Pep Guardiola is helping Raheem Sterling to fulfil his potential, no doubt
about that. The same goes for John Stones. He has even turned Fabian Delph and Sergio Agüero into better players, which, for different reasons, didn’t seem possible. But still, like Guardiola himself, the Mill demands more. We’re not going to claim Guardiola will remain an unproven managerial talent until he guides, say, Chesterfield to League Two glory, but we would like to see how he copes when faced with a really challenging puzzle, all the same. Let’s see him, for instance, turn Mario Balotelli into the world beater he has occasionally hinted at becoming.
Fortunately, Balotelli is also up for that challenge. Currently blowing
much more hot than cold for Nice, the Italian has revealed that he hankers
after a return to a club that can compete for the Champions League and
would relish, in particular, a return to Manchester City. “I love City, the
fans and the club, I’d happily go back there for free,” he said. “It was
the best year of my life even if the city is a little difficult to live in.
Manchester is not London.” Roberto Mancini and even Brendan Rodgers failed
to coax the best out of Balotelli during his last stints in England but
surely Guardiola could succeed, if he has anything about him at all. He’d
be a killjoy not to at least try.
Marseille, meanwhile, are up for a challenge that may not be entirely
dissimilar, for they are thinking about making a bid for Jack Wilshere.
Brighton, on the other hand, are in no position to be taking risks and are
instead hoping to use January to bring in a surefire solution to their
goalscoring problems – so no wonder Chris Hughton is not playing down talk
of a move for Celtic’s Moussa Dembélé. That, of course, might drive Celtic into the market for another striker. How about Rodgers and Balotelli to give each other a second chance?
Rafael Benítez has made a loan move for Chelsea’s Kenedy one of his priorities for January. Manchester United, eager to sprinkle some magic on their midfield, are contemplating splashing out on Borussia Dortmund’s 19-year-old American wonder Christian Pulisic. There’s also talk of a £35m move for Juventus centre-back Daniele Rugani, who is also being eyed up by Arsenal. City, meanwhile, may prefer the more proven quality of Rugani’s former team-mate Leonardo Bonucci if, that is, they don’t get Virgil van Dijk or Jonny Evans.
Liverpool are also in the market for a centre-back and are jousting with
Dortmund for the services of Basel’s Manuel Akanji. José Mourinho would not be distressed if the defeat at Bristol City was Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s last game for United. And nor would Internazionale, who have the hots for the Armenian.
Everton manager Sam Allardyce may once have been Crystal Palace’s saviour but now he’s plotting to jeopardise their survival by lulling them into parting with
their centre-back James Tomkins. Finally, it is not known whether Stoke’s survival bid will be affected in any way at all by the prospect of them offering a new contract to Stephen Ireland, who has not played since breaking a leg in May 2016.
- The Rumour Mill will be back on Thursday 28 December