It wouldn’t be right to comment on football this week without paying tribute to the wonderfully gifted Pele who died last week. The Brazilian is recognised by most footballers, fans and critics as the best-ever to grace a football pitch. Whereas Pele never played in the Premier League, it was a current Newcastle player who speaks my words for me. Bruno Guimaraes continued Neymar’s own personal message of “Pele gave a voice to the poor” by wearing a Brazil shirt with Pele 10 and the King’s own signature on the back at the kick-off between Newcastle and Leeds United. Guimaraes later posted an online message which said, “What remains, King, is your legacy, your story and everything you did. We are grateful for everything you have provided.” Arguments will always be voiced by football fans everywhere as to who is the better player, Messi or Ronaldo but as the great Hungarian legend Puskas once said, “There are players and there is Pele. He is on another planet.” RIP Edson Arantes do Nascimento or as we loved him: “Pele.”
Arsenal in fight with Chelsea to sign Ukrainian Mudryk
Arsenal have sent a second offer to Shakhtar Donetsk for winger Mykhaylo Mudryk after their opening bid of £55 million was rejected. My contact spoke with Mudryk and he is very keen on moving to north London and joining the Gunners and personal terms have been agreed. Shakhtar reportedly want £85million but Arsenal Sporting Director Edu has spearheaded a second bid. Mudryk has been watched by most of Europe’s big clubs and has scored 11 goals and made 8 assists in 19 games this season. I have learned that Shakhtar are willing to let him leave in January and at present are talking only to the Gunners and Chelsea who met with Shakhtar’s chief executive in London 48 hours ago. Chelsea executives at Stamford Bridge have discussed their options and want to put this deal together so anything is possible until Mudryk actually signs a contract.
Chelsea new centre-back Benoit Badiashile
AS Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiashile is in London taking a medical for a transfer to Chelsea. The defender is being signed on a six-year deal for £33.6million. The French international is viewed by coach Graham Potter and owner Todd Boehly as a key defensive player which has resulted from the injury to summer signing Wesley Fofana. They believe he could be a key to the future of the club. He will be 22 years-of-age in March and already has experience in Ligue 1 in France together with appearances in the Champions League and Europa League. Chelsea scouts have been trailing 6ft 4ins Badiashile for several months and he scores 8/10 for tackling, heading, marking and stamina. Chelsea are also putting together a bid to bring Argentine World Cup midfielder Enzo Fernandez to Stamford Bridge and I am told they are willing to pay up to £112 million to secure his services which would make him the most expensive player in Premier League history. My understanding is that Chelsea would pay Benfica £37 million over three seasons to make the huge cost more affordable. The Portugese club only signed Fernandez from Argentina’s River Plate club six months ago for £9million! He was voted best young player of the World Cup tournament and scored one of the best goals of the tournament however his strengths are more his technical and tactical ability and exceptional passing.
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De Gea makes United’s decision easy
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea has made the club’s problem of what to do with him at the end of the season much easier. De Gea is the club’s highest wage earner on £375k per week but his contract runs out at the end of the season. There is an option to extend his contract for one year but the club do not want to pay such a high wage and it was possible he could move clubs. However, De Gea has expressed a wish to stay at the club until he retires and has accepted that any new contract will be with a substantial wage reduction. The 32-year-old is in his 12th year at Old Trafford and his recent form has been excellent despite United sending out scouts to spot potential fresh talent for next summer.
Atletico pricing Felix out of the market
It seems that crazy amounts of money are being bandied about when it comes to the January transfer window. Even Manchester United with their vast income have stepped back from signing Joao Felix after Spanish side Atletico Madrid asked for £18.3million for a six-month loan. Arsenal were also interested but will only enter the race if the fee is drastically reduced. Felix is only 23 years of age but his relationship with Atletico coach Diego Simeone has hit rock bottom and that has opened the door for a loan period. Erik Ten Hag wants to strengthen his attacking options because of the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. However, Atletico want a down payment of £13million plus Felix’s wages of £5.3 million paid and United have said, “no way.”
*One player not set for a return to Old Trafford is on loan Amad Diallo who is enjoying a successful period at Sunderland in the Championship and he has scored six goals in 11 matches. United could recall him but Ten Hag feels he has enough cover for now and the youngster needs the experience at the lower level.
Lloris coming to end at Tottenham
I am hearing from Tottenham that long time goalkeeper Hugo Lloris does not have coach Antonio Conte’s complete confidence any longer. Club captain Lloris had a good World Cup but he has been making mistakes at club level back at White Hart Lane. Only last week it was a Lloris mistake which sent Aston Villa on the way to secure a 2-0 win. Conte is under pressure to secure a Champions League place and all the riches it brings but he has demanded funds to secure another top-class goalkeeper at the end of the season. Loris is 36 years of age and his time at Spurs is looking likely to end. Tottenham have no choice but to give Conte what he wants because if he walks out at the end of the season there are many European clubs who would employ him despite his reputation as a high maintenance coach who is very demanding and wears his heart on his sleeve. Conte says he wants to win trophies and if he cannot do that with Tottenham he will move on but he made it plain that the only way he can get his way is to be able to buy the players he wants and club boss Daniel Levy is not exactly generous when it comes to opening his cheque book.
Casimiro: A star in the Premier League
I have said it before and I will say it again…Manchester United midfielder Casimiro is a class above when it comes to dominating the centre of the park. Erik Ten Hag said on his own arrival at Old Trafford that the mental toughness in his inherited squad was very low. What he needed was a tough, skilful midfielder who could challenge for a ball, read a game and play with total commitment. I still do not understand why Real Madrid let him leave but United swooped quickly and signed Casimiro. Since then United have not looked back and are serious challengers for a Champions League spot next season. In the 15 matches since he joined for £60 million United have lost only two games. He was also named “man of the match” against Newcastle and Chelsea. After a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest Ten Hag said of Casimiro, “It is a pleasure to work with him. The levels he brings to the team are huge.”