Five players Roma could target this January


Roma have been linked with a number of players in recent weeks, despite their sporting director Monchi insisting they are not going to bring in new recruits this January.

The Giallorossi are in fine form under manager Eusebio Di Francesco, and currently sit fifth in Serie A. They also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League having topped a very tough group c.

They lost some key players last summer, with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rüdiger moving on, while the additions of Rick Karsdorp, Cengiz Under, Gregoire Defrel and Patrik Schick are still yet to meet their undoubted potential.

Sam May takes a look at five players Roma could target this January…


Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria)

The 21-year-old was a product of Pescara’s academy before going on to make 36 appearances for their first team. During his time in the senior team, he scored five goals and managed one assist. After Leaving Pescara at the end of the 2016 season, he only missed three league matches, featuring in 38 overall. But it was the defensive midfielder’s importance, which was obvious to Marco Giampaolo’s side through his continued presence. The Uruguayan has been hot property this season and has scored three goals in 13 appearances. He would be a perfect addition to the Giallorossi’s engine room and his deal with Sampdoria ends in June 2020. The pass master was also linked with a move to Sevilla, when Roma’s Monchi tried to lure him to Andalusia back in 2015. Despite his €40 million clause in his contract, Roma could still look to prize him away this January.


Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)

Roma could make a fresh move for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez this January. The Italian giants were hot on the heels of the 26-year-old last summer, despite the Foxes make it clear the Algerian was not for sale.

Leicester remained resilient in their efforts to keep hold of the attacking midfielder, despite him handing in a transfer request and the club rejecting a third bid of £32million. Mahrez has since proved Leicester was right and shown glimpses of his best form so far this season. Roma would have to pay close to £45million to lure him away from the King Power Stadium in January. Claude Puel has made it clear he hopes to keep hold of one of his key players, but Leicester’s resolve could be tested again when the window opens next month with Barcelona also keen on his services.


Dani Cabellos (Real Madrid)

Dani Ceballos is a player the Giallorossi have recently been linked with. The 21-year-old made the move to Los Blancos in the summer, following a £17.5million switch from Real Betis. Having failed to nail down a starting birth and becoming a fringe player under Zinedine Zidane. He has started just two La Liga games since his move, sparking rumours Di Francesco could sign him in the January window. Arsenal and Tottenham have also been keeping tabs on the midfielder and could reignite their interest. Monchi is a huge admirer of the Spaniard, and the player is hoping to book a spot in Spain’s World Cup squad but knows only regular first-team football can guarantee that. So Roma believe the player may be open to a departure and may tempt Madrid into a deal with a potential buyback clause.


Arthur (Gremio)

Arthur, 21, has been a revelation this season in the Brazilian championship, helping his side to the conquest of the Copa Libertadores. A buyout clause of £50 million has been interested in his contract, but this won’t put of current suitors, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid, who are keen to secure his signature. As Brazilian clubs in general can’t match the financial power of European clubs, they have no option to sell the player sooner, rather than later.

He would be a perfect addition in the heart of the Roma midfield. The Giallorossi are desperate for some youthful additions to their squad and the attacking midfielder, who has been dubbed the Brazilian Andrés Iniesta, would be a perfect option for the club. Both Radja Nainggolan, 29, and 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi are not getting any younger, and Roma need to build for the future. By signing Arthur, he would take the burden off both and give Di Francesco an extra option in midfield.


Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid)

Spanish winger Lucas Vázquez is another player linked with a move to the Stadio Olimpico in January. The 26-year-old, who has also been linked with Newcastle, has not been a regular in Real Madrid’s plans this season. Marco Asensio and Isco will most likely be the first men called off the bench for Zidane, so Vázquez will not have the minutes he needs in order to secure a place in Spain’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad.

Real Madrid should probably sell the player while there are clubs willing to offer big money for him, just like they did with José Callejón to Napoli back in 2013. That’s the best thing for Vázquez and also for the club, so with Monchi impressed with the winger, Roma could look to swoop for highly rated player.


