Atletico Madrid plan Thomas Partey-Alex Oxlade Chamberlain swap, Chelsea line up N'Golo Kante's replacement and the Premier League continues to plan for 'Project Restart'.
Partey time for Liverpool as Ox heads to Madrid
Atletico Madrid are willing to offer midfielder Thomas Partey to Premier League leaders Liverpool as they seek a swap deal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. According to the Sun, the Spanish side are "resigned to losing" the 26-year-old who has been heavily linked to Arsenal in recent weeks. However, Atleti are concerned about whether the Gunners are able to afford Partey's £45-million buyout clause, so are planning to use him as a pawn to bring Oxlade-Chamberlain to the Spanish capital. The Liga club are looking for a straight swap but the England international still has three years left on his contract at Anfield and Liverpool boss Klopp considers him as a "key part" of his squad.
Paper Round's view: It's strange that Partey seems so keen to leave the Spanish capital as Atleti are viewed as one of the best clubs in Europe. Arsenal's transfer funds are unlikely to stretch to being able to spend £45 million on the Ghanaian midfielder - unless a star player is sold by the north London club. It would be interesting to see Partey move to Merseyside but Klopp's squad is already overrun with quality midfield options. Partey would ideally be seen as a long-term replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, whose current contract expires in 2021. Oxlade Chamberlain probably sees himself in that same role and if Klopp sees him as a key player, there's no reason for Liverpool to take the deal.
Chelsea are planning to sign Declan Rice from West Ham as a direct replacement for N'Golo Kante if he leaves this summer. The Mirror report that Real Madrid are eyeing up a summer transfer for the World Cup winner as Zinedine Zidane looks to add a new face to his midfield. Chelsea would allow Kante to leave for the Spanish capital and bring in Rice, who was released from the Blues' academy at the age of 14. The west London club view the 21-year-old as the "perfect successor" for Kante and the Frenchman's transfer fee would raise the funds to sign Rice from West Ham.
Paper Round's view: Real Madrid do need to freshen up their midfield options. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are both undeniably world class, but both are the wrong side of 30 - with Modric turning 35 later this year. Kante is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in world football and his compatriot Zinedine Zidane would probably love to add him to his squad. Kante strangely doesn't seem to fit in under Frank Lampard but Rice looks like he would thrive under the Blues boss. Lampard's Chelsea team is full of home-grown talent - with England youngsters Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham starring in his side. It also helps that Mount and Rice are childhood best friends.
On-loan Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo may have played his last match for the Premier League side as his temporary deal expires at the end of May. The Sun report that the 30-year-old is set to return to Shanghai Shenhua ahead of the new China Super League season in July unless United stump up £20 million to make his stay at Old Trafford permanent. The Red Devils were quoted this figure when they tried to negotiate extending the loan deal with the Chinese club, with the Premier League season likely to be extended to July due to the coronavirus pandemic. United are keen to keep Ighalo in Manchester after he scored four goals in his last five matches.
Paper Round's view: It makes sense that United want to keep Ighalo, but things become complicated with the Chinese football calendar differing to England's. The Premier League giants have been told to pay up and sign him permanently or he will be returning to Shanghai in May. United are still competing in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League and players' fitness levels won't be up to scratch after the extended break, so any additional squad depth is needed. £20 million isn't too expensive but United are probably put off by Ighalo's eye-watering £400,000-a-week wages, which are likely to make any potential deal end up being worth so much more than the initial transfer fee.
Prem stars offered incentives to back 'Project Restart'
The Mail report some unnamed Premier League clubs are attempting to get senior players to influence other squad members to agree to back 'Project Restart' amid the coronavirus pandemic. The story states that players are being rewarded with new contracts "if they act in clubs' interests" to get other squad members on board with the plans to restart the season or even to agree to club-wide wage cuts. Some players are afraid to return to training and complete the current season and the 'Project Restart' meeting is set to take place on Monday. The Mail also report that some Premier League clubs have advised their players not to play if they have fears about returning during the coronavirus crisis.
Paper Round's view: This sounds like a very selfish and dangerous tactic which will be used on naive individuals who have fears over the safety of themselves and their families. Obviously no names are mentioned but if any were confirmed, it would surely bring 'Project Restart' to an end. People are dying and there are more important things than football and completing the Premier League season. Football clubs have a responsibility to keep their players safe and it sounds like they're more worried about their own well-being than the players. Maybe the Premier League and its clubs need to take a step back and look at the severity of the situation before Monday's meeting.