Press Watch: Ayala keeps Manchester United and Liverpool guessing

Chelsea step up the chase for Cissé, Makelele and Smertin

The race to sign the Valencia defender Roberto Ayala continues, with confusion surrounding whether Liverpool or Manchester United head the chase for the Argentinian.

According to the Sunday Express, Ayala is close to signing for Liverpool after agents sounding out United failed to draw any encouragement.

This contrasts with the line taken by the Sunday Mirror, which claims Ayala turned down a £7m move to Anfield last week. "If I leave Valencia it will be for a bigger club," he said.

Ayala also says he has told United he fits Sir Alex Ferguson's bill for a new defender.

The News of the World believes Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers are chasing Barry Ferguson, the Rangers captain, while the People suggests Blackburn would offer Dwight Yorke or Matt Jansen in a swap deal for the midfielder.

Everton's bid to take Francis Jeffers back to Goodison Park on loan does not interest Arsenal, according to the News of the World, which claims the Gunners would rather sell.

Even at £3m, however, Jeffers would be beyond the budget of the Everton manager, David Moyes, because he is already committed to spending £5m on Fulham's Sean Davis.

The same paper also links Everton with a move for the Nottingham Forest winger Andy Reid, but not before the transfer window in January.

The Sunday Mirror predicts that Manchester United will move for Alan Smith if Leeds United decide they need to make another big-money sale. Ferguson is reportedly ready to outbid both Newcastle United and Aston Villa for the striker.

The People suggests Newcastle are ready to give Real Madrid's Steve McManaman a way back to the Premiership.

The News of the World says Chelsea's next round of spending will include Djibril Cissé, for £21m from Auxerre, and the Real Madrid midfielder Claude Makelele for £7m.

The paper also says Chelsea have signed their first Russian, the midfielder Alexei Smertin from Bordeaux for £5m.

The People reports that the Italian striker Benito Carbone is looking for another English club after being released by Como after 12 months because the Italian club were unable to afford his wages following relegation from Serie A.

Nottingham Forest hope to take the Sunderland striker Tore Andre Flo on a season-long loan, according to the News of the World, which also says the Huddersfield striker Jon Stead has attracted scouts from Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Everton.

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