Who Every Major European Club's Main Summer Transfer Target Should Be
We're edging closer to the summer transfer window, and despite fierce title rivalries in La Liga and the Premier League, Champions League semifinals to think about and a FIFA World Cup looming, clubs are already working round the clock to source appropriate, quality transfer deals.
Here, we suggest one player each of Europe's top clubs (in Opta's top-five leagues) should be targeting as their main, high-profile signing.
Needs never dry up and squads constantly need improving—even if you've won everything there is to win already.
Arsenal: Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku is the best striker on Chelsea's books, and as the Blues' Premier League title challenge winds down in the face of a resurgent Liverpool, advantageous Manchester City and a semifinal tie vs. Atletico Madrid, get ready for the question book to be reopened and thrown at Jose Mourinho.
Why did he loan him out? He's spent all season proving he's a world-class talent in the making, and The Telegraph believe Chelsea are willing to listen to offers of £25 million or more.
If this is the case, Arsenal should push to the very front of the queue.
Atletico Madrid: Thibaut Courtois
It's not even summer yet and the Thibaut Courtois-to-Chelsea deal is a circus.
Atletico Madrid will likely lose Diego Costa and pay some of their mounting debts off with the money, signing a slightly lesser striker and hoping Adrian Lopez can come to the fore instead.
But they love Courtois and rightly so; they'll do whatever they can to lure him in—even if it means not playing him against the Blues in their semifinal date in the Champions League, per Sky Sports.
Barcelona: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
If Barcelona can indeed sign players this summer, replacing the injured, outbound Victor Valdes will be their priority.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen seems set to get the nod, with The Daily Mail reporting a deal is in place to sign the German this summer from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Valdes has a torn ACL and will miss a serious chunk of time, so even if he does stay to cover the transfer ban, he's not available until close to Christmas.
Bayer Leverkusen: Eduardo Vargas
Bayer Leverkusen will be losing Sidney Sam to Schalke at season's end for just €2.5 million, opening a hole for them to fill on the wing.
Heung-Min Son occupies on space and does a great job, and a potentially cheap deal in the waiting to replace Sam's vertical ability and pace is Eduardo Vargas.
The Chilean has impressed on loan at Gremio, at Valencia and for the national team but cannot find a place at Napoli.
Bayern Munich: Jan Vertonghen
Bayern Munich have reached a position where they can pick and choose signings extremely carefully, and they're not required to be world-beaters given the club's overwhelming degree of talent.
They need a centre-back, that much is clear. Javi Martinez has had serious ups and downs in the role and they boast only Dante and Jerome Boateng as full-timers for the position.
Jan Vertonghen is an ideal fit for Pep Guardiola's system, given his ability to slide wide, pace in recovery and ball-playing prowess.
Borussia Dortmund: Lars Bender
With Adrian Ramos confirmed as a signing, the Robert Lewandowski-replacement saga has ended before it had a chance to begin.
Neven Subotic will return from injury and Lukasz Piszczek is expected to return to form after a difficult season post-hip surgery, so there is just one hole on the side.
If Ilkay Gundogan recovers for the 2014-15 season, it could be his last with BVB given that his contract expires at the end of the campaign. That leaves a creative hole felt dearly this year, and who better to fill it than Bundesliga-proven Lars Bender, brother of current BVB player Sven?
Chelsea: Diego Costa
According to El Confidencial, via ITV Sport, Diego Costa and Chelsea are close to a £50 million agreement that will see the Spaniard transfer this summer.
They must play against him first in a UEFA Champions League semifinal tie vs. Atletico Madrid and hope he doesn't cause too much damage, but fans will be watching him knowing it's likely he'll be wearing their shirt next season.
Everton: Michy Batshuayi
Any team hoping to pick up Michy Batshuayi for less than £10 million this summer should pray he doesn't go to the World Cup in Christian Benteke's place.
Everton will want to retain Romelu Lukaku but may not have the funds to do so. This pacey, marauding, goalscoring Belgian has local experts convinced he's ready for a big move and could shoulder the load at a Premier League club.
Juventus: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado
Many have now come to the conclusion that Juventus must change formation in order to succeed in European football, with the 3-5-2 deemed "unsuitable" for Champions League play.
Antonio Conte admitted as much when he shifted to 4-3-3 against Real Madrid in the group stages, but to pull it off properly he needs to find genuine wingers with skill, pace and dribbling ability.
