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Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea should be looking at Adam Maher

Adam Maher is quickly becoming a household name in European football, and the prodigious 19-year-old showed why once more for AZ Alkmaar in the KNVB Beker final last week. The skilful playmaker is one of the hottest prospects in Dutch football, and showcased his ability on the big stage in his last outing, leading AZ to their first cup success in 31 years.

The attacking midfielder scored the first goal in his team’s 2-1 victory over PSV, with a sublime piece of individual skill and a composed finish, as shown here.

The bigger Eredivisie clubs such as Ajax and PSV themselves will be eyeing Maher as a possible summer signing, however the playmaker looks ready for an extra step, and a move to the Premier League. With four full Netherlands caps under his belt before his 20th birthday, Maher’s future looks extremely bright.

His fast feet and close control are exemplary, as shown by this piece of skill against Mark van Bommel in the cup final.

Manchester United have been looking for skilful players to play in the centre of the park and keep possession, and Maher would certainly fit the bill. Admittedly he would need to work on the defensive part of his game, however tutelage at Carrington could mould him into a top player.

Maher would also be a close match for Arsenal, with the teenager a youthful replacement for Tomas Rosicky. With the Gunners’ brand of possession football and intricate passing, the Dutchman would surely fit right in.

Finally, Chelsea have been putting an emphasis on youth in their transfer dealings, and seem set on the 4-2-3-1 formation. Although the dream pairing of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard hold the three starting berths, Maher has the versatility and the quality to deputise in any of the three positions.

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Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool – look to the Eredivisie for transfer targets this summer

The Premier League big boys will already have one eye on the impending reopening of the transfer market, with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool looking to strengthen their squads.

A continued source of young talent is Holland’s Eredivisie, which has produced and nurtured such talents as Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez. Here are five exciting talents from the Dutch top flight that would make an impact in England.

Wilfried Bony

The Eredivisie’s top goalscorer this season with an unprecedented 30 goals in 27 games, Bony has been the catalyst for Vitesse Arnhem’s unexpected title challenge. The Ivory Coast international is the latest strong and quick forward from his nation, and looks sure to move to a bigger club this summer.

Wilfried Bony

Newcastle have been linked the African hitman, but the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham should both be monitoring Bony too.

Stefan De Vrij

Feyenoord’s captain and the leader of a home-grown revival in Rotterdam under Ronald Koeman. The assertive centre-half is one of the brightest defensive prospects in European football, and has made inroads into the Netherlands international set-up. At 21-years-old, De Vrij looks set to be a top performer and would suit the physical style of English football.

Stefan De Vrij

Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester United should be keeping tabs on De Vrij, who looks destined for greatness.

Alfred Finnbogason

The Iceland international has started to show up in scouting reports around Europe in the last 12 months due to his eye for goal and confidence on the ball. A loan spell with Helsingborg and 12 goals in 17 games earned him a move to Heerenveen in the off-season, and the Scandinavian has proved a bargain purchase. 24 Eredivisie goals in 28 outings is an excellent return for the 24-year-old.

Alfred Finnbogason

Heerenveen are very much a selling club and as such Finnbogason should be available at a bargain price. Liverpool and Tottenham could bolster their attacking options here, while a number of mid-range Premier League sides would have a prodigious talent on their hands.

Christian Eriksen

Arguably the best player in Dutch football at the moment, Eriksen has been repeatedly linked with a move away from Ajax, with England, Italy or Spain the destination. The Denmark international has played a significant role in the Amsterdam club’s title defence, and was influential in their recent 3-2 away win over PSV.

Christian Eriksen

Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have been linked with Eriksen in the past, however the Dane has the ability to play at any of the big clubs.

Kevin Strootman

PSV’s central midfield of veteran Mark van Bommel and Strootman is much admired in Holland, and the 23-year-old continues to grow in stature. Now a firm fixture in the Netherlands international squad with 18 caps, the box-to-box midfielder has outgrown the Eredivisie and would be a fantastic purchase for a number of English clubs.

