B/R Gossip Roundup: Should Pellegrini Stay at Man City, Will Cesc Fabregas Go?
Another week, another series of twists and turns in the Premier League title race.
Managers' job prospects seem to be rising and falling like the tide at the moment, with some suddenly fearing slightly for their futures after unexpected results.
A number of players are also weighing up their futures, with the summer transfer window and all it entails now looming large.
Here, we take a look at some of the key stories from the week and offer our assessment.
Tottenham Keeper Transfer Talk Has Much Ground to Cover
Changes seem certain at Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, with manager Tim Sherwood widely tipped to be moved on.
A new manager, whether that be Louis van Gaal or someone else, will want to place their own stamp on the squad.
With that in mind, any transfer tales involving Tottenham should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Such details, though, tend not to throw the papers off the scent of transfer gossip. And on Monday, we were greeted in the Mirror with a report from Alan Nixon linking Spurs with a bid for West Bromwich Albion keeper Ben Foster.
So why do Spurs need a new No. 1? According to Nixon, Spurs are bracing themselves for a bid from Paris Saint-Germain for Hugo Lloris.
It’s certainly an interesting line, given the financial power at PSG’s disposal and the lure of Champions League football that they can offer.
The issues at hand are obviously connected. If Lloris leaves, Spurs will need a keeper—which would put Foster in the frame.
The first issue is with regard to Lloris. Does he want to leave?
If his quotes last summer—when he was linked with a move to Monaco—are to be believed, it does not seem as if he wants a move.
Speaking to le10sport (h/t Goal), Lloris said:
What's happening in Monaco is good for Ligue 1 and for this great French club, because PSG need a challenger.
But personally, I left to go abroad, to try and build something on a personal and sporting level and I don't intend to come back soon.
Things can obviously change in a year, but Lloris made the move away from Lyon in 2012 to, in his own words, “try and build something.”
Two years is not really building something—it would take longer that that.
Still, he could be lured back to France. In the same interview with le10sport, he hinted that a huge offer could prove too good to turn down. But, as things stand, the player does not appear to be agitating for a move.
If that is the case, any move for Foster would be a non-starter. A second point to make regarding Foster is that the likely new manager at White Hart Lane will have his own ideas on signings. If he does not fancy Foster it would blow any potential move out of the water.
Believability Meter: Low
Any transfer rumours involving Tottenham have plenty of obstacles to overcome, which makes them tough to take in at present.
With there being no indications that Lloris wants to move, Foster would be well advised not to hold his breath waiting for a bid to come in.
Timing of Ross Barkley to Liverpool from Everton Rumour Defies Belief
You really have to question the wisdom involved in the publication of the Ross Barkley to Liverpool transfer rumour this week.
Chris McKenna of the Daily Star opened a potential hornets' nest on Tuesday when he claimed that the Everton midfielder would be the subject of a £38 million move by the Blues' neighbours.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed an excellent season after being given an extended run in the team by Roberto Martinez since the start of the Premier League campaign.
Barkley has thrived this term, and could soon be making his way to the World Cup finals with England this summer.
It is no surprise that such a burgeoning talent is linked with major clubs across the Premier League and Europe.
And sure enough, McKenna notes that Liverpool would be sparking a bidding war for the player along with Chelsea and Manchester United.
But this article appeared in Tuesday's edition of the Daily Star. That would be 15 April—the one day of the year where Merseyside unites to remember the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
This year was particularly poignant as it represented the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, with Everton manager Martinez among those who spoke during the memorial service at Anfield.
Hours earlier, of course, the Goodison Park boss had laughed off the rumours of Barkley heading across Stanley Park, as Paul Collins of the Daily Mail reported.
In terms of speculation, we already turned down a £50m bid from [Manchester] United, so we're not going to take £38 million from Liverpool.
It's quite enjoyable to speak about speculation because it shows how well our players are doing.
That's the type of football compliments we want.
As a boyhood Blue, it is unlikely Barkley is going to jump at the chance to join Liverpool, despite the successful period the Reds appear to be heading into.
But the player and Everton will also realise their star is on the rise under Martinez as they chase a Champions League spot for next season.
The timing of this rumour which left us in dismay. For one day only, Everton and Liverpool supporters join forces in memory of fellow fans and their families. The last thing any side would want is to put a spoke in the wheels of that bond on such a sad day.
