B/R World Football Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours
An international week gives newspapers the opportunity to run amok with transfer speculation stories, with little club activity on the go.
The transfer window might still be several weeks from reopening, but that hasn't stopped the rumour mill from cranking into action.
There have been stories to make us think, while others have simply made us laugh. Ahead, we assess the credibility of some of the articles throughout the week.
Radamel Falcao to Chelsea Has Credence, but January Move Remains Unlikely
There is little doubt that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho knows he needs a new striker in January, and that has alerted the newspapers to a plethora of possibilities recently.
However, the one name which has cropped up regularly this week is Monaco and Colombia forward Radamel Falcao.
Mourinho made the relatively short trip to Brussels from London on Thursday to watch the Belgium vs. Colombia international friendly, where, handily, Falcao was on the scoresheet in a 2-0 win for the South Americans.
On Tuesday, Alan Nixon of the Daily Mirror predicted the Stamford Bridge boss would travel to the game, with Falcao the focus of his attention. That the Colombian did not disappoint and played a starring role in the game led to more speculation from John Richardson in the Sunday Express that Mourinho would bid for Falcao.
According to Richardson, the former Atletico Madrid striker has failed to settle in the principality, partly due to the "lack of atmosphere at home games."
Falcao would represent a stellar signature for Mourinho, but the likelihood of the forward jumping the Monaco ship in January would be minimal. That's even if, as Richardson suggests, Fernando Torres is included in the deal.
The striker has scored nine times in 13 Ligue 1 games for Monaco so far this season, and Claudio Ranieri will not be keen to see his star man leave midway through the campaign.
Instead, the Chelsea link with FC Porto forward Jackson Martinez holds more credence for a January transfer move. On Saturday, David Woods of the Daily Star linked Falcao's international teammate, who has scored eight goals in 13 games this season, with a move to Stamford Bridge.
Believability Meter: Medium
Radamel Falcao would be a signing to delight Chelsea supporters. He is not cup-tied where the Champions League is concerned, and he is the kind of player Mourinho would relish in his team.
But Monaco will not be looking to lose their star striker midway through a season in which they are aiming to wrest the Ligue 1 title from Paris Saint-Germain.
Manchester United Set to Land Leighton Baines from Everton in January
Everton supporters should look away now, as it looks likely that Leighton Baines will be a Manchester United player in January.
Old Trafford manager David Moyes failed in an attempt to prise the England international from his former club in the summer transfer window, but David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror claimed on Saturday that a £16 million offer for the England international will see Baines leave Goodison Park.
The news will come as a major blow to the Merseyside club, but Moyes' move is not an unexpected one after he missed out on Baines in the summer.
In September, Everton coach Alan Stubbs revealed that Baines had wanted to join United in the summer. However, the Merseyside club were unwilling to play ball with the Old Trafford side, as Ben Curtis of the Daily Mirror reported.
Baines has not allowed his form to drop since United's failed bid to lure him, but a second attempt by Moyes might be too tempting to turn down.
With Patrice Evra set for a departure from Old Trafford at the end of the season—as David Maddock of the Daily Mirror reported last month—Baines would represent an ideal long-term replacement, even at the age of 29. The left-back's stock has risen over the past year to such a point where he is arguably England's first choice ahead of Ashley Cole for the World Cup.
Believability Meter: High
Baines has been a major star for Everton since joining the club from Wigan Athletic in 2007, but the lure of linking up with his former manager at Manchester United will be too good to resist.
Arsenal to Strike Right Note with Karim Benzema Arrival in January
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has enjoyed an excellent season so far, but nobody would argue that the in-form Frenchman needs some support in January.
Certainly the newspapers are in agreement that Arsene Wenger will be in the hunt for a forward when the transfer window reopens, but the question is which player he'll eventually bring in.
On Friday, Jack Wilson of the Daily Star claimed that Fernando Llorente of Juventus was the target for the Gunners, while John Cross of the Daily Mirror says Manchester City's Edin Dzeko is in Wenger's sights. Meanwhile, Matt Barlow and John Edwards of the Daily Mail offered perennial transfer target Karim Benzema of Real Madrid for a January move, along with Llorente.
The move for Dzeko can be ruled out pretty swiftly if only because City will not be willing to sell to a Premier League rival with Borussia Dortmund also linked to the forward, as Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express reported.
Meanwhile, Llorente is finally finding some form with Juventus after scoring in each of his last two matches, including the 2-2 Champions League draw against Real Madrid. The Spain international struggled in the initial weeks following his summer switch from Athletic Bilbao, but he has since taken full advantage of injuries to Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella to stake his claim to a starting berth.
All of which leaves Benzema. The France international has scored four times over his last three La Liga appearances, but Jack De Menezes of The Independent reported this week that Real supporters can become frustrated with the striker for a perceived lack of consistency.