Kevin Strootman

Manchester United have not had a dominant central midfielder enforcer since Roy Keane – Strootman could be the man to fill the void. Arsenal would also seem like a match given that Arsene Wenger has failed to replace Alex Song.

Feyenoord – a Rotterdam Renaissance

October 25th, 2010 was the lowest point in the proud history of Dutch giants Feyenoord. They suffered an unfathomable 10-0 (yes, ten!) loss away to rivals PSV. Eight of those goals came in the second half as a young and incompetent team fell to pieces. This was the nadir in a disaster of a season and a turbulent few years. They ended that season in 10th place in the Eredivisie, a previously unthinkably low rank for once of Dutch football’s ‘Big Three’. Ajax, PSV & Feyenoord have historically dominated Dutch football, but Feyenoord’s last league win came in 1999. A seventh-placed finish in 2006/7 was a warning of things to come. The club bounced around outside the top six with an ever-increasing wage bill, racking up debts chasing former glories and the Champions League. In the end the team was packed with expensive journeymen who had no affinity with the club. They had sunk in to malaise on the field and were facing impending financial doom off it.

This spending became ever-more unsustainable as the club failed to find a way back to the Champions League. In 2010 Feyenoord’s debts had risen to €26 million and they were placed under a supervision order from the Dutch FA with an ultimatum that they had to get their financial house in order or face serious sanctions. This meant that on the pitch the club had to save money by purging all the high earners and make money by selling any players that could command a high transfer fee. They had already been slashing the wage bill radically and then in the summer of 2011 they sold their three key players; Leroy Fer, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andre Bahia. These sales made over €10 million but left a big hole in an already inferior team. They could not spend any of that money on ready-made replacements, so had to turn to their forgotten youth team.

Jordy Clasie

Newly appointed manager Ronald Koeman simply had to work with what the club could produce themselves, but he has done an incredible job of doing so.  A sprinkling of youngsters had made their way in to the first team picture in 2010/11 by necessity rather than readiness, but the experience they garnered was vital. Koeman blended these youngsters with even more young blood from the academy and their results in 2011/12 baffled and delighted in equal measure. Koeman deployed a unit that was predominantly made up of teenagers with the remaining experienced heads and led them to an unbelievable second place in the league; their highest finish in 11 years.

Before this season, the remaining experienced players he had were all sold, which again meant that he had to restock with more home-grown players.  At the time of writing the club are in third, only three points behind leaders PSV, who they recently beat.

This is far ahead of schedule, with the real bounty of young players still breaking in to the first team. This new batch is led by Jean-Paul Boetius; the 18-year-old recently promoted to the first team, who brings his relentless running, skill, pace and goals to the wide positions. He will soon be followed by strong centre back Terence Kongolo, skilful midfielder Tony Trindade de Vilhena and rapid striker Anass Achahbar, all of whom are in their teens, born locally and destined for great things.

Feyenoord line-up

The two big home-grown stars are club captain Stefan de Vrij, born a couple of miles away from Rotterdam and the mercurial midfield leader Jordy Clasie, born in nearby Haarlem.  These two are the unquestioned leaders and poster boys of the new Feyenoord. Rotterdam is a working class port city, and they hold ‘their own’ in a special high regard. They share this reverential attitude for local lads, and indeed their club anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, with Liverpool. Clasie is a tough street kid who the fans identify with. He has Feyenoord is in his core. De Vrij was made club captain before this season, quite something for a 20-year-old, but he embodies what the fans expect from their players. They were disaffected by watching overpaid players with no connection to the club dragging their name through the mud. Now that they have a band of kids, most of whom come from the same streets and same types of families as they do to support. The noise is ferocious at de Kuip and they haven’t lost at home since November 2011. The fans don’t like what they see as the haughty fans of Ajax and PSV and so seeing local working class boys taking the fight for the league title straight at them is filling the city with pride.

