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Ten January Window Transfer Targets – from Lindelof to Upamecano - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Victor Lindelof, Benfica

Benfica still owe the tiny Swedish club Vasteras €250,000 from purchasing the defender back in 2012 but the Portuguese side could be cashing in to the tune of more than 200 times that figure next month. Lindelof began his career in Portugal as a right-back or in central midfield but has emerged as a dominant central defensive force over the past two years, so much so that Benfica have lost only once when he has started a domestic league or cup match. Manchester United had a bid of around £30m rejected in the summer but instead opted to sign Eric Bailly from Villarreal. This time they look like getting their man. Estimated value £40m

Virgil van Dijk, Southampton

Manchester City and Liverpool, given their defensive travails this season, are in desperate need of reinforcements. Luckily for both the answer may be staring them in the face. City turned down the chance to sign Van Dijk when he moved to Southampton from Celtic in September 2015 for £13m because of concerns over whether he could make the step up from Scottish football but the 25-year-old, who came through Groningen’s youth system, has shown he is one of the best defenders in the country since then. Manchester United and Chelsea may also enter the fray yet it seems Pep Guardiola’s side are the firm favourites, given they have scouted Southampton repeatedly this season, with Claude Puel recently denying Van Dijk has a release clause of £25m. In reality, suitors are likely to have to stump up closer to double that figure. Estimated value £40m

Mahmoud Dahoud, Borussia Mönchengladbach

The German international born in Syria has continued his meteoric rise for The Foals but, with his contract set to expire in the summer of 2018, Gladbach may decide finally to cash in on their prized asset in January. Liverpool tried to persuade them to sell in the summer but after losing Granit Xhaka to Arsenal the German club were always unlikely to do business. Yet Dahoud’s reluctance to sign a new contract – the 20-year-old has turned down several offers in the past few months – shows he views his long-term future elsewhere and Jürgen Klopp will hope the fact he shares an agent with Emre Can puts Liverpool in pole position. Juventus have also been monitoring Dahoud’s situation closely and their interest could push up the price significantly for one of Europe’s most promising midfielders. Estimated value £25m

James Rodríguez, Real Madrid

One of the stars of the 2014 World Cup has endured a stop-start season so far, starting only four league games because of a combination of injuries and lack of form. But while Madrid’s transfer ban could end up scuppering his hopes of leaving in this window, the Colombia international has a number of clubs keeping tabs on his situation, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Juventus. Any offers in advance of £50m could persuade Madrid to sell, however, with Internazionale also thought to be considering an approach for a player whose contract expires in 2020. Still only 25, Rodríguez has played only 48 minutes in the Champions League so far this season and is therefore cup-tied, although that would not put off Antonio Conte if he is looking to find an immediate replacement for China-bound Oscar. Estimated value £50m

Faouzi Ghoulam, Napoli

The market for defenders has spiralled over the last few months, with Napoli turning down a bid in excess of £50m for Kalidou Koulibaly in the summer from Chelsea. It looks as if they will face another battle to keep the other key members of Serie A’s second-meanest defence, with several big clubs looking at Ghoulam and Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij. The Algerian international made his name at St Etienne before earning a move to Italy in 2014 and has been repeatedly linked with a transfer to Chelsea in recent months. Reports suggest it may take as much as £30m to secure him, however, with Manchester City among the other clubs to have scouted the 25-year-old in the past, while Manchester United have also been linked with the Holland international De Vrij. Estimated value £25m

Leon Bailey, Genk

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, the speedy 19-year-old had an unusual start to his career. After arriving in Belgium at the age of 13, he was forced to leave, having been deemed to be living in the country illegally when his agent returned penniless from Mexico after faking his own kidnapping. Bailey moved to the Slovakian side Trencin before returning to Belgium in 2015 and has since established himself as one of the Jupiler League’s outstanding players alongside his team-mate Wilfred Ndidi, who looks set to join Leicester City. Bailey is comfortable on either flank or as a false nine and Genk, who have told Manchester United, Leicester and Paris Saint-Germain they must pay at least £20m for him, could insist he is loaned back to them until the end of the season as part of any deal. Estimated value £20m

Alassane Pléa, Nice

While all the attention at the start of the season was on a reinvigorated Mario Balotelli the real driving force behind Nice’s ascent to the summit of Ligue 1 has been the 23-year-old signed from Lyon for £450,000 in 2014. Having begun his career as a winger, Pléa represented France at several junior levels but has been successfully converted to a more central role of late, finding the net 10 times this season to sit behind only Edinson Cavani, Alexandre Lacazette and Radamel Falcao in the goalscoring charts. With only 18 months of his contract remaining, it may not take much more than £15m to lure him from the Côte d’Azur although, with Nice aiming to win their first title since 1959, they will be desperate not to allow him, their up-and-coming midfielder Wylan Cyprien or the Ivorian Jean Michaël Seri – who currently has the most assists, eight, in Ligue 1 – to jump ship. Estimated value £15m

Moussa Marega, Vitória de Guimarães – loan from Porto

Born in Les Ulis – the same tough Paris neighbourhood as Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra and Anthony Martial – Marega has not exactly had a conventional career. The striker left the second-tier French side Amiens in 2014 for the Tunisian club Espérance but was then sold to Marítimo in Portugal. A successful season caught the eye of Sporting Lisbon and Marega had looked set to join them last January before Porto hijacked the deal and signed him on a contract with a €40m release clause. He was then loaned out to Vitória de Guimarães at the start of this season and has not looked back, scoring 10 goals from nine appearances to lead the Primeira Liga scorers. He is quick and dangerous in the air; Tottenham, Liverpool and Sunderland are among the clubs to have been linked and Porto can expect a quick return on their investment if Marega continues in the same vein. Estimated value £15m

Dayotchanculle Upamecano, Red Bull Salzburg

The 18-year-old is usually known as Dayot to his friends and family – and there is no doubt the defender is on the wishlist of most sporting directors in Europe at the moment. Upamecano moved to Austria in July 2015 for only £1.9m, despite offers from Manchester United among others but such has been his progress since making his league debut for Salzburg in March that they are expected to demand in excess of £15m to allow him to leave. RB Leipzig, only just unseated at the top of the Bundesliga, may have an advantage, given their close ties to his current club but Barcelona and Manchester City could enter the fray for a player who has represented France at every youth level since under-16. Estimated value £15m

Kasper Dolberg, Ajax

The latest in a long line of Danish teenagers to emerge from Ajax’s academy, Dolberg shot to prominence in November after scoring a hat-trick against NAC Breda in 37 minutes, including an impudent flick header that drew comparisons with Marco van Basten. “I see many similarities,” Dolberg’s father Flemming immodestly said. “If he goes like him that’s very good, of course. They are the same size, same speed and both have a good shot.” Everton have been strongly linked with an approach for the 19-year-old in January but the bad news for Ronald Koeman is that bigger fish are starting to circulate for him, with Manchester City, Juventus and Napoli all sending scouts to recent matches. Estimated value £10m

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