Paper Round: Owen off to China


Shanghai Shenhua player-coach Nicolas Anelka is apparently keen to bring in the ageing and ailing Manchester United striker, whose contract at Old Trafford expires in the summer.

Owen, now 32, has appeared just 52 times in three years for the Red Devils and it had been widely assumed that he might retire to concentrate on his passion for racehorses.

But with the Chinese Super League outfit desperate to land a big name - and Owen apparently still a highly marketable name in the Far East - a big money offer could well tempt him to link up with former Liverpool team-mate Anelka.

Speaking of people who seemed washed up in their early 30s, former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is set to shrug off his recent sacking and get straight back into football management at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

The Sun reports that the 34-year-old - who was axed by the Blues after just 257 days at Stamford Bridge - is set to become Roma manager this summer, replacing Luis Enrique. Apparently Valencia also wanted to secure his services, but AVB would rather head to Italy than Spain.

One of the players brought in at Chelsea by AVB could be on his way back out again: David Luiz , the defender who thinks he's a winger, is apparently a key target for Barcelona this summer as he was coveted by both Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova. The Daily Mirror reports that the Blues will want at least £30 million for the player.

We're not sure what odds you might once have got on Carlos Tevez still being a Manchester City player on the first day of next season, but it seems that the Argentine is almost certain to stay at Eastlands. Boss Roberto Mancini has told Tevez that he can stay at the club, according to The Sun.

"Why not?" Mancini apparently said when asked.

Manchester City and Chelsea are on red alert over Napoli star Ezequiel Lavezzi , according to the Daily Mail, with the £28m-rated forward having had a bust-up with club president Aurelio de Laurentiis. Both City and Chelsea have been keen to try and lure the Argentine to the Premier League.

Tottenham are reportedly "on the verge" of beating Manchester City and Arsenal to the £7m signing of Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen . The Daily Mail and Sun report that, with the 25-year-old having just a year left on his contract, the Dutch side are trying to squeeze every penny out of him and Arsenal are yet to match their valuation.

Newcastle are also trying to sign a Dutch star, with Alan Pardew interested in AZ Alkmaar's £8m midfielder Rasmus Elm . Apparently both Pardew and Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish flew out to watch the Swede at the weekend, only to discover that he was not involved as his other half was having a baby.

And finally, Roy Hodgson didn't have the best of starts to his England stint after The Sun's front page on Wednesday mocked his inability to pronounce certain words. The paper still insists it was a bit of harmless fun, incidentally, even wheeling out fellow speech impediment suffewah Jonathan Ross to defend itself.

Ironically, the unpleasant jibe has turned into a PR masterstroke for Hodgson, with outpourings of sympathy coming in for a man whose appointment was originally met with disbelief and ridicule as fans and commentators considered him unexciting compared with Harry Redknapp.

Hodgson had two further boosts this morning: first, with several papers reporting that Rio Ferdinand has confirmed he is ready to play for England despite his issues with fellow centre-back John Terry.

And second, the Birmingham Mail reports that West Brom fans will pay a touching tribute to their outgoing manager at the final home match of the season by donning England shirts and Roy Hodgson masks to say goodbye to a man who has kept them in the top flight two years running.

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