Roberto Mancini is prepared to wait on Gabriel Martinelli as Italy try to secure the Arsenal forward's international future.

Martinelli, 18, was born in Guarulhos in Brazil but is said to be eligible to represent Italy through his father.

It was reported on Monday the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) contacted Martinelli to try to convince him to reject Brazil and commit his future to the Azzurri.

Mancini, though, accepts it will take time for the process to be completed.

"In the case of Martinelli, it is not so easy," the Italy boss told reporters on Monday. "You have to submit a request and it may take a long time. It is a long wait for these players who have a double passport."

For now, Mancini is not considering many changes to his squad before Euro 2020.

Italy can qualify for the tournament if they beat Greece on Saturday and Armenia fail to defeat Liechtenstein, and Mancini already has most of his team in mind.

"The group is more or less decided. Two or three players might come in or out, maybe," he said. "If someone is suddenly unavailable then we'll see what happens, but the players who will go to the Euros are all here."

That could prove bad news for Mario Balotelli, who was overlooked for the latest squad and has only made two appearances for Brescia this season.

Mancini, though, suggested his former Manchester City striker could still get back into his plans if he can put together a strong run of performances.

"He's only just come back after months out and he's not quite there physically yet," said Mancini. "He did well against Napoli but he needs to play more games."

Napoli defender Kostas Manolas was taken off against Brescia due to muscle fatigue, the Serie A club have confirmed.

Manolas scored his side's second goal in Sunday's 2-0 win at Stadio San Paolo but had to be withdrawn 20 minutes into the second half.

However, Napoli have allayed fears of a possible lay-off for the Greece international, who has started five of their opening seven matches this term.

Defensive team-mate Nikola Maksimovic could be facing a spell on the sidelines, though, having limped off with a hamstring injury later in the match.

"Tests have revealed that Nikola Maksimovic suffered a pulled right hamstring," a statement read on Napoli's official website. 

"Kostas Manolas was also taken off during the match, but the Greek defender was just feeling some tightness."

Dries Mertens and Manolas gave Napoli a two-goal lead at half-time, but Mario Balotelli pulled one back for Brescia with a 67th-minute header - his first goal in Serie A since returning to Italy last month.

Brescia boss Eugenio Corini told reporters: "Mario is a player you all know, he arrived with great motivation. 

"His technical qualities are recognised. From him I always expect something more, an important individual performance which can help the team."

Victory for Napoli got them back on track following their surprise 1-0 home loss to Cagliari in midweek, but they were made to fight for the three points.

"Suffering is natural in these games, because if you don't kill it off with 3-0 and then concede a goal, it all opens up again," Carlo Ancelotti told DAZN.

"We played an excellent first half, the second was less impressive, but the temperature was very warm and it made the teams get more stretched out."

Napoli face Genk in the Champions League on Wednesday, before returning to Serie A action with a trip to Torino in a week's time.

Maurizio Sarri admitted Juventus must improve defensively despite the champions moving to the top of Serie A with victory over Brescia.

Juve came from behind to win 2-1 at newly promoted Brescia on Tuesday as they climbed above rivals Inter, who have played a game less, at the summit.

Alfredo Donnarumma had given Brescia an early lead before a Jhon Chancellor own goal and superb striker from Miralem Pjanic transformed the contest on what was Mario Balotelli's debut for Juve's opponents.

Juve achieved the result without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who was left out as a precautionary measure with an adductor problem.

While there were plenty of positives for Sarri to take, the former Chelsea head coach conceded there remains work to be done, particularly in a defence which has now conceded five times in their opening five league matches.

"We improved our passing with the 4-3-1-2 formation played," Sarri told DAZN. "I saw some steps forward in the chances created.

"We need to improve the defence. Which formation will we use? We can use both solutions. We struggle with offensive wingers at this time while we have a lot of quality midfielders so it seemed obvious to try this formation.

"Then, if a month from now the wingers find their form, we can evaluate the options, but the team must be prepared with both formations."

Asked about the performances of defender Matthijs de Ligt, a €75million close-season arrival, Sarri added: "He's improving a lot, he needs time."

Sarri was impressed with the performance of out-of-favour attacker Paulo Dybala, who played a part in both goals for his team 

"Dybala had a good match both offensively and defensively," Sarri said. "He was excellent with quick passes and he left the pitch hurting. We hope he can recuperate for the next game [SPAL on Saturday]."

