One week to go….Bale for United?

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has met with influential members of his club board and said that he wants to sign Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe whatever it takes. As a gesture he told the all-powerful group that record signing Gareth Bale would be the player he would release and therefore get back a large part of the transfer fee paid out for Mbappe. Real are known to be struggling to find the huge fee of around £140million which Monaco want if they have to sell him against their wishes. Phones lines were burning during Monday night and this news quickly filtered through to Manchester United who immediately went into a meeting the following morning to plan financing the purchase of Bale and thus give United the strongest forward line possible for the new season. I am monitoring all movements in what will become the biggest football story of the year if Real Madrid can make it happen.

Wenger is optimistic
Last season Arsenal lost their opening home game to Liverpool and manager Arsene Wenger complained that it was the pre-season games and Euro 2016 which were responsible. Therefore, I was worried for the Gunners given that during their recent Far Eastern tour of China and Australia many of the team were affected by food poisoning. Also Alexis Sanchez only joined in training at the Emirates on Tuesday this week and Mesut Ozil is still in dispute over a new contract and is somewhat distracted. Therefore you can see that I was concerned preparations are not exactly right for a perfect beginning to the season. However, I have now learned that Arsene is not looking for excuses this time around and says that all the big clubs have performed against top class opposition and travelled the globe. Arsenal face Chelsea in the Charity Shield Cup on Sunday and then kick off their first home game against Leicester just five days later. Wenger said, “We have had some tough pre-season games so the players will be ready.” Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi, Keiran Gibbs, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere look like the players to miss out on the first game. No manager has more at stake than Wenger this season given the criticism from fans and media last year but the board have given him their backing and now it is up to the manager to provide the success he believes he can deliver this season.

Diving punishment

Players who cheat by deliberately diving to win a penalty or to get an opponent red carded will face a two match ban in a rule change for this coming season. A team of 14 former referees, managers and players will sit in judgement but they must not previously have had any connection with the accused player’s club. Where an opposing player has been wrongly shown a yellow or red card which leads to a sending off, the suspension will be overturned. All clubs were consulted before this major change and managers especially are said to have been very pleased with the new rules. Players who repeatedly cheat in diving will also face an extra one-match ban. In another move, the FA are planning to double the amount of seasonal drug tests on players to 5,000.

Silva moves to strengthen Watford

I have news from Watford where new head coach Marco Silva has identified weaknesses in the team’s pace and width in attack and is taking steps to strengthen the squad. As a result he is signing Brazilian Richarlison (full name Richarlison de Andrade) from club side Fluminense. A fee of £13million has been agreed and the player, who is currently in London, will take a medical this week. Watford also need to obtain a work permit for Richarlison. The forward can play on either wing and scored five goals in 14 appearances last season and has won 10 caps for Brazil’s U-20 side.

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