Well it is all going on in Spain. After plundering the country for Fabregas, Cazorla, Monreal, and in a roundabout way Arteta, Arsene Wenger is rumoured to be injecting some more La Liga blood into his Arsenal team.
The Daily Mail is suggesting that Arsene Wenger is also mulling over a move for Real Sociedad’s defensive midfielder Asier Illarramendi. The paper does say though that Arsenal might find themselves facing some serious comeptiion to secure the services of the 23 year-old with Barcelona and Real Madrid also set to pounce.
Illarramendi is currently on duty at the Under-21 European Championships, where a good performance could hike his price up a few more million.
After a quite few days there’s bit of an avalanche of Arsenal related news this morning most of which revolves around Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain.
After it seemed as if Juve were odds on to land the striker Arsenal now appear to have assumed pole position with several papers suggesting that the club have tabled a £20 million bid which apparently is a few million more than Juve were offering.
It now seems that Juve will spend the cash on previous Arsenal target Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic, and possibly even Man City’s Carlos Tevez.
The Standard does report though that the main problem with the deal has been the managerial situation at the Bernabeu with Real not yet in a position to confirm as replacement for Jose Mourinhio.
The 29-year-old is entering the final year of his contract at the Etihad Stadium and would command a fee of no more than £10m should talks with new boss Manuel Pellegrini conclude with his departure.
The online debate about whether Arsenal should be interested in Man United erratic winger Luis Nani is a likely to shift up a gear today with reports that the player and the club are on the verge of agreeing a deal which will see the Portuguese star move to North London for £8 million. The Metro says that Turkish club Galatasary who were also tracking the player have been priced out of the deal leaving the path clear for Arsene Wenger to take a gamble on a talented the controversial winger.
There may be more chance for Nani at The Emirates if Gervinho makes the move to Marseille which has been reported on by many sources this weekend.
There’s an implication too that Milan wouldn’t want to sell the player to another Serie A club which would rule out the likes of Napoli who may soon be looking to replace the irrepressible Edinson Cavani.
Meanwhile the player’s agent has put the dampeners on any move to Man City.
Roberto La Florio told SportItalia (reported here).
“Although we can say that the market is a bit crazy and anything can happen, that is indisputable. The boy is doing well at Milan and for us nothing has changed.
“Offers from City? Nobody has called me regarding this. He is Milan through and through and looks great with the Rossoneri.”
Well we must be nearing the transfer deadline window proper – it opens on July 1st – as a lot of those apparent ‘done deals’ are now looking very wobbly, which in my book equates to selling clubs holding out for more money.
The one that saddens is me a little is the news coming from Swansea that Arsenal and the Welsh club have failed to get anywhere on the possible transfer of centre back Ashley Williams. I think a lot of Arsenal fans believe that the player would be a solid addition to the Arsenal defence especially if Thomas Vermaelen heads off. Sadly Swansea want £10 million and Arsenal are reputed to have only offered around £8 million. I wonder if this will be another Cahill with someone else sneaking in quickly and nabbing the player.
Williams is quoted as saying
“I play my football for Swansea City and now I’m just going away and looking forward to a holiday,”
“I’ve said before, I’ll take it (Arsenal rumours) as a compliment, it means you’re doing your job well. I’ve done that this time, I haven’t looked too far into it.”
“Until is otherwise the case, David Villa remains a Barca player and our desire is that he will remain so until next year.”
Villa’s contract runs out in summer 2014, so he could in theory stay on at the club until he is a few moths shy of his 33rd birthday.
I wonder too if valuations from Arsenal and Spurs have fallen well short of what the Catalan club were hoping.
Finally this morning there has been a lot of speculation over the future of Arsenal winger Gervinho. After a hit and miss season – well a couple in fact – the player is being linked with a return to France with Marseilles keen to secure his services.
“This is a profile that interests us, yes. We want flank players, with dribbling, passing and scoring and Gervinho has this profile,” Marseille assistant coach Franck Passi yesterday.
Arsenal fans are you bothered if the Ivorain goes. He hasn’t exactly set the Premiership alight but there have been glimpses of his huge potential too.