Champions Juventus moved top of Serie A despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo after Miralem Pjanic's second-half strike saw them come from behind to beat Brescia 2-1 on Tuesday.

A fourth-minute strike from Alfredo Donnarumma handed Brescia, who gave a debut to Mario Balotelli, an early advantage.

Maurizio Sarri's team levelled shortly before the interval courtesy of Jhon Chancellor's own goal before Pjanic's stunning strike just after the hour mark.

The victory sees Juve leapfrog Inter at the Serie A summit as they continued their unbeaten start - and the result was all the more impressive given they did so without star man Ronaldo, who was left out as a precautionary measure with an adductor problem.

 

Mario Balotelli is "very happy" being back in Brescia and can be a real success for his hometown club, according to former team-mate Nigel de Jong.

The enigmatic former Inter, Manchester City and Nice striker returned to Italy in August, signing a multi-year deal with the newly-promoted Serie A side.

Balotelli, 29, spent much of his childhood in the Brescia region and revealed his mother cried when she found out he was signing for the Lombardy outfit.

De Jong played alongside Balotelli at City and AC Milan, and he expects the move home to bring the best out of his friend.

"Of course [he can succeed], he's back in his home town Brescia with his family around him," the former Netherlands international said after Vincent Kompany's testimonial match, which Balotelli attended as a spectator.

"I know him very well, we speak quite often, and he's happy.

"For me, it's important for Mario to be in an environment he's happy with and [where] he's back with his family.

"I think he needs two more weeks before he's really fit and he can play his first game.

"Mario's Mario – the qualities will always be there. We just hope that he can pick up where he left off [in France] and show his qualities for Brescia because they're going to need it this year.

"He is very happy. So we'll see."

De Jong and Balotelli were part of the City outfit which won the Premier League in famous fashion in 2011-12.

Pipping rivals Manchester United paved the way for a sustained period of success, during which the so-called 'noisy neighbours' have secured a further three league titles.

The hard-nosed midfield anchor of Roberto Mancini's side believes the Etihad Stadium has become an attractive destination in the eyes of top players for more reasons than money.

"There are more players coming in and it's due to the fact people will choose Manchester City now over other teams," De Jong said.

"City, back in the day, you had to come in and say, 'Listen, here's the contract, here's the big money, come play for us', instead of watching the whole culture.

"Now [some players would] rather choose Manchester City over Barcelona or Madrid. That is a change, a momentum shift.

"United as well. I think a player would rather choose City at this moment than the other side of town.

"It is what it is, that's football. It shifts. We'll see how it goes."

A packed Etihad Stadium paid a warm tribute to Vincent Kompany on Wednesday as his Manchester City Legends played out a 2-2 draw against a Premier League All Stars XI.

The four-time Premier League winner saw the funny side of a hamstring strain keeping him out of his own testimonial, the new day job as player-coach of Anderlecht meaning he could not risk lining up alongside an array of past team-mates.

"For me not to play this game because of an injury… surely the irony has not escaped anyone?" Kompany chuckled before the match – his 11-year stint as an inspirational and decorated captain at City having been frequently peppered with injury lay-offs.

Given a guard of honour onto the field before kick-off, the man of the hour was serenaded by the masses and embraced by fellow club greats Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Tony Book.

He then gave way to those fit enough to take part, and there was much to enjoy as plenty of famous faces came together to raise money for Kompany's Tackle4MCR homelessness charity.

Painful night for Neville

Gary Neville's work as a property developer is already well noted in Manchester. The former United and England right-back probably didn't need to labour the point by granting Martin Petrov his own postcode for the opening goal. Jamie Carragher blamed his defensive colleague, Neville disagreed and the debate will probably continue in Sky Sports' Monday Night Football studio.

Neville willingly played the pantomime villain, even taking a corner to soak up boos before pinging a hamstring and departing before half-time.

Dad's Army stands firm

Okay, so it might have only been for 27 minutes in a friendly, but Neville, Carragher, Michael Carrick and Ashley Cole became the first defensive unit to stop Sergio Aguero scoring this season. Somewhere, Sven-Goran Eriksson was beaming with pride.

Where's Mario?

Aguero would have loved the chance to renew his old strike partnership with Mario Balotelli. However, speaking earlier on Wednesday, Kompany foresaw problems. "I think Mario is coming, he should be," he said. "But with Mario everything can go wrong."