Believability meter: Low
Barkley will certainly not be leaving Everton this summer. The midfielder knows the fervour that follows the Blues and will want to be a part of that.
The Star needs to have a look at its timing, though. It was woefully out on this occasion.
Arsene Wenger Must Stand by Fabianski Ahead of Szczesny for FA Cup Final
There will be plenty of questions for Arsene Wenger to answer in the closing weeks of the season, most notably the subject of whether he will be signing a new contract.
But one of the hardest in terms of team selection may just have been made that little bit easier by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny this week.
The Poland international has admitted he is resigned to missing the FA Cup final against Hull City next month after compatriot Lukasz Fabianski held the role throughout the cup run, as Mark Irwin of The Sun (subscription required) reported.
Szczesny is quoted as saying:
The decision’s up to the manager but I think Lukasz has done really well and deserves a lot of credit.
Obviously, I would love to play at Wembley but Lukasz was our shootout hero in the semi-final against Wigan so I was happy for him.
I am an Arsenal fan and I just want us to win the FA Cup. It’s not about me playing. It’s just important to get a trophy and hopefully appease everyone at the club.
The Arsenal No. 1 is playing down Fabianski by describing him as having "done really well" after he saved two penalties in the shootout against Wigan Athletic to send the Gunners into the final.
But opinion will be divided on who should be in place for the final against the Tigers on 17 May.
Szczesny has been a much-improved figure for Arsenal this season in the Premier League, with his confidence as buoyed as anyone else's in the opening months of the campaign when the Gunners were on a roll.
The Gunners' season, however, has unravelled in recent weeks, with both the title and the Champions League disappearing from view.
While Wenger cannot afford to allow sentiment to dictate his team selection for the final, the choice would have to be Fabianski, even if the Pole is on his way out of the Emirates Stadium, as Sky Sports reported in February.
Out of decency and loyalty, of course, Wenger would be right to select Fabianski, but his choice of goalkeeper in the FA Cup has not halted their run.
Faced with a similar situation a year ago, then Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini opted to draft in Joe Hart for the final against Wigan ahead of Costel Pantilimon. That decision did not pay off with the England international beaten by Ben Watson's late header.
Wenger is in a no-win situation here and only hindsight will deem either selection as right or wrong. But these are the perils of management.
Expect disappointment for Szczesny on cup final day.
Believability meter: High
This really is a tricky one for Wenger.
No matter what his future holds, the Arsenal manager will be desperate to end his nine-year wait for a trophy next month, and reaching the FA Cup final against Hull is as good an opportunity as he will get.
But it is Fabianski who has helped the Gunners reach this stage, and he deserves his chance at Wembley.
Chelsea and John Terry Must Find a Compromise to Ensure Stability in Defence
Perhaps only in football could performing well and having experience and loyalty cause employers to reduce your wages.
But that is the position Chelsea captain John Terry finds himself in, according to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.
The former England captain's current contract with the Stamford Bridge club will expire when the current Premier League campaign ends, and negotiations on a new one-year deal will require a major drop in salary for the 33-year-old.
Few would argue that Terry does not have the financial wherewithal to fall back on, but the situation seems a strange mix of the understandable and unbelievable.
What Terry has achieved at the heart of the Blues' defence has gone hand in hand with the success of the Roman Abramovich era at the West London club.
Regardless of the polarising opinion the central defender has between general football fans and Chelsea supporters, Terry has been the foundation for the silverware haul at the club since the Russian billionaire took over Chelsea in 2003.
And, after last season, when the player's number appeared to be up, Terry has bounced back to become a pivotal figure in the rejuvenation of the club during the second coming of Jose Mourinho.
It is, of course, within reason for Chelsea to make the sensible choice of offering one-year contracts and smaller wage packets to over-30 footballers, but the situation with Terry deserves closer inspection.
At 33, Terry still has at least two seasons at the very top within him if he can maintain his fitness, but the experience he has gained means he will be aware that his positional sense will be just as crucial as his mobility.
Only naivety would dictate otherwise, and nobody could accuse Terry of such a blemish on his character.
According to Cross, Mourinho has backed his captain's claims to stay on at the club, but finances look to be the deciding factor here with the article saying Chelsea "will not budge" from their stance.