The Feyenoord renaissance bares many striking resemblances to Borussia Dortmund’s revival. Like Dortmund they turned to their overlooked youth system only when forced to in order to avoid financial capitulation, and like the Bundesliga champins they have unearthed a crop of locally born and supremely talented youngsters that the vociferous support are willing to get behind. Both teams have mixed their home-growns with some canny and inexpensive signings who perfectly fit the spirit of the side. For Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz see Feyenoord’s Daryl Janmaat or Lex Immers. Both teams also play in a remarkably similar fashion. Feyenoord deploy a 4-3-3 system with tricky wide forwards supporting a central linking striker, all of whom press high up the pitch. The midfield are all ball players but can also put their foot in if they need to. In defence the toughness of Joris Mathijsen compliments the elegance of de Vrij and both full backs are solid in defence and good in attack.

Ronald Koeman

They go straight at the opposition, playing without fear or hindrance. Perhaps this is the energy of youth but it is also a reflection of the attitude of the area. Feyenoord see Ajax as Dortmund see Bayern and they tear straight for them to knock them off their perch. Feyenoord are a kind of Dutch Dortmund, and just as easy to watch, which is something I cannot advise you doing highly enough.

The question for them next summer will be keeping hold of these prodigious talents. De Vrij has been linked with Bayern, Spurs and Liverpool, amongst others, whilst just about anyone who is anyone has been linked with Clasie. Janmaat has been heavily linked with Arsenal and it would be staggering if Boetius isn’t on the radar of every big club. By necessity the club will surely lose some of these but if the production line keeps producing then the renaissance in Rotterdam can continue. Maybe even to an Eredivisie title.

In many ways, the bashing from PSV and the financial difficulty was just what this club needed. They had gotten separated from their own identity, a rugged working class port city club. The infusion of fearless local youth who personified this attitude has been a blessing, and one that might not have happened if they hadn’t had to. Feyenoord have re-found their identity and are on the charge.

Tottenham want Vertonghen, Vertonghen wants Tottenham; what’s the hold up?

With Euro 2012 in full flight, the inevitable summer transfer merry-go-round has been put on hold for the time being as the majority of Europe’s best players are competing in Ukraine and Poland. However, with Belgium not participating, the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have completed transfer deals to Chelsea, and Jan Vertonghen and Tottenham have been involved in advanced negotiations over a summer deal. However, this has started to drag on – what’s the hold up?

Ajax skipper Vertonghen has emerged as a player being monitored by a number of leading European clubs, and as such this summer the defender will leave the Amsterdam Arena for a new challenge. Arsenal were early frontrunners for the cultured centre back’s signature, however a direct and no-holds barred approach from Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has propelled the White Hart Lane club to the front of queue for Vertonghen’s signature.

The defender has been to White Hart Lane to see the facilities, has considered his options and has openly admitted that his number one choice of destination for next term in at Tottenham. Given the player’s ability and potential to improve further, Spurs fans are rightly excited about a viable long-term replacement to the ageing Ledley King, and a major transfer coup for the club.

However, that was a fortnight ago. Since then everything has seemingly ground to a halt. Admittedly there are negotiations over a transfer fee and personal terms such as wages to be agreed, but Spurs need to act. Now. With top-quality players in short supply on the transfer market, Vertonghen will have no shortage of suitors and plenty of teams ready to steal the Belgian from under Tottenham’s feet. This deal should have been completed by now, and as time goes on Spurs fans are starting to see question marks and hear ever-increasing alarm bells.

Spurs need a new top-class centre back to give them continuity and a figurehead at the back. Without Champions League football next term Spurs will not be able to attract the very best, but Vertonghen is an excellent option for Harry Redknapp’s men.

Mr Levy, please forget that he only has one year left on his contract and pay an extra couple of million to bring in an excellent and season-defining player. Spurs fans do not want to have to be subjected to watching him stepping out in an Arsenal jersey next season.

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham and the transfer battles for Europe’s best this summer

After going head-to-head in the 2011-12 Premier League season, the nation;s top five clubs are ready to do battle off the pitch and in the transfer market this summer. Here are the top five transfer wrangles expected between the Premier League big boys.

