B/R Gossip Roundup: Frank Lampard Out, John Terry in at Chelsea
A midweek of Champions League action did not slow the football rumour mill in the newspapers.
The past seven days have brought the usual transfer rumours and gossip on the back-page headlines.
Frank Lampard, Sergio Aguero and John Terry were all among the high-profile figures making the news this week.
Here, we take a look at the stories from the week and offer our assessment.
Lampard Primed for LA Galaxy Move
Frank Lampard’s time at Chelsea appears to be drawing to a close.
The veteran midfielder is in the final few months of his contract, and it seems that unlike last year he will leave rather than be persuaded to stay on for one more campaign.
In the summer of 2013, Jose Mourinho persuaded Lampard to commit to one more season at Stamford Bridge. It has proved to be a decent decision for club and player, as Lampard has featured regularly in what Chelsea hopes will be a title-winning campaign.
But at 35—he will turn 36 in June—Lampard’s legs are not what they once were. Mourinho knows this, and he has already made plans for the future by bringing in Nemanja Matic. More fresh faces are likely to follow in the summer.
Lampard has not made any comment on his future, but he admitted in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine (h/t Metro) earlier this year that he came close to moving abroad last summer.
A similar scenario is likely to raise its head this summer. And if a report in Monday’s Mirror is to be believed, it could be a head-turning offer.
Liam Prenderville of the Mirror has claimed Lampard could have four million reasons to consider in making a move to MLS side L.A. Galaxy.
Prenderville cites a report from Charlie Wyett of The Sun (subscription required), which claims Lampard will be offered a £4 million-a-year deal to continue his career in America.
Money should not be a deciding factor in Lampard’s next move, but his options are limited if he is indeed true to his word. He said last year that he could not see himself playing for any other Premier League side than Chelsea.
As such, the standard is on the rise and would still pose a challenge to Lampard, who remains well capable of operating at an extremely high level.
Believability Meter: High
With his time winding down at Chelsea, a move abroad is the only viable option for Lampard. The offer reported to be coming his way from L.A. Galaxy is attractive and will be one the midfielder seems certain to take up.
Liverpool Must Ensure Manager Brendan Rodgers' Future Is Secure
The reign of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers started somewhat ignominiously last season with a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion and an ill-advised documentary series on Channel 5.
The former Swansea City boss had arrived in the summer following the dismissal of Kenny Dalglish and consequently inherited a potential powder keg of nostalgia and genuine love for the Anfield legend from the supporters.
One step awry and Rodgers was likely to find a similar path out of the club to Roy Hodgson.
But the Northern Irishman stood his ground, and after a troubled run of home defeats to Aston Villa, Swansea and West Brom, Liverpool rediscovered some form with a run of one defeat in their last 13 games.
Since then, Rodgers has transformed the fortunes of the team, so the news that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard wants the club hierarchy to tie down the manager comes as little surprise.
David Maddock of the Daily Mirror reported Gerrard's viewpoint following the 3-0 win at Manchester United:
I am absolutely delighted he is here and I just hope that there is a lot of movement in Boston now, because they have got to get him signed up as soon as possible.
When players are in this situation with a year to go and you want to keep hold of them so desperately, then the club reacts really quickly and gets it sorted.
For me, I think he deserves a very long contract here and he is perfect for this club.
Such an opinion does not come without evidence, and what Rodgers has done to the team this season is little short of remarkable.
The Reds have been an irresistible force this season, with the forward trinity of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling consistently baffling Premier League defences, while Jordan Henderson has been a revelation in midfield.
The arrival of the solid, if unspectacular, Simon Mignolet from Sunderland is another example of clever team-building.
Such a transformation will not have gone unnoticed across Europe, and Gerrard is right to remind the club owners of Rodgers' worth.
Believability Meter: High
Rodgers has proved to be the catalyst for Liverpool—arguably more than Suarez or Sturridge.
His brand of football has always earned plaudits, but he is now coupling that with a serious assault on the Premier League title.
The Fenway Sports Group need to heed Gerrard's warning before someone else makes the Liverpool boss an offer he cannot refuse.
No-Nonsense Lovren Is Just the Ticket for Manchester United
Manchester United boss David Moyes, so we are being told, will have something in the region of £200 million to go to war with in the summer transfer window.
He needs a replacement for Nemanja Vidic, while there are other gaps in his squad that require filling with top-class talent.
Star names are what the fans crave. The likes of Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan have been linked to the club, per Charles Reynolds and Simon Rice of The Independent, and they are the calibre of player the Red Devils need to get them back fighting for honours.
Big names may be what the fans and club want, but is that what they will get?
Unless United pull off a huge shock and win the Champions League this season, they will not be dining at Europe’s top table next term.
No matter how big a club United are, their pulling power will not be as strong without Champions League football.
They will still be an attractive prospect for players, given the wages the club can pay and the prospect of playing a part in the revival of a stumbling giant.
But for all the big-name targets, United may have to look a little further down the ladder to rebuild their squad.
