Press Watch: Newcastle may look to Smith

Chelsea are linked with banned Ferdinand
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The Independent Football

The likelihood of Alan Smith leaving Leeds in the summer continues to feed the rumour mill. Talk of a move to Manchester United has died down but now Newcastle and Charlton are said to be considering bids for the 23-year-old striker.

The News Of The World says Sir Bobby Robson sees Smith as a potential long-term replacement for Alan Shearer and is set to make an £8m summer swoop for the England player. The report says Smith would welcome a move even if Leeds avoid relegation, as a way of boosting his international prospects. The People says Charlton are ambitious enough to think of joining the end-of-season scramble for him as well.

Smith is one player in whom Chelsea have so far shown little interest, although there are plenty of others, apparently.

Quite apart from the Real Betis winger Joaquin, they are said by the Sunday Mirror to be in the hunt for another Manchester United target, the Ajax midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. The 21-year-old would like to join Barcelona, the report claims, because he has supported the Catalan club since he was a boy, but predicts a bidding war of up to £25m with Real Madrid and Milan also interested.

The News Of The World, meanwhile, reckons Chelsea have their sights on the banned Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and Real's Luis Figo, although David Beckham is said by the Sunday Express to have advised Figo to go to Old Trafford if he does leave Spain. The Express also reckons Chelsea and United are ready to broker a swap deal to take Ferdinand to Stamford Bridge with Damien Duff going in the opposite direction. Ferdinand is said to fancy a move back to London, while Duff has spoken of his unease at Chelsea's signing last week of the former United target Arjen Robben.

The Ferdinand story does not quite tally with the Mail On Sunday's suggestion that Chelsea have another big-name defender in mind in Roma's Argentina international Walter Samuel, likely to be sold for £15m in the summer by the debt-ridden Italians, whose liabilities are said to be in the region of £220m.

While the News of the World says the Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole insists he is not planning to talk to his manager, Claudio Ranieri, about his future, the People reckons Chelsea have been asked by the Everton manager, David Moyes, about taking Cole on a season-long lease.

Southampton, who lost the defender Wayne Bridge to Chelsea early in Roman Abramovich's spending spree, fear they could see more young talent lured to the capital. Chelsea are said to be eyeing up 16-year-old Theo Walcott, while Arsenal have their sights on the 18-year-old striker Dexter Blackstock, who joined the Saints from Oxford United at the start of the season.

The Express says Michael Owen is ready to discuss a new contract at Liverpool but reckons fellow striker Emile Heskey will definitely be shown the door at the end of the season, while the People believes Manchester City's former Liverpool forward Steve McManaman plans to leave City to join the Major League Soccer side New York.

Trevor Francis has emerged as the front runner to take over as manager at his hometown club, Plymouth Argyle, according to the News Of The World.

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