Terry is not the only Blues star facing the same dilemma of staying on for less money, with midfielder Frank Lampard also in the same position.
Ashley Cole's deal will also end in the summer, but his lack of first-team opportunities this season are expected to see him make the move away from the club.
However, Terry is the one deal of the three which could prove crucial. Chelsea and the defender must find a way around any impasse.
Believability meter: High
Terry's name adorns the Stamford Bridge stands on the banner marked "Captain, Leader, Legend" and his importance to the team has never been as evident as this season.
His control of the back line has been a significant factor in the Blues remaining in the Premier League title race this season.
And progression in the Champions League cannot be viewed without Terry's defensive qualities.
Both sides must find a compromise to prevent the steps forward taken under Mourinho becoming leaps backward next season.
Sacking Pellegrini Not on Manchester City Agenda Despite Waning Title Hopes
The newspapers of Friday morning brought a somewhat surprising tale to our attention.
Martin Blackburn of The Sun (subscription required) reported that Manchester City would not be sacking manager Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the current season.
The basis for the article is that City's recent collapse in the Premier League title chase was reminiscent of the one which befell Roberto Mancini last season.
To be honest, we never even considered the idea of the Chilean departing the Etihad Stadium at all, despite the defeat at Liverpool and the home draw with struggling Sunderland in the last seven days.
Liverpool were just a shade better than City on the day at Anfield and the draw with the Black Cats was merely the kind of bad day at the office that anyone can have.
Blackburn quotes a senior club source in relation to Pellegrini's City future:
Pellegrini will definitely still be in charge next season—guaranteed.
Mancini went because it was such a disappointing campaign last season and behind the scenes it was chaos—even though he had been in charge for three-and-a-half years.
Now it’s a much happier and more settled club under Manuel—and don’t forget there has also been progress.
We won a cup last month and were also much improved in Europe, reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in our history.
Under Mancini last season, City's defence of the league title was a woeful affair, and one which saw a comparatively average Manchester United crowned champions by a margin of 11 points.
City's final hope of silverware was the FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic, where a late Ben Watson winner gave the relegation-bound Latics their first major trophy.
The whole campaign was a spectacular implosion and the Wembley showpiece was played out under the shadow of Mancini's bleak future, which eventually shrouded him days after the final.
Spin forward just short of a year, though, and examine what Pellegrini has achieved with or without the Premier League title.
City qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history, with only an unfortunate last-16 pairing with Barcelona blocking further progress to match their neighbours.
Pellegrini also lifted silverware with the Capital One Cup victory over Sunderland in March, which was one more trophy than Mancini achieved last year.
Early-season defeats to the likes of Cardiff City and Aston Villa were the product of a team settling into its rhythm after a change in leadership and the summer overhaul of the squad.
There is absolutely no chance that the City hierarchy will be rushing headlong back to the bad old days when a revolving-door policy existed at the club for its managers.
Pellegrini has moved City forward and the players are responding to his style of management. His P45 remains sidelined.
Believability meter: Low
All in all, this is a non-story that smacks of a sports editor asking a reporter to check something out as a vague idea on the back of two disappointing results.
But where previously a Manchester City manager could be just 90 minutes from a crisis, the regime under Sheikh Mansour is a far different proposition with an emphasis on building for the future.
And Pellegrini has produced genuine results on the field this season.
Manchester United to Finally Land Cesc Fabregas in the Summer?
How similar will Manchester United's shopping list this summer look to last year's incarnation?
That is an interesting question to consider, especially when iUnited so publicly failed to sign many of their top targets nearly 12 months ago. Will David Moyes really risk further embarrassment by going back for players and to clubs who snubbed him so recently?
In the case of Cesc Fabregas, at least, it seems the answer could well be yes. Although United have also been given some prodding, with Barcelona reportedly informing the Old Trafford hierarchy that they would now consider bids for the 26-year-old.
Metro reported on Sunday:
United made signing former Arsenal captain Fabregas their number one priority last summer, but despite making three different bids, Barca refused to sell.
The deal eventually collapsed and United have been looking elsewhere, but less than 12 months later, it could be back on with Barca said to be ready to part with the midfielder.
According to various reports in Spain, Fabregas has been told that he will be part of a squad clear out this summer—and if a suitable offer arrives he can leave.
