Jose Mourinho refuses to answer questions about possible Dele Alli exit

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho would not comment on the future of Dele Alli in his latest press conference, amid continued speculation that a loan move away from north London is on the cards.

The 37-cap England international has been a peripheral figure at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium throughout the 2020/21 season, despite initially recapturing his best form after Mourinho succeeded Mauricio Pochettino as boss in November 2019.

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Dele has looked a shadow of his former excellent self | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Dele has played just 12 games in all competitions, but crucially has appeared just four times in the Premier League. Instead, he has seen the majority of his action in second string Tottenham sides used in the Europa League, and played just 65 minutes of the FA Cup third round tie against eighth tier Marine before he was sacrificed for Gareth Bale.

A reunion with Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain has been mooted, but Mourinho remained tight lipped when probed about his future ahead of Spurs’ Premier League clash with Sheffield United.

“It’s not a question that I’m comfortable to answer you,” Mourinho said. “Of course, I will know how to answer you. But I’m not ready to answer, I’m not ready to make public my my vision of the situation. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not going to answer.

When asked whether Spurs would like to replace any player who leaves, Mourinho remained defiant – suggesting the remark put to him was merely another way to get an answer about where Dele’s future may lie.

“You are asking that question in a general way. But you are, of course, speaking about Dele so the question that you are asking me is if I would let that go without getting a player in exchange? And I’m not going to answer that question to you.

Mourinho then fielded questions around Dele’s general happiness, after a picture posted on the player’s Instagram page after the midweek draw against Fulham suggested the 24-year-old was rather fed up with life. The Portuguese boss simply said that every dressing room has players who aren’t pleased with their situation, but some choose to react and behave differently to others.

“I think in every dressing room are unhappy players. For sure, if any one of my tribe tells you that in his dressing room are only happy players, I don’t think is true. Or somebody is so so lucky to have a miracle in his hands, because I believe that in every dressing room, there are unhappy players.

“Then you can have an unhappy professional and the unhappy professional is the one that is unhappy, but feels that his duty is to work, work, work and work. And there is the unhappy that believes that is not his job, to fight and to work every minute for the squad and for the club. But unhappy players you have everywhere in every club. I promise you that.”

Mourinho concluded with a word on Bale, who has failed to hit the ground running during his loan spell back at the club after a succession of injuries. Again though, he remained coy on specifics, and instead praised the Welshman’s character by speaking fondly of him as a person.

Gareth BaleGareth Bale
Bale hasn’t made the impact many Tottenham fans hoped he would | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

“Gareth Bale is a player I always loved. In fact, he went to Real Madrid one season later because I spoke with with the president when when I was there. He is a guy that I like very much as a person, is a really really nice guy and a dressing room. The reasons why he didn’t reach in this period the level that Tottenham supporters remember him is a complex, complex answer.

“I believe that if Gareth was here on my side we could we do try to speak a little bit about it, but just by myself I’m not comfortable.

For more from Toby Cudworth, follow him on Twitter!

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The clubs Wayne Rooney scored the most goals against

The greatest goalscorer in Manchester United and England history, there is no doubting that Wayne Rooney will go down in history as of the best footballers of his generation.

After bursting onto the scene as a 16-year-old for Everton, Rooney is the second highest goalscorer in Premier League history as well as being the Red Devils’ greatest goalscorer in European competitions. At his best he was unplayable, but even he had his favourite opponents.

Having scored over 350 goals in his career, 90min takes a look at who felt the wrath of the ‘White Pele’ more often than others.

Rooney came up against Wolves seven times throughout his career, with his best performance against them coming in a 4-1 win in 2011 where he scored twice.

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Rooney enjoyed playing against QPR in his Old Trafford days | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Rooney never lost to QPR as a Manchester United player, scoring all three of his goals in those six games. He scored a penalty in the 4-0 win during Louis van Gaal’s tenure in 2014 and once in each league fixture in the 11/12 campaign.

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After a £30m transfer to Manchester United as an 18-year-old, Rooney’s Old Trafford career began with a bang as he scored a debut hat-trick against Fenerbahce in the Champions League. Talk about first impressions.

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Every time Rooney has played against Sheffield United, he has scored. Four goals in three appearances started with this brace at Bramall Lane in the 06/07 season.

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One of the most memorable games of Rooney’s career, the former England captain scored the third as Manchester United romped to a 7-1 win over Italian giants Roma.

