The Premier League Bargain Bin

It’s that time of the year, when the season comes to a slow and inevitable end. With only one weekend and the Champions League final away from the official close to the season, attention has already starting shifting towards transfer rumours, with big movers and shakers set to write their own headlines this summer. Unlike prior years, the relegation battle in the Premier League has not gone down to the wire on the last day despite the small point gaps between the teams of the bottom half, QPR and Reading were confirmed as relegated almost 2 weeks ago and Wigan, after seasons of nail-biting, kicking and screaming their way to safety have finally been slated for relegation after their 4-1 loss to Arsenal. Between these three clubs, despite their relegated status, contains quality players that deserve to remain at Premier League standards. Here in The Bargain Bin, I’ll be covering the potential steals, the clubs that would be keen to sign them, the price at which they’ll go for and an overall rating for each player highlighted.

The Bargain Bin

1. Queens Park Rangers (QPR)
2. Reading
3. Wigan Athletic

Park Ji Sung

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Age: 32
Club: QPR
Position: MR/L, CM, CAM
Potential value: 2 million pounds

The first Korean player to win the Premier League and Champions League, dubbed “The Nation’s Captain” by his country, and possibly the greatest Korean player to ever live, Park Ji Sung has fallen from such lofty heights after his transfer from Manchester United. Being made club captain was an odd choice by Hughes when there were more influential members like Clint Hill and Ryan Nelsen; Ji Sung may be hard-working and determined, but nevertheless he doesn’t exude that leader-like charisma and swagger needed to marshal and galvanise a team. Combine that with aging legs of a player on the wrong side of 30 and you’ve got a recipe for disappointment, as shown by a poor season by Ji Sung’s high standards.

In 19 appearances this season, he’s achieved an average of 6.58 according to Whoscored.com. Defensively, he averages 2.5 tackles a game, 1.1 interceptions and 0.7 fouls. In his final days at United, Ji Sung had moulded his game to that of a defensive winger, providing that extra running and legs to harass and press the opposition and his defensive prowess definitely shines through from the stats above. Offensively, he averages 1.3 key passes, a pass completion % of 83.8 with 3 assists. It’s clear that Ji Sung has definitely lost a fair portion the subtle offensive capacities that thrilled PSV and United but nevertheless he’s still a solid defensive outlet and in good physical shape. He’s a model professional, a  proven international with a bucketful of experience that will come in handy to any team.

Potential teams: Teams that would need a versatile utility player around the midfield area. Fulham, West Ham or Norwich would be a good fit for Mr. Three-Lungs.

Rating: 7/10

Julio Cesar


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Age: 33
Club: QPR
Position: Goalkeeper
Potential transfer value: 2 million pounds

Much like Park Ji Sung, Julio Cesar has fallen a long way down in the footballing world. Once considered one of the world’s best shot-stoppers bar Casillas, Cesar now finds himself keeping the sticks in unfancied QPR. The possessor of lightning reflexes, he’s saved QPR from additional embarrassment in multiple matches and his performances even granted him a recall into the national side, a sheer mark of his talent and capabilities. He may be 33 but by goalkeeping standards he still has a fair way to go (Jussi, Friedel and VDS played till they were 40) and has the experience and capacity to put a good shift in for any top-tier side.

Potential teams: Officially confirmed to be leaving the club, Arsenal would be the only ideal fit in the Premier League but there are other teams like AC Milan and AS Roma keeping an eye out for the Brazillian Jay Leno lookalike.

Rating: 7.5/10

Esteban Granero


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Age: 25
Club: QPR
Position: AMC/AMR/CM
Potential transfer value: 5 million

Once considered the hot prospect of world football alongside names like Juan Mata and Javi Garcia, Granero, like many of Mark Hughes’ haphazard signings, has fallen from grace. El Pirata has not enjoyed the same level of success that his compatriots in Mata, Cazorla, Michu revel in and he has not done much to enhance his reputation. Lacklustre and disinterested performances has drawn criticism and there’s still doubts regarding his ability to adapt to the English game. Despite this his key attributes still shine, his passing, technique and shooting skills are still top-notch and offensively, he has contributed 2 key passes a game, an accurate cross a game, 3.2 accurate long balls a game and an 83.3% pass completion rate. Perhaps in the company of better players that are able to allow him to carry about his job without fuss, El Pirata might just have his name mentioned in the same breath as his compatriots next season.

Potential teams: Swansea might be keen to add to their Spanish armada, while Norwich might want that little creative spark in offence. Sunderland could do alot worse than El Pirata to help reduce the burden in attack on Sessegnon.

Rating: 7/10

Loic Remy


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Age: 26
Club: QPR
Position: ST
Potential transfer value: 10 million pounds

Remy was signed on to score goals to keep QPR safe; in a way he’s achieved half of what he was bought for. 6 goals in 13 appearances is not terribly impressive but considering the defensive, rigid nature of QPR under Redknapp, such a tally is a good effort and creates a tantalizing prospect of knowing how much more he’s capable of if he was in a better team with better service. The scorer of wonderful goals, he’s reminiscent of another electric French forward with a classy finish in Theirry Henry. While some (myself included) would consider it a sin to compare the two, it cannot be denied that both have similar styles. Offensively Remy takes 2.8 shots per game with 1.1 key passes a game. Not the best dribbler with 0.8 dribbles per game but he’s built his game around poaching so it’s not a terribly bad stat to have. Remy would be an ideal purchase for a club looking for a mercurial, lightning striker who’s about to enter his prime. Not to mention he is a Ligue 1 winner. If that makes a difference.

Potential teams: Tottenham, who need someone to pick up Defoe’s slack when he’s off-form. Arsenal, who need someone to pick up Giroud’s slack when he’s useless. Newcastle would be interested as well. Swansea might also be interested.

Rating: 7.5/10

Alex McCarthy


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Age: 22
Club: Reading
Position: GK
Potential transfer value: 2-4 million pounds

Alex McCarthy first came into the major limelight when he single handedly kept Liverpool out for a full 90 minutes, making an astonishing 27 saves that game to leave the scoreline as Alex McCarthy 0 – Liverpool 0. Prior to that stand-out match, a string of promising performances from the young keeper early in the season prior to his shoulder injury had piqued the interest of a number of clubs, who were keen to add the talented young shot-stopper to their squad, and after a successful return to the first-team picture, would probably still be keen to do so. The possessor of quick reflexes, agile and quick on his feet, McCarthy has the makings of a good goalkeeper and would definitely be one to watch in the future. 

