Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours: Suarez, RvP Stay but AVB Doubt
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.
Arsenal Well-Stocked so No Need for Mulumbu
Readers of the Sun on Monday morning would have stumbled across quotes from West Bromwich Albion midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu claiming he has been targeted by Arsenal and is ready to make a move from the Hawthorns.
Per Andy Baker's piece, Mulumbu said:
I’ve had approaches from Arsenal.
I could leave this winter. This is the right time for me to set my sights higher. I’m ready to join a top-four club.
We are not professional enough in the way we manage our games – for example our draw at Chelsea. We are not mature enough.
Strong words indeed.
And Mulumbu is in the powerhouse mould of defensive midfielder Gunners boss Arsene Wenger used to train his sights on. Now we're not saying for a minute that Mulumbu is the next Patrick Vieira, but that is the style of player he is.
It is entirely possible Mulumbu has been receiving admiring glances from Arsenal—they may have come his way in the summer—but in the past couple of months the Gunners have improved markedly.
They are four points clear in the race for the Premier League, which is far removed from the side that had been scrapping to make it into the Champions League qualification places in recent seasons.
At the heart of Arsenal’s superb play has been the form of their midfielders. Aaron Ramsey has rightly been taking the plaudits, having hit eight goals and four assists so far this term, but Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini have also played vital roles.
Arteta and Flamini are the two players Arsene Wenger has used as defensive midfielders, the exact role Mulumbu would look to fill.
Mulumbu would certainly be a useful addition, but with Flamini and Arteta performing so well, it would be an unnecessary addition.
Believability Meter: Low
Arsenal are likely to be active in the January window, but they have more pressing priorities than a defensive midfielder.
Chelsea Don't Need Inter Milan Defender Andrea Ranocchia
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is weighing up a move for Inter Milan defender Andrea Ranocchia, according to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.
The Italy international has emerged as a target for leading clubs across Europe after Erick Thohir completed his takeover of the San Siro club.
The new Inter owner is looking to overhaul Walter Mazzarri's squad in January, according to Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.
So it comes as little surprise that the giant defender is one of a number of players rumoured to be heading out of the club, along with versatile midfielder Fredy Guarin.
Any transfer move for Ranocchia would appear to signal a potential end of the road for David Luiz and Chelsea.
The Brazil international has been persistently linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge since the Special One returned to the club, with The Metro most recently reporting a link with Bayern Munich.
But Luiz is merely a sideshow in the link with Ranocchia.
Mourinho has been using a John Terry-Gary Cahill combination as his preferred partnership in central defence so far this season.
However, the Blues boss will recognise that, at 33, the Chelsea club captain is not going to last forever, and his influence will inevitably wane over the next year or so.
Mourinho's next move for a central defender will be a crucial one. Terry divides opinion among football supporters like few others, but to Chelsea, he has been the rock on which success has been built.
His replacement will have to be a genuine contender to become a Chelsea stalwart in the coming years.
Does Ranocchia really fit that template? Not according to Bleacher Report world football tactics lead writer Sam Tighe, who has not been impressed by the Inter man:
He (Ranocchia) is a mammoth in the air and as much of a goal threat as Terry is, but he's plagued by bad errors and lapses in concentration—the Azzurri's reincarnation of Titus Bramble, if you will.
If you're looking for a backup, he has to be reliable.
Could you trust Ranocchia to come in and relieve the pressure on the starting defensive pairing? He's as likely to lose you the game as he is to win it.
It remains to be seen if Mourinho will follow our man's advice and not follow up the reported interest in Ranocchia.
Ranocchia joined Inter from Genoa days after Mourinho left but did not make his debut for the club until after Rafael Benitez was sacked and was replaced by Leonardo.
He has since made over 70 appearances for Inter, but whether he fits the high standards Mourinho demands is very much open to debate.
Believability meter: Low
If Mourinho is unconvinced by Luiz, Ranocchia may not be the right man to replace him in the Chelsea squad.
"Prone to lapses" is a phrase which has often been employed to describe the Brazilian and has also been used in relation to the Inter man.
