Believability Meter on the Week's Biggest Rumours: Griezmann, Ronaldo, Neymar

Laura Greene@@Greene_LFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2015

Believability Meter on the Week's Biggest Rumours: Griezmann, Ronaldo, Neymar

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    Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo—Manchester United targets?
    Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo—Manchester United targets?GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

    The January window continues to bear down on us, and transfer gossip is snowballing by the day.

    The past week has seen Manchester United linked with not one, not two, but three megastars, in the shape of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

    The Liga exit door must have been left ajar as, elsewhere, more big names have been tipped to depart. Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann is said to be attracting Arsenal, and Real Madrid's James Rodriguez is apparently the recipient of come-hither glances from Chelsea.

    Our believability meter has been busily chewing over these rumours. Over the next few pages, you will find its verdict on them all—plus the latest on Kevin Grosskreutz, Giuseppe Rossi, Marko Grujic and more.

Liverpool Considering a January Move for Giuseppe Rossi

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    Fiorentina's Giuseppe Rossi.
    Fiorentina's Giuseppe Rossi.Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    Liverpool could move for former Manchester United player Giuseppe Rossi in January.

    The Fiorentina striker has been linked with a move to Anfield by ITA Sport Press (h/t the Telegraph), the outlet reporting:

    Liverpool are considering taking a chance on injury-prone and former Manchester United forward Giuseppe Rossi.

    According to Italian outlet ItaSportPress, Jurgen Klopp is weighing up an £18m move for the 28-year-old.

    It would be somewhat of a risk by Klopp on a player who is struggling for goals this season having missed the entirety of the last campaign with a cruciate ligament injury. …

    Rossi's agent Andrea Pastorello has said his client needs first-team football to regain his confidence and goalscoring flair.

    'He's like a dog chasing his tail,' he said. 'To be a top player he has to get back to full fitness, but to do that he needs to play consistently.

    'It's a thought, nothing more. It's absolutely not a problem or a controversy, but there's no doubt that if he doesn't play it’ll be difficult for him to get back to being the top player he is.'

    Rossi signed for Fiorentina in January 2013, after spending five-and-a-half years in La Liga with Villarreal.

    After beginning last season with 17 goals in 24 games in all competitions, the 28-year-old was forced to miss out on a total of 25 fixtures in 2014/15 after suffering a cruciate ligament injury.

    Believability Meter: Medium

    Off the treatment table and hungry to play, Rossi has found it hard to nail down a regular spot in Paulo Sousa's Viola side so far this term.

    The form of Nikola Kalinic—a summer buy from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk—has much to do with this, as does the fact Khouma Babacar and Josip Ilicic have also been playing their part in front of goal.

    For these reasons, it's easy to see why exit rumours have surfaced, suggesting Rossi may want a change of scenery and increased playing time.

    It's also fair to assume the New Jersey-born player's agent is putting his quotes out there to put pressure on Rossi's employers. Play him/improve his deal or my client could leave. This happens all the time.

    He could, in all likelihood, go. We would not be overly surprised.

    However, the biggest question mark hovers over Liverpool—a club that would be wise to consider its options before it decides to go after another often-injured centre-forward.

Arsenal Gunning for Chelsea Target Antoine Griezmann

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    Antoine Griezmann, Premier League bound?
    Antoine Griezmann, Premier League bound?PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/Getty Images

    Arsenal are ready to battle Chelsea for Antoine Griezmann's signature, claimed ITA Sport Press (h/t Will Giles in Metro) this week:

    Griezmann, 24, has emerged as one of the finest frontmen in Europe at the Vicente Calderon, scoring consistently in both the Champions League and La Liga.

    According to ItaSportPress, the Gunners are monitoring the Frenchman's situation ahead of a potential move, while Chelsea have their heart set on signing a player whose goals could kick-start their season.

    Elsewhere, Griezmann has insisted he is happy with life in Spain and does not want to move to the English top flight, amid gossip detailing a January move to Chelsea.

    As he told Canal Football Club (h/t the Guardian), "I do not feel the need to play in Ligue 1, nor in the Premier League or in Serie A. I am in Spain—I’m happy. Life here, football, I like it all."

    The forward, who swapped Real Sociedad for Atletico Madrid in summer 2014, is under contract at the Vicente Calderon until 2020.

    The France international has notched 36 goals and 10 assists over 73 games with Diego Simeone's side.

    Believability Meter: Low

    Rumours linking Griezmann with a move to the Premier League are nothing new, and a Chelsea switch was on the cards less than 12 months after he joined Atleti, as reported by Dominic Fifield in the Guardian.

    With repeated links in a broadsheet such as the Guardian, we should assume the reported interest has an element of truth. Let's face it, there promises to be a number of European clubs that would happily pay through the nose for a player of Griezmann's talents.

