Foreign Affairs

With Ronaldo and Torres the toast of the Premier League, what better time to run the rule over some of the overseas stars who could soon be lighting up English soccer?

Liverpool and Manchester United have both laid claim over the past week to having the best attacker in the world.

While Fernando Torres is undoubtedly a class act, I’m going to have to side with Fergie on this one. Eamon Dunphy ridiculed me 18 months ago when I said it – a sure sign I was right! – but there’s nobody else in the Premiership, Seria A or La Liga who’s as good as Cristiano Ronaldo. The scary thing is that since my disagreement with Mr. Dunphy Ronaldo’s upped his game another 10 or 15% and brought the same ‘wow!’ factor to Old Trafford that George Best did.

He’s controlling and winning games to the extent that other teams are going to have to start man marking him. Give him room – like Bolton did the other week when United beat them 2-0 – and he’ll run riot. If you’re standing on his feet, the other Man U players can’t pass to him – or at least that’s the theory! If Ronaldo stays fit for the rest of the season Manchester United will win the Premiership. Simple as that.

Going back to Torres – I knew from watching him at Atletico Madrid that he was good, but over the past month or two he’s started looking like a modern day Marco Van Basten. He’s quick, good in the air, turns well and doesn’t miss many chances.

There might still be ten games to go to the end of the season, but you can rest assured that every Premiership manager has started writing his ‘Players I want to bring in during the summer’ list to hand to the chairman. Here are some of the overseas lads who come next August could be joining Torres and Ronaldo in the Premiership:

Another 21-year-old whose pace and direct running remind me a bit of Ryan Giggs. He broke through recently into the French national side, and again would suit a mid-level English club with £6 or £7 million to spare.

DERNIS (Saint Etienne)

A 21-year-old centre-forward who’s been generating a lot of hype this season in France. He’s not as big as Adabeyor, but has that same battering ram quality which unsettles defenders. Although Lyons and Monaco have both looked at him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up at Manchester City or a similar level Premiership club.

BENZEMA (Lyon)

Scored that absolute cracker of a Champions League goal at home against Man U. He’s a David Trezegeut-style player with a great first touch, and scores all sorts of goals – tap-ins, headers, 30-yarders, the lot. He’s a strong runner, but not super-fast which I think would put Arsene Wenger off. He reminds me a little bit of Andriy Shevchenko when he was doing the business in Milan, and would have no problems with the physical side of the English game. The fee’s going to be astronomical because he’s just signed a new deal at Lyon, but I could see Sir Alex getting rid of Saha and offering £20 million for him.

QUARESMA (Porto)

A 24-year-old midfielder who’s been nicknamed ‘Harry Potter’ by the Portuguese media on account of him being a bit of a wizard. Not as polished as Ronaldo, but similar in terms of speed and dribbling ability. The type of player that would probably interest Everton or Spurs, although he might be aiming higher.

HUNTELAAR (Ajax)

Scored 33 goals in 31 games last season in Holland, and was the star of the last UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Good technically like all the Ajax players are, and likely to go to one of the top four – my guess is United – for £20 million-plus.

GARAY (Racing Santander)

Man U, Barca, Real and Spurs are meant to have had a look recently, and it’s obvious why. An Argentinian full-back who neverthless scored 12 goals last year in La Liga, most from free-kicks which he’s brilliant at taking.

FARFAN (PSV Eindhoven)

The only Afro-Peruvian player I’ve encountered, he caused Tottenham a lot of problems in the UEFA Cup. A tricky winger with lots of pace, he’s another I could see going to Arsenal.

NASRI (Marseilles)

A Fabregas-style playmaker who’s custom-made for Arsenal. Great feet, very tricky and will pitch in with seven or eight goals a season. Not the biggest, but has all the ability in the world.

 

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