Having piloted AFC Bournemouth to safety in their inaugural Premier League campaign, Eddie Howe could be forgiven for wanting time off to recharge his batteries. It is a route he is unlikely to go down, however.
Howe has already begun to write his shopping list ahead of next season. With money available to spend, thanks to increased Premier League TV revenue and current sponsorship deal with Mansion Group, company that owns gaming sites such as Slotheaven, this summer promises to be a busy period for the club.
Howe is always out to improve all areas of the squad, but it is central defence and central midfield in particular that need strengthening. While speculation will undoubtedly link the club with a host of big names, expect Howe to stick predominantly to his modus operandi of recruiting young talent from the lower divisions, perhaps with the odd exception.
Rob Holding – Bolton Wanderers
This Bolton Wanderers defender may be something of an unknown quantity, but he has won plenty of plaudits for a series of eye-catching performances in the Championship this campaign. A ball-playing centre-back in the mould of John Stones, Holding has immense potential and was voted the club’s player of the season.
The 20-year-old fits Howe’s profile but the Cherries boss may need to act quickly, as a number of clubs including Everton are rumoured to be circling. Bournemouth have conceded too many goals this season and as such, reinforcing the defence is a priority. A bid in the region of £7 million could reluctantly tempt cash-strapped Bolton, who were recently relegated to League One, to sell their prized asset.
Lewis Cook – Leeds United
Eddie Howe has long been an admirer of this 19-year-old Leeds United central midfielder. Cook impressed against Bournemouth last season and has gone from strength to strength.
He has cemented himself as one of the hottest prospects outside the Premier League and was recently named the Football League’s Young Player of the Year.
The Cherries reportedly had bids turned down for Cook in January, but with Premier League survival now guaranteed, Howe is likely to return with an improved offer. Like Holding, Cook fits the profile and is capable of making the step up immediately.
Central midfield is a position of concern for Bournemouth and Cook would provide competition to the first-choice pair of Andrew Surman and Harry Arter.
Jermain Defoe – Sunderland
This may go against the grain, but Defoe is a special case. While he may be 33 years of age, there is no doubting his credentials. The former England striker has more than 150 Premier League goals to his name and has scored 14 times this season for a poor Sunderland outfit.
Proven Premier League strikers are hard to find and if Sunderland were to be relegated, Howe could do worse than to move for his former team-mate. It was at Bournemouth where Defoe rose to prominence by netting in 10 successive matches while on loan 15 years ago. A return to the south coast would be a fitting swan-song, although his wage demands could be a major sticking point.
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