    The Liga side do have history when it comes to selling on big players, especially strikers—Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa among them. So yes, Griezmann could depart for a hefty fee much sooner than we would imagine.

    His buyout clause was upped in August, according to AS (h/t James Cambridge in the Express), suggesting his employers are very aware of the building interest and monetary worth of their player. 

    January is much too soon for a move. Let's revisit this one in the summer, shall we?

Marko Grujic to Snub Liverpool's Advances Until the Summer

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    Marko Grujic (left), pictured after winning the 2015 Under-20 World Cup.
    Marko Grujic (left), pictured after winning the 2015 Under-20 World Cup.Hannah Peters/Getty Images

    Liverpool will have to wait until the summer transfer window to sign Marko Grujic despite their wishes to land the 19-year-old in January.

    The Red Star Belgrade midfielder has already been sounded out by the Premier League side but has insisted he will remain with the Serbian club until the end of the season.

    As reported by Jack de Menezes in the Independent:

    Liverpool have made a move for Red Star Belgrade midfielder Marko Grujic in an attempt to sign the young Serbian in January, but the player is looking to put off a move to Anfield until the end of the season. ...

    However, Grujic has also stressed that he does not want to leave Belgrade in the January transfer window, and after helping Red Star to the top of the league table in Serbia he is intent on helping the club qualify for the Champions league before moving on.

    'I'll try to respect the club, the fans and the general public, but again I think that for myself I have to choose the best environment where I get the chance to play and where I work with good coaches in good conditions,' said Grujic.

    'It is certain that I remain here until the end of qualifying for the Champions League. I had a talk with Liverpool but I did not receive yet any agreement. I’m still a Red Star player.'

    Under contract at Red Star Stadium until 2018, Grujic has made 20 appearances in the SuperLiga this season, scoring five goals and registering six assists (no assist data yet available for Saturday's 5-0 win against Radnik Surdulica).

    In the summer, he won the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand with Serbia.

    Believability Meter: High

    Currently enjoying his breakout season, turning heads and playing week in and week out, there's every reason to believe Grujic will see out the 2015/16 campaign in its entirety with Red Star Belgrade.

    Excluded from the Champions League last season after breaching financial fair play and UEFA club licensing regulations, per UEFA.com, Crvena zvezda have not competed in the competition since they appeared in the third qualifying round in 2007/08.

    If Grujic wants to stay to help them qualify, he stands a very good chance. His team are already very well placed, holding a 22-point lead in the SuperLiga after 21 games.

    Available for just £5 million in the summer, per De Menezes' article, we should expect to see Grujic moving on once the season draws to a close.

Kevin Grosskreutz: Galatasaray to Liverpool?

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    Kevin Grosskreutz, pictured during his days as a Borussia Dortmund player.
    Kevin Grosskreutz, pictured during his days as a Borussia Dortmund player.PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

    Kevin Grosskreutz could be on his way to Anfield, where he would become Jurgen Klopp's first signing as Liverpool manager.

    The former Borussia Dortmund man signed for Galatasaray in the summer, following 236 appearances for the Bundesliga club—235 of them under Klopp—but has yet to play a game for his new side.

    As Turkish newspaper Takvim (h/t Liam Corless in the Mirror) claimed this week, personal terms have already been agreed between Grosskreutz and the Reds.

    Corless also reported, "Grosskreutz joined Galatasaray in the summer but the Turkish club failed to submit the relevant documentation before the transfer window closed, meaning he is yet to play a game for his new team."

    His contract with Galatasaray is set to run until 2018.

    Believability Meter: Medium to High

    Grosskreutz's career in Turkey did not get off to a good start, with FIFA blocking the player's ability to play after his club failed to register his name in time on deadline day.

    As seen on Goal, Gala can register the Germany international in January, but by then it could be too late if personal terms really have been agreed with Liverpool.

    No longer under the management of Hamza Hamzaoglu, who brought him to the club, we are yet to hear whether the Super Lig champions—now coached by Mustafa Denizli—are willing to let Grosskreutz go.

    Judging by his history with Klopp and his apparent desire to leave Turk Telekom Arena, we think this one stands a strong chance of happening.

James Rodriguez Considering a Real Madrid Exit

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    James Rodriguez, a Chelsea target?
    James Rodriguez, a Chelsea target?VI-Images/Getty Images

    James Rodriguez is considering a summer departure from Real Madrid, with a move to Chelsea tipped in the Spanish press.

    According to Don Balon (h/t the Telegraph), the 24-year-old is growing frustrated with life at the Bernabeu under manager Rafael Benitez.

    The Telegraph also claimed that:

    Chelsea's chances of signing the forward could be boosted by him and Jose Mourinho sharing the same agent, Jorge Mendes.

    James is exactly the type of player many feel the club need, especially with Eden Hazard struggling to recapture his stellar form from the past couple of seasons.

