'Yes, I will be busy' – Wenger confirms Arsenal plan to spend in January

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he will be busy in the January transfer window.

The Gunners have been linked with a string of different players in recent weeks and Wenger revealed, ahead of his side’s clash against Newcastle on Saturday, that he will look to add to his squad.

The Frenchman says he wants a player who can immediately come in and improve his side, as they fight for another top four finish in the Premier League.

“Yes, I will be busy,” he told reporters. “I don’t feel under pressure to name names because you [the media] find them on your own.

“We have the potential to be in the Champions League with what we have. We are open to strengthening the team, but the difficulty is to find what strengthens us. [You don’t always find that with] the players available on the market.

“Yes [we want players who can make an immediate impact], that is why it is so difficult as well. Man United bought Robin van Persie for £24 million (€29m) and he is 29 years old.

“They have scouts all over the world. They looked everywhere. Don’t think that they just came in and bought Van Persie, they looked everywhere else. But to find the quality of striker that would strengthen a top Premier League team at the moment in the world is difficult.”

Wenger also said he is ready to let fringe players move on but dismissed reports linking Andrey Arshavin with a move to Reading.

“No, that is not on the radar,” he said. “I have not had a call from Reading.

“But if he finds a solution that is satisfying for him and for us we will consider it.”

Yanga-Mbiwa reveals his Manchester United dream

Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has revealed his dream to one day play for Premier League leaders Manchester United.

The 23-year-old defender, who has also been linked with a move to Serie A outfit AC Milan, is widely expected to leave the defending Ligue 1 champions at the end of the season.

And the recently-capped France international says joining the Red Devils is a lifelong ambition of his.

“My dream is to play with the shirt of Manchester United in a match in Old Trafford. My favourite club is United without doubt,” he told France Football.

“When I sleep I dream of scoring a decisive goal with my head at a corner. That would be very beautiful.”

The Paillade captain pledged his immediate future to the to French outfit earlier this year by signing a two-year contract extension.

It remains to be seen whether that will ensure Montpellier do not lose their star defender in the January transfer window to Arsenal, Milan or any other interested club.

Mario Balotelli arrival will signal the start of AC Milan's road back to greatness

COMMENT
By Carlo Garganese

It’s been a miserable 2012 for AC Milan.

Dethroned as Serie A champions by the returning superpower that is Juventus, the Rossoneri endured a depressing summer transfer window – losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and a host of other club legends such as Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Filippo Inzaghi. Financially impotent, there was no light at the end of the tunnel – the darkness only aggravated by a horrific start to the season which saw Milan win just four of their opening 13 league games.

Despite an upturn in form, which has seen them rise to seventh in the table and qualify for the Champions League last 16, Massimiliano Allegri’s men are still 17 points behind league leaders Juventus, eight points off the top three, and hold little hope of beating Barcelona in Europe.

But as 2013 approaches, Milanese dreams of returning to the top at home and abroad can finally begin to be entertained.

As Goal.com exclusively revealed on Friday, Milan are finalising a bid for Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli as a replacement for the Brazil-bound Alexandre Pato and Robinho.

The deal makes sense both financially and technically.

The Rossoneri‘s cost-cutting programme that saw them offload their two best players to Paris Saint-Germain – Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva – has resulted in a new self-sustaining economic model that is not reliant on owner Silvio Berlusconi‘s bailouts. By signing Balotelli, Milan will actually save money. Pato and Robinho‘s combined net salary is €8 million a year, making them two of the club’s highest earners. Balotelli is expected to accept a pay cut on his current pre-tax wage of €7m a season.

Vice-president Adriano Galliani is hopeful of recouping around €25m for the South American pair. Manchester City have slapped a €20m asking price on Balotelli‘s head, a figure that Galliani is bound to get reduced with the player and selling club desperate to part ways. An initial loan deal in January is not out of the question.

Galliani and Berlusconi have stressed that the foundations of the ‘new Milan’ will be built on youth. In the 22-year-old Balotelli and 20-year-old Stephan El Shaarawy, the Rossoneri will boast a centre forward duo who can potentially lead the line for club and country for the next decade. The pair will be a terrifying prospect for teams all over Europe, and as Manchester United have shown this season in opening up a surprise seven-point lead in the Premier League, a world-class attack can often paper over the cracks further back on the field. Especially in an age where you can count on one hand the number of truly top-class defenders.

Balotelli may divide the critics – as this Goal.com debate demonstrates – but after Cristiano Ronaldo he is the most complete forward in world football. Juventus coach Antonio Conte confessed earlier this week that “he has all the attributes of a great” – pace, power, aggression, awareness, technique, creativity, dribbling ability. Balotelli is two-footed, a clinical finisher, a set-piece and free kick expert, contains a rocket of a shot, and has never missed a penalty in his career. He scores and makes goals and also possesses that X-factor, a special aura and unpredictability that distinguishes all great players from good ones.

His ill-discipline – both on and off the pitch – remains an issue, but the extent of this problem has been taken out of context in the first half of 2012-13. It is patently clear that Balotelli is homesick and his troubles this campaign are chiefly down to his desperation to return to Italy. Unlike others who have wasted their God-given talent, Balotelli‘s strong character and love for the game will see him consistently shine at the highest level once he fully matures.

