Arsenal close in on Morata and Casillas, but miss out on Sanabria

Gunners hoping to sign Real Madrid stars, but Barcelona prodigy looks set to snub Wenger

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 08:17 ON Mon 23 Dec 2013

AS ARSENAL prepare for what could be the most significant match of their season so far, the Daily Star claims Arsene Wenger is, after all, closing in on a deal for Alvaro Morata.

The 21-year-old striker was first linked with a move to the Emirates last month but Wenger shrugged off suggestions he was poised to swoop for the Real Madrid hitman. But the Star says that Wenger, whose team hosts Chelsea tonight, has since changed his mind and is now after a "double deal" with Madrid next month.

Not content with poaching Morata it seems he also wants to bring out-of-favour goalkeeper Iker Casillas to north London. It's believed that while Real are open to parting company with their veteran shotstopper, they are less keen to sell Morata but could be convinced if the cash meets their demands.

However, the Gunners' hopes of landing another star from Spain appear to be receding, if the Daily Mirror is to be believed. It claims that Barcelona's Paraguayan prodigy Tonny Sanabria is set to join Roma rather than Arsenal after the Italian club stumped up the £3.6m needed to trigger the 17-year-old's release clause.

Sanabria joined Barcelona's youth academy in 2009 and has progressed from there. He was even given his international debut in August. But despite his burgeoning reputation Sanabria looks set to continue his development away from Camp Nou, and although Arsenal have a track record of luring younsters from Barcelona, it seems Sanabria is now more likely to head to Italy.

Still with Arsenal and The Sun reports that Chelsea striker Demba Ba has denied rumours suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in the January transfer window. The Senegalese sharpshooter has started just two Premier League games this season for the Blues, finding himself playing second fiddle to Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o in Jose Mourinho's teams. "People talk a lot about me joining Arsenal. But there has never been an approach from them," Ba told the Sun. "There is nothing going on in this regard. Things are OK for me at the moment."

Elsewhere and the Mirror claims that former Gunner Robin van Persie will not be among the Manchester United players leaving Old Trafford in the New Year. The once great Dutch striker is rumoured to be angling for a move away from Old Trafford, as is Japanese ace Shinji Kagawa. But the Mirror says that manager David Moyes is determined to hang on to the pair so United can "launch a challenge on four fronts". Nonetheless that hasn't stopped Moyes making eyes at Monaco's highly-rated Radamel Falcao and the Colombia striker is said to be top of his wish-list in the January Sales.

If the Daily Mail is to be believed, one player who is set to leave Old Trafford in a couple of weeks is Alexander Buttner. The 24-year-old Dutch left-back, who arrived from Vitesse Arnhem in a £5m deal in the summer of 2012, is apparently close to agreeing to a move to Italy. The Mail says that Roma and Genoa are chasing his signature but that the pair would prefer to take Buttner on loan for the rest of the season. If he fulfils expectations then a long-term deal will be agreed in the summer. Apparently Moyes will let Buttner go as he's failed to adjust to the pace of the Premier League in the 16 months he's been at the club.

Finally, the Daily Express claims an exclusive with the news that although Liverpool star Luis Suarez has just become the club's "highest-ever earner" with a deal that sees him pocketing £175,000-a-week deal (possible rising to £200,000 if his recent red-hot form continues), a clause has been added to his new contract. That clause, says the Express, stipulates that Suarez will be allowed to leave Liverpool if the Reds fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League. It's alleged that the Uruguayan goal machine is desperate to play in the Champions League and feels that if Liverpool don't qualify for Europe's showpiece competition this season then they never will.

The Express says that Suarez has told friends the "ideal scenario is for Liverpool to qualify for next season's Champions League allied with a good World Cup with England's group opponents Uruguay".

Should Liverpool fail to finish in the top four, Suarez will likely move to Real Madrid with president Florentino Perez a long-time admirer of his. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.