Transfer Talk: Manchester United to splash £100m for Benfica's Joao Felix
The transfer window for Europe's biggest clubs is closed, but click here for all the deals and keep track of who has joined the big boys. And Transfer Talk will continue to scour the world's media and set correspondents loose to see what's on the agenda for the summer.
TOP STORY: United prepared to spend big on Benfica wunderkind
Benfica's 19-year-old Joao Felix could be set for a £100 million summer switch to Old Trafford.
So says the Sun, which reports that Manchester United scouts have seen the kid in action and had nothing but good things to report back to gaffer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United looked desperately short of creativity against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night, and that has heightened the desire for the club to bring in a player who is rapidly becoming the hottest young prospect in European football.
His age would make him the perfect target for United, who are now intent on investing in younger players in a bid to transform this United squad. Benfica have long since given up on keeping hold of their prized asset, but they won't let him leave on the cheap. It's believed the Portuguese giants will demand at least £100m.
23.07 GMT: That brings to a close Thursday's live edition of Transfer Talk. Thanks very much for joining us, and be sure to check back in a few short hours when we return with the latest gossip pulled from Friday's back pages.
22.33 GMT: Arsenal and Tottenham have both held talks with representatives of Suso, the Metro cites Corriere dello Sport as reporting, with his relatively affordable £35m buyout clause appealing to both North London clubs.
20.56 GMT: As the soap opera surrounding Mauro Icardi continues to unfold, Inter are beginning to plan for a future without the 25-year-old striker. Calciomercato cites Tuttosport as reporting that Atalanta's Duvan Zapata is at the top of the Nerazzurri's list, and that PSG star and former Napoli icon Edinson Cavani is also being considered.
19.19 GMT: The Mail reports that Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt has decided that he'd like to follow his teammate for club and country Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona, but there's a problem with that plan: After shelling out €75m for De Jong, and targeting a new striker this summer, the Catalan club can't afford him. So Manchester City may move to the head of the queue of suitors lining up the the Dutch defensive prodigy.
17.42 GMT: Neymar will not be returning to Barcelona, according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
"We have the disadvantage here of the [release] clause, there is a helplessness that the European clubs take advantage of," he's quoted as telling Radio Kanal Barcelona in the Mirror, noting that his contract at PSG has no such clause. "That's why it's not possible for him to come back."
16.05 GMT: Former Manchester United forward Ravel Morrison has completed a permanent move to Ostersunds FK in Sweden, his former club Lazio have confirmed.
Morrison left United to join West Ham in 2012 before moving to Lazio in 2015 and Ostersunds will become his fourth permanent club with five loan deals in between.
15.36 GMT: Chelsea are confident that Juventus will sell Gonzalo Higuain for less than the agreed price of €36m if they decide to make the striker's loan deal permanent at the end of the season, sources have told ESPN FC.
Higuain, 31, has impressed since arriving at Stamford Bridge on loan in January, scoring twice in a 5-0 victory over Huddersfield Town and looking dangerous even as Chelsea suffered an historic 6-0 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Chelsea paid around €9m as a loan fee to Juventus in the initial agreement, which includes options to extend Higuain's stay for a further season at the cost of €18m or buy him outright for €36m next summer.
14.54 GMT: Barcelona have already tied up the signing of Frenkie De Jong ahead of next season, but the future of his Ajax teammate Matthijs De Ligt is still unresolved. Could he follow De Jong to Barca? That is an option, according to the La Liga leaders.
"We have followed De Ligt for a while. It's true he's a player we like, but Barca also have other important players in the squad," Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said.
"We will look at more things from March or April. We're delighted to watch him play and admire him, but there's nothing more at the moment."
13.50 GMT: On a call with investors, Man United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward suggested he hoped to tie up new contracts for Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and David De Gea before the summer after agreeing deals with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young this season.
"It's pretty well known the end dates of the players' contracts," said Woodward. "We are a long way through the ones we had planned to do this season but obviously we want to finish off the final few as rapidly as we can. Possibly, by the time we get to the summer we will be in a much stronger position with regard to the average tenure of each contract with our key players."
13.34 GMT: According to kicker, Bayern Munich have ended their interest in signing Adrien Rabiot on a free transfer this summer because the player and his agent/mother Veronique demanded too much money.
Sources told ESPN FC that the German club were very interested last month, but it looks like the move won't happen now.
12.53 GMT: Jose Mourinho's sacking cost Manchester United £19.6m, according to accounts released by the club on Thursday.
Mourinho was dismissed in December and replaced with interim coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Portuguese coach, who had a contract until 2020, received a pay-off of £15m.
The other £4.6m went to members of Mourinho's staff who also left -- including Silvino Louro, Carlos Lalin, scout Ricardo Formosinho, analyst Giovanni Cerra and fitness coach Stefano Rapetti, who was only appointed in the summer.
12.23 GMT: Finally, Marek Hamsik has signed for Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang from Napoli.
L'accordo con il Dalian è stato raggiunto. Auguro a Marek di essere felice in Cina. Le porte del Napoli saranno sempre aperte per lui. #ADL— AurelioDeLaurentiis (@ADeLaurentiis) February 14, 2019
Translation from Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis' Twitter feed: "An agreement has been reached with Dalian - I wish Marek #Hamsik happiness in China. The door will always be open for him here at Napoli."
