Barcelona are making moves to bring Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann to the Catalan capital while Manchester City are eyeing Alexis Sanchez as clubs around Europe prepare for the January transfer window.
The winter window opens at one minute past midnight on January 1, but Barca are looking for a belated Christmas present in the France international.
Both players will likely move in the summer but deals could be struck in January, with Sanchez holding out for a reported £400,000-per-week deal from the runaway Premier League leaders when his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Mundo Deportivo claimed Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has had dinner with Griezmann’s parents and sister, who manages the player’s affairs, and the club are looking to tie him down to a deal that would see him move in the summer.
Barca’s full coffers
Not even Atletico’s complaint to FIFA about Barca’s public pursual of their star is likely to stop the move from happening, with Barca director Guillermo Amor as good as admitting the meeting took place.
In August, Griezmann’s former agent Eric Ohalts revealed that the France forward would have moved to Manchester United in the summer had FIFA not upheld a transfer ban that stopped the Madrid club from buying any reinforcements, and now Barca are ready to swoop.
Barca still have full coffers after receiving €222 million from the world record-busting sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and Griezmann’s €100 million buyout clause means the club only need to agree personal terms, avoiding the problems they encountered when they failed to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in August.
Barcelona are however still keeping tabs on Coutinho and could make a lower bid than the €100 million they were prepared to pay in the summer.
PSG fire sale?
After the Neymar signing, Paris Saint-Germain have got to sell players to comply with Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Inter Milan are among those looking at PSG midfielder Javier Pastore, who admitted last month he was “disappointed” at his lack of first-team action.
PSG coach Unai Emery admitted that Brazilian midfielder Lucas Moura and French international striker Hatem Ben Arfa are interested in leaving in January, but said nothing about Pastore and Angel Di Maria, who has expressed his annoyance at being forced out of the first team by new arrivals Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Liverpool and Arsenal are keen on PSG’s Julian Draxler, but the German international has revealed that he has no plans to leave Paris after finding a new role in Emery’s team.
The Qatari-backed Parisians were rumoured to be interested in AC Milan’s rising star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, but after reports of the stopper complaining about being coerced into signing his summer six million-euro contract extension, the club and player – and crucially his powerful agent Mino Raiola – have made moves towards a reconciliation.
PSG have given themselves an FFP boost after agreeing the €35-million sale of 21-year-old talent Gonzalo Guedes with Valencia, where the Portugal international is currently on loan from the Ligue 1 leaders.
The sharks are circling Arsenal, as not just Sanchez but other attacking stars Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud head towards potential Gunners exits.
City were denied Sanchez on the summer’s deadline day, but City boss Pep Guardiola has indicated he may now wait until the summer before making his move.
Sanchez is reportedly unhappy at Arsenal, and the London club are prepared to open negotiations with City – knowing that Chelsea and Real Madrid are also both interested – to avoid seeing the Chilean star leave on a free transfer in the close season.
City’s local rivals Manchester United are looking at the Gunners’ other attacking star Ozil, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan the likely player to make way for the Germany international.
United boss Jose Mourinho is a long-time admirer of his former Real Madrid charge but the Reds could wait until his contract expires at the end of the season if no-one else makes a winter move.
Giroud could leave as Borussia Dortmund look for a partner for star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Real Madrid eyeing Hazard
Chelsea’s attacking dynamo Eden Hazard is a top target for Real Madrid, and should the Belgian make a post-World Cup move to Spain, Real’s Marco Asensio is keen on joining Guardiola at City. Real are not normally a club that does business in the winter window.
Chelsea are pondering an £80 million bid for Monaco star Thomas Lemar, with Blues striker Michy Batshuayi a potential makeweight as he seeks first-team football to boost his chances of making the Belgian World Cup squad.
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is also a target for Antonio Conte’s side, as is Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, who was denied a summer move to Liverpool, while out-of-favour Blues centre-back David Luiz has Juventus and Real Madrid keen on his signature.
Provided by AFP Sport
Former United winger Giggs joined the club’s backroom staff when his stellar playing career drew to a close, serving as Louis van Gaal’s assistant after spending a year as player-coach under David Moyes.
And Giggs, who watched Brazilian striker Jesus and France forward Mbappe with a scout during that time, believes the club’s recruitment “could have been better”.
He told the Times: “I watched Gabriel Jesus play three years ago. I watched Mbappe for a year.
“I was watching them with the scout and it was a no-brainer. It was just like, ‘Get them’.
“It would have been £5million or something – get them, loan them back – and that’s where the recruitment could have been better.”
Jesus joined Manchester City for a reported £27million in January while Mbappe swapped Monaco for Paris St Germain this summer, initially on loan but with an option to make the move permanent next summer for a fee of around £166million.
Giggs also thinks some of the players the Red Devils let go should never have been allowed to leave the club.
He added: “I know what a Manchester United player looks like.
“There have been a lot who have come through that haven’t been United players and also players who were United and shouldn’t have left.
“I’m talking about Rafael (Da Silva), (Danny) Welbeck, Jonny Evans – players who are United through and through.
“It was hard because Louis had his own ideas and you had to respect that but, yes, we had a few arguments about a couple of them.”
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
Manchester United are keen on USA winger Christian Pulisic, the Daily Mail reports. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund player has caught the eye of Jose Mourinho in recent months with the manager keen on bringing in a winger and playmaker.
Newly-appointed Everton boss Sam Allardyce is looking at making James Tomkins his first signing, according to the Sun. The 28-year-old centre-back was sold by West Ham to Crystal Palace last July, but Allardyce is looking to spend up to £20million to bring him to Goodison Park the paper reports.
Takeover talks at Newcastle may scupper any deal to bring Leicester’s Islam Slimani to St James’ Park, the Leicester Mercury says. Rafael Benitez wants to bring in the striker, but could face competition from Watford, West Brom and Stoke the paper reports.
Basel defender Manuel Akanji is subject to interest from both Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, according to the Independent. The German side are pushing hard for a deal to be done in January, but the Swiss club want to keep the 22-year-old for the rest of the campaign, the paper said.
SOCIAL MEDIA ROUND-UP
— Daily Star Sport (@DailyStar_Sport) December 21, 2017
— Chelsea Extra 🏆 (@CFCExtra) December 22, 2017
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jose Arnaiz: Arsenal could make a £17.7m move for the 22-year-old Barcelona winger, according to Marca.
Leonardo Bonucci: Manchester City are keeping an eye on the AC Milan man following rumours the 30-year-old is unhappy at the club, Gazzetta dello Sport said.