One player every Premier League side cannot afford to sell in the transfer window

14 Jul

The return of the Premier League season is edging closer and, as ever, the summer transfer window is still providing fans with plenty of entertainment.

Although the new Merlin ball is yet to be kicked, all 20 sides in the English top-flight are still anxiously hoping to improve their squad.

The Premier League season is agonisingly close, with plenty of transfer business still to be done
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Thus far, Manchester United have been the most aggressive side in the market. After capturing Daniel James from Swansea City for £15million, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went big and parted with £50m to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace.

Of course, there are no shortage of potential departures from Old Trafford this season.

Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba have both been linked with lucrative moves this summer, with the Belgium international seemingly set to move to a Serie A side.

And while the sales of both men would see a sizeable injection of cash pumped into Old Trafford, it begs the question as to how important they both are to United.

Pogba and Lukaku are both expected to leave Manchester United this summer
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This is a question a number of Premier League sides are asking after seeing some of their star players also linked with moves away.

Wilfried Zaha is undoubtedly adored at Crystal Palace, but if you travel to south London and find Eagles fans who would not sell him for an extortionate price to Arsenal, they are probably in the minority.

Similarly, West Ham United sold Marko Arnautovic to Shanghai SIPG earlier this week. But fans in the East End remain optimistic about their prospects for the upcoming season.

So which players can be considering genuinely unstoppable for their sides? Scroll down to see the one player talkSPORT.com believes your Premier League side cannot afford to sell in the transfer window.

AFC Bournemouth – Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake has gone from Chelsea reject to Premier League powerhouse
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Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser are arguably Bournemouth’s two most important players. Going forward, the duo looked unstoppable at times last season.

But 24-year-old Ake is the main man at the Vitality, make no mistake about that.

Eddie Howe’s side have traditionally suffered dips of form throughout the season, but it is the fortitude of Ake which helped see them through last year.

Averaging 6.1 clearances a game, the Netherlands international is a classic example of what a good centre-back should be.

Arsenal – Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal’s player of the season, Lacazette is a cunning and selfless centre forward
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Upon signing for Arsenal in 2017, many fans believed Lacazette was simply brought in to score goals. After all, he had managed to net 129 times in 275 games for previous side Lyon.

But the France international has a vast array of redeeming features which have endeared him to Arsenal fans.

His hold-up play, determination and willingness to play anywhere for his team were key factors behind the fan’s decision to award him the Player of the Year Award.

With 13 Premier League goals to his name last year, the Gunners striker is vital to the way Unai Emery wants to play.

Aston Villa – Jack Grealish

A boyhood Villa fan, Grealish will need to continue his fantastic form
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It’s not very often modern day fans get to see a real-life Roy of the Rovers story played out, but Grealish is doing just that.

The boyhood Villa fan thought he was signing for Tottenham last summer due to the club’s financial struggles, but the owners came in and locked him down to a new deal.

He then struggled with a shin injury, but lead the Villans to 13 wins out of 16 in the Championship to lead them to the Play-Offs.

The 23-year-old is expected to retain the captain’s armband when the Premier League season kicks off and will be crucial to their survival chances.

Brighton and Hove Albion – Lewis Dunk

The centre-half is Brighton’s leader on the pitch
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When Chris Hughton was surprisingly given the sack at the end of last season, a stunned silence must have fallen over the Amex Stadium.

The Seagulls had just secured a third consecutive season in the Premier League and Hughton is recognised as being one of the nicest men in football.

Given Brighton are now experiencing an overhaul under new boss Graham Potter, the last thing they can afford to do is lose their captain.

The England international has helped Brighton keep 17 clean sheets since arriving in the Premier League, maintaining a tackle success rate of 54 per cent as well.

Burnley – James Tarkowski

After Michael Keane’s departure, Tarkowski stepped up to the mantle at Turf Moor
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Michael Keane’s move to Everton threatened to send Burnley spiralling back into the Championship, but the stoic Sean Dyche dug his heels in and the Clarets are still a Premier League side.

Perhaps no player better epitomises that spirit than Tarkowski. The 26-year-old was promoted after Keane’s move to Merseyside and has worked hard to keep his place.

Now an England international, the centre-back is thriving at Turf Moor. Averaging 6.7 tackles and 1.6 clearances per game, Tarkowski is Burnley’s most important player.

With Harry Maguire potentially leaving Leicester, Dyche has been quick to slap a £40m price tag on the former Oldham Athletic defender.

Chelsea – N’Golo Kante

Kante is one of the best midfielders in the world, without a shadow of a doubt
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Of all the players to suffer under Murizio Sarri’s reign at Chelsea, Kante was perhaps the one who bore the brunt of the Italian’s rigid tactics.

Played in a more advanced midfield role, the France international struggled to produce the calibre of performances fans have begun accustomed to. But you don’t win back-to-back Premier League titles and then the World Cup if you’re a bad player.

