Jack Grealish of Aston Villa competes with James Maddison of Leicester City during the Carabao Cup Semi Final match between Leicester City and Aston Villa at The King Power Stadium on January 08, 2020 in Leicester, England.
Manchester United plan their new-look midfield after missing out on deadline day signing, Liverpool join chase for Jadon Sancho and Arsenal attempt to tie down Bukayo Saka. It's Thursday's Paper Round...
United ready to splash the cash to upgrade in midfield
Manchester United are planning to launch a £160 million double-raid on English midfield duo Jack Grealish and James Maddison this summer, according to the Sun. Grealish is club captain at Aston Villa and Maddison is currently at Leicester City, but the pair are publicly good friends - as documented in social posts from their holiday to Dubai together during the Premier League's winter break. Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping their blossoming friendship will play a part in the attempt to bring the pair to Old Trafford. Maddison, who commands a £90 million transfer fee, has been offered a contract extension at the King Power Stadium but United are planning to offer him wages worth £200,000 a week - which is double the Foxes' deal. Grealish, valued at £70 million by Villa, could be tempted with a move - especially if his boyhood club are relegated at the end of the season.
Paper Round's view: This could be huge. It basically gives United a whole new-look midfield going into next season. Solskjaer's side completed the signing of Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes back in the January transfer window and if Grealish and Maddison were to join too, United's midfield options would be genuinely impressive. The pursuit of the attacking pair essentially means that the door is open for Paul Pogba to leave at the end of the season. United would need to raise some funds if they were to bring in two new midfield options and the World Cup winner's departure would help this. Losing Pogba would be a massive blow, but he doesn't seem too happy in the Premier League - so why not sell him and use the money to buy two of England's best young creative players?
Speaking of England's best young players... Liverpool are the latest club to join the chase to sign Jadon Sancho this summer. According to the Mail, the Reds will rival Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona for the 19-year-old England forward. Borussia Dortmund are expected to demand at least £100 million for the teenager who signed a lucrative new contract in August with the Bundesliga club. The Mail report that Liverpool have informed Dortmund of their desire to sign Sancho and are hoping that their manager Jurgen Klopp's history with the German side will play to their advantage. The Merseyside outfit are about to begin a club-record kit deal with Nike, which could help fund the expensive deal.
Paper Round's view: This is going to be one of those transfers that will go on all summer. Dortmund will probably hold out on accepting any bids for Sancho until after the European Championships - just in case his performances at the international tournament inflate his value. Wednesday's reports seemed to point to United signing Sancho this summer, especially with the expected transfer of Hakim Ziyech to Chelsea. However, with Liverpool entering the race, things could get very interesting. Klopp will be worrying about next year's Africa Cup of Nations due to the decision of moving the tournament back to its usual mid-season slot of January, meaning the club will lose both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for a month. The fear of losing his two best players will have forced him to look at adding another forward to his squad - and is there anyone available who is more exciting than Sancho?
The Express reveal that Manchester United passed up the opportunity to sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele, before completing a six-month loan move for Odion Ighalo on deadline day. Chelsea had previously seen their bid rejected for the French forward in the January transfer window, but United had held interest in Dembele since last summer when Romelu Lukaku departed the club for Inter Milan. The Red Devils reportedly revisited a potential deal for Dembele after transfer target Erling Braut Haaland completed his transfer to Borussia Dortmund. The Express state that Lyon were holding out for a fee of €100 million for the former Celtic and Fulham forward, which United just weren't willing to accept, which eventually led to the loan signing of Ighalo from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
Paper Round's view: It's understandable why United didn't want to cough up such a huge fee for Dembele in January. €100 million is a lot of money. Especially for a forward who was previously being touted for around half the price. Lyon's president Jean-Michel Aulas is a notoriously tough negotiator, but his asking price in January seems more like a plan to keep his star forward at the club for the remainder of the season. The Express reveal that Dembele is "strongly interested in playing for Manchester United" which means that they could still hold hope for a summer deal. It's expected that Solskjaer's side will battle Chelsea over the signing of the 23-year-old once the season is over.
The Gunners are attempting to tie academy graduate Bukayo Saka down to a new contract after the 18-year-old has attracted attention from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, according to the Mail. Saka became part of the first-team squad at the Emirates last season, but due to injuries to Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, the England youth player has found himself filling in at left-back this term. Saka has entered the final 18 months of his current contract, which is worth roughly £3,000 a week, but with some of Europe's biggest clubs sniffing around their future star, Arsenal have offered him an extension. Gunner manager Mikel Arteta will be hoping to keep the teenager, who he rates highly.
Paper Round's view: Saka has made 23 appearances for the north London side and has shown real promise on their left flank in defence and attack. The 18-year-old is being played out of position and has still been a shining light in an extremely underwhelming Arsenal side. It's pretty surprising that Saka hasn't already been tied down to a new deal, but Arsenal have a history of poor contract dealings. The club can't afford to lose their best academy graduates, especially if they fail to qualify for the Europa League next season. If some of the club's bigger stars leave the north London outfit next season due to a lack of European football, Arteta will be relying on Saka - and the rest - to step up. Get him that new contract and make sure he signs it.