After being linked with a host of Europe’s big hitters in recent years, a move for Yevhen Konoplyanka never materialised, with the winger remaining at Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. A transfer to Liverpool 18 months ago failed to go through after club president Ihor Kolomoyski refused the sanction the deal, but that is the closest the 25-year-old has come to securing a switch to one of Europe’s top 5 leagues of late.
Now out of contract, however, Konoplyanka is free to discuss his future with any team he so fancies, with Premier League duo Stoke City and Newcastle United both supposedly keen to speak to the player and his representatives. However, the pairing are reportedly balking at the Ukrainian’s £100k-a-week wage demands, which could hinder any potential switch to England. Nonetheless, the acquisition of a player of Konoplyanka’s calibre would be viewed as a fine one by many, given his performances for Dnipro last season.
The winger played a crucial role in their progression to the final of last season’s Europa League, with only Ruslan Rotan (7.56) and Douglas (7.39) gaining a better WhoScored rating than Konoplyanka (7.15) of all Dnipro players to register at least 500 minutes of action in the competition. The highly-rated wideman also registered more assists (3) than any Dnipro player in the Europa League, while his 1 goal meant he was directly involved in 4 of their 15 goals in European competition last term.
Famed for his ability beat an opponent, Konoplyanka completed more successful dribbles (35) than any other player in the Europa League last term. Stoke and Newcastle, and a handful of other teams, could certainly utilise this aspect of his game, while an average of 1.5 key passes and 2.3 shots per match was a respectable return for the Ukraine international.
The numbers suggest there is an end product to his game, which is clearly not just aimless running with the ball. It’s somewhat surprising that interest in Konoplyanka is not higher given his reputation, though that should change over the coming weeks.
One season after departing England for Besiktas, Demba Ba is being strongly linked with a return to the Premier League, with West Brom heading the queue of potential suitors. It would be somewhat poetic for Ba to move to West Brom, given Tony Pulis is currently at the Hawthorns helm. The passionate Welshman had the chance to sign Ba for Stoke in 2011, but the club vetoed the move after the Senegalese failed a medical.
43 goals in 99 Premier League appearances, 22 of which were as a sub, suggests the Potters were wrong to turn down the chance to sign Ba. Pulis is unlikely to make the same mistake twice, though, amidst reports the Baggies are keen to strike up a deal for the Besiktas frontman.
18 goals and a further 5 assists in his debut campaign in the Super Lig was a commendable return for the 30-year-old. His average of 1 goal every 124.9 minutes was the second best of all players to make 15 or more appearances in Turkey’s top-flight last term.
A player of his calibre would boost West Brom’s profile and improve the Baggies’ attack, of that there is no question. Ba's experience - both in England and in European competition - would help Pulis’ side in their quest to fully establish themselves as a Premier League team. A change in management at Besiktas could also convince Ba that his future lies elsewhere, with a number of Premier League teams representing a suitable destination for the Senegal international.
Football Manager aficionados will be all too familiar with Georginio Wijnaldum’s ability given his potential when coming through the Feyenoord ranks. While something of a late bloomer in terms of fully realising that promise, the Netherlands international was crucial to PSV Eindhoven’s 22nd Eredivisie title win last season. The Boerenskipper was central to their efforts, gaining a WhoScored rating of 7.47, enough to rank among the top 15 players in the Dutch top-tier last term.
Nevertheless, when a player enjoys a prolific campaign in one of the so called "lesser leagues" the vultures begin to circle. Premier League duo Newcastle and Sunderland have been credited with an interest in Wijnaldum and for good reason.
The 24-year-old managed 14 league goals from midfield for PSV last season, a record only Memphis Depay (22) and Luuk de Jong (20) bettered of all players for Phillip Cocu’s team. This knack of netting from midfield would be welcomed by the Premier League’s north-east pairing, who scored just 71 league goals between them last term.
One of Wijnaldum’s biggest strengths is his ability to get on the ball in the midfield and drive at the opposition, with his average of 1.9 successful dribbles per game among the top 10 players in the Eredivisie last term. Sadly, PSV look to be picked apart this summer by teams among Europe’s top 5 leagues and after Depay’s move to Manchester United, Wijnaldum could be the next to follow the speedy attacker out the Philips Stadion exit.