PLAY IT SHORT: Lovren Liverpool game-changer; Man Utd raiding London academies; Man City ignoring English talent; WBA will regret Thorne exit
LOVREN IDEAL FOR LIVERPOOL
Dejan Lovren is the player to fill the void left by Luis Suarez. He may play at the opposite end of the pitch, but the Southampton centre-half will bring the leadership, drive and aggression lost to the Reds dressing room by Suarez's sale to Barcelona. The Croatia international really is the player Louis van Gaal should be moving for to replace Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United. At 25 and given the dearth of quality central defenders currently in the game, Lovren is not overpriced at £20 million. It's good value for Liverpool, which will be getting a player who will be stronger after a first full season in the Premier League. His outburst last week may've taken Saints officials aback, but it was no surprise for those close to Lovren. He was on the radar of Damien Comolli during the Frenchman's time at Liverpool and knew he had been watched extensively during his three years at Olympique Lyon. It was a surprise - and a coup - that Saints landed Lovren last summer. The move was always going to be a stepping stone to bigger things and to earn a cool £12 million profit is great business.
DROGBA LEADERSHIP NEEDED AT NEW-LOOK CHELSEA
It's more about what Didier Drogba can do off the pitch for Jose Mourinho than his value on it. The sensational return of Drogba to Chelsea could be settled in the coming days. There's rightfully some concern that - at 36 - his legacy will be tarnished going back to Cobham. But Drogba turned down a new contract offer at Galatasaray and has also fielded proposals from Juventus and AS Roma this summer. Those at the top of the game feel he still has plenty to offer - including Mourinho. But it'll be off the pitch where the Ivorian's influence will be needed greatest. Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and David Luiz - all players who have led their nations - and have left this summer. There's also doubts about Petr Cech's future. Mourinho has made it clear he's building a new team - and if he can get Drogba through the front door - is sure to lean heavily on him to work with John Terry and set about reviving a winning culture through the club.
ARE MAN CITY SERIOUS ABOUT LOCAL TALENT?
The revelation that Manuel Pellegrini rejected Manchester City's request to sign an English goalkeeper to compete with Joe Hart must ring alarm bells around the country. Instead, Pellegrini has gone with what he knows and brought in fellow Spanish-speaker Willy Caballero from his former club Malaga. Caballero will prove great competition for Hart - and could push the England No1 to a new level. But why wouldn't Pellegrini have considered John Ruddy from Norwich City? Or Jack Butland at Stoke City? Has the Chilean just made it even more difficult for City chiefs Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano to convince English players about moving to the Etihad? For English players, the PR has been abysmal at City since the end of last season. It now seems the only reason the likes of James Milner and Jack Rodwell will be kept on is to fill quota numbers, not what they can offer Pellegrini. How does that look to Everton midfielder Ross Barkley or Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, both of whom have been mentioned as transfer targets for Begiristain?
IRVINE WILL REGRET LETTING THORNE LEAVE
On the face it, it looks a big mistake from West Bromwich Albion allowing George Thorne to leave for Derby County. Alan Irvine's first as new Baggies boss. There's so much to be excited about Thorne. He won the Euro U17 title alongside Ross Barkley in England's midfield and last season - at Derby - he began delivering on that potential. He has so much in his locker. He's box-to-box, will tackle and compete, can spray the ball and also pick a clever pass. In the promotion playoff against QPR, Thorne was as good as anyone on the Wembley pitch - proving himself capable of performing on the big stage. Steve McClaren, the Derby manager, will be absolutely delighted. A midfield partnership of Thorne and Will Hughes, who was convinced to pen new terms earlier this summer, has to be among the most exciting anywhere in English football.
ROYLE EVERTON RETURN MARTINEZ MASTERSTROKE
Great move from Roberto Martinez to bring Joe Royle back to Everton. The former Blues manager will work with David Unsworth at the club's academy in a development role. And Royle was a wanted man, having pulled out of joining Norwich City to accept Martinez's offer. With Alan Stubbs having left for Hibs and Alan Irvine for West Brom, plus the massive changes just 12 months ago with David Moyes and his staff leaving, bringing in an experienced Evertonian like Royle is a masterstroke from Martinez. Importantly, in hiring Royle, Martinez is in line with the growing trend at major European clubs to have experienced, veteran managers involved with the youth system. It's too much of a risk leaving your best young players to rookie coaches.
IBE HYPE NEEDS TO BE EASED
Physically, Jordon Ibe looks ready for Liverpool. The 18 year-old has caught the eye in preseason and won great praise from his manager Brendan Rodgers. However, contrary to the gushing reviews, Ibe only really impressed in flashes during his appearances against Preston North End and Brondby. He has a similar build to Raheem Sterling and perhaps a more explosive acceleration - reminiscent of former Aston Villa star Tony Daley. He has great ability on the ball, full of tricks and flicks - and certainly has the potential to match Sterling's early career success. But the hype is exaggerated. We shouldn't be penciling Ibe's name on the teamsheet for the Premier League kickoff against Southampton - well, not yet, anyway.
MAN UTD RAIDING LONDON ACADEMIES
Manchester United are waging a war on London academies. Though frustrated in failing to convince Chris Willock to reject Arsenal pro terms and join brother Matthew at Carrington, United are actively working in the south to lift the standard of their youth teams. Oscar Borg, the dynamic West Ham United wing-back, is currently trialling with United, as is Watford junior striker Ogo Obi. Both players are wanted by their respective clubs, but are free to test the waters elsewhere with their pro deals yet to be inked. United are also in contact with Borg's U16 Hammers teammate Reece Oxford, who has drawn comparisons with Rio Ferdinand. There is definitely a new approach this summer at United's academy, with Benfica teens Joao Filipe and Joao Virginia now trialing. Like Borg and Obi, both Portuguese juniors are yet to turn pro and will cost pennies in compensation. On the flipside, another United prospect left last week for a Premier League rival. Louis Rowley joining Jack Barmby in leaving United's U21 team for Leicester City.
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