This rumour sounds like it has the hallmark of an agent at work, but whether it is representative of the player or the club is a different question.
Liverpool Striker Luis Suarez Link to Real Madrid Has No Bite Now
Yes, we know. Been there, seen it, done it, got the T-shirt with the obligatory tour dates on it, but the transfer link between Luis Suarez and Real Madrid resurfaced this week, courtesy of Jack Wilson of the Daily Star on Thursday.
Ever since the former Ajax man voiced his desire to leave the Reds in the summer, the subject of Suarez's future at the club was going to be questioned and scrutinised constantly.
After a summer of discontent between the Uruguay international and Liverpool, the two haven't just kissed and made up, they've renewed their vows in front of millions and are destined to live happily ever after.
Or are they?
When Suarez made his return to action after a 10-match suspension in September, there was an understandable sense of unease of what the reaction would be.
Would Suarez still be serious about playing for the Reds, and how would the fans react after a summer in which he led them and Liverpool in a merry dance around his intentions?
After his single-handed dismantling of Norwich City on Wednesday, it was only too clear that the affection of the fans was still with the forward.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers withdrew him from the action before the end of the match because he wanted Suarez to savour the deserved acclaim of Anfield.
For a Liverpool supporter, it was a beautiful moment. For Suarez, it was confirmation that any move away now would be sheer folly.
On Thursday, hours after the link with Real emerged, Suarez was swift to counter by expressing his desire to stay at the club, as Paul Gorst of the Daily Mirror reported.
Suarez might have soiled his legacy with his surliness toward Liverpool in the summer, but he has already covered those tracks with some subliminal displays so far this season, culminating in that 5-1 win over the Canaries.
His partnership with Daniel Sturridge has been a breath of fresh air for everyone at Anfield after several seasons of relative underachievement.
But even without the England international, Suarez has proved he has the attributes of his own to destroy teams.
Liverpool might not quite be ready to win the Premier League, but few would bet against Suarez finally making his mark on the Champions League next season.
Linking Suarez with the Bernabeu or anywhere else is simply a waste of good newspaper at the moment.
Believability meter: Very low
Three months ago, the Suarez-Real Madrid link was one we all simply expected to happen at some point over the season.
But now that the South American has reestablished himself as an Anfield darling, the mutual respect between player and supporters appears to have seen a major U-turn take place.
If Real are offering £65 million for Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, they are likely to be laughed at even more heartily than Liverpool owner John W. Henry did at the offer of £40,000,001 from Arsenal in the summer.
No Need for FC Porto Welcome Mat for Andre Villas-Boas...Yet
It's always good to know you're loved and appreciated, isn't it? And if anyone needs some loving at the moment, it is Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas.
And on Friday morning, he received it from the unlikely source of Geoff Sweet at The Sun (subscription required).
OK, it wasn't exactly Sweet who had sugarcoated Villas-Boas' day, but the fact that the Spurs boss remains such a respected figure at FC Porto must have been a welcome bonus for the 36-year-old.
According to the article, a source at the Portuguese club said:
Andre is held in such high regard the club will move heaven and earth to get him back.
We hope he might welcome a return to his old stamping ground.
There is no doubting that those words will have been welcomed by Villas-Boas as much as the Premier League win at Fulham.
The former Chelsea manager cut a forlorn figure at Manchester City two weeks ago as his multi-million assembly of a team was brushed aside by a marauding Etihad Stadium side.
There really was no hiding place for AVB, even though Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail claimed bearing fault was not a strong suit for the Tottenham boss.
Samuel's colleague at the Daily Mail, Neil Ashton, joined the criticism after the insipid Tottenham display in Manchester, prompting a reaction from AVB after the 2-2 draw with Manchester United the following week, as David Kent of the Mail reported.
It wasn't a smart move on the part of the Tottenham manager, but there is always going to be friction between a team boss and critical journalists if results have not been good. World football is littered with such divisions.
However, Villas-Boas spent over £110 million during a summer spending blitz, and to date, the club lies sixth in the Premier League table and 10 points behind north London rivals and table-toppers Arsenal.