Balotelli did indeed turn up, resplendent in a black hoodie, sunglasses and a studded baseball cap. However, he did not warm up and City supporters chanting for his introduction did so in vain – Benjani handily distracting them with a gleefully received equaliser.

Apparently, the Italy striker's new club Brescia had no idea he was in Manchester and he has training at 9am on Thursday. Never change, Mario.

Still got it

Paul Scholes ran through the repertoire. The Manchester United great hacked repeatedly to bring Samir Nasri down during the first-half, while he followed a delightful outside-of-the-foot pass with a deft scoop shortly after the interval. Carpet slippers in possession, hobnail boots out of it.

Nigel de Jong showed the slide tackle remains his preferred method of navigating a football pitch and Stephen Ireland – arguably the great "what if…" of City's Abu Dhabi era produced some silky moments. Robin van Persie put the All Stars ahead with aplomb.

They were all arguably outshone by Petrov, who looks somewhere close to his fighting weight five-and-a-half years since last turning out professionally for CSKA Sofia. There remained too much of a turn of pace for Neville and Carragher, while the left foot that rifled the opener into the roof of the net is still an absolute wand.

Lads, it's for charity!

For a moment, Robbie Keane seemed disgruntled by De Jong giving him a flashback to LA Galaxy's training pitches circa 2016, but the only time the friendly atmosphere truly threatened the fray was when Nicky Butt renewed acquaintances with Craig Bellamy.

Butt clattered through the back of his fellow shrinking violet, who seemed keen to prolong the argument.

End of an era

The biggest roar during the early stages came when Pablo Zabaleta performed an inch-perfect tackle on Cole. The sight of the talismanic Argentinian lining up with De Jong, Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and the rest once again underlined how much road has been travelled since City's first Premier League title in 2011-12.

Pep Guardiola's slick winning machine is obviously adored in these parts, but it is clear how much that first flush of success – when everything seemed possible, but Carlos Tevez went on strike and Balotelli hosted pre-match fireworks displays in his bathroom – will always mean.

That Kompany, indomitable and in the form of his life, held it all together goes a long way to explaining the enduring affection he enjoys.

Mario Balotelli says his mother cried when she found out he was signing for Brescia.

Balotelli, a free agent since leaving Ligue 1 side Marseille, has agreed a multi-year contract with his hometown club.

It marks a return to Italy for the former Inter and AC Milan striker, who has not played in Italy since 2016.

Spells with Nice and Marseille have rebuilt Balotelli's career and he revealed his mother's delight at his latest move.

"At the beginning she was crying. She was very happy," Balotelli told a news conference on Monday.

"My father was from Brescia, he was always in Brescia, for him it would have been a dream to see me here.

"I chose Brescia, I thought of nothing else when I got the offer. Brescia can give me everything, it is the team of my city And I can give more to Brescia than to others."

During his time at AC Milan Balotelli was targeted by racist abuse, which has continued to blight Serie A in recent years.

"I don't know what to expect," he said when asked about racism in Italian football. "I hope things don't happen like in the past."

Mario Balotelli has signed for hometown club Brescia after agreeing a "multi-year" contract with the Serie A outfit.

The Italy international was a free agent after his short-term deal with Marseille expired and when negotiations with Brazilian club Flamengo broke down he looked set to start the new season without a club.

But Brescia president Massimo Cellino told Gazzetta dello Sport Balotelli made it clear he wanted a move to Stadio Mario Rigamonti on August 12 - his 29th birthday.

"That day he expressed his desire to return to his city," said Cellino of Balotelli, who spent much of his childhood in the region of Brescia.

"Hence all those rumours have only caused confusion, because there was no written agreement and Flamengo rushed to Monte Carlo to trip us up."

Balotelli scored eight Ligue 1 goals in 15 appearances for Marseille in 2018-19 but the club's failure to qualify for the Champions League forced them to lower their wage budget and allow him to leave.

Prior to his move to Stade Velodrome, Balotelli impressed during a two-and-a-half-year spell at Nice, where he scored 33 league goals in his first 51 appearances, before enduring a difficult start to the 2018-19 campaign.

Cellino has high hopes for him at Brescia.

"I have good feelings," said Cellino.

"I'm sure Mario will give everything for survival, which remains a difficult goal.

"It is also a way to thank Brescia, who is very close to me. I won't talk about figures, but this operation costs a lot."

Balotelli could make his debut when newly promoted Brescia begin their Serie A campaign with a trip to Cellino's former club Cagliari on Sunday August 25.

