Nicolo Zaniolo

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Transfer news: Koulibaly to Man United; Zaniolo to Liverpool

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In the latest transfer news Kalidou Koulibaly has been linked with a move to Man United, while their bitter rivals Liverpool are linked with Nicolo Zaniolo.

Fun fact: Kouliabaly and Zaniolo have both been linked with Man United and Liverpool in recent weeks. Nothing like a little bit of local rivalry, especially when huge transfer fees and talented players are involved.

First up, this is not the first time Man United have been linked with Koulibaly. The 28-year-old center back will reportedly be up for sale in the upcoming transfer window as Napoli aim to recoup some of the funds they will lose by not being in the UEFA Champions League next season.

Per Gazetta dello Sport, Man United are now ‘ready’ to come back in with a bid for Koulibaly after Liverpool showed interested in the towering Senegalese defender. After all, Koulibaly has been at the heart of several impressive defensive displays, and results, as Napoli and Liverpool have sparred on multiple occasions in the Champions League in recent seasons.

The report says that Koulibaly will likely be heading to the Premier League but for closer to $75 million rather than the previous figure of $109 million.

Koulibaly is a dominant center back and both Liverpool and Man United already have one of those each in Virgil van Dijk and Harry Magurie respectively, but it appears the Premier League giants want another giant to further bolster their increasingly sturdy defense.

Liverpool have Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren battling to start alongside VVD, while Man United have Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly challenging to partner Maguire. If Koulibaly arrives at either he would be a guaranteed starter and this could be the best time to do a deal for him as Napoli know it is very unlikely they will receive UCL money next season, plus the current financial situation means players will not be worth as much when it comes to transfer values.

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Sticking with a tasty transfer tussle between Man United and Liverpool, that takes us to Roma and Italy midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo.

The talented 20-year-old has been a star after bursting on the scene at Roma over the last two years and Roma, like Napoli, could miss out on UCL qualification next season. A takeover by the Friedkin Group has also stalled amid the pandemic, so Roma’s financial situation isn’t great.

Zaniolo is a tall, skilful and versatile midfield player and before his ACL injury in January he scored six goals and added seven assists in 24 appearances across their midfield.

Liverpool, like Man United, are probably one player short in midfield right now. Naby Keita continues to be an injury concern for Jurgen Klopp, while the trio of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all incredibly reliable but are pushing towards the end of their careers.

Zaniolo has attacking flair and is able to create and surge forward from midfield as well as keeping the ball. His main competition for a spot at Liverpool would be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as Klopp prefers two more defensive midfielders out of his midfield three.

Previously Roma wanted over $85 million for Zaniolo, who has over four years left on his current contract, but it’s safe to say that like most deals for the foreseeable future, the transfer fee will be a lot lower than that.

Transfer news: Arsenal to extend Ceballos loan; Zaniolo to Man United

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The latest transfer news doing the rounds in the Premier League includes Arsenal trying to extend the stay of Dani Ceballos, plus Man United are among a host of clubs linked with Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a report from Spanish outlet El Confidencial says that Arsenal are keen to extend the loan of Ceballos from Real Madrid until the end of the 2019-20 season but do not plan on signing him permanently.

The Spanish midfielder, 23, has been superb for the Gunners when he’s been fit and he’s flourished in a deeper central midfield role since Mikel Arteta took charge. Ceballos, a Spanish international, has previously stated he wants to return to Real but if there’s no spot for him in Zinedine Zidane’s plans, perhaps another loan move beckons?

Arsenal probably aren’t in a financial position to buy Ceballos as the club have already agreed with their players to a pay cut over the next 12 months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock and Lucas Torreira around, Arsenal have plenty of central midfield options but Ceballos has real quality on the ball and given the way Arteta wants to play, he needs someone who can retain possession and link the play effortlessly in a central midfield role.

After his injuries, a change in manager and a topsy-turvy season for Arsenal overall, it is tough to judge Ceballos’ first season in the Premier League so far but it’s obvious their midfield has more class when he’s in it.

Staying in midfield, Man United and Tottenham have been linked with Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo, 20, who is one of the top young talents in Serie A.

