In Brief

Arsenal bid £2m for Iranian Lionel Messi, Sardar Azmoun

Gunners also eye up South Korean striker Heung-Min Son as Liverpool go for Ashley Cole

Sardar Azmoun

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures and Arsenal are hunting far and wide for the players who can transform Arsene Wenger's broken band of also-rans into genuine title contenders.

Where better to start than with Lionel Messi? Not the original you understand, Wenger is far too frugal for that. Instead, according to Metro, he has identified the Iranian version, Sardar Azmoun, as his man for the future.

The paper claims that the Gunners have made a £2m offer for the 19-year-old, dubbed the Iranian Messi, who has been linked with both AC Milan and Juventus and, despite making only  a handful of appearances for Rubin Kazan,  is rated as one of the best young players in Russia. Metro describes him as a "quick, skilful and agile striker", who arrived in Russian from Iranian outfit Sepahan Isfahan last year.

Still with the misfiring Gunners, and Caughtoffside claims that Arsenal have identified South Korean frontman Heung-Min Son as the man to get them goals next season. The 21-year, who joined Bayer Leverkusen from Hamburg only last year, has been in sensational form this season in the Bundesliga and is back on Arsene Wenger's radar.

The Nutty Professor was first linked to Son last summer but lost out to Leverkusen in the race to his signature. However, Caughtoffside says that Wenger is still keen on the youngster and has made him his "top priority" in the summer, even though he knows he'll have to part with a shed-load of cash to prise him from Germany.

Title-chasing Liverpool are eying up Ashley Cole with the Daily Star reporting that manager Brendan Rodgers is a big fan of the veteran England defender.

The 33-year-old Cole could be available on a free transfer this summer and according to the Star he's feeling increasingly "marginalised" at the Bridge by Jose Mourinho. Since returning to Chelsea as manager last summer Mourinho has preferred to play right-back Cesar Azpilicueta out of position at left-back and that's led Cole to question his future.

Rodgers knows the player well from his time at Chelsea, where he once worked as youth team coach and reserve manager. The Star says that Cole, who has also been linked to the New York Red Bulls in the MLS, is "interested in the move to Anfield", even though it would mean vying for a first-team spot with the up and coming 21-year-old Jon Flanagan.

Meanwhile the Star also claims that Cole's Chelsea teammate, Frank Lampard, is weighing up his options after coming under pressure from Nemanja Matic in the Chelsea squad. Apparently the Red Bulls "are willing to pay" Lampard £72,000 a week to see out his career in the Big Apple, an eye-watering sum for a player who is on an annual rolling contract extension with Chelsea.

Still with Chelsea and the Evening Standard says that the Blues "have stepped up their bid" to convince Thibaut Courtois that his future lies at future at the Bridge.

The 21-year-old Belgian goalkeeper is enjoying his third successive loan season at Atletico Madrid and has been building on his reputation with every month that passes. Courtois, who joined Chelsea from Genk for £7m in 2011, said earlier in the season  that he would only return to London if he was guaranteed regular game time instead of playing second fiddle to Petr Cech next term.

Now the Standard says that Chelsea Roman Abramovich has ordered senior adviser Marina Granovskaia to take the matter in hand and, while talks are progressing slowly, it's believed Chelsea are telling Courtois that "he will get the opportunity" to stake a claim for the No1 jersey next season.

In other news, it seems that Real Madrid's interest in Southampton defender Luke Shaw – reported in this column only yesterday – has caused consternation at the Etihad. As a result, says, Manchester City "are prepared to take the lead" in the race to sign the 18-year-old and will offer the Saints £30m in the summer. 

Whether that will be enough for Southampton remains to be seen, but Goal reports that Chelsea and Manchester United remain in the running for the England international with Real Madrid hovering ominously in the background.  


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