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).
CB: Iñigo Martínez, 22 -- Real Sociedad (Spain):
Sir Alex Ferguson left Mgr. David Moyes with an embarrassment of attacking riches. Rooney, Van Persie, Welbeck, Kagawa, and on and on it goes -- but Manchester United's defense looks a completely different story. Rio Ferdinand's a shell of the former £18 million purchase from Leeds in 2000, and Patrice Evra turns 33 in May. Adding to that Nemania Vidić and Phil Jones' potential to be sidelined with injuries at any moment -- it would seem David Moyes needs a defensive anchor to build a new back-four around.
At Everton, Moyes was know for being a wise tactician defensively, and he'll need players with quality to repeat the feat in Manchester. Leighton Baines could very well join his former manager and replace the aging left-back Evra some time in the new year, but the question of central-defense still remains.
The list of young players who can step into a club like Manchester United and effect matches instantly is a small one. Real Sociedad starlet Iñigo Martínez has the potential to be a player on that list if given the opportunity. Sociedad know his value and reportedly won't sell for anything less than his buy-out clause of €30 million (£25M), but if the player wants to leave and lets it be known (surly Manchester United has more than enough prestige and clout to entice any player), the price could conceivably drop down to the £20-£18 million range.
The Spanish international is comfortable with the ball and can find the occasional piercing pass; but more than anything Martínez looks to break up opposing play with well-timed tackles and headers; he also possesses sneaky pace for a centre-back, which is always a positive. After losing Gerard Piqué to Barcelona for £5 million in 2008, United fans might see Iñigo Martínez as a second chance to cheer on a budding Spanish centre-back.
(*Buyout Clause: -£25 million)
ST/W: Adrían, 25 -- Atlético de Madrid (Spain):
Robin van Persie is the best striker in the Premier League over 30, but he's still as injury prone as ever. Last season was a welcome aberration to Manchester United supporters, but surely they didn't think he would play another full season without a niggle here or there? David Moyes needs to improve the foundation built by his legendary predecessor by adding refinements, and a younger striker to play in front of Wayne Rooney and along side Danny Welbeck looks one way to do it.
Atlético Madrid striker Adrían has struggled in La Liga this year; netting just once in 12 league appearances, but it seems a blessing in disguise, as it's the perfect time for a foreign team to snatch him up without breaking their bank account. The Spanish international brings bags of talent and scoring chances with him -- a move to Manchester United could spur a run similar to the one we saw from Van Persie and United's forwards last season.
A year ago the price tag was around £15 million, but due to the emergence of teammate Diego Costa, Adrían's tag is now more than reasonable, and dare it be said -- a value purchase for Manchester United. In the time it would take for the Atlético man to find his Premier League form, Robin van Persie would be back in the Old Trafford stable, and Moyes wouldn't have burst his summer transfer budget chasing white whales in the form of Costa, Christian Benteke or Radamel Falcao.
(*Current Market Value: +£7 million)
[Does anyone else see Norwich boss Chris Hughton as the: "Barack Obama of the Premier League," or is it just me? Anyway.]
CDM/CB: Nathan Aké, 18 -- Chelsea FC (England):
Looking for a place to loan a player is tough, but Norwich look as good a place as any for Nathan Aké and Chelsea. The idea would be to give Aké an 18 month spell at a Premier League club, allow him to develop as he was under Rafa Benítez, and see what the kid has got to offer. A move to a Championship team might be a better fit, but as Norwich City are just above the drop zone at the moment, the Championship isn't out of the question.
Chelsea have so much talent it's hard to get a look in their first-team. A young central defender would have to upstage John Terry, David Luiz, Gary Cahill or even Branislav Ivanović if need be. On a lower lever the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran are your rivals for future places both in front of the keeper and in the double pivot, so a loan spell would be ideal for both parties.
Norwich on the other side of the argument need quality in their side to stay up; even if they go down, the Championship isn't a cake walk for the recent Premier League sides, so Aké would be a terrific pick up come the January window in either event.
(*Current Market Value: £1.3 million | Loan Value: N/A)
CM/AM: Tonny Vilhena, 18 -- Feyenoord Rotterdam (Holland):
Keeping with the 18 year-old Dutch theme we have going, Norwich City need creation in midfield, and young Tonny Vihena looks to be a defensive lock-pick.
Mgr. Chris Hughton has recently been playing a 4-4-2, and found success only as far as Gary Hooper can carry him. The young Englishman has been in-form the past month or so, and when he finds the back of the net, it gives Norwich license to pin back and play for points. That's well and good; but what happens when the balls don't drop Norwich's way, the keeper saves a few shots or God forbid injuries strike? The likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander need supply lines, and the Dutch teen could be the injection of pace and vision Norwich lack at the moment.
If Ajax is the gold standard of Dutch football, Feyenoord fights with PSV for silver. Their system cultivated the likes of BPL contributors Dirk Kuyt and Solomon Kalou; current Norwich midfielder Leroy Fer has also seen time in Rotterdam. Vilhena looks to be another in a line of quality Dutch exports, who is sure to help a bigger club find more goals; and at present the Canaries need all the goals they can get.
Whether or not Feyenoord would be willing to sell or loan him is a question for the pockets of Norwich ownership, but every player has a price. If Hughton has the luck of scouting and reeling in the talent to East Anglia, his 2013-14 Premier League campaign would certainly be helped, maybe even enough to give him, and Norwich supporters, another.
(*Current Market Value: £3.1 million)
*MVs estimated by Transfermarkt