Breaking Down This Week's Big Rumours: Defoe Out, Morata In, 'Mini Messi' Hunted
Another week done, another week closer to the January transfer window.
That can only mean the transfer rumour mill is beginning to gain impetus. The newspaper speculation has not let us down.
We have thumbed through the gossip over the past seven days and picked out the highlights.
Some are believable, others less so, and in the following slides we'll put our own spin on things by rating each rumour.
Tottenham Set Sights on Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata
Nine goals in 12 games is a grim return for a side with designs on challenging for the title, but that is where Tottenham are.
Only bottom two Sunderland and Crystal Palace have scored fewer than Tottenham, so it is fair to say Andre Villas-Boas’ men have struggled in front of goal.
The January transfer window offers hope that Spurs can bring in more firepower, and the Mirror’s John Cross has claimed Villas-Boas has set his sights on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata.
Cross has gone strong in his piece, as he says Real coach Carlo Ancelotti has given the green light to any move, and the Mirror writer also says Villas-Boas has already made contact with Morata.
Morata has been a long-term target for Spurs. While haggling over the sale of Gareth Bale to Real in the summer, Spurs attempted to secure the services of Morata, as reported by the Telegraph’s Pete Jenson.
Real rebuffed Spurs’ attempts, and Morata is rated extremely highly in Spain, both by the club and their fans.
With the club’s policy of buying the greatest talents in the game, bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale to name but two, there is a desire among fans to see a home-grown talent come through the ranks.
Morata fits that bill.
Standing at 6'3", Morata makes a powerful No. 9. He is comfortable with his back to goal and has a turn of pace that allows him to be a threat on the break.
Given those attributes, it is clear why Spurs would like to take him on loan. But could the deal happen?
Reports in Spain certainly seem to suggest so.
Here Is The City cite a report from Spanish publication La Gaceta, which states, "Alvaro Morata (in the) market next winter will leave on loan to Tottenham after reaching a verbal agreement a few days ago."
As things stand, Real are a little short in attack. Karim Benzema is the first choice, but his future is also in some doubt.
There is no way Real would allow Benzema and Morata to move on without bringing in a replacement.
Top-class strikers are a rare breed, and clubs are unwilling to part with their star names in the January window.
Los Blancos fans would certainly question the decision to let Morata move on, even on loan, if the club do not have a replacement in mind.
So even a verbal agreement, if one is in place, is far from binding.
Believability Meter: Medium
Given Tottenham’s troubles in front of goal, it is no surprise they are setting their sights on reinforcements. Morata has the attributes they are looking for, but Real will need to have a replacement in mind before sanctioning any departure.
This deal could happen, but there’s plenty of ground to cover before it does.
Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC? What Is AVB Thinking at Tottenham?
Your team is short on firepower. You have just seen them obliterated 6-0 by a Premier League rival. So what do you do?
Well, it seems Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas' response is to sell his top scorer this season, if Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror is correct.
Jermain Defoe has scored nine times in 15 appearances for Spurs this season, with the vast majority of those goals coming in the Europa League.
But Lewis reports that the England international has agreed to join MLS side Toronto FC in January in a deal which will net him £90,000 per week.
According to the article, the Canadian club will also fly Defoe's family out with him to help the 31-year-old settle better.
Defoe will discuss the implications of the move on his chances of playing in the 2014 World Cup finals with England manager Roy Hodgson, claims Lewis.
But playing regularly in the MLS must surely rank better for Defoe than being wheeled out for the occasional European tie by Villas-Boas.
So there will only really be one winner if this move goes through, which does seem likely.
However, we have to question the motives behind Villas-Boas allowing the forward to leave midseason.
If anyone needs a goalscoring fix quickly, it is the former Chelsea manager.
David Hytner of The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Villas-Boas is in danger of losing his job after watching his team crumble to a six-goal drubbing at Manchester City last Sunday.
If Hodgson gives Defoe the green light for his 2014 hopes, the transfer will be a win-win for the player.
But questions must remain over the logic Villas-Boas is using to allow him to leave halfway through an already stuttering campaign.
Believability factor: High
Defoe will land on his feet if he is told playing in the MLS will not affect his hopes of appearing at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Tottenham fans will be praying Villas-Boas has something special up his sleeve for January, though.
