B/R Gossip Roundup: Yaya Woe, Van Gaal Flexes His Muscles, Cesc Talk and More

BR UK NewsFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

B/R Gossip Roundup: Yaya Woe, Van Gaal Flexes His Muscles, Cesc Talk and More

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    It has been another week of rumour and counter-rumour as the domestic football season winds down ahead of the World Cup.

    Major clubs are now turning their attentions to the next campaign, with numerous transfer tales hitting the headlines.

    Yaya Toure is seemingly at odds with Manchester City, while Louis van Gaal is starting to flex his muscles at Manchester United.

    Let's take a closer inspection at some of the week's biggest headlines.

Van Gaal Makes Mark with Manchester Utd Fans Courtesy of Konoplyanka Bid

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    There was already an optimistic feeling around Manchester United this week after the appointment of Louis van Gaal as new manager.

    The Netherlands head coach will take over at Old Trafford once his World Cup commitments with the national team are completed in Brazil this summer.

    The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has an impressive CV from his work across Europe, and, unlike his predecessor David Moyes, he knows how to win major silverware.

    The 62-year-old was already enjoying a honeymoon period with the Old Trafford supporters, but on Wednesday he will have enhanced that feeling with a reported transfer move for one player.

    Arguably, the story of the January transfer window earlier this year was Liverpool's failed bid to land Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka.

    The Reds had even sent a party to Ukraine to ensure the move went through, until Dnipro owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi blocked the move for Konoplyanka, as Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror reported after the final day of the transfer window.

    According to Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror, Van Gaal is now eyeing a move for the very same player.

    Liverpool had appeared to be favourites to sign the 24-year-old, claimed Lewis, but the reported interest from United may hijack the deal.

    Konoplyanka scored four times in seven Europa League appearances for Dnipro this season, and the lack of European competition in the forthcoming campaign could work against him choosing Old Trafford as his next destination.

    Liverpool, of course, have qualified for the Champions League next season after their successful Premier League campaign, while Dnipro have been propelled into the qualifiers with the aid of Konoplyanka.

    Lewis is careful to note that United are waiting on confirmation from Van Gaal that he wants the player.

    But whether he does or he doesn't, the story represents a marker laid down that Liverpool will not be getting the best of their north-west rivals with the same ease as the David Moyes era.


    Believability Meter: Medium

    Manchester United are in need of a left-sided player such as Konoplyanka, but the club are still waiting for Van Gaal to give the green light to a move.

    But no matter whether the United boss wants the Ukraine international or not, putting a spanner in Liverpool's transfer works has been warmly welcomed by Old Trafford fans.

What Is Motivating Bacary Sagna's Transfer from Arsenal to Manchester City?

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    According to David Woods of the Daily Star, Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna is poised to sign with Manchester City.

    The France international, whose most recent game for the Gunners helped them end a nine-year wait for a trophy, has agreed to a £140,000-per-week deal with the Premier League champions.

    Arsenal supporters left the 31-year-old in no doubt as to their feelings with several choruses of "Bacary Sagna, we want you to stay" in recent games.

    However, Woods claims the North London club refused to improve their offer of £80,000 a week on a two-year contract.

    When, or if, Sagna makes his move to the Etihad Stadium, he will be in direct competition with old rival Pablo Zabaleta for the right-back role.

    The Argentina international is younger than Sagna and is a fans' favourite at City after playing 48 matches for the club to help them win the title and the Capital One Cup this season.

    But if you look across to the other side of the Manchester City defence, you will see just why Manuel Pellegrini wants to add Sagna as competition and support to Zabaleta.

    While the Argentine has featured in almost every game, the left-sided duties have been relatively shared between Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy.

    And it is understandable that the City boss wants a similar situation on the right as he prepares to defend the Premier League title and launch an assault on the Champions League.

    But there is little to choose in quality between the two right-backs, as statistics from Squawka prove, and Pellegrini is heading toward a serious selection dilemma.

    Zabaleta and Sagna were also involved in an unseemly altercation during the 2010-11 Premier League season, when both were dismissed during a match.

