The seven most sought after Premier League players this summer
The sun is out. The season is over. And the speculation mounts for the futures of the Premiership's best talent.
The transfer window officially opened for business earlier this week and the top Premier League managers are about to set off on a mission to transform wannabes into superstars.
While the race for the likes of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale (below) may dominate the back-page agenda for the next few weeks, proven performers of that ilk are few and far between.
So for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, big spending trio Manchester United, their oil-rich neighbours City and Premier League champions Chelsea, plucking players from the ranks of their less glamorous domestic rivals and polishing them into top level superstars is the task they are about to undertake.
The names in the frame for the big boys are already well advertised, so here is our verdict on the rising stars who are hoping to make the leap into a team with Champions League ambitions this season.
Harry Kane: Tottenham
Linked with: Manchester United
Would United really pay huge money to sign Kane after just one season of success in the Premier League?
The persistent reports surrounding this story and the inflated price tag that has been constantly mentioned suggests there may be some foundation in these links. Spurs would be crazy to turn down an offer in excess of £40m for a player who is still a raw talent in so many ways.
Verdict: It is hard to imagine United boss Louis van Gaal putting all his faith in the talents of this Premier League novice, however promising he might appear to be. A lack of striking alternatives would be the only reason he would want Kane.
James McCarthy: Everton
Linked with: Arsenal, Tottenham, Man Utd, Man City
Suggestions that the Republic of Ireland midfielder is unhappy with his lot at Everton have been denied by the player and the club, but was the arrival of Tom Cleverley from Aston Villa a sign that the Goodison Park club may be prepared to let McCarthy leave?
His injury record is so poor that Everton may consider alternative options in the central midfield role and if Arsenal were to lose out to Manchester United in the race for Schneiderlin, McCarthy may be their back-up option.
Our verdict: The idea that McCarthy could become a genuinely world class midfielder has faded in recent years. It is yet to be proven whether he could really cut it at Champions League level.
Christian Benteke: Aston Villa
Linked with: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea
Sunday World columnist John Aldridge is convinced his former club Liverpool should pay the release clause in Benteke’s contract and bring the big Belgian striker to Anfield, but is he certain to be a success?
While he came to life following Tim Sherwood’s arrival at Villa, the reports that he is not the most committed of trainers and lacks a little drive at times may concern clubs looking to invest such a huge sum in his services.
Verdict: : Any club buying the Villa striker would be investing in youthful promise and spending over £30m on that is a dangerous game.
Morgan Shneiderlin: Southampton
Linked with: Arsenal, Manchester United
Southampton have promised the French international a move this summer, but the long-standing perception that he was on his way to join Arsenal was clouded by stories that Manchester United had opened talks to secure his services.
Morgan Schneiderlin’s stock in the Premier League has never been higher and with a lack of top quality holding midfielders on the market this summer, this 25-year-old has everything in his locker to make the step up to a team competing with Europe’s finest.
Our verdict: He has learned his trade at Southampton and has proved against some of the top teams in the Premier League that he is the real deal. Schneiderlin would be a shrewd investment for any top four side.
Yannick Bolasie: Crystal Palace
Linked with: Liverpool, Tottenham
“He needs to work on his final ball and his finishing, but he could be a great player.”
The words of Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew on his 26-year-old winger are either designed to put off perspective suitors or an honest assessment of Bolasie’s mercurial talents. His sparkling display against Liverpool in the final weeks of the season at Anfield heightened the hype around him and he is the kind of player who will end up at Tottenham.
Our verdict: If Palace can get £20m for a player who flits in and out of games and pears for long periods in matches, they should take it.
Seamus Coleman: Everton
Linked with: Manchester United, Arsenal
Manchester United are definitely in the market for a flying full-back this summer and Republic of Ireland star Coleman would tick several boxes for Louis van Gaal’s side.
The prospect of Daley Blind raiding down one flank and Coleman offering a potency on the other would give United an identity that they were often found lacking last season. However, Everton would want big money to part with their full-back.
Verdict: Coleman would be a great signing for United, but several factors need to fall into place for the deal to transpire.
Nathaniel Clyne: :Southampton
Linked with: Liverpool, Manchester United
Luke Shaw was seen as the prize defensive catch at Southampton last year and now Clyne is being hyped up as the player all the top clubs want this summer.
With one year left on his Saints contract, he looks likely to make a move unless he signs the new deal he has been offered and then we’ll get the chance to discover whether he is any better than Shaw was in his first season at United.
Our verdict: Clyne is a more rounded player than the youthful Luke Shaw was leaving St Mary’s, but we do not know yet whether he is any better.
However, the grass isn't always greener...
As these less than successful captures of recent years confirm, turning players who make their mark in the lower pressure environment of clubs outside the top five or six in the Premier League is no easy task.
This Ivory Coast hit-man looked the real deal as he was banging in goals at Swansea, but he was a bench warmer for Manchester City after his big-money move last January.
There were times when this moody Bulgarian looked like a genius at Tottenham and that is why Manchester United paid £30.75m to sign him. He never entirely sparkled at Old Trafford, however.
While Liverpool’s move to sign this aging striker last summer was a surprise, he appeared to have proved in his time at Southampton that he was up to the rigors of the Premier League. He barely played enough last season to prove his worth.
Alex Ferguson’s last signing as Manchester United manager proved to be a flop, with the £16m invested on young Zaha proving to be a mistake. He only showed flashes of form after returning to Crystal Palace.
United’s rush to pay £27m to sign Shaw (left) does not look like a shrewd move now and while time is on the side of the 19-year-old his fitness issues were well known to all at Southampton before they were exposed on the bigger stage at Old Trafford.
Playing a pivotal role in Swansea's rise up the Premier League, and crucial to their attacking footballing style, Sinclair earned himself a move to title winning Champions Manchester City. The tides turned on his career however, as he talent was painfully wasted on the City bench behind James Milner and Jesus Navas.