Madrid target Wenger, Inter want Owen, City bid for Bridge while “Gerrard is the best midfield player in the world.”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I didn’t speak to Sparky [Hughes] about it after the game [on Boxing Day], he hasn’t spoken to me at all in fact. I spoke to my chairman on Wednesday morning and nobody has contacted him [Roque Santa Cruz] from City. As far as we’re concerned, there appears to be an interest but there is no confirmed bid from them. We just continue to try and get him fit and back playing for us. It would be reasonable to say we expect to hear from them. Mark Hughes brought him to this club and if he’s struggling for a striker he’ll be interested. But it would only be at the right price for Blackburn Rovers if we decide we want to sell him – but at the moment there’s nothing to consider.” – Sam Allardyce.

Runner-up: “I just said to Griff, ‘Clear the ball out,’ and he was just very rude and disrespectful, so that’s what happened. It’s all done and dusted now. What he said was bad, but what I did was worse. And I’m going to be suspended for three or four games. So I’m looking forward to the new year now and hopefully it will be a better one for me. I give my all for Stoke all the time, maybe I give too much, maybe that is why I am in this position now. I always try to do so much for Stoke City because I am a Stoke City player at the moment. That’s what I care about: Stoke City, the team and myself — Stoke first. It’s not a position I like to be in. I am so passionate and love to do football work and do football for Stoke City, but it’s up to the club. I feel really bad, especially I cost my team points. But that’s how it goes in football sometimes. You want to do so well and things happen. There is never smoke without fire really, but it happened and that’s all. I feel really sorry for the fans, especially, and for costing the team three points. These things happen and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.” – Ricardo Fuller.

Today’s overview: With the New Year comes the opening of the transfer window. But clubs are apparently not only targetting players at this times as the Gunners may have a fight to hold onto The Professor.

Is Arsene Wenger set to quit Arsenal? John Cross claims “Wenger has been offered a £25million contract to take over at Real Madrid… this summer – and the Spanish giants also want star midfielder Cesc Fabregas.”

With the transfer window barely open, Jason Burt observes that “Jermain Defoe – £24m, Roque Santa Cruz – £18m, Craig Bellamy – £15m, Matthew Upson – £15m, Wayne Bridge – £11m. Add to that the €20m (£19.1m) for Lassana Diarra. Credit crunch? What credit crunch?”

Manchester City have already opened their wallet and “made a £10 million offer for Wayne Bridge” while “Matthew Upson, the West Ham and England defender, is also a target for City, although Hughes may turn instead to Kolo Touré, of Arsenal, or Joleon Lescott, of Everton.” On the Bridge transfer, Jason Burt comments that “£11m for Bridge is way above his market value – and the fees they are expected to offer, but the decision by the club to flex their financial muscle will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the Premier League and provide funds which could kick-start a busy month of buying.”

With slight more speculative transfer gossip, John Ley claims that “Jose Mourinho is understood to be lining up a bid for Newcastle striker Michael Owen… [while] AC Milan are ready to end William Gallas’s turbulent time at Arsenal by signing the France international for £5 million.” The Daily Mail pour cold water on the Owen-Inter link saying “Michael Owen will reject any overtures from former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan,” yet a difference of opinion is offer by Antony Kastrinakis arguing “the lure of Champions League football and the San Siro stage may be just too much to ignore.”

Aston Villa find themselves in increased need to buy a striker after learning “that John Carew could be sidelined for a further two months” with Stuart James writing that “both Crouch and Heskey provide the aerial presence that O’Neill has traditionally valued in centre-forwards.” Taking a step back, Jamie Redknapp waxes lyrical over O’Neill’s Villa (“O’Neill has a magic about him, an ability to draw a reaction from a player.”) and he is joined by James Lawton who wonders what are the “odds now against O’Neill proving himself the football man of 2009?”

In other transfer news, Spurs are also in the market for a new frontman with Sam Wallace reporting that “Harry Redknapp has turned down the chance to buy the Brazilian striker Adriano from Internazionale and persuaded Tottenham to go back to Portsmouth today with a £15m offer for Jermain Defoe.”

his season’s Premier League player of the year award is a one-horse race. Nobody comes close to Gerrard… Today, Gerrard is the best midfield player in the world.”

In the best of the rest, Ian Wright picks nine players to watch for in 2009, while Louise Taylor fears for all three newly promoted teams’ survival in the Premier League commenting “confidence is very much the X factor for newly promoted teams struck by mid-season vertigo.”

Dipping into the lower leagues, James Montague tells the story of Maccles­field Town and how “Bashar and Amar al Khadi, two London-based Iraqi Kurd tele­coms entrepreneurs” have revived the fortunes of the club.