This week’s Rumor Redux is dominated by a club who were torn apart in the Champions League and clearly need to strengthen in summer. Yes, Arsene Wenger can complain about injuries to his side. Jack Wilshere has not played this season, while the Gunners currently have 10 first-team players nursing injuries. Miraculously, star striker and captain Robin van Persie, has been virtually injury free this season but the fact remains when it comes to winning trophies the boys from north London just don’t cut the mustard. Inevitably, this leads to speculation about who might be moving to the Emirates in the summer. Stan Kroenke has reportedly earmarked £55million to strengthen the squad in the close season, but whether that will be enough to repair the threadbare patchwork remains to be seen. RVP wants proof that the Gunners are going place before he commits himself to a new contract and you can see his point. Admittedly, if Arsenal had everybody fit there’s no doubt they could match the best the Premier league has to offer, but don’t forget for every RVP and Thierry Henry there is a Marouane Chamakh or an Andrey Arshavin. So here we have some of the top rumors currently circulating the globe and maybe, just maybe, Wenger might just get his wish for one of them.
Mario Gotze, M, Borussia Dortmund
Rumor: Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United. Likelihood: Low. The Wesley Sneijder to Old Trafford rumor has come and gone since the January transfer, and now that Inter Milan have started to implode so spectacularly it seems United could be turning their interest elsewhere. Step forward Mario Gotze, who has been out of action since December with a groin injury, could be back to sparkle interest next month. Gotze is seen by some as a potential replacement for Paul Scholes, who will possibly retire for a second time at the end of the season. On paper, Gotze who has also been linked with Arsenal, looks like a good bet for the Premier League. Yet, this one lacks legs. Only a few day ago Sports Total, the company that represents the midfielder, was fairly adamant about the future of Gotze and say he will definitely be playing in the Bundesliga next season. In fact, they claim United haven’t even been in touch. This looks like one rumor we can firmly put to bed.
Junior Hoilett, W, Blackburn
Rumor: Blackburn to Arsenal. Likelihood: As good a chance as anyone. It seems Junior Hoilett would rather be anywhere else than Blackburn right now and who can blame him. The Canadian has been one of the few bright spots in a miserable season for Rovers and the bad news for all concerned is that he is attracting the interest of Bayern Munich. However, the good news is that the 21-year-old winger, who actually spent a spell on loan in the Bundesliga with St Pauli a few years ago, would rather stay in the Premier League. If that’s the case, Arsene Wenger should find a place in his squad for a player who could slot into the team for Andrey Arshavin should the unpopular Russian head back home either with Anzhi or Zenit St. Petersburg. With Hoilett’s contract due to expire at the end of the season, Liverpool and Newcastle made inquiries in January but baulked at the £8million asking price. Fortunately for them, that fee will be a nice juicy ‘zero’ in the summer. Gentlemen, form an orderly queue.
Alessandro Del Piero, M, Juventus
Rumor: Juventus to Marseille. Likelihood: Possibly. Everyone knows that one of the greatest strikers ever to have come out of Italy will be leaving Juventus at the end of the season. Where he will be going is not very well known. At the age of 37, time is not on the side of a forward now in his 19th and final season with the Old Lady. Why would he want to join another club at this stage of his career? Because there are some professionals who never want to let go and why should they. Who would have thought that Raul would have ended up at Schalke and prove to be a success. Admittedly the Italian great has a few years on the Real Madrid legend but that has not put off Marseille coach Didier Deschamps from trying to woo the Italian to France. And it would make sense for Del Piero to leave Italy for a fresh challenge. Who can realistically see him playing against the black and white stripes of Juve? Deschamps, a former teammate of Del Piero in Turin, has said he would “welcome him with open arms" if he decided to join OM. We think there’s some mileage in this one, so watch this space.
Nicolas Gaitan, W, Benfica
Rumor: Benfica to Arsenal. Likelihood: There are others with greater claims. Over the winter, we were led to believe that the Benfica wonder kid was in talks with Manchester United. As we all know now, United needs a playmaker and although Gaitan isn’t quite Luka Modric, his sweet left foot and general trickery on the left wing make him a tempting proposition for any ambitious club. That move never happened. Then, to add to the intrigue, we heard that Manchester City assessed the 23-year-old Argentine during a Portuguese League Cup game against Maritimo a couple of weeks ago. If you think that was it, we can add another ingredient into this transfer soup: Arsenal. Club scout and former Gunners midfielder Gilles Grimandi was reportedly quoted in the Portuguese press saying that the club have an interest in the £35million-rated player. The north Londoners’ interest begs the question: isn’t Gaitain just another skilful lightweight that Arsene Wenger specializes in purchasing with little effect? Probably. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Wenger needs to strengthen as Arsenal's humiliation in Milan highlighted. Everyone knows what they really need is another Patrick Vieira, not another luxury.
Olivier Giroud, F, Montpellier
Rumor: Montpellier to Bayern Munich. Likelihood: Better chance than most. Giroud has been nothing short of a revelation this season, scoring 16 goals in 23 appearances for Montpellier, who have emerged as genuine Ligue 1 title contenders, in what is starting to look like a two-horse race with PSG. Inevitably, Arsenal have been linked with the French marksman, who made his international debut as a substitute against the United States last year. The fact that Wenger and Giroud share the same nationality is always a factor when it comes to assessing the merits of a move to the Emirates, but the vultures are starting to circle around one of the most talked about players in Europe. Napoli have been mentioned, but the biggest player on the transfer scene is Bayern Munich. Scouts from both clubs were present at the 2-2 draw against PSG, in which he did his reputation no harm at all. Montpellier will want to hang on to Giroud if they secure Champions League football, otherwise he can go where so many talented French players have gone before him and ply their trade in the bigger leagues of Europe.