Potential teams: West-ham will be looking for someone to replace Jussi, Sunderland, who would be resigned to losing Mignolet or even Everton, who would want a replacement for Tim Howard with Mucha not providing that same stability.

Rating: 7/10

 

Shaun Maloney

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http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/65351000/jpg/_65351870_154835598.jpg

Age: 30
Club: Wigan Athletic
Position: AMC/AML
Potential transfer value: 3-5 million pounds

Roberto Martinez was once ridiculed for calling Maloney “the perfect no. 10″ when he purchased the diminutive Scotsman from Celtic for less than a million. A season later and a stellar form that has seen Maloney pick up 6 goals and 8 assists in 35 appearances, an FA Cup winners medal and numerous plaudits from the same critics that ridiculed him, Maloney has established himself as one of the league’s creative players, a dynamic, all-action attacking midfielder who has that spark to change games. A superb passer of the ball (1.8 key passes a game and a 89.8% pass completion rate), a ferocious shooter and a dead-ball specialist, Maloney would be a key asset to any team in the Premier League. 

Potential teams: Sunderland, who desperately need a creative spark in their attack. Norwich, who would welcome his all-action displays upfront. Fulham, who might see him as an ideal partner to Berbatov or even Everton or West Brom.

Rating: 8/10

 

James McCarthy


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Age: 22
Club: Wigan Athletic
Postion: CM/DM
Potential transfer value: 5-7 million pounds

One of the rising stars of the Premier League, James McCarthy has quickly established himself as the heartbeat of Wigan Athletic alongside his partner in crime and fellow namesake James McArthur. Having impressed throughout the season with mature and solid displays, McCarthy has established himself as a Premier League standard midfielder, able to stand toe-to-toe against far superior midfields. Across 37 starts, he has accumulated 3 goals and 2 assists. Defensively, he has contributed 2.6 tackles a game, 2 interceptions a game, 1.6 clearances a game and 1.2 fouls committed, showing that McCarthy has the potential to be a solid defensive outlet in the midfield. Passing-wise, he has a solid 87.6% pass completion rate and is one of the league’s long-ball specialist with 4.6 accurate long balls per game. Offensively he has alot to work on with only 1 key pass a game. Creativity may not be McCarthy’s key strength, but nevertheless he has proven to be a solid defensive outlet that helps recycle possession. 

Potential teams: Arsenal, though they have Arteta, they would definitely want some depth in the defensive midfield role. Fulham would want a player of his quality to ease the burden on an aging midfield. Norwich wouldn’t mind his all-action role and even Swansea might take a fancy to him as a replacement for Leon Britton.

Rating: 7.5/10

 

And that wraps up the Bargain Bin for this Premier League season. These are the players most deserving of a move from the respective clubs so keep an eye out for them during this transfer window!

Honourable Mentions:
Adel Taarabt, Stephane Mbia, Chris Samba, Junior Hoilett, Le Fondre, Hal-Robson Kanu, Sean Morrison, Arouna Kone, James McArthur, Jean Beausejour, Callum Mcmanaman.

Ferguson. Scotsman. Manager. Legend.

As of 8th May 2013, Alexander Chapman Ferguson, better known to many as Sir Alex Ferguson has announced that he’ll retire at the end of the season on his 1500th game in charge of Manchester United when United faces off against West Brom.

Over the course of his 26 odd years in charge of United, he has won a staggering 38 trophies including 13 of United’s 20 titles and 2 Champions League trophies. He has crafted team after team of staggering quality, spirit and indomitable fortitude. From the craft and flair of players like Ronaldo, Cantona, Beckham, to the goal machines of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Mark Hughes, and the brute strength and steel of players like Steve Bruce, Nemanja Vidic, Roy Keane, Robson and Jaap Stam. And let’s not forget the silent workmen of Ferguson’s era at United, Park “Three-Lungs” Ji Sung, Dennis Irwin and the Neville brothers. The quality of players that Ferguson has overseen through his time at the club is immense and could easily fill up 5 squads of indisputable class. Such a statement is sheer testament to Ferguson’s quality in selecting, training and nurturing character, skill and class in his players.

The will to win, the fierce determination, the strict discipline and standards to which he holds himself and his players is something Ferguson will always be famous for. His “My Way or the Highway” approach to management has often seen players the likes of Beckham, Heinze, Stam, Ince leave the club in acrimonious circumstances but inspite of this, United has continue to stand strong with the club full of players with character and strong mentalities (something Ferguson admired and rewarded) as a result of Fergie’s strict rule.

Despite the common impression of Ferguson as an angry Scotsman, it’s often surprising that Ferguson is in fact quite the opposite. A fiercely loyal and caring father figure to many players, his patience and faith in his player’s abilities is legendary. Players like Carrick and Evans can testify to such patience. An active spokesman for the Manager’s Union in England, he may be ruthless on the pitch, but off it, he often looks out for the newer managers and ensures that they are treated well and in a fair manner by club owner.

There’s many things to be said about Ferguson and many more things to be said about his massive reign at United. But for now, there will be nothing but silence from United supporters and fans, mourning the departure of the greatest manager the game will ever see.

Tara Fergie. You magnificent bastard. A winner till the end.

#thanksfergie

Re-launch for 2013

Hey all

It’s definitely been a while, a year in fact, since I’ve last touched this blog and at long last, I’ve finally have enough motivation to finally start a real, solid effort to maintain a proper footy blog. So I’ll be aiming to update this site regularly enough, with a variety of different posts regarding not only United, but also other trends and interesting facets of the world game.

I’ll be introducing different categories of articles over time but as of now, I’ve prepared 5 to kick things off.

1.) Season Review:
As the name suggests this article would come once every year and I’ll be covering close to everything regarding player performances, tactical trends, potential issues, potential transfers in and out and hopes for the next season. This season review would only be for Manchester United.

