Real Betis “believe they are close to pulling off a massive coup”, according to the Mirror. In these days of military takeovers of African quasi-dictatorships you might think that football gossipmongers might have temporarily scaled back on their use of the word “coup”, but no. Here it is in black and white, and being used to describe the future planning of a certain Jack Wilshere. The player, whose contract at Arsenal ends next summer, is apparently “open to moving to La Liga”, the only question being whether Betis “push for a cut-price deal in January”, “convince him to sign a pre-contract in January” or, in fact, fail to sign him altogether.
But who would replace Wilshere in Arsenal’s midfield/bench/stands should he leave? One improbable answer could be Marouane Fellaini, who “has rejected a new contract offer and is set to quit Manchester United on a free transfer at the end of the season”, according to the Express. They say that Internazionale, Besiktas and indeed Arsenal all want to add the Belgian’s sharp-elbowed skills to their ranks, but United will not consider selling the midfielder in January, preferring to keep him just as long as they can. The Mirror suggest this might be longer than first advertised, with the club “working on a compromise deal” and José Mourinho having “not given up hope of persuading him to stay at Old Trafford”, but then they also say he might end up in Valencia as part-payment for the 20-year-old midfield wonderkid Carlos Soler.
In not entirely unrelated news, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski wants the club to sign another first-team striker to allow him to put his feet up occasionally – “It would be a relief if I play in a game 15 or 20 minutes less,” he says – and apparently Olivier Giroud is the man they want to rise from their bench. And to complete a busy day for Arsenal-related gossipery, they have apparently identified Borussia Dortmund’s Sven Mislintat – whose nickname, Diamond Eye, might make him sound like a James Bond villain but is down entirely to his unerring ability to spot a promising youngster – as the man to replace Steve Rowley as their chief scout.
The towering Manchester City centre-back Pablo Marí is suddenly very popular, according to the Mail, which is either because the 24-year-old “has been impressing scouts with his leadership qualities and composure on the ball” while on loan at NAC Breda this season, or because he is “understood to have a relatively low release clause”. Or indeed a combination of both things. Either way, some unnamed and unnumbered “Premier League and Championship sides are showing interest” and something might happen in January.
However popular Marí is, however, it pales in comparison with the Anderlecht defender Kara Mbodj, whose agent said last week that there were “six or seven clubs from the Premier League in talks” as well as others from Italy, Turkey and Russia, and is now, we’re told, also being tracked by Liverpool and Brighton, meaning that very nearly half the entire Premier League is preparing to fight it out for the 28-year-old’s services (or someone’s fibbing). Talking of 28-year-olds who have at some point played in Belgium, Watford’s Stefano Okaka is going to lumber off to France in January, where according to the Mirror a number of Ligue 1 clubs want him on loan.
Managerial news now, and the Star report that Tony Pulis “could have just two games left to save his job” at West Bromwich Albion. This wouldn’t necessarily be disastrous but the timing is bad: those games are against Chelsea (h) and Tottenham (a), and it may therefore be time to start packing.