Here’s an interesting snippet coming out of Spain tonight. It seems that new Chelsea boss (that really doesn’t sound quite right) José Mourinho really might have it in for both Juventus and Arsenal. After rumours that he might be ready to pounce on want-away Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic (s target for both Juve and Arsenal) it now appears that he is also thinking about a move for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain! So Arsenal, Juve and now Chelsea are chasing the same pair of forwards!
The news comes from a Spanish radio station Cadena Cope and was reported on an Italian site here and loads of others too.
It might be quite credible as José Mourinho obviously worked with Higuain at Real and he is expected to sign a high profile striker this summer to compete with new signing Andre Schurrle as well as Torres and Ba.
There are some rather wicked whispers around today about the future of of one Fernando Torres. The Chelsea striker has been the subject of much speculation recently with Barcelona allegedly lining up a £17 million bid.
Now however the SportsDirect News site is claiming that Barca have a rival for Torres – Arsenal.
The site says
Emirates boss Arsene Wenger is a huge admirer of the 29-year-old, and believes he could help him recapture the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in the world at Liverpool.
Couple that with the fact that none of Arsenal’s supposed targets seem to be too interested in the club means that the site has its story.
It also claims to have heard from a Gunners source : “The boss loves Torres. He knows how good he can be, and a deal could come off.
“Chelsea are looking at strikers, Fernando has become surplus to requirements and Arsene is ready to pounce.”
Well the Rooney story is bonkers enough, but Torres. He is still young enough at 29 to have a few good seasons left in him, he also scored 22 goals last season, not a bad tally.
But I think it unlikely that even if Arsenal were interested that Chelsea would sell him to their rival London club. Barca are one thing. The near-ish neighbours are another.
Ultimately though buying Torres would be a huge personal gamble for Arsene Wenger. Were it not to work out I think he would end up personally taking the blame for a transfer which while it clearly could be a sensational signing still represents one hell of a risk.
The Gunners have been strongly tipped to make a move for the Belgian international, but Goodison Park sources claim no inquiry has yet been lodged.
So Arsenal’s inability to actually sign a player looks like spilling over into the summer window with Wenger once again cautious with the cash and moving so slowly that he runs the risk of leaving the door open for other clubs.
Of course it could be that he doesn’t rate Fellaini that highly or he has another player in mind, but this saga is certainly starting to irritate Arsenal fans.
The manager’s indecision has also been highlighted by The Express which today revealed
Arsenal opted against signing Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha before he went on to join Manchester United in January.
Ron Noades told the paper, When Steve Parish sold Zaha I was mildly involved in it as I tried to get Arsenal to buy him, but they were not interested.
“I spoke to David Dein as I did not want Zaha to go to Manchester United, I wanted him to stay in London.
“I just thought he was an exciting talent.”
So is Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to spend his war chest starting to annoy you?
Bild is reporting that new-ish Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is set to go shopping for centre backs, and that high on his list are two Arsenal players Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen
In fact Bild names five players who might be wanted to stiffen up Bayern’s defence – the other three are Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ukraine international Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Jeremy Mathieu of Valencia and former FC Barcelona star Eric Abidal. Bild thinks that Bayern needs the cover as central defender Holger Badstuber expected to be out until March 2014 after rupturing his cruciate knee ligament.
So is this good or bad news for Arsenal? Well a bit of both. Koscielny has hinted that he would seek a move if things didn’t improve in north London, but it doesn’t seem as if he will go this summer. Vermaelen is a different matter. The Arsenal captain seems to be seen as surplus to requirements at The Emirates and a new challenge might suit both clubs and the player. His fee could also help fund a move for Swansea’s Ashley Williams.
As one door closes…Just as it seems that Arsenal are about to lose out to Juventus on two of its main transfer targets comes news that the club may have some exciting new options.
The big one is of course AC Milan’s 20 year old striker Stephan El Shaarawy.
The Indie reports that the Milan club’s vice-president Adriano Galliani has indicated the club may sell striker Stephan El Shaarawy, who has been linked with Napoli, Manchester City and Arsenal.
The 20-year-old scored 16 times for the Rossoneri before Christmas and although his record in front of goal dropped off after the January arrival of Mario Balotelli from Manchester City, he is still regarded as a great prospect.
The downside for Arsenal fans is that Man City are also keen on the youngster, but then City have been linked with a lot of high profile strikers recently (as have Arsenal) so El Shaarawy may end up being an option. For now though the hot money is on him replacing Edinson Cavani at Napoli.
