LIVE Transfer Talk: Barcelona eye Matthijs de Ligt, Aymeric Laporte or Andreas Christensen in rebuild

The January transfer window is almost upon us and, naturally, all the gossip on who's moving where is heating up. Transfer Talk brings you all the latest buzz as we count down to the 2022 winter window.

TOP STORY: Barcelona eye De Ligt, Laporte or Christensen in rebuild

Barcelona have been linked with a number of defenders as the club continues its rebuild under new boss Xavi Hernandez.

The Blaugrana recently signed forward Ferran Torres for €55 million from Manchester City as their second signing under the Spaniard, joining veteran right-back Dani Alves who came on a free transfer in November. Next port of call appears to be a defensive change, with three high profile defenders linked to Camp Nou.

The Sun reports that Barcelona are hoping to land Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte next summer following a cash injection that would help their ongoing financial troubles amid debts of €1.4 billion.

Spanish outlet Sport claims that another Premier League centre-back could make the switch to LaLiga in the form of Andreas Christensen. The Denmark international is out of contract at Chelsea in the summer and is reportedly "not interested" in staying at Stamford Bridge, instead eyeing a move to Barcelona.

Finally, Gazzetta dello Sport says that Xavi is hoping to make a move for Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt. The 22-year-old has been heavily linked with a move away from the Old Lady in recent weeks, with agent Mino Raiola publicly discussing a transfer. Despite his €125m release clause, Barca are said to not be deterred from the Netherlands international and a potential move in the summer.

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22.00 GMT: Watford have approached Aston Villa over a deal for Kortney Hause, according to Football Insider. The Hornets are keen to bolster their back line in January, and with the 26-year-old defender out of contract at the end of the season and seldom used by manager Steven Gerrard, Villa could move him on to avoid losing him on a free transfer in the summer.

21.27 GMT: Napoli have been assessing a number of defensive options this week, and it looks as though they have now turned their attention to Djibril Nana as a potential prospect for the future, according to Calciomercato. The 18-year-old left-back spent time at Bayern Munich's academy, and despite being released by VfB Stuttgart, the Partenopei are confident they can develop him into a player that can contribute to the first team.

20.54 GMT: Ekrem Konur reports that Celta Vigo midfielder Okay Yokuslu is attracting interest from Fulham and Galatasaray. The 27-year-old defensive midfielder has mainly featured from the bench this season for the LaLiga side, and he could be open to a return to England having previously starred for West Bromwich Albion during the 2020-21 Premier League campaign.

20.21 GMT: Christian Eriksen is looking to return to football and he has already received contact from a number of clubs, according to Nicolo Schira. Teams in England, the Netherlands, and Denmark have all reached out to the 29-year-old attacking midfielder, who has been training in preparation for his return to football after suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 clash against Finland in June.

19.48 GMT: The Athletic writes that Brighton & Hove Albion are set to sign Kacper Kozlowski. The 18-year-old midfielder reportedly will join from Pogon Szczecin for a transfer fee of £8m, but with manager Graham Potter considering him a prospect for the future, he is expected to be sent out on loan when he arrives at the Amex Stadium to garner experience.

19.15 GMT: Cadiz are keen on offering Luuk de Jong a way out of Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. The 31-year-old striker has struggled for regular minutes since Xavi took over from Ronald Koeman, and it is reported that Cadiz are one of the clubs who would be open to acquiring him in the winter transfer window, but they want an answer by Jan. 3 with Barca scrambling to fill a first-team squad as injuries and COVID cases pile up.

18.42 GMT: Celtic have confirmed three new signings from Japan's top flight of football, with Daizen Maeda, Yosuke Ideguchi and Reo Hatate all making the switch to Celtic Park.

Manager Ange Postecoglou spent three years in the J1 League with Yokohama F. Marinos, and it looks as though he is using his knowledge to help his side regain the Scottish Premier League title from Rangers. Maeda, 24, plays in attacking midfield and should fit into his new side's style of play instantly, having played under Postecoglou at his previous club. Twenty-five-year-old midfielder Ideguchi joins from Gamba Osaka, but he has previously spent time in Europe with Leeds United, while Hatate, a 24-year-old defender, is set for his first challenge away from his home nation.