Despite Kante’s indifferent season, Frank Lampard simply HAS to keep the midfielder and play him in his strongest role.

On his day, there are few better defensive midfielders in the world. During the 2016/17 season, Kante made 127 tackles, 82 interceptions and a staggering 275 recoveries.

Crystal Palace – Luka Milivojevic

The Serbia international is vital to the Eagles
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A deadline day signing from Olympiacos in 2017 under Sam Allardyce, few Palace fans knew just how influential Milivojevic would become.

The Serbia international has since become the first-choice midfielder, the designated set-piece taker and now Eagles captain.

Strong in the tackle and an excellent reader of the game, the 28-year-old is unerringly consistent and so reliable. He averaged 2.4 tackles and 1.9 interceptions a game, whilst maintaining an 80 per cent pass success rate.

With Zaha seemingly off, Palace will need Milivojevic’s leadership abilities to steady the ship at Selhurst Park.

Everton – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Sigurdsson is one of the most creative players in the Premier League
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A £45m signing from Swansea City, Sigurdsson is finally getting the recognition he deserves at Everton.

The Iceland international may not possess the pace of modern day attacking midfielders, but his technical ability is impressive.

Last season, he scored 13 goals and registered six assists as the Toffees enjoyed a comfortable season under Marco Silva.

But the Portuguese boss will want to push on and with Andre Gomes signed on a permanent deal, Sigurdsson’s role at Goodison Park has become even more vital.

Leicester City – Wilfred Ndidi

It may not be long before the biggest clubs in the Premier League start to go after Ndidi
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While it would be terrible to lose Harry Maguire to either Manchester City or Manchester United, there are question marks about how much further the England international can develop.

Already an outstanding ball-carrier as well as a solid defender, the 26-year-old is nearing his prime years. And while he is already fantastic, Ndidi could be exceptional. He made 143 tackles in the top-flight last season – more than any other player.

It is almost scary to think the midfielder is only 22 years of age, he was a regular starter for Nigeria at the World Cup last summer and appeared in every Premier League game for the Foxes in 2018/19.

Tenacious in the tackle and averaging 52.2 passes per game, the youngster is exactly what a manager wants from a holding midfielder. If they lose him, there are very players in world football with as much potential they could afford to get.

Liverpool – Virgil van Dijk

The world is running out of superlatives to describe Van Dijk
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Perhaps the easiest name to put on this list, Van Dijk is one of the best players in the world and is set to become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro since 2006.

Statistically, the Netherlands captain was superb; no-one has completed a dribble past Virgil van Dijk in any of his last 64 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool. While Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are important, Van Dijk is irreplaceable.

So even if a ludicrous bid comes in for the 27-year-old, Liverpool simply cannot afford to sell him. Not just because of his on-pitch performances, but for the message it sends to the rest of the world.

After winning the Champions League, bowing to the financial pressure of a Real Madrid or a Barcelona suggests the Reds are weak. Keeping Van Dijk transcends football, it is a power move to reject any and every offer which finds its way to Anfield.

Manchester City – Bernardo Silva

The Portuguese epitomises the football Pep Guardiola wants to play
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When the little Portuguese rocked up at the Etihad in 2017, many felt he would sit on the bench and play a bit part role for a few years until his namesake David decided to call it a day.

However, the 24-year-old has established himself as one of, if not the most important player in Pep Guardiola’s well-oiled City machine. He epitomises the type of football the Spaniard wants to play.

Silva made 1.4 tackles per game on average in the Premier League, but also managed to keep an exorbitantly high 86.1 per cent pass success rate, which for an attacking is sensational.

With seven goals and seven assists last season, the relentless Guardiola will expect more from a player whose pattern of growth seems exponential.

Manchester United – Paul Pogba

Love him or loathe him, Pogba has a star quality you cannot ignore
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Perhaps the most divisive figure in world football at this time, everyone has an opinion on Paul Pogba.

Talented, yet temperamental, the France international wants out of Old Trafford. But it seems like a huge mistake to get rid of him.

Statistically speaking, Pogba was unmatched at Old Trafford. The 26-year-old scored 13 goals and got nine assists, more than anyone other Red Devil.

But, as with Van Dijk at Liverpool, selling Pogba would be a decision which transcends football. He is a marketable asset and letting him go suggests United can no longer keep, nor attract the best players in world football. He is the last genuine star in that squad.

Newcastle United – Fabian Schar

The centre half is cultured and composed on the ball
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Newcastle United are in danger of free-falling out of the Premier League trap door and tumbling into the Championship.

Back in May when rumours of a wealthy investor began to circulate, odds began to shorten drastically on the Magpies signing Kylian Mbappe. But the rumours proved to not be true, with Rafael Benitez quickly plotting his escape route to China.

If relegation is to be staved off, the club MUST hold on to the quality players they have in the squad, with Schar the first.

The Switzerland international was Newcastle’s best player according to WhoScored, with a rating of 7.30. His no-nonsense defensive style is complimented by a knack of scoring important goals too.

