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Is Alvaro Negredo an option for Tottenham?

It speaks for the quality that Spain have in their squad that Alvaro Negredo is currently their fourth choice striker. Last season he scored 31 goals and also has two more 20+ goal seasons in the last few years. At 6’1” he has good size, and as you might expect of a Spaniard, excellent touch and technique. It is these qualities that have seen him catch the attention of Spurs, and plenty of other clubs around Europe. Having seen Sevilla sell Jesus Navas, he has told the club that he wants to leave in order to play in the Champions League. With big Champions League clubs with space for a new striker thin on the ground, Spurs should not be intimidated of making a move for him.

Spurs need a goalscoring striker more than anything. The inconsistency of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor is one of the reasons they couldn’t quite get in to the top four last season. They both have their strengths and at times scored spectacular goals, but neither of them are consistent. Neither can be relied upon to get the club in to the Champions League. They need less of the spectacular and more of the consistent, the clinical. This is where Negredo fits in. He doesn’t have the raw pace of Defoe or genial feet of Adebayor, but he is a relentless goal scorer. He scored 17 goals in 20 league games for Sevilla in 2013 including four, three and two-goal outbursts. This is exactly the kind of reliability Spurs need.

Alvaro Negredo

Unlike some other options Spurs have been linked with, Negredo is no one-season wonder. In the 2010/11 season he scored 29 goals and in 2008/09 he scored 21. In between he got 14 and 15 goals respectively. So even on a relative down year he’d still have been the second highest scorer at Spurs last season. He has good size and strength for the Premier League, having played most of his career as a lone front man in front of three attacking midfielders, which is exactly what Spurs would need him to do.

Sevilla don’t sell cheaply but a bid of £20m would give them a big decision to make. Although they are not desperate to sell, they have always been willing to for the right price. Navas was sold to City and they sold Sergio Ramos to Real Madrid for big money. It’s a lot of money for Spurs to be paying but if they have serious intentions of keeping Gareth Bale and getting in to the Champions League, they need to make moves like this. Negredo doesn’t have the raw physical talent of a Christian Benteke or Leandro Damiao but Spurs have been down the athlete route many times before. They just need someone to put the ball in the net from the endless supply provided by Gareth Bale.

Of course, this sort of quality won’t go unnoticed. Negredo has made it clear he wants Champions League football but that somewhat limits his potential landing spots. Atletico Madrid are known admirers and are looking to replace Radamel Falcao. There’s a possibility that a sale of Robert Lewandowski could see Borussia Dortmund attracted but beyond that, short of a move to Russia, the Champions League options are limited. Although there is one other Premier League club who could be a dark horse. If Chelsea miss out on all of their other targets they can’t be discounted.

However, Spurs are in a very strong position to attract Negredo. It’s pretty much a fight between them and Atletico in all likelihood and the prospect of being crossed to by Gareth Bale should be an enticing one.

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Manchester City to sign Brazilian midfielder – in a statment of intent

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph Manchester City could be on the verge of completing their year-long pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk central midfielder Fernandinho quickly after sealing the signing of Jesus Navas. If the deal goes through, it will be a critical statement of intent and ambition from Manchester City in a transfer window in which they are in danger of being marginalised by the likes of Monaco, Real Madrid and Chelsea in the spending stakes.

If they get him, coupled with Navas, it will give their attacking play a fresh new impetus and off the field will show that they still have the ambition and wherewithal to compete for the biggest names. There are serious questions to be asked about the fees they’d have laid out to get them, but on the field they would be upgrades.

Fernandinho is a central midfielder by preference, although he can, if needed, play deeper in a 4-2-3-1 as the playmaker in the Schweinsteiger/Xavi role. What Fernandinho has that none of the other City midfielders have is a full passing range and an ability to set a quick tempo in the passing game, roving around the pitch looking for the ball and looking to set attacks in motion.

Fernandinho

James Milner, Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia all offer hard work and endeavour but precious little quality. Yaya Toure and Jack Rodwell are box-to-box players capable of getting the odd goal and making tackles but don’t have the variety of passing available to them that Fernandinho has. He would bring something genuinely different to a City midfield that looked one paced last season and overly reliant on the attackers producing a moment of magic. Fernandinho even has a highlight reel of long-range goals. So there is no question he would be a good signing football wise, and the same can be said of Jesus Navas. But with City, there are always issues with finance.

UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules come in to force this summer which means that clubs have to be careful what they spend, and should be tougher when negotiating to buy players. Of course, if you are buying from a club that doesn’t need to sell or are bidding against other big teams, the price will go up. The likes of Edinson Cavani and Gareth Bale are examples of this. The price can go sky high because the selling clubs are either relatively wealthy or have many clubs bidding. But, this isn’t the case with Fernandinho or Navas. Sevilla have said that City were the only club bidding on Jesus Navas, and they were surprised at how much they got for him; £22m in the end. Not only that, but Sevilla have financial troubles so surely could be been brought down a bit. In the case of Fernandinho, Shakhtar are a wealthy club but have been open that they would let Fernandinho go this summer. The Brazilian has a £42.5m release clause. The Telegraph believe a compromise fee has been reached but if this turns out to be anything over £20m it is far too much. As with Navas, they are the only bidders and Fernandinho has said he wants to play for them.

The final puzzle about these moves, is the age of the players. Navas is 27, Fernandinho is 28. City are spending what is expected to be around £45m on these two players but may only get four or five years service from them. This will be the most they ever cost, and they will depreciate very quickly. City already have a lot of expensively bought players who have lost their value, which looks horrible on their Fair Play balance sheet. These moves make football sense, but no financial sense.

Manchester City to add Spanish wingers after Pellegrini’s arrival?

