Thursday's football transfer rumours: Joey Barton set for Portsmouth and Barcelona target Arsenal's Cesc Fábregas and Robin van Persie

Today's rumours understandably had to wade through a great deal of cricket to find some football

Sorry readers, the Mill's got no time to waste on a flowery intro this morning; we've been called by some group claiming to be 'the ECB', talking about 'poisoned chalices', 'ashes' and something apparently called 'performance-related pay', whatever that is. Therefore ...

Cesc Fábregas has said that he aims to be fit enough to make his Arsenal return in time for the FA Cup semi-finals but won't have much time to bid farewell thereafter as he's on his way to Barcelona in the summer, together with Robin van Persie, in a staggering £45m joint transfer according to the Star. Apparently Barça have concluded that Van Persie has now matured enough to warrant a move to the Camp Nou – proving perhaps that the club's scouting staff forgot to record Arsenal's game at Stoke in November.

The Catalans will try to entice Arsène Wenger to sanction the deal by throwing in former Arsenal triallist Yaya Touré, who tells the Express: "When teams like Arsenal and Manchester City call I'm very happy because all African players want to go to a big club." There may be one or two too many assumptions in that statement for the Mill's liking. Better news for Arsenal fans comes from Emmanuel Eboué's assertion that Inter can go and whistle – he has no intention of leaving the Emirates.

Edu, a Spain-based former Gunner is on his way to do a Red Adair job for Tony Adams at Portsmouth, where he will battle it out for a central midfield starting spot with Gary O'Neil, set to join for £5m, and Joey Barton, who will be about £500,000 cheaper. Adams also fancies bringing Benjani back from Manchester City and thus complete the full Benjani-Defoe circle from last January's window. Le Mans' goalkeeper, Yohann Pele, reports the Mirror, will also be moving to Fratton Park, which might usher David James closer to one last pay day.

Alan Smith, says the Sun, is outraged that Newcastle have agreed a deal to swap him with Boro's Mido. He sees the attempt to do the deal behind his back "as a massive slap in the face" and is staying put. However, Smith, the Mail thinks, has another suitor in Everton and Mido, who is hardly enamoured with Newcastle fans, might be on his way to Wigan instead. He might be prudent to do so if the comments from Obafemi Martins' agent about the St James' Park medical staff are to be believed. Dapo Kujore accuses them of being "woeful" in all the newspapers and cryptically adds: "Even when Alan Shearer was playing, how many times did he end up on the treatment table?"

Manchester City have begun the bidding war for Shay Given by lodging an official £8m bid which might prompt Tottenham to lump in. If Joe Kinnear accepts the inevitable and sells the Toon's longest-serving player, he's lining up Celtic's Artur Boruc or Sheffield United's Paddy Kenny as an immediate replacement. JFK is also planning to net Barry Ferguson for £2.5m before jauntily derailing Blackburn's bid for Marseille's Gael Givet. The centre-half has been offered a trial at Rovers but Newcastle, in dim echoes of Eric Cantona's predicament with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds, are ready to take him sight unseen.

Back to Tottenham, where Aitch wants Lyon's Fred, who is out of contract at the end of the season but is available, the Mirror deems, at £4.5m. Tal Ben Haim has told his agent to get him a move to Spurs, thus scuppering Blackburn and Sunderland, but David Bentley is in turmoil over the way he's been deployed since his summer transfer.

Hull will sign Kevin Kilbane for £1m and let Dean Windass join Ipswich on loan, but there's some dispute over Bolton's principal defensive target. The Sun thinks it's Zenit St Petersburg's Sebastien Puygreniuer while the Mirror thinks if he doubles his £2m offer Wigan will reluctantly sell him Paul Scharner.

Manchester City's shining light last season, Michael Johnson, has been offered to West Ham as part of the Scott Parker booty, thinks the Times, but they may face competition from QPR who are willing to offer £2m. Lee Bowyer, whose possible transfer to Birmingham City a few years back prompted a fans' petition against it that forced Steve Bruce to back down, will finally join Blues for about £750,000. West Brom, looking for a change in fortune, have pinpointed Nancy's Marc-Antoine Fortune as the man who will grab the goals to deliver them from the bottom three.

And finally there's a splenetic Uli Höeness in the Sun having a pop at AC Dave and his fragrant consort, accusing the Rossoneri of losing the plot by signing LA Galaxy's second best player, something Bayern "FC Hollywood" Munich would never do: "My job is to run a football club and not to make sure Victoria Beckham has the best suite in the hotel." Miaow.

Please lump on your own transfer gossip below


Rob Bagchi

The GuardianTramp

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