B/R Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours: Podolski Warning
The transfer window is still open, but this was the final full week in which clubs can do business.
It was also the last full seven-day period in which newspapers could link any number of players with differing clubs.
There has been gossip aplenty to keep us all entertained and maintain the back-page headlines.
But let's have a look at some of the stories which have taken our eye this week and offer our own view on them.
Edinson Cavani to Join Manchester United from PSG? Mon Dieu!
We are always keen to see something spectacular in the newspapers on a Sunday to start the week with a bang, and we were not disappointed this time.
When we first saw Steve Bates of the Sunday People claim that Manchester United manager David Moyes was lining up a transfer move for Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, our collective jaw hit the ground.
The Uruguay international has barely been in the French capital long enough to get a single game of boules in and he already wants out? Surely not.
According to Bates, though, the 26-year-old is disappointed with the standard of football in Ligue 1 and similarly disheartened at the lack of atmosphere at matches.
But it is not just the link with Cavani which had our heads spinning. The report also claims the move for the South American is being designed to cover the departure of Wayne Rooney.
There is little doubt that Cavani is a great player. PSG would not casually hand over £55 million to Napoli and a five-year deal to the striker if he was less than impressive.
The forward has scored 17 times in 25 Ligue 1 and Champions League appearances for Laurent Blanc's team so far this season, according to WhoScored.
That is not a bad return for the forward, who exists in the shadow of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Parc des Princes despite his impressive displays so far.
However, the Bates report also indicates Cavani is being lined up in readiness for the departure of Wayne Rooney from Old Trafford.
While the future of the England international is likely to be open to debate until he actually signs a new deal or physically moves on, we cannot see this one happening.
Our France correspondent Jonathan Johnson immediately dismissed the story via his Twitter feed, @Jon_LeGossip:
Laughable Daily Star story re: Edinson Cavani to Manchester United. PSG will not sell. Not to United, City, Arsenal nor Chelsea.
PSG are in no mood to see their hopes on the domestic and European fronts upended by the loss of one striker.
While United need overhauling, the French champions are looking to build on what they already have.
Losing Cavani is not part of their plans.
Believability meter: Low
It just isn't feasible that PSG are going to allow Cavani to leave for Manchester United or anyone else for that matter.
The Uruguay international remains too important to the French club for a swift departure.
Daniel Levy Wanting Dimitar Berbatov Spurs Return Hints at Backroom Issue
Law reported that former Tottenham Hotspur striker Dimitar Berbatov could be set to return to White Hart Lane from Fulham.
It could potentially be viewed as a backward step with the former Manchester United forward now aged 32.
The manner of his 2008 move to Old Trafford was also flagged up by Law, but that would appear to be no issue for the possible deal, according to his article.
But Tottenham re-signing the Bulgarian is not the real story here. Read that opening paragraph again:
Daniel Levy is interested in a cut-price bid to re-sign Dimitar Berbatov, even though head coach Tim Sherwood does not believe Tottenham need any more strikers.
That is Daniel Levy, who is the chairman of Tottenham looking at Berbatov, not the club's new head coach, Tim Sherwood.
After the sacking of former Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas earlier in the season, Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail reported the four signings the former Chelsea boss had not wanted at the club.
It was an issue Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis picked up on earlier this month when he claimed Villas-Boas had not been completely at fault for Tottenham's disappointing results, as Sky Sports reported.
Few would argue that Pulis is not of the old-school variety of manager, but the nature of Law's article appears to underline that Sherwood may not be selecting the players the club need.
The rise of the boardroom making player selection appears to be a new way of doing things at some clubs, and the argument that it is their money so they should decide how to spend it is valid. But not in football.
Sherwood appears to be a popular choice for supporters and players, and his results since taking over from Villas-Boas underline the positivity around the north London club.
But this is his first managerial role and he should be allowed to stand or fall by his own judgment.
Berbatov remains a fine striker and may well be a worthy addition to the Tottenham squad, but that is a decision Sherwood must make, not his chairman.
Believability meter: Low
It is not the actual link between Berbatov and Tottenham which stands out here, it is the article claiming Levy is deciding whether to make a move for the Bulgarian or not.
It is a warning for Sherwood that he may eventually be paying the price for problems which may not be entirely his fault.
Arsenal Should Not Offer Lukas Podolski as Part of Julian Draxler Deal
For a team regarded as being short on strikers, Arsenal are playing a strange game in the chase for Julian Draxler if Shaun Custis of The Sun (subscription required) is to be believed.
Gunners supporters will have been forgiven for making a double take as they opened their newspapers on Wednesday morning.
According to Custis, Arsenal are offering Podolski and £20 million to Schalke in return for Germany midfielder Draxler.
The report also claims Podolski, 28, has "never quite fitted into the team" since his arrival from Cologne in 2012.
