Three Alternative Striker Choices

Transfer windows are absolutely dreadful. We can’t help but look forward to the season finishing for half the year so we can get stuck into the transfer gossip, but when it actually comes around there’s nothing more tedious and yet, like a bunch of addicts crammed into a damp bedsit, the urge to obsess over every rumour proves irresistible.

This year’s transfer window disaster appears to be the fact that there’s a severe lack of top quality strikers on the market. Lukaku’s most likely destination appears to be Chelsea (although things could still change there) and that only really leaves Morata and Belotti as obvious targets but both players look set to cost scandalous amounts.

Morata seems the most likely option at this point, and a fine one at that, but if that proves unsuccessful, Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho could be forced to explore some radically different options.

 

1 – Fernando Llorente

Imagine the news breaking that we’d just signed Fernando Llorente after being linked with players like Griezmann, Bale and Neymar before the window opened. It’d be pretty humiliating but I’m a pragmatic man and Jose is a pragmatic manager. If there’s a 6’5″ hole in the roof, you might as well buy something of a similar size to fill that hole.

It’s easy to forget about the pedigree and experience of Llorente, so much so that his move from Juventus to Swansea kind of reminds me of Van Der Sar’s move to Fulham from the same club. Or at least it would’ve done if I hadn’t just remembered he actually played for Sevilla in between Juve and Swansea.

Even so, he played 90 matches in two seasons in Italy and his form for Swansea has proven that he’s anything but an old lady. He had a one-in-two scoring record in the Premier League despite playing with players who at times looked like they’d never seen a football before, and perhaps more impressively he scored the most headed goals in the entire league. His eight headers kept him ahead of Antonio and Benteke who nodded in seven while Giroud and Lukaku managed five.

I’ll be honest – I don’t wake up in the mornings hoping to see links to Llorente on Twitter but there’d be a certain logic to it in the event of an emergency. If Woodward fails in his attempts to sign a striker, Llorente would at the very least provide the team with an important tactical option and his recent season with Swansea has demonstrated that he still retains a goal threat. I refer you back to my pragmatism as if the options are to sign nobody or take Llorente on the cheap, I’d take him without a moment’s doubt. In addition, if Ibrahimovic happens to stay for another year Llorente would provide a more than capable deputy until his return. There would then be an opportunity to look around again next summer.

Estimated Cost – £12 million

Player Rating – 7/10

Likelihood – 1/10

 

2 – Edin Dzeko

Dzeko is pretty much the only City player I can remember liking over the past decade so it was a relief that I’d be able to freely enjoy watching him when he moved to Roma a couple of years ago. He first came to my attention in 2009 when he scored in both Champions League games against United for Wolfsburg and he looked like he had a fine set of attributes for a centre forward with his height, strength, heading ability and predatory instincts. After scoring 65 goals in two seasons in Germany it was no surprise to see City buy him. He was generally popular enough there and hovered around the one-in-two mark for goals but with Aguero in town it was always a losing battle.

Unexpectedly to me, he had a slow start in Italy and only scored 10 goals in his first season. It’s been a different story for him under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti though. He topped the goal charts in Serie A with 29 (39 in all competitions) and he suddenly looked like the devastatingly effective striker we saw in Germany again. It was one of the best seasons for a Serie A striker in modern times and one thing that really struck me was the fact that he didn’t play like a traditional, static “big man”. He makes good, positive runs ahead of the ball to give midfielders the option to play more direct passes in behind and rather than simply waiting for crosses to reach him, he makes darting, incisive 5-yard bursts to lose his marker.

Rumour has it that Roma need to raise £30 million before the end of June to avoid breaching Financial Fair Play limits. With Liverpool seemingly unable to reach an agreement for Salah at the moment, a bid of exactly that amount at the end of June might just tempt them into selling a player who, at the age of 31, will soon have very little resale value at all. The fact that he’s a City “reject” could make this one extremely unlikely but it shouldn’t cloud anyone’s judgement too much.

Estimated Cost – £30 million

Player Rating – 7.5/10

Likelihood – 3.5/10

 

3 – Mario Mandzukic

The 6’3″ Croatian forward was occasionally linked with United during his unhappy spell at Atlético before moving to Turin. The idea was often derided at the time but he’s consistently proven at Juventus that he’s a highly dependable player, willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team and play completely out of position if necessary. He hasn’t score a huge amount of goals there but that’s because, like Morata when he played for Juve, he’s generally played more of a supporting role in which he finds himself on the fringes of the team and of the system, itself. With Higuaín and Dybala on the pitch you can’t expect another player to score with any real consistency.

There’s no question that he’s capable of scoring 20+ goals in a season though, as he proved for Bayern when he helped to fire them to Champions League glory, and his sensational overhead kick in this year’s final offered a welcome reminder that he’s more than just a big angry bloke who tries to start fights.

Much like Llorente, he wouldn’t be a signing to get excited about but if necessary he’d be able to do a perfectly serviceable job until something better comes up and the opportunity to be the focal point of an attack at a big club at least for one season would most likely be enough to persuade him to move. Juve presumably wouldn’t be too hostile towards the idea but they’re already aware of United’s wealth and would drive a fairly hard bargain despite the fact that he’s just turned 31.

Estimated Cost – £25 million

Player Rating – 7/10

Likelihood – 5/10

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