As is part and parcel in the summer months which precede the beginning of the football season, gossip columns as big as Peter Crouch on stilts (routine Crouch and circus gag) torment fans across the land, with endless names, many of said rumours never come to fruition leaving fans frustrated. Most gossip inches however have no foundation whatsoever and most fans, as a result, write off the story as risible (see the links with Ashley Cole this morning).
This brings me to my point, for all the names we have been linked with, there have been few mentions of three particularly outstanding midfielders who are available at knockdown, almost ‘help yourself’ rates. Ironically, they all come from the same club. This just indicates the talent in abundance and plethora of gifted players in Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Three top-draw players in the peak of their careers, deemed surplus to requirements by the Special one. Is this an opportunity too good to miss?
Specimen number 1: Nuri Şahin- loan/£10-£15 million. Şahin came to prominence at the heart of a young, vibrant Dortmund midfield, whose exciting brand of football took the Bundesliga by storm. Şahin can be best-described as a deep-lying playmaker, with all the necessary attributes to succeed in the middle of the park. On form, Şahin is a very cultured midfielder, able to easily dictate the tempo. A very slick passer and full of creative flair, Şahin’s tenacity and ability to be a threat as a box-to-box midfielder makes him a formidable opponent.
Şahin is very technically gifted. Bert van Marwijk describes Şahin as having ‘unbelievable technique, and I would go further and say he probably has the most exquisite left foot in world football (aside from Messi’s of course)’. He can truly put the ball wherever he wants, whether its a free-kick from 20 yards, a shot from 30, a raking, defence splitting pass or a perfectly weighted through ball, Şahin finds his target with unerring consistency and precision. His is a dead ball specialist, with an astounding ability to whip in balls from corners or freekicks, and has scored some sumptuous free kicks particularly during his Dortmund days.
Şahin always seems to play the right pass and knows exactly when to play each one, when to go for the elaborate through ball and when to play it short. He has marvellous awareness of where every player on his team is, as well as the vision and technique to play the killer ball. This intelligence and range of passing allows Şahin to dominate the midfield. He was the rudder of the Dortmund machine, dictating the tempo and rhythm of the game. With this command over midfield he displayed an incredible maturity for a player who was only 22 at the time.
Şahin has lost his way at Real for various reasons, initially his progress was curtailed by injury and has not managed to claw his way back in ever since, Alonso and Khedira were the hub of the midfield that recently won La Liga, therefore Şahin was very unlucky last campaign. But injury has restricted him so far, he has not reached double figures for Los Blancos. Recent rumours suggest he is Arsenal-bound on LOAN. Surely for all the Glazernomics, a loan move for Şahin would be too good to miss out on, but I’d like to see us pursue this further. At 23, his best years are ahead of him, he is scintillating on his day and would fill the creative void that so many United fans talk about.
Moving onto shunned Real player number 2- Lassana Diarra- €5 million. United followers generally believe that we have never actually replaced Roy Keane since his 2005 departure. Diarra is of similar ilk and shares some of Keane’s best attributes: he is a worthy team player, plays every match at 100%, the most redeeming Keane-esque factor is his tenacity, energy and willingness to stick a foot in and win crunching tackles. Diarra has had previous with the English game, albeit briefly. He only mustered up 44 appearances over 3 clubs (Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth). In the past, we have been linked with combative midfielders, such as Chiek Tiote of Newcastle, Diarra would be a snip at around €5 million compared to Tiote’s soaring price.
The final Real specimen to be examined. The wildcard of the triumvirate, if you like. Kaka- £10-£20 million. I know what you’re thinking: “Kaka, nah, too old, past it”. Granted, Kaka is not the same player that departed Milan for the Bernabeu three years ago, but he has been cursed with injury, and when fit he has been overlooked by Mourinho. I get the feeling he was more of a Florentino Pérez signing rather than the Special One’s choice- almost a desire to resurrect the Galacticos of yester year.
Kaka plays with a grace that is almost effortless. He plays the game the right way, when he was in his pomp he would glide past defenders at will. He destroyed United on our ground, with a delightful, yet painful flick over Gabby Heinze before showing the composure we have become accustomed to seeing from Kaka, by slotting home. Considering how injury has blighted him during his Real spell, he has still managed an almost 1 in 3 ratio (20 in 65) with an ever better record for Milan (70 in 193).
I doubt we would be interested in Kaka, given the signing of Shinji Kagawa, who plays in Kaka’s preferred role, the classic No.10 ‘in the hole’. He is 30, which means he is past his peak but not over the hill. He needs a change of scenery to resurrect his career. His peak was simply phenomenal though even if he has declined a little he is still a stunning player to watch, and will be a bargain for someone in and around the £10 million bracket.