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“The most ambitious project in Romanian football”: The club’s words on FC Hermannstadt

Around a month on from our first piece on the club, TOB catches up with Cosmin Călinescu, the PR officer of FC Hermannstadt, to discuss the club’s rapid rise, investment and the future under new head coach, Rubén Albés.

This article is a follow-up. Click here to check out the initial piece!

Cosmin Călinescu is a self-described “one-man orchestra” at one of Romania’s most exciting clubs

TOB Football: So, what does your role at FC Hermannstadt involve?

Cosmin Călinescu: “I am the PR of FC Hermannstadt. In addition, I deal with videography, photography, social media, graphics, web administration and I’m a press officer. I’m kind of a one-man orchestra.”

TOB Football: In your opinion, what is the secret behind Hermannstadt’s consecutive promotions?

Cosmin Călinescu: “Work and work and work.”

TOB Football: What has Anamaria Prodan’s ownership brought to the club?

Cosmin Călinescu: “In my opinion, Mrs. Anamaria Prodan came with an extra image, an added value both from an economic point of view and from a sports point of view. Planning is the key to long-term success in football.”

TOB Football: Why did you want to work for the club?

Cosmin Călinescu: “I love football! Football is my life! I also played at the level of the third league in Romania. I have been at AFC Hermannstadt for almost 5 years, since the club was in the 4th league. When I came here, I took everything as a long-awaited challenge. I filmed matches in very difficult terrain, I sacrificed time, physical resources, but … I am happy at FCH! It was worth it and I hope to continue this challenge for as long as possible.

I want to especially thank Mr. Claudiu Rotar, the investor who made this project possible in Romanian football. Without his contribution, a special man, this team would have disappeared a long time ago.”

Rubén Albés (centre) has previously managed the ‘B’ teams of Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid

TOB Football: What can football fans expect from Hermannstadt in the near future?

Cosmin Călinescu: “We are a family. We remain a family, no matter who comes or who stays here. It is important for everyone that this club goes further towards good performance.”

TOB Football: Rubén Albés is a big fan of Marcelo Bielsa – are his managing style and tactics similar to those of the newly-promoted Leeds boss?

Cosmin Călinescu: “Rubén is a very, very meticulous coach and attentive to everything that means tactics and, as they say in modern football, man management. All aspects of a football match, as well as those related to the team’s preparation, are equally important for him. He is a perfect professional and a visionary that Romanian football has not had until now.

The fact that he is a Marcelo Bielsa fan certainly helps him, but I think that rather his own ideas are what determine him to become a better coach from match to match. I hope the results help him too, and we, the oldest in the club, help him to have accomplishments.”

TOB Football: How is the club run on a day-to-day basis?

Cosmin Călinescu: “My opinion is that we are the most ambitious project in Romanian football. We were in the fourth division, we reached the top division and we stayed there. We will do it again this season. Let’s not forget the fact that we reached the final of the Romanian Cup from the position of second league team. So, the future is ours!”

TOB Football: Who are the key players at FC Hermannstadt?

Cosmin Călinescu: “The key players of FCH are everyone. The team is the key player.”

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Profiling the club career of Obafemi Martins

As the veteran Nigerian forward returns to Shanghai Shenhua after two years away from the game, we reflect on the life and career of Obafemi Martins.

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Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to Alhaji and Alhaja Martins. He, his parents and his six siblings lived in a small slum village, Orile-Iganmu, in a house crammed between a church and a hospital.

Whilst playing for a few cents at the local boys’ club in his neighbourhood, Martins was spotted by Churchill Oliseh, father of ex-Juventus midfielder and Nigeria boss, Sunday Oliseh. Churchill managed FC Ebedei, a local team, who signed Martins up straight away after seeing his power and technical ability.

After successful teenage years, Martins and his Ebedei teammate, future Lazio striker Stephen Makinwa, were scouted by Italian side Reggiana and made the switch to Europe to play for their youth team.

