B/R Gossip Roundup: Rio Quit Talk, Chelsea Hunting Higuain, Nani on the Move?
Just think...this time next week, the transfer window will be open again.
We are still currently in the preamble towards Jan. 1 after the Christmas festivities, but the rumour mill is set to hit overdrive on Wednesday.
We have thumbed the newspapers to monitor the latest transfer links and gossip, and here we offer our view on some of the biggest stories of the week.
Barcelona Link Is Flattering but Roberto Martinez Won't Leave Everton Soon
After Everton's success so far this season, there is little surprise that envious eyes are being cast towards Goodison Park.
But Blues supporters should not be too concerned at the latest link between manager Roberto Martinez and Barcelona.
The Spaniard has swept away the David Moyes era from Goodison in style since succeeding the Manchester United manager in the summer.
Martinez has produced a brand of football which is a throwback to the halcyon days of the School of Science in the 1960s and early 1970s at Goodison Park.
Possession, passing and movement are the key words for the Merseyside team now.
It is a template which has earned Martinez deserved plaudits this season, and now Barcelona have become aware of what the former Wigan and Swansea boss is doing at the club, according to The Sun (subscription required).
It will come as no surprise that the Everton boss is becoming noticed across the continent; as far back as July 2011, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan claimed Martinez would be manager at Barcelona or Real Madrid one day, as the Daily Mail noted at the time.
Martinez already has links to the Camp Nou after the La Liga champions loaned forward Gerard Deulofeu to Everton for a season.
According to The Sun, though, it is the manager himself who is interesting the Catalan giants.
With Gerardo Martino uncertain of his future, as reported by Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun, there may be some concern around Goodison at the prospect of losing Martinez sooner than expected.
But that discounts Martinez's own integrity and loyalty.
The prospect of managing a club the size of Barcelona must be an inviting one for the Spaniard, but Martinez is not renowned for walking away the moment a big club comes knocking.
At Wigan, Martinez rejected the advances of Aston Villa and Liverpool to remain loyal to the Latics, and was rewarded for that with the 2013 FA Cup final win over Manchester City.
It is true that Martinez would also oversee Wigan relegated from the top flight last season, but in terms of history, that cup triumph will be his legacy.
Everton have not won a trophy since 1995 and did not win an away game at Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool throughout Moyes' 11-year reign at the club.
Martinez changed the latter statistic on his first attempt at Old Trafford earlier this month. He will not leave Goodison Park until he has at least had a chance at the former.
Believability meter: Very low
Barcelona will have the pick of the world's best coaches when Martino reached the end of his time at the Camp Nou.
But Martinez still has much to achieve at Goodison Park and his loyalty will ensure his head is not turned before the job is done.
Asamoah Gyan Is Not the Answer to West Ham Striker Problems
Another week goes by, another week sees West Ham United linked with a new striker...
Nobody can argue with Upton Park manager Sam Allardyce targeting a goalscorer after being hamstrung by the long-term injury problem for Andy Carroll.
The Hammers' record signing has not played this season, and West Ham have missed the presence of a natural net-buster this season.
But is the Christmas Eve link with Asamoah Gyan really the answer, especially considering the money reportedly being offered to the Ghana international?
Andrew Dillon of The Sun (subscription required) claims that the East London club will offer Gyan £100,000 per week on a six-month loan deal from Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
The 28-year-old has scored 14 times in 11 matches for the Abu Dhabi club, but we are not talking about an established world league here.
With all due respect to Gyan, the statistics from such a competition cannot be fully translated into the Premier League, while the level of opposition must also be questioned.
In the wake of helping Ghana to the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals and missing the penalty which could have seen the team reach the last four, Gyan joined Sunderland from Rennes in France for £13 million.
He was viewed as an ideal foil for Darren Bent by then-Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, and the partnership showed promise before the English forward made his move to Aston Villa in January 2011.
Things went relatively well for Gyan in his first season when he scored 10 times in the top flight for the Black Cats, despite missing a number of games with a hamstring problem.
However, after just one season, Gyan made the move to the UAE on loan, leaving Bruce in no doubt for his reasons, as BBC Sport reported at the time:
I had a conversation with him 48 hours ago and he shook my hand and assured me he wanted to stay at Sunderland.
Within a few hours things changed. It's disappointing and the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth.
It baffles me how he can leave the best league in the world to play in the United Arab Emirates. I'll let people make their own conclusions why.
Now Allardyce is eyeing the possibility of bringing Gyan to East London on stellar wages. This would represent a major financial gamble, with the odds seemingly stacked against the manager.
Of course, there is the possibility that Gyan will want to prove himself ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals where Ghana have been pitted against Germany, Portugal and United States.
But is this really the chance Allardyce should be taking with the Hammers in the relegation zone?
Believability meter: Medium
The signing of Gyan in a mega-money loan deal smacks of desperation for West Ham and Allardyce.
The club and their manager are entitled to survey the transfer market for the man who could save their Premier League status.
But is Gyan really the reliable figure the Hammers need? We think not.
Rio Ferdinand to Retire? Too Much Experience Going to Waste
A footballer's career will, inevitably, have a downhill slope beyond its pinnacle. It's all part of the ageing process and something nobody is immune from.
