Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
James McCarthy seems likely to leave Wigan this Summer despite their apparent £20 million valuation of him. Players of this quality rarely stick around in the Championship and he looks to have no shortage of suitors especially after his excellent performance in Wigan's most high-profile match of the season and probably ever, the FA Cup final. McCarthy has been linked with nearly all of last season's Premier League's top 7 but a transfer to a bigger club might not provide the career progression that he is looking for.
As Shaun Wright-Phillps' career has descended into mediocrity and derision, its easy to forget just how good he was as a lightening-quick, skilful winger at Manchester City leading Chelsea to pay £21 million pounds for his services in 2005. There he was faced with strong competition from Damien Duff and Arjen Robben for a place in the team as well as playing for a manager in José Mourinho who is the never the most patient with wingers. Would Wright-Phillips have been a great player at a different club? Almost certainly not but he would surely have given himself of better chance of developing as a player if he hadn't joined Chelsea. So with that said, which clubs that are/should be interested would provide potentially the best Irish player since Roy Keane with the combination of probable playing time, a suitable manager and the greatest chance of winning medals.
With Marouane Fellaini likely to depart this summer and Roberto Martinez arriving as manager, there is a reasonable possibility of Darron Gibson and James McCarthy forming a midfield partnership that Ireland could benefit from in years to come (ie. After Trapattoni).
McCarthy would certainly start regularly for the Toffees and would be one the building blocks as Martinez seeks to evolve their style of play. With the Fellaini money, they might just about afford McCarthy but David Moyes had Everton punching well above their financial weight throughout his tenure and even if the former Wigan manager can match his achievements, this will always leave them just outside the Champions' League places. It would a good move for the former Hamilton Accies man but would still probably see him playing just below the top-level of club football.
Liverpool's top target this summer looks to be Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk and the Armenian midfielder could provide a legitimately top-class attacking option behind Daniel Sturridge/Luis Suarez next year as opposed to the limited duo of Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey. That still leaves the Reds relying heavily on Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva in midfield, both of who have recent injury histories.
McCarthy would give Brendan Rodgers a genuine all-rounder midfielder to pair with Gerrard especially if Lucas' doesn't fully recapture his pre-knee injury form. The Liverpool captain also only played exactly half of Liverpool's league games between 2010 and 2012 and is now 33 so McCarthy would provide at least a valuable insurance policy. This all would require Rodgers to give up on the 'Welsh Xavi' after just one season but given Joe Allen's performances last year that doesn't seem unreasonable.
Rogers despite sounding like David Brent and therefore cringeworthy in front of the camera, got Liverpool playing some outstanding attacking football in the second half of the season and coaxed an outstanding season out of Gerrard, playing better than he ever as a genuine central midfielder. Given his position that bodes well for McCarthy and even if Luis Suarez does depart, this would still be a pretty good move.
3. Manchester United
McCarthy is a significantly better ball-winner than Tom 'Brand' Cleverly and United don't exactly have many other legitimate options in midfield. Whether he is quite good enough to go to war against Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez in the Champions' League is hard to say but the Glasgow native usually played well against the Premier League's leading lights which is encouraging.
McCarthy's arrival would fill the Luka Modric shaped hole in the Spurs midfield allowing Moussa Dembele to play in his best position as the most attacking of Spurs midfield three. Andre Villas-Boas would groom him into the next Joao Moutinho by engaging the Ireland international in some of the deepest and most meaningful tactical discussions since Carl Jung met Sigmund Freud. McCarthy would leave Spurs a new man and hopefully with a couple of years of Champions' League experience.
5. Borussia Dortmund
McCarthy forms a mighty central midfield axis with Ilkay Gundogan that makes the crowd at the Westfalenstadion forget all about this Gotze fellow. A Champions' League medal and most importantly, the love of 'football hipsters' all around the world surely follows. Also thanks to Jurgen Klopp's pre-season training 'Camps', McCarthy would be a mentally strong machine ready for any surroundings and situation helping him even thrive in Trap's long-ball assault game plan.