Rooney’s record against Norwich is still being added to, as he scored this beauty of a free-kick earlier this season to give Derby three points against the Canaries.

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Rooney scored four in 13 against Swansea | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Rooney has scored two penalties as part of his four goals against the Welsh side, including most recently in his second spell at Everton in 2017.

‘Wazza’ has scored in just three of the 15 appearances he’s made against Southampton, but two braces and this lovely finish in 2004 put them in the list of his favourite opponents.

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Rooney has scored five times against Birmingham | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

He’s only lost once to the Blues and scored all five of his goals in different games, including in 2006/07 when he got a goal and assist in a 3-0 win.

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Rooney’s last goal against Blackburn was historic | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Rooney’s most memorable goal against Blackburn came in 2011, as he slotted home a penalty to seal Manchester United’s record 19th league title in a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.

One of the best goals Rooney scored in a Manchester United shirt came against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in 2005, when he smashed a volley into the far corner and won goal of the season.

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After leaving Everton to join the Red Devils, Rooney wasn’t so loved by the Blues fans. He was booed throughout a trip to Goodison in 2007, and he didn’t exactly help matters by scoring and kissing the Man Utd badge as the Reds came from behind en route to another title.

The Man Utd admin knows his stuff, as Rooney scored six goals in six games against the Italian giants. He scored three braces, including both home and away in the 09/10 Champions League last 16 tie.

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Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record against Reading in 2017 | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Six goals in ten appearances against Reading have yielded just one defeat for Rooney, who equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United goalscoring record against the Royals in the FA Cup in 2017.

The Tigers have rarely had fun coming up against the Red Devils and Rooney made sure of it in 2009 when he scored all four goals in a 4-0 win.

A memorable strike in the career of an all-time great as Rooney became Man Utd’s all-time top goalscorer with this free-kick in 2017.

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Rooney scored on the final day of the 11/12 season at Sunderland | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Everyone remembers the end of the 11/12 season for that Sergio Aguero goal, but Rooney scored the goal at the Stadium of Light that had Man United as champions when their final whistle went. So close, yet so far.

Skinhead Rooney is a great memory for fans on social media, and he was on the scoresheet in 2008 against West Brom. He scored seven times in 19 appearances against the Baggies and only lost twice.

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An Everton fan born and raised, Rooney always cherished a goal against Liverpool more than any other. His favourite though will surely be his first and only for the Toffees against their rivals.

A personal favourite, the most perfect counter attack ever. It was one of nine he scored against them, including two hat-tricks.

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Rooney was always a man for the big occasion and his record against Chelsea proves it. He never scored against them for Everton but did quite a lot of times for the Red Devils.

It was always a productive day at the office against Wigan, as Rooney got ten goals and eight assists in 16 games. That includes a double in the League Cup final as United romped to a 4-0 win.

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Rooney’s memorable boxing celebration came against Spurs as he slotted home one of his 11 strikes against the north London club.

Wazza scored all 12 of his goals in just eight of the 15 games he played against Portsmouth, including a Premier League hat-trick in 2009 and this delicate chip in the FA Cup in 2007.

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The all-time top goalscorer in the Manchester derby with 11 goals, he also scored against them after returning to Everton. Arguably the team he scored his greatest ever goal against too – and he’s scored some scorchers.

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Rooney enjoyed his day when Fulham were in town whether it was for Man Utd or Derby. The former England captain scored a Panenka penalty on his 500th league appearance in 2020 against the Cottagers.

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West Ham fans must really hate Rooney…15 goals against the Hammers and one of them was even from the halfway line.

Newcastle hated the sight of Rooney so much that they used to try and wind him up on the pitch to throw him off his game. They stopped trying that when he nearly broke the net with his volley in anger, and he went on to score 15 times against them.

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During the peak of his powers, Rooney scored against everyone but Villa seemed to be on the receiving end more often than not. He scored a brace against them five different times including home and away in the 07/08 season.

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Imagine being 16 years old, playing Premier League football for the club you support, and scoring a screamer against Arsenal. It was the start of a special relationship that Rooney had with Arsenal, as he scored to end their 49-game unbeaten run as well as a hat-trick in the famous 8-2 win too.

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Premier League preview & predictions: Gameweek 19

Barely got your breath back, right?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone – but there’s no time to chew over the fat of the Premier League’s midweek games, because it’s straight into another gruelling weekend of action for 18 of the 20 teams in the division.

