Arsenal lead Benzema chase, and eye Sissoko and McCarthy
French striker could be sold by Real Madrid in January, as Gunners also look for midfield steel
Prepare for the return of one of the Premier League's oldest and most enduring transfer sagas. According to the Daily Express, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has decided (not for the first time) that he will listen to offers for striker Karim Benzema.
The news has inevitably sparked a scramble among the French forward's admirers, principle among them Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. The Express says that the Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are all interested in the 26-year-old.
Benzema only recently put pen to paper on a new £150,000-a-week contract but the Express says Ancelotti is keen to "clean house", and offload a number of expensive stars. "The former Chelsea boss isn't desperate to sell the 26-year-old, but should an attractive proposition present itself - he will pull the trigger," says the paper, which adds that a cool £40m should do the trick.
With Jack Wilshere not expected to be seen again until the spring, Arsenal are eyeing up Magpie Moussa Sissoko as his replacement. According to the Sunday Times the Newcastle central midfielder is seen by Wenger as the man to add some backbone to the brittle Arsenal side. The 25-year-old Frenchman was sent off for the Magpies in Saturday's defeat to West Ham but it's that sort of in-yer-face attitude that Arsenal have been lacking in a season when at times they have been as soft as the first fall of winter snow.
Sissoko, who joined Newcastle from Toulouse in January 2013, cost manager Alan Pardew around £1.7m and the Sunday Times says confusion surrounds the length of his contract. The club insist he signed a six-and-a-half year agreement but the paper says that "was contradicted in the summer when his agent Frederic Guerra claimed Sissoko had only 18 months left on his deal". If the latter is true, then Newcastle could be tempted to sell in the new year rather than risk losing him on a free next season.
Meanwhile the Daily Mail says that the Gunners are "willing to open the bidding" for Everton midfielder James McCarthy at £16m. It's not the first time Arsenal have been linked with the 24-year-old Republic of Ireland international and there were rumours Wenger tried to sign him while he was at Wigan. Everton stepped in, however, securing his services for £13m in 2013 and the Mail says his performances for the Toffees this season have "caught the eye" of the Nutty Professor. The paper says that Everton want to hang on to McCarthy, but a big money bid from Arsenal could weaken their resolve.
McCarthy is currently sidelined until the end of the year with a hamstring injury which, given Arsenal's track record on crocks, makes a January move almost inevitable. Additionally, the Mail claims that Arsenal will make an £8m bid for Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings in January as they resign themselves to losing out to Manchester United in the chase for German international Mats Hummels. It's believed the Red Devils will stump up the £32m needed to prise Hummels from Borussia Dortmund and consequently the Gunners will settle for Mings.
In other news The Sun says that Steven Gerrard is "considering finishing his career abroad". It's not the first time such tittle-tattle has filled the tabloid's pages, but according to the red-top the Liverpool skipper – who was axed on Sunday for the clash with Stoke exactly 16 years after his Reds debut – cuts a "dejected figure" at Anfield these days and is seriously considering his options. His contract expires at the end of the season and the Sun says that the 34-year-old "would listen to offers" to end his career away from Merseyside. Asked about the future of Gerrard, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers replied: "The club are talking to his representatives. There's no update."
And according to the Daily Star, Rodgers is poised to sign a new goalkeeper in January providing he "gets the nod to spend from owner John W Henry", who has allegedly told his manger he must sell before he buys. Current keeper Simon Mignolet has been out of sorts for most of the season and the Star says Rodgers has drawn up a shortlist of three: veteran Chelsea gloveman Petr Cech, Stoke's Asmir Begovic and 25-year-old Fiorentina guardian Norberto Neto. Apparently Cech and Begovic would cost £7m and £15m respectively, so the Star says Rogers "may look to sell" Fabio Borini and Glen Johnson to raise the required readies.