Arsenal inch towards Benzema deal, but Pogba will be a battle
Real Madrid striker set to be offered to Gunners, but Wenger must work to win over Juventus starlet
RUMOURS linking Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema with a move to Arsenal are growing stronger, but Liverpool fans can rest a little easier because the latest edition of the long-running saga does not hinge on their star player, Luis Suarez.
The Evening Standard reports that Real Madrid boss Florentino Perez has admitted that the club could sell Benzema in the transfer window. He told Spanish TV show Punto Pelota that he had faith in all the players at the Bernabeu, but added that their futures were down to the coach, Carlo Ancelotti.
That could mean curtains for Benzema, who has been criticised by Ancelotti and booed by the fans after what the Standard calls an "indifferent" start to the season. It is thought he will be "offered" to Arsenal for a knock-down price of £20m.
His replacement at Real Madrid was widely expected to be Luis Suarez, but Perez hinted that it could, in fact, be Radamel Falcao, the Colombian striker who only joined big money French outfit Monaco for around €60m in the summer.
"He won't come in January but in June, who knows?" said Perez. "Falcao is a great player and I am aware that he wants to play for [Real] Madrid. I am aware of that, but it's normal."
The battle to bag Paul Pogba is heating up with the Daily Star reporting that although the former Manchester United prodigy is happy to stay put at Juventus, for now, the queue of wealthy suitors is growing.
As we reported last week, Arsenal are among the clubs being linked to the 20-year-old Frenchman, but the Star says Paris Saint-German are also planning to table a January bid for the midfielder.
But despite all the interest, Pogba has used an interview with French rag Le Parisien to say he ain't going anywhere in the New Year. "I am happy at Juventus, I have already told you that," muttered Pogba, a member of the French side that beat Finland last night to make it through to the World Cup play-offs. "Words of a potential sale don't bother me. At the moment, I'm with the national team and only want to talk about that."
However, when pressed by Le Parisien on a potential move to PSG he said: "Once I'm back in Turin I'll comment. I just take care of what happens on the pitch, Mino Raiola [my agent] takes care of the rest."
Meanwhile Metro reports that Stoke chairman Peter Coates had admitted the club are "open to selling" another Arsenal target, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, in the January transfer window. The Gunners aren't the only club linked to the gangly gloveman. Liverpool and Chelsea have also been sniffing around the Britannia Stadium in the hope of signing the Bosnian ball magnet.
"You have to be realistic about things," said Coates when asked if he would consider a New Year offer. "If a call came from a top European club and was attractive to him, then you have to look at it. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to me and that's why we have contingency plans in place with other goalkeepers at the club."
Metro claims that Arsenal are the frontrunners to sign Begovic, with Arsene Wenger said to be "having doubts" over Wojciech Szczesny's despite his impressive performance last night in Poland's defeat to England.
The paper adds that an offer in the region of £8m would be enough for Coates to cash in his Bosnian chips.
Talking of keepers and Arsenal, the Evening Standard says that young Gunners goal guardian Damian Martinez has joined Championship side Sheffield Wednesday on a one-month loan deal. Tipped as a future star of Argentina, the South American shotstopper joined the Gunners' Academy in 2010 and made two Capital One Cup outings for Arsenal last term, including the extraordinary 7-5 victory over Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
But Wenger still sees the 21-year-old as fourth in the pecking order behind Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Emiliano Viviano and wants him to hone his skills with the Owls.
Finally, Danish daily Ekstra Bladet has doorstepped Daniel Agger and reports that the defender is happy to remain loyal to Liverpool despite rumours suggesting Barcelona wouldn't mind installing him at Camp Nou.
"Right now I have two and a half years left on my contract, and I intend to fulfil my contract," declared the 28-year-old Agger. "I'm glad [to be] at Liverpool and playing well. We have a great team and... Liverpool is a huge club." Though not as big as Barcelona. ·