Two Brazilian teenagers, a giant Italian centre-half, yet another Chelsea target and a £52.8m Arsenal dream. This lot have done well to fly under the radar.
It’s not just that we haven’t watched a match in which these players featured. We haven’t seen their YouTube highlights or even a quick Twitter clip. In essence, we’ve not witnessed these expensive Premier League targets kick a ball in association football even once.
Previous stars of this genre include Darwin Nunez, Kai Havertz and Bruno Fernandes so this lot have plenty to live up to.
Considering the way in which David Moyes has used – and crucially not used – Lucas Paqueta, the claim from Brazil that West Ham offered £12.3m for Vitor Roque might well actually be sarcastic. It fell someway short of Athletico Paranaense’s valuation of £35.1m in any event.
Barcelona, Man Utd, Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain have also been mentioned as parties interested in the ‘new Ronaldo’, whose record of 14 goals in 52 games last season does that moniker a disservice. But the great man himself once declared that the current top scorer at the ongoing South American U20 Championship in Colombia “is going to fly so high”. Athletico director Luiz Felipe Scolari acknowledges that the 17-year-old “will probably be sold” yet the asking price must be met first. And the WELCOME TO… | SKILLS AND TRICKS | highlight packages can be produced soon after for a first actual glimpse at the kid.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s second iteration of Atalanta promises to be every bit as exciting as the original. In place of Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Luis Muriel in attack, Jeremie Boga, Ademola Lookman and teenager Rasmus Hojlund are leading the way, while unheralded Brazilian Ederson now patrols the midfield. Behind him, 33-year-old Jose Luis Palomino and Rafael Toloi, nine months younger, are the elder statesmen guiding Giorgio Scalvini through his development.
The 19-year-old barely seems to need it. All 6ft 4ins of the centre-half has taken to the senior game effortlessly and Scalvini’s interests are best served at the club he joined aged 12. He will move on eventually but if Spurs, Inter Milan or any other club wish to expedite that process then €40m at the very least would be required – almost €1m for each of his 41 senior career appearances.
An eclectic list of known Premier League admirers takes in Arsenal (1st), Newcastle (3rd) and Crystal Palace (12th), who have been told by Flamengo’s vice president Marcos Braz that “we are not interested negotiating for Matheus Franca at this moment”. The Magpies could have done with knowing that before they bid £14m, not that a valuation of £30m will discourage their interest.
Flamengo will hope their previous work in developing Vinicius Junior, Lucas Paqueta and Reinier for bigger and brighter European lights can work in their favour. They even prepared Pablo Mari for Arsenal, the legends.
Franca scored once on their run to 2022 Copa Libertadores glory and came into his own during the latter half of last campaign; a mid-season departure across the Atlantic benefits no-one, not least a player who only exits his teenage years in April.
Never change, Jean-Michael Aulas. You are precisely who Daniel Levy thinks he is and it is really quite wonderful – unless you are the poor sap tasked with negotiating across from the Lyon president, who took specific ‘pleasure’ in declaring that Malo Gusto would be staying until at least the summer.
Puisque je participe de manière active avec Vincent Bruno Laurent à ce grand mouvement de l’hiver j’ai le plaisir de conforter L’équipe sur KTE mais aussi de préciser que Malo 1grand espoir de l’OL continuera de jouer avec l’OL au moins jusqu’au 30/06/23 https://t.co/wI0ybCMeIc
— Jean-Michel AULAS (@JM_Aulas) January 26, 2023
Chelsea had offered £17m or so to sign the French right-back this month but £35m is thought to be the Ligue Un club’s price. Those of us who missed West Ham’s Europa League win over Lyon last season, and who are already paying millions across the 427 different subscriptions needed to watch the Premier League, never mind foreign divisions, will have to wait to see what all the fuss is about.
“With respect, sorry, for me Real Sociedad is the biggest club,” came the answer from head coach Imanol Alguacil when asked whether he felt Martin Zubimendi was capable of playing for a team the calibre of Barcelona.
Xavi has done little to dampen the speculation that Zubimendi might be targeted as the heir to Sergio Busquets, describing the midfielder as a “great player” but also “more physical and faster” than the technically superior Nou Camp legend.
Barca will need to find another lever or two to afford the £52.8m release clause Real Sociedad are demanding from suitors which also include Arsenal, and the uninitiated among us might have to do an awful lot of research on a player Man Utd have seen up close and personal in the Europa League.