Gossip column: Benzema, Messi, Barkley, Lallana, Pardew

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TRANSFER GOSSIP

Liverpool are preparing a £40m January bid for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, 26. (Daily Star)

Chelsea attempted an audacious move for Lionel Messi during the transfer window. The Blues were willing to pay £118m for the 27-year-old Barcelona forward. (Daily Express)

Everton's Ross Barkley
Everton midfielder Ross Barkley is recovering from a knee injury

Arsenal are keen on a January move for Malaga's Portuguese left back Vitorino Antunes, who has a buy-out clause of only £2.5m. (Daily Mirror)

Everton manger Roberto Martinez has dismissed reports linking Manchester City with a move for 20-year-old playmaker Ross Barkley. (Times - subscription)

Forward Andre Schurrle, 23, insists he is fully committed to Chelsea despite reported Atletico Madrid interest. (Daily Mirror)

OTHER GOSSIP

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley claims comments he made saying manager Alan Pardew will be sacked if he loses their Premier League game at Stoke City on Monday were a joke and "tongue in cheek". (Independent)

Thei
Saturday's front page of The i sports section

Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana, 26, says the Reds reduced him to tears when he was a boy - because he supported Everton. (Daily Mirror)

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has labelled the critics saying striker Luis Suarez, 27, is fat and chubby as silly. (Sun - subscription required)

Jose Mourinho has admitted he is powerless to stop Spain calling up striker Diego Costa, 25, for next month's internationals, despite the injury troubles that have forced the Chelsea manager to ration the striker's appearances. (Times - subscription required)

Defenders Tom Thorpe, 21, and Paddy McNair, 19, have been included in Manchester United's squad to face West Ham United on Saturday as Louis van Gaal searches for a solution to his shortage of defenders. (Guardian)

Manager Alan Irvine says he has no intention of making Joleon Lescott West Bromwich Albion captain despite the defender's encouraging start to his career at The Hawthorns. (Birmingham Mail)

Midfielder Stewart Downing, 30, says he is "loving life" at West Ham United and believes he would be good enough to get into the team at his former club Liverpool. (Daily Telegraph)

Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle, 24, says he now has no excuses after admitting he was affected by his £4.5m transfer fee last summer. (London Evening Standard)

West Ham midfielder Stewart Downing
Stewart Downing moved to West Ham from Liverpool in August 2013

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has reignited his feud with Manchester City counterpart Manuel Pellegrini by claiming he "killed" referee Mark Clattenburg. (Daily Mail)

Meanwhile, City midfielder Samir Nasri, 27, needs surgery on a groin injury and is expected to be out for a month. (Daily Telegraph)

Louis van Gaal says he intends to solve Manchester United's injury problems by applying the same methods that helped Dutch winger Arjen Robben, 30, overcome his fitness concerns. (Guardian)

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, 36, says the Reds have been "so poor" this season and need to sort themselves out. (Daily Mail)

Arsene Wenger says Tottenham have no chance of matching Arsenal's success unless "someone comes in and buys the club" and injects significant funds. (Daily Express)

Left-back Luke Shaw wants to make up for lost time as he prepares to make his Manchester United debut against West Ham. The 19-year-old is poised to make his first start after his £27m summer move from Southampton. (Sun - subscription required)

Birmingham legend Trevor Francis, sacked as manager of the club in 2001, has said he wouldn't rule out a return to the club. (Birmingham Mail)

BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli's pranks hit a new high when he inhaled helium and sang one of his new club's chants in this video on Instagram.

Nottingham Forest chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi appears to have been putting the club's players through their paces on console game Fifa 15. He tweeted a warning to Jamie Paterson, saying: "I will beat u. Ask your friend Henri Lansbury what happened [to] him."

Stoke City do not play until Monday, so midfielder Charlie Adam spent his Friday watching the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and even got to meet Europe's captain. Adam tweeted: "Great day at the Ryder Cup, meeting Paul McGinley on the 1st tee."

Charlie Adam twitterpic
Stoke City's Charlie Adam met Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley on Friday

AND FINALLY

Some of the Premier league's top players, including including Eden Hazard, Samir Nasri and Rio Ferdinand, have complained that the new Fifa 15 game made them "too short, too slow, with the wrong haircut and lacking in skill". (Daily Star)

Former England defender Gary Neville admits he is "garbage" at cooking after trying his hand at making a sausage roll during Manchester's Food and Drink Festival. (Manchester Evening News)

A young football fan got an unexpected surprise from Swansea City's Jonjo Shelvey. Harry Jacobs, seven, wrote to Shelvey to ask him to visit his school. Instead, the midfielder arranged for Harry to be a matchday mascot before watching the game with his family from an executive box. (Swansea City official website)

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, 30, wants to open a private museum in his own home to showcase his trophies and medals when he hangs up his boots. (NDTVSports)

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