11.57 GMT: It's the new Jadon Sancho. Except he doesn't play in attack. Or is English. Or actually that young...
Yes, Chelsea loanee Kenneth Omeruo [good lord, he's been there since 2012 and has never actually played for them!] is attracting the interest of the Bundesliga. The 25-year-old defender has impressed at Leganes and the Sun reckon that clubs are lining up to bring him to Germany.
11.10 GMT: Arsenal are after a new technical director, and Roma's Monchi has attracted their attention according to the Daily Mirror.
The paper says: "Arsenal could face competition for Monchi from Manchester United who are also looking for a director of football. Paris Saint-Germain could also be interested. Arsenal have also got former winger Marc Overmars on the shortlist but the Ajax director of football lacks Monchi's top level experience."
10.33 GMT: Newcastle United centre-back Jamaal Lascelles was on a list of potential January targets considered by Jose Mourinho prior to his dismissal as Manchester United manager in December, sources have told ESPN FC.
10.13 GMT: In the latest edition of 'who did Arsene Wenger almost sign' it's Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.
Wenger told BeIN that the 18-year-old was a target of his at Arsenal before the winger moved to Germany from Man City. But of course he didn't get him. Much like he didn't get Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and a multitude of other world-class players he claims he almost landed.
Icardi's sister has pointed the finger at his wife and agent Wanda Nara for her brother's problems, saying: "If only you had a serious person supporting you, who really took care of you, all of this would not happen."
Ex-Inter coach Fabio Capello also says Wanda is to blame and insists Icardi should have defended his teammates after her latest comments about how they have not been supporting her. He also says that Beppe Marotta is getting the club "back on the straight and narrow - a bit like the Juventus style, and he's going to have an even greater desire now to overtake them."
And ex-Inter player Andrea Pirlo has praised the club for taking a tough stance on the striker, saying that "something must have happened in the dressing room" and also gave credit to Beppe Marotta for taking such action, saying: "He's proving that it is the club first and the players after."
08.38 GMT: TYC Sports claim that Los Angeles Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto is interested in signing out-of-favour Racing club winger Ricardo Centurion.
Centurion has been dropped from Racing's team after a recent confrontation with coach Eduardo Coudet. Schelotto guided Centurion while the player was on loan at Boca Juniors in the 2016-17 campaign and is reportedly eager to have the 26-year-old join him in MLS.
08.00 GMT: Fernando Llorente is hoping Tottenham will extend his contract for a further season. Spurs have the unilateral option to extend the Spaniard's contract for one year, with his deal ending this summer.
Llorente, who scored his seventh goal of the season a 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in Wednesday's Champions League round of 16 first leg, told Cadena Ser radio: "That is the case and I would be delighted if the club does exercise that option. In the end, I'm happy at Tottenham, I'm happy in London. This is an incredible club. It's building a new stadium and I'm eager to play there."
Asked if he believes he would had stayed in London had Harry Kane not been injured, which afforded him more playing time, he said: "It's true that they were looking for me to leave but in a moment everything changes. I'm very happy because I came to Tottenham determined to do well and to triumph and finally, I'm having the opportunity to play and I'm making the most of it. There was interest from several clubs in Spain (during the winter transfer window) but I never considered them because I knew I would have chances to play following Kane's injury."
PAPER TALK (By Rich Edwards)
Juve planning Salah swoop
Will this season be Mo Salah's last at Liverpool? Well, stranger things have happened. Tuttosport reports that Juventus are preparing to stretch their seemingly endless finances to bring the striker to Turin, with Paulo Dybala going in the opposite direction.
Dybala has been a shadow of the player who performed magnificently for Juve in recent seasons, and now it appears the Serie A giants are ready to use him as bait in a bid to lure the Egyptian to Italy.
They are prepared to put their money where their mouth is too, per the report, offering the Merseyside giants €50m (£43.9m) for any deal involving Salah moving to Italy and Dybala coming to Liverpool.
Douglas Costa one way, Pogba the other?
The rumours surrounding Douglas Costa refuse to go away, and now Tuttosport is fanning the flames by claiming he could still make the switch to United as part of an extraordinary deal that would see Paul Pogba move in the opposite direction.
The Brazilian moved to Italy's serial champions only in the summer and still has more than three years left on his current deal. But that hasn't stopped speculation over his future. And although Pogba is cutting a far happier figure in the northwest now that Jose Mourinho has gone, the lure of Juve after a difficult few seasons at Old Trafford could prove strong.
- The Sun reports that Machester City boss Pep Guardiola is stepping up his bid to sign Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. He sees Ndombele as the natural successor to Fernandinho and is readying a £70m offer. Guardiola will hope that is enough to put the club ahead of Manchester United and Juventus in the battle for his signature.
- Reports in Colombia suggest that Arsenal's dream of landing James Rodriguez in the summer might remain just that. Marca Colombia reports that the Colombian superstar is intent on returning to Real Madrid when his two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich expires at the end of the season.
- Barcelona are limbering up for a summer transfer splurge -- and have taken out two huge loans to increase their financial muscle, according to El Pais (via the Mirror). The Spanish paper says that Barcelona have secured an extra £122m with two American companies -- cash which Barca are free to spend however they see fit. Europe, beware.