B/R Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours, Rooney's New Deal
Football, eh? Still the strange old game we know and love.
The newspapers are of the same opinion and have been filling their pages with transfer stories and gossip for us to feast on again this week.
But what is fact and what is fiction?
Here, we run our eye over the week's headlines and offer our own viewpoint on them.
Roberto Mancini in No Position to Accuse Manchester City of Betrayal
Things have been a little rocky recently in what appeared to be a Manchester City procession to silverware this season.
The home defeat to Chelsea was followed by the 0-0 draw at lowly Norwich last weekend, and then former manager Roberto Mancini emerged in The Sun on Sunday (subscription required) to tell Neil Custis how his back was stabbed by the club's hierarchy.
The Galatasaray boss branded City chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain of being "like Judas" and they were responsible for the team losing the FA Cup final to Wigan Athletic in May.
Mancini is quoted as saying:
I know a lot of people in football and I found out afterwards that they were talking to three or four managers in February, March and April.
I know they were talking to Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti.
And these were the same people I was sat down with for dinner before the FA Cup final.
It was like Judas. I trusted the chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak 100 per cent but not those other two guys, probably he just followed them.
Mancini also said in the report:
Before the final all the players knew I was going, that’s why they played a really s*** game.
Yet I still hadn’t been told anything.
It was the club’s fault we lost that game, because they said nothing.
Got to love a good old crate of sour grapes, haven't you?
It is true that Mancini created club history when he ended the club's 44-year wait for the league title in 2012, and he was responsible for winning City's first trophy since 1976 with the FA Cup triumph over Stoke City in 2011. All backed by the riches of Sheikh Mansour.
But he also oversaw an insipid Premier League title defence last season, which ended in even greater disappointment at the hands of relegation-haunted Wigan in the rain at Wembley.
Mancini left the club two days after that defeat, to the chagrin of many City supporters who wanted stability at the club.
But what stands out most from Mancini's claim of betrayal is his complete disregard of how he was appointed City boss in December 2009.
The world and his wife appeared to know Mark Hughes was on the verge of leaving the Etihad Stadium after a run of two wins from 11 Premier League matches, per BBC Sport.
But what left a nasty taste in the mouth was Jason Burt's claim in the Daily Telegraph at the time that Mancini had agreed to succeed Hughes over two weeks before the Welshman left the club.
According to that report, the former Inter Milan boss was "believed to be" in City's stadium for Hughes' final game against Sunderland.
Football can be a beautiful game with wondrous moments, but it is not without its characters looking to advance at the expense of others. It happens in all walks of life.
Mancini would do well to remember his own unveiling in the same press release which confirmed Hughes' departure before making accusations of betrayal.
Believability meter: Medium
Mancini is allowed his opinion, and he is also allowed to air those viewpoints whenever he wants.
But the former Manchester City manager needs to be aware of the circumstances of his own appointment before throwing too many stones around his personal greenhouse.
Bacary Sagna Poised for Arsenal Exit After Club Leaves Deal Talks Too Late
It is a scenario Arsenal supporters are probably accustomed to. The club leaves negotiations late on a player's deal and the squad member becomes frustrated and jumps ship.
Former club captain Patrick Vieira warned the north London club they were leaving negotiations with Robin van Persie over a new deal too late back in May 2012, via Daily Mirror, and weeks later the Holland striker was on his way to Manchester United.
Now it is Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna who appears poised to exit in the summer as the clock ticks down on his current contract, which ends in the summer.
On Monday morning, still reeling from the 5-1 drubbing at Liverpool, Gunners fans were confronted with David Woods of the Daily Star telling them that Sagna was on his way out of the Emirates Stadium.
In his report, Woods wrote:
Sagna is upset that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal did not approach him sooner about a new deal, leaving talks until his final year at the club, in sharp contrast to their approach to other stars.
Wenger has changed his rule for Sagna having previous only offered a one-year contract to his over 30s.
The deal on the table for Sagna...is two years, but still at his current salary of £60,000 a week.
But Sagna feels he deserves much more, especially as he has not had a single pay rise since signing an improved deal in the summer of 2008.
Sagna has now made up his mind to to leave, having received staggering offers from elsewhere.
Arsenal might have lost their way in the defeat at Anfield, but the Premier League season had been a relatively successful one up until that point.
And Sagna, who was 31 on Friday, has played a pivotal role in that improvement in fortunes in his role at right-back.
But the France international is now being linked with Chelsea and Manchester City, according to Gavin Brown of Metro, while Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Galatasaray have all been credited with an interest in the player, according to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.
