Aston Villa have announced the signing of Boubacar Kamara from Marseille on a five-year contract.

The 22-year-old midfielder had been linked with a move to Villa Park, with manager Steven Gerrard reportedly present at a recent game at the Stade Velodrome.

Kamara will join the Premier League club on a free transfer at the end of his contract, which expires at the end of next month.

The Frenchman primarily plays as a defensive midfielder, but can also fill in at centre-back and was a big part of Marseille's strong 2021-22 campaign, which saw them finish second in Ligue 1 and reach the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

Of midfielders in the French top division this season, only Johan Gastien and Jordan Ferri made more than Kamara's 2,383 passes, while of those who made over 1,000 passes, only five players had better accuracy than his 90.68 per cent.

After the signing was confirmed, Gerrard told Villa's official website: "I am delighted that we have been able to attract one of the most promising young talents in European football.

"We have a very clear plan to make our team stronger and Bouba is an important part of that."

The former France Under-21 international also explained that a meeting with Gerrard and other Villa representatives convinced him to join the Midlands club.

"When I met with Steven, Christian [Purslow, chief executive] and Johan [Lange, sporting director], I knew Aston Villa was for me," Kamara said.

"Their ambition and determination to succeed matches my own. I cannot wait for pre-season to get going."

France coach Didier Deschamps has named his squad for Les Bleus' Nations League games in June, with Boubacar Kamara called up for the first time.

The Nations League holders face Denmark, Austria and Croatia next month, playing their 2018 World Cup final opponents both home and away.

Marseille midfielder Kamara has enjoyed a fine season, and the 22-year-old – who is set to leave the Ligue 1 club as a free agent, with Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Barcelona linked – has been rewarded with a maiden senior international call.

Kamara is part of a 24-man squad and may well have benefited from Paul Pogba's injury absence.

Pogba – who is also out of contract at Manchester United – sustained an injury in a heavy defeat against Liverpool at Anfield in April, with club manager Ralf Rangnick confirming the midfielder's season was over.

N'Golo Kante has been named after he returned from injury to feature for Chelsea against Liverpool in last weekend's FA Cup final, with Kamara's club-mates Matteo Guendouzi and William Saliba, who is on loan from Arsenal, also called up.

Theo Hernandez has been crucial to Milan's title challenge in Serie A and is named in the defence alongside his brother Lucas.

Up front, Kylian Mbappe – whose future is set to be revealed before France's fixtures take place – joins Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Moussa Diaby. Wissam Ben Yedder and Christopher Nkunku, who has directly contributed to a remarkable 50 goals this season for RB Leipzig (34 goals, 16 assists).

France squad in full:

Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Jonathan Clauss (Lens), Lucas Digne (Aston Villa), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Marseille), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Boubacar Kamara (Marseille), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).

Manchester United's search for a new manager continues after axing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

The Red Devils are taking their time with the appointment, with Ralf Rangnick in an interim role until the end of the season.

United hope the next man in can turn their fortunes around, having struggled to be Premier League contenders since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

TOP STORY – UNITED SHORTLIST HASENHUTTL

Manchester United have added Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to their shortlist, according to The Mirror.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag remain the front-runners, but United face a battle to persuade either to head to Old Trafford.

Current United interim manager Ralf Rangnick worked with Hasenhuttl at RB Leipzig and the club are admirers of the Austrian.

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- Atletico Madrid are considering making a move for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, reports Mundo Deportivo. Wijnaldum is weighing up his future at PSG despite moving to France only last year.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea's Andreas Christensen has turned down offers from other Premier League clubs and is on the verge of agreeing to a deal with Barcelona.

Lazio could make a loan move for Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, with manager Maurizio Sarri keen to be reunited with the Spain international, reports Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are plotting a move for Lille's 20-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana, who is valued at £20m by the French club.

Crystal Palace have joined the pursuit for Marseille's out-of-contract midfielder Boubacar Kamara, alongside Newcastle United and West Ham, according to the Sun.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

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- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

The January transfer window is officially open for business, with most eyes pointing in the direction of Newcastle United following their takeover by a Saudi consortium earlier this season.

The long-awaited transaction was approved by the Premier League in October after it received "legally binding assurances" that the club would not be controlled by the Saudi Arabian government.

The takeover saw the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) take an 80 per cent stake in the club, ending Mike Ashley's 14-year ownership.

Replacing Steve Bruce with Eddie Howe in the dugout was the first move by the new owners, but the apparent richest club in the world are expected to really flex their muscles in the transfer market over the next few years, likely beginning this month.

