The Sun has snaps of Arsenal and England ace Jack Wilshere with a cigarette in his mouth outside a bar while engaged in conversation with a human female. "Last night" a "source" – so absolutely not a voice invented by the journalist to say something convenient – told the paper: "If he's struggling for fitness he shouldn't be hanging around outside nightclubs smoking." Certainly true, so perhaps it's just as well the whole business, particularly the photo where Wilshere appears to be sucking on an apparently lit cigarette, was just a hilarious joke. A spokesman for Wilshere insisted: "A friend dared Jack, who does not smoke, to momentarily hold the cigarette as part of a prank. Jack absolutely didn't smoke the cigarette and nor does he condone smoking. Jack is utterly committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. In no way is this picture an accurate reflection of his attitude to smoking."
Talking of Arsenal and midfielders, the Gunners are preparing a £15m January bid for Bayern Munich's Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, about whom the German side's newish manager Pep Guardiola doesn't feel particularly strongly either way. But 17-year-old Zakaria Bakkali, another player identified by Arsène Wenger since the manager turned his focus to finding players with first names that start with unusual late-alphabet letters, will snub the Gunners to sign a new short-term contract with current side PSV Eindhoven, after receiving a glowing report from the Belgium manager Marc Wilmots. "Zakaria is a player who scores easily," he raved. "He is fast and has skilful dribbling. Zakaria has just about the same profile as Eden Hazard."
Talking of twinkle-toed footballers, the current Strictly Come Dancing contestant Abbey Clancy has revealed that her husband, Peter Crouch, is determined to follow her on to the show once he hangs up his boots – and also that he had a strangely emotional reaction to the sight of Abbey dancing a waltz in last week's episode. "He said he was crying because he was so moved," she revealed. "He loves it. He wants to do it himself but he can't at the moment because he is playing football."
Sadly the same cannot be said of Meanwhile United's frosty-shouldered winger Wilfried Zaha, who having not been used since the Community Shield will trot off on loan in January, with Swansea, West Brom, Stoke, Newcastle and former club Crystal Palace all keen, and plenty more upset that the twinkle-toed penalty-winning machine will not be allowed to play outside the Premier League.
Meanwhile another English winger, Tom Ince, is equally in demand though a cut-price move to Italy might be most likely for the Blackpool player. The Star explains that with Ince's contract up in the summer, clubs outside England could steal him away in the new year with only a tiny compensation payment due in return. Tottenham will also try to sign him but will be expected to cough up at least £4m, more than 10 times as much as the likes of Juventus and Napoli will be expected to pay.
Talking of English players joining foreign clubs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants Wayne Rooney to cross the Channel to make Paris Saint-Germain's forward line a little more frightening. "I think he made it clear in the summer that he wanted a fresh challenge," said the striker. "If he still wants to move next summer, or in January, I would urge him to come and play with me in Paris. I don't just want to play with great players, I want to play with technically great players – and that is what he is. You have it or you don't and Rooney does." The self-loving Swede did sound one note of warning, however: "If he did join he would have to get used to the fact that Zlatan scores even better goals than him."
Possibly coming into Old Trafford is Genk's 6ft 5in man-mountain centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been identified as the likely solution to United's defensive problems. David Moyes, however, faces competition from Manchester City for the services of St-Etienne's £7m-rated 18-year-old defender Kurt Zouma. The Express thinks they may move instead for Borussia Dortmund's Neven Subotic, who they may be able to sign in a simple swap for the last player they bought from the Schwarzgelben, Japanese disappointment Shinji Kagawa. Other Britain-bound Europe-based defensive talents include Porto's Nicolas Otamendi, who is said in certain quarters to have agreed to join Chelsea next summer. When he gets to Stamford Bridge he'll probably find a conveniently empty peg in the dressing-room where Kevin De Bruyne's kit used to hang, the winger being targeted by Germany's Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen.
Outside the Premier League, Steve McClaren is determined to stall Liverpool's pursuit of Derby's teenage starlet Will Hughes. "Hughes is my type of player," the Rams' new manager raged. "Do I want to build the team around him? Yeah." But McClaren's former employers Nottingham Forest may abandon their pursuit of Wolves' Bakary Sako because of the off-putting £4m fee being demanded.