Messi casts doubt on future at Barcelona, as Chelsea wait
Messi drops a bombshell at the Ballon d'Or as Brendan Rodgers tries to complete Balotelli jigsaw
There has been plenty of talking but not much walking among the top clubs so far this January. But with Man City finally flexing their muscles, could that be about to change? Arsenal have been linked with a trio of midfielders, Mario Balotelli could be bound for Italy and there has been an interesting development in the Lionel Messi saga.
• Lionel Messi appeared to cast doubt on his Barcelona future ahead of the Ballon d'Or awards ceremony by telling a press conference in Zurich: "I don’t know where I'll be next year." The unexpected statement will have ears pricking up in west London as Chelsea are said to be preparing a £200m offer for the Argentine star, who suddenly appears unsettled at the Camp Nou. "There is a temptation to over-interpret answers at these ceremonies but few in the room doubted that Messi was looking to make a point on this global stage," reports the Daily Telegraph.
• Earlier the Daily Star had alleged that Barcelona could fire coach Luis Enrique in a bid to keep Lionel Messi out of the clutches of Chelsea. So terrified are Barca of losing Messi that they are reportedly ready to axe Enrique, a coach that their star striker doesn't much care for. The Star quotes Catalan television channel TV3 as saying that Barca are poised to replace Enrique with Frank Rijkaard in order to keep Messi happy. But the BBC reports that Messi condemned the report as "lies" following Barcelona's 3-1 defeat of Atletico Madrid on Sunday night.
• Liverpool are planning a complex deal to plug holes at the front and back according to the Daily Mail Mario, which says Mario Balotelli will be the "catalyst" for the plan, which is being finalised by Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. The Mail explains that the misfiring Italian marksman will be "offloaded" to Sampdoria with the Reds taking in exchange from the Italian club Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Then Liverpool will "splash out £30m" to sign striker Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli and as a sweetner they will probably throw in Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva.
• Another Lucas – Lucas Silva – is the subject of the Daily Mirror's attention, the paper claiming that Arsenal have "the upper hand" in the battle to sign the exciting Brazilian youngster. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder, currently on the books of Cruzeiro, had been tipped for Real Madrid but the Mirror – taking its cue from Spanish rag Marca – says the European champions have "pulled out of the race" and the Gunners are ready to hand over £12m in return for Silva.
• The Daily Telegraph reports that Arsenal are cautiously optimistic of signing Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho this month with the paper reporting that Arsenal will cough up "in excess of £25m" for the Portuguese international. It's not the first time Arsenal have been linked with Carvalho with the Telegraph claiming Arsene Wenger has failed twice in the past but is hoping it will be third time lucky.
• Have the Gunners gone mad for midfielders? At Goal.com there's the claim that Arsenal are closing in on Newcastle's Moussa Sissoko, much to the delight of the 25-year-old Frenchman. Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked with Sissoko in recent times but in conversation with France's Telefoot, the Magpie magician said: "England is my priority. If Wenger calls, I'll have a man-to-man discussion with him and then we'll see. Arsenal has always been the club of my heart."
• Wilfried Bony is on his way from Swansea City to Manchester City and the Manchester Evening News is one of several papers carrying confirmation of the move. Bony has netted nine times for the Swans this season and the 26-year-old has been sold for £25m although the MEN says the fee could rise to £28m "depending on Bony's success at the Etihad Stadium". It's expected the Ivory Coast international will be officially unveiled sometime this week.