Arsenal head queue for 'new Liam Brady' as Real chase Zaha
Derby could be forced to sell 17-year-old Will Hughes in January, Man Utd eye £38m James Rodriguez
WITH THE January sales now not too far off, the big boys are scouring the lower divisions for talent and it seems as though a bidding war could be about to erupt for Derby County teenager Will Hughes.
The 17-year-old's manager, Nigel Clough, has hardly helped matters by comparing him to a young Liam Brady, and his old club Arsenal are now said to be at the front of the queue to try and sign him in the new year.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Arsene Wenger's chief scout, Steve Rowley, has run the rule over the youngster and the Gunners have made tentative contact with the Rams over a possible deal. Manchester City and Liverpool are also said to be interested in Hughes, who could become the second youngest player to represent England under-21s tonight as they take on Northern Ireland.
The chances of a deal are increased by the fact that Derby's owners are putting pressure on Clough to raise some money and lower the wage bill at Pride Park.
Scouts were sent by Alex Ferguson to Portugal on Sunday night to take yet another look at James Rodriguez, prompting further speculation that Manchester United will make a New Year bid for the dazzling 21-year-old, according to Talksport.
Rodriguez helped Porto to a 2-1 win against Academica on Sunday night, scoring his side's opening goal and generally putting in another assured shift.
As a result, claims Talksport, the Premier League leaders are poised to step up their pursuit of the young Colombian international as a replacement for Nani, who looks set to be offloaded in January.
That's likely to spark a reaction from Porto. It's reported the Portuguese outfit will increase his release clause fee from £25m to £38m in an attempt to ward off United's interest.
The Evening Standard reports that Crystal Palace co-owner Stephen Browett is determined to hang on to Wilfried Zaha, despite renewed interest in the 20-year-old midfielder following his call-up to the England squad for tomorrow night's friendly in Sweden.
As we reported yesterday, Arsenal have been linked with Zaha in recent weeks after the youngster's outstanding performances for the Championship side. That hasn't gone down well at Palace, with Browett telling the Standard: "We absolutely do not want to sell Wilfried in January… the [transfer] figure of £20m has been talked about and that lets clubs know we are serious but he is not for sale."
But it's not just Arsenal who are after the young winger. The Daily Mirror reports that Real Madrid are also interested in the player, and claims that Jose Mourinho has sent scouts to watch the 20-year-old in action in the Championship.
Mourinho and Zaha could make a good couple as they both consider themselves to be 'special ones'. In an interview with The Guardian, Zaha appeared to declare that in his opinion the only two players in the world who are better than him are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But that could change it he does end up moving to Madrid, where he could pick up some tips from Ronaldo.
Sky Sports says that Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard "could be set for a move to China" after it was disclosed that Guizhou Renhe are in contact with the veteran playmaker. Though Lampard has been mooted as a possible target for a number of clubs in recent months, this is the first time Guizhou Renhe have been mentioned in the same breath as the 34-year-old.
But Sky Sports quotes a brief statement issued by the Chinese club, saying: "Yes, we are in contact with Lampard but so far nothing has been settled." Chinese papers suggest Lampard could be heading east as early as January in order to be ready to start the new Chinese season in March.
Brazilian broadcaster AOL says Leandro Damiao wishes to join Real Madrid and not Tottenham. The Lilywhites have been tracking the 23-year-old striker for ages, allegedly failing to snap him up in the summer of 2011, and now it seems their hopes of landing one of South America's hottest strikers are finally over.
"Every footballer dreams of playing at a club such as Real Madrid," the Internacional frontman told AOL. "It's obvious that the day will come when I will leave Brazil to go and play in Europe."
Finally, The Sun claims Mario Balotelli is definitely heading towards the exit at Manchester City after "partying" 12 hours before the Sky Blues' game against Spurs on Sunday.
We reported on Monday that the Italian striker was being courted by former club Inter Milan, and now the Sun says this latest act of indiscipline by Balotelli is the final straw. It's alleged that Balotelli was seen entering a popular north-west nightspot in the wee small hours of Sunday, the same day Spurs visited the Etihad Stadium.
The paper says manager Roberto Mancini will now be given clearance by the City board to sell the 22-year-old and use the proceeds "to make a club-record £45 million bid" for Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao.