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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

CONCACAF Champions League gets reboot; MLS benefits

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, right, clears the ball away from Club America midfielder Rubens Sambueza (14) during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer quarterfinal, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Changes to the CONCACAF Champions League will benefit Major League Soccer in a big way.

Long requested by MLS, the North American league will only have to send its clubs to the CCL for the final four rounds, which will be home-and-away affairs.

Previously, clubs competed in a group stage from August to October, then joined the knockout rounds in February.

[ MORE: Transfer window names to watch ]

While MLS sides may still be just starting their seasons and have to contend with clubs who have been playing meaningful games, they will also be less likely to draw successful Liga MX sides in the Round of 16.

All of the details are here, but here’s a simplified takeaway:

— The 16 teams that qualify for the CCL, which will begin in February, will include four U.S. teams, one Canadian team, and four Mexican teams.

— The next six sides will be the Caribbean Club Championship winner and the champions of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama.

— The remaining side will win its spot via a new tournament which includes 13 Central American teams and three from the Caribbean.

For those of us hoping to see an MLS side in the Club World Cup, the odds will become better come the 2018 CCL. As for this year, MLS will again have to deal with the split season.

Ten names to watch in Premier League transfer window

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 11:  Franck Kessie of Atalanta BC in action during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
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National team veterans from France, England, and Spain are in a 10-man mix of players we think could have big impacts on the fortunes of teams in the Premier League this January transfer window.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

10) Lassana Diarra, Marseille — Twice in London, the French-born midfielder is said to be interesting Manchester United and Valencia amongst others.

9) Leonardo Ulloa, Leicester City — The pressure doesn’t get to the Foxes’ 30-year-old striker, who has scored plenty of big goals for Leicester City. Might he be the perfect bench piece to push a team into the second half of the season? Spanish side Alaves have reportedly had a $2 million bid rejected by Leicester.

8) Phil Jagielka, Everton — Older, yes, but the English national team veteran could be just what the doctor-ordered for relegation candidates and lower-half sides looking for a PL-experienced CB.

7) Victor Lindelof, Benfica — His arrival at Old Trafford went from Tomorrowland to Lost in recent weeks, but Jose Mourinho could still act to bring in the center back before the summer.

6) Scott Hogan, Brentford — The Championship striker isn’t quite as prominent in the rumor mill as Jordan Rhodes was last season, but the 24-year-old could be a promising buy for a PL side. West Ham is said to have the inside track.

5) Goncalo Guedes, Benfica — As for Lindelof’s teammate, Guedes was tipped to join Manchester United with his center back. Will another side jump into the fray before Guedes joins Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford? Paris Saint-Germain is said to be interested.

4) Franck Kessie, Atalanta — The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals for his Serie A side, and has been the major reason for Atalanta’s run into the top half.

3) Robert Snodgrass, Hull City — The Scottish wizard has been a big part of what little success has come the Tigers way this season, but West Ham and several other Premier League sides are tempting Hull.

2) Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid — He starred for Juventus last season and triggered a Real Madrid return. Slowed by an Achilles injury for much of this season, he’s been tipped for a summer move to Chelsea. If it can happen then… why not now? The Blues could order the title confetti if they landed the Spanish striker.

1) Dimitri Payet, West Ham United — Yes, we’re tired of his act — and reading about it — but Payet is a game-changer who could inject excitement into any offense in the world. If Marseille wants him, it had better pay up.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man City after two backs; Zelalem to Holland?

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Napolis player Faouzi Ghoulam vies with Bologna FC player Simone Verdi during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Bologna FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
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Here are your transfer rumor headlines on a day when Gerard Deulofeu moves to AC Milan and Lazar Markovic heads to Hull City on loan.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Two Premier Leaguers could be heading down to help the Championship leaders. Newcastle United is said to be close to bringing Andros Townsend back from Crystal Palace after just a half-season, while Swansea City’s Mo Barrow is also on Rafa Benitez‘s radar.

An Arsenal blog says USMNT prospect Gedion Zelalem may have found his loan destination. The 19-year-old could be leaving the Emirates Stadium for a loan stint at VVV Venlo, with the Dutch side sitting first in the second tier and in a promotion push.

The Manchester Evening News brings reports of two backs on the radar of Manchester City. Rai Sport is the source for Man City’s interest in Napoli left back Faouzi Ghoulam, who has six assists in 21 appearances for Partenopei between Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. Pep Guardiola may also want to be reunited with Juan Bernat, though that story comes from the wild swings of The Daily Mirror.

Sunderland is going to lose one of its two brightest lights in a dark, dismal season. The Black Cats have taken a lot of calls on Jermain Defoe, but it’s Patrick Van Aanholt who is on the move to rejoin Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace. The Dutch standout is said to be purchased for $15 million, and would be the equivalent of a transfer six-pointer in the Premier League’s relegation race.

Report: West Ham turns down another Payet bid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14:  The Dimitri Payet of West Ham United sign is seen outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at London Stadium on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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West Ham United has rejected a third bid for wantaway midfielder Dimitri Payet, according to Sky Sports.

Marseille upped the ante to $28 million when it comes to the French midfielder, who has said he wants to go back to the club for “family reasons“.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Payet was given a $1.2 million loyalty bonus from West Ham earlier this season, but has continually tempted the rumor mill. He’s also winked at Arsenal.

He has 15 goals in parts of two seasons with the Irons, the same figure he boasted in two full years with Marseille. Payet has also played Lille, Saint-Etienne, Nantes, and AS Excelsior.

It’s been a rocky month for Payet, who could be doomed to purgatory at West Ham. Will any Premier League suitors come calling at the Irons’ $38 million asking price.