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Transfer targets: On the radar


Last Updated: 16/06/14 at 15:57 Post Comment

Age: 22 
Nationality: Netherlands
Club: Feyenoord 
Position: Defender 
Linked With: Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal & Lazio



Feyenoord youth product De Vrij is attracting the interest of a number of Premier League clubs and, while training with the Netherlands in Brazil, the centre-back has been watched by Everton boss Roberto Martinez. Manchester United, who will be managed by current Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, are also rumoured to be keen as they look for successors to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Meanwhile, Lazio have already failed in bids for De Vrij.

Netherlands and Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar: "I think he fits in any competition but I also know that he is still a lot to learn.”

"The chances are that I will leave [Feyenoord]; I can probably confirm this. I am with the Dutch national team so I do not know the exact details."


Despite his young age, watch out at the World Cup for De Vrij’s quality on the ball, the manner in which he reads the game and his leadership skills. He averaged more clearances per game (5.9) in the 2013/14 Eredivisie than any of his Feyenoord team-mates as they finished runners-up to Ajax and he will be a starter for the Netherlands. De Vrij was also the most successful passer (86.8 per cent accuracy) of any Feyenoord player to have started more than 25 games while he averaged 53.3 passes per game, which was only less than one of his team-mates.  In an indication of his maturity, De Vrij has already captained Feyenoord in the past and recently took his country’s armband when Robin van Persie was absent.

Eredivisie 2013/14GamesTackles Per GameInterceptions Per GameClearances Per Game
Stefan de Vrij322.225.9


Age: 25
Nationality: Chile
Club: Barcelona
Position: Forward
Linked With: Manchester United & Juventus



After an up-and-down three years at Barcelona, £20million-rated Sanchez is reportedly one of Louis van Gaal’s top targets for Manchester United and the pair will face each other when Chile take on the Netherlands at the in Group B at the World Cup. However, Serie A champions Juventus are also thought to be keen and rumours have suggested a deal has been agreed with the Italian club. Van Gaal favours a 4-3-3 formation and Sanchez is used to that line-up, while any possible arrival at Old Trafford might see United looking to offload Ashley Young or Shinji Kagawa among others.

Juventus general manager Beppe Marotta: “Sanchez is a great player and every top club would like him, so clearly Juventus would also love to have him.”

"I always felt [at home] in Barcelona, with the desire to play 100 per cent every game I fight.”


If Sanchez has a chance to shoot at the World Cup, he will more than likely score. Only Lionel Messi (28) scored more goals for Barcelona in La Liga in 2013/14 but Sanchez (19) achieved his goals tally from just 66 shots compared to the former’s 160. Sanchez’s 10 assists for Barcelona in the season were also more than the likes of Neymar and Andres Iniesta. Defences will therefore have to be on high alert against Sanchez in Brazil this summer and he is a reason why Chile are many people’s dark horses for the World Cup. Indeed, England learned the hard way about the threat of former Udinese man Sanchez when allowing him to score twice in Chile’s friendly win at Wembley in November 2013.

La Liga 2013/14GamesGoalsAssistsShots Per Game
Alexis Sanchez3419101.9


Age: 22
Nationality: Netherlands
Club: Feyenoord
Position: Defender
Linked With: Everton, Manchester United, AC Milan



Like Stefan de Vrij, Martins Indi came through Feyenoord’s acclaimed youth system and is established now for both club and country. Despite a tough childhood that saw the Portuguese-born son of parents from Guinea Bissau move to Rotterdam as a baby where he was largely left to fend for himself in the tough Slinge neighbourhood, Martins Indi is known for his cheery disposition; with even Louis van Gaal known to crack a smile at his training ground antics. The powerful left-sided centre-half is often asked to do a job at left-back for his club but is far more comfortably centrally. It is an opinion shared by Van Gaal, who is known to be a big admirer of both the player’s multifunctionality and assuredness in possession. Inevitably, he has been widely linked with Manchester United, while Everton and AC Milan have also been credited with holding an interest.

Netherlands and new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "I love you already, Bruno.”

"I think I click very well with Van Gaal. But I do it without sucking up to him, honest!"