One rumour that refuses to die is the possible transfer of Nani to Arsenal. The player seems to have been deemed surplus to requirements at United and Wenger is known to be a fan. There were rumours of deal in the winter windows too. Now other clubs are sniffing around most notably Galatasary, and the rumour is that Manchester United will accept a bid of £8.5m for the player.
Given that he is just 27 years old and in theory entering his prime, that sounds like a bargain. Maybe Arsene will be tempted?
Finally Arsenal are said to have made inquiries about Benfica’s Paraguayan defender Lorenzo Melgarejo.
“Arsenal and Fenerbahce have enquired about Melgarejo. But so far there has been nothing concrete,” his agent told Radio Monumental.
Oddly Melgarejo is a left back and Arsenal have two pretty good players on their books for that position.
So it looks as if Arsenal won’t manage to sign either of the marquee strikers that they have allegedly been chasing for a while. Instead they have both bizarrely chosen to sign for the same club where at least one of them will end up warming the bench to accommodate Fernando Llorente. Bonkers eh?
Which then ushers in the next question – who will Arsenal sign to lead the line this year. David Villa is available, but at 31 and with injury issues, he isn’t a long term option. Then there’s Wayne Rooney who may yet prove to be marquee signing that Gunners fans have been dreaming about since that wad of cash hit the Arsenal bank account.
And there are also suggestions that Arsenal are very keen on Swansea sensation Michu.
But one striker who might be worth a serious punt is Wilfried Bony of Vitesse Arnhem.
The player, who finished as top striker in the Dutch league last year, has already given a come and get me plea to Premiership clubs.
“To play in the Premier League, one of the best leagues in the world, is a unique opportunity”, he told Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
“When the opportunity arises, I will fight to go. I am very unhappy with Vitesse.
“They have made promises that they have not kept.”
So what are the pros and cons of landing the player
1 He would be cheap – There would be no £30 million outlay to land the player he could go for as little as £10 million. Much depends on who else bids for him. Chelsea and Liverpool are reported to be interested and he would be an obvious replacement if Suarez quits.
2 He knows where the sticks are – Bony has scored 31 times in 30 games this season. That’s an astonishing record.
3 He is exactly what Arsenal needs – The Gunners created so many chances last season via the trickery of Cazorla and the pace of Walcott, yet quite often there was no one in the middle of the park to finish the job off. Bony has excellent positional play. He knows how to sniff out a goal. He is clinical too so with excellent service from the team he could well score a lot of goals for Arsenal.
4 He is still pretty young – He is 24. The sell-on fee might just be a little more than it is for David Villa then.
5 He has some interesting moves - Those goal celebrations are top drawer
And the cons
1 Those 30 goals were scored in one of Europe’s weaker leagues – There are no guarantees he would do the same in the Premiership against higher quality defenders.
2 He doesn’t sound like the most loyal of characters – He has spoken out a couple of times against the Vitesse management. That talk might sound alarm klaxons at Premier league clubs.
3 He’s Ivorian – Not a negative per se, but it means he’ll be off to the Cup Of Nations, which is never good a for a club trying to put a run together in late winter.
I think most Arsenal fans have by now given up on the possibility of the club securing Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic, but the Gonzalo Higuain saga has rumbled on and it seemed as if the club was in a good place to tempt the Real Madrid striker to come to the Premiership.
Arsenal are set to lose out on another striker to Juventus, with the Italian side closing on an instalment-based deal for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain.
According to Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport, Madrid are to allow Juve to pay for the striker in three or four instalments following a meeting between the two clubs.
The paper also says that almost everything is in place apart from the transfer fee. In what might give Arsenal fans a sliver of hope Madrid want €30m, but Juve have so far only offered €22m.
So what next for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal then? I wonder if it might be back to Premiership and that double raid on Swansea to land both Ashley Williams and Michu?
And I wonder how Gunners fans will feel? Both players are high quality with a proven track record in the Premiership. But are they the marquee signings that were promised by Ivan Gazidis?
I do wonder if Arsenal’s laid back approach (or dithering in the transfer market if you are being cruel) has cost them. It seems crazy that Juve will now have three world class strikers on their books, yet Arsenal are struggling to sign one. Maybe it is a reflection of how far the club’s stock has fallen in recent years that they can’t land quality signings.
