Mario Gotze to Liverpool
Pepe Reina. With 33 caps for the Spanish national team, the goalkeeper invariably chosen as back-up to Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes represents the last Liverpool player to have won major honours for his country. Luis Suarez was a member of the Uruguay squad which won the 2011 Copa America, while Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini were both part of the Italy side which finished as 2012 European Championship runners-up. But Reina, the man who finally left in 2014, counts Spain’s victory in that final, as well as the 2008 edition and the 2010 World Cup, among his international successes.
While Reina was a bonafide squad player, his effect on any of those victories in negligible; he made one appearance across all three tournaments. The same cannot be said for Mario Gotze. The 23-year-old scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, capping a debut season at Bayern Munich in which he helped win the Bundesliga and secure a semi-final berth in the Champions League.
It is why links to Liverpool seem bizarre at first. Gotze joined Bayern for £30million from Borussia Dortmund, and was regarded as one of the finest young talents in world football at the time. He made 93 appearances in his first two seasons, winning back-to-back league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and a Club World Cup with Bayern. But this season has not been so kind. Injuries and form have restricted the forward to just 14 appearances. Were Jurgen Klopp not the current incumbent of the Liverpool hotseat, it is doubtful the Reds would have stood a chance to sign Gotze. The strong relationship cultivated between player and manager at Dortmund, the positive feeling around Anfield, and the German’s struggles at Bayern means a move is conceivable.
Yaya Toure to West Ham
If the Brentwood Gazette is your newspaper of choice then a) unlucky, and b) you will be aware that West Ham have been linked with every player under the sun recently. Chris Smalling? No. Yannick Bolasie? Nah. Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke? Nope and nope. Zlatan Ibrahimovic? No chance. Yaya Toure? Hmm…
Considering Toure is perhaps the most important player in Manchester City’s recent history, such claims initially look ludicrous. The midfielder played an integral part in both of their Premier League victories. He scored the winner in the 2011 FA Cup final after doing so in the semi-final. He scored in the 2014 Capital One Cup, and netted the winning penalty in the shootout of the 2016 edition. The arrival of Pep Guardiola heralds a new era at the Etihad Stadium however, one that Toure is unlikely to play a part of.
“He’ll definitely leave Manchester City, I can calmly confirm that,” his reserved and secretive agent Dimitri Seluk revealed earlier this week. Reports on Wednesday claimed the 32-year-old favours a stay in the Premier League. With West Ham looking to build on a promising season and searching for a marquee name as they embark on their own new era in the Olympic Stadium, Toure could find a new home in London.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Manchester City
‘There have been a number of whispers about the future of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with West Ham mentioned in more than passing,’ read the Football365 gossip on March 9. ‘Weirdly, people won’t stop talking about Manchester City.’
The rumour was weird because the claim was that Oxlade-Chamberlain wanted more first-team opportunities. The rumour was weird because City could patently do better than an attacking player with 14 goals in 149 Arsenal appearances. The rumour was weird because Pep Guardiola leaking to the press that one of his first signings would be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is just bloody weird.
Then you consider that Richard Wright comprises a quarter of Manchester City’s homegrown quota. Joe Hart, Gael Clichy and Fabian Delph are the only others who qualify as homegrown for City. Raheem Sterling will boost the numbers to five for next season, but City were restricted to naming just a 21-man Premier League squad this campaign. Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a tempting move purely on those grounds, but he is also still only 22, and may be eager for a fresh start.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United
‘Van Gaal was a pompous ass,’ reads an excerpt from the autobiography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. ‘He wanted to be a dictator, without a hint of a gleam in his eye,’ reads another. A clash of personalities is the brief way of describing the relationship between the Dutchman and the Swede. For many years, it was considered to be an obstacle between the two working together again.
Indeed, Ibrahimovic inferred as such in 2014, after being linked to Manchester United: “No, that’s not good. He was a director in Ajax, and the way he is working is not the way I work.” With recent reports stating that Van Gaal could remain as manager at Old Trafford beyond the summer, many felt this would scupper a supposed move for Ibrahimovic, who is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain this summer. But the striker offered a gleam of hope.
“At the end, I think he is professional and I am professional,” he added. “Whoever I work with, I never had this kind of problems, because at the end I need to do my job, he needs to do his job, and I think a lot of fights would happen, but that’s something I like.”
How very Zlatan.
Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea
The 22-year-old with the world at his feet and the agent to embrace it. There are few strikers in world football more promising than Romelu Lukaku, with his 119 career goals in 268 games. He only turns 23 in May, and has already accrued £45million in transfer fees. He has the attributes, and he has the ambition.
“I’m 23 next summer and I think it would be nice to play in the Champions League from next season,” said Lukaku in March. The Everton striker makes no attempt to hide his desire to keep climbing the football ladder, and nor should he. So why would he join a side in 10th in the Premier League table, two places above his current club? Former side Chelsea have been linked with the striker recently, but with no Champions League – or even Europa League – football to offer, it could be a difficult sell. Difficult, but not impossible. Numerous sides will be in for Lukaku if he is to leave Goodison Park, but Chelsea offer an opportunity for salvation. His struggles at the club from 2011 to 2014 have been well-documented, but the Jose Mourinho-shaped problem is no more, and Lukaku has developed remarkably since. The boyhood Blue could relish an opportunity to right the biggest wrong of his career to date.