Finding The Ideal Striker For The Top Five
After wrestling back the Premier League title from Man City in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season, United should seize the opportunity to strengthen while they're ahead - something their rivals failed to do last summer. Wayne Rooney's future is top of the agenda and if he leaves, David Moyes will need to find a talented replacement. Robert Lewandowski has been linked with a move to Old Trafford and, with a price tag of £30m, he would be a significant statement of intent at the start of United's new era.
Despite Lewandowski's impressive haul of 35 goals in 47 appearances this season, there are several major stumbling blocks to a potential transfer. Although Borussia Dortmund have announced their intention to hold onto the striker for another year, Bayern Munich have been pressing hard to reach an agreement. And even if United managed to sneak ahead of Bayern, it's difficult to see Lewandowski acting as the perfect foil for Robin van Persie considering the similarities between the two forwards. Karim Benzema has been suggested as an alternative, but it may be the worst time to make a move for the France international after his disappointing season at Real Madrid.
Moyes is unlikely to switch to using two strikers at United and even if Rooney departs, the manager may persist with Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck as back-up to Van Persie. A move for another promising youngster, such as Christian Benteke, also seems plausible. The Belgian has enjoyed a brilliant first season in the Premier League and at around £20m, with wages that are a fraction of Rooney's, he could be an excellent long-term option should United decide not to splurge in the top end of the market.
Verdict: United should underline their power with a big-money move for Lewandowski. Five years Van Persie's junior, the Dortmund striker could be the club's long-term future in attack.
Manuel Pellegrini regularly played with a single striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation at Malaga last season, but the manager will want various options to tweak his system at Man City as he attempts to lead a domestic and European charge. Carlos Tevez is expected to be offered a one-year contract extension (he has one year left on his current deal), while chief executive Ferran Soriano has also said that Sergio Aguero is staying for at least another year. City's top Premier League scorer Edin Dzeko looks set to depart, though, possibly as a makeweight in a deal for Edinson Cavani or to Borussia Dortmund as Lewandowski's replacement.
After his incredible season for Napoli, in which he scored 38 goals in 43 appearances, Cavani would be a huge coup for City. The striker wouldn't come cheap - his release clause apparently stands at €63m - but he offers a chance for City to right the wrongs of last summer when they waited until deadline day to bring in Javi Garcia, Maicon, Matija Nastasic and Scott Sinclair, who played only 69 minutes of Premier League football this season.
With Falcao expected to join Monaco and Tevez reluctant to commit to a new contract, Cavani is by far the best option for City as they bid to close the gap to United. The 26-year-old will also help to improve the club's fortunes in Europe, with his three goals against City in 2011/12 sparking their initial interest. Of course, Pellegrini could always decide to offer a new contract to Roque Santa Cruz instead, after the City reject impressed on loan at Malaga this season.
Verdict: Cavani would be a significant upgrade to Dzeko, with City planning to kill two birds with one stone in a swap deal with Napoli.
Fernando Torres' future is unclear after another disappointing season in the Premier League and the striker has been linked with a move to Serie A or a return to Atletico Madrid as Falcao's replacement. Torres found form in Chelsea's victorious Europa League run but scored only eight goals in the top flight as the Blues slipped away from the title race in November. With Demba Ba also failing to impress, claiming just six strikes (four in the FA Cup) following his January move from Newcastle, it's abundantly clear that Roman Abramovich needs to spend big on a new striker in the summer.
Following his stunning hat-trick in Chelsea's 4-1 Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid, Falcao was listed as the Blues' number one target throughout the season. But recently their interest seems to have waned, as Monaco prepare to flex their muscles with a move for the Colombian. What Chelsea need most is a devastating finisher, and an alternative to Falcao may come in the form of Mario Gomez, who has endured a difficult campaign after losing his place to Mario Mandzukic at Bayern Munich. Gomez has managed 17 goals from 30 appearances this year (only 12 starts) but his previous record - 40 goals in 2011/12, 39 in 2010/11 - proves that he possesses the goalscoring quality Chelsea require. If the Blues decide to hold onto Romelu Lukaku after his impressive season at West Brom, Gomez may be all they need in attack ahead of the new season.
Verdict: Although Gomez has been accused of being immobile and lazy in the past - notably by Mehmet Scholl during Euro 2012 - he could be the perfect spearhead for Chelsea, playing in front of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. However, there is perhaps a slight chance that Jose Mourinho - whose appointment should soon be confirmed - will return to Real Madrid for Karim Benzema as he plans his marquee signing this summer.
Arsenal's points total and goalscoring record may suggest they haven't missed Robin van Persie this year, but the Gunners could have been much closer to the top two had they held onto their best player last summer. Instead they finished a distant fourth, scrapping with Spurs for the right to enter a Champions League play-off on the final day of the season. To remedy this situation, Arsene Wenger will have to find proven quality in the summer, with Stevan Jovetic and Gonzalo Higuain reportedly at the top of the manager's wishlist.
It would be a bold move for Wenger to splurge around £20m on either forward, but if he wants to add weight to his claim that Arsenal can mount a title challenge he will need to invest heavily. Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud arrived for a combined total of around £20m in 2012 but, while both strikers have enjoyed adequate first seasons in England, Arsenal need to kick on to the next level. At the moment they are standing still, as United, City and Chelsea all prepare to strengthen even further over the the next three months.
Wayne Rooney is another option for Arsenal and the United striker would suit Wenger's 4-2-3-1 system perfectly. As the leading forward whose main responsibility is to score goals, Rooney could rediscover his old spark at the Emirates should United be willing to sell to the Gunners. His wages would prove a significant problem, however, and Wenger would have to be tough on the striker to ensure he remains in peak physical condition.
Verdict: A move for Rooney is unlikely, but Higuain would be an upgrade on Giroud in the centre of Arsenal's attack. Only Cristiano Ronaldo outscored the Argentine as Real Madrid won their first La Liga title in four years in 2012 and, at 25, his best years still lie ahead. Jovetic is enormously talented, but Arsenal require a proven 20-goal a season striker if they are to make the step up.
If Spurs had signed another striker last summer, they might have avoided the frustration of missing out on a top-four spot on the final day of the season. Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe both suffered fitness issues and goal droughts during the campaign and Spurs need a new number nine to replace the underperforming duo as Andre Villas-Boas' first-choice centre-forward.
We can expect to read plenty about Spurs' interest in Leandro Damiao in the coming weeks and it seemed the club were close to agreeing a deal with Internacional in January. The Brazil international is set to turn 24 in July and it's now time to decide on a move to Europe after several years of stalling. Daniel Levy would have to pay around £18m to get his man and he should act quickly (if Damiao is still Spurs' top target) to give the striker a full pre-season to settle.
Loic Remy, who apparently has a £6m release clause at QPR, has been touted as another option for both Spurs and Arsenal, but the striker's rape allegation has perhaps put an end to any immediate interest. Roberto Soldado is a proven striker within Spurs' price range and the 27-year-old Valencia hitman has managed at least 25 goals in his last three seasons. Hamburg's 20-year-old South Korean international Son Heung-Min has also been linked with a move to Spurs, but Villas-Boas may decide to shop closer to home, with Christian Benteke proving he has the quality to lead the line for Spurs after his impressive season for Villa.
Verdict: A move for Benteke makes the most sense, rather than gambling on Damiao, Soldado or Son. The Belgian hit the ground running at Villa this season and, at 22, he still has time to improve. Considering Defoe and Adebayor's poor form, Spurs should look to sell one of their current attacking options and bring in two during a busy summer at White Hart Lane.