Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of midfielder from Renato Sanches from Ligue 1 rivals Lille for an undisclosed fee.

The midfielder has been reunited with new PSG coach Christophe Galtier, signing a five-year contract with the French champions.

Sanches had been linked with Serie A champions Milan, but PSG emerged as the favourites to land the 24-year-old.

The Portugal international won the 2020-21 Ligue 1 title playing under Galtier at Lille, where he arrived from Bayern Munich in 2019.

Sanches told PSG's official website: "I'm really happy to have arrived here in Paris. These last few days have been really important for me and for my family.

"I'm sure that I've made the right choice by signing for the club. I chose Paris Saint-Germain because I think that it's the best project for me. Staying in France was important to me, as I know this league already."

The former Benfica man is relishing the opportunity to work again with Galtier, who replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino last month.

Sanches added: "I know him well. He's a good coach who helped me improve a lot after I came into Ligue 1. Together, we even managed to win the league with Lille.

"We worked well together, and I'm happy to be working with him again, as well as with his coaching staff. Working with a manager that you know always makes things easier. The communication between you is simpler."

The arrival of Sanches comes with Georginio Wijnaldum expected to join Roma and Idrissa Gueye a target for his former club Everton.

PSG start the defence of their Ligue 1 title with a trip to Clermont on Saturday.

Christophe Galtier has told Paris Saint-Germain's superstars that a team that defends together can win big together.

New head coach Galtier believes squad spirit is contagious, and that such togetherness holds the key to getting the best out of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi this season.

The man now at the helm at Parc des Princes watched the PSG trio from afar last term, while bossing Nice. They spluttered at times as a combination when they were widely expected to take French and European football by storm.

Rarely have such a starry trio belonged to the same club at the same time, and they will be expected to better last season's performance as PSG again go after their holy grail: Champions League glory.

In Ligue 1 last season, Mbappe rattled in 28 goals in 35 games, but Neymar again missed chunks of the campaign and finished with 13 goals in 22 outings in the competition, while former Barcelona captain Messi hit the back of the net just six times in 26 league appearances, despite having an expected goals (xG) tally of 11.4.

 

Mbappe was absent through suspension for the 4-0 Trophee des Champions thrashing of Nantes last weekend. Messi opened the scoring, Neymar added a double, and Sergio Ramos completed the rout as Galtier, who took over from the sacked Mauricio Pochettino in July, picked up early silverware.

When the Parisians head to Clermont for their league opener on Saturday, Mbappe will be available once more, and that means in all likelihood the front three will be reunited.

"It's a pleasure to have Kylian Mbappe back for the first league game," said Galtier. "He's been involved in our pre-season."

Galtier was asked directly about what the key would be to getting the best out of the front three, but the coach took a tangential path to offering his view, and in doing so indicated he perhaps expects extra effort from Mbappe, Messi and Neymar when it comes to contributing all over the pitch.

"In terms of our defensive set-up we have a collective desire and responsibility. Also, as individuals. There can be periods in matches where it is very tight and the team hasn't yet got on top of the opposition in terms of the scoreline or finding spaces," Galtier said.

"We want to be very focused on not letting the opposition affect our style of play. We have a priority as a team and as individuals.

"When you have team-mates making a big effort, of course, that is contagious, and it means the players around them want to make the same effort. So we need to make sure this is what happens.

"There might be moments in games where it is not going so well. The midfield and defence might need to accept that there can be periods of the game where, for whatever reason, these attackers might find it hard to get back, or that could also go for the wing-backs.

"We have to accept that we all have to defend together, but sometimes the players who might be involved in the first stage of recovery with our pressing game might not be in the right position. So we have to do everything we can to create time for them to get back into the right position in our defensive block."

 

Galtier said he and PSG would benefit from the experience of former Real Madrid captain Ramos, who spent the majority of his first season with the club on the sidelines due to injury woes.

"It is always good to have players like him, and they can bring their experience," said Galtier. "Professionalism. That is what they bring to their team-mates, and to me they also have experiences that I haven't had, so I can learn from that, and they might also have answers to questions that I am asking myself."

In Clermont's debut Ligue 1 season last term, they were beaten 4-0 and 6-1 by PSG on the way to finishing 17th, just avoiding the drop.

PSG have won each of their past seven opening games in Ligue 1, a sequence which has only previously been surpassed by Marseille (10) and Bordeaux (9).