Perhaps that is a truism, although 11 goals in 33 Premier League appearances in his first season with the Gunners suggests the forward isn't exactly struggling.
A long-term hamstring injury has hampered his hopes of making an impact on the Premier League season so far. However, two goals in the FA Cup fourth-round win over Coventry on Friday should have acted as a timely reminder of Podolski's ability.
However, the Poland-born German international made a goal-scoring return to action in the win at West Ham on Boxing Day, and he is by far the best option Arsene Wenger has at his disposal alongside Olivier Giroud.
With Theo Walcott inactive for the remainder of the campaign, Arsenal need the services of a proven goal-getter, which is exactly what Podolski is.
What happens in the summer will be anyone's guess. Podolski may enjoy a successful World Cup with Germany, affording the Gunners the luxury of a greater price tag on the striker. Wenger may also have another forward up his sleeve in preparation for the exit of the former Bayern Munich man, but it will have to be a spectacular buy to justify allowing him to leave this month.
The Arsenal manager has won back many of his critics so far this season by guiding his team to the top of the table for much of the season. They also face a Champions League last-16 clash against Bayern next month.
Losing valuable backup such as Podolski in favour of Draxler, who has scored just once in 14 Bundesliga matches this season, per WhoScored, seems nonsensical.
And do Arsenal really even need to sell Podolski?
Believability meter: Low
Surely an experienced club manager such as Wenger will see the folly in allowing Podolski to depart the Emirates Stadium this month?
This is a transfer deal which makes little sense at the moment, unless Wenger is planning something special for the summer.
The Arsenal boss will be aware that proven goalscorers are a rare commodity to own, and he already has his own in the shape of Podolski.
Demba Ba in Limbo but Deal Could Happen
Jose Mourinho has been adamant that none of his strikers will be sold in the January transfer window.
In light of Mourinho’s comments, it was interesting to read a report from the Daily Star’s Colin Harvey with regard to Demba Ba.
Harvey picked up quotes from Trabzonspor president Ibrahim Haciosmanoglu, who said a deal was in place until Fernando Torres damaged his knee.
Per Harvey’s piece, Haciosmanoglu said: "We had agreed terms with Demba Ba. However, following Fernando Torres’ injury, Mourinho made it clear that they didn’t want to let go of Ba just yet."
So, who to believe? Mourinho or Trabzonspor president Haciosmanoglu?
It certainly makes for an interesting debate, as Chelsea are firmly in the Premier League title mix despite their strikers being woefully short of goals.
Samuel Eto’o’s recent hat-trick in the win over Manchester United raised the gloom, only for Torres to go down with a knee injury that is likely to sideline him for some time.
With Torres sidelined, it makes sense that Ba will not be allowed to leave. But what would have happened had the Spaniard remained fit?
Ba has been the outsider of three, as he has made 14 appearances this term compared to Torres’ 23 and Eto’o’s 20.
Mourinho, though, would not be willing to leave himself down to two strikers for the remainder of the season by letting Ba go.
As such, if Haciosmanoglu’s comments ring true, it could be that Mourinho has his eye on another forward.
Mohamed Salah is on the brink of a move to Chelsea, but he is more of a winger than centre-forward. So is there another attacker in Mourinho’s sights? The next week will tell all.
Believability Meter: High
Haciosmanoglu was unequivocal in his statement that a deal was in place to land Ba, so this move could happen but it will probably require Chelsea to sign a replacement first.
Ross Barkley and Everton Will Heed the Lessons of Wayne Rooney's 2004 Transfer
It has been inevitable that the burgeoning talent of Everton midfielder Ross Barkley would see the youngster linked with arguably bigger Premier League clubs.
Manchester United were reported to be an interested party at the tail end of 2013 (per Manchester Evening News) and now Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph says the sale of Juan Mata to Old Trafford is part of a long-term move by Chelsea for Barkley.
This intriguing piece of news for both sets of Blues supporters will have come as a surprise in Thursday's newspapers, but those of a Goodison Park persuasion should not worry just yet.
The 20-year-old has earned plaudits this season for his performances for Everton after being handed a regular first-team start by Roberto Martinez.
Under former Everton boss David Moyes, the midfielder found those opportunities at a minimum, and he found himself out on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United when many Toffees fans believed he should have been playing a part last season.
Moyes, though, has moved on and Barkley is thriving under the former Wigan boss.
It is little wonder that his displays have caught the attention of Stamford Bridge manager Jose Mourinho.
Ironically, though, it is another name linked with Mourinho and Chelsea which will ensure Barkley does not leave Goodison just yet; Wayne Rooney.
The Manchester United forward was the subject of a £25.6 million transfer in August 2004 as Sir Alex Ferguson targeted the then 18-year-old for his team.
Rooney has never been forgiven for quitting Everton by supporters for leaving the club at such a tender age, particularly after the striker displayed a "Once a Blue, always a Blue" vest under his royal blue jersey after scoring in 2002 per Daily Mail.
