B/R Gossip Roundup: Hazard to Stay at Chelsea, Lallana Deal Good Move for Saints
The World Cup is almost upon us but the newspapers have still found space to feature speculation and gossip over the past week.
Let's take a closer look at the rumours and speculation of the past week.
Chelsea to Resist PSG and Keep Hold of Hazard
Like a glut of star names in football, Eden Hazard’s focus will be on Belgium’s World Cup challenge.
That will be a positive for Chelsea, as there is little chance of the flying winger having his head turned by talk of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Reports of PSG’s interest have been doing the rounds for some time, with coach Laurent Blanc doing nothing to douse the fire by declaring his love for Hazard, per the the Daily Mail’s Matthew Morlidge.
The Mail appear to be keeping abreast of developments surrounding Hazard, as Sami Mokbel wrote on Friday that Chelsea are readying a sizeable wage increase in order to keep the player out of the grasp of PSG.
In his piece, Mokbel wrote:
The Blues will look to ward off interest from France by handing the exciting forward a new deal—that will see his current £170,000-per-week deal rise to nearer £200,000.
His current contract still has three years left to run, and Chelsea hope the statement of intent of extended terms will be enough to keep Hazard at Stamford Bridge.
PSG have proved time and again since being taken over by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2011 that money is no object. Therefore, they would not lose any sleep over trumping Chelsea’s contract offer.
As such, Chelsea are right to fear a raid on Stamford Bridge from the French capital. Talk of a bid from PSG rings true, as does the suggestion from Mokbel that Chelsea are ready to up his wage.
It would not come as a major surprise were Hazard to pine for a return to France, having cut his teeth in the division with Lille, but he has unfinished business at Chelsea.
He has only been at Stamford Bridge for two seasons and is in the middle of Jose Mourinho’s rebuilding operation. PSG could offer him 250,000 or more reasons to make the move, but time is on Hazard’s side.
Believability Meter: High
PSG proved with their bid for David Luiz that they are still willing to throw money around, despite FFP sanctioning, but Chelsea have the whip hand in that Hazard has three years left on his current contract so there is no pressing need to sell.
Expect club and player to reach agreement on a new deal at some stage this summer.
Frank Lampard Linked to MLS but 8-Month Wait for Action Opens Door to Short Deal
Frank Lampard ended a 13-year association with Chelsea this week after a period of unparalleled silverware at Stamford Bridge.
The England international confirmed his departure while in Miami with Roy Hodgson's squad preparing for the World Cup, as BBC Sport reported.
No sooner had the 35-year-old announced his Chelsea exit than the links between him and New York City of Major League Soccer began to take on greater emphasis.
Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph was among those to report that Lampard has already spoken with the part-Manchester City-owned franchise over a possible move.
However, with NYCFC not entering the MLS until March 2015, it leaves the midfielder with a lengthy wait for competitive action, were he to join the franchise.
That is not an ideal situation for any player of his age, and one that will face David Villa, who confirmed his signing for the North American club from Atletico Madrid June 1.
For Lampard, though, it could be an awkward decision.
He will not be short of offers, with Andrew Dillon of The Sun (subscription required) claiming that 16 clubs are chasing his signature.
Lampard needs a short-term solution if New York is to be his next permanent destination.
However, his affection for Chelsea might work against a move to another Premier League club, ruling out any link-up with his uncle, Harry Redknapp, at Queens Park Rangers.
Manchester City might also be tempted to offer Lampard a short-term contract as part of the New York City deal, but that again might act against his instincts.
Lampard will not make any decision on his next move until after the World Cup, but the English top flight might just have said farewell to him, which will be a crying shame.
Believability Meter: Medium
Lampard does seem to be edging towards New York City if reports this week are to be believed, but the experienced midfielder will need some competitive action in the meantime.
His affection for Chelsea might not see him play for one of the Blues' Premier League rivals, such as Manchester City, but would it be too much for him to join QPR?
This will be a case of watch this space in the coming weeks, with any number of clubs potentially ready to make an offer for Lampard, even if it is only a short-term deal ahead of a move to the Big Apple.
