With just less than two weeks remaining of an expectedly busy transfer window, the gossip columns are rife with rumours linking any player who hasn’t previously moved this window with a move to any potential new club.
Every team still needs to strengthen; Manchester United still need a top class striker (according to Chris Waddle), with 1 point from 2 games, Mourinho is desperately looking to improve his squad, Arsenal have millions (if not billions) to spend on the right players (once again), Manchester City are set to add more wingers and central defenders to their squad, and no doubt Liverpool will be looking to add more attacking midfielders to complement Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino, Ibe and Markovic. Just like every season, those at the top and bottom of the Premiership, and those chasing promotion to the world’s richest league, are scouring the world in search of a goalscorer. A regular 20-goal a season guy. Football’s holy grail.
So who’s likely to have the holy grail?
Already this summer we have seen West Brom take a second gamble in two years (after the outstanding success of Brown Ideye), plumping for Salomon Rondon, the 25 year-old Venezualan ‘hitman’ with a less than awe-inspiring goalscoring return of 33 in 72 games (2.18 goals per game ratio) in the mighty Russian Premier League, at a cost of £12m.
Newcastle, ever frugal in the transfer market, have taken a bold approach, with the hot-headed, but young £13m Mitrovic. 36 goals in 69 games (1.92) in the Belgian Pro League, isn’t going to set the world, or even Belgium on fire, but at 20 years-old, he has youth on his side. He is highly-rated amongst journalists across Europe, but he has to adapt to life on Tyneside, and adapt to life under intense media scrutiny, and do it quickly.
Palace have brought in Bamford, a bright hope of English football and after a couple of successful seasons in the Championship ready to make the step up. They’ve also added Connor Wickham. The 22 year-old comes without a goalscoring record of any note, but he’s English and therefore valued at approximately £9m.
Sunderland continue to chase Borini. Why?
Bournemouth can’t attract anybody.
Norwich City can’t attract anybody better than Cameron Jerome, Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, or Lewis Grabban. (And that’s not a good thing).
Watford have Troy Deeney, who with 64 goals in 126 games (1.96) deserves his chance in the top flight. At 27 this has to be the right time for him and a good season for him, will ensure he remains a Premiership player, no matter Watford’s position come the end of the season. They have a further 124 ex-Udinese players in support.
Stoke have lots of quality players (Shaqiri, Adam, Affelay, van Ginkel, Bojan) to create chances for the likes of Diouf, Walters and Odemwingie to miss. They’ve still got Crouch for the occasional headed intervention.
Swansea look to have done some good business to keep hold of Gomis and add Ayew (the good one!).
Leicester City finished so strongly last season, despite £16m worth bench-warmers in Kramaric and Ulloa, watching the combined £2m worth of Vardy, Nugent and Mahrez help achieve the great escape. Okazaki is an interesting addition, a tireless runner with experience, and 27 goals in 65 games (2.41) for Mainz in the Bundesliga. He’ll fit in with the way they want to play and will likely chip in with 10+ goals, not a bad return on £7m.
West Ham have 5 forwards, who if properly grafted, could be combined into a Frankenstein-esque forward capable of playing a full season. Every game Carroll plays makes Mike Ashley look like more of a genius (and every game he misses with injury makes Ashley look even more of a genius). Valencia will miss the start of the season, and hopefully not too much more, but could be fragile on his return, which is not what they need. Sakho will play as many games as the terms of his bail allow! And Zarate will play until he has a fight with Bilic, probably at some point in early-mid September. Meanwhile Maiga will do very little.
Everton have Lukaku and an apparently fit Kone, but not much support centrally.
Then there’s Villa. Agbonlahor. Gestede. Ayew (not the good one!). Traore. Kozak. Now that is a forward line to strike fear into every Premier League defender. Agbonlahor is a good player, but not a goalscorer. Gestede is good in the air. The best in the air. He scored 20 goals last season. He scored 13 the year before that, and don’t mention 5 in 27 the previous season. The best “headerer” of a ball, must have had the ball at his feet a lot. And he was playing in the Cardiff City side that won the league. He’s also 26, so not playing with youth on his side. At £6m he’s a bit of a gamble and having scored from a corner in his first game, don’t expect any Premier League defences to be leaving him free again. Ayew reportedly cost £8m and he doesn’t bring a proven pedigree for goals. We’ve all seen the footage of Adama Traore skinning 4 defenders before slotting home a wonder goal for Barcelona. Take another look and it was Barca’s 7th goal in an 8-1 victory against Huesca. Even the most ardent Championship Manager fan will struggle to place what league they play in. Last season, at the time of the goal, they were in the Spanish third tier. It wasn’t exactly Giggs running through the Arsenal defence in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup.
Who’s still up for grabs?
There’s the one-year-left-on-the-contract Charlie Austin valued at £15m. It may initially seem a little high, but he scored 18 goals, for one of the most dysfunctional sides to have graced the Premiership. And with a record of 42 goals in 68 games (1.61) in the Championship, he’s proven, unless you’re Hull City/Tigers, in which case you’d be better spending your cash on Abel Hernandez.
Dwight Gayle is now worth £9m. So two abject seasons in the Premiership with a goal every 4 games, has seen his value double. Unsurprisingly no Premiership team is interested and he has the glitzy choice of Bristol City, or Hull.
Andre Gray. This guy struck fear into the heart of every defender who faced him for two whole seasons. Smashing 47 goals in 88 games in the Premier… the Conference Premier for Luton Town. One season later and an indifferent goalscoring ratio of 2.81 goals per game in the Championship, it would appear the £9m valuation is a bit too high, in fact, a lot too high. No Premiership team will touch him. It would appear that whoever loses out in getting Dwight Gayle will get Gray as a consolation prize.
Blackburn Rovers have the country’s most prolific goalscorer in their ranks over the last three seasons. Jordan Rhodes has scored 73 goals in 134 league appearances in the Championship, that’s a goal every 1.8 games. He is the only player in the top two leagues to have scored 20 or more league goals a season for the past three years. Deeney achieved it in two of the three seasons, and Suarez probably would have if he’d remained at Liverpool last season. And this doesn’t take into consideration his form at Huddersfield Town before his £8m move.
Signed as a 19 year-old by then League One Huddersfield, he had two decent seasons, scoring 19 and 16 league goals respectively. Then in 2011-12 he hit 36 in 40 games, including 6 hat-tricks (only the fourth man to achieve this in English League history and the first since Steve Bull in 88/89 (Dixie Dean did beat him with 10 in a season of course!). In total Rhodes struck 87 in 147 games and was worthy of a big money move, especially when you consider he was just 22. However, the Premiership teams were just too nervous to splash £8m on a player untested in the Championship, let alone the Premiership, so Blackburn used their parachute money to secure the brightest talent of lower league football.
3 seasons later and he has proven to be a formidable return on investment. He hasn’t helped them secure promotion back to the top flight, but his goals have constantly kept them clear of an end-of-season relegation fight, that most teams in their situation (4 managers in a season) would have been dragged into. He has clearly been capable of the step up from League One to Championship, and anybody who has seen him play, will confirm he’s one of the most natural finishers in the game at the moment.
There are transfer rumours and it looks likely he’ll leave this summer based on Blackburn’s continued plight and for somewhere in the region of £12m. But to my amazement, the most likely destination appears to be fellow Championship outfit Middlesbrough. Despite actively searching for a new striker, Sunderland, the only potential Premiership suitors, have distanced themselves with a move. So why will the rich Premiership teams not take a gamble on the 25 year-old Scot?
All I can think is there is an evil secret.