January is going to be a crazy time, a lot of clubs will want reinforcements, the problem is getting a good player at a good price. From a clubs perspective, if they are to lose a star player, they aren’t going to go down without a fight and that fight will be charging as bigger transfer fee as possible. Markets in England, Spain and Italy are awash with big name signings for big money, but they are the top leagues, they can afford it. But for those clubs that are savvy enough, the smart shopping is done in Europe’s ‘second-tier’ leagues.
There is a lot of talent in places like Holland’s Erdivisie, Portugal’s Liga ZON Sagres and also France’s Ligue 1. By saying Europe’s ‘second tier’ leagues, no disrespect is meant, they are good competitions that are slowly growing, but they are below Europe’s elite leagues. So as a 3-part transfer window special we will be focusing on the top talent that clubs should be looking at this January, players who will cut it in the Premier League, but won’t cost the earth to get, like Luis Suarez a snip compared to Andy Carroll! We start our focus with Holland’s Erdivisie, so let’s take a look at the top talent:
Gregory van der Wiel – Right Back – Ajax
Gregory van der Wiel is considered by many to be one of Holland’s most promising defenders. Unsurprisingly another product of the famous Ajax Youth academy (via HFC Haarlem) he was captain at youth level before making the step-up to Ajax’s first team. Since then, van der Wiel has established himself as a pivotal member of both the Ajax side and Dutch national team. He is considered one of the best up-and-coming right backs in the world; he is a big strong defender, quick on the ground and good in the air, but as a modern day full-back, he also gets forward to good effect as well. He looked set to leave Ajax after agreeing terms with Valencia, but can Valencia agree a fee – could it be time for a Premier League club to steal in?
What him: Manchester City, Chelsea, Valencia
Need him: Chelsea and Manchester United
Outside bet: Manchester United (Very long shot)
Jan Vertonghen – Centre Back – Ajax
You would have heard the name Jan Vertonghen by now and if you haven’t, you probably lead a less football orientated life than me and talk to people about things other than football…can’t imagine! Vertonghen has had a steady rise to prominence as captain of a new-look Ajax side and also a Belgium national team that could soon be special. Vertonghen is a classy centre-back that looks set to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Kompany and Vermaelen in establishing himself as one of Europe’s biggest potential talents. Vertonghen is a quality defender, good on the deck and in the air and tackles to perfection. One of his biggest attributes is his versatility, he can play centre back, defensive mid or anywhere on the left side. With a host of Premier League clubs wanting top quality centre backs, it won’t be long until he appears on these shores.
What him: Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City
Need him: Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal
Outside bet: Manchester United
Rasmus Elm – Creative Midfielder – AZ Alkmaar
Rasmus Elm is a distinctive player known for his pale skin, lanky frame and carrot top hair; you would be excused for not thinking he is your typical football type. Looks can be deceiving, don’t judge a book by its cover, the list of cliches go on and they all apply to Elm who is a fantastic player who has been hailed as the biggest talent out of Sweden since Ibrahimovic. Since leaving Sweden and singing for AZ, Elm has had a troubled time and has only really established himself this season after illness and injury restricted playing time in seasons past. Now Elm is really showing what he can do and he can do a lot; as well as your standard midfielder trait of being a good passer, he gets his fair share of goals both from open play and free kicks. He is a special talent that is still developing, but it could be time for him to do it in the Premier League?
What him: Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United
Need him: Arsenal and Manchester United
Outside bet: Liverpool
Christian Eriksen – Creative Midfielder – Ajax
If Elm is the best thing out of Sweden since Ibrahimovic, Eriksen is the best thing out of Denmark since errrrr Jesper Grønkjær? Obviously this is a lie as he is actually pretty good. He is easily the best thing out of Denmark since Carlsberg and Michael Laudrup. Eriksen is your typical number 10, a playmaker of the highest quality and to be honest there isn’t much difference between him and the much talked about Dortmund’s Mario Götze. Straight out of the Ajax academy following in the footsteps of Van der Vaart and Sneijder, he is a typical number 10. He is a technically gifted, tricky and intricate – the type of player who can thread a pass through the eye of a needle. He is pretty good with both foot, but is predominantly left-footed and his fair share of assists and goals.
What him: Manchester United, Liverpool
Need him: Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United
Outside bet: Barcelona
Luuk de Jong – Centre Forward / Second Striker – FC Twente
Luuk de Jong has risen to prominence this season after scoring 10 goals so far for FC Twente, most notably a spectacular overhead kick in the Europa League. He has also now played for the Dutch national team six times and could be on the plane to Euro 2012 in the summer. de Jong has made steady progress since moving to Twente and has now established himself as a first team regular. For a big man (6ft 2ins) he is pretty quick, he dribbles well and has a good shot on him. As time goes on his touch and technique are getting better, but he is particularly good in the air. de Jong is versatile and can either play as a main striker or operate out on the wing, which suits a team that plays 4-3-3. A player in the mould of Dirk Kuyt, de Jong could end up being his long-term replacement.
What him: Newcastle and Liverpool
Need him: Newcastle and Liverpool
Outside bet: Everton
Ola Toivonen – Centre Forward – PSV
The Swedish international is slowly getting a reputation as a solid and dependable striker, having improved his goal scoring record each season. Toivonen used to play a more withdrawn role, but since making the move to PSV from Malmo, he has been relied on more as a goalscorer. The 25-year-old Swedish international is a big man, standing at 6ft 3ins and is a commanding figure in the box, who is strong and good in the air. For a big man you would be surprised by his mobility and speed, he is good when dribbling with good technique. Toivonen is also good on the deck and can finish both from close range, long range and also dead ball situations.
What him: Spurs, Liverpool, Newcastle, Aston Villa
Need him: Spurs, Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa
Outside bet: Fulham