City close on Valdes: Manchester City are set to sign Victor Valdes with the goalkeeper's move to Monaco on the brink of collapse, according to the Daily Star. The Spaniard is playing out his final season at Barcelona and was expected to join the French club as a free agent in the summer but a deadline to sign a binding pre-contract has now passed. The paper reports that Monaco owner Dmitry Rybolovlev has been angered by this and his club will now turn their attentions to Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler instead, allowing City to nip in and claim Valdes.
Paper Round's view: Manuel Pellegrini may well have said just earlier this week that Valdes "is not in our thoughts right now", but that's not going to stop the Star from making grand statements such as "they are increasingly confident of signing him". And why would Valdes would want to go to a club where he is not at all guaranteed regular first team football, as long as Joe Hart stays put? Don't expect Valdes in Manchester any time soon.
- - -
City target 'new Aguero': Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports that City are ready to rival Atletico Madrid for the signature of the youngster dubbed the next Sergio Aguero. City sent scouts over to Buenos Aires on Wednesday night to again watch San Lorenzo’s Angel Correa, amid reports that Atletico have lodged a bid. The 18-year-old is widely considered one of the hottest prospects in South American football and is being monitored by Barcelona, Napoli and Arsenal as well.
Paper Round's view: The report states that San Lorenzo's owner, media magnate Marcelo Tinelli, is unlikely to be convinced to sell for anything less than £10 million, yet that could be a snip for a player who might turn out to be as good as Aguero. Then again, at the age of 18 - and coming from a different culture of football - it still represents a big gamble and there is no way of knowing how he will turn out. But considering City wouldn't miss that kind of money too much, it might be worth a punt anyway.
- - -
Becks targets Xavi: David Beckham wants to sign Barcelona's midfield maestro Xavi for his new MLS venture in Miami, reports the Daily Mail. The World Cup winner is contracted to the Catalan giants until 2016 - when he will be 36. But age is not a factor for Beckham, whose franchise is not expected to launch until 2017, and the paper understands that "early soundings have been made and so far Xavi is receptive to the idea if he feels his body is still fit enough to continue".
Paper Round's view: The paper points out that Miami is heavily populated by Spanish-speakers and that Xavi would be a huge commercial hit over there and admittedly it's easy to see why Beckham would want him - and why Xavi could be tempted. However, it would remain a huge coup if Beckham could pull it off - and a gauge of how far the MLS has come.
- - -
Rooney deal held up: Wayne Rooney's new contract with Manchester United has been held up by haggling over his image rights, reports The Guardian, although the club remain convinced the striker will sign a four-and-a-half year contract in the next week. It has already been agreed that Rooney will earn around £300,000 a week on the new deal, as well as becoming United's new captain, but off-field payments and incentives are yet to be agreed.
Paper Round's view: As the report states, if and when Rooney does put pen to paper, it will represent a huge coup for David Moyes, given that the England striker had wanted to leave the club last summer after falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson. And with a deal almost certain to happen, it is perhaps time to applaud Moyes, who can stand up and take a lot of credit. Indeed, the true ramifications of his peacemaking might only become clear in the years to come. For the time being, having Rooney locked in means that United should avoid freefall during the remainder of the season and come the summer, the club is a far more attractive destination for prospective employees with him on board.
- - -
Hughton on the brink: Chris Hughton is facing two crucial games in charge of Norwich City as he looks to avoid becoming the next Premier League managerial casualty. The Daily Telegraph reports that Hughton could even be sacked this weekend if a heavy defeat to Tottenham sends them into the bottom three. If he earns a stay of execution, the club's next game against Aston Villa will be regarded as vital by the board, who the paper understands are reviewing the manager's position on a weekly basis.
Paper Round's view: The last time such a claim was made by a national paper, they found themselves banned from St. James' Park, so The Telegraph better be confident of their information here. That said, Hughton and Norwich are in a far worse position than Alan Pardew's Newcastle and Canaries chief executive David McNally has already laid the foundations of a big decision by making clear his feelings about relegation - “in a sporting sense it is worse than death". And when you consider that Norwich are the only bottom-six club not to have sacked their manager this season, it doesn't require a huge leap of faith to believe this story. Expect the Telegraph to remain welcome in the Carrow Road press box.
- - -