A player who may well fit into that bracket is Dejan Lovren, the Southampton defender linked with a move to Old Trafford by the Mail’s Sami Mokbel.
Lovren is not a player who is going to set the pulse racing in a way that links with the likes of a Kroos or an Edinson Cavani would.
But you do not always need to have your pulse racing at 120 bpm to be having a good time.
Lovren is one of those players who is impressively efficient without setting the world alight. Metro blogger Mike Cox sums up Lovren rather well:
There weren’t too many positives for Southampton fans to take out of the defeat to West Ham but the sight of Dejan Lovren back on the bench must be one of them. ... Both (Maya) Yoshida and Jos Hooiveld have been called upon to fill in for our Croatian colossus at the back and unfortunately both have made too many mistakes. ...
... When Lovren is absent, we seem to lack the leadership, organisation and all-round qualities that he possesses. He makes the whole defensive unit more solid when he is at the heart of it and hopefully we can return to the mean defence that even managed to keep a clean sheet at Anfield earlier in the season.
Lovren might not have a sexy profile, but United are crying out for a solid foundation from which to build upon. Lovren could well be the man to provide that.
Believability Meter: High
This sort of deal is exactly what United need: a no-frills defender who can add steel to the back-line. He will not cost the Earth and will surely be attracted by a move to Old Trafford.
Everton Wise to Ensure Right-Back Seamus Coleman Stays at Goodison Park
Everton supporters would be forgiven for having their collective hearts in their mouths as recent articles linking Seamus Coleman with Manchester United began to emerge recently, as Tom Hopkinson of the Sunday People reported in January.
Needless to say, after the right-back scored the late winner against Cardiff City in the Premier League last weekend, that speculation returned with the Metro reporting United were in talks for the player.
After watching Wayne Rooney being whisked away from Goodison by United in 2004 on the back of a £24 million deal, there has always been a certain concern among Evertonians when a major club starts being linked with a major name at the club.
But Everton are a different beast to the cash-strapped club of 10 years ago, and after ensuring that Leighton Baines did not follow David Moyes to Old Trafford, their attention has turned to offering Coleman a new contract, reported David Maddock of the Daily Mirror this week.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez is quoted as saying:
We won’t offer encouragement to any club over Seamus. He is on a long-term contract and we want to ensure we grow together and we need players like Seamus.
Yes, it is the intention to offer him a new contract. We are already thinking about Seamus, Ross (Barkley) and John Stones. We want to reward them, even James McCarthy.
That is something we will look at this summer. They are players with long-term contracts. It is not a decision just to keep them at the club; it just highlights the next step of their development and rewards them for their performances.
Seamus has got a long-term contract. James and Ross are the same. But we want to reward them.
United's reported interest in Coleman should come as little surprise to anyone with an ounce of interest in the game.
The Irishman, who has come through the ranks at Everton, leads the way in the WhoScored.com rankings for the side this season with a mark of 7.39.
That is a figure which even outstrips his counterpart on the left, Baines, and it has, understandably, not gone unnoticed among some of the game's major players.
But what Everton need more than anything at the moment is to hold on to players such as the 25-year-old.
The Blues' hopes of qualifying for the Champions League took a nosedive on the back of injuries to in-form Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu before the end of 2013.
Admittedly, both players are loanees, but the lack of cover was an alarming moment for Martinez in a season which had promised the potential of a top-four finish at the time.
Coleman does not appear to be encouraging any moves for his services after becoming a fans favourite at Everton, but making the move toward offering the defender a new deal is a good sign from the club.
Believability Meter: High
Interest in Coleman was always going to be high after the impression he has made in the Premier League with Everton this season.
But the Goodison Park club are ensuring there will be no chance for the Republic star and his fellow youngsters to feel under-appreciated by looking to offer new deals.
Aguero Approaching Career Crossroads at Man City Amid Barcelona, Messi Interest
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has long since ensured his name will be in the club's folklore, most notably for ensuring Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler's place in the television hall of fame.
That famous goal in the dying moments of the 2011-12 Premier League campaign against Queens Park Rangers will live long in the memories of every single City supporter.
The Argentina international has not stopped delivering since that heart-stopping moment in May 2012, but with his Etihad Stadium success have come links with a move away.
The most recent came this week, courtesy of Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun (subscription required), who claims Barcelona have made Aguero their No. 1 transfer target in the summer.
Such a link will not be a shock for City fans, but there is a worrying sentence in the article, which could impact if true: "Aguero’s close pal Lionel Messi is certain to use all his influence during the World Cup to convince his Argentina team-mate to move to the Nou Camp."
It would be naïve not to believe the stellar name of Messi carries some weight at the Camp Nou, and if he wants Aguero alongside him, the La Liga champions are going to listen.
For Aguero himself, at the age of 25, a crossroads is approaching. He has, undeniably, been a major success with City since his move from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
Now he and City are facing a significant decision in his career. The former Independiente striker's current contract will expire in 2017, and while there may seem to be little rush on the part of the club's board, Aguero will be looking at what the future holds at the club.
