We begin this morning with a rumour that’s barely a rumour: Raphinha’s move from Leeds to Barcelona is nearly done, the fee £49m potentially rising to £57m. This will disappoint both Arsenal and Chelsea, who were interested in the player and, if Bayern Munich are to be believed, potentially disappoint Leeds too, given their belief that the Catalan club are so skint they might not exist in a year or two. Football is the winner.
On which subject Chelsea are, apparently, trying to muscle in on Barça’s bid to sign Robert Lewandowski. Though the player originally had eyes for the Camp Nou alone, he is now sufficiently aggravated by the selfishness suffusing the German champs that even the prospect of a 493rd consecutive Bundesliga title cannot persuade him to remain in Bavaria.
Chelsea also intend to augment their defence after losing both Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger. They are in talks with Napoli over recruiting their captain, and the Mill for one cannot wait for him to speak ill of someone, anyone, to facilitate the headline “Shade of a Koulibaly”. Nor is that it: Thomas Tuchel is also keen on Presnel Kimpembe of Paris Saint-Germain, and should the deals go through then César Azpilicueta may be allowed to join Barcelona.
Across London, West Ham will not be selling Declan Rice – club and player have a “gentleman’s agreement” that he will stay for one more season. David Moyes is, though, in the market for a striker, with Sassuolo’s Gianluca Scamacca his first choice. But PSG are also keen and, should the player decide Paris to be preferable to near Westfield, attention may turn to Chelsea’s Armando Broja and Blackburn’s Ben Brereton Díaz, and there is also interest in Jesse Lingard, who must decide whether he actually wants to be a footballer, and Ismaïla Sarr.
Talking of PSG, they are the latest recipients of Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous largesse. The Manchester United altruist has offered them his services, an ageing superhero being exactly what their forward line lacks, but for now the generosity is not reciprocal.
United, meanwhile, are still seeking to strengthen – despite yesterday’s epochal Bangkok Cup glory. They remain favourites to sign Ajax’s Lisandro Martínez and various other of Erik ten Hag’s friends and acquaintances, those being the only players prepared to risk their careers at the talent graveyard also known as Old Trafford.
Elsewhere, news breaks that Alexander Isaak is wondering whether to exchange pinxo for pease pudding and a Tesco bag for a barcode by moving from Real Sociedad to Newcastle. The deadly Swede has scored a princely three times so far this year, so is presumably viewed as the perfect foil for the equally prolific Chris Wood. Nor is that all: the Magpies’ hierarchy would, apparently, like to sign a further offensive player: sometimes, the lines are so painfully obvious they don’t even need to be written.