18.09 GMT: Jesus Medina is set to join CSKA Moscow on a free transfer after not renewing his contract with New York City FC, according to Cesar Luis Merlo. His reporting suggests that the 24-year-old winger has already reached a verbal agreement with the Russian side over a four-year deal after the Paraguay international registered nine goals in 33 appearances in NYCFC's MLS Cup-winning campaign.

17.35 GMT: The Telegraph reports that there is "zero chance" Romelu Lukaku will leave Chelsea in January following a controversial interview with Sky Sport Italia emerged on Thursday.

The 28-year-old striker revealed that he was unhappy at Stamford Bridge, with discontent over Thomas Tuchel's system. And despite the Blues manager stating that Lukaku's comments were "not helpful," the Belgium international is expected to remain professional and ease the tension with the club in the coming weeks.

17.00 GMT: Jesse Marsch could be set for a return to management less than a month after his dismissal from RB Leipzig, with the 48-year-old considered to be a leading candidate for the AS Monaco job, sources have told ESPN's Julien Laurens.

The Ligue 1 club sacked Niko Kovac on Thursday, with the club languishing 17 points behind league leaders Paris Saint-Germain. The Principality outfit's first choice is Club Brugge boss Philippe Clement, but if he isn't released by the Belgian side, Marsch could be installed as soon as Monday.

16.24 GMT: Tottenham Hotspur are set to make AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie a lucrative offer to tempt him into signing a pre-contract agreement with the north London club, sources have told ESPN's James Olley.

The 25-year-old's existing deal at the San Siro expires at the end of the season and he has so far resisted all attempts to agree an extension.

One of the main sticking points has been Kessie's proposed salary with Milan's latest offer at €6.5m-a-year, according to ESPN sources.

Sources have told ESPN that Spurs are preparing to indicate they will surpass that figure with chairman Daniel Levy ready to sanction the deal given there would be no transfer fee involved.

Kessie will be free to negotiate directly with overseas clubs from Jan. 1 and sources told ESPN there are multiple clubs closely monitoring the situation.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are expected to strengthen their midfield options either from January or in the summer but as yet there has been no firm indication the Stamford Bridge have formally entered the running. Milan have also not given hope that Kessie will commit his future to the club.

15.46 GMT: What would it take to stop Kylian Mbappe leaving PSG on a free transfer next summer?

15.00 GMT: Manchester City helped out cash-strapped Barcelona by agreeing to receive the Ferran Torres fee in several instalments, with the first one not due until July, sources told ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens.

Barca confirmed the signing of Torres earlier this week in a deal worth an initial €55m -- just four months after letting Lionel Messi leave because they could not afford to renew his contract.

Sources explained the deal was possible because Torres, 21, will earn much less than Messi did at Camp Nou and because City were happy to break the fee down over a number of years.

The English club will be paid in at least four instalments, with the first one not due until July so that Barca can include it in the books for the next financial year, when they expect revenue to have increased following a dip during the pandemic.

14.32 GMT: Valencia have exercised their option to sign goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili from Dinamo Tbilisi for €850,000, according to Deportes COPE Valencia.

Mamardashvili, 21, is one of the highest rated young goalkeepers in Europe and has penned a contract until June 2024.

The Georgia international has been on loan at Valencia this season and has played six times in LaLiga.

13.56 GMT: Ajax have loaned their former player Brian Brobbey back from RB Leipzig.

Brobbey, 19, left the club on a free transfer in the summer but has not settled in Germany. He has now returned to the club on a six-month loan but there is no option to make the move permanent.

The forward has scored six times in 19 appearances for Ajax's first team, having come through the Ajax academy, and he will replace Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller when he departs to play at the Africa Cup of Nations next month.

Director of football affairs Marc Overmars told the Ajax website: "Brian knows the club and knows what is being asked of him here. For us, it was important that there was an extra attacker who would be immediately available and he offers that. We are still playing on three fronts and we will need every player badly."

13.48 GMT: Arsenal have been linked with various midfielders over the past few months but a source told ESPN's Julien Laurens that Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz is on the radar.