2.) The Bargain Bin:
This would come every transfer window, here I run down the list of potential steals of the season. The summer windows are dedicated to players that come from relegated clubs in the major leagues who can still perform at the top level and january windows are dedicated to players that are flying under the radar in the major leagues. As of now, I’ll only be limiting the Bargain Bin to the Premier League.

3.) The Curious Case of:
This is where I analyse particular trends in football, be it tactics, roles, formations and even odd players that don’t quite fit in yet find success.

4.) United Tactics Board:
This is where I cover the tactical trends regarding Manchester United, potential switches and players that can fit into the United squad to improve quality.

5.) Random musings:
Where I talk about anything and everything.

Hope you guys enjoy the upcoming content. In two weeks, I’ll be coming up with the Manchester United Season Review 2012/2013 and the Premier League Bargain Bin.

Cheers!
Song.

The Manchester United Season Review (11/12)

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It would be grossly incorrect to deem this season as anything but ordinary and for United fans, this season was extraordinarily painful to bear as United went trophy-less and then was forced to witness their bitter rivals, cash-splashing Manchester City secure their first league title in almost 44 years having comeback from 8 points down. I don’t know which was more painful, the fact that we threw our 20th title away with calamitous results at Wigan and Everton or the fact that City showed tremendous fighting spirit, a trait long considered a cornerstone of United squads, to prove that they are not just mercenaries and thugs looking for money. Their title victory comeback, was taken from the very pages of United 101.

Regardless, I have to congratulate City. The title was ours to lose and we lost the plot towards the end. Besides, you can’t spend the money that City have spent, get the players they have and not expect to win the league sooner or later.

Despite this hear-breaking title loss, there are positives to take from this season. Our summer transfers have shown their worth, we’ve achieved the third highest points in club history at 89 points (which is not something to be sniffed at), our squad is slowly being rebuilt and the players will be hungrier and more eager for success next season.

So in this review, I’ll be covering as many aspects of United’s performance as I can, starting with our tactics, player ratings, player awards and lastly, possible transfers

United’s Tactics


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United has always stuck to their guns and run with the largely (in the modern day context) obsolete formation of 4-4-2, which has been updated in recent years to become more of a 4-4-1-1, with Rooney playing in the hole behind Welbeck. With the return of Paul Scholes however, United’s formation became more of a vaguely 4-2-3-1 formation, with the wingers playing higher up and Rooney playing more of an attacking midfielder role, Scholes and Carrick sitting deeper and facilitating play from deep. This hybrid between the 4-4-1-1 and the 4-2-3-1 should be considered the new future tactic of United due to its ability to lend a semblance of solidity in the midfield as well as allowing the wingers more freedom upfront without the burden of having to track back often.

The Midfield Conundrum:

While these formations play to United’s strength on the wings, the key and most obvious flaw in United’s formation is the lack of a midfield enforcer and the general lack of energy in United’s midfield. Earlier in the season, when United were playing fluid football not dissimilar to Barcelona, the midfield pairing consisted of Cleverly and Anderson, two midfielders, who made up for lack in defensive prowess with good off-the-ball movement and boundless energy. Their fluid movements enabled the front four to become fluid as well, and aided by Cleverly’s gift in incisive short passing, United’s attack gained a new dimension and as a result, United burst into the early season scoring bags of goals, including that memorable 8-2 against Arsenal. However, with the injury of Cleverly, Anderson lost his muse and his sparkle dulled, subsequent injuries to Anderson meant that the only viable midfield options were Fletcher, Carrick and Giggs. Then Fletcher succumbed to a chronic bowel condition and United’s midfield was in short, screwed. The midfield combination of Giggs and Carrick lent a helping hand in maintaining ball possession in the centre of the park, but both players failed to provide creative incisive passing and were often prone to highly energetic midfields like Wigan and Newcastle. Scholes’ return prompted the shift to the 4-2-3-1, with both Scholes and Carrick playing slightly deep, as both didn’t have the energy or work-rate to play higher up the pitch.

This midfield pairing is merely a patch-work, a simple and temporary solution to the main problem that has plagued United for seasons since Roy Keane’s departure. Who would step up to be the new midfield general? Who would be the one providing the hard-work, energy, pace and power to the midfield? For a while, Alan Smith tried and failed to provide that, Fletcher managed to fulfill that need but with his absence, the problem is more severe and urgent than ever. Considering the midfield options, Carrick and Scholes would remain as the choices for the deep-lying playmaker role and taking a leaf from the pages of the Bundesliga 4-2-3-1, there would then need to be a runner who is capable of playing deep yet able to make penetrating runs forward ala Nuri Sahin at Dortmund and Schweinsteiger at Bayern Munich. At this point of time, the only two players capable of playing that role would be Cleverly and Anderson though with Anderson failing to provide any consistency, he may be sold this summer, which would leave Cleverly as the only option. And it is clear that Cleverly is not a machine capable of playing 50-60 games a season. One more option remains in Paul Pogba, yet another ‘Viera’ player but with the whole contract situation, I’m not gonna count him as a viable choice just yet.

United’s midfield problem would be the chief concern on Sir Alex’s mind, the only problem is, which players to sign to beef up the midfield? In the transfers section, I’d be running through a couple of options.

The Fullback Issue

Ever since Gary Neville’s departure, the right-back berth of United has endured a tumultuous time with no player being able to hold that position down for the long-term. And on the left-back side, an aging Patrice Evra (who recently turned 32) has shown signs of decline, his engine slowly dying, yet his capacity to still play almost 40+ games this season (he’s been ever present) is impressive.

First up, the left-back position. Patrice Evra has delivered a model of consistent performances, raiding down the wings to provide overlaps and decent crosses, he’s been solid as the stand-in captain for Vidic yet his defensive work at times have been called out to be the weak-link in United’s defence. Too prone to venturing forward without tracking back, often exposing Jonny Evans, there are a number of goals conceded in which Evra is culpable. Even his back-ups have not shown that they have the capacity to displace him. Fabio has yet another ‘meh’ season and while Fryers has shown potential and promise, he’s still inexperienced. The left-back issue is a growing one and with Fabio going out on loan, United’s left-back berth is looking short of quality.

