By Tom J Doyle
The season is barely over and the transfer rumours are flying thicker than airborne treacle â€“ thatâ€™s the nature of the beast.
There are evidently no holidays for those that take care of Napoliâ€™s transfer business, as they have already launched a Â£5 million offer for Marseille winger Andre Ayew â€“ but Ayew has opened the door to a move to the Premier League, describing it as a â€œbeautiful championship.â€
Liverpool and Manchester United have both reportedly been interested in the attackerâ€™s services; after Brendan Rodgersâ€™ side fell agonisingly short of the title this season, it is clear they will need reinforcements to freshen up a relatively thin squad for next term, especially with Champions League football looming.
The Red Devils, on the other hand, are suffering from the fact that none of their current wingers actually play like wingers. Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Nani are shadows of their former selves, picking up a grand combined total of four goals and four assists, with the Portuguese contributing nothing despite somehow signing a new long-term deal at Old Trafford in September.
While Wilfried Zaha banished to Cardiff on loan halfway through the campaign, it is clear that United need another attacking threat â€“ and while Louis van Gaal (the probable full-time successor to David Moyes) will be looking to the illustrious likes of Arjen Robben to beef up a squad on the ropes, he could do worse than look at a cheap deal for Ayew.
Lâ€™OM secured sixth spot in Ligue 1 this season, with the 24-year-old netting six times in 25 top flight appearances. All of his goals came from inside the area, and while wingers typically tend to shirk aerial challenges, two of those strikes came with his head â€“ an added bonus given that Unitedâ€™s current wingers tend to hug the touchline and do little else.
The Ghana international is clearly not afraid to shoot, hitting 23 of 44 shots on target for a strike accuracy of 52%, and achieving a respectable conversion rate of 13.6% in the process.
The forward created 27 chances last term, resulting in three assists â€“ no United winger managed to create more, and only Valencia matches him on the assists output. 33.3 percent of his chances created came from in front of the area, showing Ayew is not afraid to get into the middle and interchange with his teammates in search of goals.
Ayewâ€™s Squawka Performance Score of 434 far outranks Valencia (232), Young (16) and Nani (25), even beating their scores combined â€“ and while his output suffered as a result of a knee injury that required surgery, the previous campaignâ€™s statistics also show his offensive skill.
Lyonâ€™s danger man scored nine goals in 35 appearances in the 2012-13 season, achieving a Performance Score of 849 and landing six Top Man in Team Squawka awards.
Back to this season, and Ayewâ€™s all-round game could be a bonus for Premier League clubs interested in his signature. A passing accuracy of 79% is respectable for a forward, while his duel success rate of 47% is again better than two of Unitedâ€™s wingers, with only Nani doing better with 54%.
Ayew is clearly a player that relishes being involved in the game, attempted 107 tackles and going into 158 headed duels. He only won 44% of both respectively, but his appetite for the physical side of the game would serve him well in England.
The forward also completed 30 of 57 attempted take-ons, while winning 55 fouls and conceded 50 in the process. With an average of two defensive actions per game (with 39 clearances, 17 interceptions and two blocks in total), Ayew is one man who team-mates would want to be tracking back in tough games.
Ayew also has Champions League experience, scoring twice in the group stages against Napoli this season, with those performances obviously enough to convince the Italians of his talents.
With Rafa Benitezâ€™s Serie A side clearly intent of taking Ayew to Italy, it is now up to Premier League clubs to decide whether the player is right for them. Given his recent comments, his goal output over the past two seasons and the cheap price he would be available for, Ayew is a steal in the current market.
He may not be at, and may never reach the prolific heights of the gameâ€™s more illustrious forwards, but a young attacker with proven finishing and a strong defensive work ethic are hard to find these days, especially for under Â£10 million.
The winger says he will decide his future after Ghanaâ€™s World Cup campaign, although there is the obvious chance his fee will rise if he managed to score against Germany, Portugal or the U.S. in Group G in Brazil.
While Manchester United and Liverpool may be aiming their search a little higher than Ayew, his statistics suggest he would make a reliable squad player for either side â€“ the only question now, it seems, is whether he will end up in Italy or England.