B/R Gossip Roundup: No Way Back to Juventus for Zlatan, Torres' Last Chance
We are now hurtling toward new seasons across Europe, with France, the Netherlands and Scotland among those already under way.
And with the month of August comes the last-ditch transfer moves before the window closes.
Daley Blind, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nigel de Jong are among those names to have been mentioned for potential transfers this week.
Here, we take a closer look at the gossip and the rumours dominating the back pages of the newspapers over the past seven days.
1 Final Chance for Torres to Shine at Chelsea
Fernando Torres continues to command headlines, with The Independent’s Samuel Stevens, among others, picking up on quotes from Jose Mourinho which appeared to confirm the forward would not be leaving Chelsea in the summer.
Taking quotes from an interview Mourinho gave to Sky Sports News, Stevens wrote:
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed that he plans to keep luckless striker Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge after offloading Romelu Lukaku to Everton for £28m.
The former Porto and Inter Milan coach said he was 'so happy' with his Blues squad ahead of the new Premier League season after managing to sell the last foreign player required to fall in line with 'homegrown' quotas.
In his interview to Sky Sports News, Mourinho said: “Three strikers is fundamental in a squad and we have three in Fernando, Didier and Diego.”
The sale of Romelu Lukaku and the departure of Samuel Eto’o has left Mourinho with three front-line attacking options: Didier Drogba, Diego Costa and Torres—although the Blues do have the likes of Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle, among others, as additional attacking options.
But given the demands placed on a team competing domestically and in Europe, it is understandable that Mourinho wants three high-class strikers.
Costa will be the main man upfront, with Drogba now in the veteran stage, which leaves Torres as the understudy.
For a player who joined Chelsea for £50 million in 2011, it will be the first time in Torres’ Stamford Bridge career that he will not be viewed as the first-choice attacker.
Being the back-up option to Costa could finally remove the weight of expectation on Torres’ shoulders and enable him to fire in the goals on a regular basis. Given his record in Chelsea colours, 45 goals in 172 games, it would take a leap of faith to subscribe to that view, but Mourinho appears ready to hand the Spain striker one final chance to shine.
There are still a few weeks left to run in the transfer window, meaning things could change at Stamford Bridge.
There is time for Mourinho to move for another striker, despite his suggestion that he is happy with his options, but as things stand, the Portuguese is sticking with Torres.
Believability Meter: Medium
Taking managers at their word is not always the most sensible policy. but with no striker targets seemingly on the horizon, it does seem that Torres will get the chance to make his mark at Chelsea.
Cleverley Future Up in the Air, but There Is Light on the Horizon
Could the Manchester United curtain be about to fall on Tom Cleverley?
Per Adam Bostock of ManUtd.com, new Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal is planning to inform the players he feels do not have a future under his stewardship at some point this week.
In Bostock's piece, Van Gaal said:
I shall make judgements after this tour because I have let all the players play and I know more than I did before the tour.
It's a little bit soon to judge but in football you have to judge. You always have to give a chance to the player to make a transfer [to leave] when you see that his chances of playing are not high.
You have to say it in advance because 31 August is too late. I shall say to the players what I think after this tour but not to you.
According to Jones, Everton boss Roberto Martinez is keeping tabs on the midfielder’s situation and will make a move if the green light is shown.
Cleverley was rated extremely highly when working his way through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, but his career has stalled in the past couple of years, and he found himself the focus of fans’ ire during what was a tough campaign for United last term.
Van Gaal handed Cleverley the captain’s armband in the club’s pre-season clash with AS Roma. With Wayne Rooney also in the starting XI for game, that could be interpreted as a vote of confidence from the Dutchman.
But the problem Cleverley faces is that United have a raft of other midfield options, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher to name but three, while Van Gaal may yet invest in more talent for his engine room.
It could be that Cleverley finds himself on the outside looking in at Old Trafford, which Jones feels may spark Martinez into action.
Jones suggests an £8 million fee could prise Cleverley away from United. Money has often been a major issue for Everton, and they did shell out £28 million to lure Romelu Lukaku from Cheslea. But £8m for a player Martinez knows well from their time together at Wigan could prove money well spent.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
Cleverley is likely to know whether he has a future at United by the end of this week. If the news is not good, it could pave the way for a move to Everton.
Vincent Kompany Worth Every Penny of Bumper New Manchester City Deal
If there is one man who underlines the turnaround in success at Manchester City, it is Vincent Kompany.
The defender was brought to the club by former Etihad Stadium manager Mark Hughes in a reported £6 million deal from Hamburg in August 2008.
This was just before the arrival of the multibillionaire owner Sheikh Mansour at the club, but Kompany, arguably, represents the best buy of City's recent years.
