Just 60 days after being publicly priced out of their transfer window pursuit of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, he is back on the City radar – this time with a vengeance.
Despite Sporting Lisbon rejecting a January bid, reported to be in the region of £8million, the Portuguese press now appear convinced a deal has been done and the Dutchman will be joining his Norwich team-mates pre-season for a similar fee.
Sporting Lisbon – while stepping back from declaring the deal done – have confirmed to the Portuguese Stock Exchange that “negotiations are underway” with Norwich.
In terms of formal announcements one suspects this is as much as we are going to get for the time being but the suggestion from the Lisbon media is that City will be paying Sporting a hefty down payment, which will be used to pay a significant back-log in wages to the beleaguered club’s staff.
If indeed the deal goes through as reported, Chris Hughton and David McNally can consider it a job very well done; talkSPORT reporting earlier this week that Newcastle and Dynamo Kiev were plotting summer moves for the 24 year-old Dutchman. To have stolen a march on clubs who – certainly on the part of the Russians – can potentially offer European football is a bona fide signal of intent from the City board, and blows a hole through the ‘little Norwich’ mentality.
It would certainly please those whose barometer of success in the summer transfer market is how early the trading begins. Throw a reported interest in Aston Villa’s Andreas Weimann into the mix and everything points to a busy close-season – one for which the plans appear well and truly under way.
While the Weimann story is one very much of the unsubstantiated variety, reports from Birmingham have suggested that the 21 year-old Austrian is currently stalling on a new deal – his 11 goals this season adding considerable weight to his quest for an improved deal. Whether Norwich would provide sufficient allure for a player who’s sure to be on the radar of many remains to be seen, and indeed there are a hundred reasons why Paul Lambert wouldn’t want one of his bright young things to make the east-bound trip down the A14.
Either way the indications are that Hughton’s summer priorities lay in the attacking third of the pitch; music to the ears of the Yellow Army who have been starved of goals to celebrate – 28 Premier League goals from 30 games not a return to set the pulses racing.
A few thumping defeats aside – a selective memory being an absolute must for a City fan –Hughton has ticked his box marked ‘priority one’ in making the team difficult to beat. Upon taking his green leather seat in the Carrow Road dugout for the first time, and having gone through the now famous box of DVDs, his clear mission was to do just that. So job done… almost.
For his next trick – this element being the trickier part of the equation – he has to somehow manufacture a cutting edge that will see his team turn draws into wins; 13 draws out of the 30 so far being the bedrock of City’s crawl to the finishing line.
One assumes this to be a two-part process: more creation in midfield and a more ruthless streak in front of goal. Sounds easy – obvious even – especially if you’re armed with a Tony Fernandes type money-pit, but to do so with a limited budget and without impacting on the carefully honed defence takes time, patience and some top-level footballing nous.
So while the names, van Wolfswinkel and Weimann may appear on a scrap of paper headed ‘goalscorers’ – along with several others (Hooper?) – I imagine another headed ‘creativity’ will lurk somewhere on the same desktop. And it’s the names that appear on that fictitious list that are most interesting.
In terms of midfield ‘muscle’ City looked to be well equipped, Alexander Tettey and Bradley Johnson fitting that particular bill perfectly, and in terms of ‘legs’ they also look to have considerable options. Where it falls a little short, and where I imagine Hughton’s list comes into play, is in terms of a playmaker; a maestro able to sit deep in the midfield, pick the ball up from the back-four and make things happen, whether that be a five yard sideways pass or a sweeping forty yarder delivered on a sixpence. Someone in the mould of Pirlo… (the ability to dream being another prerequisite of a City fan).
So where does that leave David Fox? … he ticks most of those boxes. While he certainly does possess the aforementioned range of passing, the lack of game time afforded him by Hughton suggests a question mark over his ability to ‘mix-it’ in the heady confines of the Premier League. A question of whether he possesses a sufficient level of physicality to provide the platform from which to use his undoubted skills.
It’s a tricky one… there have been occasions when the game has appeared to be crying out for a Fantastic Mr Fox, but his time spent on the bench and in the stands suggest the current management don’t concur.
Having said all of the above – new strikers, midfield maestros, lists etc – all could be rendered meaningless unless we secure a minimum of two more, money-generating wins… so the sooner the better .
Then I can confirm my birthday wish to have P-I-R-L-O on the back of my new City shirt.
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