    Zabaleta's red card was later rescinded on appeal, but the French defender was left seething about what led to the incident, as Matt Fortune of the Daily Mail reported in January 2011.

    Sagna was quoted as saying:

    When Zabaleta swore at me I just blew a fuse. I can speak Spanish, and I understood the insults he aimed at me. I did not want to take them lying down, he pushed me to the limit.

    I regret my actions, and I am the first to say that these types of gestures should be banned from the field of play. But I cracked up on Wednesday. I felt hatred for him.

    But I am not a gangster. The sending-off will serve as a lesson to me for the future, and I won’t make the same mistake again.


    Believability Meter: High

    This move looks to be set in stone if newspaper reports are to be believed, but to the external eye, it seems to be a strange one.

    Sagna will be leaving the Emirates Stadium with the club riding a wave of optimism following the FA Cup win which ended a nine-year silverware drought.

    Money and security is bound to be a factor if Woods' figures are correct, but it doesn't quite make sense for the France international to duel with Zabaleta at the Etihad Stadium when his place in the Gunners team is so secure and the team appearing to be heading in an upward trajectory.

Yaya Toure Will Find Unhappy Return at Manchester City After Week of Turmoil

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    It truly has been one of the most bizarre stories in the history of the Premier League, but the future of Yaya Toure at Manchester City must now be considered at an end.

    The Ivory Coast international has played a leading role in helping the Etihad Stadium club's success story this season, with the Premier League and the Capital One Cup in the trophy cabinet.

    However, Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun (subscription required) reported in Tuesday's edition that the 31-year-old's agent, Dimitry Seluk, was looking at a possible move for his client after the club forgot his birthday.

    Yaya gives everything to his club and is probably the best player in the team—and the club do not protect him anywhere.

    What happened at his birthday meant the club don’t care about him. It was proof.

    They can say whatever they want, ‘Oh we like him but we forgot’. Forgot? About Yaya? The player who helped you to be two-times Premier League champions? The guy who helped you win the FA Cup and the League Cup?

    His birthday can be on a normal day and, in a normal team, his team-mates and club would at least give him good wishes.

    But when you win the title on May 11, a day later you go to Abu Dhabi and on May 13 you have a big party to celebrate the title and nobody comes to Yaya to say, ‘Happy birthday’, what more do you want?

    They can say everything with words. But what we see in action is nothing. It’s proof they don’t care about him.

    If any normal 31-year-old man started complaining about his employers forgetting his birthday, we do not envisage a lot of sympathy being passed around.

    As a Premier League footballer on a wage substantially beyond that of the average UK worker, Toure is in far less of a position to grumble. But grumble he did.

    We all expected Toure to use his Twitter timeline to inform us that this was a case of Seluk talking nonsense or acting irresponsibly on his behalf. But no.

    Instead of issuing an apology to City and the fans, and noting that he had been made to look foolish, the Ivorian wrote on Twitter: "Everything dimitry said is true. He speaks for me. I will give an interview after world cup to explain."

    The lack of capital letters and the fact City did celebrate his birthday notwithstanding, the message was an awful one to leave for supporters, particularly.

    It was a genuine slap in the face of an adoring public who pay sizeable figures to watch Toure play. 

    Yaya Toure is a seriously gifted footballer. Unfortunately, his respect for City fans has some way to go before it is in the same universe as his talents.


    Believability Meter: High

    Check out the comments beneath Toure's tweets this week and you will find the strength of feeling from fans toward the midfielder.

    The irony is that the Ivorian appeared to be distancing himself from his agent's comments when he tweeted the message: "Please do not take words that do not come out of MY mouth seriously."

    Moments later, though, Toure sent his message claiming Seluk was right and fans and everyone else would have to wait until after the World Cup for an explanation.

    The former Barcelona star had a chance to nip the farce in the bud but instead he chose to make it much worse.

    In the process, he also ensured his reputation would be tarnished forever, for City fans and football.

Barcelona Midfielder Cesc Fabregas Is 'Gunner' Be at Arsenal Again

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    When Charlie Wyett of The Sun (subscription required) told us on Friday that Arsenal were considering a move for former star Cesc Fabregas, we felt a genuine sense of: "Yep, that fits."

