With January fast approaching the more outlandish the transfer rumour the better, or so it seems, with several papers today reporting that Manchester United are lining up a £90m bid for Gareth Bale in January.
As with all the best transfer rumours the paper-trail is never ending, with no paper prepared to claim that the story is true. Even the Daily Star palms the rumour off on Spanish website Fichajes and admits "Bale has regularly expressed that he is happy at the Bernabeu and does not want to leave".
Still, why let that prevent the gossip-mongers making hay? "Real are thought to be keen on Chelsea maestro Eden Hazard and could be tempted to sell Bale to fund a move for the Belgian," says the Star.
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However, a large nail in the Bale rumour's coffin would appear to come from the Daily Telegraph, which reports that Hazard is not going anywhere in the near future and is "poised to give Chelsea the best possible Christmas present by agreeing the final details of his new contract".
The paper reports that the £200,000-a-week five-year contract has been on the table for three months but explains that talks have been "stepped up" this week over signing off the small print.
Is Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger a fan of the Aeneid? It appears so as he goes in search of a defender named Virgil, who could be the man to bring some epic tales of heroism to the Gunners's struggling rearguard. Feeble puns at the expense of the Roman poet aside, it seems Arsenal are preparing to nip in ahead of Manchester United to land Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk next month.
With the Arsenal defence as soppy as a Shakespeare sonnet in the first half of the season, manager Arsene Wenger believes Dutchman van Dijk is just the man to bring some gritty realism to his back four. The Daily Star reports that united had been circling the Celtic man but won't have things their own way now that Wenger added the 23 year-old to his January transfer shortlist.
According to the Star Celtic boss Ronny Deila is reluctant to see van Dijk leave so Wenger "could have a fight on his hands" if he's to get his man. (But if Wenger does land Virgil, perhaps he should also try and sign Dante from Bayern Munich so that together they could guide the Gunners out of their defensive hell).
Onto more prosaic matters and it looks unlikely that Arsenal will be receiving Andrej Kramaric as a late Christmas present. The Croatian hotshot has scored a dazzling 28 goals in 29 games for Rijeka this season in the Croatian league, and as a result both the Gunners and Chelsea have dispatched scouts to run the rule over the 22-year-old. But Caughtoffside claims that the two Premier League clubs "have been dealt a setback" by Kramaric's declaration that he sees his future in Spain.
In conversation with Spanish rag, AS, the free-scoring frontman said: "I would like to play in the Primera Division as Spanish football is, for its style, the best for me." And in what might be seen as a dig at Chelsea and their large squad of stars, Kramaric added: "Sitting on the bench is not my choice, I want to ensure that I will play." As to where he might go in Spain, caughtoffside reckons Atletico Madrid is a distinct possibility with manager Diego Simeone in need of a more reliable goalscorer than the struggling Alessio Cerci.
In other news, the Daily Mirror reports that Radamel Falcao has admitted his future at Old Trafford is up in the air. The Colombian has made just three starts for Manchester United since his sensational loan move in the summer, and Falcao was last seen in action in October. Since then he's been nursing a calf injury and rumours have emerged suggesting his injury problems are long term. Admitting that he would like to stay at United beyond next summer, Falcao nonetheless acknowledged it was out of his hands: "From my point of view, yes, I want to stay but obviously I have to analyse the situation…and see what decision the board takes."
United have the option of taking Falcao full-time from Monaco at the end of this season, though it would cost them £43m and that might be too much if he doesn't prove he's injury free in the new year.
Finally, Talksport reports that Liverpool and Newcastle have both crashed and burned in their pursuit of Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian international was mentioned as a possible transfer target in January's window but the 25-year-old frontman has signed a new deal with French league leaders Marseille. Ayew's existing deal runs out in the summer and while he was tempted by the prospect of playing in England, a call from Marseille president Vincent Labrune persuaded him to sign on for another stint on the Mediterranean coast.
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