Meet Pablo Fornals: Málaga’s heir to Santi Cazorla wanted by Arsenal

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The Spanish attacking midfielder is seen as a potentially long-term successor to Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, writes Sam May.

Fornals, 21, has impressed this season, scoring four goals and making two assists. Born in Castellón de la Plana, he joined Málaga’s youth academy in 2012, aged 16. The highly rated midfielder made his La Liga debut in September of that year against giants Real Madrid and later scored a brace, away in a 2-2 draw against Valencia in December.

Last season, Formals made his Spanish under-21 debut in a 1-0 win over Norway and then called up to the first-team by Vicente del Bosque for an international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Arsène Wenger has sounded out the highly rated midfielder as he seeks a replacement for 32-year-old Cazorla, who also came to the Gunners from Málaga.

Like his fellow countryman, Formals plays with his head up inspiring forward play. It is not just about creativity but his control. He opens defences with the quality of his passing and he gives a technical security that allows him to escape when under pressure. His eye for goal means he is capable of shooting from anywhere.

With Arsène Wenger’s reputation for finding young talented players from abroad, the midfielder could be the next in-line to step out at the Emirates Stadium next season. Formals contract expires in the summer of 2019, but has a buyout clause of £8.5 million, meaning the North London club, could swoop to secure the services of the talented star.

Whether he will opt for a move away from the La Rosaleda is unclear, with the player himself previously stating: “Home grown players can fulfill their dreams at Málaga”, suggesting a move may not come anytime soon. The same could have been said of Cazorla, but Wenger got his man then, and may get his heir in the summer.

Why Liverpool should sign Napoli winger Dries Mertens this summer

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The 29-year-old is one of the revelations of this season’s Serie A and could move on in the summer if he doesn’t pen a new deal, writes Sam May.

The soon to be out of contact wing wizard, was voted Belgium player of the season for 2016. He beat the likes of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Radja Nainggolan of Roma to the award. Following the sale of Gonzalo Higuaín to Juventus, Mertens has assumed a more senior attacking role this season, and quickly helped the Italian side forget about the Argentian striker.

Despite the number of Belgium’s so-called golden generation to have established themselves at elite clubs, the country has yet to produce a top goalscorer in one of the top five leagues – that could be about to change.

He is currently achieving more than what his national teammate Romelu Lukaku is doing in England. To think this is a player who was released by Anderlecht and loaned out by KAA Gent to AGOVV Apeldoorn, after being told he is physically not able to ever become a professional football player, despite his dribbling and shooting technique. Mertens became the captain of AGOVV in the 2008/2009 season and won the “Golden Bull” which is awarded to the best talent.

Later moving to Utrecht he was runner up as player of the year to Barcelona striker Luis Suarez who was playing for Ajax at the time. He also won the David di Tommaso-trophy for the best player of FC Utrecht that year. Moving to PSV, he turned into one of the most efficient players in the Eredivisie.

Mertens won one Dutch Cup and one “Johan Cruijff schaal” (game between Champions and Cup winner) with the Dutch top club and while he kept on improving it was soon became apparent it was time for another step up in his career.

This season, fighting for a place on the left side with local lad Lorenzo Insigne at Napoli has proved tough, so competition as a striker was even tougher. Arkadiusz Milik suffered an injury whilst playing for Poland, despite scoring seven goals in eight games for his new club.

Mertens was an impact sub. Only six of his 33 appearances last season were from the start. Since December 2016 he has exploded. Thirteen of his 16 goals have come in his past eight appearances. That’s one every 57.6 minutes and his performance against Torino was arguably the best by any player in Serie A this season, scoring four goals. Napoli fans were singing his praises.

In Serie A, no one since Pietro Anastasi in 1974 has scored hat tricks in consecutive games. No one since Antonio Angelillo in 1958 has struck seven times in back-to-back appearances. No one since Andriy Shevchenko in 2000 has scored a faster hat trick. The man born in Leuven has now broken all records.

Napoli paid €9 million for Mertens. Since his move in 2013 he has proved doubters wrong and excelled for the Italian side. He is in his prime and is playing the best he has in a long time. He would certainly fit the bill should Jürgen Klopp come calling, especially if Liverpool can swoop to sign him on a free.