    Statistics were not necessary; it is just a fact that the Spain international and the Gunners are intertwined.

    These are heady days for Arsenal supporters. Champions League qualification was established for a 17th successive year before the season was completed, and then the FA Cup victory over Hull City last weekend ended a nine-year trophy drought.

    Arguably, both of those successes were greeted with as much relief as they were celebration, but the possible return of Fabregas from Barcelona will be a genuine statement of intent by the Gunners.

    When Luis Enrique was unveiled as Barcelona head coach this week, his response when asked about the future of Fabregas at the club was hardly committed, as Lucas Brown of Sky Sports reported.

    The new Camp Nou boss was quoted as saying:

    In principle, we have not taken any decisions like that because we still have time.

    Some players are now focused on the World Cup finals, which is their job, and how it should be.

    We need to assess and evaluate now and when the time is right we will go into that and we will talk about everything.

    Not terribly optimistic for the 27-year-old, and the prospect of a return to Arsenal must seem rather appealing right now.

    Add into the equation Wyett's claim that Arsenal have a "first refusal" clause inserted into the Spain international's current deal, and there does seem to be genuine reason for optimism that this deal will happen.

    But we wouldn't expect it to be a protracted affair. Enrique is overhauling his squad for next season, and the potential £35 million for Fabregas will be a useful for rebuilding. 

    Arsenal appear to have the figures worked out, and the board and Wenger will realise just how big a fillip Fabregas' return could be.


    Believability Meter: High

    There is no doubt that the addition of Fabregas to the Arsenal squad would be a major boost. The Gunners' early-season optimism faded this year on the back of Aaron Ramsey's long-term injury absence, and a lack of depth saw the Gunners fail to adequately replace him.

    The only possible concern here would be Fabregas' desire for regular first-team football, but that's a risk all players take with new moves. 

    This could be the highlight of Arsenal fans' year, surpassing even the Wembley win over Hull.

David Moyes and Celtic Would Be Wise to Talk After Alleged Wine-Bar Incident

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    David Moyes had been keeping a low profile since his sacking at Manchester United last month, but we were surprised to see his name re-emerge in the manner it did this week.

    The former Everton and Preston North End boss was dining with friends, including former Deepdale chairman Derek Shaw, at a wine bar in Clitheroe, Lancashire, this week when he was involved in an alleged altercation with another customer.

    Martin Robinson and Jaya Narain of the Daily Mail were among those to report that the police were investigating the incident.

    Needless to say, the alleged victim was not slow to ensure his story was heard in a national newspaper, but we'll spare you the details.

    But it is indicative of the situation Moyes could unfortunately find himself in again after his very public axing by the Old Trafford club following a poor campaign since succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.

    However, another news story on the same day has opened up an intriguing possibility for the Scot.

    Neil Lennon announced his decision to part company with Celtic on Thursday to seek a new challenge, as the Daily Telegraph reported.

    The former Northern Ireland international is leaving the Glasgow club in a healthy position after comfortably winning the Scottish title for the third successive season and facing another potential Champions League campaign.

    Moyes spent three years at Celtic Park as a young defender between 1980 and 1983, and in May 2010, the Liverpool Echo quoted the then-Everton boss as saying:

    My ambition is to manage back in Scotland someday. At Celtic, in time. But it wouldn’t be my time just now.

    I hope someday people think I am good enough to get a job back up the road.

    But I still think I have a lot of work to do down here. Maybe someday that will come around.

    And before the Hoops turned to Tony Mowbray after Gordon Strachan stepped down in 2009, Moyes hinted that the Glasgow club had approached him, as BBC Sport reported.

    The hurt of what happened at Manchester United will still be keenly felt by Moyes, especially after the years of relative success over 11 years at Goodison Park.

    Moyes might feel he still has a point to prove in the Premier League, which would be right, but he needs to re-establish his credentials with a certain degree of guaranteed success.

    The Scottish Premiership might be considered a one-horse race, but it might be a timely opportunity for Moyes.


