United given encouragement over Gundogan: The Daily Mail reports that Manchester United and Real Madrid are on red alert after the future of Borussia Dortmund star Ilkay Gundogan is "completely open". They are the words of the player's father (and agent, of course) who told Germany's Kicker magazine that Gundogan's primary focus is to return from injury and illness (he has not played for six months) but then he will seriously discuss his future. The midfielder, who has been likened to Xavi, has a contract with the Bundesliga side until 2015, meaning the club would have to sell him in the next transfer window if they wanted to receive a fee.
Paper Round's view: We can assume that Gundogan's future is "completely open" because he has not kicked a ball in anger for so long. Who knows how he will fare on his return? Or, indeed, if he is finally over his back problems? With neither answer immediately available, it's entirely plausible that Dortmund will want to offload him in the summer, but even then, will United or Madrid be willing to take a risk on a player with a history of injury and who will have played just a third of a season at most over the past year?
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Kroos warned not to push luck: Manchester United target Toni Kroos has been warned not to push his luck in negotiating a new deal at Bayern Munich, reports the Daily Star. Kroos has reportedly fallen out with Bayern boss Pep Guardiola and talks over a new contract have broken down, with the uncertainty playing into United's hand, claims the paper. Ex-Bayern midfielder Mehmet Scholl waded in by saying: "I think it's not wise for Toni to play poker too much with Bayern. That's how it seems at the moment."
Paper Round's view: Scholl added: "His current wages are enough for him to have warm food on the table twice a day already." That's a fair point Herr Scholl, but what about Ferraris in the garage and the diamonds in the ears? Do you know nothing about the basic needs of professional footballers in the 21st Century?! Simple meals of bratwurst and sauerkraut are no longer priorities, it's the folding stuff that counts and that could well suit United in the summer.
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Spurs to offer Lloris new deal as Atletico lurk: Tottenham are preparing to offer Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen extended and improved contracts after boosting their financial firepower with a new £80 million five-year shirt sponsorship deal with AIA, according to the Daily Telegraph. But the Daily Mirror reports that Atletico Madrid are preparing a swoop for Lloris, amid fears the Spanish club will lose Thibaut Courtois back to Chelsea. The paper claims that Atletico are confident of luring the French keeper away from White Hart Lane if Spurs fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Paper Round's view: If Spurs want to hang on to Lloris, they need to lock him down to a new deal quickly. This new shirt deal should help in terms of offering him what he wants, but they will know that finishing outside the top four this season could have serious consquences.
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PSG show Mangala interest: Manchester City are facing competition from Paris Saint-Germain for Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala, claims the Daily Mirror. The French champions are "understood to have sounded out" the Portuguese club to set up a summer deal for the £35 million-rated France international. City tried to buy him in January, but Porto did not sell as they believe they can get a bigger fee in the summer, the paper reports.
Paper Round's view: If true, this could get silly with the two richest clubs in the world going head-to-head to secure Mangala's services. It might well become a case of 'which Sheik blinks first?' in the race to acquire one of Europe's most sought-after defenders.
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Hodgson to remain as England boss: Roy Hodgson has been backed to continue as England manager for the next two years, even if his team flop at this summer's World Cup in Brazil, according to an exclusive in The Times. The FA's general secretary Alex Horne told the paper: “For me personally, Roy is our manager to (the 2016 European Championships in) France and I’m happy with that, very happy with that. I think he’s been brilliant. He’s exactly what we hoped for.” He added that Hodgson has already proved his worth by reaching Brazil, given the tough qualifying group he had to get out of.
Paper Round's view: It's easy to see what the FA are trying to do, given Greg Dyke's throat-slitting gesture at the World Cup draw and now these comments: they want to take the all pressure off Hodgson and manage the nation's expectations, to the point of eradicating any hope of doing well in Brazil. That is probably a shrewd approach to take, since England indeed have no hope of doing well in Brazil. Someone should give Roy the memo though - his assertion that Wayne Rooney can set alight the tournament hardly does anything to dampen the public's morale.
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