PREMIER LEAGUE 2020-21: Rodriguez, Havertz among signings
A look at some of the most high-profile new signings across the Premier League ahead of the new season starting Saturday:
JAMES RODRIGUEZ (Everton)
The fact the Colombia playmaker is still best known for that incredible volley he scored at the 2014 World Cup signals two things: that it was a strike of the highest quality, but also that he has failed to kick on since then. So, six years later — at 29, maybe the prime of his career — James finds himself at a midtable English team and again relying on coaching great Carlo Ancelotti to get the best out of him. After all, it was Ancelotti who signed him for Madrid in 2014 but also at Bayern Munich on loan in 2017. Now, they are both at Everton, a team without a trophy since 1995 and living in the shadow of neighbour Liverpool, the recently crowned Premier League champion. Has James got the motivation to help lift Everton from the mediocrity of a 12th-place finish last season and revive his own career? Can he adapt to the rigors of the Premier League? One thing is for sure, he’s one of the most exciting arrivals ever at Goodison Park.
KAI HAVERTZ (Chelsea)
The most expensive signing of the offseason at a fee rising to $92 million, Havertz might also be the most interesting. At 21, the forward is one of the biggest talents in Germany and is making a brave move to continue his development outside his own country. Lampard should know a goalscoring midfielder when he sees one — after all, he is one of the greatest England has produced — and in Havertz, he has a versatile player with proven pedigree already. Havertz is the youngest player to reach 100 Bundesliga appearances and scored 36 goals in four seasons with Bayer Leverkusen in the German league. At his best just behind the striker, Havertz finished last season as Leverkusen’s center forward, linking up play with his deft touch but also scoring goals. With Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech making up Chelsea’s likely attack, Havertz won’t be short of quality around him.
DONNY VAN DE BEEK (Manchester United)
Van de Beek is the latest star of Ajax’s thrilling run to the 2018-19 Champions League semifinal to leave the Dutch club, but is he a player United really needs? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to find a good balance in central midfield in the second half of last season, with January signing Bruno Fernandes as the No. 10 ahead of a ball-player in fit-again Paul Pogba and a more defensive anchorman in Nemanja Matic. Where a box-to-box midfielder like Van de Beek fits in is open to question, with Solskjaer maybe set to use the 23-year-old Netherlands international as a back-up ahead of the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay. United, after all, struggled for real quality outside its starting XI last season. In Van de Beek’s favor is his ability to score goals — 40 in his last three seasons — and his versatility, which could yet see him start in a deeper role in place of Matic. A center back or left back might have been a more pressing arrival for Solskjaer, who is still chasing his top target, winger Jadon Sancho.
FERRAN TORRES (Manchester City)
A gap was left in City’s attacking options by the departure of Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich, and it has been filled by a player regarded as a rising star in Spanish soccer. The 20-year-old Torres is fast and direct, like Sane, but is more two-footed than the man he is replacing. He is stronger on his right, as shown by his volleyed finish for Spain against Ukraine last week when he registered his first international goal, and has the technical qualities that are so important to City manager Pep Guardiola. Valencia’s need to sell some of its best players to fix its financial problems allowed City to sign Torres for $27 million, which seems cheap for a player of his caliber. He is unlikely to break straight into the first team, though, with Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden ahead of him.
FABIO SILVA (Wolverhampton)
The Portuguese connection that largely underpins Wolves’ recruitment strategy has unearthed another potential gem. But that’s exactly what Fabio Silva has — potential. Wolves has spent a club-record $45 million on an 18-year-old striker who has scored three goals at senior level for Porto in two years as a professional. Still, he has been labelled a possible “generational talent” by Wolves, the “best No. 9 coming through his age group anywhere in Europe.” High praise and certainly his numbers at youth level stack up — 31 goals in 33 games for Porto’s under-17s in 2017-18; 28 goals for the under-19s in 2018-19. He has represented Portugal at junior level from under-15s to under-19s. Wolves say Silva is ready to challenge for a place in the team this season but so are Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Diogo Jota, other young Portuguese players who are having to bide their time at Molineux.
Born in Sao Paulo and given his professional chance further south on Brazil’s eastern coast at Avai on the resort of Florianopolis, Gabriel continued his soccer apprenticeship in Europe with loan spells at northeast French club Troyes and Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. Having spent the last 18 months impressing for Lille in France’s Ligue 1, the center back has packed in a lot — at the age of 22 — before landing the first major move of his career with a $35 million transfer to Arsenal. The English club has tracked Gabriel for some time and sees him as a long-term fix for the defense, with the fact that he’s left-footed an added attraction for a player who is composed on the ball and cool under pressure. The defense is being remodelled under Mikel Arteta and it requires players who are brave in possession. Gabriel will play alongside compatriot and fellow center back David Luiz, which should help him settle.
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