    Believability Meter: Low

    David Moyes is a very good football manager. There, we said it, but we also mean it. He took a relegation-threatened Everton and gave them regular top-half finishes in the Premier League during his 11-year tenure.

    What happened at Old Trafford this season was, at best, unfortunate. But his humbling fall from grace, social media humiliation and alleged incidents such as what reportedly occurred in midweek are undeserved.

    The likelihood is that Moyes is only considering another Premier League job at the moment, but both he and Celtic should at least talk over a possible deal.

Monaco's Adebayor Link Not as Strange as It Initially Seems

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    It always seems strange to see a club without a manager being linked with a player, even more so when the player they are being linked with is at a club also without a manager.

    So it came as a surprise to see Sami Mokbel’s story in the Mail linking Tottenham forward Emmanuel Adebayor with a move to Monaco.

    But on closer inspection, is it actually that strange?

    Monaco are without a manager following the departure of Claudio Ranieri, while it is a similar story at Spurs who parted company with Tim Sherwood earlier in May.

    The usual transfer rules would lead to a backing off with regard to any deals until a new manager is in place. This scenario differs slightly from the norm as Adebayor spent three years at Monaco earlier in his career.

    According to Mokbel, "chairman and co-owner Dmitry Rybolovlev has identified the striker as a summer target despite the fact he is yet to appoint a new manager following Claudio Ranieri's departure."

    Rybolovlev has invested heavily since acquiring a controlling interest in Monaco in 2011, which makes it highly likely that he will have a major say on player acquisitions.

    He spent last summer with the big-money acquisitions of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho.

    As well as shopping in the big boutique stores, Rybolovlev is not afraid to dip into the bargain basement—as demonstrated by his January capture of Dimitar Berbatov.

    Adebayor would be neither a high end nor bargain-basement signing, but he has the talent to be a useful acquisition.

    Throughout his time in England, Adebayor has thrilled and frustrated in equal measures. He was at his best in the second half of the current campaign, as he spearheaded Tottenham’s attack.

    Adebayor would not feature in front of a fully fit Falcao, but he would be a superb back-up option. Some clubs would be reticent to spend big on fringe players, but that is not a concern for Monaco.


    Believability Meter: Medium

    The new manager at Spurs may have a strong desire to keep hold of Adebayor, which could scupper any transfer plans. But if not, it would come as no surprise were the Togo forward to head back for another crack at life in Ligue 1.

Mata Must Be Given a Chance by Van Gaal

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    Juan Mata has had a roller-coaster time in England, with the highs of being named Chelsea’s Player of the Year for two seasons in a row coupled with the lows of being cast aside by Jose Mourinho.

    He was handed a lifeline when Manchester United came calling in January, with his move from Chelsea expected to spark the Red Devils into life under David Moyes.

    Things did not work out as planned, and Moyes lost his job before the end of the season. But it was toward the end of the campaign that Mata started to show his true quality to the United faithful.

    With a full pre-season ahead of him, the signs indicated that Mata would bloom at Old Trafford in the 2014/15 season.

    But will he get the chance?

    If Anthony Chapman of the Express is to be believed, the answer will be no.

    Chapman claims Barcelona are readying a £40 million bid for the playmaker, which new United boss Louis van Gaal will take in order to fund a rebuilding programme of his own.

    A fee of £40 million would be an excellent sum for a manager who has no other funds at his disposal. That is simply not the case with Van Gaal.

    We were not party to the discussions that would have taken place while the Dutchman thrashed out his deal with United, but it is pretty certain that he would have demanded assurances with regard to having a sizeable sum at his disposal to rebuild his squad.

    Van Gaal may deem Mata surplus to requirements; he may have already made that decision. However, it is far more likely that Van Gaal will take the reins following the World Cup with the intention of assessing all of the players at his disposal—Mata included.

    Mata has not become a poor player overnight. He is still the same player who shone so bright at Chelsea and just needs to be handed the chance to flourish in his preferred position as a playmaker in behind the attack.


    Believability Meter: Medium

    If Van Gaal hands Mata a chance, expect United to see the best of the Spaniard. But should the new United boss opt to fill his squad with pace and power, Mata could be the fall guy which would open the door for Barcelona.