Arsenal may move for Mario Balotelli, but not veteran Pires
Gunners could swoop for bonkers Man City legend, as Wenger also eyes German Lars Bender
IS Bonkers coming back to Blighty? Yes, says the Daily Mail, as it claims Arsenal would consider signing Mario Balotelli in January. Bonkers Balotelli - or Mad Mario to his friends – spent a couple of madcap seasons at Manchester City where, if he wasn't letting off fireworks in his bathroom, he was popping into local schools to answer the call of nature.
According to the Mail Balotelli, who joined AC Milan last season, is on the brink of quitting Italy because of the "rumbling" issue of racism in Serie A. And where better to head than the Premier League and leaders Arsenal? The Mail says that the 23-year-old striker could be sold for as little as £12m which, at that price, "is surely worth the risk", just so long as Catherine wheels and Roman candles are kept safely under lock and key.
Giving further credence to the story, Caughtoffside says that the last straw for Milan was Balotelli's recent three match ban for abusive and threatening behaviour towards a referee during his side's defeat to Napoli. It's alleged Milan chiefs view his presence as a "disruptive influence" on the San Siro side and will weigh up an offer from Arsenal. Caughtoffside adds that though Liverpool are also said to be interested Arsenal are favourites given their consistent presence in the Champions League.
Meanwhile the Daily Star reports that the Gunners are ready to bid £20m to get their hands on Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender as manager Arsene Wenger continues his belief in Vorsprung durch Technik.
Having steadily strengthened his squad with Germans in recent seasons, Wenger is desperate to sign the 24-year-old Bender in the New Year. According to the Star Bender comes with the recommendation of Arsenal's latest German recruit Mesut Ozil and the Gunners are therefore primed to table a £20m bid at the start of next year.
Apparently they have already had one bid of £18.5m rejected by Leverkusen but Wenger refuses to give up. It's reported that the German club are relaxed about the matter and, having sold Andre Schurrle to Chelsea and Dani Carvajal to Real Madrid in the summer, they don't need the money and therefore might try and spark a bidding war. The Star claims the midfielder is "also admired" by Manchester United who are looking to strengthen their midfield to stave off the possibility of relegation to the Championship next season.
Talking of Germans and Arsenal, the Mirror says that Per Mertesacker is to be offered a new contract as the club looks to tie him to the Emirates for another three seasons. The lanky central defender captained his side to a 2-1 victory away at Swansea on Saturday, giving another assured performance at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Mertesacker arrived at Arsenal in 2011 and after a shaky start has found life to his liking in London. His existing deal runs out in a year but Wenger wants Mertesacker – who turned 29 on Sunday – to see out his career at Arsenal.
One player who isn't rejoining the Gunners is elderly midfielder Robert Pires, although he is following in the footsteps of some of his illustrious former colleagues and training with the squad to keep up his fitness.
The French midfielder, now 40, was part of the famous 'invincibles' team of the 2003-4 season, but Sky Sports scotches rumours that Arsene Wenger is so desperate to rekindle those glorious days that he is considering putting him back in the team.
Mathieu Flamini may have recently re-signed for the Gunners, and the likes of Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell have rejoined in the club in the twilights of their careers. It seems though that despite Pires's excellent fitness ethic the sun has well and truly set on his days as a Gunner.
In other news the Express reports that Liverpool are ready to "trump" Arsenal and Chelsea with a January move for Paris Saint Germain ace Javier Pastore. The 24-year-old Argentine playmaker was approached by Arsenal in the summer and rumours persist that the Premier League pacesetters are still interested in the South American magician. But the Express says Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is keen to bring Pastore from Paris to Merseyside because he believes his squad still needs bolstering.
Pastore was dropped for PSG's 1-1 draw with title rivals Monaco last week and the Express says that's led him to consider his future in the French capital. But if the Reds are serious about signing him then they'll have to pay in the region of £20m.