As you may have noticed, the English press are all of a tizzy this morning. It's all to do with Manchester United, you see. Apparently the club are on the verge of spending a serious amount of money, anywhere between £100m and £300m, depending on who's counting and what they're counting. There are names, too, the same names across all of the papers. All of which serves as a decent reminder of the first rule of footballing transfer gossip: the plural noun for rumours is a briefing.
Anyway, here at TBB we've been sifting through the various reports to bring you this, a handy summary of exactly who the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, the Independent, the Mirror and the Daily Mail think are coming into the club, and who might be on the way out.
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Kevin Strootman (Guardian, Daily Mail, Times, Telegraph, Mirror, Independent)
One of three players identified by all six of the newspapers, Kevin Strootman is, if we're reading things correctly, the Platonic form of the Van Gaal footballer. That notebook Van Gaal's always scribbling in? That's just KS inside a love heart, over and over again. Once he called Ryan Giggs "Kevin" in front of the whole class, though he thinks he got away with it.
Anyway, assuming Strooterz -- it'll catch on -- makes a full recovery from his knee injury, then United are almost certainly reportedly going to try to pick him up for something between £30m and £35m. But will he be able to displace Marouane Fellaini? Yes, yes he will.
Mats Hummels (all of them)
The second of the players that all the papers have identified, Mats Hummels, World Cup winner, is currently languishing at the bottom of the Bundesliga, captain of a miserable Borussia Dortmund side who have taken just 11 points from 13 games. Which on the one hand doesn't sound too promising; on the other, it means he might well be slightly more purchasable than he was last summer, when United's sustained interest was resoundingly ignored.
Consensus seems to be that he would cost between £32m and £35m, and if nothing else, his arrival would be a chance to see whether the conclusion drawn by David Moyes' scouts -- summarised by the Guardian's Daniel Taylor as "he can't run" -- is accurate.
Diego Godin (all of them)
The final unanimous choice is another central defender, Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin. Asked about this rumour a couple of days ago, his manager Diego Simeone laughed at the thought. "How much? Twenty? For Godin? It must be a mistake." Which is, presumably, why the Guardian have him costing £25m and the the Mail £28.5m. That's some coy negotiation right there, Diego.
Nathaniel Clyne (Times, Telegraph, Mirror, Independent)
Right back is generally agreed to be a priority -- the age of Rafael is, regretfully, drawing to a close -- and four of the papers think that Southampton (and recently England) youngster Nathaniel Clyne is the chosen one, though none of them have any idea on a likely price. United have tried to pick him up before, of course, though he sensationally snubbed Old Trafford in favour of the south coast, apparently to guarantee himself some more game time. Silly Nathaniel. With United's injuries, you'd have made 100 appearances by now.
Dani Alves (Guardian, Daily Mail, Times)
Fun one this. According to the Guardian, Dani Alves will cost United £15m. According to everybody else, he'll be free, because his contract expires at the end of this season. Perhaps the Graun know something that the rest of us don't. Or perhaps they reckon Ed Woodward's going to do some more Special Negotiating. Either way, it's not clear why United would want a right back so bad that he was dropped in favour of Maicon during the World Cup, but hey. We know nothing. We haven't been speaking to senior sources at Old Trafford.
Arjen Robben (Guardian, Daily Mail)
More fun with Guardionomics here. Two papers reckon United are nosing around Bayern Munich's winger-slash-forward-slash-whatever-the-hell-he-is-these-days. The Mail estimate a buying price of £20m, which seems like a fairly decent guesstimate for an outstanding player with absolutely no resale value and at most three, maybe four years left at the highest level. The Guardian, however, reckon it'll be a £40m deal. For somebody who turns 31in January.
Marco Reus (Times, Mirror)
Well, sort of. Both papers think that United will try to buy Marco Reus, and the Times notes encouragingly that a £19.8m release clause will be in effect from next summer. However, the Mirror have him ambling off to Bayern Munich. Just as well, really. He's got ankles made of glass and he's rubbish anyway. Don't want him.
Victor Valdes (Guardian, Daily Mail, Times, Independent)
Not that this is going to bite into any war chest, him being out of contract and all. But a definite upgrade on Anders Lindegaard as No. 2 behind David de Gea.
Radamel Falcao (all of them)
Nobody seems to be sure whether United are going to splash out to make Falcao's deal permanent, because nobody's really sure if he's ever going to be fit again. Also, nobody's precisely sure what his fee might be: something between £43.2m and £46m. What's £2.8m between tax havens?
Now, by the laws of Newtonian physics, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. This is not the set up to a contrived Anderson joke; this is to say that with all these players definitely coming in, means that others must be on the way out.
The Lists of the Doomed
Those reportedly leaving the club basically fall into one of two categories. There are the definitely doomed, those players out on loan or squad players who are unwanted. Then there are the circumstantially doomed, those players whose places may be at risk and/or whose contracts are running down. Here they all are
The Definitely (Well, Reportedly) Doomed: Nani, Tom Cleverley, Javier Hernandez, Nick Powell, Reece James, Michael Keane, Anders Lindegaard, Anderson, Wilfried Zaha, Angelo Henriquez, Jesse Lingard.
The Circumstantially and so Possibly Doomed: Darren Fletcher, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young, Rafael.
Naturally, the papers have slightly different takes on all of this: the Times, for example, has Darren Fletcher definitely leaving, possibly as early as January. All seem to agree, however, that around ten players will depart, that Michael Carrick will get another year, and that everybody's very relaxed about David de Gea signing a new deal.
(TBB is not very relaxed about David de Gea signing a new deal. We are, in fact, absolutely terrified, and will remain so until he's scribbled and dated the dotted line.)
For the sake of argument/personal amusement/Friday afternoon diversion, here is what Manchester United's squad will look like if all of the players above arrive, and all those surplus to requirements leave. Look at this squad. Look at this ridiculous squad.
Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Victor Valdes, Ben Amos
Defenders: Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Diego Godin, Mats Hummels, Aymeric Laporte, Jonny Evans, Nathaniel Clyne, Dani Alves
Midfielders: Kevin Strootman, Angel di Maria, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj
Forwards: Marco Reus, Arjen Robben, Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney, James Wilson
Now stop looking. It's not going to happen. Why do you keep doing this to yourself? United are going to bid for everybody, but nobody, and end up with Ron Vlaar on a free, and that's the end of it.