Aston Villa and Everton will be watching on after their game was postponed because of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Midlanders, but for Liverpool and Manchester United it’s a date with destiny at Anfield – a date that is setup with the backdrop of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side topping the Premier League table for the first time in years.

A number of sides are playing twice during gameweek 19, but for now, here’s 90min’s preview and predictions of the first dose of games on offer.

Wolves vs West Brom

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa - Premier LeagueWolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa - Premier League
Molineux will host Sunday’s game | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 12:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Molineux
TV channel? BT Sport (UK), fuboTV (US)

The weekend action gets underway at Molineux as struggling West Brom travel to goal-shy Wolves in the hope of getting some welcome points on the road.

The Baggies had been expected to shore things up under Sam Allardyce, but gritty performance against Liverpool aside, he’s struggled to co-ordinate their defence like he’s been able to do so many times before.

Wolves is not an easy place to go, but with Raul Jimenez on the sidelines, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side aren’t as prolific in front of goal as they once were and, consequently, don’t hold the same fear factor. A close game could result in a much needed away point.

Prediction: Wolves 1-1 West Brom

Leeds vs Brighton

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Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping for three points against a struggling Brighton | ANDY RAIN/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 15;00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Elland Road
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), fuboTV (US)

Leeds United score loads of goals, concede loads of goals and are generally a whole lot of fun to watch.

Brighton play lots of good stuff, stroking the ball around elegantly, but they often flatter to deceive in front of goal, evidenced by their desperately poor Premier League record of two wins in 18 games. A dogged performance at Manchester City was impressive, but Graham Potter needs points, not pretty performances.

At Elland Road, that may be a step too far.

Prediction: Leeds 3-2 Brighton

West Ham vs Burnley

Chris Wood, Dwight McNeilChris Wood, Dwight McNeil
Chris Wood has a good record against West Ham | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 15;00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? London Stadium
TV channel? Amazon Prime (UK), Peacock Premium (US)

West Ham are on the up under David Moyes, even though they’ve been without number one striker Michail Antonio for a chunk of the season through injury.

He’s back now, and it’s a good job too – as the Hammers opted to cash in on the struggling Sebastien Haller at the beginning of the month. West Ham’s opponents this weekend are Burnley, who historically give them a little bit of grief with their bustling front of two of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood.

The Kiwi loves scoring against the Hammers, and could do so again in another tightly contested game.

Prediction: West Ham 1-1 Burnley

Fulham vs Chelsea

England footballer Frank Lampard (R) isEngland footballer Frank Lampard (R) is
Frank Lampard and Scott Parker are former club and international team mates | IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 17:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Craven Cottage
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), fuboTV (US)

The gloves will be off in west London on Saturday evening as ever-improving Fulham take on neighbourhood rivals Chelsea at Craven Cottage.

Scott Parker’s side are playing much better of late, and deservedly took a point of Tottenham in midweek after falling behind to a Harry Kane goal. In truth, they should probably have got all three points.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are blowing very hot and cold, and can either look scintillatingly brilliant or absolutely abysmal under Frank Lampard. The boss will hope it’s the latter on derby day, and he may get his wish.

Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Chelsea

Leicester vs Southampton

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King Power will be under the lights when Leicester host Southampton | Pool/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? King Power Stadium
TV channel? BT Sport (UK), Peacock Premium (US)

Two aesthetically pleasing sides to watch clash in the late, late game on Saturday as high-flyers Leicester welcome Southampton to King Power Stadium.

Weirdly, Brendan Rodgers’ hosts play so much better away from familiar surroundings, likely because Jamie Vardy still thrives of the increased amount of space left in behind defences. Against Southampton, he won’t get much of that – and instead the visitors will look to get on the ball as much as they can and push the Foxes back.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s well-oiled pressing machine will be without Danny Ings though as he’s tested positive for COVID-19, and that could result in an entertaining blank.

Prediction: Leicester 0-0 Southampton

Sheffield United vs Tottenham

Chris Wilder, Jose MourinhoChris Wilder, Jose Mourinho
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United took four points off Tottenham last season | Pool/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 14:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Bramall Lane
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), fuboTV (US)

Basement boys Sheffield United got off the mark last time out against Newcastle, thanks to Billy Sharp’s expertly taken second half penalty.

The Blades will hope to carry that momentum into their clash with Tottenham, whom they took four points off last season in what was a fairytale maiden campaign back in the top flight. Jose Mourinho hasn’t forgotten how his side capitulated at Bramall Lane last season, and righting that wrong is sure to be on top of his agenda.

