B/R Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours, Xavi in MLS Link
The transfer window remains open, but the question is who is going where, and who is simply staying?
Clubs across the world are eyeing new talent, but much will depend on the availability of players during the middle of major European seasons.
The newspapers are full of speculation stories linking Player X with Club Y, but the truth is we will only find out who's right and who's wrong at the close of this month.
And there are the inevitable gossip stories for us all to digest across world football.
We have selected a number of stories from the week's papers and offered our own opinion on them right here.
Ancelotti Should Let Fabio Coentrao Join Manchester Utd Eventually This Month
News that Manchester United are pursuing Real Madrid full-back Fabio Coentrao will come as little surprise, especially after a late failed bid in the summer transfer window.
Jason Burt of the Sunday Telegraph was the latest reporter to offer another article linking David Moyes with the Portugal international at the weekend.
It is no secret that Moyes made a late bid to prise the left-back from the Bernabeu in August, as Jamie Sanderson and James Boylan of Metro reported at the time.
According to the report, the only thing to deny the deal from going through was the late completion of the paperwork.
It was not the best of windows for Moyes and United chief executive Ed Woodward, and missing out on Coentrao was another blip along the way.
This time, though, surely United will have everything in order to make their move? Of course they will.
With Everton slapping a £25 million price tag on another failed United summer target, Leighton Baines, as Paul Clennam of Goal.com reported, it was inevitable that the Old Trafford club would look elsewhere.
United stalwart Patrice Evra is likely to leave the club at the end of the current Premier League season, as Jamie Jackson of the Guardian reported, so left-back has become an imperative area for Moyes to cover.
Coentrao has made only four appearances for Real this season, so we can't see him turning down the opportunity to play regularly ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals.
At the age of 25, Coentrao fits the bill for United, Moyes and the player. It's all going swimmingly so far, isn't it?
But there's always a potential fly in the ointment, and sure enough, here comes Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti.
The former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain manager insists nobody will be leaving the Bernabeu this month, as David Lynch of the Manchester Evening News reported.
Real are still in with a chance of the La Liga title, and the possibility of becoming the manager who lifts the club's 10th European Cup will not allow Ancelotti to surrender players to possible rivals with ease.
Is Ancelotti going to stick to his guns, or is this the beginning of a transfer maypole dance where the contestants simply go round and round with no apparent final destination?
Believability Meter: High
Ancelotti is wily enough to know that announcing Coentrao can leave could see other clubs raising the price on his potential replacements.
By denying anyone is going anywhere, the Italian is giving the club and himself room to manoeuvre in the market without flagging up their needs.
Likewise, United and Coentrao know that all the pieces of this particular puzzle will fall together in their favour. Eventually.
Manchester United Unwise to Allow Defender Nemanja Vidic to Leave Just Yet
Another day, another Manchester United transfer story. But Monday's papers brought news of an exit rather than a newcomer.
Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail reported that Galatasaray are poised to offer United defender Nemanja Vidic a bumper pay deal to link up with Roberto Mancini, Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba at the Turkish club.
But would United manager David Moyes be wise to allow the 32-year-old to make the move away from Old Trafford?
With experience at a premium for the beleaguered United boss, Vidic represents a steadying influence for his back line.
United supporters will be hoping Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward have a quality replacement lined up for the summer if Vidic chooses to make the move to Galatasaray.
With Rio Ferdinand also seeing his contract at United coming to an end in the summer, the current Premier League champions could be losing a healthy dose of experience when the summer comes round.
Few would argue that Vidic is the same player he was when he joined the club from Spartak Moscow in 2006, but his presence within the back four can be a reassuring sight for United fans.
Injuries have hampered Vidic's career with United in recent seasons, but his form has rarely deserted him.
And Tuesday morning brought news of United readying a new one-year contract for the defender, as David Anderson of the Daily Mirror highlighted.
It is a sensible policy for Moyes as he reshapes the Old Trafford squad.
Much work needs to be done in that area, but Vidic is far from ready to be farmed out yet. He has shown this season already that he bleeds United.
Moyes will need such passion and commitment to work alongside his new arrivals to ensure the message of what playing for the club means.
Believability Meter: Low
It is entirely understandable that Galatasaray manager Mancini should want a player of Vidic's stature in his squad.
But United boss Moyes will recognise and appreciate just what the Serbia international can bring to his squad for another season at least.
Arsenal Learning to Build at the Back Again with Mertesacker and Sagna Deals
"One-nil to the Arsenal" went the terrace cry of years ago, as supporters celebrated single-goal victories built on the foundations of a solid back line.
