Arsenal Sets Two-Week Walcott Contract Deadline: Soccer Roundup

The following is a roundup of soccer stories from U.K. newspapers with clickable Internet links.

Walcott Deadline

Arsenal has given forward Theo Walcott a two-week deadline to agree on a new contract with the 13-time English champion, the Daily Mail reported.

The Gunners are “optimistic” the 23-year-old will extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium, and the England national team player’s preference is to remain in north London, according to the newspaper.

Walcott’s contract expires at the end of the season, meaning Arsenal risks losing him without getting a transfer fee. The club offered Walcott 75,000 pounds ($121,000) a week but he wants closer to 100,000 pounds, as well as assurances he’ll be played as a central striker, the Mail said. Walcott scored three times and assisted in two goals when he started in that position in the Gunners’ 7-3 win over Newcastle two days ago.

Villa Spending

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert will get 10 million pounds to spend in the January transfer window in an effort to stave off relegation, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The money was made available to Villa’s manager following a transfer conference yesterday with the team’s American owner Randy Lerner, the newspaper said. Villa is just a point outside the relegation zone following a 3-0 home loss to Wigan two days ago. That defeat followed an 8-0 defeat at Chelsea and a 4-0 reversal against Tottenham at Villa Park.

The Midlands-based team wants to sign at least three new players and will also try to offload some of its biggest earners such as goalkeeper Shay Given, winger Charles N’Zogbia and even record signing Darren Bent, the Telegraph said.

Zaha Battle

Manchester United will this week start the bidding for Crystal Palace’s 20-year-old forward Wilfried Zaha by making an 8 million-pound offer, the Daily Mirror reported.

The Ivory Coast-born player last week said he’s ready to move up to the Premier League and sees his future with United or Arsenal, the newspaper said.

Palace wants to keep the winger until the end of the season but Zaha’s declaration that he wants to leave the second-tier team may force the club’s hand, the Mirror said.

Alonso May Return

Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso may be poised to make a return to the Premier League, the Daily Mail reported.

The Spaniard, 31, quit the Reds in 2009 to join Real Madrid, where he won the league title last season. Talks over extending his contract there are on hold, according to the Mail.

“I’ve no idea what will happen,” the Mail quoted Alonso telling reporters in Spain. “There is always a chance I could go back to the Premier League as I always enjoyed good times there.”

Cole to QPR?

Joe Cole is close to joining Queens Park Rangers on loan after the bottom-of-the-table team opened talks with Liverpool, the Mail reported.

Cole, 31, would join on loan with a view to a permanent move if QPR manages to avoid relegation, the newspaper said. The midfielder was left out of Liverpool squad yesterday as the Reds beat QPR 3-0 at Loftus Road.

There may even be a chance for Cole to move to QPR permanently if he’s able to agree on a severance package with Liverpool over the remaining 18 months of his 90,000 pounds per week contract, the Mail said. Cole was given his professional debut in 1998 by QPR coach Harry Redknapp when the pair were together at West Ham.

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