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It is safe to say that Martins has been the more successful of the duo. The Nigerian made a move 100 miles away to Lombardy, signing for Inter Milan under new manager Héctor Cúper. Taking a few years to cut his teeth, Martins’ breakout season with the Nerazzurri came in 2003/04, netting seven goals under Cúper and his successor Alberto Zaccheroni.

During the following campaign, Martins really began to show off his talents. He scored 11 goals for the Italian giants and followed up with nine in the following campaign. However, Martins always found himself in the shadow of an elite striker during his time at Inter Milan.

During his breakout year, Christian Vieri scored more than him. The following season it was Adriano and the third season, Argentine attacker Julio Cruz netted 15 as the side won Serie A.

It was almost a case of “always the bridesmaid and never the bride” for the African. This was the perfect opportunity for a club gunning for European football to take a punt on a young player with great goalscoring capabilities. That club happened to be Newcastle United.

The Magpies shelled out €15m on Obafemi Martins, handing him the no.9 shirt and the task of replicating the man who previously wore the number – Alan Shearer, who had retired at the end of the previous campaign.

Injury troubles and patchy form saw the striker maligned by sections of the Newcastle faithful and the consensus amongst many was that he wasn’t up to the task. However, by the end of his first season with the Magpies, the former Inter man had notched 11 goals and was causing many a Geordie to swallow their words.

After impressing in his first season on Tyneside, rumours flew of Chelsea swooping for him. These were rubbished by the man himself and his manager, Glenn Roeder. During his second campaign, new boss Sam Allardyce used Martins differently.

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The ex-Bolton manager preferred Michael Owen and/or Mark Viduka, often employing Martins as a super sub. However, he did excel in this role and still managed to score nine league goals. His following season saw him rack up six goals in the opening few months of the season, only to spend the majority of its remainder dogged by hamstring injuries.

He was still joint top scorer (along with Michael Owen) but little could be done to save the Magpies from relegation in what was a chaotic season for the side. Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer all had spells as manager with caretaker boss Chris Hughton stepping up in between.

Despite voicing his desire to return Newcastle to the Premier League, Martins set off for a new start abroad in July 2009. This time, the Nigerian moved to northwestern Germany, teaming up with manager Armin Veh at VfL Wolfsburg.

In his first game, the striker came on as a substitute and had the perfect debut, assisting a goal and scoring a superb solo effort to win the game 3-1.

His spell in Germany was to be short-lived. Martins scored seven goals in 25 appearances in Lower Saxony, but, yet again, saw himself play second fiddle to established players at the club. He was only the side’s fourth top goalscorer behind future Man City star Edin Džeko and cult hero Grafite.

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He moved to Russia with Rubin Kazan in July 2010 and failed to settle again. In January 2011, Martins was loaned to Birmingham City, asking to be closer to his newborn child who was to live in England.

Martins will be remembered as a hero by fans of the Blues, having scored the winning goal against Arsenal in the final of the 2011 League Cup. Sadly for Birmingham fans, Martins was sidelined for much of his time back in England, only managing two goals in six appearances.

He returned to Rubin Kazan and was troubled by persistent injury and a failure to maintain his goalscoring. A short and uninspiring spell in Spain with Levante followed

Like many a struggling player from Europe due to enter his thirties, Obafemi Martins made the switch to MLS to play for Seattle Sounders. In Washington, the Nigerian teamed up with the likes of DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traoré and Clint Dempsey.

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Martins shone in the States, scoring 43 goals in 84 games for the club; on average, more than a goal every other game. He was also featured in the MLS Best XI in 2014 as well as MLS Goal of the Year for a tight-angled strike against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Another country known for welcoming players in the twilights of their careers is China. Obafemi Martins followed the trend in 2016, switching to Shanghai Shenhua. Despite scoring a number of goals, Martins was, yet again, second best. Demba Ba, formerly of Newcastle and Chelsea, excelled in Shanghai at the same time and the likes of Fredy Guarin and Giovanni Moreno were also top scorers during this era.