Who is Amanda Staveley? Newcastle United’s potential new owner profiled


Amanda Staveley is set to become the new owner of Newcastle, with Mike Ashley set to cash out. But who is she? Sam May takes a look…

Staveley, 44, runs PCP Capital Partners and set to replace the outgoing Ashley. The Sports Direct tycoon is expected to cash out and hand over the club to the financier and her mystery backers, for just over £300million.

Following talks in London, it seems the deal for Staveley to take over at Newcastle is almost complete. Involved romantically with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, she met her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, when he worked for her company.

The businesswoman has one child, Alexander (Lexi), who she has had with Mr Ghodoussi, and ended up in labour following a business. They also married in 2011, and now work’s between Dubai and their London apartment in Park Lane.

Her company is backed with £28billion in funds from China and the Middle East and she wants to become who of the biggest figures in football. She has an incredible business mind and is no stranger at cutting deals.

Staveley and PCP helped broker Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City from Thaksin Shinawatra in 2009. She was initially spotted in the stands at St James’ Park in October when Newcastle took on Liverpool in the Premier League.

Fenway Sports Group had previously rejected an approach from Staveley, who was looking to take a share in Liverpool. It isn’t just football that she is interested in however, she also enjoys horse racing.

She is the daughter on Robert and Lynn Staveley. Her father founded the Lightwater Valley theme park in 1969 while her grandfather, Ralph, was successful running a betting business and, later, Doncaster dog racing track.

Staveley attended Queen Margaret’s School in York and had a keen interest in sports. She left school at 16 and took her A-levels in a single year before being accepted into Cambridge’s St Catharine’s College to read modern languages.

After packing in her degree, Staveley took out a £180,000 loan to open the restaurant Stocks between Cambridge and Newmarket. With no formal training, she “lived and breathed business and banking” both studying for her future roles in the city and working as a waitress. Opening her Newmarket restaurant in the Middle East it is here where she started to make her money. She was then named Businesswoman of the Year in 2000.

But after selling a 49 per cent stake to EuroTelecom, a company which flopped in the collapse of the Dotcom boom, but after buying back her stake in Q.ton in a complicated deal the company failed.

She will join Southamton’s Katharina Liebherr, West Ham’s Karren Brady and Ann Budge of Hearts in becoming one football’s prominent women figures.

Three strikers Everton could target in January


Sam Allardyce is looking to bolster his attacking options this January

The newly appointed Everton manager has made it clear he is looking to add firepower to his team and strengthen his forward line, having claimed the Blues failed to replace Romelu Lukaku last summer.

Troy Denney is a name that has been mentioned already, but who else could they target? Sam May takes a look…


Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)

The Toffees could make a move for the former Liverpool forward Christian Benteke having worked with the Belgium international during his short spell at Crystal Palace. Benteke, 27, has failed to score so far this season, having made 10 appearances, but re-uniting with Sam Allardyce could kick start his season.

He is your old fashioned centre forward and right now that is what Everton need, somebody to put the ball into the back of the net. They are lacking goals and have scored just 18 in total, having let Lukaku join Manchester United in the summer window for a fee that could rise to £90 million.

Under Allardyce, Benteke netted 17 times in total helping the Eagles to avoid relegation, so a move to Goodison Park would certainly be a perfect option for player, manager and club. The fact he has proven Premier League experience could also be a factor for director of football Steve Walsh and Big Sam to consider.


Jermaine Defoe (Bournemouth)

Defore, 35, would be seen as a temporary option until the end of the season. He has netted just once this campaign, his goal coming against Brighton back in September to roll back the years, when he first scored for the Cherries as a teenager in 2001.

When Allardyce took the experienced striker to Sunderland from Toronto FC, not only did he score 34 goals in two seasons, but also got an England re-call. Clearly, he likes working under Big Sam. He has found game time hard to come by on the South Coast, so a loan move away could well be on the cards.