So it was unsurprising to read that the future of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand remains uncertain beyond the end of the current Premier League campaign, as Mark Ogden of the Daily Telegraph reported on Boxing Day morning.
The former England international is now 35, and United boss David Moyes is considering allowing Ferdinand to leave the club in the summer.
What was, perhaps, a little more unexpected was the report from James Ducker of The Times (subscription required), which indicated that the former Leeds and West Ham centre-half would retire from the game.
It is perfectly understandable that Ferdinand would want to bow out on a high and end his playing career with the Old Trafford club.
He has a burgeoning media career unfurling before him and it is only right that he should take stock of his future.
However, Ferdinand still possesses a wealth of experience for younger players to learn from.
Numerous Premier League titles, FA Cups and League Cups, plus a Champions League winner's medal in 2008, do not come easily to the vast majority of players. Even those playing regularly in the Premier League.
Injuries, of course, may have taken their toll on Ferdinand and convinced him of the need to bid farewell to the game.
But it would be a tremendous waste of experience if the defender elected to hang up his boots rather than use his football education to pass on to others elsewhere.
Even in the lower echelons of the English top flight, Ferdinand could still bring something to the party.
Ask any retired player what they miss and they will invariably respond with one word: playing.
Ferdinand might have lost the pace he once had as a youngster, but his positional sense and awareness can be harnessed for future stars.
For him to leave the game just yet would be a waste of experience.
Believability meter: Medium
Ferdinand to retire? It makes sense from both sides of the argument.
The decision rests with the Manchester United man, but he should think carefully before ditching his playing career when he still has the gilt-edged experience of a man who knows how to win trophies on a near-annual basis.
Napoli Set to Resist Chelsea Bid for Higuain
An article concerning Chelsea in Saturday’s papers certainly pricked our attention.
The Star’s Colin Harvey penned a piece suggesting the Blues had turned their attentions to Gonzalo Higuain.
In his piece, Harvey wrote:
Chelsea are lining up a bumper bid for former Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain.
The Argentine moved to Napoli for £34.5m in the summer but such is Chelsea's desperation for a top striker they are willing to give Napoli a quick-fire profit on the striker.
A host of writers have been earning their keep in recent months making it clear that Chelsea’s striking trio of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba have not exactly been prolific in front of goal. Five Premier League goals between by the final week of December reinforces the point.
Harvey has banged this drum, claiming: "Jose Mourinho knows he is one in-form striker away from a serious Premier League challenge."
The striker in Mourinho’s sights, according to Harvey and other writers, is Diego Costa. But the indications are that Costa will not be lured away from Atletico Madrid midway through the season.
That would appear to be a sensible stance for Costa to take, given he is battling for honours both domestically and in Europe with Atletico—while he also has an eye on representing Spain at next summer’s World Cup finals.
As such, Harvey claims Mourinho is ready to tempt Napoli into a sale. Higuain does not have Champions League football to keep him in Naples after Napoli crashed out in the group stage, but they are firmly in the Serie A title mix.
With that in mind, it would surely need a bid a long way north of the £34.5m Napoli paid Real Madrid for Higuain in the summer in order to tempt them to sell.
Selling Huguain would certainly leave Napoli boss Rafa Benitez questioning the club’s ambition, while it could have a major impact on the second half of the club’s season.
Taking a profit on Higuain would be a short-sighted view, as without his goals Napoli could fall out of the picture for Champions League qualification—and that would be a far larger hit than any profit they would receive from selling to Chelsea.
Believability Meter: Low
It would take a huge bid from Chelsea to tempt Napoli into selling. Even then, without a ready-made replacement in their sights, the Serie A side would be reluctant to sell due to the impact it could have on their push for glory.
Juventus Link with Nani Could Well Ring True
Is Nani heading for the Manchester Unite exit door? The People’s Steve Bates suggests he is an £18 million January target for Serie A champions Juventus.
In his piece, Bates wrote:
Juventus want to pull off an £18 million January deal for Nani—if the winger can prove his fitness before the end of the transfer window.
The Manchester United attacker has a hamstring injury that will keep him out into the new year.
But the Italian giants are hoping Nani recovers quickly after being encouraged that United boss David Moyes will sell the erratic Portuguese.
Nani is a player who divides opinion among Manchester United fans. There is absolutely no doubting the talent, but comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo look a shade hollow due to his inconsistency.
Bates suggests Juventus are ready to take a gamble on being able to turn one of Europe’s most talented but frustrating wingers into a great of the game.
Sir Alex Ferguson failed consistently to get the best out of Nani; the same comment applies to Moyes. Can Antonio Conte work the oracle? If he can, £18 million would look a steal. But if not, that sort of fee would look a shade hefty.
£18m is a high price to pay for a side licking their wounds after crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage, but they are top of Serie A and will want to remain there to ensure they qualify for Europe’s premier club competition next term.
Nani only signed a new deal in September, but Bates suggests that was to ensure United could secure a decent fee for the 27-year-old.
That is not something United would admit to, but Nani has only featured in eight Premier League games this term.
Yes, he is currently sidelined by injury, but it does seem that Moyes feels he has better options at his disposal—which makes a transfer in January a distinct possibility.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
It does appear as if United are ready to sell Nani and £18 million would prove an excellent piece of business. The stumbling block is whether Nani can shake off his hamstring injury before the transfer window slams shut.
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