Transfer Talk: Liverpool, Everton may fight over Sporting's Bruno Fernandes
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: A Sporting chance?
Another day, another transfer rumour involving a young star in Portugal. This time, instead of speculating over the possible future of young Benfica magician Joao Felix, there's a debate raging over where Sporting CP captain Bruno Fernandes will be lacing up his boots at the start of next season.
According to Portuguese daily Correio de Manha, the Liverpool target is set to be let loose on the European transfer market after Sporting finally came to the conclusion that they needed to cash in on him as soon as the transfer window swings open this summer.
Fernandes won't be short of suitors, with the 24-year-old midfielder having wowed in a Sporting side that has otherwise failed to live up to expectations. Both the red and blue halves of Merseyside were linked with a swoop for Fernandes in January, and Sporting's apparent readiness to sell could spark a bidding war between Liverpool and Everton.
Like Benfica, Sporting are canny operators -- ensuring that their players are on long contracts so the club are able to cash in when the time inevitably arrives for their biggest stars to head to loaded giants in Spain, Italy and England.
But Sporting's parlous financial position could force their hand when the bids come flying in. Bloomberg has reported that the Lisbon giants were €281 million in debt back in November and although Fernandes has a release clause of €100m in a contract that doesn't expire until 2023, they are likely to accept a far lower bid in an attempt to ease the furrowed brow of the club's concerned bank manager.
23.09 GMT: That's going to bring Wednesday's live edition of Transfer Talk to a close. 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 Thursday's back pages.
21.52 GMT: Khephren Thuram is the son of France great Lilian Thuram, one of the prized assets of the Monaco academy, and yet has yet to agree to a professional contract in the principality. The Mail reports that Chelsea and Liverpool are both interested in signing the 17-year-old midfielder on a cut-price deal this summer, with Juventus also interested.
20.45 GMT: Premier League side Southampton have prolonged the future of one of their most talented youngsters with 18-year-old Michael Obafemi signing a three-and-a-half year contract extension.
His new deal will keep him at St. Mary's until 2022.
19.48 GMT: More on Mauro Icardi's future...did you really think there wouldn't be?
According to Tuttomercatoweb, he will be the main transfer target of this summer -- so not just the entire second half of the season, it seems.
The report adds that, while Juventus are leading the chase for the Argentina international's signature, Chelsea will also be in the mix.
18.51 GMT: Not quite a new signing, but for many AC Milan fans, hearing news that Mattia Caldara nearing a return will certainly feel like one.
Highly-rated central defender Caldara joined Milan in the summer as part of the deal which saw Leonardo Bonucci return to Juventus, but his only game to date was the Europa League group match away to Dudelange in September.
"I'm happy here at Milan," Caldara said. "After four months I can't wait to start playing again, show my worth and repay the club's faith in me.
"Today, I did some light training with the team. Now I have to regain my confidence with the ball. I don't want to say a date, but I'm not far away now."
17.55 GMT: Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen is ignoring recent speculation in the Spanish media, which has been linking him with a move to Real Madrid, and concentrating his efforts on helping his side for the rest of the campaign.
"Christian only wants to focus himself on football," his agent Martin Schoots told ESPN FC. "Besides his technical, tactical and athletic skills, also this attitude has contributed over the years to his impressive transformation from world class talent to world class player.
"At this moment I would prefer not to join the speculations about contracts and transfers."
16.51 GMT: Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, who has been one of the stand-out stars in Serie A this season, has shown he is in no rush to the leave the club after reportedly turning down the chance to hire Mino Raiola as his agent.
"We'll stay with [Claudio] Vigorelli," his father Igor said, as reported in various Italian media outlets.
Generally, players tend to hire Raiola when they are looking for a move, but Zaniolo appears not to be interested in any transfer.
15.53 GMT: There have been further developments in the Mauro Icardi saga with a scan on Inter Milan forward's knee have not shown anything significant, although he is nevertheless unlikely to face Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday.
The Argentinian, who was scrapped of the club captaincy last week, underwent tests on a knee injury which he had been receiving treatment for ever since he pulled out of the squad which travelled to Austria a week ago.
The results of those tests were announced on Wednesday, and a statement on the Serie A club's website stated that "the scans didn't reveal significant changes compared to those performed before the start of the current season."
However, speaking at a news conference, coach Luciano Spalletti said that Icardi "has been given a work plan to follow as part of his recovery," suggesting that he will not be under consideration to return to the squad on Thursday.
14.55 GMT: DONE DEAL! Guangzhou Evergrande have signed defender Tyrias Browning from Everton.
Browning, 24, joins the Chinese Super League giants for an undisclosed fee, ending his 15-year association with the Toffees.
The England youth international is reportedly eligible to represent China through his grandfather.
14.00 GMT: Arsenal manager Unai Emery has hinted that Mesut Ozil still has a future at the club.
Ozil, 30, has started just 13 of Arsenal's 26 Premier League matches this season, leading to plenty of speculation that he could leave the club this summer.
"The key is in his hands and he is working very well this week," Emery told a news conference ahead of Thursday's Europa League round-of-32 second leg against BATE Borisov.
I know he wants but he needs to be consistent in training and for matches, without injury or being sick. Without that we can see the best Mesut with us."
13.05 GMT: PSV Eindhoven midfielder Richard Ledezma turned down a move to Barcelona last year, according to the United States youth international's father.
Ledezma, 18, was a reported target of Barcelona but signed for PSV in December having trained with the club's youth teams since the summer.
"There was an offer from Barcelona," Jorge Ledezma told Marca Claro. "The scout spoke to me personally and told me that they wanted to take Richard there [to Barcelona]. He [Richard] was very enthusiastic regarding that possibility, but in the end, we decided, together with his agent, that the best thing for his development was for him to go to PSV.