What did Jose Mourinho have to say about Sheffield United?

“They are a very good team. So honestly, if in our mind is we are going to play against the worst team in in the Premier League, we are going to be in big trouble.”

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will provide the firepower as Spurs look to brush off recent disappointing draws snatched from the jaws of victory.

Prediction: Sheffield United 0-2 Tottenham

Liverpool vs Manchester United

Jurgen Klopp, Ole Gunnar SolskjaerJurgen Klopp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Liverpool face table toppers Manchester United at Anfield | Getty Images/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 16:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Old Trafford
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), Peacock Premium (US)
Read 90min’s full preview of the game here.

It’s been a long time coming for Manchester United, but they are finally back on top of the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils travel to Liverpool looking to rub salt into the wounds of a weakened fierce adversary, but Jurgen Klopp will have every confidence that his fearsome front three – supplemented by his razor sharp midfield – can help bring United back down to earth.

Is Anthony Martial injured?

Manchester United’s French striker is struggling with a muscle complaint, and could be joined on the sidelines by Nemanja Matic if they fail to pass a fitness test.

The roar of the Kop will obviously be missing, but this game should captivate the attention of all across the country – and when it’s all said and done, it could be a share of the spoils brought about by a moment of magic…or maybe a penalty.

Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United

Manchester City vs Crystal Palace

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Pep Guardiola has the utmost respect for Roy Hodgson | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 19:15 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Etihad Stadium
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), Peacock Premium (US)

Manchester City are back, there’s no two ways about it.

Granted, they are not at their free-flowing, goalscoring best, but Pep Guardiola’s side are popping the ball around nicely, have got their act together in defence after pairing John Stones with Ruben Dias and have the hottest young talent in the country playing well, the dynamic Phil Foden.

Three points on the way then? Well, that may not be so straight forward – as Crystal Palace have proven they can go to the Etihad and get a result against the odds. Can they do it again? We think not.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Crystal Palace

Arsenal vs Newcastle

Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Cedric Soares, Alexandre LacazetteEmile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Cedric Soares, Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal struck late to beat Newcastle in the FA Cup a little over a week ago | Julian Finney/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Emirates Stadium
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), fuboTV (US)

It’s not an easy time to be an Arsenal supporter, even though Mikel Arteta’s side have banished the unthinkable relegation fears that had crept on to many people’s radars towards the end of 2020.

But even though the Gunners have chalked up some wins, Arteta is the first to admit that his side are lacking quality in the final third – and their inability to get goals out of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is doing significant damage.

Fortunately, they have another chance to down Newcastle, who took them to extra time in the FA Cup third round, and it’s an opportunity they may seize with the visitors low on confidence.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle

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The Bulls**t-O-Meter: January’s transfer rumours – ranked by ridiculousness

We’re into week three of the January transfer window already, and while the DONE DEAL columns aren’t filling up quite as quickly as we’d like, the rumour mill is busier than ever.

Fortunately, 90min have just the thing to separate the wheat from the chaff. Oh yeah, you better believe it.

The trusty BULLS**T-O-METER is back for its first outing of 2021.

Get in, losers, we’re going rumour rating.

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Buendia is running riot in the Championship | Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Linked clubs: Arsenal

Let’s start with a nice easy one, where almost everything that has been in the headlines recently is more or less on the money.

Arsenal want an attacking midfielder, Norwich have an attacking midfielder. Norwich name the price, Arsenal sulk over it for ages waiting for Norwich to change their mind.

What we’re yet to see is the bit where the Gunners eventually realise the price isn’t coming down, and pay an extra 10% because they waited for weeks to actually submit an offer.

But give it time.

Possibility of future transfer: Dead certain
Likelihood of January move: Reasonable
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 2/10

Linked clubs: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United

Oh how we spoil you, Arsenal fans.

Here we’ve got another deal that actually looks fairly plausible.

Reports here are all along the same track, with Arsenal showing the most interest in Brighton’s standout midfielder, as Liverpool and Manchester United watch things closely and consider a summer approach.

Slight whiff of sh**e emanating from a report that claims the player has already told friends he would prefer Arsenal to ‘any other Premier League club’ but we can’t penalise it too heavily for that.

Graham Potter has shot down suggestions he could leave in January, granted, but Brighton are closing in on Moises Caicedo – who would be a theoretical replacement for Bissouma.