Villas-Boas can point to comfortable Europa League progress, but that will not be enough to placate the boardroom if a Champions League place at least is not guaranteed by the end of the season.
Tottenham have scored just 13 goals in 14 league matches to date, which underlines a specific issue for the manager. And it is an area which is causing concern for some board members and backroom staff, who want AVB to use a two-pronged attack, according to Sweet's article.
The murmurings of disquiet have begun, and Villas-Boas must effect a change in fortunes for Tottenham quickly to avoid an inevitable demise, although his two recent wins at Fulham and Sunderland will have eased the pressure on him.
But Villas-Boas and Tottenham will know that another "crisis" is only two defeats away in the Premier League these days.
The Portuguese coach might have fallen to player power at Stamford Bridge, but this time he really would have only himself to blame.
Believability meter: Medium
Villas-Boas is clearly a highly thought of figure at Porto, but the time is not quite right yet, and he deserves the chance to see out the current season with Tottenham.
However, if the former Chelsea boss has not secured a Champions League place by May, the Portuguese club should buy itself a welcome mat.
Van Persie 'Hands in Transfer Request' After Recent Injuries?
There was a flurry of excitement on Saturday morning when it was suggested that Robin van Persie may have handed in a transfer request at Manchester United by none other than former Liverpool defender-turned-pundit Mark Lawrenson.
Lawrenson, who most regularly works for the BBC's Match of the Day programme, made the astonishing claim on Saturday morning as a guest on the Today FM radio show in Ireland—citing the "whispers" of those journalists who cover the club on a daily basis.
In quotes picked up by the Daily Mirror, Lawrenson said:
There's all sorts of rumours coming out of the training ground at the moment.
One or two of the press boys that I know that cover Manchester United, they're even saying that the big whisper is van Persie might have asked for a transfer on Tuesday.
So if that happens, what a mess that's going to be for [United manager] David Moyes.
Van Persie subsequently returned to first team action for Manchester United just hours later, and although he did not quite look his normal self in a surprise 1-0 defeat, he hardly looked like a player who had handed in a transfer request.
Still, the rumours about his status might begin to build.
Believability Meter: Low-to-medium
It is eminently possible that Van Persie is a bit disgruntled about how things are going at Old Trafford—there are reports of his concerns over Moyes' training methods long before his injury problems began and the club's results started to slip.
But it is unlikely he is so upset that he wants to leave the club and certainly not soon enough to throw in a transfer request. Likely just Lawrenson exaggerating certain reports he has heard.
Bayern Munich Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer a No-No for Manchester City
Manchester City supporters have become used to opening their Sunday morning newspapers and spluttering out cereal at some of the names linked with the club in recent years.
Fresh on the trail of a recent link with Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the latest name to be connected with the Etihad Stadium is another potential humdinger.
According to James Desborough of the Sunday Express, City manager Manuel Pellegrini is considering a £40 million move for Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
The article claims the move would be "a blow" to Joe Hart, but that is an understatement of substantial proportions.
Neuer is widely considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world after a string of successes with Bayern since his move from Schalke in 2011.
Admittedly, the Sunday Express story states that the move is planned at some point over the next 12 months with Neuer considering his options as his current Bayern contract begins to wind down.
But it would still represent a stunning coup for Pellegrini and the Etihad Stadium club.
There is little doubt that Pellegrini needs further strengthening for the goalkeeper position after dropping Hart in favour of Costel Pantilimon recently.
But Neuer would represent a step above all other rumours. It's a pity that it's unlikely to happen.
The Germany international signed a five-year deal with Bayern when he joined the club, and the link with City could be an early lead into negotiations with the Bundesliga champions.
Believability meter: Low
Much as signing Neuer would be a huge boost to Manchester City, it is an unlikely prospect.
City might still be able to offer transfer fees to dwarf all others, but would the Bayern No. 1 really want to leave even for the £105,000 weekly salary reportedly on offer?
It might sound like a wonderful move, but City and manager Pellegrini will recognise there is better value in bringing someone like Casillas, who has a point to prove to Real Madrid.