Mario Balotelli being without a club once again as a new season approaches is "not normal", says Italy head coach Roberto Mancini.

Balotelli is reportedly close to joining hometown club Brescia after negotiations to join Brazilian giants Flamengo broke down.

He scored eight goals in 15 appearances for Marseille last term, having impressed in an early stint with their Ligue 1 rivals Nice, but budgetary constraints at the Stade Velodrome left the 29-year-old once again seeking pastures new.

Mancini managed Balotelli at Inter and Manchester City and ended his four-year international exile by recalling the striker when appointed as Azzurri boss in 2018.

Nevertheless, some exasperation with his one-time protege was evident in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

"At 29, and for the second year in a row, less than 10 days before the start of the championship, he still didn't have the absolute certainty of a team," Mancini said.

"He didn’t prepare, he didn't train regularly. He must reflect, it is not normal."

On whether Brescia might be the right option in terms of Balotelli getting back into the Italy fold, he replied: "Whether it will be a good solution does not depend on Brescia but on him.

"Perhaps by playing closer to home he will feel more comfortable but it is not [guaranteed to] be enough.

"I love him, but for him I can't do anything anymore. He must think that he is in the middle of his career and that he still has much to give – if he wants."

For now, Mancini's hopes in attack for Italy are far more likely to rest on Moise Kean, who completed a surprise switch from Juventus to Everton during the close season.

Although he views the transfer as a disappointing development for Serie A, the 54-year-old feels it can ultimately benefit his national team.

"It is a pity because he is Italian and an international," he said. "But he goes to play in a beautiful and difficult league, at a club where they have not won for years and have to make the team competitive again.

"This can help him grow; my sorrow is more personal. But by now we know – it is no longer the football of 20 years ago, when everyone came to play in Italy, the most beautiful championship where they earned the most."

On whether Serie A should aspire to be more like the Premier League, Mancini added: "We can't expect the rhythm of the Premier League, that's just their thing. They have always been used to it – much faster and with fewer interruptions.

"With us, the pace can grow and we must understand that technical quality is essential. But we are making progress."

Mario Balotelli will not be moving to Brazil with Flamengo after the Rio de Janeiro club confirmed the end of negotiations.

Balotelli is a free agent following the expiry of a short-term deal with Marseille last season, during which he netted an impressive eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 matches.

The former Inter and Manchester City star is now considering his options for the new season and a move to Flamengo was mooted.

However, the Brazilian outfit said on Thursday in a short statement that negotiations had concluded without a positive outcome, with a return to Italy with Brescia now reportedly an option.

Flamengo's statement read: "Flamengo, athlete Mario Balotelli and their representatives decide, by mutual agreement and after two days of cordial meetings in Monaco, to close on this date negotiations involving the possible hiring of the athlete."

Having started his top-flight career at Inter before a big-money move to City, Balotelli has bounced around Europe, turning out for AC Milan, Liverpool, Nice and, most recently, Marseille.

A three-year deal with newly-promoted Serie A side Brescia is reported to have been proposed to the striker.

Real Madrid are ready to present an incredible offer to Neymar to beat Barcelona to the signing of the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Neymar, 27, looks almost certain to leave the Parc des Princes before the transfer window closes, and the LaLiga rivals appear his most likely destinations.

With the window shut for Premier League clubs, the Brazil forward is set to dominate the headlines for weeks to come.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID TO OFFER NEYMAR €40M PER SEASON

Real Madrid are willing to offer Neymar a net salary of €40million per season and a five-year contract, according to Sport.

Neymar has been expected to return to Camp Nou, two years after his world-record €222m switch to PSG from Barcelona.

Marca report Neymar sees a move to Real Madrid his most likely avenue for a departure from the Ligue 1 champions.

ROUND-UP

- Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala's futures at Inter and Juventus respectively remain uncertain. Inter have no intention of selling their forward to Juve unless their rivals put in an offer of at least €75m or Dybala, according to Corriere dello Sport, which says the Serie A champions would prefer to send their Argentine abroad.

- PSG could be an option for Dybala, who was linked to Manchester United and Tottenham before the Premier League window closed. PSG have offered Dybala €11.8m per season, according to the Daily Mail, while they are likely to have to pay Juve at least €84m.

- Roma are looking to sign a defender and are interested in Liverpool's Dejan Lovren, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The centre-back's agent met with Roma, who are negotiating a loan for Lovren and are confident an agreement can be found.

