With the January window looming, it's time to look at which players around the world should be on Premier League manager's shopping lists (keep in mind the aim to be, "realistic," shall we say).
CF: Lionel Messi, 26 - FC Barcelona (Spain):
Being well aware the word "realistic" exists in the opening paragraph of this series, the opportunity to address the squaller coming by way of Manchester is just too good to pass up.
Apparently Yaya Touré, a former Barça teammate, along with current Man City squad-mates Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Agüero, have all campaigned for the three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi to come join them at the Ethiad -- it's January transfer conjecture gone mad. If 'The Three - Manchester - Musketeers' could somehow pull off the caper of the century, and persuade Leo Messi to come play in England, the world might break -- certainly the Internet.
There are more than a few hurdles here, but we'll negotiate the main three:
Firstly, if Gareth Bale's worth £100 million, Lionel Messi, at the very least, is worth upwards of £150 million -- regardless of projections. Secondly, why would Sergio Agüero want the most prolific goal-scorer since Pelé to come take his place? But third and most importantly, on both the field of play and fiscally, the transfer makes no sense from the Barcelona perspective. At age 26, Messi has six to eight top years left (barring injuries of course). Over that time his stream of revenue for the Spanish giant would greatly exceed his present market value. The Argentine forward would have to want the move, and be willing to cause a stir to get it.
One could easily be convinced the oil sheiks of Light Blue Manchester have the capital to make such a purchase; with the endorsements and income a player like Messi would generate for the club over a five to six year period, they could make it seem like an investment rather than pure extravagance. In fact, it makes business sense; maybe in his late 30s City brass would ship him to their American sister club New York City FC (just a thought), but in reality -- the move's a long shot at best.
It's fun to think about, as one could strongly argue Manchester City with Messi would be a better team than Barcelona without him, but many factors would have to conspire together at exactly the right time -- which seems an enormous impossibility. The saying "stranger things have happened" comes to mind, but this would be the whole-hearted exception were it to manifest into something tangible.
(*Current Market Value: ++£105 million)
CB: Ezequiel Garay, 27 - SL Benfica (Portugal):
.back to the real world.
Manchester City have quality all over the pitch with respect to goal scoring; the only question-marks left are goalkeeping, and who Vincent Kompany's primary centre-half partner should be? Joe Hart is England's number-one, and should be treated as such. In that effort, the partnership in front of him should be looked at as the overarching cause of Manchester City's defensive lapses, and Manuel Pellegrini should look to his former stomping grounds of Spain for the solution.
Pellegrini apparently loves Martín Demichelis, but the centre-back doesn't look to have his Premier League legs under him; and at age 33, you wonder if he'll ever find them. The logical change would be to swap one Argentine-Pellegrini-man for another -- it just so happens one exists who has the quality to play for Manchester City. Benfica central defender Ezequiel Garay has experience with the Citizens' gaffer, having played 20 league games in Pellegrini's lone season at the helm of Real Madrid in 2009-10; with Manchester City not lacking anything in the goals department, defense should be the place they go to lock up points and win trophies.
The 6'2" Argentinian is a brut, and would be an ideal paring with Belgian captain Vincent Kompany. He's a defender than can pop up with the odd goals as well, scoring once about every nine games throughout his career, and in general looks to have the Premier League written on him -- Man City would be the perfect landing spot for him. Not to mention, some rumours have Manchester United linked with Garay; so the whole "killing-two-birds-with-one-stone" adage could be in effect.
(*Current Market Value: +£17.5 million)
Before I start, a personal note to Hull City ownership and anyone whom it may concern:
Don't change the name of your club to Hull Tigers. It sounds, I want to be kind, trust me I do, but the word "stupid" comes to mind. Enjoy a nickname, every club does; but do we really want precedent which might create the Manchester Red Devils, Everton Toffies or Newcastle Magpies 50 years on? No we don't. I understand the nature of slippery slopes, but tradition isn't something to be discarded on a whim. Especially from a person who's here today and gone tomorrow as it were. Have a vote or some type of democratic initiate, and let Hull City season-ticket holders decide; it's how the Greeks and Romans intended civilized society to be and why we "copied" it.
CM: Stuart Holden, 27 -- Bolton Wanderers FC (England):
Stuart Holden is a case of what could have been rather than what is. A ubiquitous figure on the injury list, and currently there now recovering from an ACL injury to his right knee, one wonders if he can fight back to Top Flight levels again. For Americans, Stu holden is like a mix of Arsenal's Abu Diaby and Aaron Ramsey, and they'd love to see him reach his full potential.
The transfer makes sense for a number of reasons. First off, Bolton Wanderers need the money and Hull City need a midfielder who can pass under pressure. Another positive could be, as Hull City sit 12th with the possibly to go 10th by New Year's there is every likelihood they will remain in the BPL, so a cleaning of the squad to give it a more Top Flight look is in order for Steve Bruce.
Maybe it starts in the summer, but if Hull plan to be in the Premier League for longer than a few years, they will need quality at every position; and a marginal value buy now could make the difference in the future between mid-table and the relegation zone.
(*Current Market Value: +£2.6 million)
ST: Cyriac, 23 - RSC Anderlecht (Belgium):
Danny Graham and Yannick Sagbo are never the quickest players on the pitch are they? Steve Bruce's lack of pace in his struck force is in part why you see Hull playing with three at the back sometimes. As important as midfield reinforcements are to Hull, a striker who can beat his defender in a 100-meter dash would also be nice. The Ivorian Cyriac, currently playing for Belgian champion Anderlecht, is one such character.
Another player with a previous season-ending knee injury, Cyriac certainly could be seen as a risk, but one worth his price tag. The Belgian Pro League is all about developing young domestic and normally Francophone talent, then selling their player on to bigger clubs. When a buyer comes along with the right price -- the club's are at the mercy of the figure offered.
If Hull City want pace, and pace to burn, Cyriac is a player to watch and monitor with the window about to open. His ability to leave defenders on their heels and create a shooting opportunity for himself, or a pass for his teammates is exactly what a strike partner in either Graham or Sagbo needs to keep Hull afloat in their aspirations to be in the Top Flight again next season. With a reasonable price tag, the Ivorian striker could be just what is needed at the KC to give Mgr. Bruce some options and add a bit of depth to his squad.
(*Current Market Value: +£1.8 million)
*MVs estimated by http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk