ProSoccerTalk’s Top 20 players to watch in the transfer window

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In January the rumor mill runs into overdrive, as you’ve already seen countless deals being shut down or speculated during the opening week of the transfer window reopening.

Hopefully this list will help clear the murky waters for you, as ProSoccerTalk picks out our top 20 players you should watch during the January transfer window, which opened on January 1 and will slam shut at midnight on January 31. Here’s where you can find all the details as to how the window works in the Premier League.

(MORE: Latest Transfer Rumor Roundup)

From clubs in the Premier League and across Europe, these players are either wanted because of sensational form so far this season, a falling out with their current manager or just fancy a change of scenery. This time of year usually doesn’t provide the best value for money, but there’s certainly some gems out there.

Keep this list of elite soccer stars handy throughout the month of January, as many will surely be on the move to some of Europe’s biggest teams.

Let the fun begin!

1. Iker Casillas

source: Getty ImagesHaving lost his place in the Real Madrid starting lineup last season under Jose Mourinho, it was all meant to be so different this season for Casillas when new boss Carlo Ancelloti arrived. But Diego Lopez is still the number one as Casillas has been firmly rooted to the bench. Captain of the Spanish national team and Madrid, Casillas said last year he may leave Real to further his career and it seems as though Manchester City and Arsenal are willing to offer him an escape route. On his day, the best ‘keeper in the world.

Price: $15-20 million

2. Edin Dzeko

In the starting lineup at the moment due to Sergio Aguero’s injury, Dzeko has been in and out of the City team this season. How much more of this can he take? Manuel Pellegrini likes the Bosnian forward, but surely he wants to be playing regularly before the 2014 World Cup this summer. With top clubs across Europe clambering to snap him up if City let him leave, the bustling striker won’t be short of options.

Price: $25 million

3. Juan Mata

source: ReutersSulking at Southampton after being substituted, Spanish international Mata is becoming increasingly frustrated by his role at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho. The 25-year-old is a magician capable of unlocking any defense, but Chelsea has the likes of Oscar, Willian and Hazard to do that. Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli and Inter Milan are all ready to snap him up.

Price: $38-42 million

4. Diego Costa

This man has terrorized defenses in Spain for the last year and this season, he’s already scored 19 goals in 17 La Liga matches for Atletico Madrid. The Brazilian born forward made the big call of switching his national allegiance to Spain, and the 25-year-old will surely be at the 2014 World Cup. Diego has a release clause of $47 million and has long been linked with Chelsea and Arsenal, who could both do with a top striker. Who will make the move?

Price: $47 million

5. Fredy Guarin

Highly rated central midfielder from Inter Milan, the Colombian terrier gets stuck in and could become a key cog for any Premier League side in the engine room. He’s get a great strike on him, plus his style would suit the rambunctious midfield battles in England. Chelsea are sniffing around but don’t be surprised if others make a bid.

Price: $15-20 million

6. Adam Lallana

source: Getty ImagesSouthampton’s captain and leading light, Lallana led the Saints to an impressive start to the PL season. He’s since gone on to win his first England caps and performed admirably against Chile and Germany. Many of England’s top clubs are trying to snap him up, but it will take a lot of cash to steal the Englishman’s silky skills away from St. Mary’s. Manchester United are interested, as are Liverpool but Lallana seems happy at Saints… for now.

Price: $25-30 million

7. Fabian Schar

FC Basel performed superbly in the Champions League and young Swiss defender Schar is set for a massive future on the European stage. Chelsea and Spurs are interested as the 22-year-old is comfortable on the ball and loves to step into midfield. Ball-playing center backs are a valuable commodity these days.

Price: $20-25 million

8. Jackson Martinez

source: APChelsea have been tracking FC Porto’s Martinez for quite some time, as the pacey attacker is full of goals and gives defenders a torrid time. He has a knack of popping up to score crucial goals and his tremendous athleticism seems him as the perfect PL player. Mourinho loves to raid his old club Porto, too.

Price: $35-40 million

9. Jeremy Menez

Following his move from AS Roma in 2011, Menez has struggled to get into the team ahead of PSG’s growing band of stars this season. Menez is available on a free transfer in June, but he could be a seriously good pick up for any team looking for a pacey winger who can get to the byline and deliver delicious crosses. Bargain.

Price: $10-12 million

10. Ander Herrera

The Athletic Bilbao man nearly joined Manchester United last summer but the deal fell through. A midfielder general who loves to spray the ball around, Herrera would be an automatic starter at Old Trafford and his qualities are much needed in David Moyes’ midfield. His price should drop considerably in January, will the Red Devils dive in for a second time?

Price: $30-35 million

11. Javier Pastore

source: Getty ImagesLike Menez, this man has struggled to force his way into PSG’s starting XI after the likes of Cavani, Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic have turned up. Pastore, who PSG bought for $60 million in 2011, is hoping to be in Argentina’s squad for the 2014 World Cup and must be playing regularly. Both Arsenal and Liverpool are lurking, could he be the final piece in the jigsaw?

Price: $25-30 million

12. Yohan Cabaye

The leader of Newcastle’s French revolution seemed to be on his way out of St. James’ Park this summer when he walked out of training and his teammates. But after being disciplined by the club he’s stuck around and Cabaye has produced some stunning displays and added important goals for the Magpies. Arsene Wenger is a long-term suitor, will Cabaye move to the Emirates or possibly Manchester United?

Price: $25-30 million

13. Nemanja Matic

source:  Chelsea let this man leave in Stamford Bridge for Benfica in the move that brought David Luiz in the opposite direction, but the deep-lying Serbian playmaker Matic has turned into a star. Pulling the strings for Benfica, his eye for a pass and ability to break up play see him sought after in the window. Both Chelsea and Manchester United are again vying for his services.

Price: $32-35 milion

14. Koke

Atletico Madrid have a whole host of stars, but 21-year-old Koke is perhaps their prized possession. He has a release clause in his contract according to many reports, which is much disputed, and varies considerably. But what isn’t in doubt is his talents on the pitch as the playmaker is an assist king and pops up just behind the forwards in devastating fashion.

Price: $30-60 million

15. Shinji Kagawa

Just what is going on with the Japanese international at United? With the Red Devils looking for more creative midfielder across Europe, it seems as though Kagawa’s time is up at Old Trafford. He hasn’t done much wrong during his time in English soccer but it seems like a move back to the Bundesliga could be in the cards.

Price: $20-25 million

16. Dimitar Berbatov

source: ReutersThe supremely skillful yet slightly erratic Bulgarian forward could be a bargain for someone in the window, as Fulham are sitting perilously close to the relegation zone in the Premier League. Berbatov, 32, has shown his class with Manchester United and Tottenham in the past, and it seems as though Arsenal may pounce to snap him up for next to nothing to bolster their attack.

Price: $4-5 million

17. Mohammed Salah

The young Egyptian winger is another of Basel’s star performers and he’s highly-touted to go right to the top. Salah, 21, is comfortable on either wing and tore Chelsea apart in the Champions League earlier this campaign, plus former Egyptian and USMNT head coach Bob Bradley is a massive fan. Liverpool are said to be watching him, alongside many of Europe’s elite.

Price: $15-18 million

18. Kevin De Bruyne

It hasn’t quite happened for the Belgian winger at Chelsea this season, after playing several times at the start of the year he’s hardly featured of late. Constant questions about De Bruyne’s absence has irked Mourinho and he’s ready to ship the powerful winger out of Stamford Bridge. Wolfsburg want to buy him, while Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal.

Price: $37 million

19. Thomas Ince

The son of former Manchester United, Inter Milan and England midfielder Paul Ince, Thomas has set the Championship alight with some dazzling wing play this season. Ince, 21, is ready to play in the Premier League after spending his entire career in the lower divisions initially on loan from his old club Liverpool. The England U-21 winger has the desire to succeed in the PL.

Price: $8-12 millionsource: AP

20. Eliaquim Mangala

Another star from FC Porto, Mangala was rumored to be heading to England in the summer but he opted to stay at Porto. At just 22 he’s already carved a name for himself as one of the most talented central defenders in Europe, that’s probably why Chelsea Manchester City and Barcelona are chasing him. He has pace, strength and a cool head, everything you need from a central defender.

Price: $36-40 million

Gold Cup Final preview: USMNT needs a trophy vs. Jamaica

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The major selling point of Bruce Arena’s hire, aside from his being the anti-Jurgen Klinsmann, was that the United States men’s national team would not be out-foxed tactically (or at least not be caught without a game plan).

Thirteen games into the tenure, the jury is out on whether the American boss’ second stint is on the path to World Cup success — those assumed goal posts will likely be moved depending on the group draw in Russia — but he has brought stability to the team and engineered a positive change in mentality.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

I have a great deal of respect for Joe Prince-Wright’s view of the national team, and ProSoccerTalk’s editor wrote today that U.S. Soccer would be proven right in its hiring of Arena if the Yanks won the Gold Cup with a Wednesday win over Jamaica.

But it doesn’t take a devil’s advocate to ask if it is quite that simple?

As much as I’m sure the removal of Klinsmann became necessary due to the morale of the USMNT and its players’ opinions of the German manager, I’m far from certain we’ve learned much about the hiring of Arena. Frankly, I can’t imagine any of the results being much worse under Peter Vermes, or Caleb Porter, or Ben Olsen.

The best win of Arena’s second tenure so far was probably the semifinal defeat of Costa Rica this weekend, and the best moment was the 1-1 draw at Azteca against Mexico. There’s no denying he’s righted the World Cup ship —  and that’s paramount — but it’s hard to imagine just qualifying for Russia should give Arena some sort of status, 0-2 hole or not. Any coach needs to be judged by his tournament, and Arena knows this. He’s helped author the best World Cup performance in modern U.S. men’s history, and he’s also presided over a train wreck (Imagine pulling that performance with that roster into the 2018 supporters’ climate. I’m shuddering on behalf of social media).

Which brings us to the import of Wednesday in Santa Clara. The United States lineup is experienced in big games and superior to Jamaica, which is coming off one day less rest. Yes, Jamaica’s squad features an incredible goalkeeper in Andre Blake and a half-dozen MLS players, but the rest are largely players who ply their trade in the U.S. second tier or Jamaica’s top flight.

Again, against Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, et cetera, et cetera.

The bookmakers say a Jamaica win would pay off 8:1. Just getting to penalty kicks would pay 3:1.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The U.S. should win the 9:30 p.m. ET start, and put one foot in the 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the side couldn’t sort out its wobbly back line or find its way past Blake. The latter would be more forgivable than the former, but really only in a “Tim Howard vs. Belgium but unblemished” fashion.

And it could be wrong to call Arena’s tournament a failure if the Yanks lose, depending on how it happens, but this is a man who helped a much lesser U.S. side to a 1-0 home friendly win over Jamaica just a few months ago (a Jamaica side who’s only missing player of consequence was Darren Mattocks). Arena trotted out Luis Robles, Graham Zusi, Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, Jorge Villafana, Dax McCarty, Chris Pontius, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Jordan Morris, and Juan Agudelo. The team he’ll start on Wednesday will be miles better.

Mattocks and his Reggae Boyz are true to their country’s national reputation of electrifying speed, and it’s imperative that Arena sets his backs to handle that. That means true outside backs — sorry, Graham Zusi — and center backs who won’t be forced to foul too often. That is, after all, the only way Jamaica found its way past Mexico via a free kick from a dangerous spot.

Mexico attempted 200 more passes, converting 150 more than Jamaica in the semifinal. It’ll be on Arena’s enterprising attackers to find a way past a stacked defense without opening up the midfield too much to counter attacks. Jamaica also played a borderline perfect game when it did have the ball, missing on just 16 of 143 passes and, again, scoring on a free kick.

Frankly, if the U.S. loses to Jamaica in the same way as Mexico did, it probably wouldn’t be proper to lay it on Arena. It would mean another batch of American players had failed to find a way to goal. But what we’re counting on is a better organized team than the baffled bunch that fell 2-1 to Jamaica under Klinsmann in the 2015 Gold Cup.

