Asmir Begovic to be Chelsea’s new No.2 next season

Following the sale of Petr Cech to Arsenal this summer, Chelsea have been in the market for a replacement. The Blues appear to have found their man in the shape of Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who had a fallout with manager Mark Hughes over a decision to start Jack Butland ahead of him for a league game last season, and is expected to be on his way this summer.

Stoke & Begovic would welcome the move ahead of the new season, and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has long been keen on the 28-year-old. Signed from Portsmouth in 2010, Asmir Begovic rose to prominence with the Potters, and eventually saw his name being linked with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal a couple of seasons previous.

He’s renown for his imposing frame that often sees him coming out on top when faced with one-on-ones, and his large reach that can see him claw away efforts destined for the top corner. Stoke City were blessed to have such a talented and consistent goalkeeper for so long, but reports are suggesting their long-serving number one is desperate to be Chelsea’s number two.

Belgian international Thibaut Courtois is Chelsea’s first choice between the sticks, with the talented youngster having kept the likes of Cech out of the side upon his return from a loan spell with Atletico Madrid. The 23-year-old has won back-to-back league titles while boasting the best defensive record with Atleti an Chelsea respectively, and doesn’t look likely of being dethroned next season.

Mourinho never leaves anything to chance with his goalkeeper’s, however, and will be signing a top quality deputy in Begovic this summer. The City man wouldn’t set the Londoners back too much either, with Mourinho looking to use some of the £11M received from Cech’s sale to fund Begovic’s move. He won’t have to surpass the figure to sign his second-choice goalkeeper.

For the long-serving Stoke shot-stopper, a new chapter of his career could be starting, with his future set to be resolved in the coming week. H’s happy to be on the bench in the league, but will be hoping he can feature in the domestic cups, as Cech did under Mourinho last season. Begovic is a very able goalkeeper, who would arguably be good enough to win the Premier League title as a first choice, but h has work to do to get his name ahead of Courtois’ in the pecking order.

Javier Pastore: One to watch next season

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Javier Pastore hasn’t been on the radar for many outside of the French Ligue One, but the Argentinean international has been making waves for the Parisians since his big-money move from Palermo in 2011, and could be one to watch next season given his eventual rise to prominence.

The 26-year-old hit top form in France last season, scoring and creating 17 goals as PSG stormed to a third consecutive league title. Pastore was in the top-10 for chances made over the course of the campaign, as well as for successful dribbles too, so he certainly proved his worth to the team in 2014/15.

This summer, he’s been making waves for Argentina in the Copa America, and could lead the semi-finalists to glory in the coming week, which would cap off a brilliant year for the underrated star. His future remains at the Parc des Princes, but fellow European heavyweights could start to take notice of his talents next season.

Pastore could well become more of a household name, with the 26-year-old proving his worth on a more regular basis in games. His brilliant solo goal against Chelsea in the Champions League last year was an example of the magic he can produce when in top form, and if PSG can unlock his ability Pastore could propel himself in 2015/16.

He was given a glowing endorsement by former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona, who said at the 2015 Ballon d’Or ceremony: “Today the best player in the world, the most exciting player in the world, is Pastore from Paris Saint Germain. Why? Because I watched two games just to see Pastore playing, giving passes. He’s got something special. Football is interaction, that is why football is so popular I think, and Pastore can do things that others don’t know.”

“He does things that surprise you every time. Not only on scoring goals, spectacular goals all the time, just passing, passing. He’s a very creative player, he’s the most creative player in the world today, that’s why I think he’s the best player in the world because he’s this kind of player – I love this kind of player.”

Pastore has a long way to go before he’ll be named among the best players in the world, but last season is certainly a strong platform to build off of, and his performances in this summer’s Copa America have further proven he’s a name that will be one to watch next season.

