Chelsea have inquired about Malaga boss Pellegrini – agent

The Blues are interested in the Chilean coach, late of Real Madrid and Villarreal, who has taken los Boquerones to the round of 16 in their debut season in the Champions League

The agent of Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini has revealed that Chelsea have inquired about the availability of his client, as the Premier League club aim to find their successor to interim manager Rafael Benitez and long-term replacement for Roberto Di Matteo.

Pellegrini has built his reputation in Europe over the last nine years at Villarreal, Real Madrid and – since 2010 – with los Boquerones, who have been forced to sell their main stars to help repay their debts, but are excelling so far in the Champions League in their debut season.

His agent told El Mercurio: “Manuel has a contract with Malaga. I think that in April and May we will be clear about what will happen with his future.

“Our first intention is to respect our commitment, but it also depends on what the conditions are. We had a formal offer from Roma, but we rejected it. It was less than 15 days ago, but we discarded it outright because we are in the middle of the season.

“Chelsea and other clubs have asked, but only through intermediaries, nothing official. Manuel would love to coach in the English Premier League, as he would in Germany, Italy and other important leagues. There’s plenty of time to analyse what we will do next season.”

Chelsea have also been linked to Spanish supremo Isco, who has recently signed a new contract at Malaga. A move for mentor and coach Pellegrini could potentially help to secure a move for the attacking midfielder.

Reports also suggest that Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, is keen on bringing Jose Mourinho back to the club, as Benitez’s chances of being offered the full-time job remain unlikely.

Benteke's agent refuses to rule out summer switch

The Aston Villa striker has been linked with clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid since his move to the Birmingham-based side

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke is reportedly being scouted by top teams across Europe after an impressive debut season in the Premier League has left the relegation-battling side fearing the departure of their star man.

Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham are the three Premier League sides who are likely to be competing for the 22-year-old’s signature come the summer window, but they will have to fight off interest from upcoming European giants including Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

While Aston Villa – and particularly their manager Paul Lambert – would be extremely reluctant to sell the striker, Benteke’s agent has confirmed that a summer move is possible.

Benteke’s agent told The Mirror: “It is normal that if you go to a club and do well, then other clubs will show an interest.

“So why not take the step up to the next level if the opportunity is there?

“At the end of the season interested clubs will talk to Villa – but it has to be right for Villa, the buying club and Christian. If all three parties are agreeable then something could happen.

“But right now his focus is on Aston Villa – and helping them stay in the Premier League. He wants to repay Paul Lambert for the faith that has been shown in him.

“He has scored a lot of goals this season and wants to give 100 per cent between now and the end of the season.

“But Villa will now ask a big price for Christian, much more than they paid for him, because Paul Lambert was the one who gave him his chance.

“I know what his ambitions are, he wants to do well in England.”

The Belgian has scored an impressive 15 goals this season, helping Lambert justify both the forward’s €9 million price tag and his decision to keep record signing Darren Bent on the sidelines.

However, if Villa do part company with Benteke in the coming months, the asking price is likely to be around double what they paid for him when he signed from Genk.

Why Juventus must reject even a €60m bid for priceless Vidal

As Goal.com exclusively revealed, Bayern Munich have put in a €30m bid for the Chilean, but even an offer double that should not tempt the Bianconeri

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

You can’t blame Bayern Munich for trying, but FC Hollywood’s €30 million bid for Arturo Vidal was never going to receive a positive response from Juventus. The Chilean midfielder has spent the last 18 months making his €10.5m signing from Bayer Leverkusen look like one of the steals of the century, and to the Bianconeri he is now arguably their most unsellable asset.

The German giants’ offer, exclusively revealed by Goal.com on Friday, comes after they were beaten to Vidal’s signature by Juve when he left die Werkself in 2011. But while Bayern have gone from strength to strength this season – leading the Bundesliga by 18 points after Friday’s 2-0 win at Wolfsburg – the Old Lady are not exactly in a position where they would be forced to undersell their star players.