Head coach Howe has already indicated he intends to dip into the significant amounts of cash available in an attempt to keep the Magpies in the Premier League, and Stats Perform has taken a look at where that money might be best spent.

Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain)

In theory, the smartest thing for Newcastle to do would be to build for the future, so it may seem counter-intuitive to start by suggesting a 35-year-old, but the fact is they need results right now.

When trying to build stability, it almost always starts in goal where you must have a reliable figure to save the day when needed, but most importantly, to build confidence and reassurance through the spine of a team.

With all due respect to Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka, Newcastle can do better, and with the position of the experienced Navas currently under threat in Paris thanks to the arrival of Gianluigi Donnarumma at the start of the season, this could be an opportunity to bring in a genuinely world-class option right now.

The Costa Rican was a near ever-present at PSG last season, making 45 appearances in all competitions, and boasted the best save percentage in Europe's top five leagues of goalkeepers who played at least 15 games (79.55).

Navas has still played 11 league games this season while Donnarumma is eased in, with his save percentage only slightly declining (77.27), and still comfortably ahead of Darlow (60.53) and Dubravka (58.33).

The former Real Madrid stopper would bring experience of succeeding at the top level, having won three Champions Leagues at the Santiago Bernabeu, and might consider it one last hurrah to be a regular at an ambitious Premier League project rather than staying put to watch from the bench at the Parc des Princes.

If Howe wants someone a bit younger, he could look at Sevilla's Yassine 'Bono' Bounou, who was second to Navas in save percentage last season (76.62) and has improved on that so far this campaign (78.26), with a significantly higher number of catches as well (18 to Navas' two), which suggests he might be more suited to the Premier League where crosses are more prevalent.

However, it is unlikely that Sevilla – who have the best defensive record in LaLiga this season – would countenance a move in January, and Bounou will be on Africa Cup of Nations duty for most of the next month with Morocco anyway, so would probably be one to revisit in the summer.

Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)

Slightly easier to predict this one, as the former Tottenham right-back has been heavily linked with a move to St James' Park in recent weeks.

Trippier is seen as an upgrade on Javier Manquillo, which on the face of it, might not be such an obvious assumption based on this season.

The England international is yet to register a goal or assist in 14 games in all competitions, while Manquillo has one goal and two assists in 12 games, although Trippier has created seven chances to Manquillo's four.

Trippier has a slightly superior pass completion percentage in the opposition half (72.89 to 68.18) but the Spaniard has the edge on duel success percentage (63.73 to 58.16) and dribble success rate (53.33 to 46.15).

Although Trippier may not have excelled in this campaign yet, his prior record in England counts in his favour, particularly his last season at Tottenham.

In 2018-19, he created 49 chances in 27 Premier League games, the third highest for defenders behind only Lucas Digne (71) and Andy Robertson (51), having played eight and nine games fewer than both respectively, and more than Trent Alexander-Arnold (48) having played two games fewer.

If Trippier can rediscover that creativity, he could give Howe an extra dimension, including the possibility to utilise wing-backs, where he has played on occasion for his country.

Sven Botman (Lille)

The Dutch centre-back was being linked with some of Europe's top clubs at the end of last season after winning Ligue 1 with Lille, but ultimately stayed at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

However, he has been a name closely mentioned with Newcastle in recent weeks, with rumours of a £30million price being placed on his head, but how does the 21-year-old compare to the Magpies' current options?

This season, Botman has a better duel success rate (68.49) than each of Jamaal Lascelles (64.13), Federico Fernandez (62.50) and Fabian Schar (45.90), as well as more successful long passes (50) than all three, which could provide the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron with more immediate service.

He has also conceded only five fouls, compared to 11 each from Lascelles and Schar, which should mean fewer dangerous set-pieces around the box to defend.

Botman would be someone who could come in and make an immediate impact given his experience at Lille, but would also be one for the future, and someone that Howe could potentially build his backline around for years to come.

Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)

Like most other players with a pulse, Kamara has been regularly linked with a move to the Premier League, with his current contract at the Stade Velodrome expiring at the end of the season.

Kamara is primarily a defensive midfielder and could be another option for Howe to shore up what is currently a rather jellified spine at Newcastle.

The 22-year-old compares favourably to Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey in most metrics, having scored the same number of goals (one), while creating more open-play chances than both (10), having a better duel success rate (55.56), and making more interceptions (16) and more recoveries (63).

