Let me start by saying that nobody wants to lose Brede Hangeland. But with Fulham’s history of selling their best players (see here, here, and here if you really must) you can be pretty certain that we’ll have to do without the big man at the back some day. It could be as soon as the summer if his comments in the Norweigan press spark a bidding war amongst the top sides.
Where will he go? Top of many people’s list is Arsenal but I’m not sure I buy into that. Arsene Wenger seems to like signing young players and bringing them through. There was plenty of surprise in the English press that he eventually signed Andrei Arshavin as many people felt he was too old to make to be a Wenger-type player. Hangeland will be 28 next year and, although a centre half would be a priority in the summer window for Arsenal, would Wenger be up for signing such an experienced head? If he is, it might indicate that his way of playing the market might have changed.
Brede had a much better game against United last weekend than in either of us two previous outings against them this season. I still think he’d be doing well to be third choice centre back at Old Trafford mind you. Vidic and Ferdinand (in that order) are clearly a class above him and, although Bobby Zamora gave him a torrid time, I think Jonny Evans – who scored a vital goal for Northern Ireland on Saturday – has an exceptionally bright future ahead of him. I don’t Ferguson will be tempted to take a punt on our man either.
Chelsea will have a new manager in the summer: that much has been confirmed after Guus Hiddink disclosed that he’ll only be staying on (potentially) at Stamford Bridge as a consultant. Again, I wouldn’t rate Hangeland higher than Terry, Carvalho or even Alex and the Blues don’t exactly have a shortage of promising centre backs at their disposal either. The young Serbian Ivanovic has done well when called upon this season and Michael Mancienne has already caught Capello’s eye.
It follows then that the most likely fit for Brede would be our next opponents, Liverpool. Why? Well, because – as befitting a transfer window overseen by Rafa Benitez – there’s likely to be a high turnover at Anfield in the close season. As impressive as he still might be, Sami Hyypia can’t go on for ever and Daniel Agger has been getting restless at his lack of first-team football and his differences of opinion with the club over a new contract. Martin Skrtel seems a bit hit and miss for me and you could see Hangeland as a commanding partner for Jamie Carragher at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
When he does go (because in my pessimistic Monday morning mood I’m now resigned to it happening), I hope we have the courage to switch to Saha-negotiating mood. Roy Hodgson got a good one in on the cheap when he brought Hangeland in last January. The current economic climate might bring valuations down in the real world, but the crazy money swelling average footballers’ heads doesn’t seem to show any sign of slowing down. As I said in the aftermath of his assured display at the Emirates, the bidding should start at £15m.
Such a colossal figure would have the dual bonus of comforting the fans, who won’t feel we’ve been mugged off by a big club and also depositing a hefty amount of the fee back into Roy’s kitty for newcomers. We’d obviously need a new centre back (or maybe two, considering that we are still woefully light of cover for Aaron Hughes as it is). Ideally, you’d want one with some Premier League experience but the list of realistic candidates is not all that impressive.
Have a look at the shortlist drawn up on the offal, for example, and it would have you bawling your eyes out.
Anton Ferdinand: Horribly inconsistent, prone to catastrophic mistakes and currently looking very average as Sunderland battle relegation.
Titus Bramble: Don’t make me laugh. Has had a better season that most of his previous one but that’s says more about his infuriating ability to present goals on a plate for the opposition than his quality.
Michael Turner: Perhaps the one on the list that I’d be most likely to plump for. Must be a candidate for player of the year at Hull and hasn’t looked out of place in the top flight. Still a big step to replace Brede, mind.
Michael Dawson: Currently filling in for (delete as applicable) Woodgate or King at Spurs. Never really fulfilled the promise that prompted Sven-Goran Eriksson to add him to his England training squad when he was at Nottingham Forest.
David Wheater: The fact that he’s been the best of a poor Middlesbrough back line is not a tremendous selling point. There’s clearly something there but it’s difficult to make a clear evaluation when the Boro defence seems almost constantly under siege.
If Roy could find another unheralded composed centre back on the continent at a knock-down fee, then we’d be laughing again. Let’s just hope we can delay the inevitable for a little while longer.