Following a number of injury problems, Martins left Shanghai Shenhua in 2018. By 2019, the Nigerian’s injuries had worsened but he later expressed his desire to return to football.

On 15 July 2020, over two after his departure, Shanghai Shenhua announced Martins’ return, citing Odion Ighalo’s extended Manchester United loan as the reason behind his shock comeback.

How will Obafemi Martins fare in the next Chinese Super League season?

Featured

Three replacements for Jack Grealish at a Championship Aston Villa

Despite a double from Trézéguet securing three points for the Villans over the weekend, Dean Smith’s men are still struggling to escape the grasp of relegation.

The Midlands giants sit in 19th place, four points from safety, at the time of writing and are yet to face Everton, Arsenal and West Ham United.

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Relegation to the Championship can be detrimental for top-flight clubs trying to keep a team together and often results in them losing their star players.

For Aston Villa, not only are they facing their prospect of losing their star player. He is also their captain, hero and one of few Villa players to rise from their academy.

As Jack Grealish persists to be linked with the giants of English football, here are three players Villa could buy to replace him if they go down.

Eberechi Eze | 22 | Queens Park Rangers | England

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QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze is one of the brightest talents coming out of the Championship right now. The Londoner joined the club from Millwall as a teenager and began to establish himself in the first team before he turned 20.

Eze, who plays for England’s U21s, has a similar playing style to Grealish but exceeds the Villa man when it comes to goals and assists. The QPR star has scored 12 and assisted eight goals this term, becoming his side’s talisman in the process. Grealish managed six goals and six assists in his last Championship season when Villa were promoted.

Eberechi Eze has the ability to glide past defenders and give the impression the ball is stuck to his feet, much like Grealish. He also has an eye for a pass, completing 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes this season. He also completes three dribbles per game – almost double what Grealish put up in 18/19.

Villa would have to put a fight to fend off Premier League rivals for Eze’s signature should they move for him in the window. However, he knows the division and would be easily adaptable to a free-flowing Championship Villa side.

Arnór Sigurðsson | 21 | CSKA Moscow | Iceland

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A lesser-known star with similar attributes to Jack Grealish is 21-year-old Iceland midfielder Arnór Sigurðsson. The youngster, who joined the Russians from Norrköping in Sweden, dreams of playing for Arsenal so the Birmingham club may be a great stepping stone.

The Icelandic attacker is great at breaking through defences and getting out of tight spaces. Despite having no English football experience, these traits should help him adapt to a fast-paced, physical Championship.

Sigurðsson has also scored four goals and assisted twice but is always involved in build-up play and knows when to make a pass and when to take a bold shot from outside the box.

Sigurðsson is a greater risk than Eze but may prove a cheaper option and Dean Smith has a reputation to squeezing quality out of cheaper players from his time at Brentford. It is clear that Villa’s excessive spending hasn’t seen results improve this season, so building a team with more structure on a smaller budget could be key.

Bradley Dack | 26 | Blackburn Rovers | England

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A safe and experienced option to fill the void left by Grealish would be Blackburn talisman Bradley Dack. The 26-year-old Londoner, who joined Rovers from Gillingham in 2017, excels in a free role behind a strike partnership or loan striker.

He is blessed with impeccable timing, often breaking into the box late to get on the end of a pass. He is also renowned for scoring from distance and, not only that, racking up a remarkable 33 goals in his first two seasons in Lancashire.

The Englishman suffered an ACL injury in December and is set to be ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. However, when he returns to full fitness, Dean Smith could pounce on the midfielder who could be Villa’s star man (and a much needed source of goals) in the second tier.

