As we head into spring, football leagues around Europe begin their final stretch of games to see who will clinch the title, who will claim domestic cup glory and which club will be crowned European Champions. Naturally, with only a handful of games left, many people start looking ahead to the frustration, chaos and intrigue more commonly referred to as the summer transfer window. It’s a great, albeit frustrating, time of year for football fans as potential transfers are dangled in front of you for weeks on end before being ripped away and linked with another club. Then, just when you think your club is about to clinch a major signing you read that one of your players has been sold to another team. Yes, it’s like a footballing soap opera and reality program all rolled into one.
Within the transfer period, players are transferred or asked to be transferred to a new club for a host of reasons. Perhaps they want more money or a chance to win silverware. Maybe the player is a problem in the dressing room and a transfer is a way to get rid of the problem. Sometimes it can be as simple as the fact that a player is homesick and can’t perform well in a foreign country away from friends and family. Whatever the transfer, there is always a reason and you can count on the media to provide the back story to any rumored transfer dealings.
Many of the following 15 players have or will be linked with a transfer this summer. What else do they have in common? They all need to leave the current club they are playing with in order to save, further or kick start their career. Maybe they just can’t hack it on the team or in the league they find themselves. Perhaps they find themselves rotting away on the bench when their talent could be put to better use. Possibly, the player in question is having an excellent year and should cash in on their performance to get that once in a lifetime move to a bigger club. Whatever the reason, there is compelling evidence to suggest in one way or another that each one of these players should head on to a new challenge this summer.
15 Javier Hernandez
Mexican forward Javier Hernandez appeared on everyone’s radar when he was picked up by Manchester United in 2010. Up until the summer of 2014, Chicharito made a total of 102 league appearances for the Red Devils of which only 49 were starts. Despite this, he still managed 37 league goals which was pretty good considering his limited playing time. United faithful who wanted to see more from Hernandez understood that opportunities were going to be limited as the Mexican was behind Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order. That’s why when he made his loan move to Real Madrid this past summer, people were left scratching their heads. After all, it appeared as though Chicharito had merely put himself into the same situation at Madrid – behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. One start and 14 substitute appearances make it unlikely Hernandez will extend his stay. Now in his mid-20s, it may be best for the forward to look for a club where he can claim a spot all to his own. If not, he’ll be set to run out the rest of his career as a substitute for ‘bigger’ players.
14 Julian Green
Recently, Julian Green has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Apparently, the 19 year old has an attitude and work ethic problem which has, according to NBC Sports, caught the attention of the German sports media. Green signed a contract with Bayern Munich in 2013 but was loaned out to Bundesliga side Hamburg SV because of stiff competition for a starting spot. Limited playing opportunities meant Hamburg looked to send the winger on to second-tier team 1860 Munich – a move Green refused. The end result was that the Florida-born footballer found himself playing for Hamburg’s youth team. If football magazine Kicker is anything to go by, Green’s performances have been pretty bad and it makes you wonder if he should just call it a day in the Bundesliga. The benefit for the American is that he is only 19 years old and has many years ahead to build a better reputation. Here’s just hoping that not a lot of people outside Germany read Kicker.
13 Roberto Soldado
When Tottenham Hotspur picked up Roberto Soldado in the summer of 2013, everyone took notice. Soldado was part of a major spending spree by Spurs and many thought the North London club were destined for big things. In large part this was because Soldado had been devastating with Valencia in La Liga. The striker had notched 59 goals in three seasons and his final season in Spain saw him hit the back of the net 24 times in the league. Things have gone differently in England. With Spurs, Soldado has turned into the butt of many jokes as his goal production has dropped well below average. Rather than offload the struggling Spaniard, Tottenham has held onto him for another season where he has so far scored just one league goal in 18 appearances. At 29 years of age, Soldado should be entering the peak period of his striking career. Instead he is left floundering in the Premier League. With Harry Kane demonstrating he can handle the pressure and lead the Tottenham line, it would be beneficial to both the club and the player if Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy could somehow move Soldado on to a new club for next season.
12 Yohan Cabaye
When Yohan Cabaye played for Newcastle United in the EPL, he was one of their best players, started nearly every game when fit and was named to the French national team. Even during the 2013/14 season when he only played the first half of the season for Newcastle, he still managed 19 appearances. In January 2014, the French midfielder went where the money was and transferred to French side Paris Saint-Germain. Since then his appearances have declined considerably and he was dropped as a definite starter from the French national team. This season he has started just 10 games and been used as a substitute in 9 others. One of a number of high profile Newcastle players who have moved on only to see their career plateau or fall flat on its face, Cabaye needs to move soon if he is going to ever enjoy the playing time and role he once had in the EPL. If recent remarks cited in The Daily Mail are anything to go by, the French midfielder is rightly thinking long and hard about his future with PSG.
