x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Transfer talk: Neymar in demand by Real Madrid and Barcelona

Steve Bruces's summer recruitment spree looks set to continue today with the signing of Birmingham City's Gardner and an ambitious offer for Wickham.

Sunderland

Steve Bruces's summer recruitment spree looks set to continue today with the signing of Craig Gardner, the Birmingham City midfielder, for £5 million (Dh29.25m). And Ji Dong-won, the South Korea striker, was at the Stadium of Light yesterday to visit the club's facilities and hold talks as a protracted move neared completion.

In addition, reports suggested the club have stolen a march on Liverpool by having a bid, which could eventually amount to £13m, accepted by Ipswich Town for Connor Wickham, the teenage striker. Keiren Westwood, the Coventry City goalkeeper, and Sebastian Larsson, the Birmingham City winger, will complete their free transfer moves on Friday.

Liverpool's admiration for Wickham is known and the 18 year old is understood to have similar inclination but the Black Caps have shown swiftness in making a formal offer and hope they are not dragged into a bidding war.

Neymar in demand

Luis Alvaro Ribeiro, the Santos president, said five European clubs have contacted him to try to sign Neymar. Ribeiro said Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia are willing to pay the €45 million (Dh233.5m) buyout clause in the young Brazil striker's contract.

The president said he has authorised them to contact the player's representatives to start negotiating. Ribeiro told GloboEsporte.com the clubs will now make their offers to Neymar, but he remains hopeful the 19 year old will decide to stay in Brazil to be close to his family until his Santos contract expires after the 2014 World Cup.

Chelsea

Marseille are interested in re-signing Didier Drogba - but only if the club can afford to meet the Ivorian striker's wage demands. Drogba starred for Marseille during his single season at the Velodrome before departing for Chelsea in a £24 million move in 2004. The 33-year-old striker has a year remaining on his current deal at Stamford Bridge and it is not yet known if he is part of new Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas's plans.

"The question is whether in terms of salary, I do not mean the transfer, Marseille have the means for four years to pay Didier Drogba," Vincent Labrune, the Marseille president, told La Provence newspaper. "I answer 'yes'. But we cannot afford 11 Didier Drogbas. So is it possible? Yes, but in the case of departures."

Newcastle United

Jose Enrique, the Newcastle full-back, is expected to return for pre-season training with his teammates on Monday. After months of speculation over the 25-year-old Spaniard's future, no bid has been received for a man who has a year of his existing contract left to run.

Enrique is yet to respond to an offer Alan Pardew, the manager, has described as "fantastic", and while the club know they may have a fight on their hands to keep him, they are refusing to admit defeat. John Carver, the Newcastle assistant coach, told the Evening Chronicle: "Jose will be getting a warm welcome like he always does. I know he will give us 100 per cent, like he always does, and he wouldn't dream of letting anybody down."