Press Watch: Real Madrid and Internazionale 'join race to sign Eriksson'

McClaren emerges as surprise candidate to replace Ranieri at Stamford Bridge
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The Independent Football

After the Sunday Mirror splashed with a headline they claimed to be the Russian for "You're fired, Claudio", speculation over the identity of Signor Ranieri's theoretical successor at Stamford Bridge is less consistent than might be imagined.

The Sunday Express believes Sven Goran Eriksson is still a target for Roman Abramovich, whose £128m investment in players has so far achieved only a double blank in the domestic cup competitions and a concession of defeat from his manager in the title race.

But Eriksson, the Express claims, is also a target for Real Madrid and Internazionale, as well as the Football Association, in a four-way tussle for his services. The paper reckons Sir Alex Ferguson and Roma's coach, Fabio Capello, have also been touted as possible candidates for the £25m five-year-contract Abramovich has on offer.

However, the News of the World, insisting that Eriksson has been offered an immediate £1m- a-year pay rise to remain England's head coach, says Middlesbrough's coach, Steve McClaren, has emerged as favourite to replace Ranieri.

The Mirror reports Capello's comments to the Italian press that he wants to manage an English club and is supposedly "intrigued" by Tottenham, which is convenient given the current vacancy at White Hart Lane. The paper reckons Giovanni Trapattoni now says he will stay on as Italy coach.

Meanwhile, the former Tottenham manager Glenn Hoddle is said to be out of the running for the Southampton job after a £500,000 dip in the south coast club's share value. The People reckons the City's reaction to rumours linking Hoddle with a return to Southampton, combined with the anti-Hoddle feeling among Saints fans, has persuaded their chairman, Rupert Lowe, to abandon the idea of re-engaging the former England coach. The People claims Lowe has met the former Marseille coach Alain Perrin and wants to talk to Plymouth's Paul Sturrock and the Leeds assistant manager, Kevin Blackwell.

On the transfer front, the Express says Manchester United will bid £20m for Wayne Rooney in the summer, a year after having had an £8m offer for the Everton teenager turned down, while the Mirror links United with a move for Middlesbrough's 19-year-old midfielder Stewart Downing.The People says Liverpool, too, have their eye on youthful acquisitions, namely the 16-year-old Hibernian centre-half Stephen Fletcher. The same paper links Newcastle with a move for Tromso's 22-year-old attacking midfielder Morten Pedersen.

Finally, the News of the World reckons Aston Villa could be the subject of a £20m takeover from the American billionaire Robert Kraft, whose family own NFL Superbowl champions New England Patriots.