With Christmas approaching fast most football fans will already be anticipating one of the most frantic moments of the football calendar: The January transfer window. A roller coaster full of ups and downs. One absolutely loves the excitement and the gossip, the other absolutely dreads the constant flow of hearsay and the endless stream of unfounded and sensationalist articles by the usual suspects such as Sky Sports and The Daily Mail. So before this whole circus kicks off again Total Tottenham will have a look at interesting potential transfer targets. First up are strikers.
What do we need?
We currently have 3 real out-and-out strikers in Adebayor, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko. Harry Kane could also be added to that list although it’s very likely he will be sent out on loan after our recent knock-out in the Europa League. Next to these four players we have Van der Vaart and Dos Santos who both are considered attacking midfielders. Both Pavlyuchenko and Dos Santos are likely to leave White Hart Lane sooner rather than later. Dos Santos has been a long-term target for Sevilla. It was also reported that Italian Serie A outfit Udinese had a bid accepted in the Summer but couldn’t work out personal terms with Dos Santos since he clearly preferred a move to Sevilla. Sevilla’s offer was nowhere near Udinese’s offer of £10m (plus add-ons) so needless to say Spurs were not interested in selling Dos Santos to the La Liga outfit. Rumours about a possible return to Russia for Pavlyuchenko have been doing the rounds during the last 2 transfer windows yet there seems to be plenty of interest from other Premier League clubs with both QPR and Sunderland said to be interested in the Russian striker.
So far this season Adebayor has done a pretty good job on being our strong and tall man up top. His hold-up play and link-up play with Van der Vaart and our midfielders has proven rather effective. Getting on the end of some of the crosses though has proven to still be a work in progress at times. His chance conversion rate could be a bit better as well if we’re taking a critical approach. It’s undeniable he’s been a big improvement to our attacking play though. Defoe has been sharp in front of goal as well this season scoring 9 goals in 12 appearances in all competitions. Most of his appearances were as a substitute, as Redknapp clearly favours playing Van der Vaart as a shadow striker in our current 4-4-1-1 system rather than playing with 2 strikers up top in a classic 4-4-2 formation.
With all our strikers fit the situation doesn’t really seem to call for new signings. However, if Adebayor gets injured at any given moment during the season we will be without a strong and powerful striker who can play the lone striker role. Defoe isn’t tall enough, Pavlyuchenko’s hold-up play is pretty non-existent and Harry Kane lacks the experience to lead the line during an extended run of Premier League games. We will want to improve our strike force regardless to be able to compete even better at the top of the Premier League in seasons to come. To be honest, ever since Berbatov left for Manchester the club has failed to replace him with a striker of similar quality, unless you consider Van der Vaart a like-for-like replacement. Pavlyuchenko came in for big money but has failed to establish himself as Spurs’ undisputed #9 and although Crouch did head us to a 4th place finish in the 2009/10 season and scored the goal that got us into the semi-finals of the Champions League in the consecutive season, he lacked the clinical finishing skills one would expect of a top 4 striker.
The season-long loan of Adebayor was a master stroke by Redknapp and Levy, although it remains to be seen if Spurs will be willing – and more importantly able – to sign Adebayor on a permanent deal. Negotiating the striker’s wages (currently £170,000 per week at Manchester City) will be quite a challenge for Levy, who runs a tight ship financially, including a moderate wage structure. I think the club doesn’t want to give City the impression it has put all its bets on a permanent deal for Adebayor either. Even if the club wants to sign him on a permanent deal we will need to add at least 1 striker either in January or next Summer to make up for the almost certain departure of Pavlyuchenko and Dos Santos. This makes it even more important for Spurs to keep an eye on the market for top class strikers in January.
We all know Messi is mustard but which quality strikers are actually out there who could be (fairly) realistic targets for Spurs.
One of them is Seydou Doumbia. The 23-year-old Ivorian currently plies his trade at CSKA Moscow. He has already scored 5 goals in this season’s Champions League and has an impressive overall goal scoring tally of 29 goals in 41 games for the Moscow outfit. Despite his average height (5ft10/1.78m) Doumbia is very strong on the ball and has a natural instinct for scoring goals. With his pace and dribbling ability he’s a real live wire on the pitch. The downside of signing him in January would be the fact we might have to do without him right away because of Ivory Coast’s involvement in the African Cup of Nations which will start in February. Doumbia himself already dropped hints that he would be interested in a move to the Premier League. Even though Doumbia still has a contract till 2015 a possible deal would prove interesting for CSKA as they are apparently interested in bringing back Pavlyuchenko to Russia. This however might be trickier than expected given Pavlyuchenko’s dislike for CSKA.
Another striker who’s being hailed around Europe at the moment is Roberto Soldado. The Valencia striker is a typical fox-in-the-box who loves to get on the end of crosses. Although he failed to establish himself at Real Madrid earlier in his career he is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most deadly strikers. Therefore it’s hard to understand why he has made only 2 appearances for the Spanish national side so far. His strike rate for Valencia is very impressive (0.63 goal per game average). Although Soldado has never played for a non-Spanish club his European records speaks for itself, having scored 11 goals in 13 Champions League appearances for Valencia. Our style of play would definitely suit him as he would get plenty of supply courtesy of Bale and Lennon’s crosses and Van der Vaart’s nifty through-balls. He also is quite pacey which is a major benefit when you have to keep up with our wingers. Soldado won’t be cheap, but given Valencia’s poor financial position and their determination to restart the construction of Nueva Mestalla there certainly is room for Spurs to manoeuvre.
One of the lesser known names is Papiss Demba Cissé. The 26-year-old Senegalese striker currently plays for Bundesliga side SC Freiburg. Last season he bagged an impressive number of 22 goals in 32 league games. Although Freiburg are currently rock bottom in the Bundesliga Cissé still managed to score 9 goals in 15 appearances this season. Standing 6 ft (1.83m) tall Cissé isn’t a towering presence like Didier Drogba or Emmanuel Adebayor but his physical strength is pretty similar. His most important skills are his shooting ability and his sense for finding space in the box. Cissé has proven he knows how to find the back of the net. Not unimportant for a striker.
A completely different type of forward we’ve been linked with is Abel Hernandez. Besides his eccentric goal celebrations the Palermo forward is best known for his electric pace. The man better known as La Joya (The Jewel) is a real talent who’s exciting to watch but still is somewhat of an unpolished gem. Although bringing him to the Premier League – an obviously more physical league than the Serie A – could be a risk Hernandez has the pace, trickery and attitude to become a real White Hart Lane favourite.
Another fairly unknown name is Olivier Giroud. The 25-year-old Frenchman is currently Ligue 1’s deadliest goal scorer with 13 goals in 18 appearances. He currently plays for Ligue 1’s form team, Montpellier, a club that was down in the 2nd tier of French football just 3 years ago. Normally I would be cautious bringing in strikers from Ligue 1 as it’s a fairly different league to the Premier League. It’s not as fast paced, it’s less physical, but the level of technical skills is on par if not better. Having had a significant impact in the past, the success of former Ligue 1 players in the Premier League has been a mixed bag lately. Arsenal’s Chamakh has failed to establish himself in the Premier League while others like Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye managed to adapt fairly quickly to his new surroundings. But there’s something about Giroud that makes me fairly confident he could make it in the Premier League. What I noticed about him the first time was that his posture and presence is very similar to Zlatan Ibramihovic. He’s tall, strong and doesn’t pull out of a challenge. Add some quick feet, a great leap and positional awareness, and you have a pretty promising package.
Like every transfer window we are being used as bait by agents, clubs and players. The most blatant example so far this season has been the attempts to drum up interest by the agent of the Brazilian-came-Italian striker Amauri. Clearly no one at Juventus rates him anymore judging by the fact his most regular position is one in the stands of the new Juventus Stadium. He even had to hand over his #11 jersey to a full back in Juve’s squad. Ever since he signed for Juve in 2008 for whopping 22.8 million euro Amauri has only scored 17 goals in 71 appearances. A bleak return compared to his 23 goals in 53 games for Palermo. The fact Amauri is the wrong side of 30 and his contract will end next Summer will intensify Juve’s intent to permanently offload him in January.