    Chelsea though will not be the only club looking to sign James—Manchester City are also interested, and have the financial muscle to match any bid from the Blues.

    The Colombia international signed for Los Blancos following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for a reported fee of £63 million, per the Guardian.

    The former Porto and Monaco player is under contract with Madrid until 2020.

    Believability Meter: Low to Medium

    There have been rumblings of discontent from the Spanish capital of late, surrounding a reportedly fractious relationship between Benitez and some of his players.

    Rodriguez has supposedly been at loggerheads with the Spaniard, as reported by Marca (h/t John Downes of MailOnline), because of the fact he does not feel he has the confidence of his manager.

    A player who is unused to warming the bench, Rodriguez has started four Liga games this term, has been unavailable because of injury on eight occasions and has played a full 90 minutes just twice.

    In the Champions League, injured for three Group A fixtures and on the bench for ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk, he has clocked up just 63 minutes in 2015/16.

    Maybe he's just enduring second-season syndrome, or perhaps his agent really is agitating for a move. We can never know for sure.

    With Champions League qualification for next season anything but guaranteed and Chelsea stuttering this season, a move to Stamford Bridge is not as appealing as it might have been in previous years. We also can't see Madrid sanctioning a move for one of their brightest talents.

    The departure of Benitez, however, is another matter.

Ashley Cole: Next Stop, Aston Villa?

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    Ashley Cole, linked with a return to the Premier League.
    Ashley Cole, linked with a return to the Premier League.Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    Former Chelsea and Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole could be on his way to Aston Villa in January.

    As the Mirror's Paul Gorst reported, Villans boss Remi Garde has already registered his interest in the 34-year-old.

    Currently in Serie A with Roma, Cole has not played at all this season, and his last outing for Rudi Garcia's side dates back as far back at March 3.

    As quoted by Gorst, Garde said:

    Every good player is interesting for me and Ashley is a good player. He is someone who has experience but he didn't play for a while now. Experience is also something we need. I will speak soon with the club and I'm already working on the January window. We know what we want to do.

    Cole will be out of contract at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.

    Believability Meter: High

    It's hard to give this rumour anything but a high rating as it has the appearance of a fairly simple January transaction.

    Cole has not played since March, Garde has publicly registered his interest and the London-born player is already nearing the final six months of his deal at Stadio Olimpico.

    Plus, struggling Aston Villa find themselves at the foot of the Premier League table with a number of injuries, including the season-ending ACL rupture suffered by left-back Jordan Amavi in November. Cole is virtually guaranteed games.

    Over the summer, the club brought in Joleon Lescott, Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards among others to add top-flight experience to their young squad.

    We think Cole will be next.

Bale, Ronaldo and Neymar: Manchester United Plotting Bids for All 3

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    Would Neymar (centre) leave Barcelona for Manchester United?
    Would Neymar (centre) leave Barcelona for Manchester United?David Ramos/Getty Images

    On Friday, the Times' James Ducker broke the news that Manchester United are plotting deals to sign Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

    The Old Trafford side are said to have "put considerable groundwork in on all three in the hope of landing one."

    The following day, the rumours continued to run in a number of outlets in the British press. Reacting to Ducker's exclusive, James Dickenson reported in the Express:

    United are targeting a world-class signing to bolster Louis van Gaal's side, which was dumped out of the Champions League this week. ...

    It is claimed the Red Devils are also keeping tabs on Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski and Tottenham ace Harry Kane.

    United accept luring one of La Liga's top stars to the Premier League could prove impossible.

    Former Manchester United star Ronaldo is contracted to Real Madrid until 2018. His 26-year-old team-mate Bale has a deal that will run out in 2019.

    Barcelona's Neymar has two and-a-half years to go on his contract at the Camp Nou.

    Believability Meter: Low

    The timing of this story tells us a lot about its credibility.

    Hot on the heels of Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League group stage, the exclusive broke.

    It's almost as if someone at the club wanted to detract attention from United's woeful form.

    Of course the Premier League side would love to sign Bale, Ronaldo or Neymar—but wouldn't anyone? Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward might consider selling his own grandma to make a deal like this come off. But it ain't going to happen.

    The reasons are simple. The football on offer is lackluster, United's league position is uncertain. Things went incredibly pear-shaped for former Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes at Old Trafford, Angel Di Maria struggled to adapt to the English game under the Dutchman and the club's flair players, well, they seem to have disappeared.

    It's hard to imagine Van Gaal's outfit present an attractive prospect for players of this calibre—and especially those based at the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    Barca won't sell Neymar, Ronaldo is unlikely to return to his former hunting ground if there's a slight chance it will tarnish his reputation and Bale, although the likeliest target of the three, is probably waiting for CR7 to depart the Bernabeu so he can step further into the spotlight.

    All player and contract information comes from Transfermarkt and Soccerway unless otherwise indicated.