Is Gomez the Real deal?

Real Madrid are eyeing up a summer move for Liverpool defender Joe Gomez as the Liga club looks to strengthen in the heart of defence. The Mail report that Real Madrid have put together a shortlist ahead of the summer, which includes Gomez - who has been out of favour for Liverpool so far this season. Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, who is available for free upon the expiration of his contract at Stamford Bridge, joins the England international on Real's wish list alongside Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt.
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Paper Round's view: Real Madrid lost two huge influences in the heart of their defence last summer as club captain Sergio Ramos departed for Paris Saint-Germain and Raphael Varane joined Manchester United. Los Blancos brought versatile defender David Alaba to the Spanish capital for free and promoted Eder Militao to the starting eleven. Carlo Ancelotti's squad still lacks depth in the centre-back position though. Rudiger has been strongly linked with Real, especially because he is available for free, but he has been playing in a back three on the left - which is where Alaba prefers to play. Gomez would be an interesting option on the right-hand side of the pair.
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Azpilicueta wants to stay

Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta has an uncertain future at Chelsea, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season. The Athletic reveal that the Spaniard wants to stay and fight for his place in the starting eleven, but the west London club may not offer him anything more than a one-year extension. Barcelona are interested in signing Azpilicueta and would offer him a longer contract and more stability. The probable exit of fellow defender Antonio Rudiger when his contract ends this summer could push Chelsea to offer their captain a longer contract in a bid to keep an important leader in the squad.
Paper Round's view: Chelsea are in an odd situation. They have four defenders who could all leave for free in the summer. Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen will leave Stamford Bridge unless the Blues manage to agree extensions. The players are allowed to enter negotiations with foreign clubs from January too. It seems likely that Rudiger will leave and Christensen may follow too. It seems vital to keep Azpilicueta and Silva, who offer vital experience and leadership for the rest of the squad. Losing four centre-back options in one summer (without any incoming transfer fees!) would be devastating for Chelsea.
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Jones wanted by European giant

Phil Jones could complete a shock move to European giants Benfica. The Mail reveal that the 29-year-old is wanted by Benfica, who are looking to sign a versatile defender in the January transfer window. United's interim boss Ralf Rangnick is keen to trim the squad in the winter window and would consider a bid from the Portuguese club, while Jones is desperate to play first-team football again. The former England international has not featured in a competitive match since a 6-1 win over Tranmere in the FA Cup in January 2020. United would be keen to sell Jones but a loan deal seems much more likely.
Paper Round's view: Jones needs to get out of Old Trafford and get some game time. It's been nearly two years since he has played a professional game of football. It's obviously been a tough ride dealing with a long-term knee injury, but - realistically - he's not going to get into the team at Manchester United. A move abroad to Benfica would be brave, but it could give him the chance to prove he's not finished at the top level just yet. A loan would make sense for both parties as it would come with less pressure than a permanent transfer. Good luck to Jones if it goes ahead.
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Newcastle desperate to strengthen defence

Newcastle United have made it a "priority" to strengthen their defence in the January transfer window and are leading the battle to sign Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Joe Rodon on loan. The 24-year-old is likely to leave north London on a short-term deal to increase his game time for the remainder of the season. Rodon is also wanted by Brighton, Watford and Leeds United, who are all looking to sign a defender in January. Newcastle are also looking at English pair James Tarkowski, whose contract at Burnley is expiring in the summer, and Kieran Trippier, who has been linked with an Atletico Madrid exit.
Paper Round's view: Newcastle need to improve their defence in January if they want any chance of staying the Premier League. Some of the defending on display at St James' Park this season has been embarrassing. Rodon would arrive as a hungry youngster with a point to prove. He will know that his future at Tottenham is in his hands. If he performs well at Newcastle, he could be given a second chance by Antonio Conte next season in north London. Realistically, Newcastle need to add at least two or three defenders to their squad next month... otherwise Eddie Howe's side are in trouble.
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