"We believe that he will receive more opportunities here than in Barcelona."
Born in the Phoenix, Arizona to Mexican parents, Ledezma is a U.S. under-20 international but is also eligible to play for Mexico.
12.00 GMT: Bayern Munich midfielder James Rodriguez says he will make a decision regarding his future at the end of the season but admits he misses Madrid.
The Colombia international joined Bayern on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017. Bayern has an option to acquire his services this summer.
James, who is contracted with Madrid until June 2021, told Cadena Ser after Tuesday's goalless draw at Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16: "Right now, I'm thinking about Bayern. I want to finish these three months and then I will think carefully about everything. No one knows what will happen in the future."
He did admit, however, that he has strong ties to the Spanish capital: "I'm in contact with those that were my teammates at Madrid. In Madrid, I have everything. I have a home and people who love me."
11.20 GMT: Paris Saint-Germain will speak with right-back Dani Alves' representative this week as they consider a contract extension for the Brazil international, sources have told ESPN FC.
The French champions are keen to tie Alves, 35, to the Parc des Princes for at least another year, while talks are also underway with midfielder Marco Verratti and Lassana Diarra has left the club after his contract was mutually terminated.
Although there is no agreement with Alves yet, sources explained that the former Barcelona and Juventus man's agent will meet with PSG this week to discuss the possibility of him sticking around past the end of his current contract this summer.
10.15 GMT: Ahead of tonight's Champions League clash at Atletico Madrid, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci has revealed that Real Madrid wanted to sign him last summer.
The 31-year-old centre-back re-joined the Bianconeri after spending one underwhelming season at Serie A rivals AC Milan.
"It made me proud and was a pleasure to have such a club asking for me, which means I'm doing a good job," he said. "But in the end, the call from Juventus and my desire to feel at home again led my heart to feel that the Bianconeri had more to offer."
Bonucci had previously been a target for Premier League clubs Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United but eventually moved to the San Siro after falling out with Juve.
09.30 GMT: Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt may yet be headed to Bayern Munich this summer rather than Barcelona.
German outlet Sport Bild reports that the 19-year-old central defender is yet to agree on a deal with Barca, who will already be welcoming De Ligt's teammate Frenkie de Jong to the Camp Nou at the end of the season.
De Ligt, the reigning holder of the prestigious Golden Boy award as Europe's best young player, is valued at €60m by Ajax.
- Hamilton: Inside the Ajax talent factory
08.45 GMT: Real Madrid are keen to make a summer move for Benfica starlet Jota, another young player dubbed "the new Cristiano Ronaldo," according to AS.
The Spanish sports daily reports that Benfica turned down an €18m offer from Real Madrid for the Portuguese winger in the winter transfer window. The 19-year-old is tied to the Lisbon club until June 2022, and has a €30m release clause in his contract. Benfica are reportedly in talks to extend Jota's contract and increase his release clause to €120m.
Jota -- who is represented by Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes -- does not want to sign a new contract as he intends to join a top club in the summer.
The Lisbon-born player attracted the attention of top clubs after scoring five goals to help Portugal win the Euro Under-19 Championship last summer. He finished as the tournament´s joint-top scorer. Two years before that, Jota lifted the European title with the U17 side.
08.00 GMT: Manchester City have held talks with Aymeric Laporte's representatives and are preparing to offer the defender a new contract, according to The Times.
Laporte has established himself as on of the club's key players at the back since he joined the club in January of last year for a club-record £57m. The former Athletic Bilbao player has made 35 Premier League starts since his debut on Jan. 31, 2018.
The 24-year-old is still yet to win a first senior cap for France.
PAPER TALK (by Richard Edwards): From Palace to kings of Germany?
Could Aaron Wan-Bissaka be lining up along Callum Hudson-Odoi at Bayern Munich next season? It's certainly possible, according to The Sun. The paper reports that the Bundesliga giants are preparing a substantial transfer to Crystal Palace's bank account in a bid to lure the full-back to Bavaria in the summer.
Bayern's interest in Wan-Bissaka follows their chase for Chelsea starlet Hudson-Odoi, which remains ongoing despite failing to bring him to the Bundesliga in January.
The Croydon-born Wan-Bissaka has been exceptional for the Eagles this season and his progress could see him soar into the Champions League next season.
Although whether that's with Bayern or Manchester City remains to be seen. The Sun also reports that Wan-Bissaka could be one of three English talents on City's radar as the club look to increase their English contingent before the start of next season, with Leicester's Ben Chilwell and Declan Rice of West Ham also rumoured to be on Pep Guardiola's hit list.
Anfield target insists he's in Naples for the long haul
Piotr Zielinski is another player who has been linked with a move to Italy, but Napoli's Polish midfielder has poured cold water on the suggestion that he's about to make the switch from Serie A to the Premier League.
Speaking to Tuttomercato, Zielinski said that he had not held talks with Jurgen Klopp and that he planned to sign a contract extension at Naples. Zielinski said that there was once a time when he let these rumours affect his performance, but all that has changed. "Now I leave these things to my agent," he said.
- Real Madrid have finally set a price for any club interested in buying Gareth Bale. And according to Spanish TV network Telemadrid (via the Sun), clubs had better have been saving hard. An apparent £131m is the magic number as Los Blancos look to off-load the out-of-favour Welshman.
- Meanwhile, back at Old Trafford, Manchester United will need to finish in the top four to ensure that Jadon Sancho returns home this summer. That's the Mirror's take on rumours that a bid of £100m could just be too good for Borussia Dortmund to turn down if the player's Ole Gunnar Solksjaer-inspired up-turn continues.