Possibility of future transfer: Very very likely
Likelihood of January move: Slim but not impossible
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 4/10

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Edouard’s form has gone off a cliff along with Celtic’s Ten in a Row hopes | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Linked clubs: Arsenal, Leicester, Lyon

Yeah, this one smells a little fishy.

Celtic are struggling in Scotland and look set to finally yield the title that has been all theirs for the past nine seasons to rivals Rangers. But that doesn’t mean they’re about to roll over and sell up on the cheap.

There have been links with Leicester (stemming from a very non-committal response from Brendan Rodgers which ‘didn’t rule out’ a move), while Arsenal (other priorities) and Lyon (literally just replaced Moussa Dembele with Islam Slimani) have made occasional headlines.

None of the links have been outright ludicrous, which just about saves it. But it’s very unlikely to see anyone coming up with a fee this month that would tempt Celtic to part with him – especially considering his form this season has been far from enticing.

Possibility of future transfer: Likely
Likelihood of January move: Not happening
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 6/10

Declan Rice, David MoyesDeclan Rice, David Moyes
Rice could make West ham a lot of money in the future | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Linked clubs: Chelsea, Manchester United

Chelsea’s interest in the West Ham midfielder/defender/whatever he is has been no secret, and it’s widely accepted that the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is due to the Irons’ asking price – somewhere between £50m-£250m depending on who you believe.

It’s feasible they could move in for him again, but that’s not likely to be in January – West Ham are under no pressure to sell mid-season and risk derailing their campaign at the halfway point.

What seems even less likely is that Manchester United, who have finally settled into a steady rhythm, are prepared to offer genuine competition at this stage – especially since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is having serious problems fitting in all his midfielders as things stand.

Feasible should a couple of Paul Pogba, Fred or Nemanja Matic move on. But that’s not going to happen this month – even if they are interested. Don’t hold your breath for now.

Possibility of future transfer: Highly likely
Likelihood of January move: Very low
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 6.5/10

Linked clubs: Juventus, PSG, Real Madrid

We haven’t half seen some amount of bulls**t with Pogba over the years, but since his agent Mino Raiola started running his mouth again last month, it has kicked into overdrive.

He might well leave Manchester United in the summer, he might well want to leave Manchester United in the summer, he might well already be planning his return to Juventus. But Jesus Christ.

Everything he does is spun into a ‘transfer hint’, be it sensationally admitting that he wants to play football, or liking a vague Instagram post from one of his friends, or arriving at training in a car by himself.

He doesn’t help his case by letting his agent run riot, granted, but the guy cannot win.

As far as his ‘imminent summer move’ goes, reports of interest from Spain and Italy have died down, with PSG emerging as an apparent contender.

Possibility of future transfer: Likely
Likelihood of January move: No
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 7.5/10

Linked clubs: Barcelona

Moving back to Arsenal, it’s not just incomings that Mikel Arteta will be worrying about this January.

That’s because we know, you know and he knows that there’s an awful lot of deadwood floating around at the Emirates and it’s neighbouring facilities; a category that German central defender, and one-time World Cup winner, Shkodran Mustafi falls into nicely.

But the fanciful notion that he’s off to Barcelona, the new banter club (from a financial management standpoint, anyway), is most likely rather wide of the mark and is instead the cunning masterpiece of an agent looking for any excuse to escape lockdown for ‘work’ purposes.

Possibility of future transfer: Dead certain (but not to Barça)
Likelihood of January move: Not on Arteta’s nelly
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 7.5/10

Christian EriksenChristian Eriksen
Eriksen watching the sun set on his time at San Siro | Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Linked clubs: Ajax, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, PSG, Manchester United, Tottenham, West Ham, Wolves…(cont.)

Throw enough transfer rumours at a wall and some will eventually stick, right?

Having been frozen out of the picture under Antonio Conte, Eriksen is looking certain to leave Inter this month. We’re not disputing that much.

The list of clubs who have been linked is absolutely ludicrous, though, and we can therefore surmise that 95% of what is being reported here is, in fact, utter bulls**t.

Next!

Possibility of future transfer: Dead certain
Likelihood of January move: Very very likely
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: Still a solid 8/10

Kalidou KoulibalyKalidou Koulibaly
Koulibaly, the most wanted man in Europe….once upon a time | Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Manchester United, Liverpool

There was once a transfer world where Sergio Ramos’ contract at Real Madrid wasn’t expiring, Dayot Upamecano didn’t exist as a defender – or possibly even a person – and the only hot commodity that everybody wanted was Kalidou Koulibaly.

