Pep Guardiola has hinted it could be difficult to retain one of his Man City forwards in January after acknowledging the lure of a transfer to Barcelona is difficult to turn down.
Over the past few weeks, speculation has continued to swirl regarding the future of Raheem Sterling. The lively forward, 26, was once an undroppable component of Guardiola’s fearsome forward lines. However, the Englishman has had to take a back seat so far this season.
Sterling has accrued just three league starts in the current campaign. In the commanding 2-0 victory over Manchester United on Saturday, Sterling was left kicking his heels as an unused substitute.
The arrival of Jack Grealish, combined with the continued rise of Phil Foden has given Guardiola fresh options in Sterling’s customary left wing position.
As such, Sterling recently suggested he would be open to an exit when speaking to the Guardian in October. That drew the ire of Guardiola, who later claimed Sterling should “make a phonecall” and seek a move away if he is unhappy with how he manages his playing personnel.
A surprise move to cash-strapped Barcelona has been touted. Despite their dreadful financial state, the club have been linked with sanctioning a January loan deal with a view to a permanent acquisition down the line.
Adding further fuel to that fire is the club’s desperate need for attacking reinforcements. Martin Braithwaite is sidelined with a serious knee injury. Furthermore, Sergio Aguero will miss a minimum of three months after being diagnosed with a heart problem.
Now, speaking at a charity event organised by Juan Carlos Unzué at a Spanish golf resort, Guardiola has given his take on Sterling’s future.
In doing so, he acknowledged the idea of joining Barcelona “seduces” many players. He also refused to put the kibosh on his forward’s exit rumours.
“I have no idea, not that I know and obviously I wouldn’t tell you this either,” said the Spaniard (via Sport Witness).
“We have too much work to do. But if Barcelona are interested in any of our players, I am convinced that… Barcelona continues to be an attractive club, more than attractive.
“The city, the club, the history and this for the coaches, for the players, always seduces a lot.
“If Barcelona are interested in our player, they will start the machinery, it is transatlantic. Barcelona, in the good and the bad, can do what they want.”
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Man City mobilising for Chelsea bidding war
Meanwhile, Manchester City are prepared to sell a £41m signing in order to help fund a huge bid for Matthijs De Ligt, though they could face stiff competition from Chelsea, per a report.
The 22-year-old has drawn persistent links with Chelsea in recent weeks. He was named as a potential Thiago Silva successor in late-October.
Additionally, the continued uncertainty surrounding the contract status’ of Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen could give Thomas Tuchel an immediate need to splash the cash. Each of those three Blues defenders are in the final years of their contracts.
However, according to SportsMole (citing Italian outlet Calciomercato), De Ligt has another English admirer.
They claim Man City are in the mix, and could axe Nathan Ake in order to help fund the move. In their words, ‘Pep Guardiola is understood to be considering the departure of Nathan Ake next summer.’
That would free up both funds and squad space for De Ligt, who Guardiola ‘admires’.
De Ligt reportedly holds a €150m (£128.4m) release clause within his contract that activates next summer.
Whether either City or Chelsea would be willing to trigger that clause is unclear. What would appear a more realistic prospect would be a bidding war at lower stakes.
READ MORE: ‘My club’ – Man City star open to transfer as he names preferred destination
Chelsea risk complete depletion after transfer update for tempted star Tuchel is relying on
Marcos Alonso remains a top target for Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, despite it being questionable as to whether Chelsea would sanction a transfer.
Chelsea are currently facing a shortage of players in the full-back positions. Alonso is their only natural fit on the left-hand side at present due to Ben Chilwell’s ACL injury. They have been trying to recall Emerson Palmieri from a loan spell at Lyon, but are struggling.
Therefore, the Blues continue to be linked with signing new left-backs in January. But now a further complication has arisen in the shape of Atletico chasing Alonso.
According to Marca, Simeone still dreams of signing the Spaniard, whom he wanted at Atletico three years ago. Back then, the La Liga giants opted to sign Renan Lodi instead.
Now, Simeone is hoping to lure Alonso back to his hometown. The Atletico boss still feels a need to strengthen at left-back and Alonso has the traits he desires.
Marca (whose report is adapted by Sport Witness) claim a transfer is back on the agenda, then. Although whether that would appeal to Chelsea is debatable.
Alonso lost his place as a starter after Chilwell relied, but they are relying on him now until they can recover the Englishman’s services or sign another reinforcement.
But the 31-year-old may be keen to make the move to Madrid. According to Marca, he would welcome the chance to play in La Liga.
Alonso came through the academy ranks at Real Madrid before making one La Liga appearance in 2010. He has never played in the competition since after spending his club career between England and Italy.
Spanish return appealing to Alonso?
Recent reports claimed he was keen to explore a future away from Chelsea to boost his chances of representing Spain at the 2022 World Cup. Alonso has five international caps to his name after debuting in 2018, including two last year.
He may now have hopes of playing club football in his homeland, rather than just representing their national team. And Atletico see him as a perfect fit.
It is not yet clear if they will make a formal move, or how much they may offer. But if anything happens between now and the end of the month, it would heighten Chelsea’s dilemmas.
Atletico have Marcos Alonso alternatives
However, in an update that may allay any fears Chelsea have of losing Alonso, AS claim Atletico are also looking at Reinildo of Lille.
As cited by Football Espana, the report claims there have been discussions between the Spanish and French champions over his transfer.
Reinildo is out of contract with Lille in the summer. So he could be available for a cut-price fee.
AS also list the versatile Daniel Wass of Valencia as a priority option for Atletico.
However, the Mattress Makers are also long-term admirers of Alonso, as Marca remind. Therefore, his future at Chelsea will still be in question unless Atleti sign one of the other options.
READ MORE: Chelsea bid ‘accepted’ as Tuchel nears stellar signing in favourite position
Ranieri sack moments away with ‘stunned’ Watford chiefs ‘preparing’ new appointment
Watford are poised to sack manager Claudio Ranieri and have already begun sizing up replacements after being left stunned by their ineptitude versus Norwich, per reports.
The Hornets suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat to relegation rivals on Friday night. The contest had been hyped up as a potential relegation decider given how few points both teams have accrued against stronger opposition.
But despite home advantage, Watford looked off the pace throughout, and manager Ranieri could soon pay the price.
Watford are not known for exhibiting patience when it comes to their hirings and firings. Indeed, Xisco Munoz was relieved of his duties less than two months into the season.
Now, according to the Telegraph, Ranieri is poised to follow suit after lasting just three months.
The newspaper state Watford are ‘ready to end’ Ranieri’s reign following their dismal Norwich defeat. The Italian is ‘close’ to being fired, and both staff and players are ‘preparing’ for the appointment of a new head coach.
Watford are deemed to be ‘already targeting replacements’, though the article does not speculate as to their identities.
Ranieri sack due ‘this weekend’
With Watford’s players not due in for training until Tuesday, the article concludes Ranieri is likely to be sacked ‘this weekend’.
The Hornets have lost seven out of their last eight league matches. Their only non-defeat was a 1-1 draw with Newcastle last weekend.
TEAMtalk’s own sources have echoed the sentiments of the Telegraph report.
We have been told by more than one reliable source that Ranieri’s time is up. A final decision could come as early as tonight.
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