This will be PSG's 50th season in Ligue 1, and it brings them an opportunity to land an 11th league title, which would take them ahead of Saint-Etienne to become the outright most successful team in the competition's history. Anything less would be considered a failure.

Paris Saint-Germain are poised to complete the signing of Renato Sanches, with coach Christophe Galtier hailing the "explosive qualities" of the Lille midfielder.

Speaking in a news conference on Thursday, Galtier said Sanches would give him fresh options in midfield, believing the 24-year-old Portugal international will bring added dynamism.

Italian champions Milan were also keen on Sanches, but a deal with PSG appears to be all but over the line.

It will mean the former Benfica, Bayern Munich and Swansea City player comes in as PSG look set to offload Georginio Wijnaldum to Roma and Idrissa Gueye to Everton.

Head coach Galtier said: "Renato Sanches is a player with qualities that others do not have, particularly if I compare him with Marco Verratti and Vitinha. He is an explosive player who makes a difference on the pitch with his runs."

Galtier said PSG were pleased to have observed the availability of Sanches and "taken that opportunity" to go in for him. The PSG boss worked with Sanches at Lille previously, collaborating in the club's 2020-21 title-winning season.

"He is arriving quite late on. I don't think he has played much in his preparation games because he was expecting to move clubs, so he will be a bit behind the others," Galtier said.

"He is a completely different player in terms of his explosive qualities and his ability to break the lines in the midfield, and he can also make a big impact defensively."

Reigning French champions PSG travel to face Clermont in their Ligue 1 opener on Saturday, as they begin their pursuit of what would be a record 11th Ligue 1 title.

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong has had a long-running transfer saga this off-season.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou amid Barcelona's financial issues, despite their off-season spending landing Robert Lewandowski among others.

The Catalans need to offload players before they can register new signings and De Jong is surplus to requirements.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO HIJACK MAN UTD MOVE FOR DE JONG

Chelsea have commenced talks with Barcelona in a bid to hijack Manchester United 's move for Frenkie de Jong, reports The Athletic.

Manchester United have actively pursued the Dutch midfielder this off-season but he has been unwilling to leave the Blaugrana for Old Trafford, creating a stand-off.

De Jong, who is still owed deferred wages by Barcelona, is more open to moving to Chelsea than United, according to the report. 

ROUND-UP

–  Chelsea are also considering a move for Barcelona forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claims Fabrizio Romano. The Blues have already held talks with former Arsenal man's representatives.

– Sky Sports reports that Manchester United's pursuit of 19-year-old Slovenian forward Benjamin Sesko is heating up, having held initial discussions with his club, Austrian champions Salzburg. Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have also spoken to Sesko's agent.

Chelsea remain keen on Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana and will offer him £200,000 per week according to the Mail. The Foxes want £85million for the Frenchman.

– The Sun reports that West Ham have agreed to a £35m deal with Lille for Belgian midfielder Amadou Onana. The Hammers still need to thrash out a personal agreement with Onana.

Juventus are interested in signing Udinese left-back Destiny Udogie according to Il Bianconero, while the Daily Mail claims Antonio Conte's Tottenham are also keen on him.

– Diario Sport reports that Rayo Vallecano president Raul Martin Presa has reached a deal with Diego Costa, who wants to return to Spain after time in Brazil.

Borussia Dortmund could be set to spend €30million to sign Almeria forward Umar Sadiq according to Mundo Deportivo. Dortmund are looking for cover as Sebastian Haller is absent due to a testicular tumour.

Kasper Schmeichel has ended an 11-year association with Leicester City after joining Nice for an undisclosed fee.

The Denmark goalkeeper spent more than a decade at Leicester after arriving from Leeds United, winning a Premier League title, an FA Cup and a Community Shield during his time at the King Power Stadium.

Schmeichel made 479 appearances in all for the Foxes, featuring in more Premier League games for Leicester than any other player (276), and, barring injury, will be a part of the Denmark squad for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Speaking to Leicester's official website on the announcement of Schmeichel's departure, Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said: "Throughout his time with us and particularly as a captain and vice-captain, Kasper has always been a player willing to stand up and take responsibility, leading the team with distinction.

"His influence and his leadership on and off the pitch speak volumes about him as a professional, as a football player and as a human being.

"I know Leicester City supporters share the respect we all have for a player of Kasper's standing after all his accomplishments as a footballer and captain and will join me in wishing him the very best for the next stage of his career in France with OGC Nice. 

"It's clear to everyone who has watched him perform that Kasper has given everything to Leicester City every time he has played and the experiences shared between him, the club and our supporters over the last 11 years mean he will always remain a part of this family."

