It's a Knockaert

The ramblings of a football obsessive and Game of Thrones nerd.


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Five Players Leicester Should Sign

Better writers than me have waxed lyrical about my miraculous Leicester City, our once-in-a-lifetime season, and the superb players who made it happen. That’s done now, though, and it’s time to start looking to the future. Leicester are in a very strong position in this summer’s transfer market, with Champions League football to offer, and the new TV deal meaning they can offer higher wages and transfer fees than they ever could before. We will never have a better chance to attract top players to the club. However, Claudio has said he isn’t interested in signing established world class players who would disrupt the harmonious atmosphere among the squad. So, here are five promising young players who would greatly improve our squad, but still have it all to prove.

Wissam Ben Yedder – Toulouse

Ben Yedder has quietly been one of the best strikers in Ligue 1 for the least few seasons, and scored 17 goals this season for a Toulouse side that only avoided relegation with a dramatic final day escape. He has stated that he will look to move on this summer, and with 62 league goals in his last four seasons, and still being only 25, there will be many interested sides. Lyon and Napoli have been linked, but Leicester have the attraction of playing in the most popular and richest league in the world. Clearly a prolific finisher, he is also gifted creatively and contributes to build up play. He would take some of the goalscoring responsibility off Jamie Vardy’s shoulders.

Expected fee: £10-15million

Likelihood: 5/10

 

Sime Vrsaljko – Sassuolo

Although every Leicester player played out of their skin last season, if you had to pick a weak spot, it would be at right-back. Danny Simpson was perfectly adequate last season, but world class form doesn’t last forever – and then there’s the small matter of him being convicted for domestic assault. Clearly, a new right back should be a high priority, and Vrsaljko has been making waves in Serie A for some time now. A whole host of clubs are after him, including Juventus, Inter, Napoli and even Barcelona, but Leicester could definitely get him with the right offer.

Expected fee: £8-12million

Likelihood: 4/10

 

Juan Quintero – Porto

Two years ago, Quintero was one of the hottest young players in the world, but since then his stock has plummeted, with injury problems, failing to get into the Porto team, and this season’s disappointing loan to Rennes. However, go back a bit further, and you find an incredibly skilled playmaker with a fantastic long shot and free kick ability. Other than Riyad Mahrez, Leicester don’t have any players who can spring a great piece of skill out of nowhere, and if anyone can revitalise a career not going to plan, it’s Claudio Ranieri. Still only 23, Quintero plays best as a number 10, but can also play on the wings, a position than needs strengthening.

Expected fee: £3-6million

Likelihood: 6/10

 

Niklas Sule – Hoffenheim

A tall, strong, and quick centre back, Sule’s no-nonsense style of defending make him a perfect protege for Huth and Morgan to take under their wing. Neither of our current two centre backs are getting any younger, and at just 20 Sule could be the rock in our defence for the next decade or longer. He has been strongly linked with Dortmund as a replacement for Mats Hummels, and with Liverpool due to the Klopp connection, so Leicester would have to fight hard if they wanted to get him.

Expected fee: £15-20million

Likelihood: 3/10

 

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Bayern Munich

Another 20-year-old from the Bundesliga, Hojbjerg looks set to leave Bayern this summer to try his luck elsewhere. A defensive midfielder who has played out wide and already plays for Denmark’s senior team, he is currently on loan at Schalke where he struggled initially, but is ending the season a regular in the team. A greatly versatile player, with excellent attacking and defensive qualities, he can fill in at a number of positions but would mainly be a good rotational option for the centre of midfield.

Expected fee: £7-12million

Likelihood: 7/10

 

Possible line-up:

Schmeichel

Vrsaljko – Morgan – Huth – Fuchs

Mahrez – Kante – Drinkwater – Quintero

Vardy – Ben Yedder

Subs: Schwarzer, Sule, Chilwell, Hojbjerg, Albrighton, Gray, Okazaki


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What can West Ham expect from Mauro Zárate?

Mauro Zarate

West Ham have completed the signing of 27 year old Argentine striker Mauro Zarate from Velez Sarsfield. Having been one of Europe’s biggest young talents several years ago, Zarate fell off the radar somewhat recently, but he is still an excellent player, and should he play to his best, he will be an amazing signing for West Ham. He is also one of my favourite players, so I really hope he is a success in the Premier League.

Club History

Mauro began his career at Velez Sarsfield in Argentina. At 17, he was promoted from the youth team into the first team. His breakout season was in 2006/07, when he scored 19 goals, and was promptly signed for around £15m by Qatari side Al-Sadd. After only six months in Qatar, he joined Birmingham City on loan for six months of the 2007/08 season. He scored 4 goals in 14 appearances for Birmingham, not enough to keep them from relegation, but although he was only there for a brief period, he scored some memorable goals and Blues fans have fond memories of him. The following season, he joined Serie A side Lazio on loan, and that was the season he really burst onto the scene of European football. He scored 13 goals in Serie A, and also helping them to win the Coppa Italia with a goal in the semi-final and final. His performances for Lazio convinced the normally stingy president Claudio Lotito to splash out £20m for his permanent signing. However, his next season would be something of a let down, as he only scored 3 league goals, and only 8 in total. The next season was a little better, with 9 goals, but the manager Edy Reja was critical of his use of the ball, saying he is “too in love with the ball” and should pass more. In 2011/12, he went on loan to Inter Milan, scoring just twice in 22 league appearances, although he was used mainly as a substitute. When Inter decided against making his signing permanent, he returned to Lazio, and with Reja gone, he got his head down and prepared for the new season at Lazio. However, despite playing regularly in the Europe League, manager Petkovic couldn’t find room for him in the team for league games. This led to a falling out with the management, and he was ostracised from the team. He ended the season with only league appearance, and just one goal in the Europa League. His Lazio contract was terminated at the end of the season, and he returned to his first club Velez. This move seems to have revitalised him – he finished the top scorer in Argentina last season, with a tally of 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions. This has persuaded Sam Allardyce to bring him to West Ham.

Style of Play

Zarate is most comfortable playing up front, but he has also played on the left wing, allowing him to cut inside onto his stronger right foot. He is a very pacy and skillful dribbler, but has often been accused of being too greedy. He has scored several free kicks and spectacular long range strikes in his time, and he certainly has an eye for the spectacular. The best way for West Ham to utilise him would probably be in a front two with Andy Carroll, allowing him to benefit from Carroll’s flick-ons.

After showing so much early promise, Zarate clearly became unhappy in Italy and failed to play like he could. However, his brilliant form in Argentina shows that he is still an excellent player, and if Big Sam can find a way to get him playing to his best, there is no reason why he can’t be a brilliant addition to the Premier League. As a big fan of him myself, I wish him all the best.