Eden Hazard – Manchester United vs Manchester City

Ligue 1 Player of Year Eden Hazard has been all over the media this week after announcing that a move to one of the Manchester clubs was on the cards; there is no doubt that the two fierce local rivals will be desperately fighting over the highly-rated 21 year-old in the coming days.

A dramatic last-day finish meant that noisy neighbours Manchester City were crowned 2011-2012 Premier League champions and considering their quest for world domination, many believe the Belgian starlet will favour a move to Roberto Mancini’s men. However, the young winger could find it hard securing a consistent first-team spot, with David Silva and Samir Nasri already occupying attacking midfielder positions. United however will look to the starlet to reinvigorate an ageing midfield if he moves to Old Trafford.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United vs Arsenal

The Japanese winger has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s Bundesliga-winning side, getting 13 goals and 11 assists for the German champions this season. With interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will find it hard to keep their 23-year-old star-man, who is out of contract next summer.

Kagawa has already admitted his willingness to move to England, with a commercial value attached to the Asian superstar for his next side also. United are frontrunners for his signature, however Arsenal are also keen and have a recent track record of buying players from Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani – Chelsea vs Manchester City

Uruguay international Edinson Cavani has had a fantastic season for Napoli, impressing both domestically and in the Champions League, where he found the back of the net against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Premier League giants are interested in bringing the South American hitman to England, although City seem to be focussing more on capturing Robin Van Persie as their new attacker. The homegrown pair will be joined in the race by Serie A champions Juventus.

With the supposed exit of Ivorian veteran Didier Drogba, Cavani could be the perfect replacement, and having already shown ability in Europe, he could be exactly what Chelsea need if City purchase elsewhere.

Jan Vertonghen – Arsenal vs Tottenham

Another example of Ajax’s outstanding and prolific youth system, centre-half Jan Vertonghen is currently being fought over by north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Although rumoured to have already agreed personal terms, the White Hart Lane outfit could miss out on the 25 year-old defender due to the Eredivisie champions’ inflated asking price.

It is obvious that Harry Redknapp is intent on strengthening the defence, and the Belgian centre-back would be a perfect addition to the squad. However countryman Thomas Vermaelen is eager to tempt his international comrade to the Emirates, and Arsenal are still in the hunt.

Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs Manchester City

2011-2012 Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie has attracted serious interest from newly-crowned champions Manchester City, after scoring 30 league goals and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

With one year left on his current deal, keeping the Netherlands international at Arsenal will be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list this summer. However, with a natural desire to win trophies at the biggest clubs in the world, Van Persie may be inclined to make a move north to join former team-mates Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.

Currently undergoing contract talks, the coming weeks will be vital in seeing what the future holds for the Arsenal hero. Money may also be a key issue; Arsenal are willing to shatter their wage structure and offer £130,00 per week, whilst City are thought to be eager to almost double this at £250,000 per week.

By Jacob Tucker

Five playmakers Manchester United should target as Paul Scholes’ replacement

Paul Scholes took the option to retire at the end of last season, but Manchester United missed the playmaker’s creativity and guile so much that the 37-year-old came out of retirement to aid the Red Devils in their title charge.

Sir Alex Ferguson chased Wesley Sneijder as a potential replacement last summer, but with the Dutchman out of form and sure to be an expensive option, here are five alternatives that the Scottish manager has witnessed first hand, and who will be in his thoughts once the transfer window reopens.

Eden Hazard

By now, the talent and ability of the Belgium international is evident for all to see, and Hazard is one of the hottest prospects in European football. The 21-year-old’s attacking abilities helped Lille to the Ligue 1 Championship last term, and he has matured with the chance to play Champions League football this campaign.

With Hazard already admitting that he will leave the Stade Lille-Metropole this summer, suitors such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Tottenham are all in the hunt for the starlet, but Sir Alex has also made it across the channel to watch him in action.

 

Iker Muniain

Given Athletic Bilbao’s excellent performances over two legs to dump United out of the Europa League, the English champions are more than aware of this Spanish prodigy’s talent.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men have evolved into an excellent side this season, with the 19-year-old schemer catching the eye in the process. With the ability to be the future of Spain’s creative midfield once the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta retire, the bigger boys of European football are sure to be circling San Mames in the near future.