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‘Outside The Box’ – new episode

I am proud to announce that the first episode of TOB’s ‘Outside The Box’ podcast is now available! The video footage of the Zoom call can be found on our official YouTube account and you can listen to the audio on usual podcast platforms such as Spotify as well as Deezer, Podchaser, Spreaker and Podcast Addict. I am still awaiting approval from Apple Podcasts but I’m hoping we should be live on there shortly.

The first episode features David Astill, an analytical football writer for ‘Total Football Analysis’. David, who has recently become Site Lead for sister site ‘Total Rugby Analysis’ was a brilliant first guest, very articulate, easy to speak to and had brilliant insight into the world of football stats and analysis.

Make sure to subscribe to our channels! Hit the notification bell on YouTube so you never miss a new podcast when one is up!

PS: I said the podcast would be weekly on the show but it’s actually monthly. As you can tell, I am still a little rusty as I’ve not podcasted since March and had never actually used Zoom before this!

Thank you to everybody for your support! Make sure you pop your email address at the bottom of this site’s homepage to get emailed whenever we put up new articles!

Thank you,

George Hartley – Founder of TOB Football

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Led by “The Mourinho of Romania”: FC Hermannstadt’s rise and potential fall

The Romanian side have risen through the leagues and have the backing of a former Playboy model. But what does the future hold for Hermannstadt?

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When one thinks of Romanian football, the likes of Steaua Bucuresti and maybe CFR Cluj come to mind due to their domestic success and runs in Europe. However, there is another club on the horizon which is grabbing the attention of hardcore football fans across Europe. 

The story of FC Hermannstadt is a unique one. The club, based in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, formed in 2015, is now the only club representing the city in professional football. The side were introduced into the league system in 2015, starting in Liga IV, the fourth tier of the Romanian game.

As the information surrounding Hermannstadt is relatively hard to come by online, I spoke to Romanian football writer Viorel Berbece, founder of Ziarul de Sport, to understand their ascent a little better.

Berbece said: “I followed FC Hermannstadt’s ascension with sympathy, as they represent an important city in Romania. They were very solid from the beginning of their existence, but also the level of the lower divisions in Romania was, and still is, very poor. So it came as no surprise that a team that had the financial support and the proper players and coach to get successive promotions.”

The financial support Berbece speaks of is that of Anamaria Prodan, a football agent and ex-Playboy model Anamaria Prodan. The model has almost 650,000 Instagram followers and was previously married to footballer Laurențiu Reghencampf (below).

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Prodan, 47, became President of the club last month and seems intent on further assisting Hermannstadt to rise to the top of Romanian football.

But let’s take a step back. Before the interest from Anamaria Prodan and the club began to get more worldwide recognition, what defined their journey to the top?

After gaining initial promotions to the second tier, Hermannstadt’s coach was one of the main reasons they achieved success, according to Viorel Berbece.

He said: “The level of the Second Division was also quite poor when Hermannstadt acquired promotion. But they also had an expert coach for that level, in Alexandru Pelici. With an all Romanian team in 2017, they managed to not just gain promotion but also to reach the Romanian Cup final.”

This is the moment when the club first began turning heads across Romania. Coach Alexandru Pelici had brought in players he had previously managed elsewhere and Berbece acknowledged their “tactical tightness and enthusiasm” to be key in their road to Liga I

Having reached the top division in Romania, however, Hermannstadt began to realise the change in quality pretty quickly.

Viorel Berbece remembered the struggles the club encountered early on, saying: “So there was great enthusiasm in the city when the team was getting ready for its debut in the First Division. But the shock was too big. Mainly because lots of players from the first team didn’t play at this level before, but also because the team couldn’t play at their home ground for a very long time due to the everlasting reconstruction of the stadium.”

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“Then money became a great issue for the club, even with the arrival of former CFR miracle makers Iuliu Muresan (President, pictured above) and Razvan Zamfir (ex- Bari Sporting Director). Hermannstadt barely avoided relegation in their first season in Liga I. They continue to struggle since then.”

