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Top 20 Soccer Players in Need of a Change of Scenery

One of the reasons that transfer figures have dramatically increased over the last two decades is that elite players are constantly seeking opportunities to play competitive matches. Players strive to

One of the reasons that transfer figures have dramatically increased over the last two decades is that elite players are constantly seeking opportunities to play competitive matches. Players strive to achieve success at the highest levels of the game, but at most, only fourteen players can participate for a team in every match. This limited amount of first team football must be distributed by a constantly rotating cast of managers, who each have individual views on formations, tactics, positioning, and talent evaluation.

Roster building is a delicate balancing act, and when teams do not properly construct their rosters, it can leave players unsatisfied with playing time. It can also lead to managers being handcuffed to roster selections due to injury and fitness. These factors all play into an environment that can be detrimental to clubs and the professional progress of their players. The demand from fans to achieve results is constant and players face this pressure from fans of both club and country.

There are plenty of reasons for a player to want to move away from their current club. Contract disputes, dressing room personalities, and changes in management or philosophy, could cause a player to become unsettled. Others simply aren’t producing the results expected of them on the pitch and should probably find an environment more suited to their abilities. As the January transfer window approaches, these players could likely benefit from a change of scenery in the new year.

20 Geoff Cameron – Defender - Stoke City, USA

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Despite requesting a transfer away from Stoke City during the summer transfer window, Geoff Cameron remained with the club. He has been played out of his preferred position in central defense and deployed as a right back for Stoke City. He also recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia. Cameron was part of the United States’ exciting World Cup run in Brazil and has played a significant role in Stoke City’s last two seasons, but the time has probably come for these two to part ways.

19 Ignazio Abate – Defender – AC Milan, Italy

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With his contract expiring at the end of the 2014-15 season, Ignazio Abate could be headed away from Milan on a permanent basis. After spending several seasons on loan, he has been a loyal servant to the club over the last six seasons. Abate is a solid defender that is capable of producing spectacular passes and contributing to the counter attack. At the age of 27, if Milan do not secure a position in the Champions League, he could leave to play his prime years in Europe’s top competition.

18 Ashley Young – Winger – Manchester United, England

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Ashley Young has battled a groin injury since August and managed only one Premier League appearance under new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal. In that match, he featured as a wing back, and seems to have been supplanted by Angel Di Maria. Young has vowed to fight for his place in the squad, but this may be a case where the market for his services demands a transfer. Manchester United spent heavily during the last transfer window, but still appear to be several steps away from mounting a title challenge.

17 Michael Bradley – Midielder – Toronto FC, USA

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jurgen Klinsmann recently drew fire from MLS Commissioner Don Garber for saying that America’s elite talents should be playing overseas. Klinsmann was referring to the trend that has seen Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley sign MLS contracts recently. Bradley was signed as a designated player for Toronto FC, but has not had the spectacular season expected of him. His performance stagnated in the World Cup and he was recently left off of the USMNT roster. If Bradley wants to revitalize his career, he should look to return to Europe.

16 Lucas Leiva – Midfielder – Liverpool, Brazil

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Since Steven Gerrard was moved to a more defensive role by Brendan Rodgers last season, Lucas Leiva has lost his favored spot in the lineup. He has featured in limited appearances for Liverpool so far this season and has already announced that he will seek a transfer during the January window. At the age of 27, Lucas is in the prime of his career and is ready to be a major contributor. He has already been linked with a reunion with former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez at Napoli.

15 Antonio Rudiger – Defender – Stuttgart, Germany

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Last season, Antonio Rudiger was a major reason that Stuttgart remained in the Bundesliga. The central defender showed composure and ability well beyond the expectation of the average 20-year-old. Now at the age of 21, his name has been rumored among some of the top clubs in Europe, including Arsenal and Chelsea. He has proven his worth for an underachieving side against the best in Germany. A move in Germany could be in order for him to achieve his maximum potential.

14 Lukas Podolski – Forward – Arsenal, Germany

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Lukas Podolski’s name has been mentioned in several transfer rumors over the past few months. After his World Cup winning performance with Germany, the demand is high for his services. Arsene Wenger has chosen to deploy him mostly as a substitute. With Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alexis Sanchez all competing for attacking places in the lineup, the opportunities for Podolski have been limited. These rumors have already taken a humorous tone, with Podolski saying “Hell will freeze over” before a transfer to Tottenham.

13 Nicolas Gaitan – Midfielder – Benfica, Argentina

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Since arriving at Benfica from Boca Juniors in 2010, Nicolas Gaitan has been a key figure in their Premeira Liga title win last season and back to back Europa League Finals appearances. Now at the age of 26 and entering the prime of his career, Gaitan could be on the verge of a move to a higher profile team in January.

12 Fredy Guarin – Midfielder – Inter Milan, Colombia

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Fredy Guarin was a major contributor to the Colombia team that was fantastic during the World Cup this summer. Inter Milan have decided to go in a new organizational direction and seem to be committed to achieving success without a massive wage bill. Guarin is seen as a player likely to be transferred due to his wages, and a number of clubs seem to be interested. He could be a comparatively inexpensive alternative to Arturo Vidal, who would certainly cost much more than Guarin.