So suggestions of a new bumper contract for the 28-year-old, as reported by Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail, should come as no surprise to anyone.
There is little we can add to your knowledge of what the Belgium international has achieved since joining City six years ago.
Two Premier League titles are the crown jewels in his trophy cabinet, but few would claim that the recent successes would have been claimed without Kompany in the City back line.
His injury absences last season coincided with defeats to Cardiff City, Chelsea and Sunderland, losses which would almost cost dearly by the end of the Premier League campaign.
And anyone who witnessed his brilliant tackle on Barcelona star Lionel Messi during the Champions League last-16 first leg at the Etihad Stadium last season will understand that challenge was borne from a skilled practitioner of the art.
With Martin Demichelis struggling to find his feet at the start of last season, the presence of Kompany alongside him anchored the Argentina international.
Few City supporters will be arguing with a possible long-term deal for the club captain, though, which will always be more of an acid test for a player than the analysis provided from outsiders.
For an external viewpoint, there could well be concern that such a long-term and well-paid contract offers a cushion in which some players lose their edge and desire.
But Kompany has never fallen into that category, and his commitment to City has never been questioned, even amid reports linking him with Barcelona earlier this summer, as Jamie Anderson of the Daily Star noted.
Every transfer is a gamble, but rewarding a team mainstay like Kompany with a huge contract is merely a just reward in the eyes of Manchester City and their fans.
Believability meter: High
Kompany has been a shining light in the success of Manchester City in recent seasons. When he plays well, City play well. He is the heartbeat of the team.
Tying him down to the club on a lucrative new deal is a smart move at the Etihad Stadium.
Rumoured Zlatan Ibrahimovic Return to Juventus Is, Frankly, Ludicrous
There is always one rumour of the summer which merely provokes laughter rather than any thought. On Wednesday, we received the best example of this in the 2014 summer transfer window.
Ben Burrows of the Daily Mirror was among those to report the comments of former Malmo coach Stefan Hansson, who claimed the Sweden international wanted to return to Juventus one day.
Hansson was quoted as telling Tuttosport:
I talk to Ibra as we still have a good relationship from when I trained him as a teenager in Malmo.
After the French Super Cup we started talking about the future, and he told me that he wants to return to Juventus.
If they do not succeed right away, he wants to play there in maybe a year. And money is not a problem.
Not content with the fact that Ibrahimovic is currently playing the lead role in the success of Paris Saint-Germain, reports linking the striker to the Old Lady forget one thing: the view of the supporters.
Ibrahimovic joined Juve from Ajax in 2004 and impressed in his first season, but his second year at the club saw him playing as a target man, and he was unable to attain the same heights.
And at the end of that season, Juventus were demoted following the match-fixing scandal in Italian football. There followed an unseemly parting of the ways between the club and the player.
Juventus were already reeling from the loss of several key players as a result of the demotion, particularly former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira, who joined Inter Milan, when head coach Didier Deschamps demanded that his remaining players stayed at the club.
But Ibrahimovic's agent, Mino Raiola, decided that legal action would be taken to ensure his client was allowed to leave the club, as John Nisbet of The Independent reported at the time.
The divorce was messy and remains unforgotten, with former Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli reminding the world of what happened in an interview with TMW (via Football Italia) a year ago, when Ibrahimovic was also linked with a return to the club.
Cobolli Gigli was quoted as saying:
Nobody can doubt he is a great player, even if a little tactically anarchic. I remember when he demanded a transfer, banging his fists on the table.
Along with his agent Mino Raiola, they make quite a pair! We were forced to sell him, but also the situation meant we had to deal with buyers who knew our backs were to the wall.
At the end of the day, we had to sell to a club that was our historic antagonist, Inter.
This one is unlikely to happen.
Believability meter: Low
This one just isn't on our radar. Hansson was speaking to the media before taking charge of an Indonesian All-Stars team against Juventus in Jakarta this week, and perhaps it was an opportunity to give the match some publicity.
Juve ran out 8-1 winners. Maybe the club were in no mood to forgive the man linking Ibrahimovic with Juve once more?
Blind Has the Look of a Van Gaal Recruit
Van Gaal is riding the crest of a wave following his arrival at Manchester United, with the Red Devils stringing together a string of positive results on their pre-season tour.
Van Gaal has also added to the ranks with the signings of Herrera and Luke Shaw, but as Bleacher Report’s Lead Manchester United writer Rob Dawson wrote on Friday: "Confidence High at Manchester United Despite Lack of Major Summer Signings.”
As Dawson states, an amount in the region of £60 million has exited the United bank account to secure Herrera and Shaw.
But it is clear to see that, despite the positive results in pre-season, United are short of quality in certain areas—notably in the centre of defence and defensive midfield.
