Cutting an increasingly grumpy figure at Barcelona, where he has made headlines after very publicly criticising the club’s sporting director (and his former team-mate) Eric Abidal, Lionel Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club for free come season’s end should he so desire. While such a scenario is extremely unlikely, not least because he is the one figure at Camp Nou who is considered truly indispensable, speculation abounds regarding where the disaffected Argentinian might go next should his rattle come sailing out of the pram in a parabolic arc. Needless to say, suits at Manchester City are reported to be monitoring the 32-year-old’s situation with interest, in an unsurprising state of affairs considering his past relationship with Pep Guardiola and the fact they are one of very few clubs on the planet who can actually afford a man of his talents.
City are also being linked with Birmingham City prodigy Jude Bellingham, with tabloid reports suggesting they sent scouts to run the rule over the 16-year-old midfielder during his side’s FA Cup fourth round replay win over Coventry on Tuesday night. Already the subject of interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham is valued at no less than £30m.
Elsewhere in the midlands and worth at least twice that amount, Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish is also wanted by United, who will have to fend off interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid, among others, if speculation in today’s back pages is to be believed. With the staff in what passes for their recruitment department apparently selecting transfer targets by throwing darts at a series of Panini stickers randomly stuck to a wall, United are also eyeing up Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz and Lyon striker Moussa Dembélé. Liverpool also want German international Havertz, while former Fulham and Celtic striker Dembélé has turned heads at Chelsea.
With their own Dembélé, Ousmane, ruled out for the season with a thigh injury, Barcelona are in dire need of attacking options, what with Luis Suárez also being sidelined for the foreseeable future. Restricted to signing free agents or players currently plying their trade in Spain in the even of an emergency, they have identified Getafe striker Ángel Rodríguez as their main target. “For us, Angel would be an important loss, but we are prepared for that situation,” said Getafe president Ángel Torres Sánchez. “We have no news of this interest of FC Barcelona.” The names of Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Willian José (Real Sociedad) and Loren Moron (Real Betis) have also been mentioned as potential recruits.
Back in Blighty, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta likes the cut of Feyenoord’s Dutch born, Turkish U-21 midfielder Orkun Kökçü‘s jib and will endeavour to bring him to the Emirates this summer. Elsewhere in north London, José Mourinho is eyeing up Cengiz Ünder, Roma’s fully fledged Turkish international right-winger. Light on goalscorers, Crystal Palace hope to make a summer move for CSKA Moscow striker Fyodor Chalov, and in doing so may appease Roy Hodgson and convince him to sign a new deal.
Reports by Barry Glendenning / the Guardian