Danny Ings (Liverpool)

The third option is not as controversial as you might think. He could – and it would be a great move for all concerned, to go for a loan move for the Reds 25-year-old forward. Now before you KOP diehards go crazy, think about it. Ings is the forgotten striker in the Premier League.

He is wasted in the Reds under-23 side and is way down the first team pecking order behind Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge and Dominic Solanke. True, the Reds have been loyal and patient with his injury problems, but his open market stock value is at an all time low.

The player needs first-team football and is happy to be on Merseyside, training each day. A loan move across Stanley Park can only be good for both sides. His value would increase, and the Reds could cash in this summer – maybe with a permanent move to the Toffees.

No doubt he could help keep the Blues up and that keeps the Derby clashes alive. After all, who on the Kop would relish a derby against Stoke under the lights at Anfield over the Toffees? Or if you’re a Gladys Street true Blue, the same against Preston North End or Bolton Wanderers over the Reds – it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Big Sam won’t be afraid to call Jürgen Klopp, and if the call comes, let’s hope it’s a positive for the player and both our city clubs.

James Tarkowski: Burnley defender has exceeded expectations at Turf Moor


Burnley fans will have been worried when losing Michael Keane to Everton last summer. But the transformation of once bit part player James Tarkowski has been incredible, writes Sam May.

The 25-year-old was tasked of filling the boots of Michael Keane and he has done just that. Tarkowski’s meteoric rise in Sean Dyche’s back line has made all the difference for the Clarets in 2017.

His defensive presence is there to see and was most evident earlier on in the season when Burnley defeat Crystal Palace 1-0 when Frank De Boer was in charge of the Eagles. He managed to muscle out Christian Benteke and keep him quiet all game, claiming the man of the match award.

The defender yet again shown his authority and helped Burnley to a 1-1 draw at Anfield, despite the Reds 71% possession and 35 shots on target. He commanded his area and stood up to the task.

Tarkowski has the 2nd most defensive clearances per game (8.8) and the most shots blocked per game (1.7). He is also in the top ten among qualifying central defenders in total successful tackles (16) and interceptions (15) in the Premier League this season. He has made 74 clearances, more than any other central defender and 15 blocks.

A bargain buy from Brentford in February 2016, he has proved to be one of the best buys in the clubs history. After losing Keane to Everton, the question remained whether or not Burnley would use their lump sum for Keane to fill the opening in central defence. Instead, they built around the heart of the defence with purchases at left and right back along with the acquisition of Jack Cork to sit in a defensive midfield position.

Tarkowski’s growth will only continue under manager Sean Dyche. So how long will it be before he finally gets an England call-up?

Lautaro Martínez: Argentinian striker can replace Fernando Torres at Atlético Madrid


The 20-year-old is one of the Primera’s hottest prospects and an outside bet to make Argentina’s World Cup squad, he would be the perfect Fernando Torres replacement at Atlético Madrid, writes Sam May.

Racing’s star striker has been linked with a move to the Wanda Metropolitana in recent times and could replace Torres, should the Spanish striker move to the Premier League to link-up with ex-boss Rafa Benítez at Newcastle in January. Torres, 33, is in the twilight of his career and is said to be happy to seek pastures new.

Martínez looked set for a move to the Spanish capital in the summer, until club officials failed to close a deal with Primera División side Racing Club de Avellaneda, having travelled to Argentina to finalise a deal. He is however still on the radar, and boss Diego Simeone could pounce to secure the services of his fellow countryman.

He has made 11 international appearances for the Argentina U20 squad, scoring seven goals and is only going to improve going forward. Martínez was also the top-scorer at the Under 20 South American Championships in Ecuador with five goals. It isn’t just Atlético who are interested in his services, however. Borussia Dortmund scouts were at the Bombonera on Sunday to watch a glittering display from Racing Club’s wonderkid Lautaro Martínez, claims the star’s father.

