As the temperatures cool down and the new year rapidly approaches, the transfer gossip is heating up with rumours flying thick and fast.
Manchester City are looking to improve their squad to aid their push for a place in Europe, and their prime target is Mexican striker Nery Castillo, currently out of favor at Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester City made an offer of one million euros for a one-year loan and the option for a permanent move, but that’s far, far short of what Shakhtar are looking for, according to president Rinat Akhmetov, who says Shakhtar want five million and the right to determine Castillo’s future themselves.
Manchester City lost out on Castillo one time already, when Shakhtar beat them out to sign him from Olympiakos in the summer, but maybe their persistence will pay off in the end. That would benefit both club and the player, who’s not too happy in the Ukraine, as he must have realized that Eastern Europe is nothing like the Mediterranean or Central/South America.
The Daily Mirror reported on Monday that Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has his sights set on Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari. The 23-year old Ghanian has been an influential part of Portsmouth’s impressive early start, and despite the fact that Muntari only moved to the south coast this summer as Portsmouth’s record signing, that may not deter Benitez from making a move for him to bolster the Liverpool squad in case he’s unable to seal a permanent move for the 17-million pound rated Javier Mascherano.
Muntari said: “I want to end up at one of the biggest clubs – that is every player’s dream. Of course I will try my best here and help Portsmouth win many things, and maybe qualify for Europe, but eventually I would like to play for a bigger club.”
But, Pompey boss Harry Redknapp isn’t so eager to let Mr. Ambitious pack his bags for the north-west, saying that the rumors were ‘absolutely rubbish’ according to the Portsmouth News.
At the same time, he might have to go back on his comments, as Muntari may well be sacrificed for the sake of giving Portsmouth some money to spend in January, as Redknapp expects the transfer kitty to be bare come the turn of the year.
Muntari was a Manchester United target on multiple occasions earlier in his career, but it looks like Manchester United have their sights set on other options these days, as it’s been reported that Sir Alex Ferguson will ask the Glazers for permission to go after Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm in January, on the heels of record profits for the club.
Even if he gets the cash to make the move, the tension created by the long transfer saga involving Owen Hargreaves could mean either the 24-year old German international stays in Munich, or we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more until he makes his Manchester United debut in January 2009.
Manchester United have been linked with Lahm’s backline mate Willy Sagnol for quite a while, so if they strike out on one, then why not go after the other?
There are a couple of Arsenal-related tidbits in the news. Gunners midfielder Lassana Diarra is itching for an exit from the Emirates because he’s getting splinters in his backside from sitting on the bench too much. Diarra, 22, has been with Arsenal for only four months after a summer move from Chelsea, and is a regular selection in the French national side, but is finding opportunities few and far between for France’s B side.
Given how little Diarra has seen the pitch in his time in London (with both Chelsea and Arsenal), methinks his next move will be far, far away, for the sake of his sanity and career, but then again, he hasn’t played at Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, Charlton, Crystal Palace, or QPR yet, so stay tuned.
The future might be a little more defined for Arsenal center back Johan Djourou, who’s currently on loan at Birmingham. According to the Mirror, Alex McLeish wants to extend the 20-year old Swiss international’s stay, as he’s due to return to Arsenal in January. Djourou has made a dozen Premier League starts for Birmingham this season, and would be a definite asset to the Brummies’ hopes to avoid relegation, but Arsene Wenger might be keen to bring him back to London to provide depth and cover at the back through the second half of the season, as the Gunners chase domestic and European glory.
Birmingham, along with Wigan, are also reportedly interested in Hibs’ star left back David Murphy, according to Sky Sports’ website. Murphy, who started his career at Middlesbrough and also played for Barnsley on loan before moving to Hibs, has been looking to leave Scotland since the summer, and his agent says that the 23-year old would be interested in a move back to his native England.
Juventus are looking to bring in a Bavaria-based playmaker, but it now may not be Werder Bremen star Diego, but Hamburg SV and former Ajax star Rafael Van der Vaart who is the new apple of Juve’s eye. The Bundesliga side may not want to let him go until the summer, as they’re in the running for a Champions League spot at the halfway point of the league campaign, currently sitting third behind Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen heading into the league’s winter break. But even if they can’t get the 24-year old Oranje star in January, Juve may be content to wait until the summer, when Hamburg may be okay with cashing in on their prized asset, as Van der Vaart has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave on the cheap in 2009.
Van der Vaart has also been linked with Chelsea, Inter, and Valencia, where he could link up with his former coach at Ajax, Ronald Koeman, but he may disappoint them all by signing a contract extension with HSV, who are looking to return to the prominence they had in the 70s and 80s.
With the African Cup of Nations fast approaching, clubs that will have players participating in the tournament have to make plans to cope with the absences. Marseille will see four players make the trip to Ghana, and Erik Gerets has his eyes on replacements. According to MTNFootball.com, the player at the top of Marseille’s list is 19-year old Burkina Faso international Charles Kabore, who has also impressed Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham with his play in midfield for French Ligue 2 side FC-Libourne-Saint-Seurin. Meanwhile, Nigerian international defender Taye Taiwo could be making his way out of Marseille next month, with Valencia having shown their desire in bringing him to Spain, as reported in the same article.
Free-agent Argentine defender Diego Placente should have a new home soon, as a number of European clubs, including Middlesbrough and Wigan, are reportedly looking to bring him in. Placente, who was released by Celta Vigo this summer after he said he didn’t want to play in the second division, has also played for Bayer Leverkusen and River in his career.
Cruz Azul striker Cesar Delgado is on Benfica’s wish list, but apparently they’re going to have pony up a little more coin to get him, having offered a paltry 3.5 million euros to the Mexican club for his services. He is also apparently on Lyon’s radar, so Benfica’s going to have to shell out the money (likely around six million euros) to have a chance to snap him up, or they could lose out.