Paper News & Gossip: Barca Want Luiz to Replace Puyol, Luis Suarez Wants to Stay
Wednesday's newspapers are understandably dominated with build-up and speculation for the week's international friendlies, but there are some transfer stories to be found if you look closely enough.
To start with, there is good news for Arsenal and Liverpool fans about the long-term future of two of their stars, while it seems Chelsea might have to brace themselves for a summer bid for one of their first-team squad members as Barcelona search for a replacement for the departing Carles Puyol.
Those stories, and many more, just a click away...
Barcelona Target David Luiz as Carles Puyol Replacement
On Tuesday, Barcelona defender Carles Puyol announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, and it seems the Spanish club has wasted no time in identifying players to replace their talisman.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the club will renew their long-term interest in Chelsea's David Luiz, with a bid in the region of £25 million expected before the World Cup starts this summer.
Jason Burt reports:
A bid of €30 million (£24.7 million) is expected for the 26-year-old Brazil international.
Barcelona hope to conclude a deal swiftly before the World Cup finals kick off in June, with Luiz an important figure in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil squad.
Barcelona had a formal bid for Luiz rejected last summer by Chelsea, with manager Jose Mourinho adamant that the defender was not for sale.
Although Luiz is not agitating for a move it is understood that he would be keen to join Barcelona and, given Mourinho’s recruitment plans—he has acquired French central defender Kurt Zouma from Saint-Etienne for £12.5 million and holding midfielder Nemanja Matic from Benfica for £21 million—he may consider selling.
It appears the Blues are also set to hand John Terry a one-year contract extension at the club, lessening the need for Luiz, who has at times appeared to struggle to earn the full trust of Mourinho. Publicly at least, however, Mourinho does not want to sell.
Barcelona are understood to have offered only just over £20 million and while they are planning an increased bid, it may still not be enough to tempt Chelsea, with Mourinho continuing to publicly insist Luiz remains in his plans.
Bayern Munich also showed interest in Luiz, stopping short of making a formal offer, but Barcelona were always front-runners. Should he leave Chelsea Luiz will not remain in the Premier League.
Luiz is regarded as a big personality as well as a good player and is a strong character in the dressing room. There was some frustration with him at Chelsea earlier this season with the sense that he might have been unhappy at not being granted a move to Barcelona.
Arsenal Forward Lukas Podolski the Latest on Inter Milan Hitlist
Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski is the latest player to draw the interest of rebuilding Italian side Inter Milan, according to a report in the Daily Star.
Inter are already close to securing the services of Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic for next season and reportedly see Podolski as another ideal acquisition, although the club's likely lack of Champions League football next season may prove a stumbling block.
The paper reports:
Inter owner Erick Thohir is eager to overhaul the club's current squad and revealed late last month a deal to bring Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic to the San Siro was close to being completed.
With the Italian outfit also monitoring the contract situations of United's Patrice Evra and Arsenal's Bacary Sagna, Thohir has now set his sights on another Premier League star in Podolski.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has made no indication he is willing to let Podolski leave, with the 28-year-old contracted to the club until 2016.
Inter currently sit in fifth place in the Serie A and look increasingly unlikely to qualify for the Champions League next season, which could make convincing Podolski to leave Arsenal an even harder task for Thohir.
Luis Suarez Plans to Stay at Liverpool, Club Not in FFP Danger
Luis Suarez has given the clearest indication yet that he will stay at Liverpool whether or not the club qualify for next season's Champions League, in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine.
The Uruguayan, who was the subject of strong interest from Arsenal in the summer and is believed to be a Real Madrid target, is the Premier League's top goalscorer this season—and has said he is happy to stay at Anfield, where he feels settled and is enjoying his football.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Despite appearing to commit to the club long-term in December by signing a new contract, it was said the deal included a £70 million buyout clause which activates if they finish outside the top four in the Premier League.
Suárez admitted he was desperate to play Champions League football and would even trade his place as leading scorer in England for a spot among Europe’s elite.