“He is a player who has no limits on what he can achieve,” Martínez Sr. added, also recognising that Atlético have maintained their interest despite failing to come to an agreement. He has a €9 million buyout clause in his current contract, which is a bargain following his impressive form. Racing own 80% of his rights and Liniers de Bahía Blanca, where he started his career, own the remaining 20%.

Monaco, Manchester United, Arsenal and Atlético’s bitter rivals Real Madrid have all expressed interest in the impressive forward, so it seems competition for his signature will be tough.

Who is Kepa Arrizabalaga? The Spanish shot stopper linked with Real Madrid and Arsenal


La Liga champions are keen on the highly-rated young keeper as they look for an alternative to Manchester United’s David De Gea, writes Sam May.

It is understood Los Blancos are close to admitting defeat in their pursuit for Spain’s No.1 keeper and will turn their attention to the San Mamés youngster.

So who just is Arrizabalaga?

The 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper is one of the best young players in Europe. At 6ft 2ins, he is blessed with composure and maturity beyond his years. Making a number of high profile saves in the last year, his profile has risen.

Having played 22 times for the Spain Under-21s, he will look to challenge David De Gea in the near future. It’s Arrizabalaga’s decision-making and agility that makes him one of the recent stand out figures in La Liga.

Born in Ondarroa, in the Bay of Biscay, he has been with Athletic Bilbao since the age of ten-years-old. It is unlikely he will extend his stay and will seek a move away. He played at every age group for the club, went out on loan to second division sides Ponferradina and Valladolid, and was then named as third keeper for the first team by Marcelo Bielsa. It was current Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde who gradually made him first choice after originally alternating him with Athletic stalwart Gorka Iraizoz.

Currently in his final year of his Bilbao contract, from January, the keeper is able to sign a pre-contact with another club and both Real Madrid and Arsenal have expressed interest. As he is under 24, Arrizabalaga cannot move on a free transfer so a compensation package would have to be agreed.

A fee of around £18 million is understood to be enough to prize him away from Los Leones. Arsenal have previously scouted the promising keeper, but are unlikely going to be able to match the wages that could be offered by Florentino Perez.

In signing Arrizabalaga, either team would have a tremendous talent for a decade or so.


Who could replace Mesut Özil at Arsenal?


As it looks more and more likely that the German international could be heading for the exit at the Emirates, Sam May looks at a real option to replace him in North London.

The move by Arsène Wenger to secure the services of Alexandre Lacazette in the summer may have a significant effect on his next move. The replacement of Özil will be key and the door may already be ajar to secure his replacement. Step through Nabil Fekir.

Fekir, 24, is now starting the prime of his years and is a former team mate of the new Gunners star man Lacazette. They had a great understanding last term and no doubt the Frenchman would welcome his friend to the Emirates. By moving to Arsenal last summer Lacazette has unknowingly helped his friend. He now captains the Lyon side and is shining in his extra responsibility. His goal tally of nine in 10 games has already matched his total for last season. He scores free kicks, arrives late in the box for tap-in’s and even has a half way strike to his name – against Bordeaux.

On recent French international duty Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny was quoted “Fekir has great technical ability and makes a difference”. He was probably also impressed with how the central attacking midfielder is prepared to track back as well as drive for goal. Clearly something lacking in Özil’s makeup. He “sees“ situations and is a talent no doubt about that, but Fekir makes things happen. He takes charge, again something lacking generally at Arsenal, and badly needed.

No doubt Wenger was given a full report on his return from international duty. The premiership demands such commitment so Fekir could prove a hit with the North London faithful. Not since 2008 and the arrival of Karim Benzema on the scene at the Stade de Lyon are the powers in the corridors as excited.

The Lyon money men were happy to open, discuss and conclude the sale of their star man Lacazette to the Gunners. The fee of £52.7m was right, so London became his new place of work. He is scoring goals when on the pitch but is still settling in.

The addition of his former playmaker and feeder may turn both Fekir and Lacazette into the key force the gunners currently lack. It will all depend of the price being right. Expect no change from £75m Mr Wenger.