Schmeichel sits behind only West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski (284) and Manchester United's David de Gea (283) for appearances in the Premier League since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Nice also announced the signing of young centre-back Mattia Viti from Empoli earlier on Wednesday, adding to other new arrivals in the transfer window Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Beka Beka, Rares Ilie and Badredine Bouanani.

Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has joined Ligue 1 side Stade Reims on loan for the 2022-23 season.

The 21-year-old made his first-team debut for the Gunners during the 2020-21 season, and also penned a long-term contract.

Balogun featured in the Premier League just twice last season, before spending the second half of the campaign on loan at Middlesbrough - his first loan spell away from Arsenal.

While on Teesside, Balogun contributed three goals and three assists in 18 Championship appearances (nine starts) as Chris Wilder's team fell short of reaching the play-offs.

Reims finished 12th in Ligue 1 last season, 12 points above the relegation zone, and begin their new campaign on Sunday against Marseille.

Balogun becomes the French side's sixth signing of the transfer window, following the additions of Junya Ito, Andreaw Gravillon, Emmanuel Agbadou, Patrick Pentz and Maxime Busi.

It felt like a landmark moment in European football.

In August 2017, Paris Saint-Germain forced Barcelona to hand over one of their prized assets when they triggered the €222million release clause of Neymar, apparently signalling a power shift from the more traditional European powerhouses to the French giants.

It has not quite been that simple in the five years that have followed, though.

Barca have not won a Champions League since Neymar left, but neither have PSG, and the Catalan club can probably point to wider issues as to why their trophy haul has dried up in recent times, like how poorly they spent all the money they received for him.

The Brazil international remains the most expensive footballer in history, even if his transfer did signal a general explosion in fees across the top level of the game, but has he been worth it for PSG?

Half a decade since he swapped Spain for France, Stats Perform has taken a look at Neymar's five years in Paris.

Bye-bye Barca

Neymar's name first came to prominence when he was called up to the Brazil squad for the 2010 World Cup at the age of just 18. Immediate comparisons were made to Ronaldo, who was taken to the 1994 World Cup by the Selecao at a young age, before latterly becoming one of the greatest strikers the game had ever seen.

The new kid on the block was clearly a different kind of player to the legendary forward, but Neymar's flicks and tricks at Santos excited onlookers enough that the whole of Europe was trying to sign him, with Barca winning the race in 2013.

Neymar went on to become part of a fabled front three at Camp Nou alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, winning two LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies and the Champions League in 2014-15.

During his four years at Barca, he was directly involved in 164 goals in 186 appearances (105 goals, 59 assists), and in his final season in Spain, Neymar was the only player in Europe's top five leagues to record 20 or more for both goals (20) and assists (21) in all competitions.

It was therefore quite a blow when PSG came along and took him in 2017.

 

Life in Paris

Despite having been in Paris for a year longer than he was in Barcelona, Neymar has so far played 42 fewer games for PSG than he did at Barca, with 156 goal involvements (102 goals, 54 assists) to his name in 144 appearances in all competitions. 

The Brazil international has been largely ruthless, converting 52.9 per cent of his big chances, bettering Mbappe (46.4 per cent) and Messi (26.1 per cent).

He made an impressive start, scoring 28 in 30 games in his first season, followed by 23 in 28 the next.

His lack of availability has often been an issue, though, seemingly unable to stay fit for long enough to truly dominate across a season.

That being said, Neymar currently sits fifth in the club's all-time leading scorers alongside, but well behind team-mate Kylian Mbappe (171), who has become the face of the current PSG side, particularly now he has committed his future to the club after penning a new deal in May.

On the surface, you would say those numbers suggest Neymar has been a relative success at the Parc des Princes, particularly as he has also won four Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe de France trophies and twice lifted the now defunct Coupe de la Ligue.

However, you cannot really mention Neymar or PSG without then discussing Champions League ambitions.

Having ironically been at the centre of PSG's embarrassing elimination at the hands of Barca just months before leaving the latter for the former in 2017, it was hoped that adding Neymar would tip the scales in the Ligue 1 side's favour as they looked to lift Europe's most prestigious prize for the first time.

As it is, they have reached just one final, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in 2020, and they once again suffered a humiliating collapse against Spanish opposition last season as they crashed out against eventual champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite holding a 2-0 aggregate lead heading into the second half of the second leg.

