Birmingham City look to be making headway in the transfer market as Alex McLeish searches for the players to give his side the touch of class required to survive in the greatest league in the world. After the shock signing of striker Christian Benitez, McLeish has turned his attentions to the centre of defence, where the Blues are lacking strength in depth.
Liam Ridgwell is out until October/November, Rahdi Jaidi has been released, leaving Martin Taylor as the only senior centre back at the club. McLeish has invited Bobo Balde, the Celtic defender, to join the club during pre-season to see if Balde still has the hunger to carry on playing, but that is not enough. McLeish has conceded that he needs 2, if not 3 central defenders. Since the sale of Kenny Cunningham and then Matthew Upson, Blues have never had a settled backline, and this is a major problem for McLeish.
His contract with Standard Liege has finished, and even the Liege website has reported that they expect Onyewu to sign for the Blues in the next few days.
Onyewu is a tall strong centre half, with a bit of pace, and he would add a new dimension to the Blues side. He is ‘better than what we already have‘ and it would be yet another coup for McLeish if he can sign Onyewu. If Onyewu does sign, then he would be the perfect long term replacement for Jaidi, who was released after 3 years of loyal service to the club.
It has also been reported that McLeish is after Cardiff central defender Roger Johnson. Johnson has been fantastic in the past year or so for Cardiff, and he would add bite and determination to any backline. Local newspapers in Birmingham and Cardiff reported last week that Blues made a £3.5 million pound offer for the defender, but the offer was rejected out of hand by the Cardiff hierarchy who are desperate to keep Johnson at the club. They are also considering offering the captaincy to Johnson to try and convince him to stay at the club. However, it appears that the lure of the Premier League could prove too great for Johnson.
There are rumours that Birmingham have now returned to Cardiff with a £5 million ‘take it or leave it’ bid, as the Blues look to resolve the business with Cardiff, whether Johnson signs or not. McLeish has previously gone after Matt Mills of Doncaster, and he was told that he would have to pay £5 million for the defender, and the inflated price put McLeish off. However, it appears that McLeish has faith in Johnson and a belief that he could make the step up to the Premier League with ease.
Then, there is Espinoza. Giovanny Espinoza, the Ecuador central defender, has been heavily linked with the club, and owner David Sullivan practically admitted that Blues were close to signing the player when he gave a description of a mystery defender Blues were close to signing, which matched Espinoza’s CV perfectly.
Espinoza is a 32 year old defender who has performed for is country more than 80 times. He is built like a brick wall, yet he is quicker than you would expect. There are doubts as to whether he would settle in the Prem, but as he is on a free transfer, McLeish would be willing to take the risk.
McLeish has looked to complete his business as early as possible this summer, and his ambition has been readily acknowledged by the Blues fans, who have been rejuvenated by the signing of Bentiez and the bids for the likes of Johnson and Onyewu.
Don’t say it too loudly just yet, but something tells me, the Blues are on their way.