Another example of bad rumours is our supposed interest in Bobby Zamora. Although some might say Zamora has improved in recent seasons he’s probably still the second-worst England striker ever next to Emile Heskey. Spurs haven’t been that fortunate with re-signing former strikers either judging by Robbie Keane’s disappointing second spell at the Lane. Zamora wouldn’t be a signing for the future either given he’s turning 31 in January. The fact Martin Jol thinks his best position is one on the bench clearly underlines why Spurs have shown more interest in Moussa Dembélé than in Zamora.
Of course there are strikers out there who we all would love to see at The Lane but simply are too expensive, demand too big wages or are at clubs who Spurs are unable to compete with. The most recent example being Carlos Tevez. The Argentinean who has caused trouble everywhere he went since moving to the British isles is claimed to be a “shock target” for Spurs. Never going to happen of course. Tevez is on ridiculous wages of around £250,000 per week. There is absolutely no chance Levy will completely smash the wage structure to get anywhere near that figure. Realistically there are only about 5 teams in Europe that could match Tevez’ financial requirements: Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter and Chelsea. Maybe Paris Saint-Germain could match these teams these days since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took a 70% majority stake in the Parisian club. But would Tevez really be interested in playing in Ligue 1?
Hulk is probably the most expensive player in the world right now if you believe the papers. Porto reportedly put a € 100m (£88m) release clause in his contract, making him unaffordable for almost every club in Europe. Although Hulk is an impressive player with an explosive shot there are some pretty major flaws to the 100 million euro man. He might be a physical beast but he does have a reputation for being a bit of a moaner and a diver at times. Due to his almost God-like status at Porto he’s pretty lazy when it comes to tracking back and helping his team out defensively too. He likes to stay up front and wait until the ball comes his way. Although Hulk won the Europa League with Porto last season he has been a fairly inconspicuous player in this season’s Champions League as Porto failed to put in convincing performances during the group stage, eventually leading to their knock-out at the hands of Zenit and surprise package APOEL Nicosia. With the Europa League team fairly in tact one wonders if Porto’s success was largely down to the fantastic partnership between Hulk and Falcao rather than the individual brilliance of both players.
Another name Spurs fans should probably stop dreaming about is Edison Cavani. The Uruguayan striker who set Napoli alight with his tremendous goal scoring ability last season would take a huge amount of money to lure away from the San Paolo stadium. Napoli are not the mid-table team they used to be in the ’90s and early 2000s since wealthy filmmaker Aurelio De Laurentiis refounded the club in 2004 after it was declared bankrupt. The club battled its way back to the Serie A after it was demoted to Serie C1 after its bankruptcy and are now one of Italy’s most exciting teams with quality players like Lavezzi, Hamsik and of course Cavani himself. With the backing of De Laurentiis Napoli will be looking to establish itself as a Champions League team rather than becoming a feeder club for other big clubs in Serie A, La Liga and Premier League.
Fernando Llorente is another striker we have been heavily linked with ever since the reports about Daniel Levy’s gung-ho mission Spain trying to sing either Aguero, Rossi or Llorente in a big money move in January 2010. We all know where Aguero ended up this Summer , Rossi is currently out with a long-term knee injury, which means Llorente is the last target standing. Standing 6ft5in (1.95m) tall Llorente is an intimidating presence and a nightmare for any defender who has to mark him. It’s no surprise that the aerial abilities of the 26-year-old Spaniard are virtually unrivalled in La Liga. One could consider him the Spanish equivalent of Peter Crouch but that assumption doesn’t do “El Léon” (The Lion) any justice. Llorente has developed himself over the last couple of seasons at Bilbao from being a rather one-dimensional forward to a player who’s not afraid to get involved in teh build-up play, can hold-up the ball very well, and has silky skills you normally won’t expect from a man of his size. His goal-scoring record has improved along the way too. Last season he scored 18 goals in 38 appearances in La Liga appearances. Llorente is also the undisputed impact sub of the Spanish national team since he offers something totally different then Spain’s other strikers David Villa, Fernando Torres and Pedro. So why is a successful bid for Llorente unlikely? Mainly because Llorente has shown unquestioned loyalto to Bilbao throughout recent seasons and history also shows successful Bilbao players have never left Spain for greater glory abroad. We might be able to afford the asking price and wages, but the very fabric and history of Bilbao and its players makes it unlikely Llorente will be interested in an adventure at Spurs.