Although at times he has struggled to get a consistent run in his best position at Feyenoord, the faith Van Gaal has placed in him at international level speaks volumes. At centre-half, Martins Indi reads the game with a maturity beyond his tender years but when at left-back does have a tendency to get caught out of position. He is more than capable of stepping out from the back and given Van Gaal’s endorsement, it is no surprise he is comfortable in possession (last season he made an average of 47.2 passes per game at an impressive success rate of 86.7). That said, first and foremost he is a defender and is more adept at keeping things simple than buccaneering forays down the flanks. While his disciplinary record is sound (booked just once last season), he can on occasion dive in recklessly; as Arjen Robben will attest after being the subject of scything tackle from behind this week in training that led to a heated exchange between the pair. Physically very imposing at 6’ 1’’ and excellent in the air, he has already drawn comparisons with Jaap Stam. Whether he will follow his compatriot in pitching up at Old Trafford could well depend on whether he does a satisfactory job for his manager in Brazil. Either way, it is widely anticipated that last season, his fourth at Feyenoord, will be his last in the Eredivisie.


Age: 22
Nationality: Spain
Club: Atletico Madrid
Position: Midfield
Linked With: Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona



Few stories in recent years have caught the imagination of the football community more than the indomitable rise of Atletico Madrid and key to the usurpation of Real and Barcelona has been a No.6 widely thought to be heir apparent to an ageing Spain midfield. Capable of finding an angle for a pass to the extent it would not be a surprise were his right foot in fact a protractor, Koke’s name has almost certainly been aired inside the boardrooms of the world’s biggest clubs. It is impressive enough that only Angel di Maria provided more assists than Koke’s 13 in La Liga last season, but doubly so considering the Atletico man’s role is as much about graft as it is guile. In a Champions League campaign that took Atletico to the final, team-mate Gabi was the only midfielder to better his tackle total. "He is a guy with a huge future. He gives us many solutions in games and is an example to the guys pushing from below,” said his club boss, Diego Simeone, recently. If nothing else, Xavi and Andres Iniesta cannot say they have not been warned.     

Champions League tackles 2013/14 - midfieldersGabiKokeRamiresMascherano


Barcelona and Spain's Xavi: “Koke is an extraordinary footballer. He has everything: talent, physical ability, he is a footballer of the present and the future. He has been marked out as the conductor of Spain's orchestra for the next 10 years. I have a special affection for him because we play in the same position and I think he is an extraordinary player.”


“Right now I see myself at the World Cup which is what counts. I am under contract at Atletico and I am happy about that. I see myself challenging for the World Cup with Spain.”


In short, yes. Xavi’s comments suggest that he sees plenty of himself in Koke. And yet, it is long-time partner in midfield mischief, Iniesta, who more closely resembles the Atletico man in style. Collecting the ball on the left of midfield with his favoured right foot and then scheming in search of that incisive through-ball, Koke has emerged as a key figure in the club’s rise. If Atletico are a physical manifestation of all that Simeone holds dear, it is Koke who is the poster boy of a shifting sand in Spain. Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo insists the club’s ‘franchise’ player is not for sale but if Koke is given a chance to shine in Brazil, and shine he likely will, then it is fair to say Spain’s new powerhouse will start the new campaign significantly weakened.


Age: 22
Nationality: Cameroon
Club: Lorient
Position: Striker
Linked With: Chelsea, Leicester City & Galatasaray



Aboubakar is widely expected to move to the Premier League after the World Cup and has already been scouted several times by Chelsea at the end of the 2013/14 season, according to reports. Leicester City have also been credited with an interest as they prepare for life back in England’s top flight and they could be weighing up a deal. French newspaper L'Equipe claims Lorient have already received bids for Aboubakar from unnamed clubs but they are desperate to keep their star man.  


Aboubakar will start alongside Samuel Eto’o up front for Cameroon against Mexico on Friday and he will be a big threat. Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the back of the net more times than the powerful and athletic striker in the 2013/14 Ligue 1 but he is also more than just a goal threat. His physical dominance means he often has to be double-marked and that frees up team-mates and led to him delivering seven assists. That meant Aboubakar scored and assisted a greater percentage of Lorient’s goals than any other player for their respective clubs in Ligue 1 in 2013/14. Aboubakar also possesses plenty of technical ability and is a decent dribbler, having completed on average 1.2 successful dribbles per game in France’s top flight in the past campaign.     

Ligue 1 2013/14GamesGoalsAssistsShots Per Game
Vincent Aboubakar351672.5

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