Football transfer rumours: Agüero to Manchester United

Not long now. Having spent the thick end of £100m drafting in a dizzying array of the best footballing talent that money can buy and West Ham midfielder Luis Jiménez, the Rumour Mill has finally assembled its fantasy football squad for the forthcoming season. With just one sleep to go until the Premier League kicks off, now is the time for relentless, completely unnecessary fretting and tinkering. How many left-wingers is too many? Is our team's name amusing enough? Pink and white stripes or hoops? One of the listeners to our podcast was good enough to set up a Football Weekly fantasy league for the forthcoming season, so feel free to fritter away your Friday getting involved here (you'll need this code: 178628-47553). All are welcome – the more the merrier.

Meanwhile back in what passes for the reality of the Premier League, The Sun reveals that Sir Alex Ferguson sent his chief scouts to watch the "£30m-rated Argie hitman" Sergio Agüero during the week. Although this conjures up images of grown men wearing beige knee-length shorts, shirts complete with firewood-collecting proficiency badges and neckerchiefs fastened with woggles making notes on the technique of an unshaven South American assassin hunkered behind a window in a bell tower, the truth is less surreal. Fergie's spies watched the man they call Kun score in Argentina's 3-2 midweek win over Russia and probably concluded what the dogs on the street have been barking for years: yes, the boy's a bit special and yes, it's unfair to presume that he only gets picked for his country because he's sleeping with the manager's daughter.

The Everton defender Joleon Lescott is definitely not going to Manchester City, although that state of affairs may have changed by the time you reach the end of this sentence. Well? It's inevitable, isn't it? Not least because Mark Hughes has taken to standing outside Goodison Park holding a big bundle of giant cue-cards with increasingly large numbers written on them and will keep peeling them off one at a time, like Bob Dylan in the video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, until David Moyes finally caves in. Moyes may relent sooner rather than later (well, a Rumour Mill can dream), not least if Newcastle accept his £8m bid for Steven Taylor, who would go some way towards filling the Lescott-shaped hole that will almost certainly be left in the Everton defence and Goodison Park exit door once the "wantaway" defender is given permission to move to Eastlands.

Taylor isn't the only Newcastle player set to leave the club before the transfer window in the coming days, as both Wolves and Fulham have acknowledged their need for an injury-prone winger who's not quite as good as he used to be and are courting Damien Duff accordingly. Should the Irishman end up at Craven Cottage, he could find himself pinging balls on to the head of his former Newcastle team-mate Mark Viduka, assuming Fulham's physio allows them to play Pro-Evo in the treatment room. Meanwhile at Hull City, Phil Brown is courting the £12m-rated Real Madrid striker Alvaro Negredo. "There are times when you think it's 95% certain and then something happens and it's 50-50 again," said Brown of his forays into the transfer market. Translation: "There are times when you think it's 95% and then the player in question arrives in Hull and sees what it's like."

The Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martínez won't let a minor triviality such as the heart problem that turned up in Mohamed Diame's medical preclude him from signing the French midfielder from from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano, while in Sunderland Steve Bruce is considering a move for the bookish Arsenal centre-half Philippe Senderos.

Meanwhile in Spain, Real Madrid are considering offering £30m and a job-lot of Dutchmen (well, any two from Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben) to Bayern Munich in exchange for Franck Ribéry, while closer to home, the Reading manager Brendan Rodgers is accosting passers-by on the street to tell them that Mick McCarthy's Wolves are still "in talks" with midfielder James Harper, presumably about a move to Molineux ... although it may be about amusing monikers and formations for their fantasy football teams.

Top Ten: Risky transfer purchases

Michael Owen: Newcastle to Manchester United. One of the shocks of the summer after the former England striker's management team sent out a 38-page brochure documenting his appeal, to little effect. Injury-prone, out of form and carrying the burden of a high expectation level, United fans were dismayed when Sir Alex Ferguson announced the capture of the former Liverpool poacher on a pay-as-you-play deal. It was not the marquee signing many were expecting to replace the Madrid-bound Cristiano Ronaldo, and there is certainly doubt over whether Owen is still able to cut it at the highest level. On the other hand, he could be good value coming off the bench if he can regain some fitness. Both Fergie and Owen like to gamble, but this is certainly one that could backfire.

Barry Ferguson: Rangers to Birmingham. The former Rangers skipper has been viewed as one of the best players in Scotland over the past few years, but did not have the best of times when he made the move to Blackburn in 2003. He lasted only 16 months after suffering injury and loss of form and has also gained a reputation for falling out with his coaches. His much-publicised indiscretions for the national team after a late-night drinking session also put a question mark over his temperament; but at least he's under the wing of former Gers boss Alex McLeish at St Andrews. Birmingham may already have their hands full with the signing of Lee Bowyer, despite his claims he has turned over a new leaf, but Ferguson could also prove to be difficult.

Roque Santa Cruz: Blackburn to Manchester City. A fee of £18m is a lot to pay for a striker who has only had one successful season in England and spent the majority of 2008-09 on the sidelines through injury. When on his game Santa Cruz is an excellent finisher, but during his eight years at Bayern Munich he managed just over 150 appearances and only 31 goals. He only cost Rovers £3.5m in 2007 and although he netted 19 league goals in his first season for the club, he remains a player who still has something to prove. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez surely ahead of him in the pecking order, Santa Cruz could soon be labelled an expensive mistake.

