Who's Signing Who?
With next season fast approaching, it is time once again for the famous guessing game, 'who's signing who?'
The race for fourth place is hotting up, and Manchester City, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Liverpool are already gearing up for next seasons top four challenge. City look to have secured the signing of Jérôme Boateng for £11m, while Spurs have captured Brazilian starlet Sandro, and Liverpool are wrapping up the free signing of Jovanovic.
Without going into too much detail, lets take a look at what the aforementioned clubs are looking to do and where they need to re-enforce.
Rafa Benitez has already stated that he requires a £60-£80m war chest to supplement the dross that he has cobbled together to form the spine of the current Liverpool squad. Problem is, it is highly probable that the only players available to him in the summer transfer window will be a host of second-rate players.
With the possibility that Liverpool are not playing Champions League football, and troubling signs that the club is in financial meltdown, Benitez is not going to find his 3-4 world class players - especially if he sells Torres to fund them.
It is fairly clear that Liverpool need a complete overhaul, two wingers (left and right) a world class striker and a couple of defenders should do it.
Riera and Benayoun will bring in a bit of extra cash, but with the likes of the more attractive prospects consisting of City, Spurs and Villa dipping into the market, Liverpool will find themselves at the bottom of the pile - dipping into the bargain bins... Irony?
Moving on from the Merseyside misery, Aston Villa desperately need a proven goal scorer to boost their credentials, although it remains to be seen whether or not Martin O'Neil is ready to splash the cash.
Villa fans must be questioning why O`Neil spent all that money on Stuart Downing instead of a striker when he already had Ashley Young at his disposal. Unfortunately their swift counter-attacking style means that they need a striker with an abundance of pace, and these don't come cheap.
Kenwyne Jones would be an excellent addition to replace the aging Heskey and ease the goal scoring responsibility on the Agbonlahor and whoever else O'Neil sees sense to sign.
In defence, Villa are as solid as they come, but it is still obvious that they miss Gareth Barry in midfield after his switch to Eastlands. A player of his quality to compliment the work of Petrov would be a huge boost the Midlands club.
Moving down to London, Harry Redknapp has had no problems on the goal scoring front, although Pavlyuchenko and Crouch are hardly prolific. Defoe has been top-notch when it comes to goals, but the diminutive front man offers little else - much to the dissatisfaction of the White Hart Lane faithful. Again, a striker like Kenwyne Jones must be worth looking at, and Spurs certainly have the resources to make this happen.
The acquisition of Sandro is a good buy in my opinion, Spurs have been crying out for a decent midfielder who can battle it out with Wilson Palacios for a place in the starting 11. Palacios has been a fantastic buy for 'Arry, but his replacement at the moment, Tom Huddlestone, is some way off that standard - even if he does show a lot of promise.
I can't imagine Jermaine Jenas being a Spurs player next season, he just isn't good enough. Spurs need to cash in on Jenas and purchase another top right-winger who can give them better options than what they have at the moment. Modric and Kranjcar are excellent options on the left, but on the other side of the pitch, David Bentley just isn't the same player as he was at Blackburn and is a poor replacement for Lennon.
Then we come to Manchester City. I could be here all day as a City fan, although I don't think we are looking at another squad overhaul for next year. Mancini will want to keep his current group together after they have finally gelled as a unit.
I think we will see around two or three players arriving at Eastlands, possibly one or two more if we are in the Champions League.
It is obvious that we need a box-to-box midfielder, Fabregas coming to CoMS is probably not going to happen, but a player of his calibre would be absolutely ideal to battle it out with the returning Michael Johnson. Mancini tried to address this flaw in our squad with the signing of Mariga (who was duly snaffled by Inter Milan after he couldn`t get a work permit), and it is clear we struggle with such a defensive minded line-up in central midfield.
Left-back is also an area we need to address. Bridge has found his form but he has been hampered by injuries, and there is still a big question mark over Garrido, while Sylvinho isn't getting any younger. I think we need to be looking at a signing a young hot-prospect to learn from Bridge and Sylvinho, who can fight it out with our academy prospect Greg Cunningham for cup starts and the occasional league game.
Finally, we need to be looking at purchasing a left-winger - if Robinho is set to remain in Brazil of course. Craig Bellamy will not manage the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and potentially the Champions League in one season.
Rumours of Ángel Di María have been flying about, although he seems more like a Robinho than a Bellamy. Ribery is the other obvious choice, although he was completely nullified by Rafael in the Champions League - not so good for a player supposedly worth £60m. The club really needs to get this one right as it is one of our key attacking outlets.
With the 6ft 3in Jérôme Boateng bolstering our defence, the only other real area we are thin on is in the nets. Stuart Taylor is highly unlikely to remain as the number two next season, so either Joe Hart returns, or we need another stand-in keeper.
I could go on about signing David Villa and Maicon et al, but that`s being a tad greedy and signings like that are almost 100% reliant on whether we get into the Champions League or not.
Whichever club secures Champions League football is going to have to spend a lot of money to compete with the top dogs of Europe. Furthermore, the clubs who don`t secure Champions League football are going to have to spend a lot of money to edge them out of contention for a top four spot next season. It's not for the feint of heart, and will guarantee that the next few seasons are unmissable.
Prepare for the most expensive shopping lists you have ever seen!