Next, the right-back position. Smalling was called on to fill-in that role in place of the injured Rafael early in the season and did an admirable job of it. Smalling then got injured and Jones was called to fill-in that role and did marvelously at it, even managing to secure an international cap in that position. However, around the midseason, Smalling and Jones’ inexperience in that position began to show and their performances dropped as a result. Rafael’s return was welcome, but even he, despite his attacking forays and excellent chemistry with Valencia, failed to provide any security to that position, with his worst performance in that title-losing match against Everton, where he was culpable for 2 goals conceded.

Despite this, the right-back berth seems secure, with 3 capable and able players able to fill in. The left-back berth, on the other hand, is more alarming.

Player Ratings

This season has a few surprises in terms of the player performances. Old cornerstones have started to show their wear and tear, inconsistent performers of last season have stepped up their game and new players have shown their worth to the team. I’ll be running through the areas of the team, providing a brief critique of their season’s performances, as well as a rating.

1-2: Please sell this player
3-5: Meh, should be considered for the chopping block
6-7: Decent season. Good displays balanced by bad displays
8-9: Fantastic season. Good displays coupled with consistency. A key player for the season
10: Lionel Messi/Ronaldo. Don’t sell this player. Ever.

Goalkeepers:

David De Gea~

David De Great, well worth every penny of the 18 million pounds spent on him. A class act at 20 years of age, the possessor of cat-like reflexes, superb handling and amazing distribution. Despite starting out shaky at the beginning of the season, where he was infamous for letting weak goals past (think Shane Long’s shot) and being aerially poor, De Gea rebounded in midseason’s match against Chelsea, providing supreme displays of goalkeeping, including a fantastic save from a Juan Mata freekick. And from then on, he has not looked back, keeping 13 clean sheets in 29 games in the league, an impressive stat for such a young keeper in his first season. While De Gea still has plenty of work to do in terms of his physique (he has bulked up considerably since the start of the season), his aerial command and his communication with his back-line, he displays raw talent and super-natural composure in the face of critics that makes it no surprise why he’s repeatedly compared to the great Edwin Van der Sar.

Rating: 7.5/10

Anders Lindegaard~

Anders Lindegaard has had more exposure this season and he looked eager to prove that he was not at United to ‘pick his nose’, and started out the blocks flying, with impressive and solid performances at the time when De Gea looked shaky. Blessed with solid reflexes and a pair of shovels for hands, Lindegaard has definitely shown that De Gea would be in for a fight for United’s no. 1 once Lindegaard completely recovers from his injuries. A good keeper and he’s definitely showcased that this season.

Rating: 7/10

Defenders:

Phil Jones:

Phillip Jones, 20 years old going on 30. For such a young age he has displayed maturity that is evident in only the most experienced defenders in the Premier League. Tall, strong, a firm tackler and a strong aerial presence, he’s no slouch when going forward either, his barnstorming runs have even caused United great Bobby Charlton to label him as the next Duncan Edwards. However, despite his enormous potential, his bright early season start has been marred by injuries, followed by a mid-season lull that saw his name disappear from the headlines. Having been played in right-back and defensive mid in this season, Jones has had limited play time in his preferred centre-back position, which in the long-run would seriously hamper his development, and as a centre-back he is devastatingly good. Which youngster can make their debut (for Blackburn Rovers) and shackle Drogba at his swashbuckling best? Jones could. Let Jones continue playing in the centre-back position I say.

Rating: 7/10

Chris Smalling:

Chris Smalling, like Jones, made waves in the early stages of the season with fine, consistent defensive displays, albeit at right-back. Injuries and lack of playing time due to Jones being better in the right-back berth compared to Smalling has caused Smalling, one of the standout performers and THE young defender to watch in 10/11, to stagnate in a way. Nevertheless, Smalling is still young and his potential is clear to see, more playing time is needed for the youngster and if he renews his form from 10/11, United fans like myself are watering at the mouth of the prospects of a Jones-Smalling centre-back pairing.

Rating: 6.5/10

Jonny Evans:

Jonny Jonny Oh Jonny. How things can change in the space of one summer. Much maligned during 10/11 with many fans calling for Fergie to let him go, he has transformed to becoming the rock of the United defence and is viewed as irreplaceble. Much like Ferdinand in this prime, Jonny Evans has the knack of appearing at the right place, at the right time to make the tackle, not too shabby in the air either, he has been the pillar of stability in a rather shaky United defence (largely due to injuries) and despite abject displays in which he went invisible (6-1 loss to City and that 4-4 draw with Everton comes to mind), Evans has displayed a consistency not seen in him in all his time at United. Even his haters now must admit that he’s one hell of a defender. Looks like Fergie was right once again.

Rating: 8/10

Rio Ferdinand:

Just as Evans rose, Rio fell. The former cornerstone and half of the famous Vidic-Rio defensive pairing, Ferdinand has aged and age has not been kind to him. While flashes of his old brilliance have appeared in certain games, in other games Ferdinand has been made to look just another ordinary defender. Prone to sitting too deep and exposed to pace, Ferdinand does not display that natural chemistry with Vidic to Evans and it shows at times. Too focused on yelling at his team-mates and twittering, it may soon be time to Ferdinand to call it a day. A shame to see England’s once finest defender show one of his worst performances in a season where United has fallen short in all competitions.

Rating: 6/10

Vidic:

The Serbian man-mountain was much missed. Out with an injury for the whole season, his leadership and rock-solid tackling has been missed greatly. Arguably could’ve helped shore up the defence (2 goals conceded in 7 games. nuff’ said) and secure United’s 20th title. All eyes would now be on how he performs when he comes back from injury.

Rating: N/A

Rafael:

Not one of his better seasons at United. His strengths in attacking flair were evident but so were his flaws in his defending. Has to work on his consistency and his defensive work-rate. Other than that, a fairly decent season nevertheless for Rafael.