For those who watch La Liga side Barcelona, you’ll know that the Catalan team are stacked with talent at every position. Offensively, however, Barcelona are blessed with an array of attacking players who can make defences crumble and keep goal keepers busy pulling the ball out of their net. That’s great for the fans and team but not so great if you are an attacking forward or winger with the club and your last name isn’t Messi, Neymar or Suarez – just ask Pedro Rodriguez. The Spaniard has been with Barcelona since 2004, yet has never become an out and out starter. This season Pedro has started just 13 league matches and often finds himself used more often than not as a substitute. Pedro has acknowledged his limited playing time and even admitted it’s a difficult situation to be in. On the one hand, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world with realistic chances at trophies every year is a big draw. That said, at 27 years of age, Pedro is entering the period of his career where if he wants more playing time and personal success, he’ll likely have to look for a move to another club.
10 Alex Song
From 2006 to 2012, Alex Song played for Arsenal in the Premier League. The defensive midfielder was given a lot of time by manager Arsene Wenger to develop and win a spot on the team. In the summer of 2012, Song made a few comments about admiring Barcelona. Before he knew it, the Cameroonian had been sold to the Catalan club with Wenger more than happy to collect the money. At Barcelona, Song never fully established himself making just 39 league appearances in two years. His future was cast into further doubt when Barcelona acquired Ivan Rakitic, a player who has appeared in the league 27 times already this season. For 2014/15, Song found himself loaned to West Ham United. The move has paid off as far as playing time goes with 21 starts and a total of 23 appearances. All indications are that the 27 year old has no real future at the Nou Camp and unless he wants to warm the bench, he should seriously consider either making his loan move permanent or seeking out another club who can give him the playing time he needs.
9 Mohamed Salah
Egyptian-born Mohamed Salah appeared on most footballing radars during his two year stint at Swiss club Basel between 2012 and 2014. In January 2014, Chelsea swooped in to secure the £11 million signature of the winger. Deemed as one of the best players in the Swiss league and a rising star on the Egyptian national team, Chelsea’s capture of Salah was deemed by all as a very good bit of business. Unfortunately, over the next year, Salah found himself with limited opportunities and made only 13 total appearances for the Blues. In February 2015, he found himself heading to Serie A and Fiorentina on loan with Juan Cuadrado going in the opposite direction. In a little over two months, the midfielder has played in seven league matches, more than half of the total league appearances he made in the Premier League. Furthermore, one look at the Chelsea midfield of Oscar, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard should make it clear that if Salah wants more playing time and opportunity to develop when he returns after next year (it was a two year loan), perhaps he should look to cash in on his fine form this summer by moving elsewhere or by making his move to Fiorentina permanent (which they can do at the end of next summer).
8 Guillermo Ochoa
Odds are that by the end of 2014 World Cup, you had heard about Guillermo Ochoa. The Mexican goal keeper had a stand out performance during the tournament, highlighted by fantastic games against Brazil and the Netherlands. Ochoa’s stock went sky high before the World Cup was even finished and papers everywhere had him linked to a host of major clubs around the globe. At the time, Ochoa played for Ligue 1 side Ajaccio. During his three years with the French team he made 112 league appearances. Following the World Cup, he found himself heading to Malaga in La Liga. At his new home, things have been a little different. With Malaga, Ochoa hasn’t played a single league match to date. Recent rumblings in the press put a number of teams on alert as Ochoa is reportedly unhappy and looking for a move. At 29, he’s got more than a few years left but Ochoa may be wise to seek a move before everyone forgets how good he was this past summer.
7 Asmir Begovic
Many fans and pundits are probably surprised that this keeper has stayed at Stoke for so long, when he likely could have signed off on a transfer to a larger club. Nonetheless, Asmir Begovic continues to play for the Potters, a club he’s been with since 2010. In the last few years, Begovic’s name has appeared consistently in the transfer rumors linking him with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. At just 27, he has many years left in his professional career. Just how many of those will be spent at Stoke? No one but Begovic knows this. His desire to leave has been reported numerous times, yet so far he has ended up remaining loyal to Stoke. However, if the Bosnian born keeper wants to take his game to the next level and compete in Europe on a consistent basis, then he must surely be thinking about a move sooner rather than later.
6 Charlie Austin
For anyone who follows fantasy football, you’ll know that QPR’s Charlie Austin is a bargain backup for the forward/striker position. Austin seems to always pop up with goals, which is something considering he plays for a team struggling to stay out of relegation. This season is his first in the Premier League and his 17 goals in 29 appearances has turned a lot of heads. It’s also brought his name up in the transfer rumors and opened a potential window of opportunity for a move to a bigger club. In this sense, Austin should look for a move from QPR, even if they don’t get relegated, because he may never have another season where he stands out like he has this campaign. This doesn’t necessarily mean a move to one of the big four or five but to at least an EPL club which is stable and always in the running to a top half finish. Austin should, however, pick his move carefully or risk suffering the fate of another Charlie – Charlie Adam. Adam was in a similar situation after a good EPL debut season with Blackpool in 2010/11. A poorly timed move to Liverpool almost killed his career, so Austin will hopefully be more mindful.