Manchester United’s defence in desperate need of strengthening for next season’s title challenge

Manchester United have been active in the transfer market, with Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin their next reported target, but it’s the defence that are in need of bolstering. Schneiderlin, a French international, is a central-midfielder who provides protection to the backline with his combative and industrious traits, but ultimately manager Louis van Gaal needs to strengthen at right-back and centre-back for the new season.

The Dutch boss appears keen to trust upon Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling at left-back and centre-back respectively, but the likes of Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones aren’t strong enough options to lead the side to glory next season. Having Antonio Valencia at right-back was only been a short-term option until he grew into the role, but the Red Devils have been eyeing up replacements, as Brazilian understudy Rafael doesn’t appear to be in the frame.

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos has been linked with the side, and he’d certainly make a positive impact, but it’s unlikely the Spaniard would leave the Santiago Bernabeu this late in his career. Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne was said to be a target for United ahead of the new season too, but he appears on his way to Liverpool. Everton’s Seamus Coleman is back on the Red Devils’ radar according to various reports, so he may well be their first defensive recruit.

The likes of Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) and Ezequiel Garay (Zenit) have been linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer, but so far it’s proven to be nothing other than speculation. Van Gaal is keen on bringing in another commanding central defender, as existing centre-back Jonny Evans could be sold to a fellow Premier League side, but his most viable options appear to be limited.

Last season, Manchester United conceded a respectable 37 goals from 38 Premier League games, but kept only 11 clean sheets. It’s a meagre total for a side as reputable as the Red Devils, especially considering how much money was spent on more defensive recruits Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind at the start of the campaign. They finished 17 points behind eventual title-winners Chelsea, and endured a woeful run of form in the run-in

Signing a top-level defender to marshal the backline could be the difference for Manchester United in their pursuit for next season‘s Premier League title, but so far they have come up short searching for the right man. They have the funds to bring in stellar names this summer, so there could be a pricey arrival shoring up the defence in the coming weeks.

Liverpool make Roberto Firmino their marquee signing of the summer

Liverpool won the race to sign heavily-coveted Hoffenheim forward Roberto Firmino for £29M this summer, with the Brazilian international opting for Merseyside over Manchester United. He’s the Reds fifth signing of the summer – Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Joe Gomez and James Milner – and is the club’s second-most expensive signing.

Firmino isn’t too well-known outside of the German Bundesliga, but he boasts an impressive record with a struggling Hoffenheim side that could hold him in good stead with a strong side like Liverpool. The Merseysiders have been desperate to bolster their attack, with Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems, and Raheem Sterling’s potential move to Manchester City likely to see Liverpool short for goals again.

As a result, manager Brendan Rodgers has laid his cards on the table, making the 23-year-old the club’s marquee arrival. Despite having been so active early in the summer transfer window, Firmino could be the biggest deal the club make ahead of the new season. While expensive, the young forward is talented, and has a good eye for a goal. He will link up with fellow Brazilians Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho, so he should settle in fast.

Scoring and assisting 17 goals in 33 games in a mid-table Bundesliga side. He created 68 chances, and made 139 successful dribbles for the German outfit too. Firmino certainly has the quality to make a difference, and could be a wise investment should Sterling exit Anfield this summer.

Supporters have been crying out for Rodgers to fix their defensive problems, with the Reds having conceded 98 goals in the last two Premier League seasons. However, a lack of goals was also an issue that needed sorting from 2014/15, with Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini scoring only a handful of goals between them in Sturridge’s absence.

Liverpool couldn’t cope without Luis Suarez and Sturridge missing from their attack, evident from just seven goals by makeshift centre-forward Sterling. Departing captain Steven Gerrard was the side’s top scorer in the English top-flight, but still didn’t hit double figures for league goals last season.

Firmino’s rise to prominence sees him shining in this summer’s Copa America, and Liverpool will be hoping he enjoys as prolific debut campaign at Anfield to save Rodgers’ job, and help the side push for a top-four finish. The Reds perhaps paid over the odds for the forward, given the European talent available for a similar asking price, but Firmino could be the difference next season in an already highly-creative midfield.