If Woods' report is accurate, Arsenal could be playing a risky strategy over wage negotiations for one of their most-improved players this season.
Names such as Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas have all left the club in recent seasons with little in the way of replacements arriving instead.
The capture of Mesut Ozil in the summer was, rightly, hailed as a coup for the Gunners and Arsene Wenger, but the Germany international's recent poor form has, inevitably, led to fans questioning the lack of further purchases in the January window.
However, it could be the lack of focus on Sagna's new contract which could cost the club dearly.
Believability meter: Medium to high
Sagna is clearly a wanted figure in the Premier League and on the continent, and he looks set to quit the Emirates in the summer.
If he does leave and Woods' report is accurate, Arsenal will have only themselves to blame for failing to make their move in negotiations sooner.
The defender has remained loyal to the club in the wake of other star names departing, and he deserved at least some recognition for that.
Ashley Cole to Liverpool from Chelsea Has Merit for All Parties
The future of Ashley Cole at Chelsea has come under scrutiny throughout the Premier League so far.
The 33-year-old will see his contract expire at the end of the current campaign, and there appears to be little movement in negotiations over a new one.
Cole has found himself sidelined under Jose Mourinho, with the Stamford Bridge manager preferring to utilise Cesar Azpilicueta on the left side of defence instead of the England international.
Last week, the former Arsenal left-back was linked with a return to the Gunners, per Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail, but the chances of such a transfer occurring are minimal after the player's acrimonious departure in 2006.
However, Dave Kidd of the Sunday People has thrown a new name into the mix for the player's services this week in the form of Liverpool.
Initially, Anfield would seem as likely a destination for Cole as the Emirates Stadium, but there are good reasons to consider this move in the summer.
Cole and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers have worked together previously when the Reds boss was a coach at Stamford Bridge. Both men know each other well.
The same article also claims Mourinho is adamant that Cole will be offered a new contract at the club.
However, even if Chelsea were to make their move to keep the full-back, it is unlikely to mean a return as a first-team regular for the Blues.
Liverpool and Rodgers, though, are looking for experience in their defence. While Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge run amok through opposition defences, the Reds' backline has looked shaky, especially at left-back.
Last month, Liverpool legend John Aldridge noted in his Liverpool Echo column that Aly Cissokho was "struggling", and while Jon Flanagan has impressed in the role, he is still a newcomer.
With Jose Enrique currently out injured, the left-back role has become an issue for Rodgers. It is a situation which could be remedied with a quick phone call to Mourinho.
Believability meter: High
Cole will not want to stay at Chelsea without regular first-team football. Liverpool have a problem at left-back. This one adds up, even if only for a season.
At 33, the experienced Chelsea and England man still has another Premier League season at least in him before he should consider the MLS.
Julio Cesar Move to FC Toronto Helps Towards Bringing End to QPR Era of Excess
Jaws dropped when Julio Cesar opted to join Queens Park Rangers in August 2012, not least the one belonging to Robert Green.
The England international had been drafted into the Loftus Road squad by then manager Mark Hughes just two months earlier.
So the arrival of Cesar from Inter Milan must have come as some surprise to the England international, although a 5-0 home reverse to Swansea on the opening day of the season had hinted that things may have to change swiftly.
Cesar made his QPR debut against Chelsea on Sept. 15 and kept Green on the sidelines until December when injury forced him out of the side.
But Rangers were in serious trouble now, and the arrival of Harry Redknapp for the sacked Hughes in late 2012 was meant to signal an improvement in fortunes, despite the big money spent on players such as Cesar, Park Ji-Sung, Jose Bosingwa and Djibril Cisse.
The inevitable relegation from the Premier League was confirmed before the end of the season, and the west London club needed to offload their big earners swiftly.
Loic Remy went on a season-long loan to Newcastle United, while the likes Bosingwa and Christopher Samba were allowed to leave the club.
But Cesar, 34, remained. At the start of this season, Redknapp turned to Green as his No. 1 for the Championship campaign with the Brazil international making just one appearance all season, at Everton in the FA Cup third round.
This was no way for the Brazilian to prove his worth to Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of the World Cup finals, especially after the former Chelsea boss had recalled Cesar a year ago after a 12-month exile from international football.
Now, as Jamie Dunn of Goal.com reported before it was later confirmed by the club, Cesar is poised to make the switch to the MLS with ambitious FC Toronto, who have also added Jermain Defoe and USA international Michael Bradley to their roster for the new season.
For Cesar, it represents a new start. For Toronto, it is another experienced star to bolster their title challenge.
For QPR, it is simply a relief.
Believability meter: Done deal
It is a simple matter of economics that QPR have dispensed with the services of Cesar.
