Wesley Sneijder was one of the people surprised when Manchester United didn’t eventually put in an offer for the Inter midfielder at the end of the transfer window in August. Sir Alex Ferguson may have been reluctant to give a large contract and high wage to a player at the wrong end of his 20’s, despite Sneijder being only 27, as his recent signings have all been younger players. So what other options are there for Man United in the January transfer window to bolster their midfield, which has a tendency towards looking light.
Irish fans might be familiar with the elaborate haircut of Marek Hamsik that makes him look like the dark-haired equivalent of a Jedward brother when the midfielder visited Dublin and the Aviva Stadium with his Slovakian team to eke out a painfully dull 0-0 draw against Trapattoni’s side. The Napoli midfielder was somewhat unremarkable in that game but still one of the only Slovakian players with the potential to unlock and hurt the Irish defence. Hamsik is 24 and has been a hot prospect in Europe since Napoli’s rise through the Italian divisions made him a constant name in the rumour mill of transfer targets with the biggest European clubs. He was signed by Napoli just before his 20th birthday for €5.5million after the Neapolitans reached their long awaited return to the Serie A and became their top-scorer for the next two seasons; an impressive feat for a midfielder. He became captain of his country for the 2010 World Cup that saw his side beat Italy 3-2 in the group stages before going out to eventual finalists the Netherlands in the last 16.
Hamsik is an integral part of Napoli’s resurgence as a power in Serie A and a reason they are currently above Manchester City in Group A in the Champions League, thanks to a 1-1 draw in Manchester and a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in which Hamsik scored the opener. His prowess as an attacking midfielder cannot be denied and, although he hasn’t matured to the peak of his game like Sneijder, he is definitely a viable option for the likes of Ferguson to invest in.
Daniel Levy’s stubbornness in not letting Luka Modric leave Tottenham Hotspurs in the summer may have given Manchester United another chance to sign the Croatian playmaker, as it seemed he had previously set his sights on a move to Chelsea. It’s hard to see how much longer Spurs can keep Modric, who with every game is proving what an asset he would be to any team, especially Man United whose midfield options are limited to the youth and potential of Tom Cleverley and the mediocrity of Michael Carrick.
Modric offers an option in both attack and defence, with the ability to build from the back as well as put in a tackle or two. When he arrived at White Hart Lane from Dinamo Zagreb as a slight 22 year-old with a lot of potential but not much muscle, it was reported that Arsenal had the chance to sign him but doubted his physical abilities to cope with toughness of the Premier League. Since then he has proved Arsenal wrong and been the main cog in the Tottenham team that makes them work. His goalscoring record leaves something to be desired for someone of his high standards and anyone who saw his strike against Liverpool this season will agree that he has the capability of doing that more often.
Modric’s range of passing and technical skills would see him fit perfectly into the United midfield but the biggest deterrent in seeing the Croatian moving to Old Trafford is the massive transfer fee that Spurs are demanding from him and, if Abramovich is unwilling to stump up that amount of cash, it’s hard to see the Glazers outbid him.
Newcastle were heavily criticised when they didn’t spend the €35 million they received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll on a replacement up front but the Magpies have spent shrewdly in bringing in midfielder Yohan Cabaye from last season’s Ligue 1 champions Lille. The French midfielder has been a revelation in the Newcastle midfield and alongside the steel and power of Cheick Tiote, the core of Alan Pardew’s side looks solid as a rock. It is something of a mystery, with all respect to Newcastle United, how a player with such potential in a championship winning side was not scouted by a bigger team, and now that he is a Premier League player it will require a much higher fee to pry him away than the £4.3 million that Newcastle reportedly signed him for.
With half a season of Premier League football under his belt by the time January rolls around, Manchester United will be keeping an eye on a player like Cabaye who has vision for a pass and the technical ability the Red Devils midfield is crying out for.
Tottenham Hotspurs fans will be familiar with the diminutive genius of Marko Marin after the German international helped pull back Spurs’ 2-0 lead against his Werder Bremen side in Germany during their Champions League campaign last season. He looks similar to Leo Messi in appearance and build; a small player with the skills to cut a defence in two and find space where it seems like there is none. Marin can play as a winger but has the ability to play in midfield and would be another attacking string to United’s already impressive bow were he to sign for Ferguson’s side. While similar to Messi he has a mountain to climb before being mentioned in the same breath as the Argentinean forward but his potential has already been spotted by both Spurs and Liverpool, who he reportedly turned down over the summer in the hope of gaining a move to one of the Manchester teams. The offer never came from either club but a January move to Old Trafford would see the Bosnian born Marin fit right into United who look slightly out of ideas creatively when without the talismanic Wayne Rooney.