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Europe beckons for Birmingham if McLeish spends wisely

KuranyiBirmingham have been a revelation in the Premier League this season and the second city club are firmly in the race for European qualification. Their victory over Stoke stretched their amazing unbeaten run to eleven matches, and their squad is doing all that can be asked of them. But new owner Carson Yeung is likely to give Birmingham manager Alex McLeish money to spend in January, and the Scot may even have £20 million to spend in the transfer window. So who should McLeish be targeting to ensure that Birmingham’s Premiership form isn’t a flash in the pan and that they finish the season in the top half of the Premier League table?

Possibly the most important deal that Birmingham could complete in January is the permanent signature of Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart. Hart has been in incredible form this season and there has already been talk that England manager Fabio Capello should be taking the ‘keeper to the 2010 World Cup. McLeish hinted that he will make Hart his number one priority, saying in regards to signing the stopper that “If I could and if it was a good deal, then yes.” Hart’s performances will have interested City’s new boss Roberto Mancini, but given that they have arguably the best ‘keeper in the Premier League in Shay Given as their number one, then City are unlikely to stand in Birmingham’s way.

Goals haven’t come particularly freely this season, so a target man may be on McLeish’s shopping list. The rumour that they are chasing Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi continued yesterday, with Birmingham set to make the German international the highest paid player in their history. A fee of around £3.5 million is reasonable, whilst the £50,000 wages aren’t out of Birmingham’s budget, so Kuranyi may be going to St Andrews in January. Other striking options for McLeish are Valencia’s Nikola Zigic, who has been linked with more than a handful of Premiership clubs in recent weeks. Then closer to home there is Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy and Peterborough’s Aaron McLean, though would the latter really be an improvement on Birmingham’s current squad?

A deal that seems to be inevitable is that of Sporting Gijon midfielder Michel. The winger is set to become Carson Yeung’s first signing at Birmingham by signing a three and a half year contract at the club. After failing to agree a transfer fee in the summer, Yeung’s injection of funds should mean that McLeish can finally get his man. The 24 year old like Spaniards before him is bound to take some time to settle in the Premier League and added to The Blues’ current form, Michel will have to earn his place in the starting eleven. If McLeish is after a winger with Premiership experience then Charles N’Zogbia may be an option for him, but an £8 million price tag for the Wigan winger may prevent any possible deal.

Centre back Roger Johnson has been one of the singings of the season in the the Premier League, and has been at the heart of Birmingham’s solid defensive displays. But there is still room for strengthening, and Ze Castro has been touted as a possible January addition. The Deportivo defender is looking for a move away from the La Liga club, and the £6 million rated Portuguese international could form a formidable partnership with Johnson. Birmingham may also be looking to strengthen their full back positions, and could well take advantage of Portsmouth’s financial difficulties and snap up Nadir Belhadj. The left back could be available for as little as £3 million and would certainly bring some pace to the team.

It may well be a case of one addition here and there in January for Birmingham, as McLeish will be looking for some consistency and doesn’t need to make drastic changes. Europe is a real possibility, and if McLeish can add some real quality, then they will be well-placed for the second half of the season. I wouldn’t expect January to be overly busy for Birmingham, but who do you think that they should be looking to bring in?

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Article title: Europe beckons for Birmingham if McLeish spends wisely

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