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United about to raid Sporting Lisbon again

Now, United are focused on winger Jovane Cabral. The 22-year-old has performed superbly this season with five goals and five assists.

In Summary

• Following their success at avoiding a two-year ban from European football, Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour has promised manager Pep Guardiola a war chest of almost £200million to rebuild his ageing squad. 

• Frank Lampard is not pleasing Chelsea fans at the moment in his search for a leftback.

Sporting Lisbon's Jovane Cabral
Sporting Lisbon's Jovane Cabral
Image: /REUTERS

Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon must think Manchester United monitor their every move and every player on a regular basis. United have already signed in the past Bruno Fernandes, Nani and of course Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now, United are focused on winger Jovane Cabral. The 22-year-old has performed superbly this season with five goals and five assists. The advantage United have over any other clubs showing interest is that Fernandes knows Cabral and played with him from 2018 before moving to United in January this year.

United will have to move fast because my Portuguese contacts at Sporting tell me that Cabral is on the verge of breaking into the Portuguese national team and is close to agreeing a new contract until 2025 which would increase his release clause from £36million to £90million. I have learned that United think they might be able to do a player plus cash deal for Cabral.

Leicester or Everton could save Jovic’s career

Serbian forward Luka Jovic was hailed as Europe’s next big success story when he transferred from German side Eintracht Frankfurt to Real Madrid only 12 months ago for £55million.

Jovic had scored 27 goals in 48 appearances in Germany. Regrettably, those 12 months have been a living nightmare for the 22-year-old and manager Zinedine Zidan has relegated him from his first team squad with only four starts this season. Jovic is strong in the box but his main rival is Karim Benzema, who is one of Zidane’s favourite players because he not only scores goals but also supplies plenty of assists.

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is also impressed with Jovic and thinks a move to Leicester would reignite his career. I have been told that Real would prefer a loan deal but would let Jovic go on a permanent deal for around £31million.

Everton are another club who would do well to sign Jovic although they have not publicised their interest as yet. Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti is looking for a top class striker and he has been using the 4-4-2 system with Richarlison playing alongside Calvert-Lewin which means there would be room for Jovic to play if Richarlison moved out towards the left. Jovic would give them strength in the box and with money not plentiful, because of Covid-19, Everton might go for a loan deal.

City’s way forward

Following their success at avoiding a two-year ban from European football, Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour has promised manager Pep Guardiola a war chest of almost £200million to rebuild his ageing squad.

The brilliant David Silva will be gone and mercurial winger Leroy Sane has already departed. I had already been told that if City lost their European ban appeal Kevin De Bruyne would probably have left. Now he has his future more defined and he will be staying.

It is quite possible that star striker Sergio Aguero will leave next year when his contract expires and I have been told several times that he would like to finish his career back home in Argentina. When I pressed City for harder information I learned that Bayern Munich’s David Alba and Napoli central defender Kalidou Koulibaly are Guardiola’s preferred transfer targets. Phil Foden is getting stronger every game he plays and he will inevitably fill Silva's boots. 

Sheffield turn things around

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to explain what had gone wrong with Sheffield United since the restart. Previously, they had been one of the in-form teams pressuring opponents into their own half where fitness and determination made defenders commit mistakes.

Since I wrote that article, Sheffield have turned around their problems and are once again pressing for European qualification in the Europa League. I ran into one of my Sheffield contacts after the Blades had put Chelsea to the sword, winning 3-0 and he looked at me, winked and said: “Happy now — the manager has done everything you said he needed to do.”

Sheffield have addressed their problems and manager Chris Wilder has put things right. David McGoldrick was voted Man of the match against Chelsea at the weekend. He is everything that is right about Sheffield…a tireless worker, competitive, imaginative and always pressing opponents and causing them to make mistakes.

This Sheffield team doesn’t have the big stars of Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea but what they do have is Wilder’s vision and strategy of how to beat the big boys and no team can ever go to Bramell Lane confident of taking away three points.

Chelsea’s search for a leftback

Frank Lampard is not pleasing Chelsea fans at the moment in his search for a leftback. Chelsea are letting in too many goals at present and both Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso have taken it in turns to fill the position but Lampard wants a player who can make it a permanent name on the starting line-up team sheet.

Alonso for my money is a great player and he would be my choice however the manager doesn’t agree. Chelsea fans were pleased that Leicester City’s England international Ben Chilwell was Lampard’s first choice as the player to sign but the £80million price tag wanted by the Foxes is way above what Chelsea are willing to pay.

Looking around, Paris St-Germain defender Layvin Kurzawa has caught the eye of Lampard. He was linked with Arsenal in January but that did not come to anything and now he is available for free this summer when his contract with the French club expires.

The 27 year-old has previously played for Monaco and also gained 13 caps for France. However, Chelsea fans have been sending messages to Lampard explaining their disappointment in the choice of Kurzawa and making a case for Chilwell as a better investment and who is rated as one of the best full backs in the Premier League.

Also on Chelsea’s short list…

Many people rate Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak as the best in the world. This season, in contrast with Chelsea’s first team stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Oblak has been in excellent form. Kepa on the other hand has endured an error-strewn season, been responsible for many of the goals scored against them and the restart has not improved his confidence.

Atletico need money and my whispers from the Chelsea training ground tell me that the Blues are looking at a cash plus goalkeeper exchange. Slovenian Oblak has a £120million buy-out clause in his contract which doesn’t expire until 2023 but money could persuade them to part with the goalkeeper who can speak five languages. 

How Mourinho destroyed Martial

Former Manchester United star defender Patrice Evra has revealed the demoralising effect on Anthony Martial when he lost the No9 shirt. It put the French striker back two or three seasons under Jose Mourinho.

Martial was signed by Louis Van Gaal and his arrival in the iconic No9 shirt coincided with the launch of his men’s perfume “No9”. Mourinho then joined, withdrew the shirt from Martial and gave it to new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovich.

Martial felt let down and humiliated. From that moment, he went downhill and was only a shadow of the player who excelled for Monaco in the French League. When he was injured, he showed no particular enthusiasm for returning and was moody, unsettled and depressed.

Wearing his new No11 shirt was not what he was promised. Evra said that he and Martial were on national team duty when Martial received a phone call from United telling him that he had to give up the No9 shirt to Zlatan.

He replied: “No, absolutely not!” Mourinho then called Anthony and told him that Zlatan would definitely be wearing No9 and he would wear No11. That coincided with a dramatic loss of form. Now, two years on and both Mourinho and Ibrahimovich have gone and Martial again wears the No9 shirt and it has coincided with an incredible increase in his performance levels. The real Martial has returned.

Why Wolves are successful

When you look at the astonishing success of Wolves this season, it comes down to four factors, in my opinion. First, Nuno Espirito is a superb manager, loved by his players and the Wolves faithful and he works hard at training. He is supported by three of the most talented players in the league and therein lies Wolves’ success.

I saw Wolves defeat Tottenham earlier this season and watched in awe the skills of Diogo Jota. He is vastly underrated but scored six times in three games. I have also watched him in training and he is difficult to dislodge once he has the ball; he is quick, can head a ball and shows awareness which most players cannot match.

Another of the trio is the incredibly talented Adama Traore who usually demands the attention of at least two defenders to hold back his electric runs. Finally, and by no means least, 23-year-old Raul Jimenez has been carefully coached by Espirito and he is getting better and better. The gold and amber army is on the march and their aim is European football and to challenge for a top four place next season.