Apart from one small, but rather significant detail. Did anybody actually want him then and does anybody actually want him now? The answer to the former of those questions can perhaps be found when you consider how many bids with Napoli were actually lodged. None, to be precise.

The answer to the latter can likely be found in the gossip columns up and down the country. Koulibaly isn’t there, the ‘interest’ has evaporated and the Senegalese superstar has missed his chance to leap into superstardom.

So why is he on the bulls**t-o-meter? Because our old buddy, and Napoli president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, couldn’t help slapping a £100m price tag on him in a recent interview, even though all of the above suggests that he is, in fact, no longer relevant.

And to us the idea that Napoli could possibly get £100m out of anybody for Koulibaly is, well, absolute bulls**t-o-meter gold.

Possibility of future transfer: That ship has sailed
Likelihood of January move: Absolutely not
BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 10/10

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Who is Ali Akman? Things to know about Turkey’s rising star

Clubs around Europe are always looking to snap up rising stars at bargain prices, and it’s for that reason that Bursaspor striker Ali Akman is in the headlines.

Chelsea and Arsenal were recently linked with the 18-year-old, who has just six months remaining on his contract, while Manchester City have now been tipped to lure the teenager away on a free transfer this summer.

Here’s everything you need to know about the in-demand Akman.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Akman is that he stands at around 5’8, but he doesn’t play like it.

Unsurprisingly, he does his best work on the ground, but he’s got a good track record when it comes to netting headers. Akman is not afraid to mix it up with the centre-backs.

It’s not his physicality which helps him match up, but rather his outstanding movement and vision. He knows how to get into the right positions and is capable of timing his jumps better than most.

Sergio AgueroSergio Aguero
Akman’s style is similar to Aguero | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

When you think of small, powerful strikers, chances are it won’t take you long to land on Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, and that’s who Bursaspor boss Mustafa Er sees in Akman’s playstyle.

“I compare him to Sergio Aguero in style,” Er told Goal. “There are not many strikers like Ali. Normally, you’re either a strong striker who is better in the air or a faster striker who runs behind defences.

“Ali holds up possession, assists, scores goals, gets into positions, dribbles, beats his man… these features exist in Aguero as a striker.”

Lautaro MartinezLautaro Martinez
Akman watches a lot of Martinez | Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Comparisons to Aguero are understandable, but Akman believes he’s more like another Argentine, Inter’s Lautaro Martinez.

“I try to copy similar strikers, and recently I’ve been watching Lautaro Martinez,” Akman told TRT Spor. “But I also like watching Roberto Firmino as well.

“I can watch Firmino for 90 minutes without taking my eyes off him. He’s an incredible striker.”

Ayhan AkmanAyhan Akman
Akman idolises his uncle | EuroFootball/Getty Images

Most young players jump at the chance to name some of the all-time greats as their idols, but for Akman, the only player he ever looked up to was his uncle, Galatasaray great Ayhan Akman.

“The fact that my uncle Ayhan became a footballer had a huge impact,” he confessed. “My uncle always gave me confidence. I started walking by playing football. I saw my uncle as my idol.”

Bursaspor were so sure that Akman had what it took to become a star that they moved him up to their Under-21 squad when he was 16, and he was bumped up to the seniors at 17.

He made his debut for Bursaspor just three months after his 17th birthday, and his first goal came just one week later when he was handed his first start.

That rapid progression has carried over on to the international scene. Between September 2019 and November 2020, he made his debut for Turkey’s Under-18, Under-19 and Under-21 sides.

Despite making his name as a central striker, Akman’s playstyle has seen him deployed in a handful of positions on the pitch.

His big breakthrough at Bursaspor actually came as a left winger, but in order to maximise his goal threat, Akman was soon moved into a central role, and the results have been impressive.

However, Er is also happy to play Akman in the whole behind a striker, where his movement and build-up play can be more effective. That’s probably why he’s been watching Firmino.

A move to Europe is on the cards for Akman, who has attracted interest from all over the continent. However, it’s the Premier League which has caught his eye most.

He recently confessed to Manset Turkiye that he hopes to follow fellow countryman Cenk Tosun by playing in England’s top tier, which he believes is the best league in world football.

Akman is also full of confidence ahead of a possible move to England, insisting he believes his playstyle would fit in well in the Premier League.

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