In just a few short weeks checkbooks will be opened as clubs in the English Premier League negotiate around the clock to fill gaps in their squads and transform their fortunes. The frenzied finalization of rosters is the final chance teams will have to correct issues before the end of the season. Offloading of talent will help the teams meet budgets, and bringing in new talent will help with the gathering of precious points to avoid relegation or inch closer to hoisting the trophy.
No club has spent more than Manchester City in recent seasons. The team recorded a £195 million loss for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, earning them a fine for being in violation of UEFA's Fair Financial Play Guidelines. They also paid more to agents than any other team in the league. Clearly, that spending has brought success as City is currently heading the table. Will the Citizens offload some of their excess talent? And, what will the other teams like Manchester United do in the transfer window in an effort to help close the gap? Let's attempt to give some ideas of potential scenarios for likely transfer targets.
Nicolas Anelka – Anelka submitted a written transfer request to Chelsea after rumors persisted of his falling out with new manager Andre Villas-Boas. With only nine Premier League appearances since the start of the 2011-2012 season it is not hard to see that something isn't quite right. Reports suggested that the Frenchman was banned from first-team practice despite scoring 16 goals in all competitions for the club last season. Already, Tottenham, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Anzi Machakala of Russia have signaled their desire to sign the striker, but Liverpool also stands as a possible option. Wherever he goes, his fantasy value is substantial when on the pitch.
Alex – Along with Anelka, Alex has also been the subject of much speculation with Chelsea. He was reportedly removed from first-team training with Anelka. His 16 appearances for the club last season meet with just three so far this year. Despite his solid defending, he can't break into the current rotation of Villas-Boas. The Brazilian has been a long-term target of Italian side Juventus. Alex has been successful in Brazil as well as England, and should continue to be a decent fantasy option when in the Serie A as well.
Didier Drogba – Drogba is yet another player that has found himself on the wrong side of the Villas-Boas regime. A concussion in August as well as a red card suspension have helped limit his time on the pitch, but has still only chalked up 10 appearances so far. Chelsea offered the striker a one-year contract, which was subsequently refused. Drogba and his agent have repeatedly said that he will be heading wherever his paycheck will be the fattest. Wealthy club Anzi Machakala has deep pockets, while the Galaxy, Tottenham and Marseille are also potential bidders. Rest assured that Drogba will continue to be a goal-scoring machine as long as he is fit and healthy, despite where in the world he may be playing.
Dimitar Berbatov – Berbatov was the league's joint top scorer last season with 20 goals for Manchester United. That performance was not enough to guarantee a starting role in the side the following season. So far this year, Berbatov has been selected regularly behind Wayne Rooney and Chicharito, in addition to Danny Welbeck. Such a drop in preference is credit to the robustness of the United roster, but Berbatov is a clear starter in nearly any other side, and knows it. He claims to be happy with his place in the team, and willing to earn his spot, but a loan may still be in line for the Bulgarian. Fulham could be a possible destination with manager Martin Jol publically praising the striker's talents. Berbatov deserves regular first-team action, and it is almost inexplicable that he is relegated to an "also-ran" status at United.
Luka Modric – Modric claims four goals from 43 total appearances for Tottenham in 2010-2011. This season to date he can boast two goals from 14 appearances. This has been enough to excite Chelsea, and the London club has not been entirely secretive in their plans to set up a bid to bring Modric to their team. Dangling Frank Lampard as possible bait is enough to show how serious Chelsea truly is about bagging the Croatian. Modric is a name that fantasy players know and rely on; his presence at Chelsea will only enhance that value, especially if Lampard is out of the picture.
Fernando Reges – Porto's defensive midfielder is a potential star in the making. Fernando, through his performances, has made the wish lists of Chelsea and Liverpool, in addition to many more clubs around the world. Liverpool has been outspoken in their desire to bring the player to the squad, and are rumored to be willing to spend plenty to do so. Manager Kenny Dalglish has been promised funds to improve the squad, and this midfield gem will probably be his primary target. The Premier League requires a terrifically different playing style, but many players who have arrived in the League from Porto have adapted quite well. The risk of Fernando not suiting the league would be minimal, and outside of the price tag, that makes the 24-year-old a good option for the Reds.
Andrei Arshavin – Arsenal's disappointing start to the season has subsided a bit in recent weeks, but that doesn't mean that Arsene Wenger is completely pleased with the players under his control. After a much-anticipated transfer of the Russian striker Arshavin to London in 2009, the player didn't exactly set the world alight in later seasons. He hasn't been a terrible player, and certainly has residual value, though he clearly has not lived up to the initial hype. The board at Arsenal has been increasingly concerned with Wenger's approach to squad building, and that should be why he doesn't have much money to bring wholesale changes this winter. His sale would free up some funds to help Wenger make at least a few moves.
Nicolas Gaitan – Watching Manchester United fall out of the Champions League was a huge shock to many in the football world. That experience may have a silver lining for the club, though, as they firmly fixed their sights on Benfica's Gaitan after losing out to the Portuguese side and falling out of the competition. United scouts sought Gaitan in a few of Benfica's league matches, and they came home impressed even before the clubs met in the group stage. United is rumored to have asked Benfica to alert them of any moves for the midfielder, but with United's weaknesses exposed at the moment, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Devils chasing this player in January rather than June.
Carlos Tevez – Yet another transfer window has highlighted the never-ending saga of an unhappy Tevez. Manchester City seem to have finally had enough of the never settled striker, and have said they are ready to sell. AC Milan is clearly interested in bringing the striker to Italy, but was hopeful of securing a loan deal. City, completely tired of the drama, want to wash their hands of the situation and will only sell the player. Don't put it past Milan to open the checkbook, but the nuance of any transaction having to be a sale could open the door to other suitors. Tevez will always be a goal scorer wherever he goes, but it would be unlikely that we see him remain in the Premier League any longer than the end of 2011.