B/R Gossip Roundup: Is Balotelli Right for Liverpool, Cech Must Leave Chelsea
We are entering the final full week of the transfer window, and the jostling for positions in the chase of new players is becoming intense.
Liverpool have made what is arguably the surprise move of the window with their expected capture of Mario Balotelli.
Petr Cech's future at Chelsea is uncertain after Jose Mourinho turned to Thibaut Courtois as his first-choice goalkeeper in the Premier League.
And this week could be a defining one for a number of key figures in the football world.
Here's our look at the stories dominating the sport's news agenda over the past seven days.
Angel Di Maria Deal Eases Pressure on Manchester Utd Chief Executive Ed Woodward
If there is one man desperate for a good transfer window, it is Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.
After a poor summer window with David Moyes at the helm a year ago, where a public chase for Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona ended in defeat and a late move for Marouane Fellaini instead, the Old Trafford executive needed an improved set of transfer results alongside Louis van Gaal.
Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera have been joined this week by Marcos Rojo, but the marquee signing enjoyed by Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea this summer is still missing.
At the start of the week, Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail reported that United were preparing a £100 million deal to bring Angel Di Maria to the club from Real Madrid.
However, the following day, L'Equipe claimed that a loan deal between Di Maria and Paris Saint-Germain had been put in place, as Nick Akerman recorded for Bleacher Report.
The chase for Di Maria was beginning to look like this summer's Fabregas for Woodward and United until Jason Burt of the Sunday Telegraph reported that the Di Maria deal was set for completion this week.
Burt quotes a figure of £60 million for the Argentina international, which is, arguably, over the top in comparison to other high-profile transfers.
However, the Old Trafford fanbase has been brought up on major signings under Sir Alex Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill, and Woodward and the club need to make a statement in the market.
Moyes, ultimately, paid the price for failing to secure Champions League football for United, but will the fans stand for another failure to land top targets?
We can never be 100 per cent certain of the circumstances behind the scenes, but the opening Premier League home defeat by Swansea City intensified the focus on newcomers at Old Trafford, which meant Woodward faced scrutiny this week.
Adding Di Maria to the ranks before Sept 1. could be vital for the United executive vice chairman.
Believability Meter: Medium
Manchester United suffered the indignity of missing out on the Champions League last season, and after just one match so far this season, questions are already being asked of the team's ability to make it into the top four this time around.
Van Gaal has proven experience in domestic and European football, so his credentials will not be doubted. For Woodward, he will be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief once Di Maria signs on at Old Trafford.
Chelsea Must Allow Petr Cech to Leave the Club Without Hindrance
One of the great Premier League summer questions was given a definitive answer on Monday night as Chelsea opened their Premier League campaign with a 3-1 win at Burnley.
Stamford Bridge manager Jose Mourinho will have agonised over his choice of a starting goalkeeper long before the 2013-14 season came to an end.
Ultimately, it was Thibaut Courtois who came out on top over Petr Cech for the Blues' opening match of the season at Turf Moor.
It was, perhaps, understandable that the Czech Republic international would be looking for "showdown talks" with Mourinho over his future at Chelsea, as The Independent reported this week.
In the same article, Courtois called on Cech, who is 10 years his seniort, to stay at the club and act as a mentor.
The Belgium international was quoted as saying:
Of course, in training I can still learn from [Cech] because he has a lot of experience, he can give me good tips about the Premier League, things I might not know in the start.
He is nice to me. We are training very well and he is still proving he is a great goalkeeper. For the team it is better for us to have two good goalkeepers.
I don’t have a problem if he stays. Hopefully, I can play well and stay in the team.
There speaks a man who knows where he stands—Cech doesn't, as John Cross of the Daily Mirror reported.
Cech has been one of the totems of the Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich era and unquestionably one of the best goalkeepers during that same period.
He has helped the club to three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and one memorable night in Munich when the Champions League trophy was claimed two years ago.
Cech is a club legend, but time waits for no man, and few would argue with Mourinho turning to Courtois, whose form on loan at Atletico Madrid over the past three seasons was exceptional.
