Man City plot £100m Villa raid
Manchester City are ready to enter the race for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, according to the Star. The 25-year-old was chased by Manchester United in the summer, before signing a five-year contract extension at Villa Park. However, it is now being reported that City are interested in signing Grealish, with Pep Guardiola believing that the England international would be an "ideal addition" to his squad. As well as Grealish, the Manchester club are also exploring the possibility of bringing Douglas Luiz back to the Etihad. The Brazilian joined Villa last year for just £15 million, but he has a £25 million buy-back clause in his contract at the Midlands club and Guardiola is interested in a reunion. The pair would cost City a combined £100 million fee.
Paper Round's view: Grealish has been absolutely sensational so far this season and it's unsurprising that the top clubs in the Premier League are regretting the fact that they missed out on signing him in the summer. The Three Lions star might have said he was "very happy" to extend his stay at his boyhood club, but he definitely would've jumped at the chance to sign for either Manchester club if they came in for him. Now he's penned a five-year deal, his value will have rocketed - but he's probably still worth every penny. It's interesting that City fancy bringing back Douglas Luiz. Guardiola will have accepted that Fernandinho's minutes are now limited due to his age, so his compatriot is a cheap replacement due to the buy-back clause.
Kevin’s new contract
Staying with Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne revealed that he is in talks with the club over extending his stay at the Etihad. The Guardian report that the 28-year-old has entered early negotiations with the Premier League side - despite his current deal expiring in 2023. De Bruyne admitted that it is an "easy" decision for him to extend his contract and he is representing himself in the negotiations following the arrest of his former agent in August. The Belgian playmaker expects no difficulties in the talks with club officials and the Guardian state that De Bruyne is set for a "major increase in salary".
Paper Round's view: Perform well and you shall be rewarded. Manchester City are simply recognising that they have one of the best midfielders in the world and they want to keep hold of him and keep him happy. De Bruyne is at his peak and his next contract will most likely be his last big-money contract. City are happy to hand it to him and the Belgian has admitted that the negotiations won't be difficult. It's an efficient way to run a club if you can afford it.
Barcelona lining up Neymar to replace Messi - Euro Papers
Barca desperate for defensive reinforcements
Barcelona are in the hunt for a new defender in January, with the Mail stating that they are looking for a "low-cost centre-back" due to the expected departure of Samuel Umtiti. Barca boss Ronald Koeman has been given the green light to add a centre-half to his ranks, but finances are an issue. The Catalan club's number-one choice is Manchester City's Eric Garcia, but the Premier League club are demanding £13.5 million - despite the 19-year-old's contract expiring in June. Koeman has identified Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger - who has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge - as an alternative to Garcia. Liverpool's Joel Matip and Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi are also named as other potential options by the Mail.
Paper Round's view: You might have thought Barcelona had made it past their nightmare stage when Lionel Messi confirmed he would be staying at the Camp Nou back in September - but no. Now the Liga club are being linked to signing Mustafi. Surely things at Barcelona can't be that bad. It seems like Rudiger would be a loan option so that would be a decent opportunity for all the parties involved as he has now dropped to fifth-choice centre-back for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. Maybe the club should just keep Umtiti until the end of the season and bring in Garcia as his replacement in the summer.
Barca’s big mistake…
...and things go from bad to worse for Barcelona fans right now. Former club director Javier Bordas has revealed that the Catalan club chose to sign Ousmane Dembele over Kylian Mbappe back in 2017. Barca splashed £124 million on bringing Dembele to the Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund - but Bordas has confessed that the club could've signed his compatriot instead. As a deal for Dembele approached completion, Barcelona were offered the opportunity to sign Mbappe for just €100 million. An agreement for the then-AS Monaco teenager was "within reach", but Barca officials chose to go with Dembele due to his less selfish playing style.
Paper Round's view: Despite the fact that they both won the World Cup with France the following year, Dembele and Mbappe's careers have gone in completely different directions since the summer of 2017. Mbappe ended up moving to Paris Saint-Germain, where he has blossomed into one of the best forwards in world football. Conversely, Dembele's stock has nosedived. The 23-year-old has suffered numerous injuries during his time at Barcelona and he certainly doesn't look like a £124-million player anymore. Nobody could've predicted those injuries for Dembele so it's tough to blame Barcelona for their transfer business... but €100 million looks like an absolute steal for Mbappe in hindsight.