Arsenal launch last-ditch Villa bid to test Barcelona resolve

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Arsenal have tabled a bid for Barcelona striker David Villa, understands.

The offer, believed to be between £10-11million, has been submitted as the Gunners test the resolve of the Catalan giants to hang on to Spain’s all-time record goalscorer.

Wenger has admitted his interest in Villa but said this week that Barcelona have resisted selling the 31-year-old and his public stance is that the move is “dead”.

However, privately Arsenal have been given encouragement that a deal could still be possible on the last day of the window and are preparing to make one final push for the forward.

Spanish sources have told that Villa is “very keen” to join Arsenal after growing frustrated with his lack of opportunities at Camp Nou.

He was an unused substitute for Barcelona in the 1-1 Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night. revealed on Monday that the club’s transfer and contract negotiator Dick Law had been in Spain to negotiate the transfer of the country’s all-time leading goalscorer.
The Londoners were knocked back by Barcelona when they made an approach for Villa earlier this month.
But Wenger has refused to accept defeat in his pursuit of the forward and is prepared to pay up to £13.8m to sign him on a permanent deal and match his current £110,000-a-week wages.
Negotiations have centred on the construction of the deal, with Barcelona still owing Arsenal scheduled payments for the transfers that took Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song to Camp Nou in the summers of 2010 and 2011.
Wenger wants a marquee signing to galvanise both the supporters and the playing squad as the club attempt to secure a top-four league finish and negotiate a round-of-16 Champions League tie against last season’s runners-up Bayern Munich.
Although Villa played the whole 90 minutes in Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Osasuna last Sunday – his first full match since November 2011 – he has started just 12 of the club’s 36 matches this season, including only seven out of a possible 21 in La Liga.
Arsenal had made bolstering their strikeforce a top priority in the window and bid around £10m for Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez a month ago but they are now concentrating all their efforts on Villa.
Barcelona had been reluctant to off-load such a valuable asset ahead of a twin assault on the Champions League and La Liga titles, and the club’s public stance has been that the striker will stay at least until the summer. “David is not going to leave,” coach Tito Vilanova said a fortnight ago. “We are very happy with him.”
Privately, the Spanish club accept that they might have to grant his wish of a switch this month and cash in on a player who only has 18 months remaining on his contract.
Villa, who missed much of last season after breaking his leg, is Barca’s second-leading scorer in 2012/13 with 10 goals, behind only Lionel Messi, who has netted an astonishing 44 times.

Balotelli mobbed by AC Milan fans outside restaurant in Italy

Outgoing Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli was mobbed by hundreds of AC Milan fans outside a restaurant where the striker met with the Italian club’s vice-president, Adriano Galliani, on Wednesday evening.

The 22-year-old is on the verge of returning to Serie A in a £20 million deal and is currently in Italy ahead of the move, which is set to be officially completed on Thursday.

Balotelli had his medical at a hospital in Busto Arsizio on Wednesday afternoon and then went to have dinner with the club official after his three-hour examination.

Prior to meeting with Galliani, the Italy international was greeted by a large crowd of Milan supporters, who were chanting: “You threw the shirt of s**t [referring to Inter in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2010] on the ground, now you’re with Milan. The dreams have come true, you score the best goals. We will win with Mario Balotelli.”

The swarm of supporters also set off fireworks and police were required to use tear gas in order to break up the crowd.

A policeman was also taken to hospital after being hit on the head with a bottle which was thrown by one of the fans.

Jol confirms Fulham loan move for AC Milan's Emmanuelson

Fulham manager Martin Jol confirmed Urby Emmanuelson is close to joining the club on loan from AC Milan.

Jol, speaking after the Cottagers’ 3-1 win at home to West Ham, was coy on other potential targets, although he indicated it is very unlikely that Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone would be arriving on Thursday.

On Emmanuelson, Jol told reporters: “It will be a loan until the end of the season. We need fresh legs.”

“[Emmanuelson] is a skilful player, he’s very agile, very mobile, quick. He can play left midfield, can play wide, can play No. 10.

“My people work ever so hard, they have kept me informed and hopefully something will happen.

“We’d like to strengthen the squad, especially as Stephen Kelly left us last week, so we will do something in every line: in midfield, at the back and maybe up front.

“It’s difficult to get a permanent transfer like that [for Huddlestone]. I started five weeks ago and it won’t happen on the last day.”

Goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov picked up a slight hamstring injury and was forced to withdraw with 15 minutes left to play, but Jol allayed fears of an extended period of the sidelines.

“Dimitar has a problem with his hamstring, but he says it wasn’t a tear, so hopefully he won’t be out for long.

“It’s not a tear, but it’s a minor injury. We haven’t scanned it yet, we’ll do that tonight, then see what happens. I think he will miss the Manchester United game.”

Meanwhile, West Ham assistant manager Neil McDonald said the club have a number of potential transfer targets of their own, and refused to rule out deadline-day moves.

He said: “[Sam Allardyce is] working very hard behind the scenes and if we can bring anybody else in that would be great. There’ll be more competition for places.

“We’ve brought Emmanuel Pogatetz in which adds to the strength in the defence and if anybody else becomes available that we can add to the squad that’ll be fantastic. Let’s see what happens over the next 24 hours.”

Liverpool unlikely to sign Ince in January, admits Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits that there is little chance of the club signing Blackpool winger Thomas Ince before the January transfer window closes.

The Reds boss has been keen on bringing the starlet back to Anfield, the 21-year-old having scored 15 goals in 27 apperances for Michael Appleton’s side so far this season.

“It will be difficult. I don’t think there’ll be any more coming in,” Rodgers told the post-match press conference after his team’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday night.

“If Tom stays at Blackpool [in this window] it doesn’t mean he will never come to Liverpool.

“We could’ve done the deal but it looks too complicated at this stage. It’s about affordability as well.”

Liverpool are believed to have tabled an offer of £6 million for the highly rated winger but the bid falls short of the Seasiders’ valuation of the player.

Premier League strugglers Reading have also made an attempt to snap up the youngster, with Brian McDermott hoping the lure of first-team football will convince Ince to move to the Madejski Stadium.

Premier League clubs prepare for transfer deadline day

Premier League clubs have entered the final 24 hours of business before the January transfer window shuts.

The deadline for all transfer dealings in England is 23.00GMT on Thursday night and agents, managers, players and owners will all be constantly busy right up until the last minute.

The likes of Arsenal and QPR are among those expected to bring in new recruits, while Peter Odemwingie is desperate to leave West Brom despite the club’s wishes to the contrary and Danny Graham is anticipated to be on his way out of Swansea City.

In the Championship, Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland and Blackpool winger Tom Ince are the subjects of interest from numerous top-flight sides.

Nikica Jelavic’s move to Everton from Rangers proved one of the most effective of last season’s January deadline day and teams all over England will be looking to procure a signing of similar impact.

Stay with throughout the day for comprehensive coverage of all the faxes, plane trips, reported sightings and poker-faced negotiations.