Chelsea to rival Barcelona's bid for Arthur, Mascherano could stay at Camp Nou

David Cooper 10/12/2017
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Midfield maestro: Arthur is a much talked about talent.

The transfer window is closed until January but that doesn’t keep the rumour mill churning as clubs look to get a leg up on potential transfers.

Here are three big stories dominating the headlines on Sunday.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts via Twitter and Facebook.

CHELSEA IN THE HUNT FOR GREMIO STAR

Chelsea could be set to hijack Barcelona‘s pursuit of Brazilian youngster Arthur, according to reports.

The Gremio prodigy, who is missing the ongoing Club World Cup in the UAE due to injury, is touted as one of South American football’s hottest talents and is attracting big interest.

After helping the Brazilian side to their first Copa Libertadores trophy since 1995 last month, Arthur met with Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez and other representatives in Porto Alegre – sparking rumours he was close to finalising a January switch to the Camp Nou.

Indeed, he was even pictured in a Barca jersey.

However, the player has since come out and said that he will not leave his boyhood team behind their back – putting the brakes on any imminent transfer.

That might be just as well for Chelsea, giving the Premier League club more time to muster up a package to tempt the midfielder to west London.

RATING: 8/10

VERDICT:

The 21-year-old could well become a star at next summer’s World Cup in Russia and Chelsea are more than ready to battle for his services, according to the Mirror.

Given Barca have done much of the early running in this deal, don’t expect Blaugrana to let the English side un-do all of their hard work.

Ernesto Valverde’s men are most likely to set about tying up a pre-contract agreement ahead of a transfer at the end of the season.

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 17: Arthur of Gremio battles for the ball against Wellington Paulista of Chapecoense during the match Gremio v Chapecoense as part of Brasileirao Series A 2017, at Arena do Gremio on September 17, 2017, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

The next Andres Iniesta? Arthur is a fine prospect.

VALVERDE IN NO RUSH TO LET JAVIER MASCHERANO LEAVE

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has made it clear he will not be weakening his squad during the upcoming transfer window – possibly giving a hint that Javier Mascherano will stay until the end of the season.

The Argentine stalwart, who has spent seven successful years at the Camp Nou, is widely expected to seek a fresh challenge in 2018 with a move to China or return to his homeland both on the cards.

But, as Barcelona fight for silverware on both domestic and European fronts this term, Valverde feels he needs to call upon all the resources in his squad – and is not prepared to allow players to leave if significant re-strengthening has not been completed.

“Our intention is to become stronger, not weaker,” he said ahead of Barca’s must-win clash at Villarreal on Sunday.

“The window hasn’t yet arrived; it’s true there are issues emerging that must be dealt with.

“Mascherano is with us and whenever he has played, he’s done well, if he leaves we will consider alternatives.”

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT:

It is clear this will be the former Liverpool midfielder-turned-defender’s last season in Catalonia but Barca may feel it is worth keeping hold of his experience for the remainder of the campaign.

Mascherano’s professionalism and respect he commands at the club is an asset – plus Barca are under no financial pressure to sell. Expect speculation concerning the 33-year-old’s future to run and run, but also expect him to stay put for now.

Barcelona's coach Ernesto Valverde holds a press conference at the FC Barcelona Joan Gamper sports centre in Sant Joan Despi near Barcelona on December 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO

Valverde went on record about the club veteran.

JESUS VALLEJO IMPRESSES ZINEDINE ZIDANE WITH SOLID DISPLAY

The Spaniard put in a terrific performance at the heart of the Los Blancos defence as Real Madrid ramped up the pressure on Barcelona with a 5-0 rout over Sevilla.

In the absence of both Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, Vallejo did what was asked of him and showed total commitment – impressive, given he had missed the mid-week Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund due to injury.

The 20-year-old, who signed for the Spanish giants from Real Zaragoza back in 2015 but was immediately loaned back and then spent last season out on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt, had initially failed to convince Zinedine Zidane he was good enough.

But, that perception seems to have changed now, with Vallejo looking like he could become a solid first-team back-up and eventually starter for the whites.

It all but puts an end to speculation linking him with a move away from the club in January.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT:

While the youngster still has work to do to consolidate his spot in the Real first-team, he has at last shown signs he is up to the task of wearing the famous Whites jersey.

That means he’ll be at Madrid for a while yet.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 25: Henrique Casemiro of Real Madrid CF celebrates with teammates Cristiano Ronaldo (left) and Jesus Vallejo (centre) and Lucas Vazquez of Real Madrid CF of Real Madrid CF after scoring his teamÕs 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Malaga at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 25, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Solid as a rock: Vallejo.

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Lewandowski still chasing dream move to Real Madrid, Mascherano weighing up offer from China

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Robert Lewandowski

The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines on Saturday.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI READY TO FULFILL DREAM REAL MADRID MOVE

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has reportedly revealed he is desperate to sign for Real Madrid.

The Pole, who has widely been linked with the Bernabeu club in the recent past, has made a ‘come and get me’ plea to Los Blancos given Whites club president Florentino Perez is expected to give boss Zinedine Zidane big funds to spend this January.

At the age of 29, Lewandowski’s chances of getting one last big move are becoming less and less – with the former Borussia Dortmund star having made no secret of his desire to play for Madrid in the future.

RATING: 8/10

VERDICT

The forward still has over three years left on his Bayern deal but expect the Bundesliga giants to cash in on one of their prized assets before then – if they feel a significant offer from Real Madrid represents worthwhile value for money.