The Daily Star have the report, as Zaniolo is a fine midfielder who can play in a variety of positions.

Zaniolo suffered an ACL injury in January but he is expected to be fit in June and both Man United and Spurs are keen to try and test Roma’s resolve with a cut-price offer. Previously the Italian giants wanted over $63 million for Zaniolo but the report states that United could offer way below that due to Roma’s financial situation.

This seems more like a Ole Gunnar Solskjaer transfer than Jose Mourinho. Man United are prioritizing adding young players and Zaniolo fits the bill. Man United are one midfield player short, with a more creative force needed out wide on the right in particular.

Zaniolo would obviously be a lot cheaper than signing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and his clever running, passing and flicks would knit things together nicely alongside Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in attack. He made his debut for the Italian national team in 2019 and scored twice in five outings for the Azzurri.

It is clear Man United are keen on signing a new midfielder when the transfer window next opens, while Tottenham will prioritize signing new defenders and more a defensive central midfielder.

Roma signs Barcelona youngster Carles Perez

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Barcelona has offloaded 21-year-old winger Carles Perez to AS Roma a day before the transfer window shuts on an initial loan deal with a mandatory option to buy this summer.

The clubs confirmed the deal on Thursday morning, with the 21-year-old eventually costing Roma $12.6 million plus another $5 million in potential add-ons at the end of the season, in addition to a $1 million loan fee to cover the next six months. According to Spanish journalist Alfredo Martinez, there is no buy-back clause for Barcelona in the new deal, which was reportedly a sticking point for the La Liga giants throughout negotiations, but they appear to have conceded in that department to push a deal over the line.

However, there was one slight discrepancy in the deal announcements. Barcelona’s release states that the option to buy is mandatory at the end of the season, while Roma contends that the option to buy is only mandatory “based on the achievement of certain sporting targets.”

Roma’s need arose on the wing after the loss of Nicolo Zaniolo to a torn ACL, with the 20-year-old star going down earlier this month.

Perez was used heavily early in the season at Barcelona, scoring a goal and assisting three more in early La Liga action, but his time significantly waned as September ended and Lionel Messi returned to full fitness. The rise of Ansu Fati also cut into Perez’s playing time as the 17-year-old became the one to benefit most from Ousmane Dembele’s struggles with injury.

Still, it’s somewhat surprising that Barcelona has offloaded an attacker given that Luis Suarez and Dembele are both on the shelf. Dembele is expected back in mid-February while Suarez is likely done for much of the season if not the entire remaining campaign.

Serie A roundup: Roma hold off Napoli; Juventus remain leaders (video)

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Roma’s victory over Napoli highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Roma 2-1 Napoli

On Saturday, at Stadio Olimpico, when Roma found themselves up 2-0 on Napoli, the game came to a pause. Referee Gianluca Rocchi made the decision to grab the ball and blow the whistle in the second half after Roma fans aimed racist chants at Napoli.

After a few minutes, the game resumed, and eventually, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s darting ball into the box would find Arkadiusz Milik, who extended his scoring run to four matches.

The first half had it all.

Nicolo Zaniolo opened the scoring, when his left-footed strike zoomed past Alex Meret and into the top-right corner of the goal. The 20-year-old has now scored three league goals in 11 matches. Shortly after, VAR granted Roma a penalty after concluding that Jose Callejon contacted the ball with his arm inside the box when pressured by Chris Smalling. Aleksandar Kolarov‘s penalty, however, was denied by Meret, who recorded four saves throughout the 90 minutes.

Napoli were persistent and came close several times. Giovanni di Lorenzo was denied at the goal line by a full-extended Smalling. In a matter of seconds, the visitor’s struck the woodwork twice, once by header from Milik, which was subsequently followed by a first-time volley from distance that also rattled the bar.

I Giallorossi would get a second chance from the spot in the second half. And this time they didn’t squander it.

Javier Pastore, who zipped through Napoli’s backline, saw his lofting cross crash into Fabian Ruiz’s arm. A penalty was awarded, and Jordan Veretout – on loan from Fiorentina – opened his Roma account, which ended up being the game-winning goal.

