Walcott close to new deal as Arsenal move for 'new Essien'
Winger has been offered a better deal and will sign this week; Palace get tough over Wilfried Zaha
IS THE Theo Walcott saga about to come to an end? All bulletins this morning suggest that the enigmatic winger-cum-striker is finally set to agree a new deal with Arsenal.
Walcott, whose existing contract runs out in the summer, had rejected the Gunners' original offer of £75,000-a-week and also demanded a more central striking role. Now manager Arsene Wenger appears to have caved in and, after playing Walcott through the middle to great effect in recent weeks, a new £90,000-a-week deal is said to be on the table.
According to some reports a new round of talks between the player and the club was held on Wednesday, but The Mirror rubbishes that suggestion and says that the player's advisers will meet club officials in the next few days to thrash out the finer points of the new deal.
The Gunners are also being linked with a move for Afriye Acquah, the 20-year-old Ghanaian midfielder who has been dubbed the new Michael Essien, largely because he is Ghanaian and plays in the same position as Michael Essien.
Football Italia reports that the Gunners are about to put in an offer of £7.3m for the player, who is on the books of Italian club Palermo, but is currently on loan at Parma.
Meanwhile there is more good news for Gunners fans who could be about to wave goodbye to some of Wenger's biggest flops. The Daily Mail reports that Andrei Arshavin, who is hanging around the Emirates like a bad smell, could be off on loan to PSV Eindhoven. The Russian has turned down a loan move to Reading but the paper says he would be open to a reunion with his former national coach Dick Advocaat in Holland.
Even better news is that Marouane Chamakh could be heading for Lille after proving conclusively that he does not have what it takes to lead the line for the Gunners. West Ham, who have something of a track record with underperforming strikers (Andy Carroll anyone?), are also said to be keen on the Moroccan, who failed to make it into the squad for the African Cup of Nations.
Metro reports that German outfit Hannover 96 are all set to liberate Johan Djourou from his Emirates exile. Remarkably, the Swiss defender is Arsenal's longest-serving player, but he has not played for the club in the league all season. Now the Bundesliga side have confirmed that they are in talks with Arsenal over a deal for the 25-year-old. They could take him on loan until the end of the season ahead of a permanent deal in the summer.
Hold your breath Manchester United fans, because the biggest flirt in football has been fluttering his eyelashes and talking of his "love" for the club.
That's right, Cristiano Ronaldo, widely expected to quit Real Madrid at the end of the season and already linked to a £60m move back to Old Trafford, has revealed to Metro that he has "a great feeling of friendship" towards United and that the club will always be close to his heart. However, he added that scoring for Real Madrid to knock United out of the Champions League would "make everything better".
Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has been linked with pretty much all the big clubs and a bidding war is expected to erupt this month with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs all after his services.
But The Guardian reports that Palace are not going to roll over and will demand that any deal for the 20-year-old will include a clause that allows him to carry on playing at Selhurst Park for the remainder of the season. And not content with that, it seems that Palace will also demand a couple of players from the buying club on loan for the rest of the campaign.
Finally, Liverpool have confirmed the signing of Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge for £12m while Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has admitted that Toon striker Demba Ba will head to Stamford Bridge this month after Chelsea triggered the £7.5m release clause in his contract.