Paper Round: Sime Vrsaljko and Fred in Manchester United's sights
Manchester United consider Sime Vrsaljko and Fred, Arsenal want two defenders, West Ham are close to Rafael Benitez, and Kieran Tierney's flattered by Atletico Madrid's interest. It's Thursday's Paper Round!
United target Vrsaljko and Fred
Jose Mourinho is aiming to strengthen Manchester United's squad ahead of next season. His first defensive target is Sime Vrsaljko, who plays for Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club want £30m for the Croatian international full-back, which may be too rich a valuation for United, though the player offers versatility, being able to cover on the left-hand side of the pitch too. United are also still in negotiations for Fred, the £53m-rated Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder.
Durmisi, Vrsaljko - Betis-Atlético Madrid - Liga 2017/2018 - Getty ImagesGetty Images
Paper Round's view: As the story in The Daily Mail explains, Antonio Valencia, United's current first team right-back, is 33 now and needs to have the wear and tear on his knees properly managed. His reliability in the position means that Vrsaljko could be eased into the back four without too much pressure, though United desperately need defensive upgrades. As for Fred, giving Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic more focus on their speciaiist roles would be a big improvement.
Arsenal to buy two central defenders
United aren't the only team making improvements to their defence, as Arsenal expect to sign two central defenders in the summer. The first target is Borussia Dortmund's 29-year-old Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and they are also in the hunt for £35m Freiburg defender Caglar Soyuncu. Arsenal expect to offload the disappointing Shkodran Mustafi, and Laurent Koscielny could be out of action for months after suffering a severe achilles injury.
Çağlar SöyüncüGetty Images
Paper Round's view: Arsenal's defence has long been a problem for the club. None of their defenders are especially bad players, and indeed in moments of good form they can be impressive players. However, they are prone to mistakes and none of them have the traditional leadership skills and determination that people expect from rugged central defenders. It's not clear if these new targets are the right ones, but they are hardly likely to be worse.
West Ham hope to appoint Benitez
West Ham hope to have a replacement soon for departing manager David Moyes. Their number one target is Rafael Benitez, who has one year left on his Newcastle United deal. Benitez would be attracted by the sizeable funds on offer from West Ham's owners, and he already has a good relationship with them - he almost joined in 2015 before being given the Real Madrid job. West Ham are also considering Manuel Pellegrini and Marco Silva.
Rafael Benitez, Manager of Newcastle United and Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle United shake hands after the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Getty Images
Paper Round's view: Benitez is undeniably an effective manager, but given West Ham have got rid of the prosaic Moyes and the pragmatic Sam Allardyce in recent years, it doesn't seem to fit the kind of football the fans want. If Benitez gets plenty of money, he has shown at Liverpool that most of the football he produces isn't hugely exciting. While it will keep them in the Premier League, it could further anger already unhappy West Ham fans.
Tierney flattered by Atletico interest
Celtic defender has reacted positively to interest from Europa League winners Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club with scout Tierney this weekend at the Scottish Cup final, but Tierney has said that he is not desperate to leave Celtic, and could stay with them indefinitely. The 20-year-old said: "It's a kind of confidence-booster in a way to know that you've put the hard work in and massive teams all over Europe are noticing it. It's flattering for teams like that to be interested."
Kieran Tierney of Celtic celebrates at the final whistle as Celtic beat Rangers 4-0 during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 15, 2018 in Glasgow, ScotlandGetty Images
Paper Round's view: Tierney seems genuine in his desire to consider himself a one-club man, something that is increasingly rare in football. However, he is just 20, and the time may come that he wants to regularly test himself against the best players in the world, something he could do at Atletico. Also, while Celtic are at the top of Scottish football, one day a club may offer a transfer fee simply too big for his current club to ignore.