Arsenal fight Real Madrid for Draxler, as Balotelli bid looms
Spanish giants give up on Suarez and turn to German star, as Gunners eye other options
COULD Real Madrid be poised to derail Arsenal's hopes of signing Julian Draxler in the summer? That's what the Daily Mail claims, the paper saying that the 20-year-old Schalke striker is now on Real's radar.
The Spanish giants had hoped to sign Luis Suarez at the end of the season, but with the Uruguayan hitman staying loyal to Liverpool it appears Real have turned their attention to Draxler. Arsenal tried to lure the sharpshooter to the Emirates last month but failed, with the Mail alleging that Arsene Wenger refused to meet Schalke's asking price of £37m after a hike to the original fee of £30m.
Recently Schalke have conceded they are powerless to prevent Draxler moving on in the summer if a club is willing to hand over £37m because of a release clause in the youngster's contract. It remains to be seen whether Wenger will stand firm in the summer over the transfer fee but if he does, the Mail says Real Madrid are likely to nip in ahead of the nutty professor and sign Draxler for £37m.
With Arsenal facing a fight over one of their main targets, what of the others? The Daily Express has news of two. And first up is a player linked to Arsenal for most of the autumn, who then failed to join in January - Karim Benzema of Real Madrid.
The Express says that talks over a new contract are now underway between the player and the Spanish club. Benzema's current deal runs out in 2015, so if there is no progress, Real will probably aim to offload him in the summer., particularly if they get their hands on Draxler. Juventus, PSG and Arsenal are all said to be awaiting the outcome of the talks with bated breath.
Another star who has been linked to the Gunners is AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who, according to the Express, is unhappy in Italy and ready to move back to a league where the fans really appreciate his on and off field exploits.
Fuelling rumours that he could be a target for the Gunners, however unlikely they may sound, is the fact that Arsenal have just signed a £150m kit deal with Puma, who also sponsor the player. The Express goes as far as to suggest that the German sportswear company is willing to stump up as much as £15m to help grease the wheels of a deal to bring Balotelli to the Emirates.
Still with Arsenal and the Daily Star says that Turkish outfit Galatasaray have offered Bacary Sagna a four-year deal worth £16.4m. The news will come as a surprise to PSG and Monaco, both of whom have been linked with the Arsenal right-back in recent months, but the Star says that the French right-back is considering the offer.
The 30-year-old Sagna, absent from the Gunners' 2-1 win over Liverpool in the cup on Sunday, is out of contract this summer and though the Star says Wenger is "desperate" to keep him he won't offer more than a one-year deal for any player over 30. That has opened a window of opportunity for Galatasaray and according to Sagna's agent, Laurent Gutsmuth, they intend to take it. He says the Turkish club are "interested" in a deal and see Sagna as a replacement for their current right-back, another former Gunner, Emmanuel Eboue.
The Daily Mirror claims that Manchester United are planning a raid on Germany this summer as they look to put their recent woes behind them. Apparently United manager David Moyes has drawn up a dream team of Deutschland stars and these include Borussia Dortmund pair Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus as well as Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos.
The Star says that Dortmund could well agree to a deal because last season's Champions League finalists are keen to take back Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Dortmund before moving to Manchester for £16m 2012. It may be that Dortmund do a straight swap with United - Gundogan for Kagawa - and then sell Reus for a sackful of cash.
As for Kroos, the Star says that his "deteriorating relationship" with Bayern Munich is being closely monitored by United and the Old Trafford club are looking to exploit the player's alleged anger at his salary in comparison to the riches paid to Franck Ribery and Mario Gotze.
The Sunday Times says that United have offered Patrice Evra an extension to his contract. The France international has started 25 of United's 26 Premier League fixtures this season and, reports the paper, in doing so "he has triggered a clause in a deal he agreed with the club in February 2011". The clause in questions confirms that if Evra played a set number of matches in a season he would be guaranteed a year's extension. That has now happened and so Evra, already on a basic annual salary of more than £6m, could negotiate an even more lucrative deal. Then again, says the Times, he could quit United on a free transfer should he so wish if a more attractive offer came along. That's a distinct possibility with PSG said to be sniffing around the 32-year-old who, despite his age, is playing as well as ever.
And Evra's not only the only player United are looking to keep hold of. According to the BBC, Wayne Rooney is expected to sign a new five-and-a-half-year contract with the Red Devils this week that will increase his wages to about £300,000 per week. Not bad for a team mired in mid-table mediocrity.