Even Ferguson admitted in 2011 that Rooney is viewed as "a traitor" by Everton fans, via BBC Sport.
And Barkley has also been advised by a surprising source that he should never leave the Blues, as Dominic King of the Daily Mail reported in September.
The Chelsea boss would be facing an uphill struggle to convince either Barkley or Everton to play ball on this one.
Believability factor: Very low
Everton will have learned from the loss of Rooney 10 years ago, and the financial troubles which ensured United's offer was accepted have eased in recent times.
But the warning signs are there for the Goodison Park club where Barkley is concerned, and they will be ready for the inevitable attentions of larger clubs, with the midfielder tipped to make his mark at the World Cup finals in the same way Rooney announced his presence on a global stage at Euro 2004.
However, Barkley himself will realise that it is Martinez who has gifted him the chance to shine this season and the player is also finding adulation among his fellow Evertonians as the team flourishes under the new style of play employed by the Spaniard.
That in itself should act as the heartiest of commendations to stay, at least for the next few years.
But links with Chelsea are not going to harm negotiations over a potential new Everton deal.
Capoue Move Makes Sense, but Levy Is the Man in Charge
Etienne Capoue’s future at Tottenham is up in the air, as he has cut little ice since making the move to White Hart Lane.
He was handed a chance by manager Tim Sherwood at the start of his tenure, but Capoue has not featured since the win over Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Sherwood has a wealth of midfield options and it seems the Spurs chief favours Nabil Bentaleb in the holding-midfielder role.
With Sandro and Paulinho on the brink of returns to action, it is likely that Capoue will slip further down the midfield pecking order.
With his hopes of regular playing time looking slim, a move would make sense.
Serie A side Napoli have made a bid, but Tottenham have batted the offer back—which has angered Capoue’s agent.
Per a report from the Daily Star’s Colin Harvey, Capoue’s agent Martha Fischer said:
The problem is not the player or Napoli, Tottenham just want a lot of money. What they’re asking for is absurd. But we are only on January 21, and there is still hope.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has forged a reputation for playing hardball in the transfer market, noted by ESPN FC's Dan Fitch, as Real Madrid know all too well from their signings of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.
As such, it comes as no surprise that he wants to eke out every penny for a player who is seemingly deemed surplus to requirements.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
Tottenham are spoilt for choice in the midfield department, so it is understandable Capoue wants to head for pastures new. The stumbling block is Levy, as he will not take less than he feels is market value for a player Spurs signed for €11 million in the summer.
Southampton Defender Luke Shaw Has the Pick of the Premier League
Few players have the world at their feet like Luke Shaw does at this moment in time.
The England Under-21 international has already been feted as a replacement for Ashley Cole at Chelsea earlier this month, as David Woods of the Daily Star reported.
But Saturday's newspapers brought another big name to the table, with Alan Nixon of the Daily Mirror claiming Manchester United have made a £22.5 million offer to the Saints for the player.
No matter what happens before the end of next week when the transfer window closes, Shaw is going to be smiling. The 18-year-old is clearly a hot property in the transfer market right now, and both Chelsea and United have a need for a left-back.
Cole is now 33 and is in the twilight of his career, even though Jose Mourinho has called for the player to be given a new contract at Stamford Bridge, per The Independent, and the Blues need to have a replacement in mind at least.
United stalwart Patrice Evra is tipped to leave the club at the end of the season, as noted by The Guardian's Jamie Jackson and Leighton Baines looks poised to sign a new deal with Everton, as David Anderson of the Daily Mirror reported.
The circumstances clearly fit for a move for Shaw, particularly when you consider the recent boardroom upheavals at St Mary's Stadium and the departure of executive chairman Nicola Cortese.
The real question for Shaw, though, is where should he go and does he want to make a move in mid-season.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, the Saints have enjoyed solid progress this season and sit in ninth place in the Premier League 13 points off the drop zone.
However, club owner Katharina Liebherr is a businesswoman in her own right and will recognise the value in making such a huge profit on a player who was been with the club since the age of eight.
The clever money would initially have been on Chelsea with Shaw being a boyhood fan, per the Daily Express, but other Premier League fish such as United will not allow Mourinho to have a free crack at signing the teenager.
We still have several days remaining on the transfer window, so anyone thinking that this is a one-horse race is likely to be surprised before Friday.
Believability meter: Very high
The time looks right for Shaw to move on, but this will be a transfer which goes to the wire on Friday when the transfer window closes.
Chelsea might be considered to have the edge, but there will be no harm in Liebherr affecting an auction of sorts to bolster the price on the teenager's head.
The real loser in all of this, though, will be Southampton. A healthy profit will look good in the club's accounts, but supporters will have the right to ask if the departure of Shaw will signal the start of a fire-sale of the club's best players.
There's no predicting how things will unfold.