Norwich City – Tom Trybull

The midfielder has played for many of the Germany youth teams
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Daniel Farke’s revolution at Carrow Road is nothing short of spectacular, taking an average Canaries side from finishing 14th in the Championship to winning it in spectacular style.

And Trybull’s emergence from Alex Tettey’s shadow to become a first-team regular is testament to Farke’s ability. He will be crucial to Norwich’s chances of staying the division, especially considering they are unlikely to enjoy as much possession in the top-flight as they did last year.

A regular amongst the German youth teams, the midfielder seemed destined for mediocrity until he took his chance in East Anglia. According to Norwich’s Sporting Director, Stuart Webber, Trybull’s new coach had fought hard for the midfielder to come to Carrow Road.

He said: “He is lucky he has an outstanding coach who believes in him. Daniel fought for the opportunity for Tom. He came through very much on Daniel’s advice. I like people who are brave and willing to put themselves out of their comfort zone and pretty much beg for an opportunity.”

Sheffield United – John Egan

Egan is as crucial to the team on the pitch as he is off it
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A club-record signing from Brentford, Egan has the potential to follow in the footsteps of former Blades hero Harry Maguire.

Egan endured loan spells with Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Bradford City and Southend United, and has represented Ireland at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level.

He was released by Sunderland at the end of the 2013–14 season, and signed a 2-year deal with Gillingham in July 2014.

But now, he has established himself as a crucial member of Chris Wilder’s’ defence and his willingness to put his body on the line (as illustrated by his red card at Millwall) will be invaluable to securing a second Premier League season.

Southampton – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

With Mario Lemina seemingly off, the Saints cannot afford to lose another influential midfielder
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A former Bayern Munich midfielder, Hojbjerg made the decision to join Southampton in 2016 after being convinced by Claude Puel.

Now working under his THIRD permanent manager in three years, the 23-year-old has taken over the captain’s armband and diligently carries on in midfield.

It is this behaviour which the Saints desperately crave and will need throughout the season. After having some of their best talents ripped from the south coast, Hojbjerg’s single-mindedness and determination is exactly what the club needs.

As illustrated by Mario Lemina, the upheaval at St Mary’s can unsettle players. But Hojbjerg’s unerring consistency will give fans hope of genuine progression in years to come.

Tottenham Hotspur – Heung-Min Son

While Harry Kane and Dele Alli are undoubtedly superstars, Son continues to defy critics on a regular basis
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For several years, the former Bayer Leverkusen attacker was touted as just an ‘underrated’ option up front for Spurs.

But Son is much more than that, his pace and trickery make him a constant threat for 90 minutes, but it it his consistency and the addition of goals which makes him so special.

Harry Kane has shown a pattern of breaking down throughout the course of a season, perhaps linked to his importance for both club and country. In his absence, the South Korea international has led the line superbly.

Stats last season suggested Spurs actually won more games and scored more without Kane in their side, but with Son leading the line.

Watford – Abdoulaye Doucoure

The central midfielder has been linked with a move to PSG in the past
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Watford enjoyed a terrific season last time out under Javi Gracia, reaching the FA Cup final. Although they were thumped by Manchester City, the season can still be classed as a success.

Much of that can be attributed to the presence of Abdoulaye Doucoure at the base of the Hornets’ midfield. Gracia was able to play a diamond in midfield which, thanks to Doucoure, meant Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra flourished further forward.

Even from a deeper position, the 26-year-old managed to record six assists and chipped in with five goals. His strengths lie in winning the ball back and driving forward, maintaining a 83.5 per cent pass success rate and averaging 1.5 shots per game from a deeper position.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly still interested, with Liverpool also in the frame. The Frenchman wants to play Champion League football, but the Hornets must retain their star man if they want to build on their 11th-placed finish.

West Ham United – Declan Rice

If Rice were to leave, the Hammers would be very threadbare in midfield
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For those who watched West Ham regularly last season, you will understand the hype around Rice.

A centre-back by trade, Maneul Pellegrini moved the 20-year-old into the heart of the midfield and he has not looked back, making his England debut later in the season.

He made more tackles than any other West Ham player (98), was second in passes (1,518) and third in interceptions (52).

Quite simply, he is the defensive shield Manuel Pellegrini needs in order to play the attacking brand of football he is famed for. Without Rice at the base of midfield, West Ham lost their opening four games of last season in convincing style.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Diogo Jota

Jota scored nine goals and registered five assists last season
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Ruben Neves is a superstar and Raul Jimenez is also an integral member of Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad, but Jota quickly showed he had the quality to become the main man.

Aged just 22, the versatile forward embodied all that was good about Wolves last season. Fearless and not afraid to attack, Jota scored nine goals and five assists in his debut campaign.

But what is more important is the calibre of opposition he scored against. Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all conceded against the Portuguese star.