Porto’s Jackson Martinez set to sign for Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have won the race to sign Porto striker Jackson Martinez this summer, according to the player’s agent Luiz Henrique Pompeo. The Colombian international is said to have set the Spaniards back around €35M, and will pen a four-year deal after the Copa America.

“It was finalized (Tuesday). It’s a very big club, which has done important things in the league and in Europe. Jackson is going there to also achieve great things and to bring the best out of himself to become even better. That’s his dream and he’s very excited. He’s really happy,” said Pompeo.

Martinez has been courted by a host of sides in the last 12 months, with Premier League side Arsenal and Italian Serie A outfit AC Milan having been linked with his signature this summer and last. He’s enjoyed a fantastic campaign on a personal note, scoring 32 goals in all competitions, and joins Atleti in the form of his career.

The 28-year-old was a late arrival to Europe, joining Porto back in 2012, but has been outstanding ever since, scoring 92 goals in 133 games. It’s easy to see why the likes of Arsenal and co. were so interested in him, and the their loss is certainly Atletico’s gain. The La Liga giants have lost Diego Costa and Mario Mandzukic in consecutive summers, but the Colombia will certainly dry the tears.

Manager Diego Simeone has no signs of leaving the Vicente Calderon, and is holding out slim hope of challenging for the title again. Given Martinez has scored 20 or more goals in each of his last seasons, they certainly have the firepower to challenge if he’s given good support. Coupled with the creativity and prolific finishing of the likes of Antoine Griezmann in the side, the Spaniards could well rise again and become a major force.

They have a good record with Colombian strikers too, with Radamel Falcao enjoying a fantastic period of success at the Calderon, before he was sold in a £52M deal to French Ligue One side AS Monaco. Martinez will be hoping he can replicate his international teammate in Spain, and the world will get a good look at him in the Champions League.

While many players who spend prolonged periods of their career in South America can struggle back in Europe, the 28-year-old has taken it all in his stride. He ‘s at the pinnacle in his career, and wants something to show for it when he finally hangs up his boots. So can Jackson Martinez win a major trophy with his new club?

Can Petr Cech turn Arsenal into genuine title-challengers?

Various reports are suggesting Arsenal are close to signing Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech this summer, with the player’s agent even hinting that confirmation was in the offing. Cech’s representative, Viktor Kolar, was asked about his client’s impending move to the Emirates, and replied: “I can’t say too much on that.”

International teammate Tomas Rosicky, who plays for Arsenal, hinted that there had been talks between the club and player, and Chelsea have been surprisingly very quiet when talking about his future, which suggests they’re locked in negotiations. Supporters are licking their lips at the prospect of Cech joining Arsenal due to what he will bring off the pitch, not just on it.

The 33-year-old is regarded as one of the greatest ever goalkeepers to have played in the Premier League, and has kept the second-most clean sheets in the division’s history (162). At Chelsea, he won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, one Champions League and one Europa League in his 11 years at Stamford Bridge, and such a winning influence could rub off on the players.

Having such a successful player between the sticks could really make the difference for an Arsenal side who continue to fall short in the Premier League, despite boasting talent good enough to match their opposition. Cech has won every major trophy at club level, while the current Arsenal squad have just an FA Cup to their name.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is desperate to have his side challenging for the title, and bringing in a player who has done it multiple times can influx the entire side with confidence and know-how. They would also have a goalkeeper who could earn them extra points in a season due to his impressive clean sheet record in the league.

Arsenal currently have two goalkeepers to choose from in Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina, but the latter is reportedly being lined up by Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce this summer, which could pave the way for the Chelsea man to replace him. Cech could tighten Arsenal’s defensive record on the pitch, and he could change the losing mentality off it too next season, which is why Wenger is so keen to bring him in. Despite his advancing age, Cech has shown he has many years still ahead of him, and his club manager Jose Mourinho still regards him in the top-five goalkeepers in the world.