Rating: 6.5/10

Patrice Evra:

Playing in almost all of United’s game, as well as being embroiled in world football’s biggest racism scandal, has taken its toll on Patrice Evra. Once considered the world’s best left-back alongside Cole, Evra still remains an excellent left-back, contributing to attacks and providing a stable defensive outlet. Despite this, Evra’s flaws have been exposed more than ever this season. His tendency to remain too high up the pitch leaves the centre-backs exposed and at times he tends to close down when he should stand off and stands off when he should close down. His inability to captain the defence like Vidic did is another flaw in his season and Fergie may do well to appoint a different vice captain next season. Regardless, a decent season for Evra, but at 32, it’s time for Fergie to look at other options

Rating: 7/10

Midfielders:

Michael Carrick:

Much like Evans, Carrick has been the scapegoat of United in previous seasons and did little to improve his standing among fans earlier this season with the same old ‘meh’ performances that we’ve come to expect of him (his performances in the first half of the Community Shield was abject). And when Cleverly went missing due to injury, United fans gave a groan as it meant that Carrick would have to come back into the fore. But when Carrick returned, he was a changed man. Almost marshaling the midfield single-handedly, he has managed the most tackles at 3.6 a game, yet commits the least fouls at 0.7 a game. Keeping in mind that he’s not a defensive midfielder by trade, those are impressive stats to have for the passing midfielder that he is. Long considered to be a skilled distributor of the ball, he has finally gained enough confidence to add some dynamicism to his gameplay, motoring forward with more eagerness and occasionally firing off long shots (that QPR goal was an absolute peach in my mind). And with Scholes return comes a natural partner to his playstyle, Carrick and Scholes have delivered masterclass after masterclass in the art of distribution that is almost akin to a pseudo pairing of Xavi/Busquets. The most improved player bar Evans in my mind. This has been his best season. Shame he didn’t win anything.

Rating: 8/10

Ryan Giggs:

At the age of 38 and still running with a spring in his step, Fergie’s loyal steed may have lost his blistering pace of youth but with his age comes vital experience and decision-making, which has been put to good use in the center of the park, where he partners Carrick in helping maintain possession of the ball. While Giggs has had a couple of good games (his goal against Benfica was sublime), his age is definitely catching up with him. Unable to play with intensity of a younger man meant that United’s midfield was prone to energetic play and it showed in vital games of the season. An amazing physical specimen, Ryan Giggs is a role model for all aspiring footballers, but behind his glowing reputation, lies an decent season.

Rating: 6.5/10

Paul Scholes:

Oh my dear Ginger Prince. Ever since his retirement, I’ve been watching endless videos of the Ginger Prince work his subtle magic and I must admit, it gave me great sadness that I’ve not noticed his importance to the team till now, with the bright lights names like Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs and Beckham blocking out his. I was disappointed that I’d never get to see him play ever again….until the Ginger Prince came out of retirement, like a glorious tale of a long lost ally coming back to aid a mighty cause. I was on my knees when he made his appearance in the City Derby in which we won. He still can’t tackle but he has still got it. It’s almost like he never left. 6 months absence has given him a renewed vigour and he put it all on display in the second half of the season, helping to bring Carrick’s passing game to the next level as well as providing a steady source of long-range passes that never fails to amaze me with its accuracy. All hail the Ginger Prince, and may he continue to play for as long as he can. There will never be another Paul Scholes.

Rating: 8/10

Tom Cleverly:

To hail his as the second coming of Scholes would be a fallacy. Both offer unique creative insight when it comes to passing but their style of passing greatly differs from one another. Scholes, a specialist of finding a team-mate from across the pitch with a lofted ball while being blindfolded and made to dance the macarena, is different from Cleverly, an exponent of a Barcelona-esque 1-2 short passing. Blessed with excellent off-the ball movement, the energy of youth and short passing technique that would’ve made Xavi smile, Cleverly has excited in every game that he has played in, and while he has been kept out of most of the season due to injury and fitness problems, he is one for the future and would definitely be one to watch. United’s answer to Jack Wilshere.

Rating: 7/10

Anderson:

New haircut, same old story. Injury and fitness problems coupled with a few ‘ngeh’ performances has failed to convince United fans that he may have a place in the midfield. Promising signs at the end of last season and a natural chemistry with Cleverly in the beginning of the season whetted fan’s appetites. But since then, Ando has failed to impress. It may be time to let him go.

Rating: 5/10

Ashley Young:

Purchased as a marquee signing of sorts, Young is an established star of the premier league and one of the most consistent players in Villa for a while now. While he has struggled with fitness at times, he has impressed in his 19 games for United in the league, scoring 6 and assisting 7, that’s a hand in a goal every other game. On a bad day, he is invisible, but on his good days he is at his destructive best. Another set-piece specialist besides Rooney, he has scored a couple of beautiful goals this season from long range (not necessarily set-pieces). A decent debut season for Young. If he can improve on this season, he’ll be an excellent signing.

Rating: 6.5/10

Nani:

Oh Nani Nani Nani. Claims that he wants to be the best player in the world alongside Messi and Ronaldo, when is the most mecurial player on the world bar Arshavin. Like Young, he is frustratingly impotent on bad days and almost unplayable when he’s on his swagger. Two-footed and blessed with pace and trickery, if he could blend those assets with good decision-making, he would’ve had another stellar season like last season. Still considered a key player for United, Nani would need to work on his consistency if he is to be considered worthy of standing next to Messi and Ronaldo.

Rating: 6.5/10

Antonio Valencia:

As one journalist wrote so aptly, Valencia has “the speed and power of a rampaging rhino, with the fine movement of a hummingbird”. Once again, Valencia has established himself as the finest right winger in the EPL, providing power and pace down the right, shaming class left-backs like Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole and Jose Enrique. Few have been able to contain Antonio Valencia well and he has been the model of consistency, providing cross after cross of impeccable accuracy. His work-rate and defensive abilities has seen him in the position of right-back during United’s injury crisis, and even in an unfamiliar position he has shown some good performances. One of the best players in United’s squad right now, Antonio Valencia has had a good season and would be vital to United’s title charge next season. Only gripe is the lack of first-time crosses due to United’s new ‘possession’ game style, which in a way, has contributed to Chicarito’s lack of goals.

Rating: 8/10

 Forwards:

Wayne Rooney:

The United’s talisman once again showed just how important he is to the team. Scorer of almost 30 goals in all competitions, he has been a consistent goal threat, which makes up for the fact that his performances have been efficient but unimpressive at times. Suffered a mid-season lull sandwiched by two purple patches, not as influential as he should be, but Rooney has arguably matured, picking only 1 yellow card in the league. Still THE most vital player in the squad, Rooney has had a good season, and with his prime approaching, his form can only get better.