He picked up 11 yellow cards which, although suggests a lack of discipline, is also an indicator of how he is willing to get stuck for his team and even make the necessary cynical fouls when tracking back to stop the momentum of the opposition.

Best Premier League XI outside top six, including Wilfired Zaha and James Maddison

7 May

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer warned his Manchester United players other clubs will be looking to chase them next season.

The Red Devils will finish sixth if they fail to better Arsenal’s result on the final day of the 2018/19 campaign.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been solid for Crystal Palace this season

Solskjaer said: “You’ve got Leicester, Everton, Watford, probably Newcastle, you’ve got clubs that want to chase us. We have to make sure that we are the ones who chase those ahead of us.

“We have to make sure that we are getting closer and moving that way up the table and not looking over the shoulders because there are big clubs, good clubs wanting to chase that top six.”

So, who are the best players outside of the top six? talkSPORT take a look…

Goalkeeper – Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham)

Lukasz Fabianski has been a revelation at the London Stadium

Fabianski has been an ever-present in Manuel Pellegrini’s side since signing from Swansea last summer. The 34-year-old has been the busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, making 140 saves. He has proven himself as a reliable top-flight No.1 since leaving Arsenal in 2014.

Right-back – Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)

Aaron Wan-Bissaka is becoming a Premier League star

Wan-Bissaka, who won Crystal Palace’s Player of the Year award, has been one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League this season.

Not many people would have blamed him for counting himself unlucky after being left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad in March.

His form has alerted the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City, however, the 21-year-old recently revealed he will be a Crystal Palace player next term.

Centre-back – Harry Maguire (Leicester)

Harry Maguire has had another fine season for Leicester

Maguire was one of former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s transfer targets last summer.

The towering defender was able to take his 2018 World Cup form with England into this season – and has been a regular fixture at the back for Leicester. Maguire will be crucial to the Foxes’ chances of mounting a top-six push next season.

Centre-back – Conor Coady (Wolves)

Conor Coady has been an ever-present in Wolves’ defence

The former Liverpool trainee has been one of Wolves’ standout players in their first season back in the Premier League.

Playing every single minute of the Premier League season so far, Coady has helped them to an impressive seventh-placed finish.

The club captain will be playing Europa League football next season if Manchester City beat Watford in this month’s FA Cup final. Surely an England call-up is on the horizon?

Left-back – Lucas Digne (Everton)

Lucas Digne has a wicked cross on him

Digne has enjoyed a successful debut season in the Premier League, chipping in with four goals and assists each.

He has been part of a watertight Everton defence, which has kept eight clean sheets in ten games.

Only Liverpool (20), Manchester City (20) and Chelsea (15) have had more shutouts than Everton (14) this term.

Right-wing – Richarlison (Everton)

Richarlison is a fans’ favourite at Goodison Park

Similarly to his team-mate Digne, Richarlison has been one of Everton’s best players this term.

He has scored 14 goals since joining in a £50million deal from Watford last summer. The Brazil international has even been linked with a move to Barcelona following his goalscoring form. The 21-year-old will only get better with years to come.

Central midfield – Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)

Abdoulaye Doucoure is a workhorse in Watford’s midfield

Watford could find it hard to keep Doucoure this summer, especially after the Paris Saint-Germain target admitted he would leave Vicarage Road if the right club came calling.

He has had yet another fine season in the Premier League and is on course to help Watford finish in the top ten.

Central midfield – James Maddison (Leicester)

James Maddison will only get better with time

Signed for £22.5million from Norwich last year, that transfer fee seems like a bargain now. In his first season in the Premier League, Maddison has been directly involved in 14 goals, scoring and assisting seven each.

He has been deployed slightly deeper in midfield since Brendan Rodgers replaced Claude Puel in March, but has still been able to shine. He has been touted as a replacement for Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, who will join Juventus on July 1.

Left-wing – Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Wilfried Zaha is constantly linked with a move away from Selhurst Park

Zaha is having his most lethal top-flight season, netting ten goals for Roy Hodgson’s men.

He has been so crucial to Palace preserving their Premier League status over the past five years. Despite signing a new five-year contract last August, reports claim Arsenal are interested in the winger.

Striker – Raul Jimenez (Wolves)

Raul Jimenez has endeared himself to Wolves fans

Wolves paid Benfica £30million to make Jimenez’s loan move permanent last month.

The Mexico international has scored 17 goals and registered seven assists in all competitions. He has arguably been one of the signings of the season. Jimenez has also struck up a deadly strike partnership with Diogo Jota.

Striker – Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

Jamie Vardy is regarded as one of the Premier League’s best strikers

Vardy has scored 18 goals in another prolific top-flight season for Leicester. At the age of 32, he is showing no signs of slowing down. He has netted 11 goals in his last 12 games in what has been an excellent end to the campaign.

Is this the best Premier League XI outside of the top six?

Winners of FA Cup final between Manchester City and Watford will not get case of champagne

24 Apr

The winners of this year’s FA Cup will not be awarded a case of champagne out of respect for players’ religious beliefs.