Thomas Vermaelen: Ajax to Arsenal. The Dutch league has not provided the English game with the best of recruits in recent years, although the Belgian international will hope to raise the standard. A strong, committed defender who can play at centre-back or on the left side of defence, Vermaelen could be a gamble because he stands at under six feet tall and is likely to be tested in Arsenal's aerially suspect side. The 23-year-old has a footballing education that includes time in the prestigious Ajax academy, but did not make the breakthrough early in his career and has only been playing at the top level since 2006. Arsene Wenger is rarely wrong with his young players, although Philippe Senderos, Igor Stepanovs and Pascal Cygan are examples of his misplaced faith in the defensive department in recent years.

Yuri Zhirkov: CSKA Moscow to Chelsea. The Russian star has impressed at international level, but might find the step-up to the Premier League a difficult one. Aside from where he will play [Ashley Cole will play at left-back and Florent Malouda/Joe Cole in left midfield], Zhirkov has had trouble with the language and has also failed to complete a full pre-season with the club because of work permit issues. The player reportedly cost a fee of around £18m, which seems a lot simply for a backup for the starting XI; but with Roman Abramovich's links to the Moscow club, it's possible they might not have spent anything at all.

Tyrone Mears: Derby County to Burnley. When you have a player who is willing to climb out of a window to escape to a new life in France, it must take a great deal of faith to sign him up. Burnley have taken that risk on 26-year-old defender Mears, who was unhappy with Derby manager Paul Jewell and pulled the stunt in order to fly to Marseille for a trial, where he stayed for the rest of last season. The Clarets picked him up for £500,000, but will be fully aware of the Jamaican international's temperament. Whether they are willing to allow him to put the nickname 'Tye' on the back of his shirt - as he did at Preston - also remains to be seen.

Ross Turnbull: Middlesbrough to Chelsea. Always be wary of a man who says he wants to leave a club to pursue ''regular first-team football'' and then signs for a club like Chelsea, where the hope is remote. The goalkeeper may heed the warning of Steven Sidwell who failed to make an impression at Stamford Bridge, but will also be fairly happy to be paid a good weekly wage to act as backup to Petr Cech and get some experience of the Champions League on his CV. Having spent most of his Boro career on loan at lower division clubs, it is hard to see what persuaded the Blues to sign him up, although he has to be a better option than Hilario.

Ronald Zubar: Marseille to Wolves. It has been quite a fall from grace for the French Under-21 international since he starred for Caen and was linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2006. Several costly mistakes while playing for l'OM have shattered his confidence after he swapped his defensive midfield role for that of centre-back and he opted to move to England to continue his career at Wolves. The player himself has admitted that he's finding the English game "quick" and has the potential to rival fellow countryman Jean Alain Boumsong in the calamity stakes.


Joey Barton: The biggest risk of all?

Jack Lampe: Harlow Town to West Ham. It's not often that a player jumps straight from Non-League football into the Premier League, but the 17-year-old defender impressed the coaches at Upton Park enough to earn himself a one-year deal after landing a trial. The Hammers are considered to have one of the most productive academy systems in English football, but usually pick up players at a much younger age, allowing them to blossom with help from their own coaching methods. Not likely to push the first-team just yet, Lampe will find the step up tricky, but is only on a short-term contract should he fail to establish himself.

Joey Barton: Newcastle to ??? The combative (for want of another word) midfielder is sure to leave the Magpies this summer as he has burned his bridges with Alan Shearer and pretty much everyone else at the club. With their relegation to the Championship, Barton is keen to return to the top flight with Hull reportedly interested; but any club that takes a punt on the Scouser is sure to have their fingers burnt. Barton does not really come under the tag 'risky', more 'mind blowingly stupid' if he actually does manage to seal a move to another Premier League club. If he doesn't move, Newcastle will have some serious questions to answer.

Rooney gunning for 25 goals in new central role

Wayne Rooney is aiming to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring 25 goals for Manchester United this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson has promised to hand Rooney a more central striking role for the champions after Ronaldo made the switch to Real Madrid.

The England man was regularly dispatched to the flanks to accommodate the Portuguese last season but still notched 20 goals for United.

And Rooney is convinced he can better that in 2009/10. "Of course 25 is a target which I hope I'm going to reach," said Rooney. "I've always said I should score more and hopefully I'll do that this season.

"I've got what I wanted. I like to play through the middle. The manager has come out now and said I am going to play there throughout the season so I'm delighted with that. He may change his mind and whatever he says goes, but I hope he will play me there for most of the season. If I keep scoring goals I will justify it."

He added: "I am comfortable with the extra responsibility now Cristiano has gone. There have been big expectations on me for the last seven years so whether he was here or not I would still have that.

"But I have never looked at myself as being the main man. It is a team game. I won't win a trophy on my own."

Rooney has also backed strike partner Dimitar Berbatov to shine after he had a quiet first season at Old Trafford: "You can see in training and games during pre-season that Dimitar has looked sharper," said Rooney.

"He looks like he is more determined. He is tracking back with the full-backs in pre-season and is definitely working harder and trying to impress. He is a brilliant player. He has so much quality he has got and we all want him to show it."