Rating: 8/10

Danny Welbeck:

Welbeck has come a long way since his Academy days. Arguably the breakout youngster of this season, Welbeck has impressed plenty of fans with his eagerness, work-rate and excellent off-the-ball movement. The contributor of 17 goals in the league and only 21, Welbeck has been in fine form for a youngster and would definitely look to build on this season. While   possessing excellent movement and link-up play with Rooney, Welbeck’s flaws are his dribbling prowess, his technique and at times, his finishing. Has to potential to be the Thierry Henry of United if he works hard to improve on his flaws, with many aspects of Welbeck’s play similiar to the French hitman of Arsenal. Nevertheless, an excellent breakout season and a confirmation of United’s continual ability to produce quality players.

Rating: 8/10

Chicarito:

The little pea has had a poor season, regardless of however way you want to look at it. Displaced by Welbeck as Fergie’s choice for the advanced forward, Chica has not done much to emulate his goal-scoring exploits of last season. While contributing vital goals in games against Liverpool and Everton in that typical poacher fashion, he has been sporadic in appearances due to injury and fitness problems which began all the way back in preseason. Arguably the victim of the new game style United’s playing, Chica’s second season (for me) has been a disappointment, but he’s still young and will definitely improve.

Rating: 6/10

Dimitar Berbatov:

A real shame to see this player leave, but considering his Matt Le Tissier-esque playstyle, he simply does not fit into United’s equation. Delivered consistent performances nevertheless and carried on his job as professionally as possible. Never griped nor whinged and for that I respect him immensely. Confirmed that he’s on the way out of the club this summer.

Rating: 6/10

Transfers:
With United, adding members to the squad is a hard task to do. Balancing the fine academy graduates with buying new world class players who can add a new dimension to the squad is a hard task and Sir Alex has met with successes and he has met failures. For every Vidic, Ferdinand, Ronaldo there will be a Djemba Djemba and Kleberson. United’s season and poor form is Europe has shown that the squad of short of at least 2-3 players before they can complete their squad and really provide a strong challenge in Europe as well as the domestic competitions. I’ll be running down the transfers that should come in and those that should go out. Of the players that should come into the club, there will be a need to s0lve the midfield conundrum as well as provide extra depth to the full-back department.

In:

Shinji Kagawa:

Getting the biggest transfer rumour out of the way, Shinji Kagawa would be a good purchase for United, while getting an attacking midfielder is not gonna solve the midfield conundrum, Kagawa provides creative impetus and speed, as well as incisive passing on the counter to lend an extra dimentsion of efficiency to United’s attack. Capable of playing as a winger as well as a support striker, Kagawa’s presence would double as a rotation option on the wings as well as a player capable of playing in Rooney’s role, which either allows rest for Rooney or allows Rooney to play in a more advanced forward role ala 09/10 season. Being Japanese, United would also be able to tap into the Asian market, allowing for extra source of revenue from shirt sales, so signing Shinji Kagawa would not only be advantageous to United in terms of quality in the team, but also commercial purposes.

Value: Potentially 16 million pounds
Transfer Rating: 8/10

Aly Cissokho:

With names like Jordi Alba and Leighton Baines being bandied around as replacements for Evra, I’m more of a fan of being efficient with one’s money and buying players who have been flying under the radar and Aly Cissokho is one such player. Known in Ligue 1 as being a left-back of consistent excellence, his name is not up in lights despite his solid performances for Lyon. Strong, fast and deceptively effective in attack, the Frenchman could be a good replacement for Evra as well as a stop-gap measure to bridge the gap before Fabio or Fryers mature enough to take over the left-back mantle. Considering his age, 25, he’ll be a good signing for at least 6 seasons, and Fergie could do alot worse than to sign this left-back.

Value: 7.5 million pounds or less
Transfer Rating: 7.5/10

Kevin Strootman:

In light of United’s midfield problems, many names have been thrown around like M’Vila, Moussa Sissoko, Diarra etc. And in recent days, interest has slowly been gathering in a certain Kevin Strootman, who is an up and coming midfielder from the Eresdivie. Power and strong, and a fan of running at defenses like a crazed mongoose, he possesses both passing and tackling in equal measure, and a hard worker, he’s probably the closest candidate that can match the legendary Roy Keane in the engine room of United. While many are fans of Rasmus Elm, another class youngster, Elm is more along the mould of a more technical Carrick rather than a dynamic midfielder like Fletcher. At 22 years of age, Strootman would be able to form a stable partnership with Cleverly in the years to come.

Value: 10 million pounds or more
Transfer Rating: 7.5/10

Mapou Yanga Mbiwa:

A recent winner of Ligue 1 with Montpellier, Mapou Yanga Mbiwa is a star waiting to shine and with his time coming soon, it’s about time for United to strike before his value escalates to super-expensive prices. A centre-back by trade, he’s equally comfortable across both flanks at right and left back, and is a tall, strong and speedy defender who could have the same impact as John O’Shea. With recent injury crisis erupting all over the season, United’s depth in defense can only be further strengthened with his purchase. May result in an over-crowding in terms of defenders, but with Fabio going out on loan, Yanga Mbiwa can fill in for him as a secondary left-back pushing for first team if Aly Cissokho is not bought.

Value: 10 million pounds or more
Transfer Rating: 7.5/10

Eden Hazard:

The biggest whore in football besides Neymar and an ego even bigger than Ronaldo. Pacey, creative and a skilled dribbler, Eden Hazard is a superstar waiting to happen with an attitude to match and United may certainly need a player whose confidence in himself is absolute. Capable of playing on the wings or behind a striker like Kagawa, Hazard would provide more solidity in depth on the wings and would fit in perfectly with United’s fondness for wing play. In recent seasons, Hollywood and X-factor have been missing from United’s since Ronaldo’s departure for Madrid and indeed, United’s best seasons have been birthed from the swaggering arrogance of brilliant players. Best, Ronaldo, Cantona and Keane were cocky and arrogant, but they had the skillset and performances to match it. If Fergie is willing to take the risk,  splash the cash and is able to nurture Hazard in the same way he did Ronaldo, world football will have another superstar.

