Paper News and Gossip: Manchester United Players' Pay Cut, Lionel Messi Returns
Manchester United manager David Moyes swiftly found himself out of the media focus after neighbours City left West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce's future in doubt with their 6-0 Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg win.
However, the Old Trafford squad will face financial punishment this season if results do not improve, according to one report.
There are no such problems at Barcelona, though, where Lionel Messi was given a rapturous reception as he stepped off the bench to score two goals on his return from injury.
Who else is making the headlines on Thursday? Read on to find out more.
Manchester United Players Facing Pay Cuts as Smalling Rues Fancy Dress Error
Manchester United players are facing a possible pay cut of up to 25 percent if they fail to qualify for the Champions League this season, reports Martin Blackburn of The Sun (subscription required).
United have endured a disappointing campaign in David Moyes' first season in charge, and are currently on a run of three successive defeats.
United defender Chris Smalling also found himself on the front page of The Sun after an ill-judged choice of fancy dress costume at a Christmas party at his home.
The England international went to the party as a suicide bomber, as Dan Howlett reported, prompting condemnation from those affected by terrorist atrocities and an apology from his representatives.
Lionel Messi Scores Twice on Return to Barcelona Team After Injury
Barcelona star Lionel Messi took centre-stage on Wednesday night after scoring twice for his team in the 4-0 Copa del Rey win over Getafe at the Camp Nou, as Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail among many others reported.
The Argentina international replaced Andres Iniesta in the second half after almost two months out of action, and he added a brace to Cesc Fabregas' double to the delight of the home crowd.
Messi later told Barca TV that he would have to wait and see whether he would be available for the vital game against Atletico Madrid at the weekend:
We still have to take things bit by bit.
I feel strong physically and of course I always want to play.
I have missed playing.
Messi was also asked about his future at Barcelona, to which he replied: "My dream is to finish my career here for as long as people want me."
West Ham Manager Sam Allardyce in Firing Line After Another Crushing Cup Defeat
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce is under the media spotlight after the crushing 6-0 defeat at Manchester City in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg.
The Upton Park side slid to another heavy loss just days after losing 5-0 to Championship club Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round.
Martin Blackburn of The Sun (subscription required) was particularly scathing, referring to the Hammers boss as the "Duffer in the Puffa" in reference to his choice of attire at the Etihad Stadium.
Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail reported that West Ham supporters turned on the manager during the defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
Juventus Offer Mirko Vucinic Plus Cash for Tottenham Striker Erik Lamela
Juventus will offer striker Mirko Vucinic plus cash for Tottenham winger Erik Lamela, reports Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror.
The Argentine became Spurs' club-record signing in the summer when he arrived from Roma in a £30 million deal.
However, Lamela has endured a frustrating period at White Hart Lane, and has started only three Premier League matches so far this season.
Juventus are now preparing to offer a swap deal with Montenegro international Vucinic heading to North London as part of a player exchange, though.
Meanwhile, Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is on his way to FC Toronto, reports Dominic Fifield of the Guardian.
Elsewhere, according to Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror, United States midfielder Michael Bradley has been linked with a move to Spurs.
Bits and Pieces: Claudio Marchisio, Thomas Hitzlsperger, 2022 World Cup
Manchester United are poised to make a £20 million offer to Juventus for midfielder Claudio Marchisio, reports Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.
Former NBA star John Amaechi believes ex-Aston Villa, Everton and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger did not come out as gay during his playing career due to the "Neanderthal" attitude of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, reports James Nursey of the Daily Mirror.
Owen Gibson of the Guardian outlines the confusion surrounding the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which was exacerbated by comments from Jerome Valcke on Wednesday.
Liverpool and Arsenal are in discussions over a possible move for Anderlecht defender Cheikhou Kouyate, claims Colin Harvey of the Daily Star.
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is set for a spell on the sidelines after picking up a calf injury in the FA Cup win over Oldham, reports Nick Lustig of the Daily Star.
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