Update: 4th August 2013. Remember the Mystery Player? Lambert is said to be still very keen on a No.10-type player before the window shuts and Hiroshi Kiyotake to Aston Villa is still in the air.
The term ‘mystery player’ was an off-hand reference given to a player, a journalist couldn’t account for in his article on Paul Lambert’s early signings. Whether the proposed signing of young Norwich keeper Jed Steer, which MOMS first broke the news of, is big enough to qualify as a ‘mystery player’, remains to be seen. If not, then MOMS head scout Shelley Osbourne offers up suggestions of who it ideally should be.
The summer transfer window is rather like the football world equivalent of the Christmas holidays. It is characterised by a flurry of activity, spending more money than you can probably afford, periods of waiting around in excited anticipation, inevitably followed by something of an anti-climax.
Armed with a shopping list of items, football managers across the world will be rushing around like over-worked parents at Christmas time in hot pursuit of their top targets. Unfortunately for most managers, they are often left empty-handed or are forced to settle for a frozen chicken, when they really would preferred Turkey stuffed with Guinea Fowl and Partridge, which they’d seen Nigel Slater rustle up on television. In addition, some managers almost always leave their purchases until the last minute, resulting in the indignity of two managers fighting over a player on deadline day, as if he were the last bag of sprouts in the supermarket on Christmas Eve.
We, the football fans, play our part in this yearly ritual too. In fact, the transfer window brings out the inner child in most of us and usually not in a good way. Social networks and forums are littered with fans dropping shameless and persistent hints regarding the shiny and most desirable players, which if the club only bought them for us, our lives would be complete. Bizarrely, the transfer window ritual also includes following ‘In the know‘ (ITK) accounts on twitter with reverence when normally we wouldn’t give them a second glance during the football season.
One word, however, has provoked the expectant Christmas Eve child in Villa fans this week and that word is ‘mystery‘. Rumours of a mystery signing have persisted in the past few days and Villa fans are left to dream of an ideal signing capable of completing a burgeoning squad of bright young things assembled by Paul Lambert.
In my opinion, the squad still needs an attacking creative midfielder able to play behind Benteke, who can pick out the runs of Villa’s enthusiastic youngsters when they look to gallop forward in numbers. With Paul Lambert’s policy of targeting youth, I have selected 5 possible attacking midfield targets who could become the magical mystery signing of Paul Lambert.
This 5ft 9, 20 year old attacking midfielder has fallen off the radar somewhat this season at Barcelona. He can normally be found sitting on the bench for Barca B, whilst team mates such as Rafinha and Gerard Deulofeu shine on the pitch. Espinosa’s exclusion from the team is due largely to the opinion of the Barca B coach, Eusebio, who many Barca fans disagree with. The youngster has a playing style similar to Andres Iniesta, in that he is creative, slight and has great balance and vision. Oddly, Eusebio’s contract has been renewed for next season when many Barca fans were hoping that he would leave the club this summer. Espinosa may well be looking for a new club and as he is not featuring in the Barca B team regularly, or Spain’s under-21’s team, and he would be a shrewd and forward thinking signing for Lambert. Espinosa would need time to adjust, but an investment in him would bear fruits in years to come. Espinosa has scored five times for Barca B this season despite the setbacks he has faced.
Sarabia is also 5ft 9 and is a year older than Espinosa at 21-years-old. He is not in the Spain under-21 first team, but he has played in this year’s Euro under-21 competition and got two assists versus Holland in a game where both teams rotated their squads heavily. Sarabia learnt his football at Real Madrid’s Castilla, but failed to make the break through at the White House and was snapped up by Getafe in 2011. Juan Mata also failed to break into the Madrid team from the Castilla, so it’s no real indication of the players talent. He has been used as a right central midfielder in an attacking three behind the striker for Spain under-21, but his best position is centrally behind the striker in my opinion. Alberto Toril, current Castilla manager, moved Sarabia from wing to attacking midfield, when he was in the academy and he scored a very impressive 12 goals from that position after the switch. Playing regularly for Getafe he would take less time to adapt to the Premier League, and Lambert may have looked at him following his performances for Getafe last season.
Japan have produced many quality attacking players with impressive technical ability in recent years such as Keisuke Honda and Takashi Inui. Inui plays in the Bundesliga, like Hiroshi Kiyotake, and he has recently been followed by Arsenal scouts. Keisuke Honda is perhaps the most famous Japanese playmaker of recent years and he can be seen playing regularly in the Champions League for CSKA Moscow. Hiroshi Kiyotake has a similar skill set to Inui and Honda and interestingly his name has been whispered on Villa forums in recent days as a possible signing. Kiyotake plays for FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga and he is an established international with Japan at the age of 23. Although small for a top level player at 5ft 7, he compensates for any lack of physical presence with intelligence and technique, which all creative midfielders need in abundance and Kiyotake is adept at receiving the ball whilst being tightly marked and creating opportunities for his team mates. Kiyotake collected the most assists, seven, in the Bundesliga last season which will excite all Villa fans. In addition, fans can watch Kiyotake currently playing in the Confederations Cup for Japan in Brazil to get a better view of the player, if they don’t watch Bundesliga games.
The 18-year-old Derby youngster is still a work in progress, and the player has been stunted by injuries in the past season. Hughes potential is undeniable however, and as a result he has been linked to top clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester United, who have been alerted to his performances. As with many young English players, the price tag has so far put off interested suitors with Derby looking to achieve £10m from any transfer. Less developed than the previous three players mentioned, Hughes would be a bit of a gamble. As a player, Hughes is attractive to watch and his impressive creativity would have benefited Stuart Pearce’s poor England under-21 squad this summer had Pearce not overlooked him. The blond midfielder is also very comfortable on the ball and a maturity beyond his years like Ashley Westwood. The player’s down to earth personality may appeal to Lambert, if past signings are anything to go by, but Lambert may face a fight for his signature.
A cheaper option than Hughes might be 21-year-old Betis attacking midfielder Pozuelo. The 5ft 7 attacking player has, so far, not been selected by Julen Lopetegui for Spain under-21 team, but it is worth noting that Spain have so many talented attacking midfielders that its no wonder that some of them fail to make the cut. Pozuelo has quietly impressed with encouraging performances for Betis in the past two seasons and rather like Benat, Pozuelo may find that his international opportunities will arrive later than young players who are already playing for the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Pozuelo is technically very talented and he has benefited from playing alongside the brilliant Benat this season. Pozuelo has also recently expressed a desire to leave Betis for a new opportunity and his comments may have alerted Paul Lambert who is on the look out for young, hungry players. Michael Laudrup is apparently interested in Pozuelo, so Lambert would need to act quickly if he is a fan of the Betis player.
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