Dawson believes Van Gaal will add to his ranks before the window slams shut, but he feels the fans could be left disappointed: "United are hoping to make up to two more signings before the transfer window closes. But the big name supporters are hoping for is unlikely to arrive."
Jones claims Blind, who can operate in a number of positions, is training alone from his team-mates, which is interpreted by Ajax youth-team coach Richard Witschge, per Jones, as a sign that “there's something going on.”
That something, according to Jones, is a possible move to Old Trafford.
Believability Meter: Medium
There is certainly substance to this report, as Blind is well known to Van Gaal from their time together with the national side, so it is clear the coach rates the central defender highly.
Van Gaal is in need of a holding midfielder, and Blind seemingly wants to make the next step in his career. This is a deal that could well come off.
Manchester City Loan Should Not Detract from Frank Lampard's Chelsea Career
The midfielder's move to the Etihad Stadium was hardly unexpected after he signed for the City-owned Major League Soccer franchise NYCFC last month.
But there will still have been some hope among Blues fans that the Stamford Bridge legend would follow new team-mate Kaka to Australia for a few months before linking up with New York.
However, those hopes came to nought on Wednesday as City confirmed on the official club website that the 36-year-old would be available to manager Manuel Pellegrini for the first half of the Premier League season.
What might have hurt Chelsea fans even more were Lampard's words on signing for City:
Joining up with Manchester City is a fantastic opportunity for me to continue to train and play at the top level and make sure I am in top condition for New York City.
It has been an amazing few days for me since the unveiling in Brooklyn and everyone connected with both clubs has been fantastic to me. This is a new chapter of my career and I'm really excited about the experience.
I met Manuel and some of the players in New York and I'm looking forward to getting into training and making a contribution for Manchester City ahead of my move over to New York.
But Chelsea fans should rest easy on the Lampard legacy, which includes a 211-goal haul to become the club's record goalscorer and 13 trophies in 13 years at the west London club.
Only an ignorant would see the move to City as some kind of disregard for Chelsea by Lampard, who was released by the club at the end of last season without the offer of a further extension to his expiring deal. It wasn't the midfielder who made that decision.
Lampard's professionalism has made him a fabulous role model for young Chelsea fans, and even others from further afield. And it is that integrity which has seen him link up with Manchester City for the first few months of the current campaign.
NYCFC employ Lampard, and Manchester City own New York City FC. There is no argument here.
The true Chelsea fans will appreciate Lampard's professionalism which has agreed his move to the Etihad Stadium.
Those Stamford Bridge supporters decrying the England international as some kind of traitor should think again. The silverware tally of recent years, arguably, would not be as great without Lampard.
His Stamford Bridge legacy remains in tact.
Believability meter: Medium
There will always be some who cannot see beyond the end of their own stadium, but decrying Lampard for his loan deal to Manchester City misses the point of the player completely.
Expect an exceptionally warm reception for Lampard from the travelling fans if he plays for City against Chelsea at the Etihad on Sept. 21. He has earned it.
Nigel de Jong Fits the Bill for Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal
The tie-in between the club and the player is completely understandable with the Old Trafford club in desperate need of a holding midfielder.
De Jong, who has Premier League experience after his time at Manchester City, also knows United manager Van Gaal well after working with him with the Netherlands squad.
Jefferson notes that a move for the 29-year-old indicates a move away from the chase for Arturo Vidal at Juventus, but De Jong represents value for United.
The Dutchman appears to offer a natural partner to Herrera in the Old Trafford line-up, with the Milan star providing invaluable protection to the back line—a facet that was, arguably, missing last season in the absence of Michael Carrick.
De Jong also possesses an excellent passing pedigree, with Squawka noting a 91 per cent pass accuracy in a struggling Milan team last season.
But perhaps the most crucial aspect of De Jong's game is his tackling ability. He might not be completely in the mould of Roy Keane, but WhoScored.com has recorded his interception ability as the cornerstone of his game.
De Jong has gone from the man who karate-kicked Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final to the player who shackled Lionel Messi throughout the semi-final four years later.
That is quite some change in perception of a player who some would deem—colloquially, anyway—a rough diamond, but it is because of Van Gaal that this change has come about.
If one man knows De Jong, it is the new Old Trafford manager, and United supporters should trust David Moyes' successor to make the right move.
If he does so with De Jong, there will be few dissenting voices, apart from at the San Siro.
Believability meter: High
De Jong would be a solid addition to Van Gaal's squad, and at the reported price of £8 million, he represents excellent value for money.
There is little doubt that the former Manchester City man would jump at the chance to work with his former Netherlands boss on a daily basis. But the same will, also be true of Van Gaal's thoughts on the midfielder.
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