Could Petr Cech turn Arsenal into genuine title-challengers?

Can Harry Kane replicate his exploits for Tottenham next season?

Tottenham’s in-form striker Harry Kane has recently played down any talk linking him with a move away from White Hart Lane this summer, calling speculation “flattering” but mere paper talk. He plans to spearhead the Whites’ attack for 2015/16, but can he replicate last season’s antics for Spurs?

The 21-year-old enjoyed a standout campaign for the Londoners, scoring 31 goals in 51 games last season, which saw him named PFA Young Player of the Year (2014/15). Kane was called up to the England national team, scoring on his debut, to cap what has been a dream breakthrough campaign for the youngster.

With the English international  playing for the U21s in the summer, following on from a long gruelling Premier League campaign, may feel Kane could struggle next season due to fatigue. However, England U21 manager Gareth Southgate believes the striker can shine.

“Difficult to say if he will score exactly the same amount of goals, but I don’t see him being distracted. He wants to keep improving and there are more and more challenges ahead. Kane’s now established himself as a Premier League player but Harry will want to push the team into Champions League football,” he said.

“None of us have a crystal ball to see how it’ll pan out but all of the signs – the support at home, the close family unit, play their part in the player remaining grounded and focused. He wants the team to succeed, and is surrounded by really good people.”

With homegrown players worth their weight in gold this summer due to stricter regulations soon to be introduced, Harry Kane’s value is said to now be around the £40M mark. Manchester United have been linked with his signature for the last few months, as they’re looking to replace their ageing attack with a more youthful lineup, and the Tottenham man could certainly develop well under the right guidance.

However, a move doesn’t appear on the cards, with Kane saying: “I am happy at Spurs and I look forward to the future with Spurs. I have seen there is interest but that’s all I know. It is flattering for other clubs to maybe be interested. Tottenham are one of the big clubs. That is the way people have to see it. I am at a big club.”

With the future of both Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor unknown this summer, Kane is expected to once again be a regular in the Spurs attack. Can the Englishman shone next season?

Could Aston Villa move see Micah Richards return as England’s right-back?

Aston Villa recently confirmed the signing of former Manchester City defender Micah Richards on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with the Sky Blues.

The right-back’s career has stalled in recent years due to a lack of playing time, which has also had a detrimental effect on his international prospects. But should he perform with his new side, England could come calling for him again, as the Three Lions currently have a void at right-back.

Richards, 26, made just 10 Serie A appearances in last season’s loan spell with Fiorentina, and played in just nine league games in 2012/13 & 2013/14 with Manchester City. He’s hardly played any football for a few years, but appears keen to take his chance with the Midlands club.

Signing a four-year deal for Tim Sherwood’s side, the Villa boss has high hopes for Richards, saying: “I’m really pleased to get Micah on board and I’m sure he will prove to be an excellent signing for the football club.”

Micah Richards’ omission from the England national team has always been a source of controversy. Manager Roy Hodgson has insisted it was purely a football decision, but the defender’s swift axeing immediately following Hodgson’s appointment suggested the two may not have the best working relationship.

As a result, it could take a lot for Richards to work his way back into the reckoning for the Three Lions, but England have no recognised long-term option at right-back currently, which gives the Villa man a chance to represent his country again.

Southampton‘s Nathaniel Clyne has been tipped for the position, but Hodgson hasn‘t been pleased with his international form, saying: “Nathaniel Clyne is a very good player, but I would be disappointed if anyone thought that on the basis of a good season with their clubs they can walk in and demand a place.”

With Clyne now behind centre-back Phil Jones in the right-back pecking order, there’s certainly a chance for fresh blood. Richards played 13 times for the Three Lions, with his first cap coming nine years ago. His last England appearance came in 2012, where he featured just twice in the last two years before his axeing.

Performing well for Aston Villa could well see his name on Hodgson’s lips, with the England boss having given Villa midfielder Fabian Delph a regular run-out in his team, while Tom Cleverley was recently recalled too. So could Richards be in contention to be England’s next right-back?

