Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mertens to Chelsea, Robinson to AC Milan
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With just over 36 hours remaining until the January transfer window slams shut, teams are furiously hoping to make deals to bolster the squad for the remainder of the season. Some teams are motivated by injuries, others by a fear of relegation, others still by the chance at securing a spot in Europe.
Chelsea has been pushing for a new striker ever since Tammy Abraham went down with an ankle injury, and while Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi sit in the wings, the Blues still seem desperate to throw anyone else out on the field - even an injured Abraham. They have been linked with a host of strikers, but with Edinson Cavani now reportedly staying in Paris, the Blues have progressed down the list.
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Next up in the Chelsea striker rumor department is Belgian forward Dries Mertens, who is out of contract at Napoli at the end of the season. According to Sky Sports, the two clubs have begun engaging in negotiations to push forward a last-ditch deal before Friday’s deadline. The report suggests that Mertens could be had for as little as $6.5 million due to his current contract situation.
At 32 years old, Mertens has still been productive for Napoli this season. Despite a long goal and assist drought through late 2019, he has still collected four goals and three assists on the season. However, he’s missed all of January with an adductor injury that had troubled him for weeks, and that could carry over to the start of his Chelsea tenure. There is also the potential snag that Mertens is just four goals shy of Napoli’s all-time goalscoring record held by Marek Hamsik, and reports suggest there is a strong personal pull for him to stay the remainder of the season to try and break that mark before his contract runs out.
With Chelsea looking to bring on a new striker - even a 32-year-old one - it’s somewhat baffling how desperate the Blues seem given that Giroud and Batshuayi remain in the squad.
Giroud in particular won a World Cup just two years ago and many still believe he has a lot to offer, despite being 33 years old. Still, he has barely been afforded a chance under Frank Lampard with just five Premier League appearances this season and under 200 total minutes logged.
Desperate for a move away, few destinations have materialized. Reports indicated on Thursday that Giroud turned down an approach from Newcastle United, but one that may interest him is Serie A side Lazio, who reportedly is engaging in talks with Chelsea for Giroud according to Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio. The report states that Lazio has already come to an agreement with the player, and now must agree to transfer terms with the Blues.
Crystal Palace has been busy on Thursday, with a pair of highly-rated Championship players potentially headed to play in the Premier League the second half of the season.
According to Sky Sports, Crystal Palace is in talks to land Jarrod Bowen from Hull City, while the BBC reports that the Eagles are set to sign West Brom defender Nathan Ferguson.
Bowen is the more coveted prize of the two, as the 23-year-old has scored a whopping 16 goals in Championship play thus far this season. Sky reports that Bowen would cost around $21 million and could be on his way soon. Still, there is caution from Sky reporter Michael Bridge who suggests that things are always fluid when teams are negotiating a step up for a highly rated young player.
19-year-old center-back Ferguson, meanwhile, is out of contract this summer at West Brom and has reportedly refused to sign a new deal. That has motivated the Baggies to try and find a suitor for his services before the window closes. Ferguson has made 19 Championship appearances this season for West Brom with the club sitting second in the league table, conceding 33 goals thus far, good for joint-fifth best in the Championship.
According to reports in France, Manchester United and Tottenham have both been in contact with AS Monaco about striker Islam Slimani, who is playing in Ligue 1 on loan from Leicester City. Monaco has Slimani on loan through the end of the season, but teams have looked to negotiate with the French side about a potential purchase since Monaco would need to break its loan deal early to trigger any move.
French journalist Ignazio Genuardi, backed by GetFrenchFootballNews, suggested that the Red Devils have contacted Monaco about the striker, while French publication Foot Mercato mentioned Spurs as a possible destination. Inter is also in the mix, reported by both Genuardi and Foot Mercado, as the Italian side looks to buy anyone and everyone this transfer window. Foot Mercato reports that Monaco is asking anyone interested to pay $2.8 million in addition to any Leicester City asking price to help break their loan.
While Slimani is reportedly looking for a way out of Monaco having started just once in Ligue 1 play since the start of December, it’s unlikely that such a complicated deal requiring negotiations with two parties will get over the line in such a short amount of time.
American defender Antonee Robinson has reportedly been a target for AC Milan for the last week or two, and that could be stepping up as the transfer window nears a close. According to a rumor from Football Insider, Robinson’s club Wigan Athletic has turned down a bid from AC Milan for Robinson worth about $8.5 million.
As our Nicolas Mendola stated the last time this rumor popped up, it would be an incredibly risky move for Robinson moving to AC Milan, with Theo Hernandez firmly entrenched in the starting left-back spot. Should the club fail to qualify for European competition - they’re currently making a charge but still on the outside looking in - minutes behind Hernandez would be hard to come by.