These thoughts make the football fan wonder… Why didn’t the club strengthen the squad in a thoughtful and coherent manner? Hermannstadt signed international players such as PSG reserve defender Kévin Rimane (below on the left, pictured with Kylian Mbappe), a French Guiana international and Ousmane Viera, another defender with almost 20 caps for Ivory Coast.

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It seems these internationals simply are not of the quality to compete against the big boys of Romanian football. The club also brought in ex-Portugal youth players Afonso Taira, Cristiano Pereira Figueiredo and David Caiado but still don’t have enough to even think about challenging the top teams in the league.

The club also allegedly have financial issues which could ultimately lead to their relegation, should they not go down due to their performances. Anamaria Prodan, who took on the challenge of leading the club to success despite its debts, recently brought in Spanish manager Rubén Albés, who she calls the ‘Romanian Mourinho’.

The Spaniard has managed Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid “B” teams and claims to be a huge proponent of Marcelo Bielsa. But, having lost his first two games in charge, supporters are already questioning Prodan’s bizarre admiration for the Spaniard.

Sitting just above the drop zone, Prodan’s Hermannstadt face an uphill battle to stave off relegation. However, should they stay up, it is likely that she will pull some strings to bring in players of a higher quality.

On the matter, Berbece said: “I am sure that if they somehow manage to salvage in the end, Prodan will massively change the squad as she represents players at most of the Liga I teams.”

It is certainly an interesting story and one which is worth checking on. Their meteoric rise to the top epitomises the way in which good coaching and squad building can quickly create success for teams in lower divisions. Equally, their approaching decline shows us that work persistently needs to be done and that no team is ever complete.

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Four free transfers Premier League sides should consider

As contracts wind to an end at the turn of the month, which top-flight English sides should consider which out-of-contract stars?

With the financial state of European football hanging in the balance and many unaware of how much clubs will be able to spend, some sides will surely turn their gaze to the free transfer market. 

Clubs are able to offer contracts to those whose deals are set to expire at the end of June. Some players have put pen to paper to extend their current deals until the season is completed but there will still be a rich market and some gems who won’t cost a single penny.

Here, we look at four players leaving their clubs this summer who could be easy business for your favourite Premier League club.

Robin Knoche | CB | 28 | VfL Wolfsburg | Germany

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It can’t be denied that Robin Knoche has been a brilliant servant to Die Wolfe. The 28-year-old centre-back, born just a half-hour drive from Wolfsburg in Brunswick, has been on the books at the club since 2005. 

At the very least, Knoche would be a great squad player for most sides below “The Top 6” in the Premier League. Clubs such as Leicester City, Everton, West Ham United all lack depth at centre-back and Knoche would be a reliable addition to those squads.

Knoche, who is capped for Germany at under-20 and under-21 level, was a regular starter for Wolfsburg before the season paused due to the pandemic. Since Bundesliga’s restart, he has struggled for minutes, losing his place to Marin Pongračić and John Brooks. He has, however, featured from the bench.

The defender has experience of playing in both a back-three and a back-four just this season under coach Oliver Glasner. He is an able passer, achieving at 82.4% pass succession rate across the 2019/20 top-flight campaign. Knoche clears the ball around 3.6 times per 90 minutes – a rate similar to highly competent Newcastle centre-back Fabian Schär.

One could argue that he is unproven as he has never made his mark at a club besides Wolfsburg but, even if he were to flop, the buying club wouldn’t have spent a penny.

Adil Aouchiche | CAM | 17 | Paris Saint-Germain | France

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On the other end of the spectrum, here is a player with little to no experience at the top level. However, all of his youth level performances point towards Adil Aouchiche being a future superstar.

The Parisian attacking midfielder was highlighted by The Athletic’s Jack Lang in 2019 who warned of the dangers of only looking at the youngster’s statistics, saying:

“Look only at the end product and you will miss out on his casual, low-slung elegance. You will miss the subtle changes of direction, the two-footedness, the way he manages the internal rhythms of the game. You will miss the not-so-distant echoes of Zinedine Zidane, a comparison that goes far beyond Aouchiche’s Algerian roots.”

