When Barcelona eventually get around to faxing their offer for Philippe Coutinho through – thought to be £98m up front, with £36m in add-ons – Liverpool will immediately charter a plane to Monaco, scoop up Thomas Lemar, leave £90m on the runway, and scramble back to Merseyside.
Arsenal were previously in pole position to sign the French international but their own deal was scuppered in August when Alexis Sánchez’s move to Manchester City collapsed. Dumped out of Europe and nine points behind Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, Monaco are open to offers for Lemar, who would become Liverpool’s second record transfer in a week, should he sign.
L’Equipe suggests that the Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti has already met Manchester City officials as Pep Guardiola looks for somebody to fill in for Vincent Kompany yet again. The Frenchman himself hasn’t played since 2 December due to injury but is thought to have a release clause in his contract of around £53m. West Brom’s Jonny Evans and Real Sociedad’s Iñigo Martínez are more affordable options – the latter also has a release clause, but for £28m.
Antonio Conte has long been trying to add some strength in depth in defence but one man who will not be signing is Giorgio Chiellini. “Giorgio is a fantastic player but I think he wants to finish his career at Juventus and I think it’s right to finish his career in this way,” Conte said after the 2-2 draw at Arsenal. “I do not aim high with my requests, especially as in my history I’ve rarely been given the players I asked for. I always ended up at clubs who were running an austerity programme,” Conte continued, just four months after blowing £189.7m in the summer on Álvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rüdiger, Davide Zappacosta and Tiémoué Bakayoko. Cue the violins.
There are rumours of Chelsea making a move for Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal, who Conte managed while at Juventus. “The negotiation began with a first offer of €37m [£33m], the Germans want €60m [£53m]”, writes the Colombian journalist Pipe Sierra.
Arsenal have been working Sven Mislintat to within an inch of his life and the club’s new chief scout has come up with the Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, already a sworn enemy of the Guardian subs desk. Arsène Wenger confirmed the 20-year-old is having a medical in London but “is not ready to play for us” and will be loaned out for the rest of the season after signing.
Theo Walcott’s exit from the Emirates edges ever closer. Southampton, Everton, Newcastle and West Ham are all poised with a cheque book, with the deal dependent on Olivier Giroud’s return from injury.
The Mill’s favourite story of the day comes from Wolverhampton, with the Wanderers linked with a move for Robbie Keane, currently doing roly-polys in the India Super League for ATK. Bit of a strange one, seeing as Wolves’ strikers are doing just fine at the minute – and they confirmed the signing of Rafa Mir from Valencia on Wednesday – but in the interests of romance, the 37-year-old is thought to be keen on a return a club he last played for in the 20th century.