I understand that Albert Sambi Lokonga has been missing from Anderlecht’s pre-season training camp because he is currently working out a deal to sign for Arsenal. The 21-year-old is said to be excluded from the Belgian club’s six day pre-training camp in Alkmaar. Lokonga, I am told, is very anxious to join Arsenal as he sees this as an important career step. He has already agreed personal terms with the Gunners and is set to take a medical sometime in the next few days. He made 33 starts last season and scored three goals and made two assists. Arsenal bid £12million but Anderlecht rejected that figure and the fee has been increased by the Gunners to £14million. Mikel Arteta has an urgent problem to solve in his midfield with Dani Cebalos and Martin Odegaard both returning to Real Madrid and Granit Xhaka wants to play for Jose Mourinho in Rome. Matteo Guendouzi is going back to Marseille for another season’s loan.
Klopp considers new team line-up
Jurgen Klopp has been consistent with his tactics at Liverpool since he joined in 2015 and his teams have played offensive football in a 4-3-3 formation. Jurgen doesn’t like to tinker and experiment but with several players coming and going this summer, I am hearing that he might be willing to try something different. Club Captain Jordan Henderson, for instance, has been used by England manager Gareth Southgate in a midfield partnership in a 4-2-3-1 line-up. With Gini Wijnaldum leaving Anfield it is a very real possibility that Jurgen could also adopt the 4-2-3-1 system with Henderson partnering Thiago Alcantara. In midfield Fabinho is only 27 years-of age but he isn’t as quick as Henderson which leaves Curtis Jones as the only fast running midfielder who can move with speed from box to box. Consequently the club are searching for a strong, fast midfielder to strengthen Klopp’s options. Jurgen is currently at Anfield’s training ground working on his strategies for the beginning of the new season.
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Rafa gets to work at Everton
Everton returned for pre-season training this week and newly installed manager Rafa Benitez phoned all first team players to introduce himself
beforehand. On his arrival at Finch Farm training ground he held phone talks with club captain Seamus Coleman who was full of praise and enthusiasm for Rafa’s ideas for the team. England’s Euro goalkeeper Jordan Pickford also spoke with Rafa by phone from the national team hotel and is also very upbeat by what Rafa had to say. Coleman will be back at the club on Monday. Dominic-Calvert Lewin, Pickford and Richarlison return in about a week’s time after resting from international duties. One player who I am not sure about is star player James Rodriguez. He and Benitez had a difficult relationship when they were both at Real Madrid. The Columbian was due to be away for a long period this summer but he was left out of the national squad and returns on Monday. Rodriguez reacted badly to being left out of Rafa’s team at Madrid where the manager called into question his fitness levels and they have also been a problem at Everton where he sustained calf problems and missed much of the season and the final five of six games. However, Rodriguez is a quality player and a former World Cup Golden Boot competition winner.
Keeping Messi means selling Griezmann
Spain’s La Liga has strict rules governing player salaries and each club can only spend according to the rules. Barcelona are desperate to sign a new deal with Lionel Messi but the newly negotiated contract means Barca would break those rules. In order to cut the player wages bill the club has contacted Chelsea with an offer to sell French star Antoine Griezmann. His agents are due to fly to London this week to make contact with several leading Premier League clubs and as I revealed to you last week, Manchester City are also interested.
United track French upcoming star
Manchester United scouts have carefully watched French Club Rennes’ midfielder Eduardo Camavinga for the past 12 months. The 18-year-old has been exciting Europe with his ability to hold the centre of the pitch and feed his strikers with accurate incisive balls and also making some electric runs himself. Ole Gunner Solskjaer is a big admirer of the youngster. Camavinga has already earned three caps for France but chose to compete with the Under-21 French team in the European Championship instead of joining the senior team. Rennes want a good price for Camavinga because they know that at the end of next season, when his contract expires, they will lose him for nothing. United are excited but so are Paris St-Germain who are also monitoring the situation.
Ings reluctant to resign for Southampton
Danny Ings is wanted by several clubs after a successful run in the Southampton team last season. Ings is holding out to see what offers come in and is reluctant to sign a new contract with the Saints because he, like Harry Kane at Tottenham, wants a shot at the Champions League and a few trophies to display in his medals cabinet. Both Manchester clubs have shown interest.
United’s new kit revealed early
Manchester United staff are irritated that their new kit has become available in local shops before the official release date. I can reveal the new kit features sponsorship by Team Viewer who have replaced Chevrolet in a five year deal. United’s players will be wearing a plain red design with white trim and displaying the club’s traditional message ‘Youth, courage, success’ and these are inscribed inside the collar. The official release will coincide with United’s first pre-season friendly against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County on the 18th July.
Cavani recommends Uruguayan teammate
Manchester United are continuing their search for a strong midfielder and defender and have considered Raphael Verane and Declan Rice. Edinson Cavani has built himself a reputation since joining United and he is a respected voice. Edinson has advised Ole Gunner Solskjaer and Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward to look his Uruguayan national teammate Nicolas De La Cruz. There are several clubs interested in the midfielder and he would be a much cheaper option at around £16million. The 24 year-old has been very successful playing for River Plate in South America.
City youngster impresses
Manchester City’s highly rated young defender Yan Couto is likely to stay with on-loan club Girona in Spain’s second tier next season – if they qualify for promotion to La Liga. The Blues signed Couto for £5.4million last summer from Brazilian side Coritiba. The 18-year-old has been a strong influence in the Spanish team and played 26 games and scored once and provided four assists. He has helped Girona in qualifying for the play-offs to enable them to rejoin Spain’s elite clubs in the top flight.
Richarlison fights to be at Olympics
As if his work at Everton is not difficult enough, Rafa Benitez has been watching closely as his initial plans for team tactics have taken a big blow. Richarlison has spent the last week arguing with the club to let him play in the Tokyo Olympics after being called up by Brazil. They beat Chile 1-0 in the Copa America. The Olympics finish on August 7th which is only one week away from the start of the new Premier League season and Everton face a tricky away trip to Southampton. Richarlison thinks he has won his argument but that is not what I am hearing from inside Everton but the situation is on-going. Richarlison said, “I had a fight there, right? I spent the whole day arguing with Everton, with the director and I also called in the new coach. It is very important for me to get this experience.”