Nick Harris of the Daily Mail reported in November that the club could face a fine of up to £80 million if they are promoted this year.
Cesar's time at the club can barely be qualified as a success after the Hoops were relegated, but he still possesses significant experience which can help Toronto and Scolari.
Eden Hazard Should Maintain Education at Chelsea Despite PSG Interest
Less of a shock this week, however, was the Belgium international playing the "flattered by the interest" card and ensuring the supporters knew he had no intention of leaving Stamford Bridge, as Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard reported on Tuesday.
Hazard is quoted as saying:
There was never a question of leaving Chelsea. I feel good at this club, and I still have a lot of things to do here.
I'm flattered to read that PSG are interested in me. But that doesn't worry me. I am certain of what I have in mind, where I'm going. No-one will change my mind. The objective is to be the best with Chelsea.
A youngster like me learns on a daily basis by being in contact with seasoned pros like [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry, [Petr] Cech, [Samuel] Eto'o. They have won so many things.
There is no doubt that the 23-year-old is the darling of the west London club at the moment.
His hat-trick last weekend inspired the 3-0 win over Newcastle United ,which sent the Blues to the top of the Premier League, a position they still hold after the midweek matches.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also knows the value of the former Lille man, who joined the Blues from the French club in June 2012 for £32 million, and he dismissed the PSG interest himself on Monday, according to Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror:
There is no chance of Eden going, no chance.
His value was £32 million when he joined and he’s now two or three times better than that, so his market value, even if we wanted to sell, would be crazy.
But he’s not a player we are interested in selling.
Mourinho would not be one of the top managers in world football without recognising a burgeoning talent, though, and a further quote in Lipton's article is telling:
When I came, he (Hazard) was known as one of the worst trainers. He’s a funny boy, always laughing and smiling and having a joke with the others, so he didn’t have top concentration.
Now, I won’t say he’s the best, but he is a good professional. He’s become very effective in terms of real production but also improved his defensive aspects, working hard for the team.
Every game, he wants to take the initiative. He doesn’t do something then disappear for 30 minutes before he does something fantastic again. He wants to be influential all game. He’s the kind of player we want.
It is little wonder that Mourinho is in no rush to sell Hazard. While Juan Mata struggled to find his way into the Chelsea manager's plans, the Belgian has found little problem.
Hazard has scored 13 times in 30 appearances in the Premier and Champions League for Chelsea this season, and he has also provided five assists during the same game-span, per WhoScored.
Mourinho will recognise Hazard as a player to build a future team around, rather than another Mata who does not fit his template.
It is, perhaps, more pertinent to note that Hazard also views Stamford Bridge as a place to continue his footballing education.
Believability meter: High
It is entirely understandable why PSG view Hazard as a future signing. Which ambitious European club wouldn't want to bring in such a formidable talent?
However, Hazard has indicated that his footballing education is in the right hands under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.
We can expect the Chelsea manager's £100 million valuation to go through the roof after the World Cup finals, which will be an interesting conundrum for both Mourinho and club owner Roman Abramovich.
But we can't see Hazard jumping the Chelsea ship in the near future.
Luiz's Time at Chelsea May Be Drawing to a Close
Chelsea’s focus is on securing silverware, with the Blues currently occupying top spot in the Premier League table.
As such, transfers are not likely to be high on the agenda. They are, though, very much on the media agenda and the Mail’s Simon Jones is linking David Luiz with a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain.
In his piece, Jones wrote:
Paris Saint-Germain will consider a bid for David Luiz this summer as interest mounts in the Brazilian.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona already have the 26-year-old in mind for next season but PSG are also keen.
The French side are in talks over a new deal for former Chelsea defender Alex who is out of contract in June but are planning ahead and want to pair Luiz with his national side teammate Thiago Silva.
Given the vast wealth at PSG’s disposal, any transfer fee would not prove a stumbling block. And considering the teams that are being linked, it is highly likely that Luiz will command big money.
But will Chelsea sell?
You have to think that Luiz will be allowed to leave if the price is right. He has featured under Jose Mourinho this season, but the impression is that the Portuguese is not fully convinced by the Brazil international.
There was plenty of talk last summer that Mourinho would allow Luiz to leave, per the Express' James Dickenson, but no deal materialised.
Luiz has been deployed both as a midfielder and defender this season, but the January signing of Nemanja Matic will limit his chances of securing a regular start in the centre of the park.
He was brought to Chelsea as a defender and that is the position he prefers. But he just does not fit the mould of a “Mourinho defender”. He can drift out of position, with his penchant for marauding forward, while his decision-making is sometimes off key.