Roy Keane Taking Sensible Step by Seeking Assistant Manager Role
There might have been one or two relieved faces within the Celtic dressing room this week after Roy Keane decided against taking the manager's job with the Scottish champions.
BBC Sport reported earlier in the week that the former Manchester United midfielder had turned down the Parkhead hot seat to remain as Martin O'Neill's assistant with the Republic of Ireland.
Keane had spoken with Celtic about replacing his former Hoops team-mate Neil Lennon, but withdrew his candidacy.
Immediately in the wake of that decision, James Nursey of the Daily Mirror reported that Keane was being courted by Aston Villa to assist to Paul Lambert.
The article claimed that taking up the role at Villa Park would allow Keane to remain with the Irish set-up and continue his career as a television analyst with ITV.
However, after that article was published, Keane announced he would not be continuing his media work with ITV as he wanted to focus on coaching, reported Owen Gibson of The Guardian.
As several football writers noted, it was not the first time the Irishman had made a late withdrawal from participating in the World Cup on the eve of the tournament.
We cannot help but applaud Keane for his decision to focus on coaching rather than rubbing shoulders with Adrian Chiles et al in Brazil.
The Old Trafford legend has been a refreshing and honest voice on ITV, but it is clearly working within football that is his motivation.
He has stuck to that desire and the opportunity to go work alongside Lambert, himself a relatively young manager, will provide a strong incentive.
Keane has not managed in the Premier League since stepping down as Sunderland manager in December 2008, and he has not had control of a team since being sacked by Ipswich in January 2011.
The former Ireland international only returned to the dugout in November when O'Neill asked him to be his assistant with the national team following the resignation of Giovanni Trapattoni.
Keane is clearly taking his time on any full-time return to management, and his rejection of Celtic appears to indicate that.
He deserves some respect for not jumping at the first opportunity to cross his path, and instead opting to continue working alongside O'Neill.
The move to Aston Villa would also represent a common-sense approach for the Irishman, a mutually beneficial arrangement that would see both Lambert and Keane trading experience and education.
And anything has to be better than sitting in a humid television studio in Brazil, doesn't it?
Believability Meter: Medium
As with all other decisions, Keane will take his time to consider which role to take, but the Villa No. 2 must appeal to him.
It is a chance to find his feet again in club management, and a move that would deserve respect after rejecting the comfort of the television studio for a position he genuinely loves.
Romelu Lukaku Ideal for Everton, but Move Depends on Chelsea Buys and World Cup
As Everton ended the Premier League season with the win at Hull City, there was a genuine sadness among Goodison Park supporters that Romelu Lukaku's goal at the KC Stadium could be the last in a royal blue shirt.
The Belgium international was warmly welcomed at the start of his season-long loan deal from Chelsea, and the forward repaid the welcome with 15 goals in his 31 league appearances (via WhoScored.com) for Everton.
It could even be argued that an injury that kept Lukaku out of the Everton side midway through the season was a pivotal moment in the, ultimately, failed chase for the Champions League.
The 21-year-old was forced out of January's Merseyside derby at Anfield after 25 minutes as the Toffees collapsed in a 4-0 defeat, while the lack of a penetrative striker cost the team a potential three points against Tottenham.
The other loss of that month came at Chelsea, where Lukaku would have been ineligible anyhow, but the absence of a cutting edge cost Everton dearly as a late winner saw the Stamford Bridge club pick up all three points.
However, Evertonians will have been lifted on Friday as Simon Jones of the Daily Mail reported that the Merseyside club had opened talks with Chelsea for Lukaku.
The article does not clarify what kind of deal is being discussed, although a full-time switch to Goodison is an unlikely option.
Jones also noted that Lukaku has been offered to Atletico Madrid, and that their are six other clubs monitoring his situation.
For Jose Mourinho, loaning Lukaku to Everton has a proven knock-on effect, with the striker scoring goals against Liverpool and Arsenal to deny Chelsea's title rivals points in important matches, while he also scored against Manchester City in two games last term.
But any move would be dependent on a successful transfer window for Chelsea.
If Lukaku has a successful World Cup, then a big bid from abroad could blow Everton's hopes of securing his signature out of the water.