Last season one of the recurring weaknesses of Manchester City’s attack was the lack of width, pace and variety. This was compounded by some errant finishing but often the out of form strikers would have little opportunity to get a few shots on goal. This was because their attacking patterns were too one-dimensional. If they couldn’t rapidly pass their way through the middle of the opposition they were left without a Plan B. Although full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy provided some attacking width they don’t possess the kind of guile or creativity they needed out wide.

Roberto Mancini’s first choice team often featured David Silva and Samir Nasri as the supposed width but they were usually given license to meander infield. Both of them have the natural compulsion to play in behind a striker and occasionally drift wide, rather than being out wide all of the time. With them drifting in, Carlos Tevez drifting back from his forward spot and with Yaya Toure getting forward from midfield, the sight of four or five City players within the width of the penalty box, but just outside, was not uncommon.

With this in mind, they are being strongly linked to Spanish winger Jesus Navas and versatile attacking midfielder Isco, believed to be main targets for expected new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They are logical connections to make, with Isco having emerged as such a desirable prospect under Pellegrini at Malaga and ,Navas a consistent menace for Sevilla who have run in to financial difficulties and may be willing to sell their prised local boy.

Isco

Isco is very much reminiscent of Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, his ex-teammate. Indeed, when Cazorla left last summer, Isco assumed his vacated central position and took on the mantle of the main playmaker for the Malaga side, which despite financial troubles reached the Champions League quarter finals and the top six of La Liga. Isco is two footed, has excellent vision, glides around the field and this season has increased his goal tally to nine, which is pretty similar to Cazorla, and more than possible new team mate David Silva. His main asset, as you would expect from a young Spaniard, is exemplary technique and football intelligence. Like Juan Mata, he has an impish creativity but also has a bustling and direct style, which makes him a dangerous runner with the ball. The question really, is fitting him in at City.

Isco certainly has different tools to what City currently have. His powerful dribbling and improving goal getting give him an edge over Nasri and Silva. He is capable of making things happen without the need of a team-mate’s help; at times City play as if everything needs to click in to gear with everyone for it to work. He wouldn’t offer width, but he would bring much needed directness, inventiveness and pace in possession. Plus, he is on record with his admiration for the Premier League and has worked with the new probable new City boss, so persuading him should be easy enough.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas on the other hand, would offer width. He is a bit of an anachronism in Spain because he is more like an old-fashioned winger. He is very fast with the ball at his feet and a very skilful dribbler. He is a creator of chaos and a creator of goals. He won’t score many, none in the league this season, but he will create them. If anything, the English game should suit him more than the Spanish game. The English propensity for wide-open, fast-paced football with big spaces to roam around in should be an ideal environment for him. He is a pure right winger who would stay out wide and provide not only creativity but a constant out ball, an outlet to switch the play to.

The big questions with Navas have never been on the pitch though, it is with the homesickness that has blighted him. The joke in Spain is that he gets homesick in games outside Seville, so how is he going to cope in England? He doesn’t speak the language, and unless he brings his entire family over his adjustment to life in Manchester will be difficult. It might be reason enough for him to turn down such a move, preferring to stay in Spain.

Isco and Jesus Navas would combine to offer Pellegrini the width, pace and variety that they lacked last year. They would bring with them Plans B and C for City and surely supply enough chances for Aguero to find his shooting boots again. City can afford them both, even if the deal gets up towards £50m, but they need to invest time and effort in settling them in, particularly with Navas. If they do, it could be the jolt they need to compete for the league again next year.

Real Madrid vs Manchester United: The game where anything can happen

According to Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, this is ‘the match the world is waiting for’.  When you consider the talent on display, the numerous subplots and their history, it is hard to disagree. In short, when Manchester United face Real Madrid, anything can happen.

Just look at the sides’ eight previous meetings in Europe’s premier competition; 31 goals have been scored between them, 11 of which came in the epic quarter-final of 2003. Many are predicting a similar total this time round, but the tie could just as easily be a tense affair where goals are at a premium.

Much depends on how United cope with their former player Cristiano Ronaldo.  If they manage to shackle him, they will nullify Madrid’s most potent threat. But if they don’t, they may be torn apart by the Spanish side’s incisive counter-attack. Sir Alex Ferguson will hope his instructions are carried out to perfection, whilst being blessed with a little luck on the side.

Sir Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho

Phil Jones has found fitness and form at precisely the right time and he, along with Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, will bring the regimented energy the Red Devils need to keep the likes of Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Ronaldo at bay.

In defence, Rafael will hope his man-of-the-match performance against Everton can be replicated in a competition where his rashness has proved most costly. While the rarely-spotted partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will have to be at their very best.

At the other end, the likely attacking trio of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa will have chances they must take. It is games like this that Kagawa was bought for, and that van Persie has the ability to win with one movement.

Aside from Ronaldo, Madrid’s strike-force is out of form of late, but both Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema possess such natural ability that they can punish the smallest misjudgement. Meanwhile, even Kaka was hailed by Spanish newspaper Marca as being back to his best after a rare start in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Sevilla.

First legs of knockout competitions are too-often cagey affairs.  And don’t bet against the pressure on Madrid to perform – from a home crowd desperate for success in a season that is fast becoming a write-off – to have a bearing on the game. Already 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, and with a fight to stay in the Copa del Rey, the Champions League may be Mourinho’s only chance of a trophy this season; a trophy that would go down in history as the fabled Décima – their tenth European title.

Too often, pre-game hype is unjustified; but not this time. It may be the second leg that ultimately proves to be the one the world is waiting for, because it is then that a winner will be decided.  But this week’s match will be both clubs’ biggest challenge so far this season – for United to raise their game in a year when they have hardly needed to, and for Madrid to prevent theirs from ending three months too soon.

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