Barcelona line up David Luiz as new Puyol, Vidic to join Inter
Barca want to replace one hairy defender with another, as Man Utd stopper heads to Italy
IT IS a busy time for centre backs. First there was the news that Barcelona legend Carles Puyol will be quitting Camp Nou at the end of the season. The 35-year-old has not started many games this season, but he remains a club hero with well over 500 appearances for the Catalans.
Marca reports that the bizarrely-coiffured defender has told the club to "be quick" in signing a replacement, and it seems they are heeding the great man's advice. According to the Daily Telegraph Barca have already identified the man to replace Puyol in both the back four and the club's hair salon - Chelsea defender David Luiz.
The paper says Barcelona will bid £35m for the 26-year-old Brazilian. The Catalans hope to conclude a deal and make Luiz a Barca player before he gets distracted the World Cup finals, which kick off in June.
One player whose future is decided is Nemanja Vidic, who will be playing for Inter Milan next season. The Man United captain announced earlier this year that he would be leaving Old Trafford when his contract expired in the summer, and he was immediately linked with a move to Inter.
Now his move to the San Siro has been confirmed. The Daily Mail says he has an agreed a three year deal that will "send Vidic into retirement on a high, in terms of status and earnings, at another of Europe's most famous clubs".
Arsenal's trophy cabinet may be as empty as an American threat to Vladmir Putin, but that isn't stopping some of the Gunners' finest from signing on for a few more seasons (possibly) without silverware.
As we reported yesterday, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky have both penned new contracts and now comes news that Aaron Ramsey also fancies a bit more of finishing fourth in the Premier League and cup runs that end in the spring. According to the Daily Express the Welsh wizard with a wonky groin is poised to sign "a new deal that could see him double his salary". The 23-year-old playmaker enjoyed a blistering start to the 2013-14 season, scoring 13 goals and for a glorious few weeks made Gooners think their nine-year trophy drought could soon be over. But since picking up a groin injury in the Boxing Day win over West Ham, Ramsey hasn't featured for Arsenal as the London club's season has disintegrated like a stretch of railway line on the Devon coast.
The Express claims that Ramsey will sign a "vastly improved five-year contract" which will see his pay double to more than £100,000 a week. The paper says the deal will be officially announced in the next 36 hours and that the contract will make him the second-highest paid player at the club behind jaded German star Mesut Ozil.
Back at Arsenal and the Daily Star says that the Gunners have "joined the race" to bag Marseille gloveman Steve Mandanda. Apparently Arsene Wenger is "ready to plunge back into the transfer market" this summer and his eyes have alighted on Mandanda, who impressed the Nutty Professor during the clubs' clashes in the group stages of this season's Champions League.
But the Star warns that if Arsenal are to win the hand of the 28-year-old Mandanda – capped 16 times by France – they'll have to fight off competition from Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club were hoping to sign Chelsea's Thibault Courtois on a permanent deal after the Belgian impressed on loan from the Bridge, but the paper says Blues boss Jose Mourinho will bring Courtois back to London in the summer to challenge Petr Cech for the number one jersey, leaving Atletico in need of a new stopper.
And the last bit of gossip concerning the Gunners concerns so-called striker Nicklas Bendtner, who has finally admitted he may need to take a step down to get regular game time. The Danish disaster zone has spent most of the season kicking his heels – not to mention doors – in north London but Tribalfootball reports he has finally faced up to reality. Asked if he was looking to secure a summer move away from the Emirates, he replied: "I speak with reasonably big clubs, but I will not go into a huge club and go through the same situation as now just because I get a good salary, I don't care about that. I would much rather join a club... where I know that I can play."
In other news, Talksport reports that West Ham United are weighing up a move for Benfica striker Rodrigo Lima at the end of the season. With Hammers gaffer Sam Allardyce no longer able to rely on Andy Carroll to stay fit for any length of time, he has "turned his attention to Lima". Though he's now 30, the veteran striker is still doing the business for Benfica and will get the chance to display his wares in London when Benfica face Tottenham in the last 16 of the Europa League. Since joining Benfica from Braga in 2012, Rodriguez has netted 33 times in 66 appearances. ·