Jack Lang, The Athletic, 15 Nov 2019

Aouchiche has been prolific for France at youth level, scoring 15 goals in 25 appearances for the nation’s under-17s. He has also assisted prolifically at youth level, using his natural agility and pace to shimmy past defenders with a drop of the shoulder or a sudden change in direction.

Unlike some young players, Aouchiche is unselfish on the ball and knows when to make a pass; something which he does incredibly efficiently. The Frenchman is also strong when it comes to free-kicks.

Aouchiche’s only real weaknesses come in defence. The attacking midfielder needs to focus some attention on his aerial abilities and defensive attributes. However, he will only turn 18 next month and so has plenty of time to hone those other areas of his game. If he joins a club with strong defensive players in midfield and at the back, this becomes even less of a problem.

Arsenal have been linked with the teen since it emerged that he was definitely departing the French capital at the end of his contract. However, Aouchiche would also be an ambitious prospect for a club such as Everton as Sigurdsson, who plays in a similar position on the pitch (albeit in a different manner), ages out. Mourinho could also consider the youngster as a potential challenger to Dele Alli in coming seasons.

Wherever he goes, Adil Aouchiche will remain a bright and compelling prospect. Remember the name.

Hugo Duro | ST/LW/RW | 20 | Getafe B | Spain

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Versatility in the attacking third is something which is now more sought after than ever. Many of today’s top strikers, such as Mbappé, Aubameyang, Werner and Firmino have all played on the wing at various stages of their respective careers.

Getafe youngster Hugo Duro is a centre-forward by trade but his control of the ball in tight spaces and his strong pace have seen him utilised out wide on occasions. 

The 20-year-old has scored 11 goals in 23 games for Getafe’s B team but has not been able to fully fledge and move into the first team. Duro is a pinpoint shooter of the ball and his ability to move out of tight spaces may be beneficial if he tried to fit into a Premier League now dominated by fast, pressing sides.

Southampton have been too reliant on Danny Ings for goals this season with the Englishman netting 16 in his 30 games. Ings has been involved in 47% of Saints’ goals this campaign and, with an average of 0.57 goals per 90 minutes, he has been touted for the England squad.

Duro could certainly learn from Ings’ expertise and could ease the burden on the ex-Liverpool man when it comes to goalscoring in coming seasons.

Any promoted side could see the benefits of taking a punt on Duro too. He may not be proven at any top level but Duro could be a great, free addition to a few Premier League or Championship sides.

Mario Götze | CAM | 28 | Borussia Dortmund | Germany

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Certainly the most established name on this list, Dortmund midfielder Mario Götze looks set to depart Signal Iduna Park for a second time. The German switched Dortmund for Bayern Munich in 2013 before returning to Westphalian side in 2016 under Thomas Tuchel.

Götze has endured somewhat of a stop-start career. Injuries and a rare metabolic disorder called myopathy have threatened his career at times. However, the former Bayern man has proven, when he’s played, that he still has the qualities which attracted the Bavarians some seven years ago.

In 2018-19, Götze overcame his hardships to score seven and assist seven. However, this season, the star hasn’t been able to displace the likes of Brandt, Hazard, Sancho and Reus and club sporting director Michael Zorc confirmed his imminent departure.

Götze would be an even better solution for Everton than Aouchiche. The German would slot straight into Ancelotti’s side, potentially in rotation with Sigurdsson who is on a slow downward trajectory. Götze would link well with Tom Davies and dovetail nicely with Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack.

He would also be a valuable addition to an inexperienced Newcastle United attack. Miguel Almirón has struggled for large parts of his time on Tyneside and Joelinton could do with some extra support to facilitate his goal-scoring abilities.

