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.
GUANGZHOU TO RIVAL UNITED FOR BALE
Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande are plotting a sensational move for Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, according to the Mirror.
Guangzhou will reportedly meet Real’s £85million valuation with Manchester United long-standing admirers of the 28-year-old Wales international.
New tax rules in China have been installed in an attempt to stem the flow of mega money leaving the country but it’s not stopping rumours like this.
The injury-ravaged Bale has seen his Los Blancos career curtailed by extended spells on the sidelines and China’s richest club are hoping they can reignite his career and unite him with coach Fabio Cannavaro.
However, it’s a fair assessment to say that if Bale is to leave Madrid it would only be for United.
ARSENAL ARE GUNNING FOR MAHREZ
The Mirror are reporting Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester City will be sanctioned should Arsenal successfully manage to bring Leicester City flier Riyad Mahrez to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger has switched his attentions to the Algeria winger with Monaco man Thomas Lemar a key target for Premier League rivals Liverpool.
An archetypal Wenger player, Mahrez would provide the perfect counterbalance to a Sanchez exit. The Chilean’s form has been dire as he seeks to push through a move to City and contrast that to Mahrez who has been excellent this season despite an impending exit, a character swap could be the boost Arsenal need.
A failed deal for Lemar in the summer scuppered Sanchez’s switch to Manchester and by all accounts if the 22-year-old does leave Monaco it will be to Liverpool, forcing Wenger to rethink his next move.
WOODBURN LOAN DELAYED
Ben Woodburn’s loan move from Liverpool to Sunderland is delayed due to Philippe Coutinho’s switch to Barcelona, the Daily Mail reports.
The 18-year-old was all set to join the Championship club before Cotuinho’s sale and Mohamed Salah’s injury.
Woodburn was made available for loan by the Reds to get crucial first-team experience and Sunderland jumped at the chance.
But it seems he could be set to stay at Anfield with Jurgen Klopp blocking the move as he seeks reinforcements for his attacking artillery.
Philippe Coutinho finally got his wish on Saturday when Barcelona agreed to sign the Brazilian star from Liverpool for €160million in the third richest deal of all time.
The swoop for the 25-year-old attacking midfielder – which contains a €400million release clause – will be the third biggest deal in football.
Last year, Paris Saint-Germain shelled out a world record €222million to lure Brazilian star Neymar from Barcelona before the French champions then agreed to pay Monaco €120million for Kylian Mbappe in a deal which will be officially activated once the striker’s loan period is completed.
“It is with great reluctance that we – as a team and club – prepare to say farewell to a good friend, a wonderful person and a fantastic player in Philippe Coutinho,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club’s official website.
“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known.
“Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”
Rio-born Coutinho arrived at Anfield from Inter Milan for £8.5million in January 2013 and scored 54 goals for the club in all competitions, although he won no silverware during his five-year stay.
Barcelona had tried to sign him in the summer, but his departure is a blow to Liverpool as the playmaker has just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season.
He scored six goals in the last seven games of 2017 to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.
Capturing Coutinho allows Barcelona to move on from the bitter experience of losing his Brazil teammate Neymar last summer.
Coutinho had stayed in Liverpool on Saturday while his teammates jetted off to Dubai for warm-weather training, fuelling speculation that he was set to leave the Premier League club.
He was then photographed giving a thumbs-up as he left London for Spain accompanied by his wife, Aine.
Coutinho is expected to watch his new team host Levante on Sunday afternoon at Camp Nou.
Video posted on the club website showed a locker bearing his name had already been reserved for their new recruit. Coutinho’s age is highly attractive to Barca, whose three main stars, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta are all in their thirties. Iniesta, at 33, has shown signs of fatigue this season.
– ‘What will he gain?’ –
French media group beIN Sports reported late Saturday that Liverpool will immediately spend €55million of their windfall on Leicester striker Riyad Mahrez.
They claimed Mahrez will have a medical at Liverpool on Sunday before penning a four-year contract. Liverpool have also been strongly linked with Monaco forward Thomas Lemar, who Arsenal tried to sign before the season.
Coutinho played no role in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over city rivals Everton in the FA Cup on Friday. Liverpool’s winning goal was scored by Virgil Van Dijk, the Dutch defender signed last week from Southampton for £75million.
Whether it's a good deal for #LFC all depends where they go and spend that money. Club adamant that Mahrez isn't lined up as Coutinho's replacement.— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 6, 2018
Former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson said his old club had probably got the better deal.
“It’s hard to get my head around what Philippe is going to gain because he can’t play Champions League Football for them, they are running away with the league, and he’s got the World Cup at the end of the season,” Thompson said on Sky Sports.
“Will he play regularly every week at Barcelona? I’m not too sure. Philippe could have carried on (at Liverpool). He could have been playing in the Champions League.”
Meanwhile, later Saturday, Liverpool said they will offer supporters who bought shirts bearing the name of Coutinho a £50 voucher to help offset the impact of the Brazilian star’s departure.
“The offer follows today’s announcement that Coutinho will join Barcelona and reflects the exceptional circumstances behind the player’s departure,” said the club.
“Supporters should present their 2017-18 Coutinho replica shirt at any official club store where the voucher will be issued…the shirt will not be retained but proof of purchase will be required.”
Provided by AFP Sport
Enraged UAE Football Association president Marwan bin Ghalita has sensationally declared some of the nation’s star players “did not give everything they had” during a dreary display at the Gulf Cup, declaring none of them will be spared in the ensuing inquest.
Decisive penalty misses in the 90th minute and in the shootout by golden boy Omar Abdulrahman saw the underwhelming Whites felled by underdogs Oman during Friday’s final. This followed a miserly run in Kuwait City during Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s tournament debut which saw only one goal scored in five matches – striker Ali Mabkhout’s spot-kick in December 22’s Group A-opener against the same opponents – and no goals conceded.
Such banal performances have made the omens for January 2019’s Asian Cup on home soil less promising, particularly after the recent failure to make World Cup 2018. These setbacks mean the ‘Golden Generation’ are not above reproach.
“I demanded a detailed report on the night of the game and there is no player in the team more important than the badge of the Whites,” Bin Ghalita was quoted as saying in a series of tweets from the UAE FA’s official Twitter account. “Courtesy will not benefit the development of the team, and youth is the most important gain in this tournament.
مروان بن بن غليطة رئيس اتحاد الكرة : طالبت بتقرير مفصل عن ليلة المباراة ولا يوجد لاعب في المنتخب أهم من شعار الأبيض، ووجهنا بتشكيل لجنة لتقصي هذه الحقائق.— UAEFA (@uaefa_ae) January 6, 2018
“We have learned many lessons for the 2019 Asian Cup.”
He added: “Some of the experienced players did not give everything they had during the tournament. This is because names alone are not helpful in the big matches.”
One figure not in the firing line is Zaccheroni. He will be afforded time to implement his trademark 3-4-3 formation, with the Gulf Cup coming less than three months since the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician’s hiring.
Bin Ghalita said: “Zaccheroni, an expert and thinker, managed to communicate his tactical ideas to the players. Zaccheroni’s current goal is to develop the players’ minds and way of thinking.”