With the transfer window now open the rumour mill is in overdrive, so with that in mind, we take a look at the top stories doing the rounds in the media today.
SANCHEZ TO CITY ALMOST A DONE DEAL
Alexis Sanchez’s switch to Manchester City could be completed next week, according to the Express.
The deal is expected to cost City £30million with Arsenal looking to bank the cash and avoid letting the Chilean leave on a free in the summer.
The two clubs apparently entered talks this week and with Gabriel Jesus out for the foreseeable future due to a knee injury, Sanchez’s signing arrives at the right time.
We still feel it’s a little ambitious to say the deal will be done next week but it’s certainly starting to gather momentum with the two clubs at the negotiation table.
Any move will hinge on Arsenal’s ability to bring in a replacement, however, with Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar linked.
PREMIER LEAGUE TRIO BATTLE FOR BAILEY
Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are set for a three-way battle to sign Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey, reports the Mirror.
The 20-year-old Jamaican could command a fee in the region of £40million having exploded into life in the Bundesliga following a slow start after signing from Genk in January 2016.
January is traditionally a tough month to buy in and having contributed to 10 goals (six goals and four assists) in 14 appearances this season, Leverkusen will be desperate to ensure a key player doesn’t leave.
Having added an end product to his blend of pace and dribbling ability, Bailey has already caught the attentions of Chelsea but Antonio Conte’s side will be rivalled by United and Arsenal should Leverkusen’s soften their stance.
STURRIDGE IS UP FOR SALE
Liverpool will listen to offers for striker Daniel Sturridge in the January transfer window, reports ESPN.
West Ham and Southampton are two interested clubs with the Reds reluctant to let Danny Ings leave on loan now Sturridge is on the market.
Liverpool selling again in January without making another signing will send fans into a meltdown but perhaps it’s best for both Sturridge and the club a split comes to fruition.
He’s only made nine Premier League appearances this season and it’s clear his playing style doesn’t suit Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy. In a World Cup year and for a player of his quality, the 28-year-old deserves more minutes elsewhere.
Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal flops that new recruits are on the way as the furious Gunners boss prepares for Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
Wenger’s side suffered one of the most chastening defeats of his increasingly tarnished reign on Sunday as second tier Nottingham Forest won 4-2 in the FA Cup third round.
It was the first time Wenger had crashed out at that stage of the competition since arriving at the north London club in 1996.
Wenger’s decision to make nine changes backfired, with the understudies delivering a listless display at the City Ground.
The Frenchman prioritised the League Cup showdown with Chelsea by keeping his main men fresh for the first leg clash at Stamford Bridge means he can ill-afford a damaging defeat against Antonio Conte’s men.
But regardless of Arsenal’s League Cup fortunes, Wenger has clearly had enough of another underachieving season which sees his team in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive year.
Wenger insists the Gunners, who last week signed Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, will do further business during the transfer window in an effort to turn things around.
Unsettled Chile forward Alexis Sanchez could be sold to Manchester City and Wenger wants several fresh faces to arrival as soon as possible.
Asked whether there could be developments this week, Wenger said: “Yes, because we are in the second week of January and, after that, it passes quickly.
“We signed a Greek boy (Mavropanos) who looks quite good in training but apart from that, we have not done anything. Will we be out there to do something? Yes we will.”
– Breaking point –
Arsenal’s last League Cup-winning campaign came in the pre-Wenger era in 1993, with the Frenchman’s team losing in both his final appearances in 2007 and 2011.
To return to the final, Wenger knows Arsenal need a positive result at the Bridge ahead of the second leg at the Emirates Stadium on January 24.
But the Gunners, who drew both Premier League encounters with Chelsea this season, haven’t won at their London rivals since 2011.
Fortunately for Wenger, Chelsea are in the midst of a hectic schedule that Conte admits is stretching his squad to breaking point.
Having complained all season that Chelsea don’t have enough depth to cope with the demands of competing in four competition, Conte’s fears are coming true.
The Italian made a host of changes for Saturday’s FA Cup third round draw at second tier Norwich, but Chelsea were well below their best, prompting Conte to bemoan the demands put on his players.
“When you play every three days and you have to play many games, it means you are facing every competition,” Conte said.
“Now on Wednesday we have to play a semi-final against Arsenal. I think we deserved to reach this target.
“It’s very important in this moment of the season to have all the squad in the best physical form, because you have to play a lot of games and everyone must be ready.”
Chelsea are bidding to reach the League Cup final for the first time since they last won the tournament in 2015.
That would be a huge boost for Conte, who has found himself embroiled in a bitter feud with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho in recent weeks.