Value: 30 million pounds and more
Transfer: 8/10

Radja Nainggolan:

Yes. Radja who? A bruising midfielder from Cagliari, he’s an unrefined gem but more than makes up for it with power. Driving runs and powerful long shots are his favoured moves. Blessed with a fine engine, he’s more than capable of motoring up and down the pitch and is deceptively good at passing and tackling. A dark horse in the transfer market for United’s midfield but I’d be daring enough to say that he could have the makings of United’s next midfield general.

Value: 4-5 million pounds.
Transfer Rating: 6.5/10

Yaya Sanogo:

Yes I know that United has way too many strikers than they need, but with Berbatov and Owen leaving, it can’t hurt to have a promising youngster to replace the two aged strikers. Tall, strong and pacey with a good shot, Yaya Sanogo is one of the names placed in the pot for the next Didier Drogba. He’ll be a shot in the dark, with the potential to become one of the best strikers in the business, and with AJ Auxerre relegated, United should be able to get him on the cheap.

Value: 2 million pounds
Transfer Rating: 6.5/10

 Academy graduates:

Some will argue, why not pull a Class of 92′ and promote youth into the first team? Players like Pogba, Tunnicliffe, Petrucci, Will Keane and Michael Keane have shown their promise and with the success of Welbeck, Fergie might be inclined to allow academy graduates more game time. Pogba has the potential to become the next Patrick Viera, Tunnicliffe has the potential to be a hard-edged brusing ball-winner, Petrucci can become a lethal attacking midfielder, Will Keane can become a giant in defence while Michael Keane can become the next great English striker. With so much potential in the academy youth, why not let them have their time to play now, why not indeed.

Out:

Anderson:

A controversial choice indeed, but for me, Ando’s time is running out. I can’t remember a single significant contribution he has made to United and his performances, unlike Nani, ranges from invisible to frustrating. A few moments where he looks decent come fleeting between injuries and at this point, the fans are tired of his unfulfilled potential and it may just be time for him to find another club. A royal waste of 24 million. We could’ve gotten2-3 other players with that money.

Sale value: 5 million pounds.

Berbatov:

Refer to player ratings above.

Sale value: 5 million pounds.

Ferdinand:

Another controversial choice, but at his age, he may not have more to offer, ‘meh’ performances in a horrible season, Ferdinand is clearly past his prime. United and Ferdinand himself should cash in a transfer to milder leagues like the MLS.

Sale Value: 5 million pounds.

Federico Macheda:

Once had such promise and considered the future of Italy’s strike force. But poor loan spells in relegation doomed clubs has not helped in his development. With players like Chica and Welbeck standing in his way to establish himself as a first-choice striker, and with eager youngsters like Michael Keane and Petrucci waiting to overtake him in the pecking order, Macheda should move if he wants to play some first-team football.

Sale Value: 5 million pounds.

Tomasz Kuszcsak:

Lindegaard > Kuszcsak. nuff said.

Sale Value: 2 million pounds

So here ends the Season Review, hopefully next season would be kinder to United, and all that’s left is to watch the transfer season and see what purchases United are going to make. Till then. Cheers and Glory Glory Manchester United!

The Bargain Bin

So with end of most major leagues in the world comes the despair and sorrow of relegated clubs. And when the news of relegation comes the inevitable need to cut costs while attempting to raise revenue, usually by selling the club’s higher profile players at a bargain price to lower the wage budget and raise some money for the next season. And with the relegated clubs this season, there is a whole host of quality players that are gonna be available for an absolute bargain and I’m gonna take a look at the possible ‘bargain bin’ transfers and the clubs that they’d be suitable for.

Edit: Due to contractual clauses in these players contract, some may go for free. In which case, add about +1 to their rating.

Barclays Premier League (England):
Clubs relegated:
Bolton
Blackburn Rovers
Wolves

Surprises here in the BPL and three supposed regular mainstays in the league have been relegated this season after truly horrendous seasons while the three clubs that have been promoted, Swansea, QPR and Norwich have all survived the drop. And despite the terrible form of the relegated clubs, there are still gems of players in their squads, players whom any Premier League club would be delighted to take into their squad. And these are the players

Junior Hoilett:

Junior Hoilett.jpg

Age: 21
Position: Left/Right Winger
Value: 7 million pounds

David ‘Junior’ Hoilett is one of Blackburn’s star performers of this season, providing speed and guile down both flanks. The possessor of lightning quick pace akin to Walcott albeit with better dribbling skills, Junior Hoilett is a raw talented youngster with alot of potential. In 34 appearances he has notched up 7 goals and 6 assists, which may not sound like much, but considering the team he was in and his potential, those are promising stats. While his key attributes remain his speed, dribbling and creative flair, his consistency and decision-making still remain suspect at times, which is forgivable considering his age and the fact that he has plenty of time to grow and mature. Though he is valued at 7 million pounds, it is rumoured that there is a clause in his contract that allows him to walk for free should Rovers get relegated (which they did) so he’s a free agent, which only drives his bargain bin rating through the roof.

Suitability:
A perfect signing for a mid-table club like Everton or Sunderland, and a promising rotation option for bigger clubs like Liverpool. It is rumoured that even Bayern Munich is looking at him to possibly replace their aging flying wingers in Robben and Ribery. Either way Hoilett is going to be on the move this summer and great things will be expected of him at the club he chooses

Bargain rating: 8/10

Matt Jarvis

Matt Jarvis - Wolves.jpg

Age: 25
Position: Left Winger
Value: 7 million pounds

Matt Jarvis has been on the rise since the tail end of the 2010/2011 season and at the start of this season, providing a constant threat down the left wing of Wolves. A throw-back to classic English wingers, he’s fairly pacy, has a good work-rate and possesses a good cross. He may have suffered a midseason lull and was then forced to have the calamitous experience of having to be under the clueless leadership of Terry Conner but despite this, Jarvis still managed 8 goals and 6 assists in 39 matches, which shows a glimpse of his capabilities if he was in a better managed team.

Suitability:
Like Hoilett, Jarvis would be a suitable as a good option for mid-table clubs, and I personally would peg Norwich to pick him up. Jarvis would also make a decent back-up rotation option for bigger clubs, like Arsenal or United. His pricing may be inflated, being home-grown, but if he performs like he can, then he’d be an absolute bargain.

