Chileans players attract the attention of European leagues
Chileans players attract the attention of European leagues
It’s open season and the ever-rising stock of Chile’s soccer team is inevitably turning the heads of domestic clubs around the globe. Prospective buyers looking to bolster ranks for the coming season are scanning the World Cup shop window and waving checkbooks in the hope of reeling in the next big name signing. The likes of Chilean stars Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla continue to be the subject of transfer speculation with some of Europe’s most celebrated outfits reported to be showing interest in “La Roja’s” kingpins.
One thing is for certain — Chile’s 31-year-old captain and man between the sticks Claudio Bravo is off to Barcelona, pinched from Spanish rivals Real Sociedad for around US$12 million. He will battle it out with highly rated German Marc-André ter Stegen, 22, signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach for the starting spot come August. However, considering Bravo has turned down the chance to represent both Real Madrid and Barcelona in the past, citing an unwillingness to play second fiddle to Iker Casillas and Victor Valdés, the likelihood is that the Chilean will initially hold down the Catalan’s number one jersey.
“Claudio Bravo is noted for his calmness, his leadership skills and great agility,” Barcelona said in a statement. “Since 2008, he has been the captain of Chile and at Real Sociedad he became one of the natural leaders of a team that in recent years has done well in La Liga.”
One player under the microscope is flying forward Sánchez, who is apparently being courted by Premier League trio Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. If the Liverpool Echo is anything to go by the transfer is a “done deal,” according to former “Reds” captain and Sky Sports pundit Phil Thompson.
Liverpool’s interest is particularly relevant given Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez’s four-month ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the final World Cup match of Group D. The troubled Suárez — who himself has been heavily linked with Barcelona — will be playing no further role in the tournament and will miss the first nine league games of Liverpool’s season, as well as three Champions League ties and one Capital One encounter. Finding a natural goal scorer and playmaker to fill the void left by the suspended Suárez will be a priority and Sánchez no doubt fits the bill.
It remains to be seen if “Red’s” manager Brendan Rodgers will want to wash his hands of a player whose on-field brilliance, including 31 league goals last season, is counteracted by episodes of alleged racism and biting frenzies; a potential swap deal with Sánchez going in the opposite direction certainly shouldn’t be ruled out. Barcelona may have to reach deep into the club’s pockets though considering Uruguay’s talisman takes home US$340,000 a week, with a buy out clause thought to be in the region of US$136 million. Ultimately, Sánchez’s fate may rest on Liverpool’s resolve to retain Suárez — the 2014 Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Players’ Player and Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
Manchester United scouts have also been keeping a keen eye on flavor of the month Sánchez. United’s new boss and Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal is apparently dreaming of both the Chilean and Arjen Robben bombing down Old Trafford’s flanks next term, providing ammunition for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
Chile and Juventus midfield engine Vidal is also thought to be in van Gaal’s crosshairs, with the Manchester club seemingly willing to splash in upwards of US$50 million on the versatile 27 year old, who scored 10 league goals last season. Competition will be fierce for Vidal’s signature, not only because the Italian title holders will be reluctant to sell one of their prized assets, but because the box-to-box midfielder is regarded as one of the best in the business, even by himself.
“I am the best player in the world in my position. That’s simply the way it is for me,” he said. “There are a lot of players out there in my position who try and play just like me and want to copy my style of play. But it’s quite clear for me that I’m the best in my role. Nobody puts in as much defensive work as I do and then scores a lot of goals on top of it as well.”
With Arsenal’s vacancy at right back making the headlines after Frenchman Bacary Sagna swapped the The Emirates for the Etihad Stadium, Isla could well be a target for Arsène Wenger. The industrious Chilean, who plies his trade alongside Vidal for Juventus, is believed to desire more game time after playing understudy to Antonio Conte’s preferred option of Stephan Lichtsteiner for much of last season. Liverpool might also be vying for the flexible Isla, who can operate in central defence and midfield in addition to his principal position on the flank.
Gary “El Pitbull” Medel, currently on the books of recently relegated Cardiff City, looks set to depart for warmer climes after showing a reluctance to play in the second tier of English soccer. Spanish clubs Valencia and Malaga are being touted as possible destinations for the rugged midfielder who has been deployed in defense for Chile’s World Cup games so far. It is also a possibility that Medel may move to Celta Vigo where his international team mate, Fabián Orellana, plays. Cardiff is unlikely to stand in his way given the chance improve the club’s bank balance and get a hefty wage off the books.
“Cardiff’s relegation helps [Celta Vigo] negotiate with Medel, who is a friend of Orellana,” Spanish news site Faro de Vigo has claimed.
As with every summer transfer window, it is anybody’s guess who will be playing for who next season, but with Premier League clubs permitted to trade right up until August 31, plenty of marquee signings can be expected this summer.