Premier League clubs have been getting their wallets out left, right and centre this summer, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool stumping up the best part of £180m combined so far and reportedly ready to spend half as much between them again on new midfielders.
With three £30m-plus men touted in today’s transfer pages, we run the rule over the stats that make such a player:
Blaise Matuidi – Linked with £30m move to Man Utd from Paris Saint-Germain
Matuidi’s pass-completion rates stand out due to their consistency, with WhoScored.com listing the 29-year-old’s numbers for PSG last term at 91.8 per cent and France at Euro 2016 at 89.7 per cent, averaging 91.4 per cent.
No player in the Premier League managed better last season, with Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-yeung’s 90.9 per cent the top marks, while Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele (90) and United’s Morgan Schneiderlin (89.5) score highly.
Combined 2015/16 club-and-country tallies of 2.4 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game put Matuidi nowhere close to Premier League master of the defensive arts, new Chelsea holding-midfielder N’Golo Kante, who led both categories with 4.7 and 4.2.
However, Kante’s France teammate bagged four times as many goals, with eight all told, and two more assists, indicating that the Red Devils’ latest target is more box-to-box midfielder than anchorman.
Manchester United are 7/2 to win the Premier League in Jose Mourinho’s first season as Old Trafford boss.
William Carvalho – Linked with £30m move to Chelsea from Sporting Lisbon
This long-lauded 24-year-old’s Euro 2016 pass-completion stats for eventual champions Portugal are super-solid at 89.5 per cent, but anyone who watched Carvalho at the tournament couldn’t but be struck by his graft between defence and midfield, particularly in the air.
Only five Premier League midfielders (Mile Jedinak, Marouane Fellaini, Cheikhou Kouyate, Eric Dier and Lucas Leiva) won more aerial battles per match last season than Carvalho managed at Euro 2016, and none of them got within five per cent of the Angolan-born battler’s passing stats.
Furthermore, 2.8 clearances per match puts the Chelsea target, who has also attracted interest from Everton and Leicester, amongst the top two midfielders in the division, namely West Brom’s Chris Brunt and Sunderland’s Yann M’Villa.
Joao Mario – Reported £33.5m bid from Liverpool rejected by Sporting
Carvalho’s Sporting teammate plays a little further forward, linking Portugal’s midfield and attack with an 85.7 percent pass-completion rate, falling just a little short of top Premier League equivalents such as Ki, Dembele and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey (86.1).
However, Mario’s key-pass tally of 1.6 per game was more than twice the Swansea man’s and outstripped the 2015/16 Premier League efforts of both Dembele (1) and Ramsey (1.2).
Claims from the player’s father that Liverpool had a £35.5m bid rejected earlier this summer ought to worry captain Jordan Henderson, who occupies the same midfield space as Mario and posted relatively-poor 79.1 per cent pass-completion numbers during an admittedly injury-ravaged campaign.