Joey Barton’s 12-match ban unsurprisingly dominates most of Thursday’s papers – but he shares back page billing in the Daily Mail with what could be Manchester City’s latest blockbuster signing.
Despite City announcing a loss of £197 million last year – the biggest in football history – the club are ready to splash out around £24m on Athletic Bilbao and Spain star Javi Martinez.
According to the paper, “City hope to steal ahead of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid to sign Martinez” – a classy player who has featured mostly in central defence this season despite having started his career as a holding midfielder.
City are to send scouts to watch Martinez play in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona on Friday night before they start competing with the other big suitors for the 23-year-old.
“Martinez has a get-out clause in his Athletic Bilbao contract of €30 million, around £24m. All four suitors are expected to match that price but City feel they can tempt him to England and will blow away United with their wages kitty,” says the Mail.
“At 6ft 3in, City see Martinez as the ideal man to help shore up their defence, alongside impeccable captain [Vincent] Kompany, the star of their title success this season.”
To manager news and Roberto Di Matteo will quit Chelsea unless he gets the manager’s job on a long-term contract, according to The Sun.
There has been speculation that the most Roman Abramovich is willing to offer the Italian is a one-year deal as a ‘trial’ for the top job on a permanent basis.
Louis van Gaal has told Liverpool he wants the top job at Anfield and not the position of sporting director. Van Gaal insists he wants to coach again, not be stuck behind a desk. (The Sun)
The prospect of Andre Villas-Boas becoming Liverpool manager has receded – and he has not been approached for an interview. (The Guardian)
Meanwhile, The Press Association reported on Thursday morning that Aston Villa are poised to make a second attempt to secure the services of Wigan boss and Liverpool candidate Roberto Martinez. Villa owner Randy Lerner remains a big fan of Martinez, despite the fact that the Spaniard rejected the chance to take charge of the Midlands club 12 months ago. (Daily Mail)
To transfer news and Didier Drogba has been offered a two-year £80,000-a-week deal by Juventus. The Ivory Coast star is still expected to go to China, but Juve hope they can tempt him with top-flight football and a £10m signing bonus. (The Sun)
Chelsea have released two more of their Champions League-winning team, with Jose Bosingwa and Salomon Kalou told to find fresh employment. Florent Malouda, Michael Essien and Paulo Ferreira, who each have one year remaining at Stamford Bridge, will be invited for new contract talks over the summer, although there is no guarantee that they will stay. Frank Lampard, the other player with 12 months to go, is expected to agree a new deal. (The Guardian)
Meanwhile, the Blues have added CSKA Moscow striker Seydou Doumbia to their list of targets. The Ivory Coast star, 24, is valued at around £26m. (Daily Mail)
Arsenal have emerged as contenders to sign Belgian star Eden Hazard. Hazard wants a summer move to the Premier League and was believed to be choosing between Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. But Lille director Frederic Paquet revealed another club is also in the running for the £32m-rated playmaker – and the Daily Star claims it is the Gunners.
Gareth Bale has been offered a new £70,000-a-week deal to keep him at Spurs. Chairman Daniel Levy tabled the offer on Tuesday and also gave assurances about the club’s ambitions for the new season and potential signings. (The Sun)
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has spoken to Roy Hodgson as he moves in for West Brom’s Jonas Olsson. Redknapp asked the man who beat him to the England job for his opinion of his former centre-back. (Daily Star)
Alan Pardew is set to resurrect his interest in Switzerland star Tranquillo Barnetta. The 27-year-old will leave Bayer Leverkusen for nothing this summer after breaking off contract talks with the German side. (Daily Star)
And finally, Celtic have made an approach to sign West Bromwich Albion forward Simon Cox. The Scottish champions are keen to bring in another striker despite opening negotiations over a new contract for Southampton target Gary Hooper.