Big Premier League Clubs Sniff Around 'Mini Messi' Ryan Gauld
The newspapers came alive this week when discussing the future of a 17-year-old Scottish attacker—but that tends to happen when any player is labelled as the "Mini Messi."
The Daily Mirror started the speculation on Monday, claiming that Liverpool were among a group of Premier League clubs who sent scouts to watch teenager Ryan Gauld play for Dundee United against Partick Thistle last weekend.
The scouts went away impressed, with the Mirror claiming:
The 17-year-old was unstoppable in the Terrors’ 4-1 win over Partick Thistle, and sent Premier League talent-spotters home purring about the Scottish starlet.
Aberdeen-born Gauld has attracted interest from Real Madrid thanks to his impressive attacking displays, and the Tannadice club are demanding £6 million to part with one of Europe’s hottest young properties.
Earlier this month, David Moyes sent Jimmy Lumsden to watch Gauld make his Scotland’s Under-21s debut against Georgia.
Newcastle and Everton were also thought to have sent scouts to the game.
By Friday Arsenal had entered the fray, according to the Daily Mail, although Gauld himself was playing down the speculation suddenly surrounding him when asked about it.
"I don’t think anyone will ever be like Messi," Gauld told the Mail. "The stuff he can do with a ball is a joke. I just wonder how he does the things he does. It goes through your head to try it and then you say: 'No, I’m not good enough.'"
With clubs from Real Madrid to Arsenal all linked with him, however, it seems the view that he's "not good enough" might not be shared by many observers.
Believability meter: High
It is not hard to believe that most Premier League clubs worth their salt are scouting Gauld. After all, acquiring young talent is big business for all modern clubs. Most upper-tier Premier League clubs are likely to have a scout familiar with every up-and-coming talent north of the border. With Gauld already in Dundee United's first team and being productive, it makes sense that many clubs would devote extra attention to monitoring him.
Whether anyone makes a move for him, however, remains to be seen. It's worth remembering that Steven Fletcher was similarly feted and linked with Real Madrid as a young striker at Hibernian, but the move never transpired. In the end he joined the Premier League with Burnley.
Gauld, however, clearly has a lot of talent—but considering his age and size, it would seem likely clubs will want to view him extensively before shelling out the seven figures that will doubtless now be required to secure his signature.
The links may keep coming, but it seems unlikely any clubs will make offers for the "Mini Messi" until the summer at the earliest.
Ryan Bertrand to Liverpool from Chelsea
Sometimes pieces of a transfer puzzle simply fall into place with the right conditions and the right figures coming together at exactly the right time.
When John Percy and Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday that Liverpool were looking at Ryan Bertrand for a move from Chelsea, there will have been a number of people thinking: "That makes sense."
Which, of course, it does.
Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers attempted to prise the England international away from Stamford Bridge during the summer transfer window, as Percy and Burt noted in their article.
Bertrand had wanted to make his mark on the Blues' first team under the returning Jose Mourinho, according to the report.
Few could blame him. Ashley Cole will not go on forever, but Mourinho has still turned to him in the left-back role so far this season.
Cole is now out with a rib injury, however, and the Chelsea manager has switched Cesar Azpilicueta to that side of his defence instead of recalling Bertrand.
So far this season, the 24-year-old has made only one Premier League appearance for Chelsea.
Bertrand has fallen from the heights he reached with his excellent Champions League debut in the final against Bayern Munich in May 2012.
The defender needs a break, and it might just have arrived with the knee injury suffered by Anfield left-back Jose Enrique, who is expected to be out until February 2014.
Rodgers knows Bertrand from his time as a youth coach with Chelsea, and the player himself will be desperately seeking a way back into the international fold with England ahead of the World Cup finals next summer.
Sometimes, the transfer gods know a good deal when they see it.
Believability factor: Very high
Bertrand was high on Rodgers' want-list in the summer, and that situation has not changed in the wake of Enrique's injury.
The one difference this time will be the answer from the Chelsea defender.
Fabio Coentrao to Chelsea
If Bertrand needed any more clues to his future at Chelsea, Friday's papers might have provided some, as Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail claimed Mourinho was looking at a loan deal for Fabio Coentrao in January.
