Premier League – Transfer Talk: From Russia with Love

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Vagner Love is set to join Everton on a season-long loan from CSKA Moscow as the Toffees look to urgently solve a striking crisis.

FOOTBALL Cska Moscow Vagner Love - 0

With Andrew Johnson now a Fulham player, Victor Anichebe in China with Nigeria’s Olympic team and James Vaughan likely to be slapped with a three-match ban after being sent off in pre-season, David Moyes only has 19-year-old prospect Lukas Jutkiewicz to partner Yakubu Ayegbeni.

The Guardian reports that Love, 24, will join with a view to a £15 million transfer in 2009. Compatriot Jo joined Manchester City from CSKA this summer – a club Love allegedly rejected last season.

The Toffees are also trying to seal deals for Rennes midfield enforcer Stephane M‘Bia and Newcastle’s Alan Smith. Their pursuit of Sporting midfielder Joao Moutinho has stalled, though, with the Portuguese side asking for most of the £18m fee up front. The Daily Mail reckons a move for Spurs target Diego Milito (Zaragoza, £8m) is on.

To the red half of Merseyside, Rafael Benitez’s faintly tragic pursuit of Gareth Barry shows no sign of fading despite Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry insisting that the club will not pay £18m for the Aston Villa midfielder. In response, Benitez flattered the talents of Barry by implying that he is worth not one, or two, but THREE players.

“We have problems on the left,” he admitted. “He can play in three different positions, that is a positive thing. I’m talking about one player, but I won’t say the name.”

Oh come on Rafa, don’t be coy – it never stopped you before.

That saga could come to an unexpected conclusion though, with Arsenal closer to making a bid for Barry. Abou Diaby has been ruled out for a month and, after Mathieu Flamini, Gilberto Silva and Lassana Diarra all left the club, the Gunners only have youngsters to play alongside Cesc Fabregas.

Barry leads the list, although the Daily Express has touted an £8m move for Manchester City’s Michael Johnson, who also reportedly rejected a new contract offer. Arsene Wenger admitted a midfielder will be signed and that he has money to spend. The Daily Mirror also reported on a row emerging over the signing of Ghanaian Anthony Annan. He is owned by Norwegian club Start, who have agreed a fee with Arsenal, but he is on loan at Stabaek, who want him to play in a UEFA Cup qualifier, which would render him ineligible for the Champions League.

The Times, meanwhile, contradicted themselves on the same page, with one article claiming that “Manchester City defender Vedran Corluka looks set to become Tottenham‘s next major signing”, while the piece immediately above it insisted that the Croatia defender “will now stay at Eastlands” because boss Mark Hughes said so. Who knows? And what Corluka would actually do at White Hart Lane is unknown, as they already have Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Alan Hutton and Chris Gunter covering the two positions he can play in. £7 million seems a lot to pay for back-up…

Confusion seems to be the order of the day regarding City, with the Daily Mirror rather mischievously claiming that Hughes is set to walk out because Corluka and (Sunderland target) Stephen Ireland will be sold behind his back by “controversial” Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra. They also said that Corluka wants to stay at City because his girlfriend is at Uni in Manchester and he is not guaranteed a start at Spurs. The Sun, however, quoted his agent as saying the player wants to move to London. Confused? I’m sure he is too.

The paper also alleged that key players Micah Richards ( Chelsea, Manchester United) and Martin Petrov ( Liverpool, Aston Villa, Valencia) are being touted about by agent Kia Joorabchian as Shinawatra – who was somehow given permission to buy City despite all his assets being frozen due to allegations of corruption and, um, mass murder – tries to raise cash.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is working hard to get Nikola Zigic on board before the season start against Bolton (The Times). Valencia’s out-of-favour Serbian hitman makes lanky record signing Dave Kitson look small and Potters executive Tony Scholes “is in Spain talking to the kid,” according to Pulis. Fans of the Welsh tactician’s notorious “binary” long-ball game should rub their hands in glee – Zigic is pretty big “kid” at a whopping 6’8″.

The Daily Mirror, however, thinks Stoke have given up on the former Racing Santander man and are trying to sign Chelsea outcast Claudio Pizarro on loan. The Peruvian’s wages and hire-fee would come to around £4m. Ouch. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, think that they’ll plump for Benfica striker Ariza Makukula instead.

The Daily Mail also hinted at a move to Aston Villa for Rangers’s former Osasuna defender Carlos Cuellar, who is annoyed at their shocking exit from Europe, and it reckons Justin Hoyte will replace Villa’s Luke Young at Middlesbrough although the Daily Mirror thinks Moritz Volz will join the Teessiders. The same paper also reported that Hungarian teenage defender Otkiba Kenneth will sign for Liverpool from Bekescsaba, while a busy Daily Mail suggested that Simone Barone will join Portsmouth on loan from Torino.

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