With the Raheem Sterling saga having been at last brought to a conclusion, the fate of Queens Park Rangers’ striker Charlie Austin is perhaps the final summer transfer narrative involving an England player yet to be resolved ahead of the new season.
With Leicester City, Southampton, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace reported as the 25-year-old’s leading suitors, we assess which club stands to benefit most from the 18 goal forward’s arrival.
Given the amount of media attention which has been focused on Austin’s future since the January transfer window it is surprising that the Foxes are reportedly the only club to have made a formal bid for the striker: a £12m offer which was rejected on July 3.
Clearly Leicester, a club which only survived relegation after a remarkable run of seven wins in its final nine matches last term, stand to benefit from the presence of a 15-20 goal centre-forward in their ranks.
Indeed, it would be surprise if new boss Claudio Ranieri, who succeeded the sacked Nigel Pearson this week, is not open to the striker’s arrival.
But given Leicester spent a combined £17m on Leonardo Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric last season, and got an impressive 11 goal return for the former while the latter is clearly stocked with potential, one wonders whether the £15m fee which Rangers are demanding for Austin might not be better spent strengthening a defence which conceded more goals than relegated Burnley and QPR last time out.
There can be little disputing the fact that Southampton need a new centre-forward.
The two players brought in to replace Rickie Lambert last summer, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long, managed a combined total of one league goal fewer than Austin (12 and 5) and the Italian’s strike rate fell-off sharply after a 10 goal in 12 game start (he managed just 6 more in all competitions).
The high-energy Austin would be a good fit in Ronald Koeman’s pressing-system, and with the Morgan Schneiderlin money burning a hole in the Dutch manager’s pocket, one would not be too surprised to see the forward plying his trade at St. Mary’s next term.
A year ago one would have been shocked for a player of Austin’s potential to even be linked with Newcastle; however, a more positive feeling abounds St. James’ since Steve McClaren’s appointment as coach and the signing of PSV playmaker Georginio Wijnaldum last week was a real statement-of-intent.
With Papiss Cisse believed to be keen on a move to the Turkish Super Lig, the prospect of Austin combining with Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko and Remy Cabella at the apex of the Magpies’ attack certainly attracts.
The question is whether the club’s infamously miserly owner, Mike Ashley, is willing to drop another £15m on a forward when the club remain yet to off-loading any highly paid and underperforming members of the standing squad such as Emmanuel Rivière and Yoan Gouffran.
Ayoze Perez may already be Cisse’s long-term successor.
Crystal Palace have already pulled-off arguably the signing-of-the-summer in the form of France midfielder Yohan Cabaye for a club record fee of £10m from PSG last week.
The London club clearly possess the ambition required to pull-off a transfer-coup such as the signing of Austin; however, Cabaye’s arrival has taken a big bite out of Alan Pardew’s transfer kitty and reports suggest that the success of any Palace move for Austin is contingent upon QPR accepting one or all of Fraizer Campbell, Adrian Mariappa, Barry Bannan and Adlène Guedioura as makeweights in a part-exchange deal.
The fact that Glenn Murray was Palace’s top league goalscorer with seven last term attests to the fact that Palace need a more proven striker but one feels that Cabaye’s costly arrival might make his signing impossible.
Indeed, Pardew’s privileging of the midfielder over Austin may be reflective of the extent of his faith in Murray and Dwight Gayle.
Any of these sides would clearly benefit from Austin’s arrival; however, one feels Southampton are the club in most pressing need of reinforcements in attack and the forward would seem to fit very comfortably with Saints’ high-energy game-plan.
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