Our version of the Transfer Window Top Target list

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The January transfer window is now open, and while this isn’t the summer free-for-all, there will be plenty of fodder for switch-em-up conversation.

Below is our list of players we seem most likely to be discussing over the coming days and weeks. Consider them not necessarily the top talents, but the tops in “transfer intrigue” factor.

This is list of realistic targets for movement, not a wish-list of players who look like high-value targets for moves from a relatively smaller club to a bigger one. Everton’s Marouane Fellaini is a good example. I am sure some bigger clubs would love to see the big Belgian international, in such dominant form so far in the 2012-13 season, go up on the “for sale” shelf. But he seems committed to Goodison Park for now, with a high-profile move perhaps more likely for this summer or next.

That doesn’t mean he won’t move in January, but the odds seem far, far higher for the following fivesome:

Demba Ba, Newcastle – The Senegalese striker has not been the force that he was a year ago, but that hasn’t stopped Chelsea from putting significant chips into the DB stakes. He seems likely to move from St. James Park; it seems not a matter of “if,” but one of “where” and “when” and “how much.”

Theo Walcott, Arsenal – This is a case for brilliant timing. His recent form – perhaps spurred by the tutelage of training partner Thierry Henry? – and overall performance in the 2012-13 campaign is a case study maximizing value at the best moment. His contract is up this summer, so Arsenal will see some financial return only through a move in January.

Wesley Sneijder, Inter Milan – A supremely talented Dutch international who seems supremely unwanted by his club, where he has been cast down to forgotten man status, as we talked about just yesterday.

Fernando Llorente, Atletico Bilbao – A Spanish international striker whose marriage has soured with his La Liga club. Plus, and his contract is up this summer, which means Bilbao would be smart to bust a move now.

David Villa, Barcelona – What an embarrassment of roster riches the Catalan giants have when this guy, a high-scoring Spanish international, cannot get games. Villa lost his place a year ago after breaking his leg and just hasn’t regained his place. Perhaps a loaner rather than an outright buy?

Plus five more on our “monitor list:”

Lewis Holtby (Schalke), Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace), Adrian Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Dieumerci Mbokani (Anderlecht) and Younés Belhanda (Montpellier).

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.

Coach Valverde leaves Athletic, will reportedly join Barca

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MADRID (AP) Athletic Bilbao says Ernesto Valverde will not remain as the team’s coach next season, clearing the way for his expected move to Barcelona.

Athletic said Tuesday that the coach will give more details about his departure in a news conference on Wednesday.

The Mundo Deportivo newspaper reported that Valverde has already reached a deal with Barcelona to replace Luis Enrique, who announced earlier this year that he would not continue with the Catalan club.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Barcelona ends its season after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday.

The 53-year-old Valverde reportedly will sign a two-year contract with Barcelona, with an option for a third season. The announcement is expected next week.

A former forward, Valverde played two seasons with Barcelona in the late 1980s.

He previously coached Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia.