As if the underworld of tittle-tattle was not incognito enough, Real Madrid are preparing to launch “Operation 200”, the kind of code that belongs in an MI6 mission to aid James Bond but, in this case, it is simply the La Liga club’s masterplan to offload James Rodríguez and Gareth Bale to fund a move for Paul Pogba. Real’s plan is music to the ears of Mino Raiola, the Manchester United midfielder’s agent, who has fuelled further fire by refusing to rule out a return to Juventus.
With that saga only just starting, Ole Gunnar Solskjær is keen to put another protracted transfer to bed; he wants Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes pronto, with Solskjær said to have piled pressure on Ed Woodward to get the Portuguese in the building. And then of course there is Harry Maguire, but Leicester City are in no mood to make life easy and Brendan Rodgers has made it clear the clock is ticking. “There will be a cut-off point,” he said. “If the valuation isn’t met, it certainly won’t be allowed to go to the very end [of the transfer window] because, if we did want to bring someone in, it would be too late. We cannot leave ourselves short.”
Arsenal may be in a pickle over £25m-rated Kieren Tierney but firmly believe they are making strides on a loan move for the Real midfielder Dani Ceballos, who has turned his nose up at a switch to Tottenham, who could yet flog Fernando Llorente to Fiorentina. The only bum note for Unai Emery and co is that they will have to cough up all of the Spaniard’s wages to get the deal over the line. There is more lukewarm good news for Emery too, it says here: the defender Rob Holding is on course for a return to action during pre-season, while Granit Xhaka could be handed the armband with current captain Laurent Koscielny still hunting for the Emirates exit.
Elsewhere, Steve Bruce fancies making Hoffenheim striker Joelinton his first signing at Newcastle in a deal worth at least £20m. Kalvin Phillips has entered talks with Leeds over a shiny new contract, which would prevent Aston Villa from making a play for the midfielder. Villa are busy counting the coins in the piggybank as they weigh up another bid for Tom Heaton, with Burnley holding out of £12m for the goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Celtic like the cut of Danny Simpson’s jib and teenager Reece McAlear is set to join Norwich from Motherwell, for whom he made his debut at the age of 15.