Believability Meter: High
There is no doubt at all that Everton will be keen to secure Lukaku for at least another season, and the benefits for Chelsea are there to see after the Belgian's goals against the Blues' Premier League rivals in the last campaign.
However, it is likely to be Lukaku's form in Brazil and Chelsea's chase for new strikers that determine the young forward's next move.
Put Those Flags of St George Away, the 2018 World Cup Is NOT Coming to England
We just knew it had to happen. The only question was: Who would say it?
Step forward, Robin Cottle of the Daily Star, who claimed that England would host the 2018 World Cup finals if wrongdoing was found to have occurred in the voting for the right to stage the 2022 tournament.
In the wake of allegations of corruption involved in the vote that saw Qatar get the 2022 finals, as reported by Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake of the Sunday Times (subscription required), it was inevitable that somebody would put England to the fore as a replacement host.
Perhaps the only surprise here is that it is the 2018 version of the FIFA tournament that has been declared as heading for the land of the Premier League.
But Cottle has this all figured out, and he wrote that "experts" claimed the 2018 vote would have to be restaged if the 2022 one was, as the world governing body invited bids for the two competitions at the same time.
There is a genuine hankering in England to stage the finals for the first time since 1966, and it is a valid point, with both Mexico and Germany—albeit in the guise of West Germany in 1974—each having twice hosted the World Cup in the proceeding 48 years.
But the English press is no stranger to calling for finals to be staged in their country when potential problems appear with the host country, but that isn't going to change the minds of FIFA.
Despite the backing of Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, the Football Association's bid for the 2018 finals fell flat in the first round of voting, as BBC Sport reported.
However, the Daily Star article fails to mention that England's bid was behind the joint Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium attempts to stage the competition in four years' time.
Those organising committees might also have something to say if the 2018 vote is re-run, which, of course, it won't be.
Cottle's article was a lovely piece of patriotism, but it was well, well wide of the mark in terms of a genuine story.
Believability Meter: Low
It just won't happen. Sorry to everyone in England.
The Premier League is among the best leagues in the world and the infrastructure is already in place, but FIFA will be hugely reluctant to let anyone other than Russia host the 2018 competition.
No quotes on the story, even from an informed source, point to the fact that this is merely a touch of overzealous patriotism.
Southampton Taking Risk in Impasse over Liverpool's £25m Move for Adam Lallana
Liverpool's proposed move for Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana seems to have gone on for as long as the Premier League season.
And when the Reds upped their initial offer of £20 million to £25 million last week, as Dominic King of the Daily Mail reported, everyone thought it was a done deal.
Tony Barrett of The Times (subscription required) reported on Monday that the transfer had hit an impasse as the Saints held out for a fee of £30 million.
According to the article, Liverpool's increased offer for the England international was dependent on Southampton doing business as swiftly as possible.
With Rickie Lambert completing his move to Anfield from St Mary's on Monday, it comes as no surprise that Southampton would be reluctant to allow another star player to leave quickly afterwards.
But Saints chairman Ralph Krueger and owner Katharina Liebherr are playing a risky game of chance with this one, we suspect.
The £25 million offer is a good one for England international Lallana, who has told the south coast club that he wants to leave, according to Jack de Menezes of The Independent.
That Independent article came after Barrett's report, giving rise to the feeling that Lallana is now trying to push the move through.
Few Southampton supporters could deny Lallana the right to make the move to a bigger club after eight seasons at the club, during which he has helped the Saints rise from League One to the top flight.
His loyalty deserves some respect, but with his current club thwarting his ambition, it is unfortunate that his legacy at the club could be undermined on the back of pushing for a move, if De Menezes is correct.
It could also see Southampton holding on to a player who does not want to be there, which could lead to Lallana's value depreciating beyond the Liverpool offer.
However, it is the stalling tactic reportedly being employed by Southampton that is causing any potential friction.
The bottom line here is that £25 million represents great business for Southampton.
Believability Meter: Medium
Like many transfers to have gone before, the Lallana-Liverpool switch appears to have been made more difficult than it should be.
Of course, there may be something here that is known to Southampton and not being reported, but the club should snatch up Liverpool's offer of £25 million for Lallana.
Not doing so is a risky strategy.
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