Never before having realised its capacity to dictate the mood of others, the Rumour Mill only became aware of the potentially spirit-sapping power of idle football transfer speculation yesterday evening upon seeing the reaction of a West Brom-supporting friend who'd just been informed that out-of-contract former West Ham striker Carlton Cole might be on his way to the Hawthorns to replace the Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku, who had such a fine time with the Baggies last season. You know that scene in The Simpsons where Bart pauses the VCR to "actually pinpoint the second" Ralph Wiggum's heart rips in two? Well, it was a bit like that.
The Rumour Mill doesn't know whether or not Cole is on his way to West Brom, but we can tell you that various media outlets have interpreted Cristiano Ronaldo's public denial, via Twitter and Facebook, that he has signed a new contract with Real Madrid as a sign that he wants to leave the Bernabéu.
Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are the moneybags outfits who are rumoured to be interested in making him the best paid player in the world, a state of affairs that the Guardian's man in Spain, Sid Lowe, has repeatedly suggested would appeal to the Portuguese's goal-getter's considerably large ego. The Daily Mail reports that Manchester United "are confident of re-signing the 28-year-old" and they may well be right, but it's difficult to imagine the Premier League champions agreeing to pay Ronaldo more than the £330,000 per week Samuel Eto'o, world football's current highest earner, takes home at the Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.
In other news pertaining to the champions, the Sun has slapped a red rectangular "exclusive" graphic on its revelation that, in the event of failing to land Ronaldo, David Moyes will smithereen his new club's transfer record (£30.75m for Dimitar Berbatov) to bring Gareth Bale to Old Trafford. Meanwhile in the Star, Moyes is "clinging to the hope" that Barcelona's summer transfer dealings convince Cesc Fábregas that he is unwanted at the Camp Nou and steer him towards the welcoming embrace of a ginger Scotsman at Old Trafford who's more used to pining for earthier talents such as Alan Stubbs and Leighton Baines.
Speaking of "Bainsey", Everton are apparently prepared to offer their accomplished left-back a 50% pay rise to stop him from having his head turned by the flirtatious cooing noises emanating from his former gaffer's new office at Old Trafford. With two years left on a four-year deal, Baines currently trousers £44,000 per week, but will be offered £65,000 per week to stay at Goodison Park. Being one of those refreshingly unfussy players who's always given the impression he'd be as happy being paid in barm cakes and real ale just to avoid the unnecessary hassle of completing the paperwork involved in opening a bank account, Baines may well accept Everton's offer, if only to avoid the massive palaver of having to key the co-ordinates of Manchester United's training ground into his satnav.
West Ham and Liverpool are believed to be close to agreeing a fee – £15.5m, it says here – that would make Andy Carroll's loan spell at West Ham permanent. London's Evening Standard reports that the Geordie battering ram has been offered a four-year deal worth £78,000 per week. Should the deal fall through, West Ham will turn their attention to the Vitesse Arnhem striker Wilfried Bony, or else try to bring the Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha or the Chelsea striker Demba Ba in on loan. The Hammers are also being mentioned in conjunction with the signing of Milan pensioner Massimo Ambrosini, the former Italy international who has been telling anyone who will listen that he's in talks with the London club.
That low-key but occasionally animated muttering noise you can hear emanating from the Midlands is the Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera, his agent and assorted West Brom bean-counters attempting to iron out the finer points of his mooted contract extension. Gera's contract expires next summer, but his Mr 15% seems confident he'll remain at the club despite interest from Fulham. "If West Brom have not had the intention to keep Zoltan Gera, then they would not have talks with us," said Filipovic Vladan. "We have been negotiating about the conditions of the extension and hopefully the agreement will be made soon."
Edinson Cavani's mum has waded into the debate raging over her boy's next move. "Napoli's president Aurelio De Laurentiis has spoken about the possibility of discussions with Chelsea but there is nothing definite with them at the moment," Berta Gómez told a Montevideo radio station, before adding that "Edi is in talks with Manchester City and Real Madrid". Ma Cavani then pulled a hanky from her handbag, licked one corner of it and vigorously rubbed a bit of food only she could see from the corner of her handsome young boy's cheek.
The Mirror reckons that Ajax have hoisted the white flag regarding their bid to sign the Vitesse Arnhem and Holland midfielder Marco van Ginkel, because the Chelsea manager José Mourinho has been giving him the glad eye and they just can't compete. And finally, Swansea fans can look forward to seeing goals galore from the halfway line at the Liberty Stadium next season if they're successful in their bid to bring the Espanyol centre-half Jordi Amat to Wales for £2m.