Bargain rating: 7.5/10

Wayne Hennessey

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Age: 25
Position: Goalkeeper
Value: 3.5 million pounds

Another victim of the poorly managed Wolves squad, Wayne Hennessey still remains their stand-out performer, bravely manning his posts and was the solid rock behind his leaky defense. Despite his best efforts, Wolves still floundered but on the bright side for Hennessey, there will be a host of clubs that would want a goalkeeper of his quality. A good aerial presence, sharp reflexes and solid handling, Wayne Hennessey would be a solid keeper for his transfer value.

Suitability:
Bottom-half clubs like QPR, Stoke or Aston Villa. He’d be able to walk right into their first-team set-up barring Aston Villa and would perform well. A good back-up that can push for first team in top-half clubs like Fulham, WBA, Newcastle or Tottenham.

Bargain rating: 7/10

Lee Chung Yong

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Age: 23
Position: Right Winger
Value: 5 million pounds

Lee Chung Yong has been the victim of a horrible broken leg sustained during preseason and has been out for almost the entire season and then became a relegation victim. Despite this his track-record has been impressive, been named Bolton’s Player of the Season during 10/11 and has shown promise during his playing time. While his come-back from his injury has not been stellar, his potential as a creative attacking outlet makes him a good purchase for a fairly cheap price.

Suitability:
Lee Chung-Yong would be suitable for mid-table sides and should slot well into sides like Fulham, WBA, Swansea or even Wigan Athletic.

Bargain rating: 6.5/10

Morten Gamst Pedersen

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Age: 30
Position: Central Midfielder/Left Midfielder
Value: 5 million pounds

Morten Gamst Pedersen has established himself as one of the Premier League’s more experienced midfielders. A good passer of the ball and a killer set-piece specialist, he provides a fair amount of creativity and consistency to the midfield.

Suitability:
Given his age, he’d probably be suitable for the bottom half clubs like Villa. Or considering that Scharner is leaving WBA, his gap in midfield can be filled by Morten Gamst Pedersen.

Bargain Rating: 6/10 (given his age)

Adam Bogdan

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Age: 24
Position: Goalkeeper
Value: 2 million pounds

Adam Bogdan, the man who managed to replace Jussi Jasskelainen as Bolton’s No. 1, which is no mean feat considering the consistent high standard performances delivered to Bolton by the trusty Finish keeper. Bogdan may be a young keeper, and the perpetrator of some of the league’s worst goalkeeping mistakes (think Chelsea’s rout of Bolton earlier in the season), but towards midseason and the end of the season, he began to steady and displayed some terrific goalkeeping. An excellent goalkeeper on a good day, Adam Bogdan is a decent keeper with potential to grow.

Suitability: Bottom half clubs. Would do well as the understudy to Shay Given at Aston Villa.

Bargain rating: 6/10

Jamie O’Hara

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Age: 25
Position: Central Midfielder
Value: 5 million pounds

Another stand-out performer from a poor Wolves team, O’Hara has provided creativity and incision to the Wolves midfield and deceptively good at set-pieces and arguably could’ve changed Wolves’ fortune had he not been injured on such a regular basis. At his age, he can still grow and can provide some quality to the midfield.

Suitability:
O’Hara would fit well in clubs that prize passing quality in the middle of the park like Swansea or Wigan.

Bargain rating: 6/10

Steven N’Zonzi

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Age: 23
Position: Defensive Midfield
Value: 4.5 million pounds

Steven N’Zonzi, once rated to be the next Patrick Viera has flattered to deceive this season, neither stellar nor atrociously bad, he has largely flown under the radar this season. Still showing glimpses of the talent that has made him such hot property to clubs like Arsenal, he is capable of blending technique with powerful runs, but whether or not he can raise his game, is dependent on which club is keen to take a risk on him.

Suitability:
N’Zonzi would be a good fit for teams that like power in their midfield, Stoke may want to look at him if they want a juggernaut with a touch of finesse in their gritty midfield. Teams like Fulham or WBA can do alot worse than sign him as well.

Bargain Rating: 6.5/10

Simon Vukcevic

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Age:26
Position: Right Winger/ Central Midfielder
Value: 3 million

Once rumored to have United looking out for him, Vukcevic has not lived up to the expectations (whatever little there was) of him. A technical maestro and a dead-ball specialist, he has not exactly lit up the Premier League with only 2 goals and 2 assists in 11 appearances. Nevertheless, he still represents a bargain at a transfer value of 3 million.

Suitability:
A good back-up option for mid-table clubs. Swansea might want to look at him if they are unable to secure Siguurdsson.

Bargain Rating: 5.5/10

Steven Fletcher

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Age:25
Position: Striker
Value: 7 million pounds

Steven Fletcher has had a decent season, scoring 12 goals and recording 3 assists in 32 matches. A well-rounded striker who has a knack for being there at the right place at the right time, he possesses good finishing, a firm header and has a good balance of speed and strength. A good striker who is experienced in the rigours of the Premier League

Suitability:
A shoo-in for hardworking clubs like Norwich or WBA, who would be looking for more striking options beside Morrison and Holt, Long and Odemwingie respectively. Would do well in clubs like Everton as a back-up striker to Jelavic.

Bargain rating: 7/10

Yakubu Aiyegbeni

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Age: 29
Position: Striker
Value: 7 million pounds

“Feed the Yak and he’ll score”. That saying held true this season as Yakubu fired home an impressive 17 goals in 30 matches, almost a goal every other game. Once much maligned at Everton for being extremely wasteful and generally useless, he seemingly blossomed for Blackburn, and had his goals saved them from relegation he would’ve been worth alot more than he is currently. But regardless, his eye for goal and brute strenght makes him a dangerous centre-forward and on a good day (and with adequate feeding), he is unstoppable.

Suitability:
Honestly, bringing Yakubu to Blackburn was already such a gamble and bringing him back from the brink of Championship would be a gamble as well. All that can be said is that if club that brings him in feeds him well, they’ll have a deadly striker on their hands.

Bargain rating: 7/10 (his price for his age may be a stumbling block)

Pictures sourced from Wikipedia and Google Images.