Where To Next for Shay Given, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United or Spurs?
Roberto Mancini has confirmed that Shay Given will be free to leave Manchester City. There is no doubting that the Irishman is one of the best 'keepers in the league, but who will he go to? Arsenal? Liverpool? Manchester United? Tottenham Hotspur?Fulham? Or maybe even Newcastle?
Given's fall from the number one spot at the Eastlands has been meteoric to say the least. Last February he was named as captain by Roberto Mancini and by his manager as being "one of the best 'keepers in the world." Roll on just two months later and a dislocated shoulder was to cut his season short.
Football can be a funny old game though. Given, number one at City for the vast majority of his time at the club was expected to start back where he left off when he returned from injury at the start of the season.
The expectation was a valid one after Joe Hart spent the entire World Cup in South Africa on the bench. But a backlash against Robert Green and David James after the disastrous tournament for England meant that Fabio Capello was forced to come out and start building for the future almost immediately. And so it was that Joe Hart came into being England's deserved number one.
From there Manchester City and Mancini rowed in behind his fellow countryman and declared that Hart would then be City's first choice 'keeper for the start of the season leaving Given essentially in no-man's land.
A man-of-the-match performance from Hart in Manchester City's opening game of the season against a rampant Tottenham Hotspur team made sure that Given was either going to have to endure a season on the bench or look for a transfer.
Mancini asked Given to stay with the club until January at the least where the club would be able to bring in a 'keeper as back-up to Hart. The Donegalman agreed, but only if a bid for him did not arrive.
While all and sundry waited for Arsenal and Fulham to bid for him not one bid came in and the best goalkeeper of the last decade was to find himself on the bench.
So who are the main suitors for Given's signature come January or, indeed, the end of the season.
The first name on everyone's lips is Arsenal.
How Arsene Wenger did not even bid for Shay Given during the summer is anyone's guess. The Irishman man is without doubt better than anything that the Gunners has on its books at the moment and his addition would immediately propel Wenger's young team towards title challengers rather than being top four certainties.
For Arsenal it would probably mean the end of their relationship with Manuel Almunia after six long years and 109 games, but they may not be a bad thing. Given, would immediately command the respect of Mannone, Fabianski, and more importantly for Arsenal's future the 20-year-old Wojciech Szczesny would finally have someone of supreme standing to learn from and look up to.
Bidding for Given is a no-brainer for Arsenal, but considering that Arsene Wenger has only bought one first choice goalkeeper in 14 years at the club one has to wonder.
Fulham would probably be one of the favourites to sign the Irishman given his relationship with Mark Hughes. Mark Schwarzer is in the final year of his contract and has already notified the club that he wishes to move on next summer, so Hughes will be looking for a top-class replacement.
From a personal point of view the move to Craven cottage might suit Given. Expectations at Fulham would be low when compared to the likes of Arsenal or City and a change in pace for the last three or so years of his career might be appealing.
However, seen as he could have taken that route and stayed with Newcastle one would have to figure that a move to Fulham would have to be financially rewarding and would also have to come with the guarantee that Hughes would be staying at the club for the near future at least.
Finances are the least of Manchester City's worries, but they word "debt" in Liverpool is almost akin to being cursed in the current climate.
Unless there is a knight in red armour hiding over the horizon then there is a very real chance that Liverpool FC will be asset stripped of its best talent over the next 12 months.
Both Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina are believed to have agreements that they will be sold next year if the clubs financial troubles continue and even if things improve in the immediate term it looks as if Torres may be looking to move anyway.
Should those two players be sold then Liverpool can expect to bring in something like £60 to £80 million for the pair. Barcelona would be more than interested in both and rumour has it that Arsenal put in a cheeky £20 million bid for Reina in July.
If Reina is to be sold then replacing him with Given for around £5 million would be a fantastic bit of business. There is not really much between the pair as top-class 'keepers with Reina's biggest advantage over the Irishman being his six years junior.
As far as rivals are concerned then Manchester City's local rivals would be Manchester United and their biggest rivals for the top four would be Tottenham Hotspur.
Selling Given to either of these clubs would make no sense on a number of levels but one must also factor in that City are an avalanche that cannot be stopped, and eventually they will win the Premier League.
Given that fact, and the fact that money is no object what-so-ever, Manchester City has no reason to fear any team in the league. They are moving towards the top of the EPL food-chain and it will take a monumental effort to stop them.
So it would be no strange thing to see Given playing for either Spurs or United in the next 12 to 18 months, perhaps even via Fulham.
Edwin van der Sar is close to retirement and if Alex Ferguson has learnt any lesson in his 24 years at Manchester United, it is that he is better off signing a 'keeper with Premier League experience over a continental one, especially if United are to continue challenging for trophies. In short, Fergie needs someone who can run settle straight in from the start.
For Spurs? Given would represent everything that Harry Redknapp loves in a player. An experienced pro who has been wronged and who wants to play at a high level. Most importantly, Given would be a bargain.
There is no doubting that Heurelho Gomes has improved dramatically since Redknapp hired Tony Parks as goalkeeping coach for the Brazilian, and at one stage last year he was the best 'keeper in the league, but he is injury prone and still carries that air with him that a mistake is just around the corner. Given would fit the bill perfectly for 'Arry.
As a matter of fact, Given would probably fit the bill perfectly at every single Premier League team, and quite a few abroad too.
His Italian contact with Giovani Trappatoni and Roberto Mancini may open a few doors in Italy.Juventus and AS Roma are both said to be interested in attracting the Irish international to Serie A, but whether Given would want to move away from his comfort zone at 34 is another question entirely.
In short, you could make a fine argument for Shay Given as being the best goalkeeper in the EPL and when push comes to shove he will have his choice of teams to move to next year.