Those were the days of George Graham, where pragmatism usurped flair as the Gunners went toe-to-toe with the all-conquering Liverpool in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
When Arsene Wenger took over as manager from Bruce Rioch in 1996, the Arsenal defence was set in stone with Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams and the alternating Steve Bould and Martin Keown achieving legendary status at Highbury.
The Arsenal defence knew each other with a near-telepathic understanding, and everyone in football knew that replacing them would be a difficult task.
This season, Wenger might just have done it. While the plaudits will go to Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere up front, it is the form of the Arsenal defence which should earn a share of the credit.
So it came as no surprise to read on Wednesday that Arsenal were looking to tie Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna down to new deals before Wenger signed his own extension, as David Woods of the Daily Star reported.
Mertesacker had struggled to find form following his 2011 move from Werder Bremen, but few Arsenal fans would swap his partnership with Laurent Koscielny so far this season.
And the form of France international Sagna has been as exhilarating as any of his more-feted teammates at the Emirates Stadium.
It is no surprise to hear the 30-year-old being linked with a move to Galatasaray earlier this month, as Laura Williamson and Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail reported at the beginning of January.
Wenger will recognise the value of having a settled defence ahead of the second half of a campaign in which Arsenal are primed for their first trophy since 2005.
He and the club are right to act on the players' new deals before securing the manager.
Believability Meter: High
It would need an unbelievable offer for Arsenal to part with either defender as they prepare for the second half of the season.
But the question for both men must be: Why would you want to leave? The Gunners are top of the Premier League table and still fighting for success in the Champions League and the FA Cup.
Who wouldn't want to be part of that opportunity?
Southampton Chairman Nicola Cortese Exit Is Major Blow for Saints
Where were you when you heard Southampton had sacked manager Nigel Adkins a year ago?
Saturday represented the 12-month anniversary of Adkins' departure when the name of St Mary's Stadium executive chairman Nicola Cortese reached the consciousness of the Premier League.
There was plenty of wailing at the sacking of the current Reading boss, with Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph among those indignant at the decision after Adkins had guided the Saints to successive promotions.
Replacing the popular manager with Mauricio Pochettino, a man who could not speak English, on the same day merely served to exacerbate the controversy.
Spin forward one year, and the situation is somewhat different.
Cortese's choice has been a success, with the Saints occupying a place in the top half of the Premier League table for much of the season so far after finishing five points above the relegation zone in their first season back in the top flight.
Cortese himself has overseen a major reversal of fortune for Southampton since his arrival in July 2009 when the club was in administration, and the subsequent 10-point deduction relegated the Saints to League One.
Working under club owner Markus Liebherr, Cortese and new manager Alan Pardew brought in a number of new players, including Rickie Lambert.
However, a year after taking ownership of the club, Liebherr passed away. Days later, Pardew was sacked, and Adkins was brought in to fire the club through the leagues and into the top flight, backed by the support of Cortese.
But it has been the appointment of Pochettino which has become the secret to Southampton's successful return to the Premier League.
The club brought in players such as Dani Osvaldo, Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren to bolster the squad with rich dividends such as the win at Liverpool.
On Wednesday, though, Southampton supporters awoke to a report by Geoff Sweet of The Sun (subscription required), which said Cortese was on the verge of quitting.
By the end of the day, Cortese had confirmed his departure from the club, via BBC Sport, before Pochettino announced the following day that he would be staying too.
However, the news of Cortese's departure sparked a vast array of transfer-speculation articles with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert among the links, as Glenn Moore of The Independent noted.
News that Pochettino is staying at the club will boost hopes of keeping star names at the St Mary's Stadium, but any further problems at the top will see the vultures circling again very quickly.
Believability Meter: High
These are worrying times for Southampton supporters. They already know the pain of financial problems, and the fears of what comes next for the club will be a major concern.
Cortese has been the foundation for restoring the club to the Premier League, while Pochettino has taken the team to a further level to give hope of a bright future.
The manager has given his assurances that he will stay, but his relationship with Cortese was very strong, and his new one with incoming chairman Katharina Liebherr will have to hit the ground running.
Does Allowing David Luiz to Join Barcelona This Month Make Sense for Chelsea?
At first glance, James Dickenson's claim in the Daily Express that Chelsea will allow David Luiz to join Barcelona for £29 million seems to tick all the right boxes.
The report in Thursday's edition of the paper will barely have registered with Premier League fans, including those at Stamford Bridge.
Blues manager Jose Mourinho has favoured a central-defensive partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill so far this season, with the Brazil international limited to just nine starts in the league campaign to date, according to WhoScored.com.
Luiz has also been no stranger to transfer speculation articles since Mourinho returned to the west London club, although the manager claimed a month ago that the defender would not be leaving, as Jamie Sanderson of Metro reported.
But at £29 million, the transfer fee would help to offset a hefty chunk of the reported £49.4 million loss for the year-ending financial figures in June 2013 at the club, via BBC Sport.
Add in the fact Luiz will be looking for regular first-team action to cement his place in Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for the World Cup finals in his homeland, and the transfer looks like a win-win across the board.
But the perennial question over cover looms large when considering the potential departure of Luiz.
Currently, Mourinho and his team remain steadfastly in the mix for domestic and European honours.
And while Terry has been an assuring presence at the back, at the age of 33, there must remain doubts over how long the former England international can replicate his current form.
Chelsea supporters are also entitled to ask if there is any cover coming through the ranks with the team entering a crucial second half to the season.
A move to Barcelona would be tempting for any player, but Mourinho will need genuine quality to replace Luiz first.
That type of defender might not be so readily available this month, meaning any Barcelona bid will come to nothing.
But that does not rule out a summer switch when Chelsea will be hoping a solid World Cup adds even greater value to Luiz's price.
Believability Meter: Low
Mourinho will not allow Luiz to leave for Barcelona this month unless he has something exceptional lined up in reserve.
No matter what Barcelona offer, the Brazil international is still too important to the Chelsea squad as it heads into the business half of the campaign.
Xavi New York Move Not as Crazy as It Sounds
We were greeted on Monday morning with one of the more startling rumours to emerge this window, with Barcelona great Xavi linked with a move to New York City FC—per the Telegraph’s Matt Law.
Xavi is one of the greats of the game, and the prospect of him leaving Barcelona is almost unthinkable. But when you dig a little deeper into Law’s piece, it all fits rather well.
New York City FC do not yet play in MLS and are not expected to enter the competition until 2015.
Law suggests that a then-36-year-old Xavi will make the hop across the Atlantic to be the club’s marquee recruit.
Such a move would certainly be of commercial benefit to New York City FC, as Xavi is a world star in the same vein as Thierry Henry, who plays for New York Red Bulls, and the club could exploit that accordingly.
Also, even at 36, Xavi would be no back number on the field. Creativity and guile have always been the key components of his game, which means he will be able to play deep into his 30s without any real diminishing of his powers.
The prospect of watching Xavi dictating play like a general in the middle of the park would surely be the sort of thing that would entice floating fans to come and watch the new MLS franchise.
As Law also points out, New York City FC are in the same ownership as Manchester City—who have Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano as two of their key boardroom figures.
The pair know Xavi well from his time at Barca, and Law claims the service he has given to the club could well result in the Camp Nou giants granting the midfielder a free transfer.
The vast majority of the pieces appear to be in place, with the one stumbling block being Xavi’s desire to move abroad.
He has spent his entire career with Barca and has said in the past that he would like to see out his playing days with the club.
However, he did leave the door ajar for a potential move, per Law’s piece, by saying: "Being tied to Barcelona is a privilege, but I don’t know what will happen in the future.”
Believability Meter: Medium
There is certainly scope for this to happen, as there are enough pieces in the correct places. However, a lot of water will flow before time ticks down to 2015, and much will depend on how Xavi will feel about uprooting to move to the other side of the world.
Moyes Should Not Waste Time on Lucas Moura
Manchester United are in need of fresh midfield blood; that is evident to anyone who has watched them toil this term.
Moyes is scouring the market, and he took in a Paris Saint-Germain game recently, per a report from the Independent’s Charles Reynolds.
The Star’s Colin Harvey claimed Lucas Moura was the man Moyes was scouting. Sadly for the United boss, though, the writer also picked up quotes from the player’s agent insisting his client had no desire to leave PSG.
Wagner Ribeiro said: "Lucas Moura isn't playing as much as we want, but he has been playing the most important games. It's not part of the plans to leave Paris now, he is slowing gaining his place in the team."
And why would he want to move? PSG are pressing for the Ligue 1 title once again and are in the last 16 of the Champions League.
With the potential for silverware and the prospect of representing Brazil in the World Cup in the summer, it would be strange for a player to seek a move in January.
Moura’s agent claims his client wants more game time, but Soccerbase states he has made 24 appearances in Ligue 1 and the Champions League this term. With a club of the resources of PSG, and therefore the capacity to rotate, that is ample playing time.
Believability Meter: High
Moyes may have his eye on Moura, but there is little chance of him getting his hands on the midfielder in January.
PSG have no financial worries, so there is no need to sell.
Moura may desire more playing time, but he is featuring often enough to keep himself in the mix for Brazil recognition—which is of huge importance in a big year for the World Cup host nation.