The Champions League trophy still seems a long way off for City after failing to get out of the group stages on two occasions before falling to Barcelona in the last 16 this season.
The Premier League title City appeared to be coasting toward two months ago does not seem as certain as it did when Aguero and Alvaro Negredo were in irresistible form, before the Argentine's hamstring injury in January.
Under Manuel Pellegrini, Aguero has continued to thrive and improve, but both the manager and the club will have to ensure the striker's ambitions are matched.
Otherwise, the appeal of Messi and Barcelona may become too strong to resist.
Believability Meter: High
Aguero has become one of the truly world-class stars of the Premier League since joining City three years ago.
But the Argentina international is reaching a stage in his career where he will be looking to his trophy haul and legacy.
As it stands, a trip to Barcelona and the chance to play alongside Messi appears to be the more viable option to the biggest silverware.
Manchester City's next moves in the transfer market will be telling for Aguero and the club.
Chelsea Right to Offer John Terry New Deal, but Captain Must Consider Pay Cut
There is little middle ground when it comes to the popularity, or not, of Chelsea captain John Terry.
The former England international divides opinion like few other footballers in the Premier League, but there will be genuine celebration across West London that the 33-year-old has begun talks over a new deal at Stamford Bridge.
Matt Law of The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that Chelsea have opened negotiations over a new contract for the defender.
With Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho a noted pragmatist when it comes to his squad, the decision to offer Terry an extension to his playing career will come as no surprise.
The Blues' captain has been a rejuvenated presence in the Chelsea back line this season under the returning Portuguese coach, making 36 appearances in the Premier and Champions League in the current campaign, according to WhoScored.com.
The fact that Chelsea have conceded the fewest goals (23) in the top flight this season is, arguably, down to the re-emergence of Terry as a first-team regular.
After flitting in and out of the side under Andre Villas-Boas and Rafael Benitez last season, Terry has thrived on his regular starts under Mourinho.
However, as Law notes, Chelsea's policy of offering only one-year deals to outfield players over the age of 30 could be a sticking point, while a pay cut may also be necessary for negotiations to continue.
Terry would be in a strong position on his displays alone, while interest from Galatasaray, as reported by Bill Mills of the Daily Mirror in January, should ensure Chelsea are keen to keep their captain.
Of course, it would be churlish to note that Mourinho would be unlikely to allow long-time adversary Roberto Mancini, who is now with the Turkish club, to sign Terry from under his nose. But this time it will be Mourinho's desire to maintain success with the Blues that will dictate the defender does not leave.
Terry still has too much to offer Chelsea as a player and captain to be allowed to quit Stamford Bridge just yet, but the defender must also be realistic in terms of the club he has served so well in recent years.
Chelsea are keen to slash their wage bill in a bid to meet UEFA's financial fair play rulings, as Nick Metcalfe of the Metro reported last January.
Believability Meter: Medium
It is totally understandable why Mourinho wants to keep Terry at Stamford Bridge, but a balance has to be struck by both parties.
Terry must consider his long-term aims at Stamford Bridge, while the club and Mourinho need to assess the value of the player to the first team.
It is unlikely there will be a parting of the ways, but negotiations will need a steady hand on both sides.
Permanent Sunderland Deal for Fabio Borini Has Too Many Ifs and Buts
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has voiced his desire to make Fabio Borini a permanent Black Cat, reported Louise Taylor of The Guardian.
The striker, 22, joined the Wearside club on a season-long loan from Liverpool under Paolo Di Canio in the summer and has gone on to play an integral role with Poyet.
Borini has become a fan favourite at the Stadium of Light this season, with his two goals in the derby wins over Newcastle United ensuring a place in supporters' affections.
But Poyet maintained a realistic tone to his view of keeping the former Chelsea and Roma man beyond the current Premier League campaign.
The Sunderland boss is quoted as saying, per Taylor:
Buying him from Liverpool would be fantastic, but I don't know if it's going to be possible.
It's out of our hands, but we like him a lot and we will try.
People will say the price is going up but he's an important player; he's been great.
Poyet is right to maintain a level of caution on hopes of landing Borini, with Sunderland's top-flight status still some way from being resolved.
The Wearsiders still occupy a place in the bottom three, despite the improvement in performances and results since the Uruguayan succeeded Di Canio.
Borini has played a crucial role in that reversal of fortune, but dropping into the Championship brings a raft of problems for any club—notably the wage bill and the need to cut costs.
It is clear, however, that the Italy international has little prospect of making his mark on the Liverpool first team, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in such imperious form for the Reds.
Normally, that situation alone would offer a sliver of hope for Sunderland, but not in this instance.
If Sunderland are relegated, Borini will have to question whether he wants to remain outside of the top tier, and the striker is unlikely to be without suitors in the summer.
The best bet for both parties would be Sunderland's survival in the Premier League. Both Sunderland and Borini can consider their options then, and not before.
Believability Meter: Low
Poyet's desire to keep hold of Borini is understandable, but there really are too many issues which need to be resolved before either party can make a decision. Staying in the Premier League is chief amongst those.
It is too early to make a call on this one just yet.