Provided by AFP Sport
Judging the huge smile on his face at Monday’s unveiling to match the eye-watering price paid, you could be forgiven for thinking Philippe Coutinho’s path to Barcelona had been unchecked.
But the journey to becoming the third-most expensive footballer in history at €160 million (Dh703.8m) has not been simple.
It has included a startling burst of nascent talent, being lost in a foreign land, a rejuvenation and one of the most-calamitous decisions in modern sporting history.
Here, Sport360° picks out the three key moments on the playmaker’s path to Camp Nou.
Intrepid times at Vasco don’t travel to Inter
Starring alongside fellow supreme prospect Neymar for Brazil’s storied youth sides, being snapped up by Italian royalty Internazionale for €4 million (Dh20.7m) at 16 and gaining promotion for boyhood club Vasco Da Gama at 17 after their first-ever relegation; there seemed no end to the upwards curve Coutinho was experiencing.
Yet the dream move to a European giant aged 18 for 2010/11 was soon to turn into a nightmare, albeit a formative one.
It was the lessons learned during a trying debut season at the San Siro which have formed the sublimely talented but spiky competitor we see today.
“Everything I went through there helped shaped me,” Coutinho told CNN last year. “I had some injuries, limited game time and things were not going my way but this was a very, very important period for me.
“It was the hardest point of my career because it was the first time I had been away from home and I had to start proving myself from scratch.”
This mixture of culture shock, intense competition for places, Inter’s disintegration and a troublesome knee injury appeared to break him. Not even the presence of his family, who left their lives in Rio de Janeiro to live with him could help.
Countinho was much heralded as “the future of Inter” by head coach Rafael Benitez, but rarely seen. In his 20 fitful run-outs across all competitions he scored a – soon-to-be-trademark – free-kick in a 3-1 Serie A win against Fiorentina and assisted two further efforts for Samuel Eto’o.
Flashes of brilliance, but this bit-part player needed a regular stage.
A brilliant first taste of Barcelona
For Coutinho’s career to vibrantly spark into life, something had to change.
In what he will hope is a sign of things to come, the city of Barcelona was to provide the point of ignition. But rather than the rock star’s reception which awaited him this weekend from dozens of fans and journalists, in January 2012 he was an unheralded recruit on a half-season loan to lesser-lights Espanyol.
From prodigal teenager to forgotten talent, Coutinho had made just eight appearances in the frustrating early months of his second season in Milan under both the unimpressed Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri. He was well behind the likes of Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder, washed-up Uruguay icon Diego Forlan and even flimsy Argentine talent Ricky Alvarez, a solitary goal coming when finding the bottom corner in a 2-1 Serie A triumph against Cagliari.
It might have been this moment which convinced then Periquitos boss Mauricio Pochettino to take a punt in January, or simply the parlous state of the Catalans’ finances necessitating a need to gamble. Either way, his temporary recruit was soon proving a revelation.
Linking up with the likes of Nigeria forward Kalu Uche or cultured Spanish veteran Joan Verdu, a sense of joy reappeared. Highlights were plentiful as he scored five goals and notched one assist in 16 run-outs, a sublime volley against Racing Santander and precision free-kick against Malaga the highlights.
Common sense detailed his breakthrough at Inter was now, surely, a matter of time. Staggeringly, it was never to come.
Moving to the Mersey beat
The final years of Massimo Moratti’s ownership of Inter were detailed by ruinous missteps and perplexing errors of judgement.
There was, arguably, none bigger than sanctioning Coutinho’s £8.5 m (Dh50.2m) sale to Liverpool in January 2013. This followed being given just three starts and seven cameos in Serie A by head coach Andrea Stramaccioni, despite his exploits in Spain.
Of all the circumstance to get Coutinho where he is now, then Reds manager Brendan Rodgers’ call to snap him up is the pivotal moment of his playing career to date.
It led Coutinho to becoming one of the Premier League’s best players, this boost of belief and confidence making him positioned to be Brazil’s starting playmaker at World Cup 2018 as Barca’s most-expensive signing.
From his 54 goals in 202 matches on Merseyside, several stand out.
There was the winning goal against Manchester City in April 2014 which seemed to guarantee the end of the club’s painful title drought only for ‘Crystanbul’ and Steven Gerrard’s slip to intervene. Who could forget a pair of long-range strikes in a 3-1 win at Chelsea in October 2013, or the stunning start to 2016/17 at Arsenal?
To his credit, the machinations about a failed summer move to Barcelona did not impinge him this term. He heads to Camp Nou in the form of his life, having scored 12 goals and registered nine assists in 20 appearances in 2017/18.