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Three replacements for Leroy Sané at Man City

As Guardiola faces up to the prospect of losing the German, who could join to revamp City’s front line?

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With Leroy Sané set to quit Manchester City at the end of this season, Pep Guardiola will be eager to bring in a replacement. The German has struggled to maintain his consistency in recent times due to persistent injuries. However, permanently losing the Bayern Munich target could damage City’s hopes of mounting a title challenge next season.

Youngsters such as Jayden Braaf and Morgan Rogers may make the step up from City’s youth sides. However, Guardiola will surely be keen to replace Sané with an established star.

Many have suggested Dortmund prodigy Jadon Sancho could return to the Etihad, but here are three alternative recommendations for the Citizens.

Ferrán Torres | 20 | Valencia | Spain

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With Sterling, Mahrez and Bernardo Silva on his roster, Pep Guardiola could use this opportunity to nurture a young, prodigious talent with a view to making him a long-term regular starter.

The Valencian is a nimble and versatile attacker who usually plies his trade on the right wing but can deputise on the left, cutting inside to feed the striker or take on a shot himself. The 20-year-old has scored four goals this season, exceeding his xG (expected goals) of 3.2 in 2019/20.

Torres stands at 6ft, relatively tall for a winger and so would be more than capable of facing notoriously physical Premier League opposition. He also wins 1.1 aerial duels per game – yet another string to his bow.

Despite his youth, Torres was also crucial in Valencia’s Champions League run as they topped their group, beating Chelsea, Lille and Ajax in the process. He scored twice in the competition which saw Celades’ side knocked out by Atalanta in the Round of 16.

As a spritely, young and adaptable Spaniard, the Valencia star fits Manchester City’s criteria and would join a squad featuring countrymen Rodri, Eric Garcia and Adrián Bernabé.

According to TransferMarkt, Torres is valued at around £40.5m and, with his contract up next summer, the Citizens should pounce on a potential bargain.

Justin Kluivert | 21 | A.S. Roma | Netherlands

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This may seem a strange suggestion with some of Kluivert’s key numbers appearing to have trailed off somewhat this term.

However, the young Dutchman, son of the legendary Patrick, has all the signs of a player who could bounce back and realise his potential.

Justin Kluivert’s 83.4% pass accuracy trumps Torres’ – albeit in fewer minutes. He also makes almost two shots per game and, with the likes of Aguero, Jesus, Sterling and De Bruyne with him in attack, he may not need to hugely improve his shot accuracy to succeed in England.

Like Torres, he is rapid and agile but, unlike him, he is diminutive at just 5ft7. However, the Roma star’s ability to get out of tight situations in compact defences have seen him emerge as a major Arsenal target this summer too. 

Additionally, he has scored three in Roma’s Europa League campaign. I Giallorossi escaped the group in second, beat Gent in the Round of 32 and were set to face Sevilla before coronavirus caused the postponement of the contest.

Kluivert was schooled at Ajax’s fruitful academy; a club closely linked with Guardiola’s former side Barcelona and so the winger will know exactly how to play in a high-pressing, entertaining Pep system. 

If any manager can nudge Kluivert towards achieving his potential, it’s surely Pep.

Dominik Szoboszlai | 19 | Red Bull Salzburg | Hungary

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Arguably the most unproven of this trio, Salzburg teen Dominik Szoboszlai could burgeon into a world-class winger at Manchester City.

The young Hungarian could be compared to a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo in a number of ways. He stands at a similar 6ft1 and his running style could be mistaken for the Portuguese star’s at a glance. 

Usually playing on the left and cutting across to shoot or pass, Szoboszlai has also played in a more central role, meaning he could also make the loss of veteran David Silva slightly simpler to handle.

The teenager has scored six and assisted nine this season under Jesse Marsch in Austria and his technical abilities have turned heads across Europe. 

He has just under two years left on his deal at the Red Bull Arena and is set to cost between £20m and £30m – a snip if Sané switches to a new side.

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