However, Mourinho will also recognise that the long-time No. 1 should now be allowed to leave Stamford Bridge with his dignity intact.
Still only 32, Cech will not be short of suitors, with his experience playing a large part in the attraction for other clubs.
Mourinho, Abramovich and Chelsea should not stand in his way if chooses to leave before the transfer window closes.
Believability Meter: High
It looks as though Cech and Chelsea are about to part ways. As Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard discovered this summer, there can be no room for sentiment from Mourinho in his rebuilding of the team.
Courtois represents the future, but Cech will also have the opportunity to establish himself elsewhere. The Blues should reward their long-time No. 1 by letting any move proceed without hindrance.
Liverpool Need Marquee Replacement for Suarez but Is Mario Balotelli Right Move?
There is precious little to surprise us about Mario Balotelli, but Liverpool managed to leave us open-mouthed with their bid for the AC Milan striker, per Sport Mediaset (via Rhys Turrell of the Daily Star).
During his time with Manchester City, the Italy international became a darling of the gossip pages after a number of incidents, from setting fire to his house with fireworks, as Daniel Taylor of The Guardian recorded, to a training-ground fight with former manager Roberto Mancini, per BBC Sport.
Shortly after that incident with Mancini in January 2013, Balotelli found himself on the way out of the Etihad Stadium in a £19 million to move to Milan.
Now, however, the 24-year-old is heading back to the Premier League with Liverpool.
There can be no doubt that Balotelli is a talented footballer. Witness this tribute to his goalscoring ability from YouTube as proof of what he can achieve when he sets his mind to it.
With the brilliance comes the madness of Mario, but it was his behaviour on the field that left Mancini scrambling.
An unnecessary red card at Arsenal in the closing weeks of the 2011-12 season almost cost City the title—they eventually won the league with the last kick of the campaign.
Mancini was quoted by The Guardian after the Arsenal game:
He is not a bad guy and a fantastic player but I'm very sorry for him as he continues to lose his talent and his quality.
I don't have any words for his behaviour. I hope for him he can understand he is in a bad way for his future and I really hope that he can change his behaviour in the future. He will probably not play in the next six games.
I need to be sure I always have 11 players on the pitch and with Mario this is a big risk.
Liverpool, of course, should be adept at dealing with a controversial forward after the antics of Luis Suarez.
But the Uruguay international was always a danger to opposition teams in front of goal, where he could create opportunities out of very little.
Balotelli has a good goalscoring record, with 14 in 30 Serie A games for Milan last season, as Squawka.com noted.
But do Liverpool need the additional baggage Balotelli brings with him? It is a moot point, but Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers has clearly decided he and the Reds can bring the best out of the Italian.
Believability Meter: Medium
Balotelli is definitely a box-office striker, and one who knows the way to goal, but his signature also brings the baggage of controversy.
The £16 million fee agreed between the clubs, as BBC Sport reported, could either be excellent business or an expensive error.
Crystal Palace and Wilfried Zaha Should Reunite, No Matter Who Is Managing Club
Wilfried Zaha could be forgiven for wondering just what has happened to his star over the past 12 months.
The winger was snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United in a £15 million deal in January 2013 and immediately loaned back to Crystal Palace, where he helped the club return to the Premier League.
Zaha was then whisked back to Old Trafford and was part of David Moyes' starting XI for the Community Shield win over Wigan Athletic in August that year.
He then returned to Wembley to play for England as a substitute in the friendly win over Scotland.
But then it all started to go terribly wrong for the 21-year-old, who made just four more appearances for the Old Trafford club before being sent out on loan to Cardiff City.
Even when United struggled with injuries last season, Moyes resisted the idea of playing Zaha. It was a strange decision in a team bereft of creativity.
The fall of Zaha has never been fully explained—at least publicly. "There must be some way out of here," as someone once said.
According to Paul Brown of the Daily Star, though, Zaha may be about to return to his personal watchtower at Selhurst Park.
Whatever the reasons for Zaha's downfall at Old Trafford, the winger needs someone to believe in him. And after becoming a darling to Palace supporters during his time there, there would be no better place for him to re-establish his credentials than Selhurst Park.