With Mourinho likely to be able to bank decent money from any sale of Luiz, it seems likely that the Portuguese will agree to a departure—with him then able to use the money to bring in a defender of his choosing.
Believability Meter: High
Luiz may well be in the enviable position of having the cream of Europe’s crop to choose from. PSG seemingly fancy him, while Barca have long been credited with an interest.
If it is down to money, PSG will be able to outmuscle Barca but it may come down to more than money. It could well make for a hugely interesting storyline that will run and run through the summer months.
Inter an Attractive Option for Evra
Patrice Evra’s future does look as if it will lie away from Manchester United.
The defender’s contract is winding down at Old Trafford and there is no sign of an extension being struck.
United boss David Moyes said earlier in the month, per the Daily Mirror, that “there are things in place” with regard to Evra’s future.
There can be a couple of ways of taking Moyes’ comments: Either there is a deal in place to keep Evra, or an agreement has been found that will see him move on.
The smart money is on the latter, and the speculation with regard to the defender’s future has begun in earnest.
The Mail’s Simon Jones claims Inter Milan had a representative posted at United’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal. They could have been looking at a host of players, but Jones was convinced Evra was the man under the microscope.
Evra would certainly be an excellent free-transfer addition to any squad. Even at 32, he is still one of Europe’s top left-backs.
As one of the better summer free transfers, Evra is unlikely to be short of offers. As well as the reported interest from Inter, Jones claims Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are also keeping an eye on the player’s situation.
Inter would in all probability be unable to match the money on offer from PSG and Monaco, but there is a new era at the Serie A club and they may look to sell the prospect of helping the club build for the future.
On Sunday, however, there was a twist—with the Sunday Times' Duncan Castles reporting that Evra has now played enough games for United to trigger an automatic one-year extension offer from the club. He could yet stay at United, then.
Believability Meter: Medium
Evra looks likely to head for a new challenge after eight seasons at United, and Inter—under the stewardship of new owner Erick Thohir—could well be an attractive new home.
Having said that, it seems United are now obliged to offer the Frenchman a new deal and, with Vidic already out of the door and Rio Ferdinand expected to follow him, it might be a good one to tempt him to stay.
It could all come down to what Evra wants; whether he wishes to continue at United another season, or experience a new challenge elsewhere. If it is the latter, Inter might still be struggling against PSG or Monaco (which, admittedly, would be an old challenge) for his services.
Wayne Rooney to Commit Future to Manchester United with Huge Deal
Rooney's future has long been the subject of rampant speculation for months now, with Chelsea very interested in the forward in the summer transfer window and the England international reportedly keen to make the switch to London.
Last month Jose Mourinho noted, per The Guardian:
Manchester United made it clear in the summer they don't swap or sell players to their direct rivals.
They were clear in the way they approached the Rooney situation. For them it's pretty clear. They don't swap. They don't sell.
No. They were very clear. I think maybe this summer they will try to sell to a non-direct rival. But they were very clear [about Chelsea].
Since then there has been little progress around Rooney's future, with the 28-year-old entering the final 18 months of his current deal—typically a dangerous period for the parent club, who must really begin to worry about losing a key asset.
As recently as the last week of January the Sun (h/t to the Daily Mirror) was claiming that Rooney would not sign a new deal "even if Juan Mata" signed, which he eventually did for a fee in the region of £37m. That was despite subsequent reports that Rooney would be consulted on all United transfer dealings, per Daniel Taylor of The Guardian, an almost unprecedented move in modern football.
Something appears to have changed between then and now, though, with the reports of a new contract perhaps meaning an end to the speculation and uncertainty.
Believability Meter: High
Some might say that Rooney, having twice tried to leave the club in pretty public circumstances, is somewhat lucky to get another huge contract from Manchester United—but at the moment he does seem to be in a strong bargaining position, one that makes the quoted figures quite possible.
For starters, United's likely lack of Champions League football next season (although that could yet change) means the club will need to bump up their financial offer to Rooney to tempt him to stay—while the recent signing of Juan Mata shows they do not exactly lack for funds at the minute and cannot pretend they need to "tighten the belt" or the like.
Add to that the fact that David Moyes can arguably not afford the PR blow of losing Rooney considering current results, and it isn't hard to see why the club might offer a huge salary in order to get the England man's long-term commitment.
It is not unfathomable that, before a deal is formally announced, a suitor such as Chelsea or Paris St. Germain could come up with a huge offer that changes the mind of both club and player. But, if the sums being quoted are true, it looks like Rooney might well be signing on for an extended stay at Old Trafford.