5 Petr Cech
In the early 2000s, Roman Abramovich became the owner of Chelsea FC and immediately set about spending vast sums to build a team which could, and would, compete at the top level. One of the players purchased during this build was goalkeeper Petr Cech. Cech moved to Chelsea in 2004 after spending two years at Rennes. In addition to a long list of personal awards, at Chelsea Cech has won three EPL titles, four FA Cups, three league cups, the Europa League and Champions League titles. At Chelsea, Cech was at the top of his game and was considered one of the best keepers in the game. Although recent years have witnessed a slide in form, in comparison with most other keepers, Cech is still one of the best. Unfortunately, Chelsea brought in Thibaut Courtois following a successful loan spell at Atletico Madrid. The result has been that Cech has made just five league starts instead of the customary 30+. At 32 years of age, Cech still has a lot left in the tank. Barring some sort of season threatening injury to Courtois, it appears fairly clear that if Cech wants more game time he’ll have to swap Stamford Bridge for some other place.
4 Jack Wilshere
If you follow the Premier League, then you understand the hype and expectations that surround any new or young English talent that hits the pitch. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Johnson, Scott Sinclair, Wayne Rooney, Micah Richards, Raheem Sterling, Rio Ferdinand, Theo Walcott – all just a handful of players who were massively hyped when they broke into the game. Some, like Rooney and Ferdinand, lived up to the hype and went on to collect a mountain of silverware and personal awards. Others just plain flopped while some are still trying to prove themselves but lack the consistency. One of the players who falls into this last category is Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. The 23 year old midfielder was much hyped when he made the move from the Arsenal Academy to the first team in 2008. On the pitch, he has produced some moments of excellence which hint at what he is capable of. However, the England international is far too inconsistent to shake off the critics and the fact that Arsenal have performed better without him, especially during their latest winning streak, is all too evident. While some fans love his heart and ties to the club, others see no chemistry or place in a midfield dominated by the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla. A move away would be difficult but it could be what Wilshere and the club both need for their future.
3 Radamel Falcao
On transfer deadline day for the EPL this past summer, Manchester United shocked everyone by securing the loan signing of Radamel Falcao from AS Monaco. The Columbian striker has turned heads almost everywhere he has played. For FC Porto, he scored 41 goals in 51 league appearances. Two seasons at Atletico Madrid added another 52 league goals. Even during an injury plagued period at Monaco, Falcao notched 11 goals in just 20 appearances. Yet, at United, he has failed to fire on all cylinders, starting only 12 league games and scoring four goals. This may be down to the physical characteristics of the EPL, Louis van Gaal’s tactics or the fact that Manchester United just haven’t been playing to their best for some time now. Regardless of the reason, being an unused sub in United’s FA Cup loss to Arsenal and then facing demotion to an under-21 match against Tottenham must all make the Columbian question whether he has a future at Old Trafford. The fact that he is 29 years old only makes it more important that Falcao decide his future soon, because his next contract will likely see out his last few remaining productive years as a striker.
2 Edinson Cavani
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani developed his reputation in Serie A with Palermo and Napoli. His three years (2010-2013) with Napoli were especially good and saw 78 league goals in just 104 matches. His performance put all the big clubs on alert but it was super-rich PSG who swooped in to secure Cavani’s signature in the summer of 2013 for a French record £60 million. He joined a star studded team which included the likes of Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Motta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Playing with such a crowd and all their egos required some adjusting and it showed in the striker’s play. At Napoli, Cavani generally played around 35 league matches a season and scored well over 20 goals. At PSG, Cavani completed 30 league games last season and sits on 28 right now. He scored 16 goals last season and currently has eight this campaign. Why the drop in production? The Uruguayan blames the system in place at PSG and SKY have reported that he’ll seek a move if things aren’t adjusted soon. In all reality, Cavani should have understood that he wouldn’t be the big man on campus once he moved to PSG. That said, if he’s serious about being the main striker on a team, then he best start looking for a new club this summer because PSG looks set to keep their ranks stocked with the biggest names money can buy.
1 Gareth Bale
Real Madrid’s record transfer should look for a move to another club? Madness – or is it? The general argument going around is that Gareth Bale needs Cristiano Ronaldo to leave Real Madrid to truly shine. Since that’s not likely going to happen over the next couple years, the Welsh winger has two choices. He can either stay at Madrid, win all sorts of trophies but remain in Ronaldo’s shadow or he can look for a move away. Ronaldo is 30 and likely to begin his slow descent downwards in terms of performance. Can Bale, at 25, wait around for a couple years? More importantly, will the Madrid leadership wait around or look to cash in on their record signing while he still has low mileage? When you look at Bale’s scoring and assists record with Real Madrid, he’s shown consistency. The problem is that consistency isn’t enough considering where he’s playing and his overall production is roughly half of that posted year after year by Ronaldo.