Sterling signing could rekindle Barca's title hopes

Raheem has two years left on his contract and no talks have been proposed as yet to negotiate a new extended deal.

In Summary

• Raheem has started only once this season and Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden (who is on the verge of accepting a six year contract for £150k a week amounting to nearly £50million)  and Jack Grealish are all ahead of him in Guardiola’s starting eleven.

• Raheem is not at the top of the starting eleven any longer

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates with Mason Mount after scoring
England's Raheem Sterling celebrates with Mason Mount after scoring

Raheem Sterling’s Christmas present? A Spanish phrase book!

Barca said goodbye to Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann and in an instant saved themselves £800k on their weekly salary bill! Make no mistake, Barca are still in financial meltdown but they do have the means to put together some cash and I have learned from the Spanish city that they would like to spend it on Man City’s Raheem Sterling. The La Liga giants have lost their two opening games in the Champions League and manager Ronald Koeman is under intense pressure and needs reinforcements. Raheem has two years left on his contract and no talks have been proposed as yet to negotiate a new extended deal. He has started only two of the champion’s first seven league games and despite performing exceptionally well in the Euro championship for England this did not impress City manager Pep Guardiola and Raheem is not at the top of the starting eleven any longer. Pep also made a note that Raheem was poor in this week’s England World Cup qualifying match against Hungary. I was told that City offered Raheem plus cash for Harry Kane in the summer but Spur’s chairman Daniel Levy turned down the deal. Raheem has started only once this season and Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden (who is on the verge of accepting a six year contract for £150k a week amounting to nearly £50million)  and Jack Grealish are all ahead of him in Guardiola’s starting eleven. Might be a good time for Raheem to ask for a Spanish phrase book as a Christmas present.

In the wink of an eye, he will be gone

There is no doubt Harry Winks is a talented young 25 year-old. However, he is worried about not playing regular first team football in a side, where he matters. Under Nuno Espirito Santo at Tottenham, Harry feels unwanted. He has made a decision, spoken to his agent and to Spurs and he will be looking for a loan move in January. Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho’s Roma have already shown interest in taking him. Aston Villa, Everton and Brighton were lining up in the summer to sign Harry but Tottenham’s £40million valuation saw them walk away. Roma is interesting because Harry only started seven times when he played for their current manager Jose Mourinho at Tottenham. However, after playing only 61 minutes so far this season in the first team, Harry wants to get away to re-start his career.

Human rights abuses? Newcastle fans are celebrating

The big story this week is undoubtedly the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United. The fans are generally delighted but there are many thousands who voice disapproval of a Middle-East country accused of human rights abuses. I genuinely feel sorry for Steve Bruce the manager who somehow kept the Magpies in the top-flight despite having no star players, no investment and 94% of fans wanting him sacked. Bruce is an honest hard working very decent man and I genuinely wish him well. I laughed when another Premier League manager compared Steve’s job at Newcastle to eating a spaghetti bolognese meal without a knife and fork. Under-equipped, messy and doomed to failure! 

For 18 months the sale or no sale merry-go round has bored us all to death but finally we know the outcome. We have a highly questionable Saudi ownership and a club boss in Amanda Staveley who knows nothing about football and cannot make a decision without referring to the Saudis. There will be protests, demonstrations and attacks on the Saudi government for their involvement in human rights issues, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

19 Premier League clubs held an extraordinary meeting, led by Manchester United’s Ed Woodward, where many objected to the controversial takeover and he was supported mainly by Tottenham and Everton. My inside sources tell me that Staveley and her colleagues want either Antonio Conte or Leicester’s Brendan Rogers to take over from Bruce. Staveley said this week, “Our ambition is aligned with the fans: To create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.” Music to the ears for the Newcastle faithful but this is going to be a rough journey and I will be reporting to you from inside St James Park in the coming months. Espirito Santo brings his ‘must win’ Tottenham side to Newcastle this weekend and the crowd’s response to the week’s events and general reception will be fascinating and of course there will be some new faces in the director’s box.

Rashford back early from shoulder injury

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford
Image: FILE

Marcus Rashford came through a rigorous training ground schedule this week, carefully watched by the Man United medical team. The results of that, plus the two goals he scored behind locked doors in a friendly against Blackburn Rovers, has signaled a possible start at Leicester this weekend. Ole Gunner Solskjaer will not rush his striker into action because he is aware that Rashford’s shoulder is still delicate however Marcus himself said, “I wouldn’t say my recovery is coming to an end because obviously I have to keep looking after it. But I’m in a much better place physically and mentally.”

Leicester desperate for Jonny’s return

During the international break I have been following Leicester’s training with Brendan Rogers attempting to plug the holes which keep opening up in his team’s defence. Only lowly Norwich, Leeds and Newcastle have leaked more goals than Leicester. Brendan has admitted that he misses his first choice back three, Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana and James Justin who were all out of the team at the same time. Leicester are 13th in the table with only eight points from seven games. Brendan hopes Evans will start this Saturday against Manchester United and his medical team worked extensively on his foot injury. He was unavailable again following his call up to the Northern Ireland team this week. United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer still has not forgiven Louis van Gaal for selling Evans to West Bromwich Albion for £6million when he was manager. Solskjaer says, “Jonny should still be a United player.” 

Cavani having tough time

Edinson Cavani arrived at Manchester United on the deadline day of the 2020 summer transfer window. Many critics said United were wrong to employ a player who, after spending seven years at PSG, had his best years well behind him. Cavani had other ideas and was set to prove himself. He scored 17 goals in this first season and made six assists plus he impressed in training  and in the dressing room where even the most famous names in football listened to him. Edinson played for his country in the Copa America and as a result missed all of the pre-season preparations with the Reds and then he had to Covid quarantine. Cristiano Renaldo arrived and once again Cavani was injured. This season he is yet to score for United and has only been used in minor roles. Uruguay will need him again in November in a match against Argentina and that is just four days before United face Watford in the PL.

Declan Rice during a past match
Declan Rice during a past match
Image: / REUTERS

Declan shows allegiance to Hammers

Declan Rice says he has never been more happy at the Hammers. Despite that claim he has so far turned down two offers of an improved contract. When asked if he was happy at the club he replied, “I would 100 per cent say yes. It’s a place where you wake up in the morning and you look forward to going for breakfast with the lads. You look forward to having a laugh and you look forward to training. I think we can achieve great things at this club.” West Ham are currently trying to put together yet another deal to keep their talisman.

Everton’s Davies on Palace radar 

Despite being promised much by Everton manager Rafa Benitez, midfielder Tom Davies is yet to start a match. This has been noticed by Crystal Palace who are watching developments and I understand they aim to approach the London club with a £16million bid next year. 23-year-old Davies still has two years left on his current contract.

Benitez brings out the best in Townsend

I talked with Everton this week and asked about their most recent arrival Andros Townsend who has been probably the most successful signing of any club this year.

Rafa Benitez briefly worked alongside Andros during his time at Newcastle and recognised what a great player he is. Benitez was largely responsible for taking him to Everton. Andros was not a popular fans signing for the Toffees but five goals in nine games has turned him into a favourite…they cheer his every move. His success is in part due to his superb ability but also playing alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure and Demarai Grey who have enabled him to work his magic in the penalty area and score those goals after they make successful runs from midfield. It is one of Benitez’s most practised training pitch workouts and has cemented a strong bond between the three players.