Manchester United & Arsenal must target Portugal for signings

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From what we have seen so far this summer, it looks as though blue will dominate the Premier League next season. 

Manchester City have spent big on positions of weakness, bringing in Fernandinho to partner Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas to provide a genuine wing threat. They have also continued the overhaul in the striker department that started in January with Mario Balotelli making the move to AC Milan. Now with Tevez in Turin, City moved swiftly to bring in the talented Stevan Jovetic and a proven goalscorer in Alvaro Negredo. Indeed, their strike-force is as strong, if not stronger, than the one that helped bring home the title the year before last. 

The Manchester club were criticised last year for not building on their success and improving their already formidable squad. This year they have done just that, as well as bringing in a world class coach, who should be able to blend organisation with attacking flair.

Of course, questions will be asked of Pellegrini, given his lack of silverware at Real Madrid (his last top club) but he was unlucky to be up against the greatest Barcelona side of all time (while still racking up a record points total).

 He was an unquestionable success at the Spanish minnows, Malaga and Villarreal, with the former a couple of minutes away from taking the near bankrupt side to the Champions League semi-final last year. 

During his time at Villarreal, he broke the duopoly of Spanish football leading them to a second place finish in La Liga in 2008 as well as taking them within a penalty of the Champions League final in 2006. 

His pedigree is beyond doubt and his teams can play a variety of styles, be it the typical Spanish game or the more pragmatic approach. They look strong coming into this season.

As for Chelsea, some canny moves in the market have been somewhat overshadowed by the 'Happy One's' return to both a club and a league that gave him so much success.

 Many fear that his methods won't work on a club now used to success without him (just as they didn't in the Spanish capital) but he has inherited a young and hungry squad, many of whom should be receptive to his approach. Add to that experienced heads like Lampard, Essien, Terry, Cech and Cole, all of whom can vouch for his coaching ability, and you have a recipe for success. 

It is a team that has a mix of everything: youth, experience, strength, skill, creativity and pace. Mourinho himself seems relaxed and is quietly getting on with the task at hand. Lukaku, De Bruyne, Oscar and Van Ginkel are some of the most talented youngsters on the planet and if Mourinho could add a world class striker to the list (while simultaneously weakening a rival) then his squad is complete.

This just leaves Manchester United and Arsenal, the other top four regulars. While Arsenal are now used to being also-rans, it is rare to think of United as outsiders for the title. 

With Ferguson gone and Rooney restless, it looks a far less intimidating beast this time round. Moyes has a lot of work to do to steady his ship and improve his squad. If many put their title last term down to Ferguson's management and Van Persie's prowess, then they are in big trouble. 

They need more weapons. The wide threat has diminished significantly with the poor form of well, everyone. Valencia, Nani and Young all had poor seasons last year and with only the youngster Zaha coming in, they look weak. 

The same goes for the central midfield where they are in desperate need of a midfield enforcer to slot in alongside Carrick. If anything, they could do with another creative midfielder as well, given the England man's age. There is a lot to be done. 

A central defender to help ease the pressure off the ageing Ferdinand and Vidic would also be useful.

Like United, Arsenal have also been left red-faced by their attempted forays into the market. Higuain chose Napoli, despite reports suggesting a move to Arsenal was a 'done deal' and Suarez, despite his apparent openness to a move, will be extremely difficult to capture. 

As for the rest of the team, there has been precious little done to reinforce other areas of concern such as central midfield and defence. Arsenal have a lot to do to challenge for the title again and it looks ominously like Gunners fans will be left with the same squad as last year, unless Wenger loosens those purse strings as he promised to do.

So what do the Gunners desperately need? A midfield enforcer (sound familiar?), a leader at centre half, a world class striker and maybe even a winger. In other words, both United and Arsenal are looking for similar types of players. And where can such players be found? Portugal.

Of course, United have raided the Portuguese league before with mixed success. For every Ronaldo, there has been a Bebe, while Nani and Anderson have been very inconsistent. 

Arsenal, in contrast, have, over the years, preferred the French and Spanish markets, given that the Portuguese giants, Benfica and Porto, are not cheap places to do business. It is rare to get cheap 'bargains' there but what you do get is quality and now that Arsenal can compete in the market, Portugal should be their first port of call.

The Suarez affair is turning ugly and protracted so why not pay £35 million release clause for the Columbian hitman, Jackson Martinez. A hefty sum, yes, but cheaper than Suarez, plus he is the complete striker. He is tall, powerful, skillful, quick and a good finisher. He would lead the line and fit in seemlessly with Arsenal's 4-3-3.

Both United and Arsenal need a midfield enforcer with presence. Look no further than Nemanja Matic of Benfica. He has experience of the English game, spending a good portion of his youth at Chelsea but it is in Portugal where he has matured and he now appears ready to take the Premier League by storm.

Standing at over 6'4, he is a giant of man, strong in the air and hard in the tackle and yet his technique and passing are superb, playing as he does for a very technical Benfica side. He has all the attributes to make a huge mark in either London or Manchester and would be a perfect fit for the more physical English game. At 25, he has many years ahead of him.

Benfica is also home to another target of Europe's elite clubs: Ezequiel Garay. He performed solidly during his time at the Bernabeu but was given to Benfica as part of the deal that saw Fabio Coentrao arrive at the Spanish giants. 

He has not looked back and many expect him to be a big name departure in the near future. Like Matic, he is a tall, strong, intelligent footballer with good technique who would compliment either Koscielny of Arsenal or Vidic of Manchester United perfectly. 

In many ways, he is the complete defender and with Ferdinand just a couple of years away from retirement and Mertesacker simply not good enough, the time is right for him to move to the Premier League.

Now we come to the more riskier potential purchases. Linked to Manchester United a couple of seasons ago, Nicolas Gaitan would be a good addition to either side. Some say Ferguson was put off by his high price-tag, others by his inconsistency but he has matured and at 25, he should be ready to make the move to a European giant. He would be a gamble but he has all the tools to be a world-class winger.

 Apart from Cristiano Ronaldo, there are precious few wingers out there who are not plagued by some form of inconsistency - indeed, in many ways, it is part and parcel of playing in that position – so that should not deter any suitors. Again, he would fit into either team's style of play and would help add a wide threat that was lacking from both sides last season.

Alex Sandro was one of Porto's highest rated players last season. A left-back in the traditional Brazilian style, he is young at only 22 years of age but his talent is unquestionable. Leighton Baines is a possible target but Everton are understandably reluctant to let him go. Buttner is not ready yet while Evra is past his best. Alex Sandro may be the answer.

The Portuguese giants have a remarkable record for unearthing talent and then selling potentially world-class players on for huge profits. They are selling clubs and yet the way they seamlessly replace their departing stars is incredible. 

They always compete in Europe while every year they help supply Europe's elite with talent. The likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Valencia, Lyon as well as the nouveau riche Monaco regularly shop there. It is high time both Arsenal and Manchester United do the same.


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