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More transfer news: Pantic sold to Ukraine, Villarreal want Sardar Azmoun from Rostov

For what was supposed to be a quiet transfer market....

Alcorcon v Alaves - Copa Del Rey Quarter-final: First Leg
Reminding you what Pantic looks like, since we’ve hardly seen him over the last three years...
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

News this morning (my time, anyway) that Alexsandar Pantic is being sold to Dinamo Kiev for €5m. Quite a coup considering Pantic has been loaned out for the last three years (Cordoba, Eibar, and Alaves, where he has hardly played). Pantic joined us from Red Star for €300,000 in 2013, so that’s a pretty good profit on a player who, for whatever reason, never made the grade for us.

Felipe Caicedo is still a striker we want, but on loan (Sergio Garcia is rejoining Espanyol, so Caicedo is surplus to requirements) but we are apparently also tracking Sardar Azmoun.

Azmoun is a 22 year-old Iranian striker, currently playing for FC Rostov; he scored two goals in CL qualification and two in the group stage for them this year. I don’t know much about him, but transfermarkt show him as a comparable to Luciano Vietto and Alassane Pleá, so that’s quite good. And he was the Asian Player of the Year in 2016.

Azmoun’s name is coming up now because FIFA just ruled on a dispute between Rostov and Rubin Kazan, who had originally loaned him to Rostov. Apparently they triggered a buyout clause in his contract, Kazan refused to recognize it; the sports arbitration body temporarily allowed Rostov to register him for this season while the matter was investigated further. Last Friday, they announced their final decision—that he belongs to Rostov.

Liverpool are apparently also interested in him (as I am sure are other clubs) so I would not get one’s hopes up. I have heard the Pato deal is finalized, but the Chinese New Year is holding up a formal announcement (!) . Assuming that deal is done and we have the €18m, we would have funds for Azmoun, but whether or not we can pry him away from Rostov, who knows. Otherwise we may just try to pick up Caicedo on loan and muddle through.

The remaining players we are needing to find new homes for are Alfred N’Diaye and Cristian Espinosa. Recall we paid a total of €15m for them in the summer—N’Diaye was Marcelino’s choice, is obviously not Escribá’s, while Espinosa was immediately loaned to Alavés, where he has hardly played. The only firm interest I’m aware of for N’Diaye is from Malaga, who want to take him on loan; Fulham were maybe interested, and maybe a French club as well, but I think any deal at this point would be likely to be a loan with a purchase option at best. And Villarreal are probably willing to let him go for €5m or so just to get him off the wage bill.

Cristian Espinosa is another matter. We’re not going to want to cut him loose—he’s only 21—but do we find a different team to loan him to in Spain, or elsewhere in Europe? Or do we loan him back to Huracan in Argentina? The latter option is complicated by the fact they weren’t happy he broke his contract with them (he pretty much paid for his freedom to sign with us). Watch this space.