suitors Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool.
Prediction He'll stay in Spain. Either join Barça or Real Madrid or, less likely, remain with Valencia.
3 Arda Turan (Turkey) Left-winger, 21
Background: Galatasaray have dismissed claims that the new golden boy of Turkish football is for sale – at the same time placing a price on his head. The player's agent has said that he is keen to go and would prefer a move to Italy.
Suitors Newcastle United, Juventus, Milan, Arsenal.
Prediction Newcastle appear to be in the lead but may get gazumped as bigger clubs are now circling.
4 Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia) Striker, 26
Background: Spartak Moscow have said he is not for sale – but their resolve should be tested. Been top scorer in Russia for past two seasons and has struck vital goals in this competition – as well as the two that beat England in qualifying last year. His tireless work rate and bravery caught Wenger's eye.
Suitors Celtic, Manchester City, Barcelona, Seville, Arsenal.
Prediction Barça could take him – may make sense if they want to help Arshavin settle.
5 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands) Striker, 24
Background: Ruud van Nistelrooy's understudy at the Euros but has scored 87 goals in 97 league starts for Ajax in last three seasons and many feel it's time for him to move on, although Marco van Basten's imminent arrival at the Dutch club may change that. Believed to have set his heart on joining Manchester United.
Suitors Internazionale, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Roma.
Prediction Has already rejected a move to Inter. Appears set for the Premier League, if he leaves Ajax but it may not be United.
6 Karim Benzema (France) Striker, 20
Background: His club form has been astonishing; his international form a disappointment. Although he signed a new contract with Lyons in the spring, and appears set to stay for another year, especially as the French club have sold Hatem Ben Arfa, a huge offer could sway things. Another powerful, quick striker with an eye for goal and a powerful shot, he would certainly prosper in the Premier League.
Suitors Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Milan.
Prediction Price is too high and may have to stay where he is for another year. But United may go for it.
7 Miguel Veloso (Portugal) Midfielder, 22
Background: Has declared he wants to leave Sporting Lisbon and, although he had a disappointing Euro 2008, and there is a high buyout clause in his contract, he should be granted his wish.
Suitors Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Manchester United.
Prediction Will leave – probably for Italy.
8 Yuri Zhirkov (Russia) Left-back, 24
Background: Or is he a winger? Hard to tell with his bombing runs forward, willingness to attack and high energy. Always the caveat that it's hard to know how a Russian player will perform in another country, and is highly paid at his present club, CSKA Moscow.
Suitors Roma, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Bayern Munich, Celtic.
Prediction If one of the big clubs – especially Chelsea really do come calling – it will be hard for him to resist.
9 Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) Winger, 20
Background: Quick, tricky winger who plays for Schalke in the Bundesliga. Has said he will honour his contract, which runs until 2011, but is attracting interest across Europe after his confident displays, especially against Germany. Can play on either flank but mainly on the left.
Suitors Juventus, Internazionale, Chelsea.
Prediction Would be hard to resist a move – with Juve the most likely destination.
10 Valon Behrami, (Switzerland) Right-sided midfield, 22
Background: Unhappy at Lazio and desperate to leave – he's even talked about exploiting the so-called Webster Clause – he's a talented player who still performed well, along with Gokhan Inler, despite Switzerland's disappointing campaign.
Suitors Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Seville, Sunderland, Liverpool.
Prediction Will come to Premier League.
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