In his article, Brown claims Zaha was at the centre of Tony Pulis' exit from the club two days before the start of the Premier League season, with the former Stoke boss also unconvinced by chairman Steve Parish's desire to bring the winger back to the club.
United manager Louis van Gaal seems similarly unimpressed with Zaha, and according to Steve Bates of the Sunday People, the winger has been kept away from the first-team squad in training.
The Daily Star article claims incoming Palace manager Malky Mackay was set to make Zaha his first signing, but the former Cardiff boss will not be arriving at Selhurst Park—or seemingly anywhere else—in the near future, as Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail revealed.
At least one player will be hoping Parish and a new manager can find some common ground in the very near future.
Believability Meter: High
Zaha would be a major boost for Palace supporters still reeling from the departure of Pulis on the eve of the new season.
The winger's star has failed to shine over the past 12 months, and the player needs to find somewhere to re-establish his credentials. It is a match made in heaven if the club can find a manager before the transfer window closes.
Then again, who would bet against Parish himself making a transfer move for Zaha before the deadline?
Samuel Eto'o to Everton Has No Value for Either Party
The future of former Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o remains unclear ahead of the season with the player still seeking a new club.
After being released by Jose Mourinho at the end of last season following the expiration of his one-year contract at Stamford Bridge, the Cameroon international is on the hunt for further employment.
Depending on your newspaper of choice, the veteran forward has no shortage of options.
However, Simon Jones of the Daily Mail says that Everton are maintaining an interest in the 33-year-old.
The Goodison Park outfit are in need of an additional forward to add to their ranks following the club-record move for Romelu Lukaku in the summer.
The Belgium international scored 16 goals in 33 appearances for the Toffees during his loan spell from Chelsea last season, with Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith his nearest challengers with nine goals each, as the club's official website noted.
Injury to Lukaku last season arguably proved to be one of the reasons Everton failed to beat Arsenal to fourth place and the Champions League.
Any potential absence for the forward means Roberto Martinez needs reinforcements up front.
The name Eto'o conjures a reverence around Europe after his stellar career, which includes spells with Barcelona and Inter Milan.
However, with that experience comes wage demands, and Eto'o commanded £7 million in wages from Chelsea for his one season at the club, according to Jones in the Daily Mail last year, which was reportedly a pay cut of £10 million from his time at Anzhi Makhachkala.
Eto'o scored nine goals in 21 appearances for Chelsea after making his debut at Everton in September last year. That represents a decent return, and one Everton would be interested in alongside Lukaku.
However, the forward will have to consider a further pay cut if he is to have any chance of playing for the Merseyside club.
Believability Meter: Medium
It is understandable that Martinez should want to speak to Eto'o as he searches for more firepower this season.
But the Cameroonian's wages from his time at Chelsea are unlikely to be a price Everton chairman Bill Kenwright would be willing to pay.
Is Tiote's Time Ticking Down at Newcastle United?
Alan Pardew has admitted to being wary of losing Cheick Tiote, per Craig Hope of the Daily Mail, and if recent history is a guide, the Newcastle manager is right to be worried.
Seemingly gone are the days when Newcastle United mixed it with the big guns. Whisper it on the streets of Tyneside, but the Magpies now have the look of a selling club.
Offloading Andy Carroll to Liverpool in 2011 turned out to be an astute piece of business, given the striker's injury problems in recent seasons, but the departure of Yohan Cabaye to PSG midway through last term hammered home how far Newcastle have fallen.
Cabaye cannot be questioned for wanting to move to PSG, it secured him a league title and regular appearances in the Champions League.
But the Cabaye deal, more than anything, opened Pardew’s eyes to the prospect of his best players being whisked away.
Tiote could be next if a suitable offer is tabled. According to the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder, Newcastle have turned down a bid from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow for the midfield powerhouse.
With little over a week to go until the transfer window slams shut, Pardew may be dancing on hot coals as an increased bid could well see Tiote lured away from St James’ Park.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
Newcastle have no pressing need to sell Tiote as the player is tied to the club on a long-term deal, but they have shown in the past that any player has a valuation, and if that is met, then he will be allowed to move on.