In that way, yeah, we can count on Arena being a relative success. But winning this tournament, especially given who Mexico called up, needs to be treated the same way you’d view it under any other manager: expectation. Anything less wouldn’t make Arena a failure, but would certainly qualify as a failure for the U.S. program.

PSG, Barca quizzed on Neymar rumors; Pique blasts Ligue 1

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We don’t have a ton of sympathy for them, but credit to Barcelona stars Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique for giving actual answers when put in the awkward position of hearing the media’s Neymar-to-PSG questions on Tuesday night.

PSG boss Unai Emery was far less interested in doing that.

Emery has refused to comment on speculation linking Neymar to big move to the Parc des Princes.

[ MORE: Van Dijk to Liverpool after all? ]

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s International Champions Cup match against Juventus, Emery had nothing of substance to say to the idea of Brazil’s captain heading to his stable.

“Our focus is to talk about the game tomorrow and a season to get ready for. I prefer to focus on the present moment and the preparation with the team.”

As for Edinson Cavani?

On the Barca side of things, Mascherano said he thinks Neymar will stay because he’s very important to the team, while Pique backed off a little after causing a stir by posting a photo of the defender with Neymar captioned, “He stays.”

“The post was nothing official, it was a gut thing, it doesn’t depend on me. Only (Neymar) can say what will happen, but I hope he stays. I tried to explain to Neymar, as a team-mate and a friend, the situation he’s in. I would say don’t go to a league which, with all due respect, is not as good.”

Boom, roasted (Though there’s some pot-kettle-black here, as there’s a fairly precipitous drop-off further down La Liga’s table, too).

Spanish report claims Coutinho (not Liverpool) agrees deal with Barca

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According to Sky Sports’ transfer centre, Spanish radio station RAC1 reports that Barcelona has agreed a deal with Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

The report comes on the heels of the half-hour delay of Barca’s nightly press conference, though that could be coincidental.

It also states that the agreement is between Barcelona and Coutinho, and that no fee has been agreed between Liverpool and the La Liga giants. That’s a huge obstacle, with Liverpool maintaining that no offer will work this summer, so the idea of a transfer being imminent could be beyond the pale.

[ MORE: Van Dijk to Liverpool after all? ]

A sale like this risks overturning Jurgen Klopp‘s apple cart, as the Reds boss was quoted this week as saying, “The very important message is that we are not a selling club and that’s how it is.”

Mohamed Salah is good, but he’s no Coutinho. Meanwhile, Coutinho has the potential to be as close to a like-for-like replacement for Neymar — one of the Top Five players in the world — as there is on the market.

The two clubs have done business before, and in more trying circumstances; Barcelona bought Luis Suarez from Liverpool within a month of the Uruguayan striker being banned for a biting incident at the 2014 World Cup.

A spectacular deal, Liverpool would have to make such a move this early in the summer when it can invest what would have to be a wild amount of money given the fees splashed about this transfer window.

Source close to Van Dijk expects Liverpool move within window

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It wasn’t too long ago that Liverpool apologized for its pursuit of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, ending its quest for the big Dutchman.

Is it apology accepted and then some at St. Mary’s? Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol says not much has changed since the big sorry toward Anfield, but that a source close to Van Dijk expects Van Dijk will be a Red “by the end of the window.”

[ MORE: JPW’s take on the Van Dijk saga ]

That said, Sky’s report makes it unclear what’s changed to lead to such a proclamation.

There is no suggestion that Liverpool have done anything wrong since they apologised and ended their interest. Southampton’s position remains that Van Dijk is not for sale but Chelsea and Manchester City are also interested.

So… it’s happening then? Money does talk, and a massive fee from Liverpool could make Southampton’s life easier in explaining the sale to its fans. It would also mean Saints sold Van Dijk and Jose Fonte within a year. For more on the possible transfer, here’s JPW’s take.

Van Dijk averaged 1.9 tackles, 2.6 interceptions, 6.8 clearances, and 4.7 aerials won per Premier League matches last season, his second since a Summer 2015 move from Celtic.

[ MORE: Milan talk to Costa, Falcao agent ]