Milan are Balotelli’s boyhood club, and he famously donned the Rossoneri shirt during a television show while still playing for Inter. Berlusconi and Galliani pride themselves on Milan’s warm “family club” vibes and values. You rarely witness the airing of dirty linen in public or the kind of dissent that has been evident at Inter and Manchester City in recent times. Milan are the perfect club to win Mario’s heart.

The signing of Balotelli will be the beginning of Milan’s road back to the top. The ‘new Milan’ have their ‘new Ibrahimovic‘ – a new talismanic figure around which to build a new all-conquering team. With the attack locked down for the next 10 years, Milan will be able to focus on perfecting another department. Two new centre-backs, a left-back and at least one central midfielder must be the next priorities in the January and summer markets.

Balotelli will help attract further stars to Milan, he will lift the entire club and make the fans believe once more. Although he will be ineligible for the Champions League knock-outs, and qualification for next year’s edition remains a tough ask, Milan’s future suddenly looks bright again.

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The Sweeper: Manchester City & United monitor Ronaldo's situation at Real Madrid

TIDYING UP ALL THE LOOSE STORIES IN FOOTBALL THIS WEEK

By Wayne Veysey & Greg Stobart

MANCHESTER DUO MONITOR RONALDO

As uncertainty over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Real Madrid continues to grow, both Manchester United and Manchester City are closely monitoring the forward’s situation in Spain.

Roberto Mancini’s side have already made two separate enquiries asking for Madrid’s valuation of the Portugal international, while the Premier League champions are also willing to offer the 27-year-old £400,000-a-week in wages.

Ronaldo has remained quiet amid Manchester City’s interest but has already revealed that he misses the relationship he had with Sir Alex Ferguson during his time at Old Trafford and has hinted that he would welcome a return to his former club.

Sports manufacturer giants Nike are also in line to renegotiate their kit deal with United, which could help finance the club’s move for Ronaldo, although City are also changing their sponsorship to Nike as of next season.

Ronaldo’s potential destination could also be influenced by the situation of Jose Mourinho, who may see his spell at Real Madrid finish at the end of the season, and the Portuguese boss has already been earmarked by Ferguson as one of two candidates, the other being Pep Guardiola, to be the next manager at Old Trafford.

STURRIDGE WINDFALL COULD PAVE WAY FOR VILLA LOAN MOVE

Manchester City are considering a loan bid for Barcelona forward David Villa next month once they receive a windfall payment from Chelsea for Daniel Sturridge’s move to Liverpool.

The Premier League champions are due to receive 15 per cent of the fee Chelsea get from selling Sturridge, which will be in the region of £2.5 million.

City have already been paid £5m from Chelsea through a tribunal case when Sturridge left for Stamford Bridge in July 2009, while the west London club also parted with another £1m when the 23-year-old gained his first England cap in November 2011.

Roberto Mancini will be restricted with the funds he’ll have available next month but the Italian is a big admirer of Villa and has already attempted to sign the 31-year-old on two separate occasions but was put off by the Spain international’s valuation.

City are also poised to offload Mario Balotelli in January, with AC Milan frontrunners for the striker’s signature, and Mancini is keen on adding Villa in a temporary deal to bolster his attacking options ahead of the title run-in.

WELBECK WORRIED BY LEWANDOWSKI RUMOURS

Danny Welbeck is looking to seek clarification on his future at Old Trafford amid Manchester United’s interest in Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski.

The 22-year-old signed a new four-year deal with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in August after being handed a regular run in the first team which allowed him to establish a partnership with Wayne Rooney.

But with Robin van Persie’s arrival in the summer, Welbeck has been restricted to just six Premier League starts this season and is now considered fourth choice at Old Trafford behind the Netherlands international, Rooney and Javier Hernandez.

With Lewandowski’s possible arrival at United, Ferguson is already aware that the club will be unable to acquire the Poland international without selling one of his forwards.

RICHARDS CLOSING IN ON RETURN

Manchester City defender Micah Richards has stepped up his return from a knee injury and will resume full training with the first team next week.

The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his right knee during City’s Premier League victory over Swansea City on October 24 and required surgery to fix the problem. Following his operation, Richards has been carrying out his rehabilitation programme in the gym at City’s Carrington training ground.

The Premier League champions have marked the middle of January as a possible return for Richards, which will come as a boost for Roberto Mancini as the Italian will be without Kolo Toure, who started at right-back against Sunderland on Boxing Day, for the majority of next month due to Ivory Coast international’s African Cup of Nations commitment.

Guardiola will return next year, says Laporta

Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes that Pep Guardiola will return to coaching in 2013.

The former Spain international is currently on a hiatus, having stepped down as Camp Nou boss at the end of last season, handing the reins to Tito Vilanova.

Laporta, who remains a close friend of Guardiola’s, thinks that Paris Saint-Germain would not fit the coach’s methods but speculates he will take a job which allows him to be creative.

“I think Pep will return as coach next year. He has a great personality, very clear ideas and he is very intelligent,” he told Swedish outlet Expressen.

“I have the honour of having good relations with him and, for me, he is the best coach in the world.

“All the big clubs would have Guardiola as coach. What would it take to convince him? He likes to create.

“There will be many reasons influencing his choice, he would analyse them all. I think he wants to have the power to decide on all sporting matters and must be comfortable working there.

“Paris? It is not obvious how they would convince Guardiola to coach there. I do not know if Paris Saint-Germain have the adequate structure for him.”