Arsenal chase Aubameyang and Ruffier, is Bendtner finally off?
St Etienne's Stephane Ruffier just the safe pair of hands the Gunners need instead of Szczesny
FRANCE continues to be a fertile hunting ground for Arsenal with the Daily Mirror reporting that the Gunners spent Friday night at St Etienne watching Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Stephane Ruffier.
Apparently Arsenal's French scout, former defender Gilles Grimandi, was in attendance at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard as the pair helped St Etienne secure a 2-2 draw against Rennes. The Mirror says Grimandi was so impressed by what he saw of the pair that "he has advised" Arsene Wenger's chief scout Steve Rowley to come and have a look for himself.
The 22-year-old Ruffier is a goalkeeper with a reputation for a safe pair of hands, not something that can be said of Arsenal's incumbent, Wojciech Szczesny. Only Paris Saint-Germain have a better defensive record than St Etienne in Ligue 1 this season, and the Mirror says that's all down to Ruffier's reliability between the sticks.
As for centre-forward Aubameyang, the 23-year-old came through the AC Milan youth system and has already attracted interest from Newcastle, who had a January bid knocked back by St Etienne. However, St Etienne president Bernard Caiazzo is allegedly prepared to give Aubameyang to the Gunners if they cough up £12m in the summer.
There is some good news for Arsenal fans coming from Germany where Hamburg are reportedly considering a bid for the Gunners' drink-driving striker Nicklas Bendtner this summer, according to Metro.
The Danish forward has been out of favour at the Emirates for years, but the club have yet to get rid of him permanently. Instead he has been farmed out on loan to various clubs, but keeps turning up at the Emirates like a bad penny. This season he has been dispatched to Juventus in Italy, but things have not gone well there and there's little chance of the Italians making his move permanent.
But luckily, Hamburg, who were keen on the player last season, are still interested and will be happy to offer him a fresh start.
The Daily Mail claims that Manchester City defender Micah Richards is being "lined up" by Arsenal as a replacement for Bacary Sagna at the end of the season. Rumours have been rife for months that Frenchman Sagna has had his day at the Emirates and the Mail says that's also the case with the 24-year-old Richards at City.
The 24-year-old has been struggling with a knee injury since October and has dropped down the pecking order at the Etihad. As a result Richards, along with Maicon, Wayne Bridge, Scott Sinclair and Roque Santa Cruz, will be culled as City look to trim back their wage bill.
The Metro says that Arsenal are stepping up their attempts to sign Celtic's Victor Wanyama in the summer despite the rumours suggesting Alex Song would like to return to the club. The Cameroon midfielder walked out on the Gunners last summer but his £15m move to Barcelona hasn't worked out and the Metro reports he has put in a "plea" to Wenger, asking to be given a second chance.
But the whining is likely to fall on deaf ears as Wenger zeros in on Kenyan international Wanyama. The 21-year-old has been in sparkling form for the Bhoys this season and apparently Neil Lennon has "conceded" it will be difficult for Celtic to resist Arsenal's advances.
The Daily Star claims that Manchester United will offer Wayne Rooney a two-year contract extension at the end of the season as the club looks to lay to rest gossip linking the 27-year-old with a move away from Old Trafford.
Alex Ferguson is reportedly "furious" at speculation that the England frontman could be heading towards the exit, and the Star says as a result Fergie has instructed the United board "to set the wheels in motion to extend the contract". Asked at the weekend if Rooney, who scored for the Red Devils in Sunday's FA Cup draw with Chelsea, would be at the club next season, Ferguson replied: "Absolutely. There's no doubt about that."
However, the Daily Mail reports that Bayern Munich are set to test Manchester United's resolve to keep the striker by making an offer for him this summer. Not only do the Germans have the money to afford to transfer fee and also his wages, they will have the trump card of new manager Pep Guardiola, whose presence in Munich could be enough to persuade Rooney to jump ship.
Finally, The Sun reports that Manchester City are planning a "swoop" for Leeds right-back Sam Byram over the summer. Sky Blues boss Roberto Mancini believes the 19-year-old defender has what it takes to succeed at the club and will offer Leeds £8m for his services as he looks to find a long-term successor for Argentine Pablo Zabaleta. ·