Or maybe is is all about cold, hard cash. Juve is offering the players better deals and even with that huge chunk of cash in the bank, Arsenal don’t seem to want to match what the Italians are offering.
After a flurry of activity it seems to have gone a bit quiet on the Marouane Fellaini to Arsenal front. Goal has a theory why. It says that…
The north Londoners are now waiting for Everton to make the Belgium international available for talks in order to begin negotiating terms.
Even if Fellaini agrees a package with Arsenal, the club are in no rush to complete the signing, as most of their key staff, including the medical team, are now on holiday and will not return to the club until the end of June.
It all sounds incredibly laid back. No worries about ex boss David Moyes sneaking in with an offer then, apparently.
Arsenal were also being made to wait by midfield target Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Clement Grenier. The player, who Wenger recently likened to Nasri says he will contemplate his next move when he returns from his holiday.
Simon Poulter welcomes back an old pal. But has he cheered up since last time?
With, precisely, the very first answer to the very first question posed yesterday at Mourniho’s official Stamford Bridge homecoming press conference, the Portuguese deadpanned, in that Jack Dee scowl way of his: “I am the Happy One.”
Instantly, we made the assumption that José was being ironic, a little knowing in his answer. Which, in fairness, was a response to the predictable reminder from the floor that during his original unveiling to the press, in 2004, he’d declared himself “Special”.
In, literally, a word, Mourninho marked his card as a property the media would never tire of poking with a stick to see what came out. And thus it has been ever since. And, yes, as everyone else has remarked, life is a little more fun with José around. Ron Manager he is not. Isn’t it?
Much of today’s presser, as journalists call them, dwelled on Mourinho’s temperament. Was he calmer? “Calmer? I believe so,” he responded, calmly, as if a) he was talking about emptying the dishwasher and b) he was expected to burst into a Basil Fawlty-style rage at the question.
We all know of the crazy, non-calm things Mourniho has done in the past: appearing to poke Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova in the eye, celebrating goals by knee-sliding across the technical area and, allegedly, being evacuated from Stamford Bridge in a laundry basket to avoid getting caught by UEFA’s secret police.
This was a rock star performance without the rock star pretensions. Musicians, when they host press conferences, have a habit of disappearing up their own arses, talking about the need to reconnect with this and get to the essence of that. Mourinho is resolutely not in that camp, although he did end the press conference, answering a question about his weaknesses, with:
“If I speak of them, I have to say I’m trying to improve them. You don’t speak about weaknesses with your enemy, and my enemy will read the papers and watch television. We hide our weaknesses. Every player, manager has weaknesses. You have to try to hide them. So I’m not giving that chance for the enemy… with respect because, in sports, an enemy is not really an enemy. I know my weaknesses, not much… not many… but I try to improve and hide them.”
So he’s not talking about his weaknesses, then. Still, he managed to crank the cool level up to 11, even when his speaking about “boys” sounded more like a disgraced priest than a Ron Atkinson giving it the full “boys done good” managerspeak.
His former partners are his new rivals
If anything there was something muted about José today. Not quite caged animal, but restrained. Calm. He gave opaque reference to talking to John Terry about the future (“I know what he can give, so let’s try to make him again the best player he can be”), gave nothing away about player acquisitions (beyond saying that it would be “normal” to bring in one or two) and spoke in somewhat glowing terms about how, since he departed British shores three of his “boys” – Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers and André Villas-Boas (later self-corrected to “not boys anymore”) had moved on to take charge of the very teams that will be pushing Chelsea next year in their assault on Manchester.
That, is what makes next season such an intriguing proposition. One particular comment that stood out today is that when Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea in 2004, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal was the pace-setter. Nine years on, Wenger is the default elder statesman at the resident top end of the Premier League but with a reputation still struggling to maintain itself.
With the likes of Moyes and Pellegrini (himself due to be unveiled this week by Manchester City) settling in to their new clubs, and Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool champing at the bit, the competition around Mourinho will be far more intense than he’s experienced in Italy or Spain. Not that he will be bothered. Because he’ll be calm.
José’s performance today was just like those Chelsea teams he nurtured to back-to-back league titles in his first two seasons at the Bridge: it was businesslike, a little boring and well defended. Unlike other managers – belligerent (Ferguson), mad (Strachan), paranoid (Warnock), indifferently Gallic (Wenger) – José projected his version of cool. Not cool in the Steve McQueen sense, but cool in the…er…calm sense.
