As clubs across the land enter into the festive spirit, Jürgen Klopp has given orders for Anfield to be festooned with all sorts of decorations, including tinsel, baubles and Daniel Sturridge. And although West Ham, Newcastle, Stoke and Swansea all want to take the striker off Liverpool’s hands when the new year clear-up begins, Klopp is determined to keep hold off him and will stow him in the attic with the inflatable snowmen and reindeers until their time around again. So Sturridge’s attempts to earn a World Cup spot may boil down to smiling endearingly whenever the cameras pans to him and hoping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain makes a public appeal on his behalf in a a post-match interview.
By contrast, Klopp is said to be willing to listen to loan offers for Ben Woodburn. Chris Coleman is reaching for the phone at this very moment, preparing to remind the youngster who made him a Wales international. But Leeds United will be in touch to remind him where Sunderland are in the Championship table.
As for incomings at Anfield, there are unconvincing mutterings about Steven N’Zonzi. The former Stoke midfield is known to be keen on a return to England from Sevilla, but Arsenal is believed to be his most likely destination, although Everton think they’re in with a chance. Arsenal and Liverpool are also vying for the affections of Real Madrid’s young midfielder Dani Ceballos, as are Spurs.
Atlético Madrid are refusing to play ball with Liverpool over the signing of full-back Sime Vrsaljko, just as Liverpool will refuse to listen to Barcelona if they come calling again for Philippe Coutinho in January. Monaco, on the other hand, may be open again to offers for Thomas Lemar, especially if those offers get over £80m. With Arsenal and Chelsea also in the hunt, the figure could yet get quite outrageous, even if the player is thought to be sweetest on Liverpool.
Tottenham fancy a piece of Paris Saint-Germain’s winger Lucas Moura and think they may be able to wangle a good deal because the French club have to offload players to make a gesture towards compliance with financial fair play regulations. But that will not stop them attempting to prise Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal. Other than that, however, PSG will only be making free signings this January and that could mean a sensational return to the big time for Lassana Diarra, who is currently developing his interest in numismatics with Qatar’s Al Jazira.
Louis van Gaal would very much like to return to management with Swansea, which does not mean he hopes to be the Welsh club’s next appointment; he might be happy to wait until Paul Clement’s immediate successor is sacked. The Dutchman will be happy so long as he’s in situ by 31 March, which is when Swansea travel to Old Trafford. Tony Pulis can do the gig for a while before then.
Sam Johnstone – the Manchester United goalkeeper presently on loan at Aston Villa – has emerged as a target for Crystal Palace, West Brom and West Ham, all of whom are telling him that David de Gea isn’t going anywhere soon. Matteo Darmian, meanwhile, could be off to Napoli, while West Brom hope to persuade Ben Gibson to leave Middlesbrough.
Finally, Rafael Benítez is going to unashamedly ask either Mike Ashley or Newcastle’s next owner for several million pounds to buy Islam Slimani from