Up next for Roma, who moved to third and are only behind Inter Milan and Juventus, take on Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Europa League midweek. Napoli, on the other hand, host Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday and aim to remain perfect in Group E of the Champions League.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Tornio 0-1 Juventus

Bologna 1-2 Inter Milan

Transfer Rumor Roundup: James to Atletico, Rondon to China

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It has seemed for weeks that James Rodriguez is just a formality away from becoming a Napoli player, with Real Madrid motivated to offload the Colombian and Napoli appearing equally as excited to bring him on. However, as the weeks drag on without any official announcement, things may have begun to sour.

According to a number of reports in Spain, Real Madrid were upset with Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis due to comments made by the Italian. With Real Madrid insisting any would-be suitor pony up immediately with a permanent deal, de Laurentiis went public with his insistence on a loan with an obligation to buy. “We are all prepared to make sacrifices for James Rodriguez, but we ask Real Madrid to make them too,” de Laurentiis said to Sky Sport Italia. “We’ve not given up, but in order to break the ice we need Madrid to consider that rather than have an unhappy player sitting around, they should send him out to play. Perhaps on loan.”

That reportedly upset Real Madrid enough to the point where they have shifted focus to Atletico Madrid, willing to deal with a direct rival rather than capitulate to Napoli’s wishes. The reports also state that Rodriguez is on board, growing frustrated with Napoli’s wavering desire for his services. Atletico is also an attractive destination for the Colombian given the gap up front created by the departure of Antoine Griezmann. They have spent all the Griezmann money on Portuguese youngster Joao Felix, but with such a departure, there is always a power vacuum Rodriguez could exploit.

According to Lyall Thomas of Sky Sports, Championship side West Brom has agreed to sell Salomon Rondon to Chinese club Dalian Yifang where he will reunite with manager Rafa Benitez.

The report states the deal between the clubs is done and the player now must agree to personal terms, with the possibility for official confirmation of the deal in as little as 48 hours. It is unclear what the value of the deal is, but Sky mentions that Rondon has a release clause in his contract worth $20.6 million.

Rondon spent last season on loan at Newcastle with Benitez after West Brom was relegated the season before. He was a superb creative force, scoring 12 goals across all competitions, good for second on the team behind Ayoze Perez. The 29-year-old is an experienced attacker with 78 international caps for Venezuela.

Sheffield United is preparing for its first season in the Premier League since the 2006/07 campaign, and they are looking for reinforcements to bolster their lineup and avoid the straightaway drop they faced last time in the top flight. Having already broken the club transfer record by acquiring Callum Robinson from Preston North End for $10 million, they are now looking to beat that number again.

According to The Guardian, the Blades had a $19 million bid for striker Oli McBurnie rejected by Swansea City. The Championship side is reportedly desperate to keep the 23-year-old after already offloading Daniel James to Manchester United.

McBurnie, a Leeds-born Scottish international, scored a massive 22 goals for the club in 42 Championship appearances last season as the club finished ninth in the table, plus he another two in a pair of FA Cup games. He first arrived at Swansea in the summer of 2015 in a deal with Bradford and was loaned out three separate times before sticking with the first team last season.

Roma technical director Gianluca Petrachi has issued a hands-off warning for Tottenham target Nicolo Zaniolo, saying the defender isn’t for sale.

“I have to work to try to get the best out of Zaniolo,” Petrachi said during a press conference for Leonardo Spinazzola’s unveiling. “I am also a very practical person, I have direct contact with my players. I never put Zaniolo up for sale, nor did I say it was on the market. The market is full of surprises, but today Zaniolo is not on the market.”

The 20-year-old joined from Inter last summer and signed a contract through the summer of 2023. There have been reports that Spurs are circling due to Zaniolo’s unhappiness with Petrachi reportedly breaking off new contract negotiations upon his arrival. There were even rumblings of a swap deal for Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld.

The youngster was a mainstay for Roma last season once he earned a starting place in early November, making 27 Serie A appearances and scoring four goals.