There has been a longstanding tradition that the winning side were welcomed by a case of the alcohol inside the dressing room after the game.

Chelsea celebrate with champagne after winning the 2018 cup
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However, the Football Association has taken the decision to stop the practice beginning this season out of respect for religious beliefs that forbid alcohol consumption.

The successful squad will be provided with an alcohol-free substitute so the players can still celebrate in the usual way of spraying their team-mates with the drink.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates with champagne after winning the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2017
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An FA spokesman said: “Winning teams will be awarded with non-alcoholic ‘champagne’ for their celebrations in all FA competitions, starting from this year’s Emirates FA Cup Final.

“This is to ensure that we are as inclusive as possible to players and communities who may be prohibited from alcohol, as well as any players who are under 18.”

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Watford and Manchester City will compete for this year’s trophy at Wembley on May 18.

Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and City players Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan are all Muslim, which forbids alcohol consumption.

A report in the Daily Mail claims the FA has been proactive in swapping champagne to an alcohol-free substitute and there is not believed to have been any complaints in the past.

The report says: “FA chiefs had considered implementing the change sooner but was concerned that they would be branded as ‘party-poopers’.”

The best players who could leave the Premier League this summer including Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard and Sadio Mane

3 Apr

For years, the Premier League has been touted as the best in the world due to the high levels of entertainment and skill on display.

Filled with drama and intrigue in every season, the English top-flight is as unpredictable as it is unmissable.

Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard have been linked with moves away from the Premier League

While much of that success can be attributed to the incredible wealth afforded to every top flight-club, the calibre of player has continued to increase on a yearly basis.

However, next season could be in stark contrast.

With Aaron Ramsey confirming he will join Juventus in the summer, there may well be an exodus of world-class talent in the Premier League.

The success of other European nations in the Champions League and the lure of playing for some of the best manager in the world could well prove too strong.

Aaron Ramsey will be waving goodbye to the Emirates at the end of the season

While of course it is speculation at this point, there is a real fear the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Thomas Tuchel could poach some of the best players from England before the start of the 2019/20 season.

Scroll down to see eight of the best Premier League players who could well be joining Ramsey on the continent in the summer.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

The France intentional has talked about the possibility of leaving Old Trafford

Manchester United fans will have been perturbed to read Pogba’s latest comments about the possibility of moving to Real Madrid.

But what is even more alarming is new Real boss Zidane is equally as keen on his fellow World Cup winner joining him at the Bernabeu.

After rediscovering his form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba seemed destined to remain at Old Trafford after falling out with predecessor Jose Mourinho.

But the lure of linking up with the French legend in the Spanish capital may prove too strong to ignore.

Likelihood of leaving: 6/10

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Although inconsistent, Zaha has developed into a fine player in his second spell at Selhurst Park

The success of English footballers in Germany in recent seasons has surprised plenty of fans.

After Jadon Sancho’s meteoric rise at Borussia Dortmund and Reece Oxford’s stint with Borussia Monchengladbach, Arsenal loanee Reiss Nelson is also excelling in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim.

Another name linked with the German league is Crystal Palace talisman Zaha, with the aforementioned Dortmund keen on bringing the Ivory Coast international to Signal Iduna Park.

However, it is likely to take a monumental bid to prise him away from his beloved Selhurst Park where he is sure to go down as a club legend.

Likelihood of leaving: 3/10

Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton)

Gueye has been a model of consistency and discipline for the Toffees

The transfer market for Paris Saint-Germain has been a relatively simple process in recent years; court a player and then sign them.

After bringing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to the French capital, Tuchel looked to add steel to his midfield.

Former Aston Villa midfielder Gueye was targeted for that role, but Marco Silva stood firm in January.

Although the Senegal international has been a model professional since the rumours, he may well be sated by knowing his move in the summer is secured already.

Likelihood of leaving: 8/10

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

The Senegalese striker is one of the most in-form players in Europe at the moment

With Mohamed Salah faltering in front of goal, Mane has been the main man for Liverpool in the Premier League and the Champions League.

His record in the big games is astounding and he always seems to pop up with crucial goals as his strike against Bayern Munich prove.

As mentioned above, Zidane is keen to usher in a new era of ‘Galacticos’ in Madrid to put Los Blancos as the best side in the world.

Before his departure last season, it was claimed a deal was in place for the former Southampton forward to join Real and it seems likely it will be revisited.

Likelihood of leaving: 7/10

Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United)

Arnautovic looks more like the player who joined from Stoke City in the summer of 2017

If ever a football fan wanted proof of how quickly the game can change, Arnautovic would be the perfect example.

In the summer of 2017, the forward arrived at London Stadium from Stoke City for a club-record fee and stunk he place out.

Fast forward 12 months and the Austrian was the darling of the East End, but the pendulum swung once more after a failed attempt to move to the Chinese Super League.

