‘Zaha can take over from Hazard at Chelsea’, says former Liverpool star

After watching Wilfried Zaha terrorise the defence of his former team Liverpool, Jason McAteer believes the Crystal Palace star could be heir to Eden Hazard’s throne at Chelsea.

The Cote d’Ivoire international – who earned Jurgen Klopp’s praise – was highly influential in Saturday’s seven-goal thriller at Anfield, which, unfortunately, swung in favour of the Reds.

And McAteer opined that Chelsea – who are battling to keep star man Hazard, with Real Madrid lurking – might find his skills useful if the Belgian opts to leave Stamford Bridge.

“If it was Chelsea and Hazard went, and I am not saying he is a Hazard, but I think he could slot in there and be that player to get on the ball for them,” McAteer said on LFC TV.

Zaha’s incredible work at Palace has seen him become subject of transfer speculations, the latest being a big-money lure to China.

Prior to that, Palace tied him down to a long-term deal that runs through till 2023 and such would see them present a high asking price for their biggest asset.

Article continues below

“But if they go to Palace and Palace want £60m, you are thinking [should we pay that?]

“If it [the fee] was £25m you’d buy him tomorrow.

“And you don’t know [if you are Chelsea] if he’s that type of player to take over from Hazard.”


Darmain set to end United misery and join Juventus

Manchester United full-back Matteo Darmian will leave the club in the coming days and join Juventus on loan.

Goal understand that the 29-year-old will sign for the Old Lady for a fee of £3 million and the short-term deal could be made permanent next summer as his contract at United is set to expire.

Darmian’s addition will also allow Juve defender Leonardo Spinazzola to depart for Bologna on loan.

The news will come as little shock to United fans. Darmian has endured a tough time since signing for the Red Devils and has struggled to regularly hold down a place in the team.

He did, however, play in Saturday’s 2-1 win against Brighton, which now looks to likely be his last game in a red jersey.

The Italian joined from Torino in 2015, yet has made just 91 appearances in three and a half years in Manchester.

So far this campaign, Darmian has played on only six occasions and has fallen behind the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pecking order at right-back.

As well as Torino, Darmian previously represented AC Milan and Palermo, and has earned 36 international caps for Italy.

United look unlikely to sign a replacement at right-back, with Solskjaer confirming on Friday that he does not expect to make any signings during this transfer window.

The Red Devils made it seven wins in a row under the Norwegian’s stewardship on Saturday, thanks to first-half goals from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.

The win leaves United just three points off fourth-place Chelsea, marking an incredible turnaround in fortunes since Jose Mourinho was fired in mid December.

Article continues below

Darmian will be swapping one winning dressing room for another when he joins Juventus.

The Old Lady received their first silverware of the season on Wednesday when they beat AC Milan 1-0 in the final of the Supercoppa Italiana.

The game was decided on the hour mark when Cristiano Ronaldo struck past Gianluigi Donnarumma to ensure Juve won the game, which was controversially staged in Saudi Arabia.


Higuain dropped by Milan ahead of Chelsea move

Gonzalo Higuain has been left out of Milan’s squad to face Genoa, with head coach Gennaro Gattuso effectively confirming the Argentina striker has decided he wants to join Chelsea.

Higuain came off the bench during the second half of the Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus last time out – a decision Gattuso attributed to the player suffering from a virus.

He was not listed when Milan tweeted their 23-man travelling party for Monday’s match at Stadio Luigi Ferraris and, at a subsequent news conference, Gattuso questioned Higuain’s professionalism and insisted recent speculation had taken its toll with Milan managing two wins in their past eight outings.

“I want to be honest with you all. We had a poor training session today due to all these rumours,” Gattuso said.

“We spoke after the training session and I did not consider him [Higuain] ready for this game.

“I accept his decision. Surely he could have done more and maybe we could have helped him fit in better.

“Right now we have to work with professionalism and determination, all these rumours have not helped us lately and we have to look ahead.

“I am more worried about how to transmit calmness to the players and how to field the best team. Tomorrow [Monday] we will be without four players and I am a bit worried. We have to put it aside and play with enthusiasm.