- Like Dybala, Mario Mandzukic's Juventus future is uncertain. Sky Sport Italia say the Serie A club are in advanced talks with Bayern Munich for the Croatian striker to join the Bundesliga giants on loan with an option or obligation to buy for €15m.

- Mario Balotelli is reportedly close to joining Flamengo, but perhaps he has another option. Napoli are looking for an attacker and the forward's agent Mino Raiola offered Balotelli to the Serie A club, according to Corriere dello Sport, although the 28-year-old Italian is said not to be warm to the idea.

- It remains to be seen if Alexis Sanchez will spend the 2019-20 season with Manchester United. According to The Telegraph, Roma have been given the opportunity to take Sanchez on a season-long loan.

Barcelona are still hopeful of bringing Neymar to Camp Nou, but Real Madrid's interest is rising as they give up on Paul Pogba.

Neymar, 27, is set to leave Paris Saint-Germain this close season, two years after joining the Ligue 1 champions from Barcelona for a world-record €222million.

While a return to Barca has been mooted, Madrid are also seemingly interested after accepting they are unlikely to land Pogba from Manchester United.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA HOPEFUL OVER NEYMAR, CONVINCED MADRID ARE INTERESTED

Barcelona are still eyeing a move for Neymar, but the LaLiga champions are convinced rivals Real Madrid are also chasing the Brazilian, according to AS.

The report says Barca believe the forward will definitely leave PSG, who do not want to loan or sell Neymar to them because of a fractured relationship between the clubs.

AS report that Barcelona feel PSG are still hoping Madrid will make a late bid for Neymar.

According to Globo Esporte, Real Madrid are ready to use Gareth Bale and Keylor Navas as part of the deal.

Barcelona want Neymar to publicly state his desire to return to the club and they will offer Philippe Coutinho to PSG as part of a deal, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid's intensified interest in Neymar comes as they accept their chances of signing Pogba from Manchester United are "practically zero", according to AS, after the Premier League club failed to sign a potential replacement for the France international before their window shut.

Coutinho may not have returned to the Premier League, but Barcelona still want to see the playmaker depart. Sport say PSGJuventus and Bayern Munich are the most likely destinations for the former Liverpool star.

Luka Modric was reportedly set to be offered to PSG by Real Madrid as part of a deal for Neymar. However, the Croatia international's camp has told AS the midfielder is not leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Despite giving up on Pogba, Real Madrid still need to strengthen in midfield. Ajax star Donny van de Beek remains the most likely option for Zinedine Zidane, according to AS, but they are waiting amid a potential move for Neymar.

- Manchester United opted against signing a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, who left for Inter. The Times report the Premier League club ended talks with Juventus over striker Mario Mandzukic due to the £14m (€15.2m) valuation being deemed too high. Borussia Dortmund are interested in the Croatian, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Mario Balotelli is a step away from joining Flamengo. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, the Italian striker has reached a salary agreement with the Brazilian club, but work is still being done relating to image rights.

The transfer window slams shut in England on Thursday and Romelu Lukaku is finally set to get his move.

Linked to Inter and Juventus throughout the off-season, Manchester United striker Lukaku is poised to swap Old Trafford for San Siro in Milan.

Lukaku's exit could trigger United to make a late dash for his replacement.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU TO SWAP UNITED FOR INTER

After months of speculation, Lukaku will swap Manchester United for Serie A side Inter according to widespread reports.

Lukaku landed in Milan in the early hours of Thursday morning ahead of his €75million (£70m) move to Inter.

Inter will reportedly pay a €65m fixed fee and €10m in add-ons, with the deal also including a five per cent cut of any future sale.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Lukaku leaving Old Trafford, United are willing to pay the £81m (€88m) release clause to lure Inaki Williams from Athletic Bilbao, reports El Chiringuito TV. The Red Devils are also continuing to be linked to Juventus' Mario Mandzukic and former Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente, who is a free agent.

Tottenham are set to complete deadline-day deals for Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso and Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon, reports the Telegraph. Spurs are hopeful of clinching a transfer for Lo Celso at £55m (€59.7m), while Sessegnon could cost £20m.

- According to Sport, Real Madrid have offered €120m plus Luka Modric for wantaway Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar. Barcelona have been linked with their former forward but the LaLiga champions must raise funds before trying to re-sign the Brazil international. Barca could free up space by selling Philippe Coutinho, who has reportedly attracted interest from Premier League trio United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Arsenal are set for a busy deadline day. The Sun reports the Gunners could land Chelsea defender David Luiz in a £12m deal, while Unai Emery's side have agreed a Scottish transfer record fee of £25m for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney, according to the BBC.