Constant abuse from disgruntled fans and lacklustre performances suggest a move is on the cards this summer.

Likelihood of leaving: 8.5/10

Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)

Since making his Watford debut three years ago, the midfielder has been linked with moves away

Doucoure actually joined Watford in 2016, but was sent on loan to Granada instantly for the remainder of the season.

Powerful, skilful and with an eye for goal, rumours of moves to Premier League sides Liverpool and Manchester United have continued to gather pace for some time.

However, it is the interest from abroad which will be of concern to Hornets fans.

The lack of steel in the PSG midfield has seen the net cast far and wide, with the Frenchman also being considered. But it seems far more likely that, if he does leave Vicarage Road, it will be to another Premier League club.

Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

Herrera’s current contract situation will be concerning or Solskjaer

Herrera’s fight for a regular place in the Manchester United midfield has been admirable, to say the least.

When the Red Devils went big in the 2014 summer transfer window on Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, little notice was given to the Athletic Bilbao midfielder also arriving.

But it is this same diligence and unrelenting will to prove his doubters wrong which convinced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he deserves a new deal at Old Trafford.

But the uncertainty has alerted none other than PSG who are reportedly ‘close’ to agreeing a deal to sign the Spaniard for absolutely nothing.

Likelihood of leaving: 8/10

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Maurizio Sarri’s future may well be uncertain, but it seems Hazard will be moving on in the summer

If United fans thought Pogba’s flirtation with Real Madrid was bad, they should try being a Chelsea supporter.

Hazard has toyed with their heart strings for years and made no secret of his admiration of both the La Liga giants and his idol Zidane.

With Maurizio Sarri floundering and seemingly on the brink of a west London exit, the Belgium captain must surely already have one eye on the Stamford Bridge exit door.

The only sticking point could well be the Blues’ transfer ban. When Atletico Madrid were faced with the same conundrum and it seemed certain Antoine Griezmann would leave, they tied him down to a new deal and heavily reinvested when their transfer ban ended.

Likelihood of leaving: 9/10

The Premier League’s most underrated players, according to a fan poll

20 Mar

Bernardo Silva has pipped Son Heung-min and Alexandre Lacazette to be named the most underrated player in the Premier League, according to a fans poll.

The Man City playmaker has been quietly sensational this season, recording five goals and seven assists in 29 league appearances.

But his superb displays often get drowned out by his star studded group of team-mates – with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne often snatching the headlines.

Silva has been voted the most underrated player in the league

The Portuguese romped home with 22% of the vote, while Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal stars Son and Lacazette took second and third with 17% and 16% of the vote respectively.

Son has been instrumental to everything Spurs have done this season, contributing 11 goals and five assists in 24 matches – and he stepped up when Mauricio Pochettino needed him most after Harry Kane was ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury.

While Gunners forward Lacazette has also been superb for Arsenal but has been overshadowed by the performances of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who is third in the scoring charts.

Other players to make it on the list include Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has incredibly only started one match this season and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijaldum, who has been key in Liverpool’s title-chasing campaign.

But which other stars made the list?

Find out the results in full below…

Arsenal transfer news: Lucas Torreira is ‘not that good’ and Gunners should sign Abdoulaye Doucoure, Paul Merson says

24 Jan

Paul Merson wants Arsenal to sign Watford star Abdoulaye Doucoure who is “much better” than Lucas Torreira.

The Gunners signed 22-year-old Torreira from Sampdoria last summer for £22million.

Arsenal signed Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria

He has played in all their Premier League matches this season but Merson is not a fan.

Merson told Sky Sports: “Everyone was raving about Lucas Torreira, but he’s not that good. I said this a few months ago and everyone kicked up a stink.

“He only looks good as he’s what Arsenal have needed for a long time, someone to run around and put their foot in.

“But, if you put him up for sale tomorrow then none of the top five clubs in the Premier League would be interested.”

Abdoulaye Doucoure has attracted interest from clubs around Europe

The former Arsenal striker believes his former club should sign Doucoure as he would “walk into the team”.

The Watford midfielder is attracting interest from some of Europe’s top clubs, including PSG, who are reportedly willing to part with £50million to bring him to Ligue 1.

Merson added: “They (Arsenal) should sign Abdoulaye Doucoure at Watford – he’d walk into the team. I’d take him tomorrow morning.

“He’s a much better player than Torreira and he scores goals. He’s one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League – he could play for any of the top six.

“It seems no-one pays attention to him because he plays for Watford and fans will say, ‘Why are we buying him, he’s at Watford?’ – but he’s a proper player.”

Abdoulaye Doucoure ‘going to leave Watford’ with Hornets aware of his ambitions to play for Champions League club

14 Jan

Abdoulaye Doucoure has admitted he is ‘going to leave Watford’ amid reports linking the French midfielder with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Doucoure, 26, has been a standout performer for the Hornets over the past couple of seasons, and he was named the club’s Player of the Season for 2017/18.

