As we always do around the turn of a new year, it is time once again to point out some tempting winter transfer targets for Major League Soccer management executives looking to add shiny new toys to their rosters.
And as always, we must remind you that every single solitary time we've offered shopping suggestions over the last 10 years (including special summer and tournament-themed editions, a grand total of 16 articles) at least one player listed has made a move to MLS.
Those who have previously played for or been linked with interest from MLS teams are wearing an asterisk.
Major League Soccer clubs have found plenty of recent joy bringing in FC Barcelona youth system products, but these happy catches have usually come in seasoned veteran form (e.g. Victor Rodriguez, Ilie Sanchez and Victor Vazquez). But what if some team got wise and snagged a young ace they could flip for a nice profit after a prolific stateside spell?
This FC Twente winger is a clever end-product artist who can score and set up others. Cantalapiedra (No. 7 in the video above) is already being targeted by several foreign suitors for a January swoop.
The Norway midfielder is sort of a cross between Alex Ring and Jan Gregus. What's more, in the right tactical setup could also regain the Heerenveen-era Michael Bradley late box run threat aspect of his game that was once freely on display at AZ Alkmaar (check exhibit A in the video above). As importantly, Hull City are primed to sell off Henriksen at a cut rate in January. This is a guy who can transform a midfield by adding both bite and positive ball movement.
One of just two players on this scouting report who aren't set to run out of contract in summer, Horvath is also the only US international listed. Just when the 24-year-old was really coming into his own after losing and then regaining the starting job last season, Club Brugge decided to go splash cash to land Belgium veteran Simon Mignolet from Liverpool on a five-year deal. Now they're not even giving domestic cup matches to Horvath, for crying out loud. The netminder might well be ripe for a season-long loan.
We previously extolled the virtues of Montreal and new boss Thierry Henry chasing the lightning-bug Napoli attacker. Please don't let that specific pitch scare off other potential MLS suitors, as Mertens would be an excellent catch for several clubs on this side of the Atlantic. He was previously linked with New York City FC talks last summer. Like several of the items on this browsing list, he is currently drawing a crowd and prospective shoppers best get while the getting's good.
The name should sound very familiar, as he just spent a pair of solid seasons in the NYCFC midfield rotation. Frankly, I was surprised they didn't take up his buy option in November. Actually, they could still grab Ofori from Bundesliga promotion chasers Stuttgart, who appear ready to sell him on the cheap. The Cityzens still need box-to-box help, and they're not the only ones in MLS that can say that. Hit the phones (if you haven't already), gents.
Yeah, I know. Major League Soccer is no longer an over-30 wonderland. That said, not all grizzled veterans are created equal. While he'll turn 31 in March, Sinclair is still a speedy dribble demon who can create offense for himself and others. And for some odd reason, Celtic boss Neil Lennon decided that he has little use for a guy that averaged 20 goals and 12 assists over the previous three campaigns. His folly can be some MLS club's fortune, as the winger has been designated for an early Parkhead departure.
Two slots after hyping a woefully under-appreciated midfielder, we bring you another. The Feyenoord man was a beast at last summer's Copa America, helping lead Peru to their first final in 45 years. Tapia can make every defensive play you'd ever want while guarding the gate, and he can safely move the ball into attack. If that's not enough, the impending freebie can also serve a tempting restart into the box – and he's only 24.
Once upon a time, a certain MLS club from New York grabbed a lanky, athletic journeyman box fox named Bradley something-or-other who had just played for Charlton Athletic . All he did was net 117 league goals, three Supporters’ Shields and a snazzy pair of Golden Boots. Could an MLS team pull another Wright-Phillips out of the Addicks hat? Maybe so, as the late-blooming Taylor is yet another apparent winter auction item.
Sometimes you gotta reach for the stars. And some of those times, that star should be a smooth ball-playing defender that can organize transition from the back. Vertonghen (pictured at top) isn't just a calming forward-thinking influence, he's also a versatile one who can operate as a center back or from defensive midfield (which was actually his original spot). Act fast, though, because Ajax seem intent on bringing him back to his old stomping grounds in January.
One can often find value buys on over-stocked Premier League rosters, and this cultured left back is a prime example. Zeegelar, who fared well on loan to Serie A side Udinese last season, is a real chore to play against on both sides of the ball. He's a bit of a wide destroyer in his own end. And while the 29-year-old isn't going to offer much in the attacking third, he's a freight train in the build.