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Boys of summer

The season may be over, but the next couple of months are going to be busy ones for managers as they try and do business during the transfer window. We get the lowdown from Tony Cascarino.

Tony Cascarino, 06 Jun 2007

Jose Mourinho has already pulled off a coup by getting Steve Sidwell on a free from Reading, which won’t have gone down well with his mate Arsene Wenger who let him leave Highbury for a pittance.

Things can change overnight, but according to my Chelsea contacts Mourinho will still be the Chelsea manager next season, and will perservere with both Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko. No one’s going to pay Chelsea anywhere near what they shelled out for Shevchenko last year, and I don’t think they’ll loan out a player who could still conceivably come good.

Don’t forget that Shevchenko had just had an ankle operation when he arrived at the Bridge, and didn’t get a proper pre-season, which he will this year. Nothing’s going to bring that lost yard of pace back, but fully fit he’s still a fantastic option to have.

My contacts also tell me that Chelsea mightn’t be quite as determined to hang on to Frank Lampard as he obviously thinks they are given his stalling over a new contract.

If Lampard doesn’t score, which he hasn’t of late, how much does he offer Chelsea as a midfielder? His performances over the last third of the season were mediocre, and if he delivers a “give me £150,000 a week or I leave” ultimatum he might not get the answer he wants.

Mourinho’s got a lot of big players coming back from injury, so I think the majority of his signings will be players like Steve Sidwell who’ll be cover for the squad, and soften the blow of losing Drogba, Essien, Mikel, Geremi and Kalou for six weeks next January when they go off to the African Cup of Nations.

Liverpool have already let it be known that they’re going to be spending big. Agger and Carragher are solid, but not the absolutely top notch defensive duo you need to win the Premiership. If I was Rafael Benitez, I’d have signed Jonathan Woodgate last season from Real Madrid, and would now be bidding for Ledley King. They could also do with a bit more pace up front, and less of Craig Bellamy’s antics. I think they’ll let him go, and see if they can pick up an Andy Johnson type of player.

Along with Steve Sidwell, Arsene Wenger must be ruing letting David Bentley go to Blackburn for half-nothing. Bentley’s got a fabulous left-foot and his work-rate is second to none too.

Instead of always trying to find the world’s best youngster, Arsene needs some experienced players who’ve already proved themselves in the Premiership. They could do a lot worse than bring in Mark Viduka, who’s always struck me as the sort who plays better in front of 60,000 people than he does 30,000.

Now that Spurs have signed Robbie Keane to a new five-year contract, Martin Jol’s priority is hanging on to Dimitar Berbatov who’s another player Rafael Benitez would kill to get his hands on. Robbie loves playing alongside a big man, and you could see signs last season of a really effective partnership. Gareth Bale should take care of the problems Tottenham have had at left-back, and the Sporting Lisbon lad they’ve been linked with, Nani, is another Cristiano Ronaldo in the making.

Somebody else who’d fit well into Spurs’ system is Joey Barton who’s a real powerful midfielder and an absolute bargain for £5 million. It’ll be a brave manager who tries to handle him, which is why I think Roy Keane might put in an offer. Roy’s attitude would be, “Behave and you play, misbehave and I’ll leave you at home.” Off the pitch hi-jinx aside, Joey Barton’s very similar to the young Roy Keane in that he does the simple things well, and is great at driving into the box. As much as Fergie tried to change him, it was Roy who sorted himself out, and it’s up to Barton to do the same or see his career unravel.

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