Breaking Down the Week's Big Rumours: Arsenal Flirt with Costa, Agger Exit Talk
We are only a few days from Christmas, meaning it is almost time to open the transfer window advent calendar a week later on New Year's Day.
The transfer rumour mill is now in full effect over the potential comings and goings at a wide variety of clubs across world football.
We have thumbed through the gossip from 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 Would Be Wasting Their Time Chasing Diego Costa
With the January window looming ever larger on the horizon, transfer chatter is increasing.
Arsenal are a team being linked with players, and the Mail’s John Drayton is connecting the Gunners with Diego Costa.
In his piece, Drayton wrote:
Arsenal are continuing to watch Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa, with the Brazilian goal machine carrying a £32 million release clause.
Gunners scouts will travel to Atletico's two games this week against Sant Andreu and Levante, but it is thought the North London club do not wish to stretch to the 25-year-old's release clause.
Costa’s record this season is nothing short of phenomenal. In 20 appearances in La Liga and Champions League, Costa has 23 goals to his name. And there have only been three games where he has drawn a blank.
A fee of £32 million for a player with such numbers would look like an absolute bargain, despite Drayton's suggestion that the Gunners do not want to go that high.
It is also clear Arsenal are in need of attacking reinforcements. As well as Olivier Giroud has played, he has found the net in only one of Arsenal’s last 10 games.
If Arsenal are to maintain their title challenge in the second half of the season, reinforcements would be welcome. Costa would be a nice addition, but Arsenal could be lured into a dangerous trap if they attempt to focus their attention on the forward.
If Drayton is correct with regard to Costa’s release clause, the Gunners could force Atletico’s hand with a bid.
However, it seems most unlikely that Costa would seek out a move in January. Atletico are fighting for honours both domestically and in Europe. They impressed in topping their Champions League group and are three points ahead of Barcelona at the summit of La Liga.
Coupled with the potential for honours at Atletico, Costa has his eye on the World Cup with Spain.
He has committed himself to Spain over his native Brazil. So heading for a new country in the months before the summer spectacular would be a peculiar decision to say the least.
Believability Meter: Low
It comes as no surprise that Arsenal are tracking the forward, but there is little chance of a deal materialising before the summer. Costa simply has too much going for him at Atletico to consider making a midseason move.
Rickie Lambert Link with West Ham Makes Sense
If anyone can testify to how fickle the world of football can be, it is Rickie Lambert.
The Southampton striker has gone from being feted as the man to spearhead England in the 2014 World Cup finals to a bench-warming role at St Mary's Stadium in the space of weeks.
So when the Daily Mirror revealed West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce had made enquiries about the forward, our initial surprise was replaced with a feeling that it would have been a good move for the player and the East London club.
However, it is also understandable why Mauricio Pochettino would be unwilling to let the 31-year-old leave the South Coast.
Lambert was a mainstay of the Saints' rise from the depths of League One to the Premier League under former boss Nigel Adkins.
The Liverpool-born forward scored 21 goals to propel Southampton out of the third tier in the 2010-11 season, before adding a further 31 to his tally the following year as Adkins took the team into the top flight.
It was some achievement, but it didn't stop there for Lambert, and he added 15 more goals last season. That figure saw him finish level with Chelsea's Frank Lampard as the leading English goalscorer in the Premier League.
Such goalscoring did not go unnoticed, and England manager Roy Hodgson handed the striker a senior call-up in August for the friendly against Scotland.
The Southampton star stepped off the bench and promptly headed home the winner just three minutes after entering the play. This was genuine Roy of the Rovers territory (ask your parents).
However, the emergence of summer arrival Dani Osvaldo as the main striker has left Lambert to cool his heels in recent weeks, and the England international was benched for the recent matches against Chelsea and Manchester City.
Lambert has scored only four times in the Premier League this season and has not hit the back of the net since the win over Hull on Nov. 9.
Allardyce is desperately seeking a goal threat for his team to boost the Hammers' survival hopes in the second half of the campaign. With record signing Andy Carroll sidelined throughout the current season with a foot injury, the Upton Park club have been shorn of firepower.
Ravel Morrison is the club's leading goalscorer in the Premier League this season. He has scored three times in the league.
Allardyce still believes in Carroll, comparing him to West Ham as being akin to Manchester City losing Sergio Aguero or Alvaro Negredo, as Ben Burrows of the Daily Mirror reported.
But he cannot wait forever, and Lambert represents an excellent choice of replacement.
The Southampton forward will also have an eye on the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, a dream which may fade and die on the sidelines at St Mary's.
Believability Meter: High
Two plus two usually adds up to four, and Allardyce targeting Lambert bears all the hallmarks of a good trade for both. However, the obstacle to this remains Southampton and Pochettino.
The Saints are flying high at the moment, and the manager wants to maintain that momentum. A drop in form or injury for Osvaldo will need cover, which is exactly what Lambert offers.
But for a man who has made his way from journeyman striker to England match-winner, the chance to feature in a World Cup will be stronger than for most players.
If Osvaldo remains the main man at St Mary's into next month, expect a strong interest from the Hammers.
Andre Villas-Boas Needs to Rebuild His Career, Not AC Milan
This will not have been one of the best weeks in Andre Villas-Boas' relatively short life.