The presence of former Bernabeu teammate Mesut Ozil also cannot be underestimated, while a solid French contingent of Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna will also act as a carrot for Benzema.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
Benzema would represent a fine addition to an Arsenal squad desperately seeking additional firepower alongside Giroud.
Reports of Dzeko and Llorente have been good reads, but the France international will link up with the Gunners in January.
Lionel Messi to Join Manchester City? That's a Tall Tale
Manchester City supporters may still be spluttering on their breakfast cereals after a Sunday newspaper report claimed Lionel Messi moving to the Etihad Stadium should not be ruled out.
Rob Shepherd of the Daily Mail was the man responsible for creating a stir among City fans, and almost certainly a fair few Barcelona supporters too.
In his weekly Football Grapevine column, the writer claimed:
Lionel Messi to Manchester City next summer?
It sounds like idle speculation.
But I understand that after next summer’s World Cup finals such a move is not beyond possibility.
There is increasing talk in Spain that Messi, who has struggled for form (by his own stellar standards) and fitness this season, is becoming stressed at the pressure he is put under by Barcelona to play when not fully fit.
An interesting scenario, definitely. But the reality may be somewhat different.
His current injury notwithstanding, Messi is contracted to the La Liga champions until 2018 and was viewed as having a crucial role in the appointment of Gerardo Martino as head coach this summer, as Sky Sports reported, although the player denied any part in his arrival.
On Thursday, Jack De Menezes of The Independent rubbished suggestions that there was a rift between the player and the club over the treatment of his current injury.
So, maybe there is something in the water here? No, not really.
Shepherd adds that the figures involved in such a deal would be mind-boggling:
It is impossible to speculate transfer fee and salary figures.
They would obviously be immense and despite City’s resources such a move would be complicated by Financial Fair Play.
But a complex playing/commercial/image rights deal with Nike assuming a major role could get around regulations.
And I understand several super agents and brokers are actively looking at piecing together a deal.
Messi to City? Yes, it sounds nuts.
Believability Meter: Low to Exceptionally Low
Messi moving to Manchester City would cause an unprecedented explosion in football—such is the interest in the Argentine superstar.
But why would the player want to leave Barcelona, where he is worshipped by the fans and has enjoyed so much success?
Any departure from the Camp Nou for Messi would have to be to a club with Champions League and regular success behind them, surely?
Juventus' Cheeky Swap Offer for Luis Suarez Is an Amusing Aside but Nothing Else
It might only have been a cheeky initiative, but Juventus' offer of Claudio Marchisio and Leonardo Bonucci in return for Luis Suarez, as reported by Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express on Saturday, underlined how highly the Turin club value their players.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had been linked with a double swoop for the Juve pair, but the Serie A champions were in no mood to see Marchisio and Bonucci unsettled and stamped down the suggestion with their response.
The future of Suarez will undoubtedly figure highly in the transfer window approaches on New Year's Day.
The Uruguay international voiced his desire to leave Anfield last summer and was the subject of an even cheekier £40,000,001 offer from Arsenal. However, since returning from his 10-match suspension, Suarez has shown new life alongside Daniel Sturridge at Anfield.
The Reds are flying high in the Premier League table and could be set for a return to the Champions League next season on current form.
Marchisio and Bonucci, meanwhile, are integral components of Antonio Conte's squad. Only the phenomenal start to the season by Roma has kept Juve off the top spot in their domestic league table.
Believability Meter: Very Low
The swap offer was meant as a joke by Juventus and will remain so.
Clint Dempsey Return to Premier League Sounds Like It Has Transfer Traction
This one definitely looks as though it is on.
The United States international is now being linked with a return to the Premier League with the MLS nearing its offseason, as Darren Witcoop of the Daily Mirror reported. According to the article, Spurs will have first refusal on the 30-year-old, but the Texan's other previous top-flight employers, Fulham, also have a vested interest.
Aston Villa are credited with an interest in the midfielder, but it could turn out to be Everton who emerge victorious in the loan signing.
The Blues have previously provided Landon Donovan with a platform to hone his fitness in a short-term deal from L.A. Galaxy, and Dempsey could fit the bill for Roberto Martinez.
Dempsey has a clause in his Sounders contract which allows him to return to the Premier League on a loan arrangement. Per Witcoop, the MLS club's general manager Adrian Hanauer said, "Clint's contract allows him to go on loan for the off-season. All parties are working on a deal and we won't be surprised if it happens."
Believability Meter: Very High
Dempsey would be a welcome addition to several Premier League squads, even if only for the short term.
The real question is where he will end up. Fulham would be an emotional move, but Everton worked well in the summer transfer market and could do so again with a move for the American.