Pep Guardiola refuses to rule out Man City move for Aymeric Laporte

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Aymeric Laporte has been linked with a move to Manchester City again.

Manchester City remain hopeful of signing defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record fee of £57 million, but Pep Guardiola refused to give a public update on the transfer.

“No, I can’t. He’s a player for Athletic Bilbao. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t,” said Guardiola.

“We will try to do the best for the squad, for now, for the next six months, and for the years to come.

“If we can going to do something interesting now, we’ll do it now. If not, then we’ll do it in the summer.

“If not in the summer, we’ll stick with the guys who’ve done amazingly.”

Laporte has been a long-term target for the Premier League leaders, although he’s also occasionally been linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have previously been named as potential destinations, as have PSG.

The 23-year-old revealed last summer that he had snubbed moves to the Premier League, with both City and Chelsea having rumouredly expressed interest, only for Laporte to decide he wanted to stay at Athletic.

However, the Frenchman also said he may look to move in the future in order to boost his chances of being selected by his national team, so Guardiola may have better luck if he tries to sign the young defender this month or in the summer.

City have yet to sign anyone this window, as they go into the second half of the season with a 12-point lead in the league and a Carabao Cup final date with Arsenal coming up next month. They face Basel in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, and play Cardiff City on Sunday in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

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"Club decides every single player," says Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on transfer activity

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Antonio Conte's Chelsea have endured a difficult season, despite being third in the Premier League.

Antonio Conte kept his counsel on Chelsea‘s transfer policy as the head coach hinted Ross Barkley would make his full debut in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with Newcastle.

Following Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final loss at Arsenal, Conte did little to hide his frustration at a lack of recruitment, with Barkley’s £15million purchase from Everton on January 5 the only incoming player so far this month.

Conte said on Wednesday: “The club decide our transfer market. From the summer, the club decides every single player.”

Asked whether any arrivals can be anticipated, Conte took his usual stance to defer to the club.

“The club will inform you if there is news,” Conte said. “As I said before, I think I’m repeating every three days, I would be very happy to continue to work with my players. I would be very happy if there are some new players. It doesn’t change my opinion, my mind only three days (on).

“I’m repeating always the same thing. I’m the coach. My task is to try to do the best for this club, to try to improve my players for this club.”

Conte, who won the Premier League in his first season in charge last term, was asked if he is happy.

He added: “Yes, I’m happy. I’m happy to work with my players, I’m happy to work for this club.

“I’m happy to try every day to put all myself for this job. I’m happy for this.”

Asked whether he was planning to stay beyond the end of the season, Conte, who is under contract until June 2019, said, “Nothing has changed. There was the summer, then after the summer. Nothing has changed.”

With striker Alvaro Morata (back) and playmaker Willian (hamstring) out, along with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (ankle), Barkley is poised to make his first Chelsea start against the Magpies.

Barkley has made two substitute appearances, having last played for Everton in May due to a hamstring problem.

Conte said: “After a bad injury you need a bit of time to be fit, 100 per cent.

“But if you want to accelerate this process he has to play, not only to have the training sessions, especially in this moment, after Willian and Morata injuries we don’t have other options.”

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas trained on Friday and could return to contention following a hamstring problem.

Willian, meanwhile, was poised to undergo a scan to determine the extent of his hamstring problem sustained at Arsenal.

Conte downplayed the severity of the Willian injury, saying: “I don’t think we are talking about a serious injury.”

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Aubameyang deal 'not close', says Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger but hints at January signings

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Arsene Wenger said Friday that any deal for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was “far from close” but did not rule out further signings in the January transfer window.

Arsenal lost forward Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United this week with Henrikh Mkhitaryan travelling in the opposite direction in a swap deal but Wenger remains short of options up front as the club battle to secure a Champions League place for next season.

According to German media reports, Dortmund have rejected a second bid of €58 million by Arsenal for the 28-year-old.

Sixth in Germany’s top flight, the club reportedly want €70 million for the Gabon international, who has a Borussia deal until 2021.

When quizzed on the latest Aubameyang situation, Wenger, whose side are sixth in the Premier League table, told reporters the club would have nothing to announce on Friday.

“At the moment, we stay where we are,” he said. “We keep our players. We have added Mkhitaryan and we have lost Alexis, so our squad is stable.

“Will anything else happen? At the moment I would say I don’t know. It’s still possible but we are far from being close.”

Wenger said he wanted to keep forward Olivier Giroud, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea, although he hinted at a potential exit for the Frenchman.

“I want Olivier to stay…. if nobody comes in, nobody goes out,” he said. “Maybe one or two young players out on loan somewhere but the experienced side of the squad will remain the same unless somebody comes in,” he said.

“He is an important player here that everyone wants to stay and there is a high level of respect for Olivier in this club,” he added. “He will certainly get more games and he could only leave if somebody else comes in.”

Wenger said Aremenia international Mkhitaryan was settling in well at the club but he was unsure whether he would make his debut for the club in their Premier League match against bottom club Swansea on Tuesday.

“You see straight away that he’s a great football player, which we knew before we got him here. After that, I will know more about him in two or three days,” he said.

Provided by AFP

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