His performances this term have not been up to their usual high standard, and there is a belief that speculation about a move to a bigger club may have gone to his head.

Doucoure has struggled for form this term, though he did miss all of pre-season through injury

PSG are known admirers of the former Rennes player as Thomas Tuchel chases a new midfielder, but Watford have no intention of selling Doucoure this month – even for the £50million they are believed to want for him.

However, things may change over the coming months as Doucoure has admitted he is planning to leave Vicarage Road should the right club come calling.

“I think I am going to leave Watford,” Doucoure said in an interview with Canal Plus. “The club know my ambitions and want to help me get to the next level.

“I’m flattered by the interest of PSG but for the moment there’s nothing concrete. I will focus on my performance for my club.

“I’ve not had contact with PSG and they’ve not contacted Watford. My goal is to play well for Watford and then maybe join a Champions League team.

Doucoure scored seven goals last term on the way to being named Watford’s Player of the Season

“The chances of me joining PSG? Probably small as they follow a number of players. I’m not the priority that’s for sure but if there is an opportunity then we will look into it. This winter we’ll study all possibilities on offer.

“The most important thing for me is to continue to progress and with my performances I’ll succeed in playing for a club in Europe.

Doucoure's performances in 2018/19

Though Doucoure has not performed at his highest level this season, he remains one of the best midfielders outside the Premier League's big six...

  • Appearances: 22
  • Goals: 3
  • Shots: 35
  • Assists: 5
  • Key passes: 24
  • Total passes: 1163
  • Pass completion: 82.2%
  • Dribbles: 20
  • Tackles: 47
  • Interceptions: 18
  • Clearances: 33

“Staying in England is a possibility and the Italian league is becoming more interesting. There are clubs who have returned to show interest in me again. The first criteria for me is that the club plays in the Champions League.”

The potential of Dourcoure leaving Watford but staying in England has been discussed previously, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton believed to have added him to their transfer shortlists.

Manchester City duo Sterling and Sane are the Premier League’s leading assist makers in 2018 but Tottenham’s Eriksen close behind

28 Nov

Scoring goals is great for any player but a large chunk of them do not happen without another player supplying the assist for them.

And with just over a month until we say goodbye to the year 2018, it’s time to look up who’s been racking up their assist count in the Premier League.

Christian Eriksen supplied the cross for Dele Alli’s goal during Tottenham’s win over Chelsea last weekend

Unsurprisingly, the chart has three players from last season’s champions and the current leaders Manchester City.

But just how many assists have the top eleven assist makers achieved so far in this calendar year? Below you can see the list of players with the most assists, courtesy of Opta.

=7. Kevin De Bruyne (7 assists)

De Bruyne was City’s standout player last season

=7. Johann Berg Gudmundsson (7 assists)

The Icelandic midfielder has also scored four goals in 2018

=7. Marko Arnautovic (7 assists)

Arnautovic’s form has led to him being linked with a move to Manchester United

=7. Andy Robertson (7 assists)

Robertson has plenty of opportunities to get forward for Liverpool

=7. Abdoulaye Doucoure (7 assists)

Four of Doucoure’s seven assists have come this season

=5. Mohamed Salah (8 assists)

Salah is 2018’s top goalscorer in the Premier League and he’s not a million miles off the assist crown either

=5. Paul Pogba (8 assists)

Pogba was United’s leading assist maker last season and tops their charts in the 2018/19 campaign

=3. Ryan Fraser (9 assists)

Fraser has already managed six assists this season

=3. Christian Eriksen (9 assists)

Eriksen has been Tottenham’s leading Premier League assist maker in all-but one season since he joined the club in 2013

2. Leroy Sane (11 assists)

Sane was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year last season

1. Raheem Sterling (13 assists)

Sterling is on course to become the 2018 leading assist maker in the Premier League

Manchester United news: Paul Pogba likes to show off but his charisma is good for football, says Watford pal Abdoulaye Dourcoure

14 Sep

Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure believes Paul Pogba’s personality is good for football ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Vicarage Road.

The pair, who were team-mates with France’s under-16s, will do battle on Saturday as the Hornets look to maintain their 100% start to the Premier League season.

Pogba won the World Cup with France

Dourcoure admits that Pogba has always been a bit of a show off, especially after becoming the world’s most expensive player in 2016 and winning the World Cup with France in July, but insists his attitude brightens the game.

He told the Mirror: “I’ve known Paul since I played with him in the French ­Under-16 team and he was, physically, the same as he is today, because he was in advance of everyone.

“Yes, he liked to show off a little bit, but he’s a very nice guy, very natural.

Pogba and Dourcoure will meet on Saturday

“Today there is a ­different ­dimension ­because Paul is a ­superstar, but as a ­character he has ­always been the same – he likes to laugh, he likes to speak about ­everything. We still speak sometimes, and I sent him a message to ­congratulate him on ­winning the World Cup.

“I think he has this personality because he is good on the pitch.