The former Tottenham manager saw his expensively assembled team dismantled with alarming ease by Liverpool on Sunday in a 5-0 demolition.
Then, less than 24 hours later, he was shown the door by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
But football works quickly these days, so it should come as little surprise that the former FC Porto head coach is already being touted for a new role.
Matt Hughes and Gary Jacob of The Times (subscription required) reported on Friday morning that the 36-year-old is being considered by AC Milan as a possible successor to Massimiliano Allegri.
It is always nice to be wanted, but is the San Siro bear pit really the ideal stop for a man who has lost his last two roles with major Premier League names?
What Villas-Boas needs to do now, more than anything else, is to take a break from the game and enjoy football once more.
He can ignore that advice, obviously, but his next position must be away from the football limelight.
AVB clearly has ambition and belief in himself. You don't accept jobs with Chelsea and Tottenham if you're a wallflower.
But his reputation has taken a fearsome battering in England in recent years, and now is the time for the Portuguese coach to rebuild his CV in a relative backwater.
Allegri's coat seems to have been on a shaky peg at the San Siro for a while now, even if his attempt to claim things can only get better after Monday's draw with Roma looked like a desperate move (via Chris Myson of Goal.com).
Milan are currently 10th in the Serie A table, some 24 points behind leaders and defending champions Juventus.
No matter the reasons for the decline, that is not an acceptable position for the Rossoneri.
But AVB is not the man for such a role as his attempts to establish a new regime at Chelsea and Tottenham have proved.
Believability Meter: Very low
Being linked to major clubs is always a boost to self-esteem, which is an area agents excel in. But this is most definitely not the time for Villas-Boas to walk into the San Siro.
The former Tottenham boss needs time to reassess his standing in the game, then requires further time and patience to establish his reputation elsewhere.
The intense spotlight at Milan is not that place.
Nikica Jelavic Needs to Leave Everton for 2014 World Cup Dream and Club Career
Romelu Lukaku's arrival at Everton on a season-long loan deal has proved to be a major boost to the club and their supporters.
The Chelsea forward has become an instant hit at Goodison Park, helping the Merseyside club to the edge of the Champions League places.
But the fervour with which Everton fans have greeted the Belgium international was once reserved for Nikica Jelavic following his arrival from Glasgow Rangers in January 2012.
The Croatia forward struck 10 goals for the Blues before the end of the 2011-12 campaign after David Moyes had signed him from the cash-strapped Scottish side for £5 million.
The price was viewed as one of the best bargains Everton had made at the time, and there was an air of optimism around the club ahead of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign. The Toffees finally had the goalscorer they craved.
Jelavic began the season in solid form, scoring four times in seven appearances for the club. Hopes remained high that the Croatia international would soon hit top gear.
Instead, though, the wheels fell off for Jelavic, and a run of one just one goal in his final 21 games that season told its own story.
Under Roberto Martinez, the 28-year-old has been unable to oust Lukaku from the first team, and Jelavic has blended into the bench since the Stamford Bridge man appeared on the scene.
His "goals scored" column is blank so far this year, and the likelihood of that changing in the near future remains bleak for the Croatian.
Now David Anderson of the Daily Mirror is reporting that Jelavic and fellow World Cup hopeful John Heitinga could be on their way out of Goodison next month.
The news will come as no surprise to Everton supporters. Sadly, it will not come with regret either.
So much was expected of Jelavic in his first full campaign, and its subsequent failure remains a mystery.
Now the Croatian stands on the brink of an exit few will mourn at Goodison, but many will sigh at what could have been.
Believability Meter: Seriously High
Jelavic needs regular first-team football to ensure his place at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
The loss of his wages from the Everton outgoings and any possible fee for Jelavic and Heitinga would give Martinez room to move in the transfer market.
It's a move that makes perfect sense for all parties.
Agger Hunted by Napoli, but Liverpool Stay Likely
Napoli boss Rafa Benitez has already made one raid on former club Liverpool to land Pepe Reina. The Mail’s Graeme Yorke suggests he is plotting a second swoop for Daniel Agger.
In his piece, Yorke wrote:
Napoli are keen to take Daniel Agger on loan from Liverpool in January.
Rafael Benitez is keen to be reunited with the Liverpool defender and hopes to do a short-term deal in January.
It is true that Agger has slipped down the pecking order at Anfield since picking up an injury. He has made just four appearances since the beginning of October and came in for criticism from Reds' boss Brendan Rodgers following the Merseyside derby with Everton.
"The first thing you have to do is defend," said Rodgers, per a report from the Star’s Tim Abraham. "The first attribute isn't about the ball, it is to defend. When you can defend, you then look to build the game from there."
Yorke has suggested Napoli are ready to end Agger's spell on the periphery with a loan move in January.
Benitez brought Agger to Liverpool from Brondby in 2006, and there is likely to be a bond between coach and player. However, there is a strong bond between club and player.
Agger was linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer, but Rodgers revealed that the player had told him he had no intention of leaving the club while he was still wanted.
Believability Meter: Medium
Being wanted is likely to be key. If Agger can see light at the end of the tunnel between now and the end of January, he is almost certain to remain loyal to the Reds.
But if Agger does continue to find himself behind the likes of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, the Dane could seek a temporary bolt-hole in Naples.
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