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Jul 3, 2012

Euro 2012 transfer targets

Nothing boosts the transfer market like a major international championship, and there was plenty to catch the eye at Euro 2012. Some smarter clubs conducted their business in advance; the £1.2 million Werder Bremen spent on Czech Republic right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie and even Barcelona’s £11.25m purchase of Spain’s Jordi Alba from Valencia already look like bargains.

Yet, with two months to go in the transfer window, some of the summer’s other stars are unlikely to come so cheaply. 

Joao Moutinho (Porto/Portugal)

The flashbulbs may have followed Cristiano Ronaldo, but there was little doubt over Portugal’s real heartbeat. While at Sporting Lisbon, Moutinho hadn’t even made Carlos Queiroz’s 2010 World Cup squad, with a career of considerable promise having reached an impasse, but making the controversial move north to Porto has revitalised him.

Euro 2012 was the confirmation of two terrific seasons – and a sackload of silverware – in northern Portugal, with Moutinho becoming the lynchpin of the national team’s midfield that he had always threatened to be. He was the perfect box-to-box presence, combining visionary passing and considerable mobility with a useful line in tackles and interceptions.

It’s easy to see Moutinho solving any one of a number of problems at the Premier League’s leading lights; adding flair in the middle to Manchester United or slotting in as a Luka Modric replacement at Tottenham. The major stumbling block to a move appears to be his £32m buyout clause – and Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto de Costa’s notorious knack for hard bargaining.

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund/Poland)

The rise of Borussia Dortmund’s No. 9 in the last 12 months has been stratospheric. When he was brought in from Lech Poznan in June 2010, he was widely expected to play second fiddle to Lucas Barrios and - much to Lewandowski’s personal frustration - that proved to be exactly the case during his first year in Germany.

Cue the return of an injured Barrios from last summer’s Copa America, and Lewandowski’s chance. His 30 goals were only part of a campaign which saw him emerge as one of Europe’s most complete strikers, able to hold, link and finish. It was an impression he reinforced ploughing a lone furrow with Poland in Euro 2012, and scoring the opening goal of the tournament with a firm header. His rise in profile was apparent all around the country, as ‘Lewy’ advertised razors on primetime TV and even gave the lead interview in Playboy.

With just two years left on his deal, Dortmund have been trying to extend Lewandowski’s deal until 2017 for months, but he has made it clear that he wants a considerable bump from his current £1.2m annual wages to something more befitting of his new status. After consolidating his stellar season with a good Euro 2012, plenty (including Manchester United and Real Madrid) will be keen to provide that rise if his current club won’t.

Federico Balzaretti (Palermo/Italy)

Much was made of Cesare Prandelli’s decision to enter Euro 2012 with a three-man defence, but it was the move to a backline of four that gave the Azzurri an extra attacking edge – with the introduction of industrious full-back Balzaretti. Starting against Ireland, his forays forward provided Prandelli’s diamond midfield with supplementary width, and he was equally active at both ends of the pitch in the quarter-final with England. The 30-year-old also showcased his versatility, slotting in on the right against Germany, with Ignacio Abate unfit and Christian Maggio banned. It is little wonder Maggio’s club Napoli have expressed an interest in such an attacking full-back.

Balzaretti could be set to follow a similar route to the top as another late bloomer who made his way via the Sicilian club, Fabio Grosso; an unlikely star for Italy in the 2006 World Cup. Balzaretti had better footballing breeding than Grosso though, having passed through Torino, Juventus and Fiorentina on his way to Palermo.

He could still have one move left in him too, with just a year left on his contract, although Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini is keen to keep him. Paris Saint-Germain came close to signing Balzaretti in January and a move to France could appeal, with the player’s wife currently working in Paris, while Milan are also keeping an eye on proceedings.

 

Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow/Russia)

With over 150 games in league, cup and Europe for CSKA under his belt and the long-held expectancy of his coronation as a world star, it bears repeating that Dzagoev only turned 22 on June 17 – the day after Russia’s shock exit to Greece. By then, he had already left the impression that his enormous potential was beginning to be fulfilled.

It might well have been a case of another missed opportunity: Dzagoev had missed the end of the marathon Russian season with a broken toe sustained at the end of March, and Sporting’s Marat Izmailov had excelled in his position in a pre-tournament friendly with Uruguay.

Dzagoev, who has notably suffered from anxiety in the past, responded decisively, hitting a brace against Czech Republic and scoring a crafty header against Poland. A dynamic attacking midfielder with intelligent movement, he has the versatility to perform a number of different functions wide and centrally. His agent is talking up a Premier League move - with Tottenham looking likely to land him - but he wouldn’t be cheap.

Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine)

A generally flat tournament for Ukraine was not without its merits. With Andriy Shevcheko taking his leave of the international game and Artem Milevskiy not making the most of his obvious gifts, the national team will look to the 22-year-old Yarmolenko to lead the way to a brighter future.

A first-team player at Dynamo Kiev since he was a teenager, the left-footed forward has always been mature beyond his years, shunning the sometimes-wild lifestyles of Milevskiy and Oleksandr Aliyev. He had already shown he could hold his own in the highest company, shining for Dynamo in the Champions League and not looking remotely out of place against the likes of Barcelona and Inter.

Beautifully balanced, a great dribbler and an improving goalscorer, perhaps Yarmolenko’s best asset is his movement, an aspect of his game that troubled England in Donetsk. His excellent delivery was also apparent in the cross that created Shevchenko’s equaliser against Sweden. Comfortable anywhere across a front three, he provides a litany of attacking options – and only has 18 months to go on his contract at Dynamo, which may persuade Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger into a move. 

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