Christian Eriksen

A product of the fabled Ajax youth academy, Eriksen has technical ability and poise in possession in spades. The 20-year-old has won the Eredivisie, experienced Champions League football and also faced United this term in the Europa League.

As one of Denmark’s shining lights, Eriksen will be given a chance to star at Euro 2012 this summer, which may make it difficult for the Amsterdam Arena outfit to hold onto their superstar.

Nicolas Gaitan

Benfica’s exciting attacking midfielder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford since he proved a thorn in the English team’s side in the Champions League earlier this term.

The Argentine has skill and pace in bundles, but whether he has the passing range and guile of some of the other candidates remains to be seen. Sir Alex may still try to sign the South American, but as more of a winger or second striker.

 

Luka Modric

The Tottenham talisman is the life and soul of a much-applauded Spurs side; the Croatian is also the White Hart Lane club’s most prized possession. Another excellent season under his belt, Modric will more than likely be the subject of attention this summer.

Spurs fought off advances from Chelsea a year ago, rejecting a £40 million offer, but the eastern European playmaker’s future depends on where Tottenham finish in the Premier League this term. The most expensive of the five options but arguably the most gifted, Sir Alex budget will play a part in any potential move for Modric.

Honourable mentions must also go to Adam Mayer of AZ and Younes Belhanda of Montpellier. The duo have been pivotal in their team’s current campaigns, with the underdog sides both fighting for their respective titles. The pair may be a bit inexperienced to step straight into the United first team, but have the potential to make a move to the Premier League this summer.

Published – Bleacher Report

Eredivisie Champions 2010/2011 – Ajax, PSV or Twente?

With the culmination of European football leagues across the continent, clubs such as Porto have already sown up domestic success whilst teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and AC Milan are on the verge of their titles with a handful of fixtures remaining. However one of the tightest title races is being played out in Holland, as three points separates PSV Eindhoven, FC Twente and Ajax in the Eredivisie with two fixtures left to play.
At the time of writing Twente sit top of the pile on 68 points, one ahead of Ajax on 67 and three ahead of PSV on 65. Both Fred Rutten and Michael Preud’homme’s sides were knocked out of the Europa League two weeks ago at the hands of Benfica and Villarreal respectively, and their European adventures distracted the sides adequately to let Ajax back into consideration.
Twente started the season as Eredivisie champions after their league topping finish last season, and have been on-course to potentially retain their title as the side from De Grolsch Veste have been in the top two for the bulk of the season. Preud’homme’s side have juggled European and league commitments relatively well. Midfielder Theo Janssen and attackers Luuk de Jong and Marko Janko have contributed the majority of the club’s goals, but despite this The Tukkers have scored considerably less than their two title rivals, leading to a vastly superior goal difference for PSV.
Fred Rutten’s PSV Eindhoven side have also had a faltering couple of weeks, with their capitulation in Portugal against Benfica being compounded by a 2-2 draw with Heerenveen and a defeat to misfiring Feyenoord. The Boeren have been adversely impacted by the sale of star player Ibrahim Afellay to Barcelona in the January transfer window, and injuries to key players such as Orlando Engelaar and Wilfried Bouma have highlighted the club’s lack of strength in depth.
Ajax have won seven of their last eight games to make up ground and are the form side of the three contenders. De Amsterdammers have not been overly stifled by the sale of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez to Liverpool in January, with strikers Mounir El Hamdaoui and Miralem Sulejmani picking up the goalscoring slack. Frank de Boer’s side contend the KNVB Beker Cup final with Twente on May 8, before meeting the the same side a week later in the last day of the season, in what may be a winner takes all encounter.
The race to be crowned the 2010/11 Dutch champions is set to go down to the wire and will not be decided until the last day of the season. On that day Ajax host Twente at the Amsterdam Arena; the winner has a great chance of taking the title but a stalemate may hand the league to PSV.
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