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WITH Arsenal's hopes of winning the title now as cold as the set for the new Star Wars movie, it seems that the Gunners are no longer a force in the transfer market.
According to Talksport Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla has "ruled out a move" to the Emirates in the summer, no doubt concerned he could damage his back stooping to pick the ball out of the net during games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Apparently the 27-year-old has been on Arsene Wenger's wishlist for ages and the Nutty Professor hoped to benefit from the fact that Casilla's contract with Espanyol expires next year and discussions between the Spanish club and Casilla's agent over a new deal have stalled because they can't agree a release clause fee.
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Yet despite all that the gloveman told Spanish rag El Mundo Deportivo: "I have one year left of my contract and I always keep what I have signed." Pressed on whether he was attracted by the thought of moving to London, Casilla replied: "I feel very comfortable here and I have always said that I want to stay... I insist that I will play here next year."
Meanwhile the Daily Mail reports that the Gunners are "preparing to make another bid" for Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender. Their first attempt to land the midfielder last summer ended in failure but Wenger is said to be ready to try again, particularly in the light of Mikel Arteta's poor form this season. Arteta turns 32 on Wednesday and the Mail says Wenger is "keen on signing a younger midfielder" to take the place of the Spaniard next season. It's believed that Leverkusen would agree to sell the 24-year-old playmaker provided the fee is in excess of £20m.
In other news the Daily Star claims that John Obi Mikel is "not interested" in leaving Chelsea despite recent rumours linking the Nigerian international with a move to Inter Milan. The Italian club's new owner, Erick Thohir, wants to spice up the San Siro squad next season and the Chelsea midfielder is said to be on his radar. But the Star quotes Mikel's agent John Shittu, declaring: "As far as I know this is all speculation. Obviously, it is normal for clubs to show interest."
Mikel, who arrived at the Bridge in 2006, has three years to run on his present deal and Shittu says his client won't dump on the Blues. "[He] has not said he wants to leave, and the club have not said they want to let him go."
Finally Goal.com reports that Manchester United frontman Bebe is pining for a return to Old Trafford. The Portuguese hitman, who joined United in 2010, has spent the season on loan with Pacos de Ferreira, for whom he scored twice in their 3-1 victory over Arouca on Sunday. Still only 23, Bebe believes that he still has a future with United and he had this message for David Moyes: "I am in good form and I hope to remain this way," the Portugal Under-21 star declared. "I still hope to return to Manchester United but nobody from the club has spoken to me."
Bebe made just seven appearances for United before Alex Ferguson farmed him out on loan having paid Portuguese club Vitoria de Guimaraes a reported £7.4m.
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