“It’s good for him. It’s good to have ­footballers with charisma – I think players like Paul, and Benjamin Mendy as well, bring a lot of ­personality and show off sometimes.”

Manchester United transfer news: The players who could replace Paul Pogba if France midfielder leaves Old Trafford

7 Sep

Paul Pogba appears to be fuelling rumours of a potential departure from Manchester United.

Pogba, the midfielder, has refused to rule out an upcoming transfer by saying ‘who knows what will happen in the next few months’.

Is Pogba’s time at Old Trafford coming to an end?
Getty Images

Various reports say his relationship with Jose Mourinho, the United manager, has broken down, and Barcelona are hoping to take advantage by taking the France international to Camp Nou.

United would obviously want to make profit on the £89million they paid for Pogba when they re-signed him from Juventus in 2016, but even if they receive a hefty sum it will not be easy to replace the 25-year-old.

But what players could United look to in an attempt to fill the void created should Pogba leave?

talkSPORT.com have considered five potential targets for the Red Devils, and you can discover who they are, below…


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Lazio (125 apps / 24 goals)

Central midfield – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)

A well-known target of United’s, there were many reports suggesting the Red Devils would move for Milinkovic-Savic over the summer. However, that would have been overkill given the similarities between the Serbia international and Pogba, and moving for the former as a replacement for the latter makes much more sense.

Standing at 6ft 3in, the towering Milinkovic-Savic looks like a midfield destroyer but plays like a diminutive No.10. With his physical dominance and technical gifts it is no wonder he has been compared to Pogba, and what better way to replace the France international than with a younger, carbon copy of him.

Ivan Rakitic
Barcelona (218 apps / 30 goals)

Barcelona appear to be the team trying hardest to sign Pogba, and if they were to bring him in the Camp Nou club would likely look to get rid of one of their current midfielders to free up space in Ernesto Valverde’s squad.

Ivan Rakitic, 30, would seem the the most likely victim of Pogba’s arrival, and United could look to include the Croatia international in any deal taking the France star to Catalonia.

He has proven quality having starred for Barca in over 200 matches, while his winning mentality and experience of securing silverware make him almost the perfect player for Jose Mourinho, who favours signings that can make an instant impact.

Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, has been against signing older players, but a swap deal involving Pogba and Rakitic would likely cost United nothing – and could even make them quite a hefty profit given Pogba is valued as much more expensive than the Croatia international.

Abdoulaye Doucoure
Watford (67 apps / 8 goals)

If United would prefer to replace Pogba with a player who has Premier League experience, Doucoure, the Watford midfielder, is a fine option. The 25-year-old would not be a like-for-like replacement, given Doucoure is much more of a box-to-box midfielder than Pogba – who prefers the attacking phase – but he has shown he knows where the back of the net is; Doucoure’s ratio of one goal every eight games is only slightly worse than Pogba’s one goal every six games, and he is playing for a worse team.

Doucoure penned a new contract earlier this season which means Watford would be looking for a hefty fee for their midfield ace, but he appears to be a perfect Ed Woodward signing – relatively young, clearly talented… and with huge resale value.

Thiago
Bayern Munich (157 apps / 26 goals)

6. Thiago (central midfield)

27-year-old Thiago is another who is consistently linked with an Old Trafford switch, and what better time to bring him in than when Pogba leaves?

Signing Thiago would require Jose Mourinho to change his style of play, as he would be losing an out-and-out attacking midfielder for more of a dominating player, with Thiago very much schooled in the Barcelona style. He is a supremely gifted passer of the ball, and is adept at retaining possession in all manner of situations.

The Spain international’s biggest strength is his ability to dictate the pace of the game. This is something United have longed for Pogba to do, but he has failed at his job except on few situations. Thiago may not be as flashy as the France star, but he will bring something to United they have lacked since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club – complete control of the opposition.

Tanguy Ndombele
Lyon (51 apps / 1 goal)

It would be typical of United to splash the cash on a big-name signing if Pogba leaves, mostly to appease fans who would hate to see such a famous player replaced by some no-name midfielder. However, the wisest decision for the Red Devils may be to look around for a young talent who can be moulded into the player Pogba has failed to become.

Ndombele is showing a wealth of talent despite his youth, with the 21-year-old starring for Lyon since joining on loan from Amiens last season; he made his move permanent this summer.

Given his physical attributes, Ndombele has been somewhat typecast as nothing more than an athletic midfielder – but the youngster is so much more than that.

He is brilliant at winning possession and immediately turning the game to Lyon’s advantage, dribbling into the final third with speed to put his side on the attack. When in attacking zones his passing is good, if not great, though his average of just under two key passes per game in 2017/18 suggests there is potential for him to become a good chance creator.

He is already fine in defence and is showing promise in attack, and in a few years Ndombele could be one of the most dynamic midfielders in the game. It would be a risk replacing Pogba with the youngster, but it’s a risk that could pay off in the greatest manner.