Conventional wisdom dictates that Manchester United need to sign a striker in the summer transfer window.
Following the flurry of activity in and out of Old Trafford already this summer, Sir Alex Ferguson looks like he will be one short of his favoured four forward options going into next season.
Following the departure of Michael Owen already, expected exit of Dimitar Berbatov soon enough and a nasty cruciate-ligament injury to William Keane which will rule him out for nine months (when he was destined to be involved next season), the Red Devils are left with only three recognised first team strikers. That is following the departure of other experimental strikers in Mame Birame Diouf in January, rumoured loan move of Macheda next season and necessary re-loan of Portuguese flop, Bebe.
Of course, Sir Alex may well decide to use Ashley Young as an auxiliary striker as he has been used for England in the Euros so far or he may deem another unnecessary in light of Kagawa’s arrival and a possible transition to 4-2-3-1.
However, on show in Ukraine and Poland is a plethora of goal-scoring potential who Martin Ferguson, our chief European scout, is sure to be watching.
(Poland and Borussia Dortmund)
With a nation’s hopes resting upon his shoulders, Lewandowski opened the scoring in this year’s European Championship with a fine header against Greece in the competition’s first match. A strong and athletic threat with a 6ft 3″ frame, he has become a key figure for both club and country.
After forming a telepathic relationship with United’s new signing, Shinji Kagawa, last season, Lewandowski finished the season with 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances, after firing in more shots per games than any other player. However, the 23 year-old’s main weaknesses are his hold-up play and passing in general; in his Champions League appearances, for example, he averaged a pass completion rate of just 56%. Nonetheless, he is the second youngest player on the list and should improve on both of these weaknesses over the next few years.
The Poland coach, Smuda, did suggest Manchester United were a possible destination this summer but this was categorically ruled out by Borussia Dortmund who insist he is not for sale, even though a bid over £25million could prove very tempting.
(Holland and FC Schalke)
Seemingly linked to United every summer for the past five or six season, by lazy journalists in search of hits, the Dutchman is finally showing the form, at 28 years of age, that the prodigious goal scoring record in his younger years predicted. Scoring 39% of Schalke’s goals in the Bundesliga this season with a staggering 29 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches, he really is at his peak.
Averaging a goal every 96 minutes, in comparison to Podolski at every 140 minutes and M B Diouf at every 129 minutes, it is amazing that he has been ousted from the national team’s starting XI by a seemingly unfit and out-of-form Afellay. Made all the more bizarre considering that he scored 8 goals in just 5 Europa League matches this season and set up the same amount of goals as Shinji Kagawa with 8.
Despite all this, Huntelaar would be available for a fee just shy of that paid for Kagawa as his contract only has one year left to run and the Dutchman is keen to move on to a bigger club. If Sir Alex is interested, £14 million on a proven goal scorer may be a worthwhile investment.
(Spain and Athletic Bilbao)
Causing United’s defence enormous problems in the Europa League, Bilbao’s enormous 6ft 5″ striker would certainly adapt easily to the physical side of the Premier League. To add to that, the fact Athletic are not in Europe next season, having finished 10th in La Liga, means that they are both open to offers and unable to fulfil his ambitions.
Scoring 17 goals in 32 games, Llorente had a good season but his figures are dwarfed by that of Benzema (21), Falcao (24) and the two superstars from Madrid and Barcelona- with Messi scoring a goal ever 65 minutes in relation to Llorente’s goal every 132 minutes. Furthermore, despite being such an obvious focus of attack, he provided just one assist all season and has failed to get past Fernando Torres in the Spanish team, despite his frankly awful form.
Llorente would provide Sir Alex with an alternative to his current striker options but his athleticism and all round play may prove too poor to cure at 27 years of age already.
(Russia and CSKA Moscow)
Despite his worst season at club level, where he predominantly plays as an attacking midfielder, Alan Dzagoev has scored the most goals at Euro 2012 so far with 3 goals in 2 games, averaging one every 54 minutes, as part of a tricky front three.
A possible Bosnan transfer in January, when his contract expires, Dzagoev was a child prodigy who made his Russian debut at just 18 years of age and is integral to his club side. Primarily a goal scoring midfielder, the 21 year old is technically superb, a set piece specialist and very versatile but his suitability to the Premier League has repeatedly been questioned, especially considering how Arshavin, Pavluchenko and Zhirkov have fared in the much more cosmopolitan suburbs of London.
Despite possibly being a bargain buy, who could play in many positions, I do not believe Alan Dzagoev currently has the physique to play in the Premier League and I’m worried that he would struggle to adapt to life in sunny Manchester (although I did include him last week in my Scouts XI of Euro 2012).
(England and Spurs)
You didn’t expect to see this name in the list, did you?
Well, either did I.
However, Sir Alex has always been known to surprise the Old Trafford faithful and will be on the lookout for a proven veteran goalscorer to replace Michael Owen, although it would remain to be seen if he would swap any more playing time for silverware during the theoretical peak years of his career (29-31).
A surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s England squad, Defoe is possibly the most natural goal scorer England has had since Michael Owen burst onto the scene. Despite being a regular on the Spurs bench this season, Defoe finished as the 10th top scorer in the league and averaged a goal every 117 minutes, in comparison to Danny Welbeck at a goal every 136 minutes.
The arrival of Defoe would not quell the fans thirst for a superstar signing and could reduce Hernandez’* playing time but it may just be the type of pragmatic** purchase that Sir Alex may surprise the club with.
*Even though he is simply a happier, more amicable, efficient and younger goal scorer than the womanising Londoner.
*If we pretend wages of above £60,000 a week is, in any way shape or form, value for money.
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