Everton put new Baines deal on hold

Toffees boss Roberto Martinez says he is more concerned with making sure the England international, who scored twice against West Ham, is happy than offering him a new contract

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has revealed that the club have “put aside” plans to extend Leighton Baines’ current deal.

The 28-year-old was subject to interest from reigning champions Manchester United over the summer, now managed by former boss David Moyes, but Baines – unlike Marouane Fellaini – did not make the switch to Old Trafford.

Martinez has previously expressed a desire to tie down the former Wigan defender to a new contract, partly as reward for remaining at Goodison Park, but talks have been shelved for now.

“At the moment, all it is is the games and any individual contracts or situations are put aside,” Martinez told reporters.

“The only thing that concerns me is just to make sure he’s as fit as he can be and gets in a stronger position and balances the demands of England and club level.

“That’s what I’m focused on, that his day to day is perfect.

“Everything else, behind the scenes we’re happy with the situation and we’re making sure he’s happy as well.”

Baines struck twice in Everton’s 3-2 victory over West Ham on Saturday, with both goals coming from stunning free kicks, and Martinez believes he is in the form of his career.

“In the last two games, once the window was closed, he could concentrate on his football,” the Spanish boss continued.

“I could be biased and see it from my own eyes, but when we played against Chelsea, it was the best two full-backs in England playing against each other, and then he came up with that sensational role on Saturday.

“He’s in a great moment of his career. In the last two games, Leighton has been sensational, probably because he’s been able to relax and enjoy his football.

“His contribution, to be able to score goals from deadball situations is a massive strength in any team, and he’s in a moment where the next three or four years are the best in his career.”

Di Matteo undecided over Sunderland job

The former Chelsea boss is the favoured candidate of the Wearside club to replace Paolo Di Canio but is believed to be have doubts over taking over the Black Cats

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Sunderland have made Roberto Di Matteo their No.1 target to replace Paolo Di Canio – but face a battle to persuade the former Chelsea manager to take the job.

Goal understands that Black Cats chiefs have already put out informal feelers to Di Matteo’s camp to inform him of their interest in him taking over at the Stadium of Light.

Formal talks will be scheduled imminently but Sunderland accept they must persuade the 43-year-old that the vacant post would be the right career move.

The Wearside club are believed to be in no rush to make an immediate appointment and are content for caretaker manager Kevin Ball to stabilise the squad over the next two games.

The long-serving former skipper and current Sunderland Under-21s manager has been placed in charge of the first team for Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup clash against Peterborough United and is also expected to be in the dugout for Sunday’s home match against Liverpool.

Sunderland sources have told Goal that the board “want to leave a bit of distance” between Di Canio’s reign and the start of the new manager’s tenure, which might not even begin until after the club’s home fixture against Manchester United on October 5.

Gus Poyet and Tony Pulis have been among the other names linked to the job but Di Matteo is the favoured candidate of the club’s Italian sporting director Roberto De Fanti.

Di Matteo has been out of work since being sacked as Chelsea manager last November but his stock remains high after winning the Champions League and FA Cup during his eight-month spell at Stamford Bridge.

He is regarded by Sunderland as a steady pair of hands following the abrasive regime of Di Canio, who was sacked on Sunday night with the club bottom of the table following a run of one draw and four defeats from their first five Premier League matches.

However, Di Matteo is understood to have reservations about taking over at a club where there was such a high degree of player turnover during the summer, with 14 new players signed and 13 others sold or released.

After his surprise appointment in place of Martin O’Neill in March, Di Canio made an immediate impact by steering the club away from relegation, but his reign was marked by dressing room unrest and dissatisfaction among his players with his volatile management style.

The tipping point is believed to have been dressing room showdowns in the immediate wake of Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at West Brom, and then again at the training ground on Sunday.

Word got back to the board and, with the club desperate not to get sucked into a relegation battle for the second consecutive season, American owner Ellis Short gave the green light for Di Canio to become the first top-tier managerial casualty of the season.

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Laudrup: Michu's Swansea future uncertain

The Dane insists his star man wants to remain at the club this season and enjoy their European campaign, but admits his long-term desires are less set in stone

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup admits uncertainty surrounds the future of the club’s prolific forward Michu.

The Spaniard scored the first goal in Swansea’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday – his third in as many games and fifth overall this term – before Nathan Dyer clinched the points for the Welsh outfit.

Michu was strongly linked with a departure from the Liberty Stadium during the close-season, with his 18 goals in 35 Premier League appearances in his debut season in England having reportedly piqued the interest of several clubs.

And, though the former Rayo Vallecano forward resisted a move to stay in south Wales, Laudrup has conceded he could wish to leave eventually.

“The most important thing in all this is what the player wants,” he said.

“Michu wants to stay. He wanted to stay after his first season because he wanted to take part in the second year with Europe and everything.

“What happens in the future? I don’t know but I think it’s so important what the player wants and I don’t think Michu had any doubts whatsoever that he wanted to stay here this season, but then what happens next year no one knows.”

Laudrup had no hesitation in lauding the 27-year-old’s all-round ability, however, following another excellent display against Palace.

“I don’t look at him as just a goalscorer because for me he’s not even a centre forward,” he continued.

“He’s an offensive midfielder who can score goals and can play as a forward, so I don’t have that picture of if he hasn’t scored for three games it’s a problem.

“He’s a very, very important player because he scores goals and sometimes he makes those runs where you think he’s wasting energy but he’s doing it for the rest of the team to follow.”

It was logical to leave Barcelona, says Abidal

The 34-year-old says he had little choice but to look for another club once his contract ran down at Camp Nou but has hinted he could consider his options again next summer

Monaco defender Eric Abidal has admitted that it was “logical” for him to leave Barcelona after his contract at the club was allowed to run out.

The France international left Camp Nou for the Ligue 1 outfit this summer in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, with the club forced to defend suggestions they did not pay the 34-year-old while he recovered from illness.

The defender believes he was left with little choice but to leave the Catalan club once his contract had been allowed to run down, but has hinted that he could consider his options again next summer.

“It was logical. My contract was over. When you’re at a good club and you come out of contract, you always want the suggestion that you will continue,” he told L’Equipe.

“I was in that situation. The club did not [want to offer a contract], I did not have any choice but to accept it, no matter what I had experienced.
 
“Now, I’m with Monaco, and after this season, we shall see.” 

Abidal has made five Ligue 1 appearances so far this season, helping Monaco to top spot in the table as well as earning a recall to the France national team.

Rooney may be offered new Manchester United deal, hints Gill

The Englishman has started the season in ominous form after a summer of transfer speculation, and the Red Devils’ former chief executive believes a new contract may follow

Wayne Rooney could be in line for a new contract at Manchester United if his scoring form continues, according to the club’s former chief executive David Gill.

Rooney spent the summer trying to engineer a move away from Old Trafford with Chelsea his most determined suitors, but United were determined not to sell their star man to a rival.

Since the close of the transfer window the Englishman has begun to rediscover his best form, and Gill believes an extension to his current contract – which expires in the summer of 2015 – could be on the cards.

When asked on BBC Radio 5live whether he thought Rooney could be offered a new contract, Gill replied: “Without doubt, I’m sure they would look at it.

“We had an approach to dealing with players’ contracts at Manchester United that’s stood us in good stead for many years and I’m sure that Ed [Woodward, executive vice-chairman] and David [Moyes] and the owners will continue with that policy.”

Gill also refused to comment on suggestions that United have privately admitted Rooney never asked to leave Old Trafford, despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion to the contrary back in May.

“I’m not going to comment on that situation,” he added. “I know you’d like me to say what I know. But I’m not going to. I think it’s important to move forward now.”