Like Botman, Kamara is a player who could come in and be an immediate improvement, while also being someone for the long term.

Some Newcastle fans might think that a creative midfielder would be a better investment at this stage, in which case you could look at the likes of out-of-favour duo Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona) or Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), or even outside shouts like Ligue 1 pair Benjamin Bourigeaud (Rennes) or Teji Savanier (Montpellier).

Having plenty of steel in the midfield seems more important for Howe when trying to develop teams though, as seen when he spent the vast majority of his budget at Bournemouth on signing Jefferson Lerma from Levante in 2018.

Ben Brereton Diaz (Blackburn Rovers)

Although starting to rebuild Newcastle should definitely start with Howe putting in a strong base, one area he simply has to address in January is up top, especially with Callum Wilson facing a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury.

Only Wilson (six) and Saint-Maximin (four) have scored more than once in the league for Newcastle this season, and Howe needs someone else to call upon who can find the net on a regular basis, which is something Brereton Diaz has been doing, especially after deciding to become Chilean.

The 22-year-old has been in ruthless form for Blackburn this season, bagging 20 goals in 24 Championship games for Tony Mowbray's side, putting him second only to former Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic (22 goals for Fulham).

It is a remarkable improvement for the Stoke-born striker, who only managed 17 goals in 133 Championship appearances prior to this season but has exploded since becoming a Chile international, even representing the country of his mother's birth at last year's Copa America.

He is a player who looks ready for the next level, while also potentially being in a position where he will be happy to rotate with Wilson once he returns.

Plus, Newcastle have had decent success in buying strikers from Blackburn in the past.

The important thing for Newcastle is to not run before they can walk. There has been a noticeable improvement in performances if not results since Howe arrived, but getting from where they are to where they want to be is certainly not going to happen overnight.

Using their newfound wealth to build slowly and sensibly should ensure that whatever happens down the line, they can at least put the foundations in for sustained success rather than going for the biggest and flashiest names right away.

Staying in the Premier League is the primary goal for the remainder of this season, then at the end of the campaign they can perhaps look to progress to the next level.

Then again, if they can sign Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe then frankly, have at it lads.

Matthijs de Ligt's agent Mina Raiola is ready to find the defender a new club.

The outspoken representative suggested he could join Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain.

He also indicated the Premier League was of interest to the Juventus centre-back.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS TO LAND DE LIGT

Chelsea are leading the race to sign Juventus defender De Ligt, claims The Sun.

Raiola has indicated the 22-year-old is ready to leave Juve, who are off the Serie A title pace this term.

Chelsea are expected to lose a host of defenders and eager to make a move for De Ligt.

 

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- Cashed-up Newcastle United have an eye on Inter forward Edin Dzeko as well as a loan deal for Manchester United's Anthony Martial, reports The Sun.

Manchester United have been in touch with River Plate about 21-year-old Argentinean forward Julian Alvarez, claims Ole.

United are also set to win the race to sign Olympique Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara according to FourFourTwo.

- Gerard Romero claims that Tottenham will make another move for Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet after missing out on him last transfer window.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Jonathan Ikone's move from Lille to Fiorentina is agreed with only the paperwork left to be signed on a five-year deal with a €15m fee.

Fiorentina's Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic is attracting a long list of suitors.

Vlahovic is under contract at the Stadio Artemio Franchi until June 2023.

Fiorentina are hoping to convince him to extend amid increasing interest in him.

 

TOP STORY – FIORENTINA SET €100M VLAHOVIC PRICE TAG

Fiorentina have set a whopping €100million (£85m) price tag for Vlahovic according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus and Manchester City are all keen on the Serbian striker.

Vlahovic netted 21 Serie A goals last season and has already got 15 to his name this term, making him hot property.  

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- Marseille defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara is on Manchester United's radar with a view to sign him as a free agent, reports The Athletic.  Wolverhampton and Newcastle are also believed to be interested in Kamara.

- Real Madrid are in the box seat to sign Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger following positive discussions, according to The Guardian. Rudiger is set to exit Chelsea as a free agent at the end of this season.

- Tottenham are set to allow Dele Alli to exit the club in January, claims The Athletic. England international Alli has made eight league appearances for Spurs this season and is understood to not be in new manager Antonio Conte's plans.

- Fichajes claims that Manchester United will join Liverpool and Manchester City in the race for Porto winger Luis Diaz.

- Newcastle wants to sign Lille's 21-year-old defender Sven Botman in January, reports The Guardian.

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