- Tottenham have agreed to sign Juventus star Paulo Dybala but the player's image rights are holding up the deal, says the Independent. Dybala has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain after turning down a move to Manchester United.

- Sportitalia says Wolves have agreed a £23m (€25m) fee to sign AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who reportedly wants a wage increase. Wolves have already signed Patrick Cutrone from Milan.

- According to Sky Sports, Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has handed in a transfer request as Everton look to sign the former Manchester United forward.

Mario Balotelli is on the verge of joining Brazilian side Flamengo until December 2021. That is according to La Gazzetta dello Sport and Sky Sport Italia. Balotelli is a free agent following his Marseille exit.

Barcelona are in no rush in their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

Neymar, 27, is set to be fined by the Ligue 1 champions after failing to turn up for the first day of pre-season training.

With sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazil forward can leave for the right price, Barca think they are in a strong position, and the Catalan giants are ready to play a waiting game.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA IN NO RUSH OVER NEYMAR

Barcelona are prepared to wait and see if PSG blink first over Neymar, according to a report from AS.

Neymar left Camp Nou for PSG in a world-record €222million move two years ago and it has now become clear he wants an exit from Parc des Princes.

In a strong position, Barca are remaining patient in their pursuit of the Brazil star, who has also been linked with their rivals Real Madrid.

Marca also report Barcelona are willing to wait, with PSG's asking price sure to continue dropping as the skilful forward continues to show his desire to leave.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are ready to give in to Ajax's demands over Matthijs de Ligt. Sport report the Serie A champions are planning to present the star defender on Saturday, having apparently agreed to pay the Eredivisie club €75m for the centre-back.

- Manchester United are increasingly confident about signing Leicester City defender Harry Maguire. The Daily Mail claim the Red Devils are hoping to land the centre-back for £75m, which is short of Leicester's reported £85m valuation.

- West Ham have begun searching for someone to replace Marko Arnautovic, who left for China. The Sun say the Premier League club have been offered the chance to sign free agent Mario Balotelli, while Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Hammers have also shown an interest in Juve forward Gonzalo Higuain.

- Mario Mandzukic could be set for a surprise return to Bayern Munich. Bild report the Juve striker has been discussed as a possible back-up for Robert Lewandowski and another wide option for head coach Niko Kovac.

- Everton continue to be linked with forwards and the Telegraph say the Premier League club expressed an interest in Lille's Nicolas Pepe, who is said to have been a target of rivals Liverpool. Meanwhile, the Sun claim Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is prepared to talk to the Toffees.

- Newcastle United seem close to finding their replacement for Rafael Benitez. According to the Daily Mail, Sam Allardyce has rejected a return to the club, with Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce now the favourite.

Mario Balotelli has left Marseille following the expiration of his contract, club president Jacques-Henri Eyraud confirmed.

Balotelli joined Marseille from Nice in January on a short-term contract and enjoyed a solid end to the season, scoring eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 appearances.

Marseille had been keen on keeping him at the club, but their failure to qualify for the Champions League has forced them to lower their wage budget.

Lucas Ocampos has already left for Sevilla, while Kevin Strootman, Adil Rami, Luiz Gustavo and their highest-earning players are being linked with moves.

Balotelli's exit has now been confirmed, opening the door for the striker to return to either Italy or England, having been linked with Napoli and West Ham.

"At the moment we are [working] on two or three areas to adapt if there are unexpected departures and that we would have to replace," Eyraud told L'Equipe.

"The attacking position has to be filled, since Mario Balotelli will not continue with Marseille. We are looking beyond the position of attacker, however, including centre-back."

Eyraud is hopeful highly rated 19-year-old centre-back Boubacar Kamara signs a new deal, while he also denied reports Marseille have told Rami – a World Cup winner with France last year – to look for a new club.

"I respect my players, I rub shoulders with them every day and I see how much pressure they are under," he added. "I am very surprised by the media coverage that claims Rami has already left.

"What is certain, for me, is that Adil Rami must question himself, deeply, about his status, about his job as a professional footballer, about his rights and duties as a player, and moreover a world champion.

"With Adil I am very frank, very direct, as always, and I will make a decision at the end of this discussion.

"I cannot wait to have it [the discussion with Rami], and to have this exchange with him, which will take place this week."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.