Could Carlos Tevez be returning to the Premier League this summer?

Juventus striker Carlos Tevez is being linked with a move to a Premier League side this summer, with the Argentina international in the last year of his deal with the Serie A champions. He’s enjoyed a real resurgence in Italy, staking a claim to be regarded a top-10 striker in Europe again, and his next destination could see a return to England if recent reports are to be believed.

Premier League side Liverpool, French Ligue One champions Paris Saint-Germain, Spanish La Liga outfit Atletico Madrid, and boyhood club Boca Junior are three sides linked with his services. Despite a successful spell with Juventus, Tevez is alleged to want out of the club ahead of the new campaign, and has said he will make a decision on his future this week.

The 31-year-old has always said he wants to return to his boyhood side to retire, but he’s also had a successful spell in the Premier League that could lure him in the summer. His career was thought to be on the down-spiral when he left Manchester City to join Juventus, but Tevez has since won two league titles, and two domestic honours.

He scored 20 league goals as Juventus sealed their fourth consecutive Serie A title, while netting seven times in the Champions League en route to the final. Typically industrious in attack, Tevez has been ruthless in front of goal in the last 10 months, expertly leading the line in 48 games in all competitions. The experienced forward will be inundated with offers this summer, and the Boca club president admitted holding talks with Tevez.

Given the lack of top available strikers that present value for money, Tevez may yet be convinced to put his inevitable return to Boca on hold, with Europe having been his home for the last nine years. He boasts an impressive CV of success, and could be made an offer that he can’t resist by clubs with lucrative resources. The 31-year-old missed out on the Champions League, losing in this summer’s final against Barcelona, so a piece of him may have unfinished business at the top level.

Moving to Boca Junior while he’s still in fantastic form is premature, and would rule out any future chance of European glory. He was voted Juventus’ Player of the Season for a second consecutive campaign, and could well make one more move up the ladder according to recent interest.

So could Carlos Tevez be returning to the Premier League?

Who will make way in the Real Madrid side for Paul Pogba this summer?

Real Madrid are once again setting their stall out to sign the world’s best talent this summer, with coach Zinedine Zidane revealing Juventus’ Paul Pogba was genuine target. The fellow Frenchman was quoted as saying: “Many clubs are interested in him and among these is Real Madrid. I think Pogba is a fantastic player. What I like most is that he can do everything. He is a complete player, who can also score, who is not afraid to go forwards. In terms of quality, he is extraordinary.”

There’s no question about his ability, but where he will fit into the Real Madrid’s midfield is another matter. Last season, it was Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos who were operating in the central midfield areas, and all three performed well for Real. New manager Rafael Benitez was brought into the side to make them a difficult side to beat in the top competitions after falling short on all three fronts. But can Pogba really be the difference?

Toni Kroos has been key in the heart of the midfield providing defensive protection that Real are always crying out for, while Modric is the link between midfield and attack. He’s industrious and creative, and has been an unsung heroes for the Spaniards since his move from Tottenham. As for Rodriguez, the pricey Colombian has been superb in his debut season, scoring & assisting, while doing his defensive duties and retaining possession.

Many feel it will be Modric whose position is under the most threat, but ousting him from the side for a more attacking player is certainly risky. It’s such decisions in the transfer market that continue to see Real Madrid struggle, as the Spaniards have a top-heavy side susceptible to conceding goals. Boasting one of the best attacks in the world isn’t enough if they cannot keep out their opposition. Pogba does provide an all-round threat in the midfield, but he’s more proficient going forward than he is going back towards his own goal.

Real Madrid’s obsession with buying the most talented individuals without a plan of action of where they will all fit hasn’t served them well in the last decade and more. They have world-class stars in all positions, but not enough balance to be defensively resolute. Nevertheless, Pogba will likely be lured in due to Real’s European reputation and greater finances, but who will make way for him this summer?