Liverpool to offload Balotelli to Napoli as Arsenal eye Higuain
Liverpool could sell Italian striker and use the money to fund deal for Berahino of West Brom
The vultures have begun circling over Mario Balotelli as his Anfield career fails to take off, and the misfiring Italian misfit is already being linked with a move back to Italy, weeks after arriving on Merseyside.
According to Metro the talk in Italy is that Napoli would be prepared to fork out £10m to bring him back home as his stock "remains high" in Serie A, despite the fact that he has even lost his place in the Italian national set up.
Liverpool might be keen to do business sooner rather than later, particularly if it allows them to recoup most of the £16m fee that brought Balotelli to Anfield. Brendan Rodgers would apparently put the money to good use by spending it on Saido Berahino of West Brom.
If Balotelli were to head to Napoli it could raise questions about the future of Gonzalo Higuain at the San Paolo. However, Arsenal's hopes of signing the Argentine appear to have gone up in flames, after his agent denied he was on the brink of quitting Napoli for the Premier League. The Daily Star describes the news as a "gigantic blow" for the Gunners and Liverpool who were also said to be keeping the striker under surveillance.
It had been rumoured that the former Real Madrid striker was unsettled in southern Italy with suggestions that the 26-year-old could be set for a move to a mid-table Premier League club. But Higuain's brother, Nicolas, also his agent, gave such tittle-tattle short shrift when he was asked his opinion.
"The rumours about Arsenal and Liverpool? Gonzalo has a contract with Napoli for five seasons so he's an Azzurro player," he declared. Pressed on whether either club had been in contact, Nicolas replied in the negative, saying that though Arsenal had been in touch last year about a possible move, this time around, "no representatives from either club have contacted me".
Meanwhile Arsenal are hoping to nip in ahead of Chelsea and Real Madrid and win the race to sign Stephan Lichsteiner. According to the Daily Express the Gunners are "ready to make a cut-price move" for the Juventus defender in January and the Italian club are likely to accept any such deal.
With the 30-year-old Lichsteiner out of contract at the end of the season the Express says he will in all probability sign a pre-contract agreement in the new year.
Apparently the Swiss international has everything Arsene Wenger admires in a defender (a tendency to make wild tackles, a hesitancy when defending set-pieces and dodgy ankles?) and to that end he is "desperate" to beat the Blues and Real to Lichsteiner.
With Juventus wanting to sell the veteran in January rather than see him leave on a free next summer the Express says Wenger is cautiously optimistic he'll be able to get his man for a knock-down price. Juventus, on the other hand, have already lined up Lichsteiner's replacement – Udinese blocker Silvan Widmer.
Perhaps one reason Chelsea aren't that bothered if they miss out on Lichsteiner is because they're increasingly confident they'll prise Gerard Pique from the Camp Nou in the new year. The veteran defender has been the subject of much speculation in recent months following what Goal.com describes as "a series of high-profile mistakes". Though the Spanish international may have fallen out of favour with Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as a result, Goal.com says Blues' boss Jose Mourinho is "keen on signing" Pique and would have no problem finding the £30m asking price.
Finally, Metro says that Tottenham are "closing in" on former Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra. Apparently the lacklustre Lilywhites have held talks with the 29-year-old playmaker with manager Mauricio Pochettino asking club chairman Daniel Levy to finance the deal for Diarra in January.
Taking French sports daily L'Equipe as their source, Metro says that Spurs have offered Diarra – a free agent since leaving Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow last summer - "an interesting package" to lure him to White Hart Lane. The deal would allegedly contain a signing bonus and additional cash based on performances.
Playing for Spurs might not be the pinnacle of a footballer's ambition these days, but it would probably beat waging jihad in Syria, which is what Diarra was rumoured to be doing earlier in the year.