Juan Guillermo Cuadrado lights up Serie A every weekend with his relentless take-ons and searing pace. He's in Juve's back yard, and they can't let him slip.
Liverpool: Ricardo Rodriguez
Liverpool have a number of things to do this summer to retool their ailing defence, but the chief concern is the left-back slot.
At this moment in time, Aly Cissokho has no chance of a permanent deal and Jose Enrique is injured and has played poorly, leaving Jon Flanagan playing out-of-position on the left flank.
Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg is one of the finest left-backs emerging onto the market and will be at the World Cup with Switzerland.
Manchester City: Eliaquim Mangala
Manchester City's first priority this summer will be to sign a centre-back regardless of Martin Demichelis' strong recent form.
Matija Nastastic could become world class, but he's very, very injury prone and Joleon Lescott will depart on a free transfer to another club. Demichelis, 33, isn't going to last forever either.
City will be able to pick which prominent talent they want, and Eliaquim Mangala of FC Porto looks a nice fit. Perhaps the even more astute signing would be Aymeric Laporte, but he could be even harder to wrestle from his current club.
Manchester United: Ezequiel Garay
According to The Mirror, Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Ezequiel Garay this summer from Benfica.
This happens every year and never seems to go through, but with the player's contract expiring in a year's time, the Eagles will be happy to see him off in July.
David Moyes needs to replace Nemanja Vidic (Internazionale) and likely Rio Ferdinand (retirement) this summer; picking up an Argentina international isn't a bad way to start.
Milan: Adel Taarabt
Twelve months ago, had you suggested Adel Taarabt would be excelling in Serie A with the mighty Milan, people would have given you some very funny looks.
Indeed, unlikely as it seems, the Moroccan Queens Park Rangers outcast—the man who failed to get into Fulham's relegation-threatened XI—is enjoying a new lease of life at the San Siro.
Adriano Galliani has confirmed he wants to keep Adel Taarabt, and FourFourTwo report the fees are already set.
Internazionale: Angelo Ogbonna
Angelo Ogbonna made the wrong choice in Juventus last summer. He had the pick of Italian clubs to join, and he picked the one who regularly supply the Azzurri with their first-choice defensive three.
He'll get medals this year, but his career has stagnated and he often plays poorly for the Bianconeri once given the chance. If he gets the chance to move to one of Italy's other giants, he should snap it up.
Internazionale need to retool their defence, with Walter Samuel close to gone and Andrea Ranocchia so unpopular the club tried to loan him to anyone who was willing in January.
Paris Saint-Germain: Serge Aurier
According to Sky Sports, Serge Aurier has his heart set on a "dream" move to Arsenal should they require a Bacary Sagna replacement, but Paris Saint-Germain would be fools to let him leave the country.
Gregory van der Wiel has had a strong season but the capital club could do better, and Christophe Jallet has shown his limitations in the big games this season.
Aurier is a powerful, muscular, goalscoring right-sided presence. He can play right-back or right midfield and bully opponents for fun.
Real Madrid: Edinson Cavani
Rumours have been circulating for some time now that Edinson Cavani is unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN have suggested he doesn't like playing wide; he's not flourishing in a central role now Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out either and essentially cost PSG the tie against Chelsea.
He may not be an ideal tactical fit for Real Madrid either—Mario Mandzukic would be an excellent choice—but he is the star name the club demands.
Radamel Falcao is an option too provided his knee fully recovers.
Roma: Erik Lamela
Roma should phone Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the season and offer some money back for Erik Lamela.
The Argentine winger is a phenomenal talent—perhaps the closest to the Lionel Messi level any modern-day prospect will get—but has failed miserably in England.
Roma's inability to break deep defences down has cost them points this season, with the 3-0 loss to Juventus sticking out like a sore thumb.
Lamela would help break those walls down, replacing Adem Ljajic who's failed (largely) to make an impact.
Tottenham Hotspur: Bernard
Tottenham Hotspur are loaded with squad options, but almost every single one has underperformed this season in patches.
That doesn't call for a rehaul, more a good managerial appointment to get the best out of them, and a sprinkling of quality would help turn games in their favour.
Erik Lamela was supposed to be that man but he's flopped, so why not try Brazilian international Bernard? Shakhtar Donetsk drive a hard bargain, but he's attainable given his so-so season in Ukraine.