Mourinho rejected talk of a move for the Real Madrid full-back in his pre-match press conference on Friday, as Bleacher Report featured columnist Nick Akerman reported, but there is reason to suggest the transfer would be a good move for the Blues.
Cole, arguably the best left-back the club has had, is struggling with a rib injury. At 32 his influence is on the wane.
Azpilicueta has been moved across from the right-back berth to cover for the absence of Cole, but a left-sided player must be a priority for Mourinho as he continues to rebuild the Blues.
In Coentrao, the Chelsea manager would have a player he knows well from their time together at the Bernabeu. Throw in the fact that it was Mourinho who brought the 25-year-old to Spain from Benfica, and the pieces of the puzzle fit together neatly.
Even disregarding Mourinho's ire when Coentrao failed to turn up for training on New Year's Day this year, as Marca reported, and that some supporters and pundits did not understand why he maintained faith in the defender, as Dermot Corrigan of ESPN claimed, there is no denying that this move makes sense.
Coentrao was a wanted man in the summer transfer window when Manchester United manager David Moyes made a late attempt to lure him to Old Trafford, as BBC Sport reported at the time.
With Moyes reportedly looking at a further move for Everton left-back Leighton Baines when the transfer window reopens, the door must be open for Mourinho to seal a deal for Coentrao, surely?
It seems easy in principle, but Chelsea will not be without opposition to claim Coentrao from Real, where he has made just four La Liga appearances under Carlo Ancelotti this season.
However, one fact which Barlow highlights might prove crucial: Mourinho and Coentrao share a common agent in Jorge Mendes.
Believability factor: Medium to high
Mourinho is a man who knows what he wants, and the left-back role at Chelsea does need serious consideration as Cole's career begins to wind down.
Coentrao is the ideal solution for both the Chelsea manager and the player himself, who appears to have little future at the Bernabeu.
The only obstacle to the deal would be interest from elsewhere as the transfer window reopens.
But it would be foolish to think Mourinho hasn't already considered this.
Landon Donovan Will Be Welcomed at Everton, but Clint Dempsey May Be Better Fit
Everton supporters will have raised a cheer as they opened their newspapers on Saturday morning, as David Maddock of the Daily Mirror reported Landon Donovan was set for a third loan spell with the club.
The United States international enjoyed two very successful short-term spells at Goodison Park under former manager David Moyes.
And according to Maddock, current Blues boss Roberto Martinez wants to hand the L.A. Galaxy star a third stint with the Merseyside club.
For Donovan, the chance to sharpen his fitness ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals while the MLS is in its offseason is a strong reason to return to Everton.
For the fans, it is an opportunity to see the player in action again.
At 31, Donovan has a wealth of experience and was an integral figure in helping Jurgen Klinsmann's USA team qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.
He became a favourite for Everton supporters in his previous loan deals at the club with some sterling displays in 2010 and 2012.
Donovan also ensured that status in the eyes of Everton fans after frequently voicing his pride in playing for the club. On his personal Twitter feed @landondonovan, he still describes himself as an Everton player in his biography.
But while his influence for club and country cannot be doubted, would he become such a crucial figure for Everton at the start of next year?
With Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman forming an alliance on the right side of the field to mirror the one enjoyed on the left flank by Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar, Martinez has a settled look to his team.
Barring injury or suspension, it is hard to see where Donovan will get his chance to achieve his hopes of maintaining his fitness and honing his sharpness at Goodison.
However, if Martinez sees Donovan in his other roles as a withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder, there could be scope for the USMNT man to get his chance.
It is that versatility which could ensure the LA Galaxy star gets his chance of a third spell at Goodison Park. Whether he will be making a regular appearance is another matter.
Believability factor: Medium
There is no doubting that Donovan would be a solid and welcome addition to the Everton squad in a crucial period for the club between January and March, including the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Jan. 28.
But it would remain to be seen where he would get a regular game with his eyes on maintaining his fitness ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals.
Everton are still in the hunt for a Champions League spot this season, and Donovan's experience and versatility make him a good player for the squad.
However, with the Blues also linked with a loan stint for United States star Clint Dempsey, as Tom Hopkinson of the Sunday People reported last month, it may be the former Tottenham and Fulham striker who suits Everton better on this occasion.