11 Juan Cuadrado – Midfielder – Fiorentina, Colombia

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Juan Cuadrado has been on the radar of many major European clubs for several months. After a season where Cuadrado exploded for 11 Serie A goals, the value for his signature has skyrocketed. Cuadrado seems to be eager to cash in, and a contract extension could be agreed upon with Fiorentina in the coming weeks. If he does not sign a contract extension, his transfer value would be significantly lower in the January window, which would make him much more attractive for potential suitors.

10 Klaas Jan-Huntelaar – Striker – Schalke 04, Netherlands

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Klaas Jan-Huntelaar has displayed throughout his career that he is a cultured striker capable of scoring goals all across Europe. The Hunter has been with Schalke since 2010, but has not helped the team earn a trophy since 2011. At the age of 31, he still has a couple seasons of top quality football in his legs, and could look to spend them at a club that will challenge for titles. With his Schalke contract expiring in the summer and the club in a state of transition, a move would serve Huntelaar well as he enters the final chapter of his storied career.

9 Jackson Martinez – Striker – Porto, Colombia

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Jackson Martinez recently rescued Porto from certain defeat in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. In the closing stages of the match, he scored a penalty and added another goal to overcome a two goal deficit and steal a draw for Porto. Arsenal and Tottenham are reportedly interested in acquiring the services of the veteran striker. He has proven to be a consistently producing goal scorer over the last three seasons.

8 Lacina Traore – Striker – AS Monaco, Ivory Coast

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There is certainly a market for Lacina Traore, the 6’8’’ target man striker, who plied his trade on loan to Everton last season. After signing with AS Monaco in January, he was immediately loaned out, and now seems to be struggling for playing time with the French club. His lack of playing time cost him an opportunity at an international call-up for Cote D’Ivoire. Shortly after the January transfer window, Traore will likely be called upon for the African Cup of Nations, which could deter potential destination clubs.

7 Adel Taarabt – Midfielder – Queens Park Rangers, Morocco

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Adel Taarabt has recently been at the center of a controversy in which QPR manager Harry Redknapp accused him of being three stone overweight. While Taarabt does not appear to be that significantly out of shape, it does signal a potential rift between the player and management. Taarabt spent QPR’s previous campaign on loan to Fulham and AC Milan. With his current dissatisfaction, a transfer looks to be right around the corner.

6 Gabriel Barbosa – Forward – Santos, Brazil

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Gabriel Barbosa is the latest product of the Santos youth system to emerge onto the world football scene. In 2014, he has scored a total of 16 goals for the club at only 18 years of age. While it may be a bit premature to call for his transfer to Europe, he has shown that he has the potential to be a major success. He has already represented Brazil at several youth levels including the U-20. He could be following in the footsteps of Neymar and making a major European move in the near future.

5 Virgil Van Dijk – Defender – Celtic, Netherlands

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Virgil Van Dijk was a major contributor to another Scottish Premiership title winning run for Celtic last season. He helped the defense go over 1,200 minutes without conceding a goal, which broke a long standing Scottish record. In recent weeks, Van Dijk has spoken highly of Arsenal as a club that could potentially lure him away from Celtic Park. Van Dijk will need to succeed at the highest level of football in order to earn a call up to the Dutch National Team.

4 Memphis Depay – Forward – PSV, Netherlands

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Memphis Depay burst onto the world football scene in Brazil this summer. He helped the Netherlands to a third place finish at the tournament and earned his way onto the shortlist for the Best Young Player award. This year he has been a revelation for PSV, scoring at a rate of one goal per game. This impressive rate has captured the attention of many clubs that would like to see him replicate those performances in a different league. If he is able to bridge the gap between the Eredivisie and other European competitions, he could be a star for years to come.

3 Jozy Altidore – Striker – Sunderland, USA

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It was no shock that Jozy Altidore announced that he was considering his future with Sunderland, during a recent international break with the US Men’s National Team. Altidore has not been able to find his form for the club, although it is hardly his own fault. The entire club is in disarray. Jozy has scored routinely for the USMNT and for his previous club AZ Alkmaar, but has not found success during his two stints playing Premier League football.

2 Mario Balotelli – Striker – Liverpool, Italy

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Mario Balotelli is currently the most controversial player in world football because of his lack of goals for Liverpool. He has indeed missed several prime chances, but he has also been the scapegoat for a Liverpool squad that is struggling to cope with life without Luis Suarez. The club is also currently without the services of Daniel Sturridge. Balotelli has been given the burden of replacing the production of the Premier League’s two top scorers from last season. Brendan Rodgers has given him two months to prove himself, which means Super Mario might be seeking greener pastures very soon.

1 Andre Ayew – Midfielder – Marseille, Ghana

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Andre Ayew’s transfer value has steadily risen since arriving in Marseille in 2007. He followed in his father Abidi Pele’s footsteps and was honored as the BBC African Footballer of the Year Award when he was only 21-years-old. Now at the age of 24, Ayew is entering the prime of his career and could be looking to excel in Champions League football and a higher profile domestic league. His contract is expiring in the summer, and big clubs will be looking to secure his services.

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Top 20 Soccer Players in Need of a Change of Scenery