But the Uruguay striker said he had no plans to walk away from Anfield if title-chasing Liverpool collapsed in the final 10 games of the season.
“I’d actually prefer not to win this Golden Boot and for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League this season,” said Suárez, speaking in an interview in the April edition of FourFourTwo magazine.
“Any player would miss the Champions League. We’ve not been good enough since I’ve been here to qualify, but this could definitely be our year.
“It would be a frustration not to get fourth because we’ve done everything possible and given our maximum to qualify.
“Everyone says Champions League nights at Anfield are amazing – memories you guard forever. It would be an unforgettable experience and it’s been too long since that happened. I think to finish in the top three, which is still possible, would be incredible with the players we have in the squad.”
Asked whether he would stay even if Liverpool failed to finish in the top four, Suárez said: “I think so. I signed my new contract because I’m very happy here and I want to stay where I’m enjoying football and life. Playing in the Champions League isn’t dependent on that.”
Elsewhere, The Times (subscription required) reports that Liverpool are in no danger of receiving sanctions from UEFA over financial fair play, despite posting losses of £50 million in their latest financial results.
Correspondent Tony Barrett writes:
Although Liverpool are unlikely to fall in line with [FFP] parameters, even after costs such as youth development, infrastructure, community projects and the wages of any player signed before July 2010 are offset against their losses, there is no possibility of them being subjected to any sanctions should they qualify for either the Champions League or Europa League.
Uefa is looking into the accounts of 76 clubs who could fall foul of FFP regulations, but the scrutiny applies only to those who have been involved in European competition this season, which Liverpool have not.
Second in the Barclays Premier League, Liverpool expect their situation to improve significantly by the time they deliver their next annual financial report. With an expected increase in television revenue of about £25 million and the proceeds from several lucrative commercial deals set to be included, club officials are increasingly confident of putting recent economic difficulties behind them.
Aaron Ramsey on Verge of Lucrative New Arsenal Contract
Ramsey is also close to a return to full fitness, a double bout of good news for the North London club. Guardian reporter Stuart James writes:
Ramsey had more than two years remaining on the deal he signed in December 2012 but it is a measure of how highly Arsène Wenger regards the 23-year-old midfielder that the Arsenal manager was keen to extend the player's contract at the earliest opportunity as well as approve a significant wage increase.
It is understood that negotiations have been taking place between Ramsey's agent, David Baldwin, and Arsenal for the last month, and the club are set to announce confirmation of the new contract in the next 48 hours.
In another piece of good news for Arsenal supporters, Ramsey has returned to full training this week, after being sidelined for more than two months with a thigh injury. There is no possibility of Ramsey featuring in the FA Cup quarter-final at home against Everton on Saturday but there is an outside chance that he will be in the squad that travels to Bayern Munich next Tuesday.
James adds that Ramsey is set to earn in excess of £100,000-a-week, with The Sun claiming the total value of the new contract is in the region of £26 million.
Bits and Pieces: Bendtner Upset at Reputation, Fernandinho Plots Long Stay
Nicklas Bendtner has claimed his reputation is hurting his chances of finding another club when he leaves Arsenal in the summer, according to the Daily Mirror.
The Daily Express reports that Fernandinho is ready to stay at Manchester City for the remainder of his career.
The Independent reports that Manchester United are considering a rethink of their season ticket policy, after a survey revealed that dropping into the Europa League might put off nearly half of current season ticket holders.
The Daily Telegraph reports that striker Jordan Rhodes is on the verge of signing a new five-and-a-half year deal at Ewood Park, a statement of intent from controversial owners Venky's.
The same newspaper claims Swansea head coach Garry Monk is in line to earn £500,000 in bonuses, but could still be replaced, if he keeps the club in the Premier League.
And finally, the Daily Mirror says January loan signing Kim Kallstrom could make his Arsenal debut in the North London derby against Spurs this weekend.