ONLY GETTING BETTER | Vidal’s Juventus stats

And that’s what they would be doing if they were to allow Vidal to speak to other clubs for the small matter of €30m. The 25-year-old’s performances were a key reason why Juve bucked their post-Calciopoli Scudetto drought in 2011-12, and as well as adding another excellent campaign in Italy this term, he has been one of their most consistent players in Europe as they have recovered from a poor start to move to within a hair’s breadth of the last eight of the Champions League.

His workrate, desire, force and tactical brain have combined to make him the most irreplaceable of Juventus’ midfielders. While some have pondered that Paul Pogba’s rise could have a greater negative impact on Vidal’s place in the team longer term than on either Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio, the Chilean’s absences have been the more keenly felt over the course of the current campaign.

THE INCOMPARABLE MASTER
 
2012-13 TACKLES GAMES AVERAGE
Vidal 76 20 3.80
Marchisio 39 19 2.05
Pirlo 37 20 1.85
2011-12 TACKLES GAMES AVERAGE
Vidal 133 33 4.03
Marchisio 59 36 1.64
Pirlo 57 37 1.54

Once more, he is among Serie A’s leaders for tackles made this term with 76, at an average of one every 22.17 minutes, putting him only six behind Napoli’s Valon Behrami. Last season, he completed a league-high 133 – one every 19.82 minutes, a rate which he is close to matching this time around. Not only that, but he has racked up 10 goals and nine assists already in 32 games in all competitions, trumping his return of seven goals and four assists in 35 matches last season.

And the reason for such stats is that Vidal is the most dynamic all-round midfielder the Italian league – and perhaps even world football – has to offer, and he is only getting better. At 25, he is still the right side of the natural peak of a footballer’s career, and while he suffered a slowdown during October and November when Juve coach Antonio Conte seemed unsure when to rest his stars to the greatest effect, he soon kicked himself out of his funk to show why the Bianconeri were so keen to add him to their staff in the first place.

Even taking into account Pirlo’s exceptional impact since his Bosman switch from AC Milan, Vidal has arguably even trumped the Italy regista for importance to the Juve side. In fact, Pirlo’s successes partly rest on the fantastic workrate of his midfield partner, while between them they create the platform which allows Marchisio to push up and be a threat with his runs higher up the pitch.

If Pogba is to break into the Juve first team for a lengthy period anytime soon, Vidal is the last player for whom he should be eyed up as a replacement. The former Manchester United youngster’s natural game stems from playing as the pivot of the midfield, taking advantage of any gaps in the opposition rearguard he can find with his fantastic passing ability and picking up the scraps in space around the edge of the area, meaning he is a more natural replacement for Pirlo of the three ‘MVP’ stars.

Meanwhile, there is arguably no player in world football that ticks as many boxes as does Vidal, let alone in the Juve squad. And, as a result, even if Bayern were to double their bid for the masterful midfielder, then the Old Lady would have every right to tell them to take a running jump.

Vidal is as close to priceless as any player Italian football has to offer.

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The Sweeper: Lampard house-hunting ahead of LA move

The prolific Chelsea midfielder is preparing for a switch to MLS at the end of the season, while Santi Cazorla has been helping compatriot Nacho Monreal settle at Arsenal

TIDYING UP ALL THE LOOSE STORIES IN FOOTBALL THIS WEEK

By Wayne Veysey

LAMPARD BEGINS HOUSE-HUNTING IN LA

Frank Lampard’s run of goal-scoring form either side of the New Year is yet to prompt a formal U-turn in Chelsea’s decision to allow him to leave this summer.

He has been free to negotiate with foreign clubs since January 1 and negotiations are at an advanced stage with LA Galaxy over a move at the end of the English season.

The Sweeper understands that Lampard has now instructed agents to find him a selection of properties to choose from in LA as he prepares for a new life on the west coast.

Lampard is only likely to turn his back on the huge offer on the table from the American club if Chelsea revise their decision to let him leave.

