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Iain Macintosh
Friday, May 16, 2014

Sports

EPL: Men of substance

The New Paper | Iain Macintosh | Friday, May 16, 2014

Diego Costa - Perfect for Chelsea.

Within 24 hours of Manchester City's Premier League success, three of the clubs who hope to snatch the title away next season launched bids for reinforcements. Your English Kaki runs the rule over the top three targets.

DIEGO COSTA

It's no secret that Jose Mourinho has little faith in his strikeforce.

All season, Chelsea have lacked a focal point for their exceptional midfield.

Samuel Eto'o isn't quick enough, Demba Ba isn't good enough and Fernando Torres is a sort of sad, faded facsimile of his younger self.

Mourinho has always wanted an experienced striker whom he can count on.

Diego Costa was at the top of the list, as well he should be. Atletico Madrid cannot hope to keep their talisman now.

Manager Diego Simeone has even given Costa his blessing, saying that he'd be happy to let him go as it would further his career.

With the £32-million ($67.5m) buyout clause met, there is nothing to stop Chelsea from getting their man.

Costa has apparently told Atletico players that he is leaving, sources have told ESPN.

There have been extensive negotiations between Chelsea and Atletico over the past two months.

Reports from Sky Sports claimed that a deal will be sealed next month.

The Brazilian-born frontman is perfect for the Blues.

He's fiery and uncompromising, he fights for every ball, he harasses defenders mercilessly.

Red-hot in pursuit of the ball, he is also ice-cold when he's in front of goal.

Chelsea fans will love him. Everyone else will hate him. And that's what Mourinho wants from his players.

With 27 goals in 34 La Liga games this season, he's in the Luis Suarez bracket for goalscoring, as well as attitude. He fits the bill.

This has been a transitional season for Chelsea.

Mourinho now knows who he can rely on and who he cannot after a season.

Costa would be a very shiny cherry on his cake.

ADAM LALLANA

Liverpool excelled themselves this season but, if they're to repeat that performance, they must improve their squad.

A rejected £20m bid for Southampton's Adam Lallana is a clear sign that they're on the right track.

Despite their heroics, Liverpool's transfer business was actually quite disappointing last summer.

Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet were adequate but, for £30m, that's the very least you would expect.

Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto were anonymous, Kolo Toure enjoyed and endured decidedly mixed success while loanees Victor Moses and Aly Cissokho were profound disappointments.

This was largely because Liverpool were forced to pick from the bargain buckets of the transfer market.

With Champions League football secured for the first time since 2009, it's a different story and Lallana is premium stock.

Mobile and dynamic, he brings something that Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen can't, combining technique with an ability to get up and down the pitch at great pace.

At 26, he's not young enough to be considered a gamble.

Instead, he is approaching the peak of his career.

An ever-present in the league this season, he also scored nine of Southampton's 54 goals.

Imagine how many he'd get in a team that scored 101.

If Liverpool want to be back among the elites, securing Lallana's signature is a good place to start.

LUKE SHAW

After a disappointing season, Manchester United's power brokers need to make a grand gesture to renew the hope of their fans.

The squad that Sir Alex Ferguson left behind has let them down, a generation of indomitable defenders has moved on and a new generation must be unearthed.

The first name to arrive looks likely to be Southampton's exciting young fullback Luke Shaw.

The 18-year-old was named in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad for Brazil on Monday, a decision that meant the international retirement of Ashley Cole.

Shaw is an excellent prospect.

Tall and muscular, he's no whippet built on pace and unable to defend.

He's far more intelligent than most players of his age and he has given some of the best players in the world a hard time this season.

At £27m, he's not cheap and there are fears that he might not be able to cope with the scrutiny at Old Trafford.

But, then again, how many young players have coped so well in the EPL that they make 58 appearances in it before their 19th birthday?

United are right to gamble on his potential.

If he does continue on this track, he's likely to be an England left back for the next 10 years.

And while the transfer fee is high, wages of 'only' £100,000 a week will look more reasonable with every passing season of his five-year contract.

A bid for Shaw is a sign that the club are looking to the future.

And this young man is going to be a crucial part of it.

This article was published on May 14 in The New Paper.

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