Premier League - Paper Round: Liverpool close on Barca ace

Liverpool are set to swoop for a Barcelona star; Chelsea could make a move for Fabio Coentrao; and Newcastle players' gambling habits have been revealed - here are the main stories making headlines in today's newspapers.

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Liga - Montoya to renew Barcelona deal
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Barcelona's Spanish defender Martin Montoya (AFP)

Liverpool close to capturing Barca ace: Liverpool are on the verge of a major transfer coup, with talks set to open over Barcelona starlet Martin Montoya, reports the Daily Mirror. The paper claims that Reds MD Ian Ayre has flown over to Spain for talks over the defender, who is "one of the country's most exciting youngsters". Montoya is out of contract at the end of the season and it seems that negotiations over a new deal have broken down with the Catalan club. That means that the player is free to talk to interested parties, which include Arsenal and Inter Milan.

Paper Round's view: Okay, so it's not the Barca star Liverpool fans were likely hoping for, but still Montoya is certainly a great prospect and, as the Mirror's report says, an ideal candidate to provide cover for the currently injured Jose Enrique (Montoya's a right-back, but can swap flanks easily). The presence of Ayre in Barcelona proves Liverpool are serious, and a deal could well materialise in the New Year.

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Chelsea eye up Coentrao deal: Jose Mourinho is considering taking Fabio Coentrao on loan in January, in a move that would cast further doubt over Ashley Cole's future at Stamford Bridge, reports the Daily Mail. Coentrao worked under Mourinho at Real Madrid and with the left-back rarely playing at the Bernabeu under Carlo Ancelotti, he could be available in January. The paper adds that a loan deal would give Chelsea time to compete for longer-term targets such as Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno.

Paper Round's view: Coentrao nearly joined Manchester United last summer, and is clearly in need of more regular playing time, especially during a World Cup year. He would fit the bill at Chelsea, given that Cole has been struggling with a rib injury and is facing the prospect of not having his contract renewed when it expires at the end of the season. This one sounds plausible enough.

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Toon stars in high-stakes gambling: Michael Chopra has lifted the lid on Newcastle players' gambling habits, with some losing "£30,000 a time" while playing cards on the team bus. The Daily Mirror reports that top Toon players staked thousands on the turn of a card, leading to Chopra losing £2m during his career. Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy, Michael Owen and Kieron Dyer were at Newcastle when huge sums changed hands on the way to away games. "It was team bonding," Chopra said.

Paper Round's view: What ever happened to bonding with your team-mates over a pint and a packet of scampi flavoured Nik Naks after a game? And does handing over 30 grand to a team-mate not provoke feelings of slight anger or resentment, thereby becoming rather counter-productive in terms of team bonding? The mind boggles.

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Arsenal to look at 'Baby Messi': Arsene Wenger will be the latest manager to send scouts to Tannadice to watch Scottish football’s hottest property Ryan Gauld, reports the Daily Mail. On Friday evening Arsenal will join Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton in having taken a look at the 17-year-old being dubbed 'Baby Messi' by Dundee United team-mates.

Paper Round's view: Easy to become the new Messi (remember how many new Maradonas we've had over the years?), less easy to live up to expectations (remember how many new Maradonas have been anywhere near as good as the original?). You almost have to feel sorry for Gauld, but you never know, he may blossom under the tutelage of a manager such as Wenger.

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United continue to weight up Reus move: Manchester United sent staff to watch Marco Reus in Champions League action this week, The Times reports. The Germany midfielder scored a penalty and set up another in Borussia Dortmund's win over Napoli as he was scrutinised by David Moyes' assistant manager Steve Round and coach Jimmy Lumsden. Prising Reus from the Bundesliga club would be "fraught with difficulty" though, according to the report.

Paper Round's view: "Fraught with difficulty" because Dortmund are under no pressure to sell their star man, because the player's release clause does not come into effect until the summer after next, and maybe because United don't seem to be the big draw they once were in the transfer market.

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