One day he will actually move clubs, and the name of Virgil van Dijk will not be repeated in the Mill for months or even years. Until that time, however, he is hanging around like the proverbial punchy pong, appearing once more on Friday morning on the back page of a national newspaper. This time it’s the Times, which reports that Pep Guardiola is currently stroking his chin and pondering which central defender Manchester City will launch an audacious megabucks bid for come January – Van Dijk or Real Sociedad’s Iñigo Martínez. The Spaniard, whose contract contains a release clause set at €32m (or about £28m), would be something of a comparative bargain, with Southampton continuing to value their Dutch defender at £70m (and with the two players being born within two months of each other in 1991 there’s little difference in age).
But there might be a familiar-sounding scrap for his services, with Arsenal “weighing up” a move, says the Times, while Liverpool are wondering whether to also try to sign him, or to move instead for the player whose surname is closer than any other’s to being an anagram of his in the shape of Stefan de Vrij, though they might have a fight on their hands there as well, with Corriere dello Sport saying Internazionale also want the Lazio man.
Talking of Inter and Liverpool, Inter will let João Cancelo return to Valencia and sign Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona instead – initially on loan – but only if the Spanish club sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, which would free Liverpool to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco, though if Coutinho doesn’t go to Catalonia and Barça move instead for their second-choice creative player in Mesut Özil, Deulofeu might not go to Italy and Cancelo might not go back to Spain, though Lemar might still go to England only not to Liverpool but to Arsenal. Is that clear? Meanwhile, Chelsea are ready to loan out Michy Batshuayi in January, potentially to Monaco, with the Sun speculating they might then further cloud matters by also moving for Lemar, which would make sense because “Antonio Conte loves versatile raiders”.
Talking of Özil, as we were quite recently, Henrik Mkhitaryan is to be sold by Manchester United to fund their pursuit of the indolent ace, with club suits insisting that José Mourinho “trim his squad before he can bring in a player on the sort of mega-contract the German will command”. Recently the Armenian forward has not so much slipped out of favour as taken a long-haul flight away from favour, after which favour has changed the locks, taken out a restraining order against him and just to be on the safe side asked Interpol for its assistance in keeping him out of the country. Nevertheless, the Mirror reports, United “would be confident of getting their money back” on a player they bought for £30m in 2016.
Come the new year Chelsea will be “keen to strengthen at wing-back and open to adding another centre-back and striker”, according to the Mail, but there’s also the possibility of outgoings. United, they report, are looking beyond Özil for midfielderly creativity, having asked Chelsea if they’d mind selling them Willian. The Brazilian has started only eight league games this season, though he has made an appearance as a substitute in the other nine, but the Blues are far from keen on improving a rival’s squad in January, “unless they receive an extraordinary offer”. Presumably by this they mean an offer of an extraordinarily large sum of money, rather than an offer of three ostrich eggs, a harp, a collection of Ted Hughes poetry and a live performance from popular music combo T’Pau, though it may be worth testing the water, you never know.