Virgil van Dijk to sign new five-year deal at Liverpool, Arsenal battle to keep Hector Bellerin, Barcelona and Juventus eye a potential swap deal and English fans could return to stadiums this season. It's Friday's Paper Round...
Van Dijk handed new five-year deal
Virgil van Dijk is set to become the highest-paid player in Liverpool's history as the Merseyside outfit prepare to offer him a new five-year deal. According to the Sun, the Dutch defender will commit to his new contract once Liverpool are confirmed as Premier League champions. The league leaders feared that Van Dijk could be tempted to replace Thiago Silva, who is leaving Paris Saint-Germain this summer. The 28-year-old is currently on £180,000 per week, but his new deal - which will see him eclipse Mohamed Salah as the club's top earner - will be worth a whopping £220,000 a week. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is also said to be keen on handing Sadio Mane a similar contract to deter the likes of PSG and Real Madrid.
Paper Round's view: It could be argued that the deals that keep players like Van Dijk and Mane at the club will end up being the most important business Liverpool do all summer. There isn't really any position that Klopp needs to desperately improve in his starting 11- so why not concentrate on tying down his superstars to long-term deals? Liverpool are showing that they are one of the best-run clubs in world football. By signing Van Dijk back in 2018, they identified an issue in their squad and spent big when they needed to. Now they've won the Champions League and are set to win their first-ever Premier League title - they need to keep the quality at Anfield to become a side that will be remembered in history.
Arsenal have found themselves in a fight to keep Hector Bellerin at the club, with Inter Milan sniffing around the right-back. According to the Mirror, Inter boss Antonio Conte is interested in bringing Bellerin to Italy and the Gunners are worried as the Spaniard has stalled on his new contract offer. The 25-year-old's current contract runs until the summer of 2023 but Bellerin is holding off from committing to extending his stay in north London as he wants to see how the club progresses under new manager Mikel Arteta. Arsenal are said to value their full-back at £27 million.
Paper Round's view: Bellerin is a fans' favourite at the Emirates Stadium and the club would be devastated to see him leave. However, the report makes it seem like Bellerin is willing to be patient - meaning he is unlikely to leave this summer. Arsenal have a year to show a level of improvement, which probably means qualifying for the Champions League. Ultimately Inter can offer Bellerin Champions League football and the club are likely to be challenging for the Serie A title. Things aren't looking as optimistic in north London. You can't really blame Bellerin if he eventually leaves Arsenal.
Barcelona and Juventus have continued their talks over the potential swap deal of midfield playmakers Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic. The Catalan club have dubbed Pjanic as "one of their primary targets" in the summer transfer window but due to their problematic financial position, Barca are only able to offer a player exchange to seal the deal. Juventus are interested in bringing Arthur to Turin as a replacement for the 30-year-old Pjanic as Chelsea don't seem likely to allow Maurizio Sarri's number-one choice Jorginho to return to Italy. According to the Independent, Arthur initially rejected any possibility of moving to Juve but the Old Lady remain optimistic that a deal can be completed.
Paper Round's view: This seems like an odd deal for Barcelona. It's reminiscent of when they swapped Samuel Eto'o plus a huge amount of cash for Zlatan Ibrahimovic prior to Inter's treble-winning season back in 2010. Pjanic is a class footballer but he's 30 years old. Arthur seems like a good fit for Barca's style and he's seven years younger than the Bosnian midfielder. If Juve can pull this deal off, they will be laughing - but as the report stated, the current issue is Arthur's reluctance to move to Turin. As for Barca - let's hope they know what they're doing. They could really live to regret letting the Brazilian leave.
Premier League football might not even be back yet - but there is already talk concerning when fans will be allowed to attend matches again. The Mirror report that league officials have already had conversations with the government and medical representatives to explore the possibility of allowing supporters to return to stadiums. It is likely to be for the 2020-21 season - which will be starting in September - but there is said to be some optimism that the FA Cup final on August 1 could have some fans in attendance.
Paper Round's view: Let's take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves here. There are still hundreds of coronavirus-related deaths being recorded on a daily basis in the United Kingdom and all the football leagues in the country have been cancelled this season, except the Premier League and the Championship. Until the matches have started and have been shown to be a success, you can't start planning for the next stage. Every remaining Premier League match this season will be aired on television so the league is fully expected to remain behind closed doors this term. Fans will be allowed to return when it is safe to do so - but we don't know when that will be at the moment.