Liverpool keep or sell: Which players should Jürgen Klopp offload?

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The January transfer window was a non-event for Liverpool. There could be plenty of outgoing activity for the Reds when the window re-opens this summer, writes Sam May.

Klopp’s squad is lacking depth in some places, and some players signed by Brendan Rodgers and the infamous transfer committee have failed to live up to expectations.

Jürgen Klopp’s heavy metal football appears to be building to a crescendo, a win over Tottenham has given Liverpool momentum and belief, following four defeats in the last five.

But who should the Reds let go?

 

Simon Mignolet

The 28-year-old shot stopper, has divided opinion since arriving from Sunderland in 2013. After saving a penalty of his debut, the Belgium international has produced a number of high profile blunders, which have cost the Reds points and his performance against Hull this season proved this.

Klopp will look to replace Mignolet and could turn to Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, currently on-loan at Torino. However, Klopp could target 22-year-old Jordan Pickford, who has impressed for Mignolet’s former club and could provide better competition for Loris Karius.

 

Alberto Moreno

Moreno has failed to live up to his £12 million price tag since swapping Sevilla for Liverpool in 2014. Many fans have previously called for the left back to be sold following his display against his former team in the UEFA Europa League final in 2015. His performance against Arsenal at the start of this season was also substandard.

Expect Klopp to sell the 24-year-old in the summer. If Liverpool can get half the money back, they could put to good use on a man who understands the art of defending.

The Reds have been linked with Scotland international Andrew Robertson from Hull City, but could make a move for Schalke’s Sead Kolašinac – a player Klopp knows well from his time in the Bundesliga.

 

Emre Can

It would be a wise business move for Liverpool to take the money for Can. The 23-year-old has failed to progress in the Reds midfield this season. Klopp’s geggenpress style doesn’t suit the German international and with Juventus waiting in the wings to sign the centre midfielder, they can guarantee him Champions League football next season. He is out of contract in 2018 and yet to sign an extension, so it might make sense for all parties concerned if the player moves on.

Can has only made 19 appearances this term, in what many believed at the start of the campaign could be a potentially title-winning season for the Reds. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Mahmoud Dahoud could be drafted in as his replacement with Jurgen Klopp a long-term admirer of the 20-year-old.

 

James Milner

The 31-year-old could fall victim. Being utilised as a left back, he has filled a void in the Reds defence. However, at 31, he can’t play every game to Klopp’s preferred style. The Kop boss will favour a younger and more attack minded full back. Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodríguez could be targeted as a replacement for the Reds vice-captain.

Milner has been a great servant but there is no sentiment in football and he could well be sacrificed once Liverpool have their left back in place.

 

Daniel Sturridge

Jürgen Klopp will sell Daniel Sturridge in the summer after becoming frustrated with the striker’s injury record. The 27-year-old England international doesn’t play enough games due to injury and is yet to find his feet following his return. Since signing four years ago injuries have restricted the player to just 111 appearances where he has scored 59 goals.

The Reds chief believes the end of the season is the right time to let Sturridge go and bring in more reliable attacking power. Klopp could make a move for Atletico Bilbao’s inform striker Iñaki Williams who continues to be linked with a move to Anfield. They have recently been linked with 19-year-old England under-21 international and Chelsea forward Dominic Solanke, who is likely to depart Stamford Bridge this summer to seek first team football. Williams and Solanke could be replacements for Sturridge and Danny Ings respectively.

Meet Billy Gilmour: The 15-year-old Rangers revelation on the fringe of the first team

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The whizzkid has been voted one of Scotland’s best talents they have produced in 20 years, writes Sam May.

Outstanding attacking midfield prospect Gilmour, could soon become the youngest Ger in history and make his debut, after excelling for his age and being promoted to the first team by caretaker boss Graeme Murty.

At 15 years and 246 days, he could go on to overtake the 34-year record set by Derek Ferguson, who made his debut against Queen of the South in 1983 aged 16 years and 24 days. Ferguson went onto make over 100 appearances for the light blues and became a full Scotland international.

Murty managed Gilmour when he was in charge of the Rangers’ under-20 squad, before stepping in to fill the void left by former boss Mark Warburton. The teenager has risen to prominence this season, after a number of sparkling displays.

Having flourished in the development squad previously, Gilmour is already causing a stir and has been likened to Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere who were of a similar mould at his age. Shining for Scotland in the Victory Shield tournament at the Oriam in Edinburgh last year, the spotlight has been on the Ayrshire boy ever since.

His close control and dribbling skills, means he is able to turn and leave defenders who fail to mark him closely. Playing predominately as a No.10, he has the attributes to play in any midfield position to supplement the strikers. Add his pace and strength, and you are able to see why scouts across the world have been keeping a close eye on the highly-rated teen sensation.

Scottish football is continuing to turn out talent, and Gilmour’s rise proves the production line is continuing. Perhaps Premier League teams should now start re-looking at this stream, rather than continuing to pay over the odds for mediocre foreign players.

It is understood Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are all interested in his signature, but his parents are said to be keen on him remaining at the Ibrox club, to continue his development. Chelsea and Arsenal are battling to secure the services of the highly-rated teen who is tipped for the top, showing him around their training facilities in London, last weekend.

However, you only have to look at Scotland international Islam Feruz, who made the move from Rangers’ rivals Celtic to Chelsea five years ago, and failed to make an impact with the Stamford Bridge side. This is clearly a warning, not a selling point.

Timothy Tillman: Bayern Munich’s young midfield superstar

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The highly-rated youngster is tipped to have a bright future and become a main man for Carlo Anchelotti’s side in the future, writes Sam May.

Tillman, 18, who has dual nationality with both Germany and the United States, has scored four goals and made three assists so far this season. It is understood Bayern Munich turned down an approach last month from Barcelona for the attacking midfielder who can also play in a holding role and on the wing.

The Catalan giants are said to have been keen to lure the talented Germany under-18 to the Camp Nou and fast track him to the first-team by 2020. Bayern were quick to reject approaches from the La Liga side, as they believe the player will become a huge hit in Bavaria.

He was signed from Greuther Furth in 2015 for €500,000, and has shone for Bayern’s under-19 side. He was given game time by Carlo Anchelotti in the summer playing 45 minutes in the International Champions Cup.

Looking to take on defenders, he is good with the ball at his feet and is an inherently positive player all round. His faints and shimmies also means he can create avenues and take on players with ease. He also works tirelessly. There is no question, he will be a regular at the Allianz Arena if he sticks with the German champions.

At the moment Bayern have a number of players such as Arjen Robben, Frank Ribéry, Rafinha, Thomas Müller, Juan Bernat and Kingsley Coman, who can all play out wide, so chances at this stage will be very limited.

He will continue to play in the under-19s and feature in the UEFA Youth League. If he isn’t fast tracked into the first-team sooner, expect the big boys to come calling once more, for this bright young player.

Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Manchester City, as well as Barcelona have been linked with the youngster.

Isco: Will the Los Blancos midfielder sign a new Madrid deal?

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The Spanish midfield maestro has recaptured his form under Zinedine Zidane, but game time has proven tough, writes Sam May.

Swapping Malaga for Madrid for £23 million in 2013, he signed a five-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu. Isco, 24, still has a year and half left on his Real Madrid contract, which runs until 2018, but has yet to put pen to paper on a new contract.

President Florentino Pérez is keen for the former Malaga midfielder to remain at the Bernabeu. The playmaker was expected to leave Real Madrid last summer, having attracted interest from Tottenham, Arsenal and Juventus, but has put speculation behind him.

Despite little game time he shone against Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, which proved he does have a future with the Galacticos. Being quick, skilful and creative, he is the perfect midfielder for Zidane’s side.

His one-step-ahead reading of the game, anticipation of space and the general directing of his side’s performances are his most common traits and his natural ability is also a key factor.

Back in December Isco was quoted saying: “I still have one-and-a-half years left on my current contract, But the club and I are both keen to renew. I hope we can sort something out. I am getting regular playing time now and I am happy to be able to help the team.”

He has scored 26 goals in 113 appearances to date for the club and could have a big future should he remain with the La Liga giants. If he decides to depart the Spanish capital then he may opt to move to Juventus, which would see him link up with former teammate Sami Khedira.

Real Madrid must tie him down to a new deal sooner rather than later, or expect him to move on a free transfer. Will Isco sign a new deal at Real Madrid?