Real are obviously on the lookout for striking reinforcements to provide both help for legend Cristiano Ronaldo and competition for Karim Benzema.

MUNICH, GERMANY - DECEMBER 05: Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Muenchen celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayern Muenchen and Paris Saint-Germain at Allianz Arena on December 5, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Lewandowski has fired 20 goals in all competitions this term.

JAVIER MASCHERANO COULD MOVE TO CHINA

Hebei China Fortune, managed by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, are set to sign Javier Mascherano at the end of the season.

The Barcelona club legend, who has virtually admitted he is set to end his seven-year stay at the Nou Camp next summer, is expected to not be short of options with an array of sides chasing his signature.

The Chinese Super League outfit could offer the Argentine lucrative financial terms and give the 33-year-old food for thought, if indeed he was thinking of returning to his homeland.

RATING: 8/10

VERDICT

While it is not out of the question Mascherano could leave Barcelona for a nominal fee in January, Ernesto Valverde is said to value his experience and character in and around the club – and would therefore be happy if he stays until the end of the season.

But, if a big-money offer did come in from China, it would be a paycheque that would be difficult to turn down at this stage in his career.

Barcelona's defender from Argentina Javier Mascherano (L) vies with Girona's defender Jonas Ramalho (C) and Girona's Kenyan forward Michael Olunga during the Spanish league football match Girona FC vs FC Barcelona at the Montilivi stadium in Girona on September 23, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Mascherano has won four La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns at Barcelona.

DIEGO SIMEONE CLEAR ON NEW BLOOD HE WANTS AT ATLETICO

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone says he will only bring new players into the club if he feels they have the desire to improve.

Having exited the Champions League in the group stage phase last week, Atleti have rekindled their La Liga form to move up to third spot in the league.

While the Spanish giants are close to wrapping up the signing of Racing Club star Lautaro Martinez in January, Simeone believes only a certain type of player can cut it under his long-term reign at the club – underpinned by hard work and full-blooded commitment to the cause.

“A player who just has talent in Atletico does not play because you must have the desire to improve too,” the 47-year-old said in an interview with TyC Sports.

“It’s not enough just to have talent.”

Simeone used young Argentine Angel Correa – a player who signed for the club in 2014 – as an example of a raw talent who has made himself an indispensable part of the Red and Whites’ first-team squad.

“Today Correa can play in different parts of the field, which he could not do before.”

“He is on the way to being a real star.”

RATING: 8/10

VERDICT

It is clear Atleti have some strengthening to do in January and indeed the summer, as Simeone’s men continue to build at their new Wanda Metropolitano home.

But, for so long as the legendary Argentinean boss is in charge, it will always be up to Diego whoever comes in.

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone gestures during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ian KINGTON        (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Simeone has identified the type of talent he wants to bring into the club.

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Chelsea's Conte's refuses to discuss futures of Real Madrid targets Hazard and Luiz

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Antonio Conte‘s sole focus is on Chelsea taking three points at West Ham on Saturday, rather than the futures of Eden Hazard and David Luiz or Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Chelsea go to the London Stadium trailing Manchester City by 11 points and with a three-point deficit to second-placed Manchester United, who host the leaders on Sunday.

Conte would not entertain questions on the futures of defender Luiz or playmaker Hazard, both of whom have been linked with Real Madrid.

And when questioned on the Manchester derby, which he plans to watch from his Surrey home, Conte declined to say what the ideal result for Chelsea would be in the top of the table contest.

“The best result is to win against West Ham and then anything can happen in the Manchester derby,” Conte said.

“For me the best result is our result, to try to win in a difficult game.”

Luiz is out with a knee injury, having initially been dropped following the 3-0 loss at Roma on October 31.
He has appeared once since, at Qarabag, and Conte has previously angrily rebuffed suggestions of a fallout.

Eden Hazard 2

The Italian opted not to answer when asked about the prospect of the Brazilian leaving in January.
Conte said: “There is a lot of games before the transfer window.

“Now I think is not the right moment to speak about this. Now this is not important.”

On Hazard, who has been repeatedly linked with Real due to his admiration for Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Conte added: “It’s important to be focused on this moment. Then when there is the right moment, I try to answer this question.”

Conte’s focus is on trying to keep pace with City at the top of the table.

City lost for the first time since April at Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, but have won 13 successive Premier League games – level with Arsenal’s 2002 streak and Chelsea’s single-season record of 12 months ago – and Conte cannot see Pep Guardiola’s side losing again.

“It’s very difficult to see two defeats in a row for a great team,” Conte added.

“At the same time Manchester United can beat Manchester City.”

Manchester City 5

Chelsea did lose successive games in October, to City and to Crystal Palace.

But the Blues are since undefeated in eight domestic games, winning six of their last seven in the Premier League. Their most recent defeat was at Roma.

The fixture list, on paper at least, appears kind to Chelsea prior to the January 3 trip to Arsenal, with all the opposition 10th or lower. West Ham are one place off the bottom in 19th.

But Conte is taking nothing for granted.

“It’s a good period if we are able to win,” Conte said.

“This league is very tough, especially because there is a team (City) that is doing an extraordinary path.
“West Ham has a good squad, good players. To see them in this position is a bit strange.”

Danny Drinkwater is out after the midfielder missed three days of training through illness, while there are “two or three” undisclosed doubts.

Danny Drinkwater

Provided by Press Association Sport

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