Is he worried about Roman?
Was he afraid of things coming unhinged again with Roman? “I hope I can go to the last day of the contract. If the club is happy and the club wants me to stay then I’ll be more than happy to stay.” You see? Calm.
But didn’t it go spectacularly pear-shaped in 2007? “I read and keep reading that I was fired and we had a complete breakdown in relationship. At the time we thought it was the best for both of us [to go our separate ways].” Still calm.
And what about Andres Iniesta’s claim that José “damaged” Spanish football while manager of Madrid? “I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona dominance,” he responded. Calmly.
It was a typical audience with the sports press, I suppose. Inane questions designed to goad the subject were dealt with without any noticeable signs of exuberance.
Have you changed? “Do I have a different personality? No, but for sure I have a different approach and perspective,” without really saying what. Was he disappointed that neither Manchester United nor City had come in for him? “I am where I want to be – I wouldn’t change it for anything.” This was either glue-eyed rendering of the club Q&A or Mourinho’s interpretation of Keith Richards’ regular on-stage declaration: “It’s great to be here. It’s great to be anywhere.”
So what did we learn?
Temperament aside, we learned very little today. Indeed, José did, very little. Throughout the entire 60-minute press conference his head hardly moved, his expression hardly changed. If he was happy to be there, it was impossible to tell. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that the blue touch paper is being kept desert dry. Because while ice may have been coursing through José’s veins this afternoon, it’s not why we can’t get enough of the guy.
Ever since his return to Chelsea was first mooted, he has been talked of like no other returnee to a football club I can ever think of. Before he’d even been announced, officially, as the new first team coach at Chelsea, column inches – from the front to the back pages, stopping off at the Women’s section en route – had been devoted to him.
With David Beckham retiring to add Miami to his collection of exotic operational hubs, and Sir Alex Ferguson stepping upstairs to start a new chewing gum mountain in the Old Trafford boardroom, Mourinho’s return to centre stage in the English sports media has injected some much-needed fairy dust into the line-up of somewhat dull technocrats that pervade the game.
Anyone who has ever met real stars – and I’m not talking about about reality show wannabees in a Mayfair nightclub, but proper, rock’n'roll, Hollywood celebrities – know that part of what makes them a star is their aura. Plenty have said that of Bill Clinton. No jokes please.
Mourinho has that aura. But rather than being a smug looking show pony (not sure why Simon Cowell comes to mind there), he has the record to back it up: two Champions League titles, a UEFA Cup, two league titles each in Portugal, England and Italy, the Spanish title, and domestic cup trophies in all four countries he’s coached in. And, as he pointed out, “At 50, I think I am still very young as a manager and I think it is like the beginning of a new period.” I can’t wait.
Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo has a lengthy story on the future of Cesc Fabregas today and fortunately for us non-Catalan speakers much of it has been paraphrased here on Sportwitness.
Several key things emerge. Firstly that it does seem that both Man United and Arsenal have made an approach for the player, but they were just tentative inquiries. Given Cecs’s relationship with both Arsene Wenger and the club I can imagine that both sides would have been pretty candid.
The second and most important thing is that Barca will only sell Fabregas if he wants to leave and it seems unlikely that he does want to go.
A meeting was held on Sunday at Arenys de Munt and friends and family of the player grilled Barcelona’s vice-president of sport, Josep Maria Bartomeu, about reports Fabregas could be playing in the Premier League next season. Bartomeu put their mind at rest and said that Fabregas would only leave if he wanted to.
However Mundo does say that Fabregas has recently become a father for the first time and would rather his family were based in Barcelona than anywhere else. Which is odd as I thought his girlfriend was based in London.
Fabregas himself remains tight lipped about his future.
He is quoted by La Informacion as saying
“I have not opened my mouth ever. It took me a lot to get where I am and I won’t throw it away for nothing. I will say if I want it to be something else, what I really want is to succeed at Barca, it has been my childhood dream.”
Hopefully from Arsenal’s perspective this will resolve the issue for now. I think one of the reasons why Arsene Wenger hasn’t been that proactive in the transfer market so far and especially in seconding a creative striker, was because he was waiting to see if Cesc was to become available. If he is not then the chase for Rooney, Jovetic and others can continue.