Ornstein: Mount talks on hold, Rashford deal boost, Krosche in Liverpool contention

Chelsea’s faltering campaign suffered its latest setback on Saturday as they were beaten at home by bottom-of-the-table Southampton: they remain 10th in the Premier League with 15 games still to play.

One of the many issues facing the new ownership at Stamford Bridge concerns Mason Mount, the homegrown talent and England international midfielder whose deal is due to expire in June 2024.

Negotiations between Chelsea and Mount over a new contract have not yet led to an agreement, with several offers made last summer and in the autumn rejected by the 24-year-old.

That has led to speculation that Mount could depart his boyhood side, and reports have suggested a number of suitors, most notably Liverpool, will attempt to prise him away from west London.

The interested parties may be encouraged to learn that, currently, talks about extending Mount’s Chelsea career have been paused and — given the need for Graham Potter’s men to focus on finishing well in the top flight and Europe — they are not expected to resume until the summer.

Once the season has ended and the conversations are picked up, Mount will have 12 months left and Chelsea’s intention is to secure the academy graduate to fresh terms or approve a sale.

Going forward, the hierarchy want to avoid anyone entering their final two years — let alone their final one.

Mason Mount’s future at Chelsea is uncertain (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Another important squad member to emerge from the ranks, Reece James, has been tied down through to 2028 and it is likely the club will want to keep his team-mate in a similar pay bracket.

Chelsea’s midfield rebuild has seen the likes of Enzo Fernandez and Andrey Santos sign, Jorginho depart and discussions about retaining the services of N’Golo Kante move in a positive direction.

Mount joined Chelsea at the age of six and has scored 33 goals in approaching 200 appearances, helping them win the Champions League in 2021 and representing his country on 36 occasions.

United takeover no barrier to Rashford deal

Marcus Rashford has been at the heart of Manchester United’s revival under Erik ten Hag.

He has played a key role in propelling the club back into the Premier League’s top three, scoring two goals in the 3-0 win over Leicester yesterday, and into the latter stages of domestic and European cup competitions.

Initial conversations over a new long-term contract for Rashford have already taken place and more are planned, with the England striker currently enjoying the best season of his career. He has scored 27 goals for club and country in 2022-23, including 16 since the World Cup — the most by any player in Europe’s major leagues.

Marcus Rashford scores his first goal against Leicester City (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

One potential complication for his contract talks, however, was the uncertainty surrounding United’s ownership.

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United were put up for sale in November, with confirmation of at least two bids — the Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe — having been submitted by last Friday’s ‘soft’ deadline.

It is not uncommon for clubs facing a potential change in ownership to put new contract discussions on ice — this was true at Chelsea, for example, when Roman Abramovich was selling up last May.

But the discussions over United’s sale will not be an impediment to negotiations with Rashford, who is deemed integral to the club’s future prospects on the field.

The 25-year-old is an Old Trafford academy graduate and is seen as having the potential to become one of the club’s greatest-ever strikers, even potentially challenging Wayne Rooney as their all-time leading goalscorer.

It is still unclear if a new deal will be signed but United’s intention is to reach an agreement, with manager Ten Hag saying yesterday that securing Rashford’s future was a “priority” for the club.

United have already drawn up budgets that cover new contracts and summer recruitment, with club officials mindful that they would still have to remain within Financial Fair Play regulations, regardless of who takes over.

New contract talks are progressing with David de Gea, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot as United seek to maintain the air of positivity around the club.

Krosche among candidates for Liverpool role

Liverpool are finally gaining some timely momentum after a season of struggle on the field.

New record for Amazon

Last week’s top-two tussle between Arsenal and Manchester City set a new streaming record for Amazon in the UK, becoming Prime Video’s most-watched Premier League game.

City’s 3-1 victory, sealed by second-half goals from Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland, surpassed a previous marker set in December 2021, when an estimated audience of more than four million saw Manchester United edge Arsenal 3-2.

Amazon’s latest bumper viewing figure comes as the online giant is close to expanding its Champions League offering in Europe.

Prime Video has already secured some of the biggest midweek matches in the UK next season, with exclusive coverage of Tuesday’s top games in the Champions League guaranteed from the 2024-25 season until 2027.

Manchester City’s win at Arsenal last week set new records for Amazon (Photo: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

The broadcaster has also recently renewed its Champions League contract in Germany until 2027, but is now set to retain exclusive rights to screen Wednesday’s first picks in Italy.

A deal is understood to be close and is likely to be announced soon.

Prime Video is gearing up for another huge week in Europe, having already broadcast last week’s Champions League matches including Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea to audiences in Italy and PSG vs Bayern Munich in Germany.

Premier League ends Hanover agreement

Manchester United’s proposed takeover is only in its early stages after Friday’s soft deadline for bids, but the Premier League has moved quickly to avoid a potential conflict of interest, writes Kate Burlaga.

The league has ended an agreement with Hanover Communications — a London-based PR firm that is working on a Qatari offer lodged by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

Hanover issued a press release on Friday night confirming that Sheikh Jassim had submitted a bid for 100 per cent of Manchester United and was determined to “return the club to its former glories”.

But the Premier League, which applies an Owners’ and Directors’ Test to would-be buyers, has also paid for Hanover’s services, with the relationship recorded by the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists.

Hanover has previously assisted with a public services brief for England’s top flight, but while it has not been involved in any regulatory work, Premier League chiefs were wary of any suggestions that their actions could be affected by the partnership.

The Premier League confirmed to The Athletic that it had mutually agreed to discontinue the arrangement.

Hanover is understood to have alerted the Premier League to its involvement with the Sheikh Jassim bid ahead of that becoming public on Friday evening. Ties were cut following subsequent conversations, with the split amicable.

The Premier League will for now watch on as the Glazer family, United’s current owners, decide if any of the proposals appeal, and whether or not to proceed.

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Romero agrees new Lazio deal

Luka Romero has established himself as one of world football’s most exciting talents since becoming La Liga’s youngest debutant three years ago, writes Mario Cortegana Santos.

But any hopes that Europe’s elite may have harboured of prising him away from his current club Lazio have been dashed as Romero has agreed a new contract with the Serie A outfit.

The 18-year-old, whose current deal expires in 2023, will see his new terms extended until 2026, with an official announcement expected this week. Romero’s new contract will deliver him a significant salary increase.

Sources familiar with the negotiations, speaking to The Athletic on condition of anonymity to protect their relationships, have also suggested that the new deal includes a release clause which they estimate could be as high as €100million. Such clauses are unusual in Italian football.

Lazio’s Luka Romero will sign a new contract at the club (Photo: Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Lazio have always been determined in their efforts to keep Romero, who was signed in 2021 on a free transfer from Mallorca, who only received development compensation.

Romero — who made his La Liga debut against Real Madrid in June 2020 aged 15 years and 219 days — has always prioritised staying at Lazio, with both the player and his agents valuing stability above everything at this stage of his career.

The midfielder, who is eligible to play for Argentina, Spain and Mexico, has pledged his international future to the world champions, and was called into a training squad by coach Lionel Scaloni last year.

Premier League’s gesture of support to Ukraine

Premier League players will wear armbands in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, writes Luke Bosher.

The gesture will take place for the coming weekend’s round of fixtures, falling a year after troops first rolled into Ukraine on February 24 2022. Managers will also wear pin badges designed by Ukrainian children.

A year ago, messages of support were flashed up around Premier League stadiums, and Ukraine flags have been a common sight at football stadiums over the past year.

The Premier League donated £1million to support the Ukrainian cause last March, and suspended its deal with Russian broadcast partner Rambler (Okko Sport).

The Russia national team and domestic sides are suspended from competitive UEFA and FIFA matches, though clubs from UEFA member Serbia have been playing Russian clubs in Turkey recently.

United face battle for Batlle

Ona Batlle has rejected Manchester United’s latest contract offer, writes Charlotte Harpur.

The Spanish defender’s contract expires this summer and United made an initial offer in September in the knowledge that, as of January 1, foreign teams could sign a pre-contract agreement with her for the summer.

Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are all interested in Batlle. Some have offered the 23-year-old more than double what United have proposed in terms of wages, and a contract length which is more suited to the player’s wishes.

Ona Batlle has rejected Manchester United’s contract offer (Photo: Julian Finney – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Negotiations — led by United’s head of women’s football Polly Bancroft — started with Batlle in September and are still ongoing. Sources close to Batlle, however, have been surprised to see talks drag on and are still waiting on an enticing offer from United.

Batlle’s current three-year contract was agreed when she joined United from La Liga side Levante, aged 21. But that contract does not reflect her current market value. She is among the lowest-paid players at United but one of the highest performers, with six assists and one goal in 10 league games.

The former Barcelona academy graduate, who is happy in Manchester, wants to be part of an ambitious project and Champions League football is likely to prove pivotal.

(Top photo, left to right: Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Markus Krosche; all Getty Images)

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