Fabregas has failed to impress since re-joining boyhood club Barca, having found himself playing out of position on many occasions.
United are thought to value the Spain star at about £25million and could now make a new bid at the end of the season, in the hope he can fill their creative midfield void.
Will United still be keen on Fabregas? While the signing of Juan Mata in January should in theory diminish the need for a creative type like Fabregas, the ex-Arsenal man would still offer more creativity and guile in midfield than the side currently has.
In short, at £25m, he would not seem to be a bad purchase.
Fabregas, too, may be willing to depart having become something of the fall guy for Barcelona over the course of this season. Frequently the odd man out for big games, or the first man substituted when things are not going well, Fabregas has been moved to the fringes a touch under Gerardo Martino.
The Spain international has previously expressed his pleasure at being links with top sides, while maintaining that he wants to stay at Barcelona as long as he is happy.
Speaking to Sport magazine (h/t Squawka) in March, Fabregas said:
All I know is, as a football player, when you are wanted by a club—especially the size of Manchester United‚ it’s always nice and flattering.
I always said I’m very happy at Barcelona, I feel comfortable here and I was playing well and I feel important to the team.
Is he happy now, though? That seems harder to be sure of.
Believability Meter: Medium
It does not seem hard to believe that Barcelona would be willing to sell Fabregas in the summer and, equally importantly, that the player himself would be happy to move on too. If that is the case, then everything would point towards a Premier League return.
That being said, would Fabregas really be willing to join United? While his Arsenal history is not necessarily a huge obstacle, the fact the midfielder has so frequently played up his links with his old club and expressed his support for them via social media perhaps indicates he would find it difficult to play for another English side.
It remains doubtful whether the Gunners would want to buy him back, however, with the cost likely preventing them from strengthening in other areas of greater need, which could leave Fabregas with a difficult decision to make.
In the end, though, he might decide to put his career before sentiment.
“I try not to get involved with those things," Fabregas told Sport, when asked about alienating Arsenal fans by moving to United. "I just see what my heart says.”
One Minute Applause or Silence? Directions Required for Supporters
This has been an emotional week for football supporters, as it always is when the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy is remembered across the country.
The 96 Liverpool supporters who died at the Sheffield Wednesday ground on 15 April 1989 will always be in the hearts of fans.
Commemorations of the tragedy this week have been warm and heartfelt and if you had turned on the television during the powerful one minute's silence before Liverpool's 3-2 win, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was set on mute.
Such was the power in that one period of 60 seconds that it reduced several members of the crowd to tears.
The reason I was so emotional was because of when this game fell.
It wasn't just because it was a big match in our season, it was because this week is always about more than football for everyone associated with Liverpool. It's emotional for so many people.
I'm speaking on behalf of everyone when I say the win was dedicated to the victims and families of Hillsborough.
It is only right that fans of other clubs deserve credit for their own memorials to the victims of the disaster, with the decision to start last weekend's matches seven minutes later than usual in tribute.
Supporters attending the FA Cup semi-finals last weekend were also keen to pay their respects, and a smattering of applause around Wembley before the Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic tie soon spread around the stadium.
The one minute's applause has become the commemorative gesture of choice in recent seasons, but is it the right way to remember the victims of a terrible tragedy such as Hillsborough?
Clapping is usually seen as an act of celebrating a life, like fans did in memory of the life of Preston North End and England legend Sir Tom Finney following his passing earlier this year.
There is no way that fans at both of last weekend's FA Cup semi-finals will have wanted to disrespect the memory of the 96 people who went to a last-four tie and never returned.
But the applause seemed out of place in the context of reflecting on the lives lost in South Yorkshire 25 years ago.
The football authorities also deserve credit for their efforts to remember the lost Liverpool fans, but some clarity for respectful supporters may be required ahead of such occasions in the future.
The raw emotion of the 60-second silence at Anfield carried more than just a memorial, it was a statement of support for fellow fans.
It seemed incongruous that applause, albeit a spontaneous and heartfelt gesture from those in the stadium, should greet the same issue at Wembley.
Believability meter: Medium
It might not be the biggest issue for authorities in world football, but the nature of tributes in the wake of tragedies and for personalities who have passed away should be made clear to match-going supporters by governing bodies.
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