The midfielder was officially told on New Year’s Eve that he was free to find a new club, but Roman Abramovich’s sanctioning of a new contract for Ashley Cole, 32, last month, has prompted hope from Chelsea fans that the club’s owner will do the same with Lampard, who turns 35 in June.

The midfielder’s strike against Wigan Athletic last weekend was his 10th goal in 15 games for club and country and took his Chelsea career haul to 198, just four short of Bobby Tambling’s club record.

CAZORLA AIDS MONREAL ACCLIMATISATION

Such was the last-minute nature of Nacho Monreal’s switch to Arsenal and his hectic schedule, the defender has not had time to sort out living accommodation in England.

The Sweeper understands that Monreal is temporarily staying in the house of Santi Cazorla, his fellow Spain international and former Malaga team-mate who has also been driving him into training every day.

Monreal’s first ten days as an Arsenal player involved getting acquainted with his new team-mates in training, two league matches and a spell on international duty.

The €10 million deadline-day signing was granted dispensation by his new club to return to Spain at the start of the week to sort out his domestic situation.

The 26-year-old, who does not speak any English, is hoping to bring his family over to London to live with him when he has found some permanent accommodation.

PREMIER LEAGUE COULD DUMP DATACO

Football Dataco, the firm responsible for protecting the rights acquired in English and Scottish football league fixtures and match data since 2001, could be about lose its lucrative agreement with the Premier League.

Dataco has seen its revenues – mainly from media organisations and betting operators – slashed by nearly a third from a peak of £9m in 2006-07 to £3.5m in the current season due to legal uncertainty. This culminated in a damaging court defeat last May when EU judges rejected its claim for fixtures to have copyright protection.

The Sweeper has learned that the Premier League is now considering whether to renew its agreement with Dataco, which is due to expire in June.

League chiefs are reviewing whether the firm is still required to look after its interests, although there is an acceptance within the organisation that functions such as media accreditation would still need to be carried out.

It is understood that a series of alternative proposals to renewing with Dataco are now being drawn up by the Premier League.

OLSSON CONTRACT HAS SERIES OF BUY-OUT CLAUSES

Jonas Olsson signed a four-year West Brom contract last October but only did so after a series of release triggers were written into his agreement.

The defender’s deal is believed to have included a January buy-out clause of £3.5m that could be invoked only by a handful of ‘named’ clubs, but a separate release of £7m for all others.

It is written into Olsson’s contract that the buy-out commitments will change in this summer’s window, when the higher fee will be reduced.

Arsenal, who made an enquiry for Olsson last month, are believed to be one of the clubs who could have bought him for £3.5m in January. QPR, who had a bid rejected by West Brom, were not.

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Aston Villa's Guzan would ‘love' to return to the MLS one day

The Villans goalkeeper has stated he would “definitely” want to return to the American league and play the Chicago Fire in his home country in the future – if he gets the chance

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan has admitted he would “love” to return to the MLS after finishing his time playing in Europe.

The American shot-stopper signed for Villa in 2008 for a fee of £600,000 from Chivas, and has displaced Shay Given as the number one this season, making 25 appearances so far.

Guzan did however state that after he has finished playing in Europe, he would “definitely” like to return to play in his homeland – particularly for the Chicago Fire, his hometown club.

“Would I like to return to MLS one day? Yes, definitely. I was only a kid when I first went into MLS and it was still growing,” he told reporters.

“To see now from watching the highlights on the internet and TV just how far it has come,” he told The Express And Star.

“Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it. Especially being from Chicago, which has a team.

“I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”

Guzan was also in confident mood despite Aston Villa’s currently plight in the Premier League – with the club sitting just one place – and one point – off the relegation zone.

“There’s a lot of football to be played and to be worrying at the beginning of February is crazy,” he added.

“I know the quality we have in the dressing room, so we weren’t worried. We want to put together performances that we are proud of as individuals and as a team.”