Arsenal lead hunt for Inter star Kovacic and Belgian Batshuayi
Teenage Croatian prospect could be set to move on after just one year in Italy
SO HOT he requires oven gloves, that's Mateo Kovacic, the 19-year-old Croatian midfielder with the Midas Touch and one eye on the Premier League.
The Daily Express claims that Kovacic is "considered one of Europe's hottest young prospects" after leaving Dinamo Zagreb for Inter Milan last year. But, despite the teenager's talents the high profile move doesn't appear to have worked out that well and new Inter boss Walter Mazzarri has overlooked him of late. Having started only nine matches this season in Serie A, Kovacic is rumoured to be ready for a move to the Premier League and three of England's finest are lining up to sign the youngster.
The Express says that Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all willing meet Inter's asking price of £12.5m for the player, though the Gunners are believed to be frontrunners to land Kovacic. But it's believed new Inter president Erick Thohir may yet have something to say on the matter having declared recently his desire to rebuild the club around its talented core of young players, and that includes the Croat craftsman.
Kovacic is not the only young gun being liked with Arsenal today. Also on the menu is another product of the Belgian production line, Michy Batshuayi. The Daily Mirror reports that the 20-year-old Standard Liege hitman has made it clear that he would be open to a move to England in the summer and that Arsenal would be his preferred destination.
During an appearance on Belgian TV he was asked about his future in the Belgian league and replied: "Unfortunately I do not think I’ll stay." He explained that he had ambitions to win the German and English leagues, before adding that he would like to play for the Gunners, whose last league title came a decade ago.
"Personally, I like Arsenal," he said. "There is a good philosophy at the club, where trust is given to young players. This is a very technical team playing good football, and since I was little this was a team who I liked. I've loved the club from childhood."
Still at the Emirates, and Metro reports that Arsenal have identified Lukasz Piszczek as the man to replace full-back Bacary Sagna if he quits when his contract expires at the end of the season. Despite his advancing years 31-year-old Sagna is demanding a long-term deal and a payrise from the Gunners and if he can't get it with Arsenal the Frenchman believes there are plenty of other clubs that would be happy to cough up.
That has led Arsene Wenger to earmark Dortmund defender Piszczek. The 28-year-old Pole is apparently frustrated with seeing his current club sell its best players and has decided he will join the exodus. Arsenal reckon they can get their man for around £7m, which is something of a snip, given Wenger's rumoured £100m transfer kitty.
Elsewhere and Talksport reports that Chelsea's hopes of getting their hands on Radamel Falcao appear to be disappearing faster than Manchester United's reputation. The Blues have long been linked with the 28-year-old Colombian striker but the sizzling sharpshooter has declared he's no intention of leaving his tax-haven heaven for the Bridge, telling reporters: "I want to play for Monaco in the next years."
Falcao had been expected to join Chelsea last summer from Spanish outfit Atletico Madrid but instead opted for the French first division club and Talksport predicts he will continue to rebuff the Blues' advances even though manager Jose Mourinho is desperate to sign the frontman.
In other news, Goal.com says that Tottenham are closing in on Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk winger Yehven Konoplyanka with his club president forecasting a summer move to the Lane. Talking to Ukrainian TV, Dnipro president Ihor Kolomoyskyi admitted: "I have contact with the Tottenham president... he is interested in Konoplyanka. We are in the stage of negotiations and are perhaps close to signing a contract if Yehven agrees."
While the news will come as a boost to Spurs in the wake of their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday, Liverpool are unlikely to be best pleased. The Reds are known to be interested in Konoplyanka and it is said the club's chief executive, Ian Ayre, jetted out to Ukraine in an attempt to sign the player in January. But Kolomoyskyi believes Konoplyanka should plump for Spurs: "I would choose Tottenham," he said. "There are matches only once or twice a week, and at other times he will still need somewhere to live. I believe London life is preferable to Liverpool."
Finally, Stoke City shotstopper Amir Begovic has told Tribalfootball there is no truth in rumours linking him with either Real Madrid or Manchester United. The Bosnian international's form has reportedly attracted attention from the two clubs, but he declared: "There is no truth as far as I'm aware. I've not had contact with either club."
Pressed on whether he would be tempted to leave the Britannia Stadium in the summer, Begovic replied: "I've enjoyed my time here and don't want that to change but everyone has ambitions to go as far in the game as possible."
So that's a yes, then.