In Brief

Chelsea spark Ramos scramble, Bale talks down Man Utd move

Spanish defender could head to Premier League if pay demands are not met as Man Utd and Arsenal wait

Will the transfer window end with a bang, or fizzle out in the January drizzle? We will find out on deadline day next week, but in the mean time there is plenty of speculation and innuendo as players, agents and clubs jockey for position ahead of a frantic countdown:

• Chelsea, fresh from booking their place in the league cup final, are reported to have made the first move in the race to sign Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. According to the Daily Express the Blues "have made contact" with the agent of the Spain international despite initial interest from Manchester United and Arsenal. The 28-year-old Ramos is out of contract in 2017 and, according to the Express, "has already turned down" Real Madrid's first offer of a new contract because he wants to be put on the same salary as Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. If the extra money is not forthcoming then the Star says Ramos will make "a shock departure" at the end of the season, and it appears Chelsea have pushed their way to the front of the queue. Blues boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos during his spell in charge of Real and apparently sees him as the long-term replacement for John Terry.

• Gareth Bale has scotched rumours that he could soon be heading back to England. The Real Madrid was speaking on Spanish radio show 'El Larguero' on Tuesday night when the subject of a move to Manchester United was raised with the Welshman, reports the Daily Mail. "'For me, no," he replied when asked if he was thinking of a return to the Premier League. "I've done an interview recently crushing the rumours that I'm not happy here. I've got four and a half more years to go on the contract... Yeah, I feel happy, I feel the love from the crowd. I want to show them what I can do on the football pitch and win as many trophies as I can."

• Real Madrid and Man United could end up doing some business soon says the Daily Telegraph. It reports that Madrid are prepared to wait 18 months if it means they can sign goalkeeper David de Gea on a free transfer. The Spanish stopper's contract is up in the summer of 2016 and he has yet to agree a new deal. "Real’s readiness to be patient in their pursuit of De Gea is likely to pose a financial dilemma for United," says the paper. "Any failure to tie him down to a new contract before the start of the 2015-16 season would leave United exposed to the possibility of the Madrid-born goalkeeper signing a pre-contract agreement with a non-Premier League club from next January."

• AC Milan have beaten Tottenham and Arsenal to the hand of Mattia Destro with the Daily Express reporting that the Italian outfit have snared the 23-year-old striker for "a bargain £520,000". The Gunners were linked with Destro earlier in the season and then rumours emerged at the weekend suggesting Spurs were about to barge their north London rivals out of the way. But the Express reports that Milan were left in urgent of need of a sharpshooter after Stephen El Shaarawy broke his foot this week, and the paper says Milan will pay £520,000 for the initial loan and then £12.3m at the end of the season.

• Meanwhile Goal.com reports that Arsenal and Chelsea target Paco Alcacer has decided against a move to the Premier League, opting instead to stay loyal to Valencia by signing a new five-year contract. The 21-year-old frontman was linked to the two London clubs in the autumn with scouts monitoring the youngster in the knowledge his contract expired in the summer. But the player, an academy graduate, has committed to the club and told Valencia's official website: "I am delighted and proud to be continuing at Valencia CF for five more seasons. What I have to do now is pay them back by scoring goals."

• Moussa Sissoko has come clean to the French press and admitted he wouldn't say 'non' to Paris Saint-Germain. It was only a fortnight ago that the French midfielder was making eyes at Arsenal but the Gunners have failed to respond to his advances, prompting Sissoko to start batting his eyelashes at the French champions. "PSG are one of the best clubs in Europe," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror. "If they are interested in me, then I would have to think with my agent." The Mirror speculates that Newcastle would sell for around £15m.

• Wilfried Zaha looks to be heading back to Crystal Palace on a permanent basis, according to The Guardian. Billed as the next big thing, Zaha was Alex Ferguson's final Man United signing in January 2013, but things have not gone well for him or the club since then. He made only four appearances under David Moyes and was loaned to Cardiff, who were relegated. Louis van Gaal was not impressed with the winger when he took over and sent him back to Palace on loan. Now the Londoners could get him back for an initial fee of £3m, which represents a £7m loss for United.

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