Luiz, 23, has impressed in front of the defence for Villa and the Brazil international is reportedly rated at around £40m by his club. He was on the books of Manchester City from 2017-19 but never made a first-team appearance, spending two years on loan at LaLiga side Girona FC, and signed for Villa permanently in July 2019.

13.33 GMT: Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati has extended her contract until 2025.

Bonmati, 23, came through the youth ranks at Camp Nou and helped Barca's women to the continental treble last season.

13.10 GMT: Napoli have asked Manchester United about Axel Tuanzebe's situation ahead of the January transfer window, sources told ESPN's Rob Dawson.

Tuanzebe is on loan at Aston Villa but the Italian side have enquired about United's plans for the 24-year-old as they assess options to strengthen their defence. Sources told ESPN that Napoli are yet to make contact with Tuanzebe's representatives, who are first set to meet with United chiefs to discuss the former England under-21 international's future.

Tuanzebe signed a one-year loan deal at Villa Park in the summer and has made 11 appearances so far this season, although he has not started a game since Nov. 5. He has a contract at Old Trafford until 2023 and is highly rated by members of the coaching staff but the centre-back is keen for regular games and remains behind Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane in the pecking order. United also have Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones in their squad, as well as 19-year-old academy graduate Teden Mengi.

Meanwhile, Andreas Pereira has told United he will not return to the club to be a squad player and is instead looking for a permanent move at the end of his loan deal at Flamengo, sources said.

12.41 GMT: Chelsea's interest in Lucas Digne could be complicated by Newcastle's desire to sign the left-back on a permanent basis, sources told ESPN's James Olley.

The Blues are weighing up possible targets in the January transfer window after learning Ben Chilwell is set to miss the rest of the season following a decision to undergo surgery on a knee injury sustained in late November.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has repeatedly bemoaned the depleted nature of his squad in recent weeks as they have fallen eight points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and have Marcus Alonso as their only fit specialised left wing-back.

With Chilwell expected to make a full recovery this summer, Chelsea are ideally looking for short-term cover and would be keen to take Digne on loan.

12.16 GMT: Real Madrid want to sign two of the best young players in the world, but how can they do it?

11.22 GMT: Liverpool are eyeing some midfield reinforcements and could move for AC Milan's Franck Kessie, says Ansa.

Kessie, 25, has a contract which expires this summer and every top club in Europe is keeping an eye on him.

The Ivory Coast international looks likely to leave Milan and Liverpool are making sure they are at the front of the queue as they seek to replace Georginio Wijnaldum.

10.45 GMT: Lille defender Sven Botman is on the radar of Newcastle this January, says The Daily Mail.

Botman, 21, is one of the best young centre-backs in Europe and helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season. The Netherlands international is valued at around €35m, with Newcastle's new Saudi-backed owners looking to make a statement in order to keep the club from relegation.

10.24 GMT: Thomas Tuchel fears Romelu Lukaku's controversial interview could destabilise Chelsea's season after admitting his surprise over the striker's claim he is unhappy at the club.

In a conversation with Sky Sport Italia recorded three weeks ago but released on Thursday, Lukaku suggested he was "not happy" because "the coach has chosen to play with another system."

The 28-year-old joined the Blues from Inter Milan in a €115m deal last summer and went on to suggest he wanted to return to the Serie A side, "not at the end of my career, but at a still good level to hopefully win more."

Although Lukaku has scored three goals in his last four games to represent an upturn in his personal form, the Belgium international's comments represent another difficult situation for Tuchel as a patchy run of form has left them eight points behind leaders Manchester City before facing Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Speaking on Friday at a news conference ahead of that game, Tuchel said of Lukaku's comments: "We don't like it, of course because it brings noise that we don't need and it is not helpful. But on the other side we don't want to make more of it than it actually is. You know very well how it is. It is very easy to take lines out of context. It is very easy to shorten lines, make headlines and then later realise that it's maybe not so bad and not what he meant.

"Let's be honest, I don't like it because it is noise that we don't need. We need a calm environment and focus and this does not help. If it is an interview from a person of that kind of interest, that important player. I totally understand the process.

"That's why it is a lot of noise, not a little bit, a lot of extra noise. But still, we are not here to just read the headlines and maybe we can take the time to try to understand what's going on because it does not reflect the daily work, it does not reflect the daily attitude, it does not reflect the daily behaviour that Romelu shows here at Cobham. You need to ask him, not me, I cannot help you further with this because I was surprised."

10.07 GMT: Barcelona have made Alvaro Morata their top target for January following the signing of Ferran Torres for €55m, sources have confirmed to ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens.

Morata, 29, is on loan at Juventus from Atletico Madrid, but sources said he is ready to cut his stay in Italy short with Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez pushing for his signing.

Barca have held initial discussions with all parties involved over a loan deal with an option to make the move permanent in the summer. However, the Catalan club's financial situation is complicating any potential deal as they are restricted by LaLiga's €97m spending limit. Until they are within that limit -- which will not happen this season -- they are only permitted to spend 25% of what they recoup in transfer fees or save on wage reductions.

After completing the signing of Torres from Manchester City earlier this week, Barca still need to lighten their squad before being able to register him and any other new signings.

The loans of Yusuf Demir and Luuk de Jong are set to be cut short, while the club remain open to offers for Philippe Coutinho and Samuel Umtiti. Sources have told ESPN Barcelona will also listen to interest for United States international Sergino Dest.

09.35 GMT: Lille have confirmed that forward Jonathan Ikone will join Serie A side Fiorentina in January.

Ikone, 23, scored seven goals in 48 games last season for the Ligue 1 champions and moves for a fee of €14m plus €1m add-ons.

09.27 GMT: Mikel Arteta has a shortlist of strikers to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Arsenal with Alexander Isak, Dusan Vlahovic, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins among his targets, sources told ESPN's James Olley.

Aubameyang's future at Arsenal has been thrown into considerable doubt over disciplinary issues and Arteta is willing to listen to offers for him in January.

Arteta and Arsenal's recruitment team are planning for life without Aubameyang and have a range of options that they are considering. Among them is Watkins, who joined Villa for £27.7m from Brentford last summer and has scored 18 league goals in 51 appearances for the club.

Sources said Arteta is a fan of Watkins' playing style and his ability to play in a number of different roles in attack. There has been no direct contact between Arsenal and Aston Villa over Watkins and sources said a switch in January would be highly unlikely, but the 25-year-old will be monitored ahead of a summer move.

Real Sociedad's Isak, Fiorentina's Vlahovic and Everton's Calvert-Lewin are also options in the event Aubameyang moves on although sources said Arsenal are aware of how expensive a replacement may turn out to be and that other options are being considered.

09.00 GMT: Real Madrid are attempting to sign Erling Haaland as well as Kylian Mbappe next summer in an attempt to take advantage of the financial problems at Barcelona by landing the two most sought-after players in world football, sources told ESPN's Mark Ogden.

Real failed with a €200m move for Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe during the summer transfer window, but the France international is expected to move to the Bernabeu as a free agent when his PSG contract expires at the end of this season.

And although they face competition from Manchester City, Manchester United and PSG for Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland, Real believe they can structure a deal to take the 21-year-old Norwegian to Madrid.

PAPER GOSSIP (By Luke Thrower)

- Chelsea are eyeing three potential central defenders for the future, reports Calciomercato. The Blues could see Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva all leave at the end of the season unless they all sign new contracts. As a result, Thomas Tuchel is said to be eyeing potential replacements, with VfL Wolfsburg's Maxence Lacroix, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Fenerbahçe's Attila Szalai all linked.

- Internazionale and Bayern Munich are interested in a move for Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, says Fabrizio Romano. The 27-year-old's deal at Gladbach expires at the end of the season and he has already announced he will leave the club when it runs out. The Nerazzurri are said to be pushing hard for a deal with talks ongoing, while Bayern are interested but see it as a lower priority move.

- West Ham United are set to hold talks with Fulham over a move for defender Tosin Adarabioyo, according to journalist Ekrem Konur. The Hammers have been linked with a number of defenders, having lost Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna for the rest of the season. Adarabioyo, 24, is a regular starter for Fulham and has had Premier League experience at the club.

- Julian Alvarez is hoping to make the switch to Manchester United, reports journalist Ekrem Konur. The 21-year-old River Plate man has impressed with 18 goals and seven assists in 21 league appearances. The reporter claims that the player's agent is currently visiting England to hold talks with the club over a potential move.