Higuain joined Milan on an initial season-long loan deal in August, with Milan having the option to buy him outright for €36million.

That part of the transfer was assumed to be a formality but an underwhelming return of six goals in 15 Serie A appearances – and one since the end of October – leave the 31-year-old bound for a reunion with his old Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri.

Article continues below

Chelsea lie fourth in the Premier League, although Sarri lambasted his players in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-0 London derby loss to Arsenal, accusing them of lacking motivation and a strong mentality.

Eden Hazard cut a forlorn figure when selected once again as the Blues’ central attacker – a role Higuain is expected to step straight into with Sarri seemingly reluctant to start Olivier Giroud and having left Alvaro Morata out of his latest matchday squad. The Spain striker has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid.

During his final season under Sarri at Napoli in 2015-16, Higuain set a Serie A scoring record with 36 goals in 35 top-flight appearances.


‘My desire is to stay here’ – Modric wants to extend Real Madrid stay

Real Madrid star Luka Modric said he wants to stay at the La Liga giants beyond his current contract.

Modric, who was linked with Serie A side Inter at the start of the season, is contracted to Madrid until 2020.

And the 33-year-old Ballon d’Or winner is happy at the Santiago Bernabeu as he eyes an extension.

“I have a year and a half left on my contract and I am calm, as that’s a long time,” Modric told reporters. 

“My desire is to stay here for more time. I am as happy as I was on the first day.”

Modric was speaking after scoring in Madrid’s 2-0 victory at home to Sevilla in La Liga.

Casemiro put Madrid ahead with a sensational long-range strike in the 78th minute before Modric – who was denied by the crossbar in the second half – sealed victory in stoppage time.

The win saw Madrid leapfrog Sevilla into third position, seven points behind leaders Barcelona.

“I am very happy and think we played a great game,” he said. “We are happy with our play and happy with the three points.

“We need to follow this path. Every player had a great game and our fans want to see us like this.

“We needed a match like this one to give some joy to ourselves and to the supporters. Personally, I feel good and have felt good for the past month and a half.”

On the title race, Modric added: “We don’t need to think about Barcelona or about how many points we have.  We need to go game by game.

Article continues below

“We need to fight and see where we get to at the end of the season. That’s what we need to do, not worry about others.”

Madrid face a Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg against Girona on Thursday before returning to La Liga action next weekend with a clash against Espanyol. 


Marotta has ‘no doubts’ over new Inter deal for Icardi

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta insisted the club have “no doubts” Mauro Icardi will sign a new contract, while he said Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin wants to join. 

Despite being contracted until 2021, Inter captain and striker Icardi has been linked with a move away from the Serie A side. 

Icardi’s agent and wife Wanda Nara said the Argentina international will renew , having previously claimed the 25-year-old was nowhere near extending his contract amid reported interest from Real Madrid and Manchester United. 

Speaking prior to Saturday’s goalless draw at home to Sassuolo, Marotta said Icardi is close to re-signing. 

“We have no doubts that Mauro Icardi will remain here, as we are happy with him and vice versa,” Marotta told DAZN. “The only remaining issue is when to put pen to paper on the contracts.” 

Inter, meanwhile, have been tipped to sign Atletico and Uruguay centre-back Godin as a free agent. 

Godin is out of contract at the end of the season and the 32-year-old is reportedly set to join Inter, with Atleti boss Diego Simeone admitting that he could leave.  

“Both Atleti and the player are seeking the best solution for all parties,”  Simeone told reporters earlier this month .  

“The club and Godin know what I think about this. 

“If he does remain with us, it’ll be because it’s best for him and the club.” 

Asked about Godin, Marotta said: “I have to underline that Inter have a very strong appeal, as many players are looking for us and agents knock on our door. This is flattering, as it means we represent a reference point in the world of football.”

Article continues below

Inter sit third in the league table, four points back of Napoli, though that lead could be extended on Sunday when Carlo Ancelotti’s men host Lazio.  

Both sides are well back of league leaders Juventus, who remain unbeaten on the season and are nine points in front of Napoli.  

Inter return to league action next Sunday with a clash against mid-table Torino with a Coppa Italia quarter-final to follow to close out the month.