Luis Suarez, F, Liverpool
Rumor: Liverpool to Palermo. Likelihood: Less than no chance. A couple of rumors surfaced over the last few days surrounding the future of controversial Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. First, we were told that PSG were interested in buying the Uruguayan as part of their revolutionary project. Fair enough, they have the cash and they’ve proved themselves in the transfer market over the last two windows. January saw Thiago Motta, Alex and Maxwell join summer recruits Kevin Gameiro, Jeremy Menez, Mohamed Sissoko and, of course, Javier Pastore amongst others. Then, a rumor far from left field had Palermo in the mix. Yes, Italy’s Palermo. Like last season, the Serie A club are having a decent enough campaign and are in a position to finish in the Europa League. Would that be enough to persuade Suarez to jump ship to Serie A? We don’t think so. Liverpool couldn’t have done much more (some say too much) in their support of Suarez during the Patrice Evra race row and it’s highly unlikely the Reds will want to part with their prize asset for whom they spent £22million. Does Palermo have that sort of cash? We highly doubt it. As their recent purchases would suggest, they virtually replaced their team in the summer for about £29m and signed Massimo Donati, Emiliano Viviano and Agon Mehmeti in January. I think you get the picture.
Jan Vertonghen, D, Ajax
Rumor: Ajax to Tottenham. Likelihood: Better than 50/50. All the talk during the January transfer window was that Tottenham were planning to snatch the Ajax defender from under the noses of hated north London rivals Arsenal. Instead, the Belgium international continued to shore up Ajax's backline, although Spurs are now starting to step up their efforts to sign a dependable center-back. Injury-plagued Ledley King has played less than half of Spurs' matches this season and there surely has to be a time when Harry says 'enough is enough.' With that thought in mind, he has been sending his trusted scouts on a mission to find a defender who can handle the rigors of the Premier League. Step forward Vertonghen. He put in an assured display in the 2-0 Europa league defeat by Manchester United and his coach, Frank de Boer, reckons he is already at the level of Alex Ferguson’s men. The noises are starting to grow louder that White Hart Lane is on the horizon and with Vertonghen’s contract up in 2013, Ajax will definitely cash in should he not sign a new deal.
Leandro Damiao, F, Internacional
Rumor: Internacional to Tottenham. Likelihood: Outside chance. We at FOX Soccer have plenty of time for the Internacional striker, who has scored 52 goals in 86 appearances for the Brazilian club. Anyone who witnessed the audacious way he flicked the ball over Argentine defender Christian Cellay when playing for Brazil in a friendly last year was left in no doubt about the man's talent. Where will he be heading in summer (if anywhere) remains a mystery. We got a glimpse of the future this week when he revealed the only club to have made an offer for him was Tottenham. PSG had not been in touch, according to the 22-year-old striker. Let's not forget there are other elements to this equation, namely Arsenal, Liverpool and Malaga if the papers are to be believed. Spurs boss Harry Redknapp may think he has the edge over his Premier League rivals and have a good relationship with Internacional, having signed Sandro from them in 2010. But will that be enough to persuade Leandro to follow suit? That depends. If Tottenham makes next season's Champions League, there is a possibility, especially with Arsenal and Liverpool in their rear view mirror. Cash is always capable of turning heads when it comes to transfers and for some it's paramount (step forward Carlos Tevez). Don't forget there's always a Manchester City lurking in the shadows once they get a sniff of blood, so don't be surprised if their name, amongst the other usual suspects, starts to surface at the end of the season.
Eden Hazard, M/F, Lille
Rumor: Lille to Arsenal. Likelihood: England yes, but take your pick for which club. Eden Hazard just isn’t going to go away as a story. A few days ago, the Lille playmaker said he could join Tottenham in the summer but now he’s thinking about playing for Arsenal. Harry Redknapp has expressed his admiration for the Belgium international (but then again which player hasn’t been given the admiration line from Harry), but Hazard will probably only be a target should Luka Modric join either Chelsea or Manchester United. The Gunners have a few things in their favour of course. First, they play a style of football that Hazard will find attractive, skilful, slick, and pleasing to the eye. Secondly, they have a French coach so there will be no problem on the communication front. And finally, his Belgium colleague Thomas Vermaelen is already at the Emirates, so what’s to stop Wenger passing on his own messages of love via one of his own squad members. It’s pretty indisputable that Hazard will be crossing the channel this summer but his destination remains a mystery. Mention a club to Hazard and the chances are he’ll find some nice words to say about them, adding more fuel to the speculation.
Kaka, M, Real Madrid
Rumor: Real Madrid to Chelsea. Likelihood: Somewhat. When Marca makes a comment about Real Madrid the world generally takes notice. The Spanish newspaper has a long association with the nine-time European champion, so when it claims that the Brazilian international will be allowed to leave the Bernabeu in the summer then ears start to prick up. The injury-plagued attacker hasn’t really hit the heights, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, since he joined the club from AC Milan and now it seems Jose Mourinho is willing to cash in on a player that represents poor value for the £56million spent in the summer of 2009. Roman Abramovich is supposedly a big admirer, but then again so are those at PSG and Inter Milan. We all remember what happened when Manchester City tried to sign Kaka in those glorious days when Garry Cook gave us all great stories in his time as CEO. But times have changed and Kaka might entertain the idea of a move to the Premier League, if not a move to the colder climes of the northern England. The jury is out on this one, but if there was ever a time to bring Kaka to London that time is now.