Inside Football: Lukaku Talk Hots Up, United Identify Pogba Partner
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Barely a month has passed by over the past two years when Romelu Lukaku has not been linked with a transfer away from Everton, but now he is fanning the flames.
In an interview with the Daily Mail’s Dominic King, Lukaku claims a lack of ambition at Goodison Park is likely to drive him into the arms of another club this summer.
It is the latest twist that should ensure the next transfer window is a belter, and in this edition of Inside Football, I also look at a player who could be on his way to Manchester United.
I also reveal how Guus Hiddink is being identified as a managerial target for Middlesbrough and the name of a Turkey international on Arsenal’s wanted list…
Atletico Madrid Back-Up Plan Needed
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A decision over Antoine Griezmann’s future this summer will have a knock-on effect in the Premier League as well as La Liga.
Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho has identified him as the forward who can take his side to the next level, and the manager has been hopeful of a deal.
Griezmann has played this rumor down in an interview with La1 (h/t the Mirror), but I am told there is still a chance he will move to Old Trafford this summer.
And with that in mind, Atletico Madrid are going to put a plan in place to fill his boots.
One man who has been in their sights is Lukaku, as first revealed here back in October, and I am told their stance has not changed. There is still a feeling he would be a realistic target if Griezmann does leave Spain.
Lukaku’s latest comments over his future will only encourage them further over a proposed move at the end of the season.
Monaco Midfielder Moving Closer to United Switch
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Manchester United are growing in confidence that Tiemoue Bakayoko will join this summer.
I am told that United have been building a detailed file on the midfielder all season and were edging towards a deal even before he made headlines against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
One of the ongoing issues inside Old Trafford is how they find a midfield player to help get the best out of Paul Pogba, who has been struggling to live up to the hype since his £89 million transfer from Juventus, as detailed here.
Indications are that Bakayoko is the man club officials are now most interested in signing. He is a 22-year-old who joined Monaco from Rennes in 2014 and has represented France at every youth level.
Bakayoko’s power and vision have been key elements in Monaco’s fantastic 2016/17 campaign, and sources have told me that United scouts are convinced he would fit well as the enforcer alongside Pogba next term.
It is believed the player would not be allowed to leave for less than £25 million, which would seem a bargain considering they agreed a deal with the same club of around £60 million for Anthony Martial.
I understand both Chelsea and Manchester City have also had scouts watching the holding midfielder this season, but United are furthest down the road in making a breakthrough.
Talks Begin over Carrick Contract
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United face the long-term issue of replacing Michael Carrick, but he may yet extend his stay by another year.
I understand representatives opened talks with club officials this week over his future to see if an agreement can be struck.
Carrick, 35, has been with the club since 2006 and is keen to stay, but the midfielder also wants a clear indication of how the club would plan to use him.
He already has interest from clubs in the United States and the Middle East as well as other Premier League sides.
But his first choice is to stay and end his career at United, so Carrick will not seriously explore other options until he fully understands the situation.
Could Hiddink Save Boro?
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Aitor Karanka has lost his job at Middlesbrough, and Guus Hiddink is the No. 1 choice to replace him.
In last week’s edition of Inside Football, we revealed that Karanka was under pressure on Teesside, but the club needed to get around a complicated contract situation before they could take any action.
That has been cleared up, and while Steve Agnew is in charge for now, sources have indicated that two other names are also being considered.
Hiddink is the top choice, but a more realistic option could be Nigel Pearson.
It is believed Hiddink is being sounded out over the move, but club officials realise it is an ambitious move on their part and may not interest him.
With that in mind, Pearson could be considered the best man for the job as he is out of work. He is also considered a club legend, having played for Boro between 1994 and 1998.
Middlesbrough decided to part ways with Karanka due to serious fears over relegation. They hope a change of manager can inspire a boost in results. They had previous success with bringing in a new coach partway through the season when Terry Venables helped steer them to safety in 2001.
Arsenal Scouts Watch Turkish Star
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Oguzhan Ozyakup is being watched closely by Jurgen Kost, a scout from Arsenal.
Kost watched the midfielder in action for Besiktas against Olympiakos and is also expected to be at the return leg of the Europa League encounter.
He is a player who has been monitored for some time from afar, but the Gunners are now taking the situation more seriously with a future bid in mind.
Ozyakup was in fact an Arsenal academy player before joining Besiktas in 2012, but his progress since then has been impressive.
Arsenal are not the only club in the running to try to sign Ozyakup this summer, as Sevilla are also having him watched regularly.
Cleverley on Verge of Watford Deal
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Tom Cleverley is likely to seal a permanent switch from Everton to Watford this weekend.
The midfield player is close to sparking a clause in his loan agreement that would mean he makes a long-term transfer to Vicarage Road.
Cleverley has made six starts in the Premier League since arriving at Watford, and I understand that, as part of his deal, one more start will mean he can put down roots in the area.