Football

End of season, end of an era?

Will Bilbao be victims of their own success? (©GettyImages)
Will Bilbao be victims of their own success? (©GettyImages).

With the end of the season nigh and the summer transfer market soon to open, smaller teams will be forced to face up to the inevitability of losing some of their key players to bigger clubs.

Having spent all season creating something special, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew admitted as much when questioned about what could prove to be a difficult summer.

"It's impossible to restrict Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City from coming in for one of our players. We have players who are not on the salaries these top clubs can offer," he admitted.

The former West Ham boss added about Yohan Cabaye, a relative unknown snapped up from Lille last summer but now linked with a host of clubs: "If Yohan Cabaye gets a call from Manchester United and they tell him he is going to be the next Paul Scholes I am not going to be able to stop him.

"It is going to cost Manchester United a shedload of money, but until we have Champions League football, and we might have that by this weekend, we cannot compete with that."

So with Europe’s finest teams hovering, ready to undo all the progress they have made over the past 12 months, who are the teams in danger of being broken up when the big boys come sniffing?

Athletic Bilbao

Bilbao have undoubtedly been the revelation of the season. Ever since they were thrust into the limelight following their Europa League demolition of Manchester United, Marcelo Bielsa’s side have become every football fan’s second favourite team for their endearingly attractive style of play that the former Argentina coach has helped shape.

Cultivated only using players with links to the Basque region, the likes of Iker Muniain, Markel Susaeta, Javi Martinez, Oscar di Marcos and Fernando Llorente have charged their way to the Europa League and the Copa del Rey finals, with Pep Guardiola describing them as ‘beasts’ along the way.

However what has been created at Bilbao could soon be over, with Llorente, Muniain and Martinez all linked with moves to clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea.

Napoli

Napoli set the Champions League alight this season, securing wins over Manchester City and Chelsea before the Blues put an end to their dreams in the return leg of their last 16 showdown.

The Partenopei’s attacking verve has won plaudits the world over but it appears as though their finest team in the best part of twenty years may be torn apart. Defeat against Bologna last week looks like being the fatal blow in their pursuit of Champions League football, with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik all attracting interest from the Premier League in particular.

Montpellier

A real surprise package in Ligue 1 – they finished 14th last season - Montpellier are on the verge of securing their first ever league title, with three points separating them from the big-spending Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table with two games to go.

Led by René Girard they face a tricky tie against Lille at the weekend, but if they emerge victorious and PSG slip up against Rennes, the title is theirs.

However their success looks like coming at a price with leading scorer Olivier Giroud courted by Tottenham and Arsenal while Younes Belhanda is wanted by Manchester City - their first league crown could well be their only one if both key players leave.

Newcastle

Newcastle’s success has taken most by surprise this season. After selling off most of their experienced players in the summer experts had tipped the Magpies to drop down to the Championship two seasons after they earned promotion.

However their shrewd transfer policy saw them snap up, on the cheap, some fine young talents from across Europe, and now they go into the last game of the season with an outside chance of securing Champions League football.

The rumour mill has already fired up in the north east however with Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Chieck Tiote all linked with a move elsewhere, while Demba Ba is rumoured to have a release clause in his contract that Tottenham are keen to exploit.

Topics:
Hatem Ben Arfa
Yohan Cabaye
European News
Football
Newcastle United

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