It may seem like just yesterday that the summer transfer window closed, but we’re only a matter of weeks away from the madness of January.
Managers from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond have had ample time to assess their squads and figure out the missing piece between them and a shot at silverware, European qualification or merely avoiding relegation.
As we race toward the opening of the Winter window, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive once again with some weird and wonderful moves seemingly on the cards and agents fuelling speculation.
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Here’s a look at some of the most interesting transfer rumours from the past week.
Samuel Eto’o primed for Spain return?
From 2011 onwards, Samuel Eto’o was something of a footballing nomad, playing for seven different clubs in five different countries up until his retirement in 2019. Even so, we all remember him as one of the best forwards ever to grace the game, thanks to his exploits for Barcelona and Inter Milan (he remains the only man in football history to win two consecutive Trebles).
Incredibly, it seems like there may be another chapter to be written into his story with the former Cameroon international now finding himself linked with Spanish Segunda B side, Real Murcia.
Although playing in the third-tier, Murcia have a Copa del Rey tie with Levante — who share Murcia’s original club name — to look forward to in December. In a bid to generate further excitement and media attention, club president Morris Pagniello has suggested the game be played in the United Arab Emirates or Mexico, while trying to bring in Eto’o for what would be a huge moment in the spotlight for Murcia. Right now, Pagniello rates his chances of completing the deal at “50-50”.
“At this time, I would say that the chances of signing Samuel Eto’o are around 50-50,” he told Radio MARCA. “Next week we will know if we can sign Eto’o, if not, we have a plan B prepared. He would have to play if we signed him, it is the coach’s job to fit him in the team.”
On the prospect of facing Levante abroad, Pagniello added: “We are clear that the game against Levante is very important and it is time for exceptions. We have several investors in Mexico and the UAE who can financially back this operation.”
Mario Balotelli: From Brescia to… Barnsley?
Okay, as transfer rumours go, they don’t get much weirder than this. A number of clubs from leagues across the globe — including MLS, the Argentine Primera Division and the Turkish Super Lig — have been linked with Mario Balotelli, who has been a free agent since the summer after being released by Brescia.
The glamour of David Beckham’s Inter Miami. The intensity of Istanbul. The footballing hotbed of Buenos Aires. Each of those are destinations you could picture Balotelli jumping at the chance to play in. What you wouldn’t expect is for the 36-time Italy international to be linked with Championship side, Barnsley.
Well, according to numerous reports, the Yorkshire club did actually lodge an enquiry with Balotelli’s agent, Mino Raiola, as to the availability of the former Manchester City and Inter Milan star, who has been training with Serie D side Franciacorta to keep up his fitness.
This would have been an eye-catching signing at the very least for the Championship side but it’s understood that talks between Raiola and Barnsley’s co-chairmen, Chien Lee and Paul Conway, have since broken down:
Understand there is some truth to reports that #barnsleyfc enquired as to the poss of signing free agent Mario Balotelli, but lead to believe that’s as far as it went. The Reds spoke to the Italian’s agent Mino Raiola re the player. Strange but in this case true.
— Andy Giddings (@Gids1980) November 17, 2020
La Liga “ready” for Messi Barcelona departure but “not worried” by Man City
Even when Lionel Messi re-affirmed his allegiance with Barcelona, no one really believed that the story was going to go away. After all, the six-time Ballon d’Or-winner wasn’t exactly telling us all he’s overjoyed to be staying at Barca, more that he wanted to avoid taking his boyhood club to court so resigned himself to staying.
Well, Manchester City are once again being linked with Messi, with a January bid reportedly on the cards as the Argentine ace enters the final six months of the year-long contract extension triggered during the summer.
“He’s the best player in the world, he’s the best player of his generation,” Man City’s chief operating officer, Omar Berrada, told Manchester Evening News recently. “I think any club in the world would like to explore the possibility of him joining their team.” Berrada also confirmed that City are in the right financial position to afford a deal for Messi.
On Tuesday, La Liga president, Javier Tebas, stated that he would prefer Messi to remain where he is, but conceded that he could follow the example of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar in leaving the Spanish top-flight.
“We would prefer Messi to stay in La Liga but Ronaldo and Neymar left and we have not noticed any difference,” he said. “We are ready.”
Tebas also confirmed that Man City are the only Premier League club signalling their intent to sign Messi before delivering some scathing remarks about the Citizens recent financial dealings and insisting he isn’t worried about losing La Liga’s prized asset to Pep Guardiola’s side.
“It seems the only club in the Premier League that talks about registering Messi is Manchester City, who compete outside the rules,” he added. “I am not the only one saying this.
“I am not too worried about them. I have criticised what they do so many times. Doing it one more time makes no difference. City is neither affected by Covid or pandemics or anything because they are financed differently and it is impossible to fight against that.”
Another twist in this tale comes with Barca, presidential hopeful, Victor Font, stating his intentions to lure Guardiola back to the Camp Nou in a bid to get Messi to stay. Guardiola has poured cold water on this rumour, insisting he’s “delighted” to be in Manchester. Regardless, it would be interesting to see how Messi’s stance would change, should Guardiola return alongside a new president.
Miguel Almiron could have been an Atletico Madrid player now, says agent
Miguel Almiron has divided opinion since joining Newcastle United from Atlanta United in January 2019, with some saying he needs to improve his output in the final third and others insisting his work-rate and pace on the break are invaluable.
Honestly, it’s hard to make a case for a strongest Newcastle XI that doesn’t include the Paraguay international given that he’s one of the few players at Steve Bruce’s disposal who can unlock the opposition defence with a pass, race behind them in transition and keep his own backline safe, all within the space of a few minutes. On top of that, Almiron was the Magpies’ top scorer across all competitions last season with eight goals, and he is the only player at the club to provide more than one assist so far this term, managing three.
Almiron was linked with Atletico Madrid over the summer and given the aforementioned traits, he seems like a perfect stylistic fit for Diego Simeone. That move never transpired but Almiron’s agent, Daniel Campos, has now gone on record to say the transfer only fell through due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting Atletico’s interest could be re-ignited in June.
“Miguel Almiron was being observed by Atletico Madrid but no offer was made. When everything returns to normal, Miguel will take a leap in quality,” Campos told Paraguayan radio station Futgol 970.
“Miguel’s work rate at Newcastle and Paraguay has been great. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, he would have been elsewhere. Perhaps he would like to play for a team that has a lot of possession. Maybe in June, he’ll make that jump.”
Rumour has it that Almiron is growing “frustrated” with his situation on Tyneside and if clubs like Atletico are truly sniffing around, it might be hard for the 26-year-old to resist.
Other stories to keep an eye on…
It’s been less than a year since Christian Eriksen left Tottenham to join Inter Milan but already, it looks like the Denmark international could be on his way out. Eriksen has managed just one goal and two assists in Serie A since joining Inter and, according to Corriere dello Sport, could be included in a sensational swap-deal which will see him exchange places at Arsenal with Granit Xhaka.
The Gunners are also thought to be interested in Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, who has so far failed to convince new boss Ronald Koeman that he is the man to supercharge his attack — Manchester United are Arsenal’s rumoured rivals for Dembele, who has so far refused to extend his contract with just 18 months to run.
Watch out for…
Carlo Ancelotti could still turn to Isco as he searches for depth and consistency following Everton’s recent slump in form.
Manchester City are the rumoured frontrunners for Jack Grealish’s signature, while they could also trigger a £25m buyback clause for Brazilian midfielder, Douglas Luiz.