Following that loss, PSG fans turned their ire on Neymar, believing the superstar to have not done enough to prevent their elimination, but he was not the only one receiving boos from his own supporters, with a well-regarded Argentine also being partly sneered at.

 

Friends reunited

Since Neymar left Barcelona, barely a transfer window has passed without him being linked with a move back to Camp Nou, with suggestions that Messi wanted to play with his former partner in crime again.

What many hadn't seen coming was that they would indeed be reunited, just not in LaLiga.

Barca's inability to give Messi a new contract after the league imposed financial restrictions on them in 2021 meant he had to leave, with PSG waiting with open arms to bring the Argentina legend to link up with Neymar once again.

It has not quite been the same, though, and while you can excuse Messi not setting the world alight in his first season having only played for Barcelona at senior level in his illustrious career, Neymar also failed to light up many games in which he featured.

He again missed several games through injury, making just 28 appearances in all competitions in 2021-22, scoring 13 goals, three of which were penalties.

 

Notably, he also failed to register a single goal in the Champions League, the competition he was essentially signed for such vast money to lead the club to winning.

There have been murmurs about PSG moving on from the Neymar experiment, with fans turning on him and club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi recently saying he wants to move on from the "bling bling" era and bring in more local players like Mbappe over the next few years.

Whether anyone is willing to take a gamble on a player who will still cost a lot of money remains to be seen, with Manchester City seemingly distancing themselves from a move in this transfer window.

It might not be too late for Neymar, though. The talent is undoubtedly there, and he has shown he is capable of putting up tremendous numbers, it's just a case of remaining available and turning up in the big games.

The arrival of Christophe Galtier as head coach appears to be a step in the direction Al-Khelaifi was alluding to, and the former Lille and Nice boss has said he would love for Neymar to stay and be a part of things next season.

As far as starts go, Neymar made a strong one to the new campaign, netting twice in Sunday's 4-0 rout of Nantes in the Trophee des Champions, a game that Mbappe missed.

With PSG looking set to play with a back three, there might be even more room for their attack to flourish, and Neymar could prove his doubters wrong.

Five years ago to the day, Paris Saint-Germain sent shockwaves across world football by paying a world-record amount to bring in Brazil superstar Neymar from LaLiga heavyweights Barcelona.

The €222million PSG splashed out on Neymar remains by far and away the most any team has ever paid for a player. Next on that list? Kylian Mbappe, who swapped Monaco for PSG that same transfer window, initially on loan, for a fee rising to €180m.

Indeed, across the past five years, the Parisians' gross outlay has hit a whopping €792m, which is around 40 per cent more than the preceding five-year period. If it was not clear enough upon Qatar Sports Investments' takeover in 2011, PSG will not stop in their pursuit of becoming the world's best team.

Yet here we are, more than a decade on from that acquisition going through, five years on from Mbappe and Neymar arriving, and 12 months on from Lionel Messi – the greatest player to have ever played the game in the view of many – joining from Barcelona, and PSG have very little to show for it.

Even consistently winning Ligue 1 has been a struggle across that period, with Lille and Monaco each finishing top over the past six seasons, while only once have they made it as far as the Champions League final – never mind winning the thing.

But after a period of change at the Parc des Princes, in which a new head coach and football advisor have been hired, the French giants appear ready to take a different approach on and off the field.



A winning combo

Falling at the last-16 stage of the Coupe de France and the Champions League in particular last season cost head coach Mauricio Pochettino his job after just 18 months in charge.

After a failed attempt to appoint Zinedine Zidane, who is seemingly intent on replacing Didier Deschamps as the next manager of the France national side, PSG opted against another big-name appointment and instead hired Christophe Galtier.

Tellingly, Galtier's appointment was made on the back of Luis Campos taking up a position as de facto sporting director, effectively tasked with overseeing all transfer activity. The pair previously worked together at Lille to create the team that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title by a point in 2020-21.

Three-time Ligue 1 Manager of the Year Galtier departed Lille for Nice days after that stunning title triumph, though he lasted just a single season on the French Riviera, the highlight being a run to the Coupe de France final, where they were beaten 1-0 by Nantes.

As for Campos, it was not only at Lille that he had great success, having also helped bring the likes of James Rodriguez, Fabinho, Anthony Martial, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar to Monaco in his previous job.



The bling days are over

Campos clearly has an eye for a player, then, and that has been reflected in PSG's transfer activity in a different kind of window this time around. The marquee signing of Messi last year has made way for the arrivals of Nuno Mendes, Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele heading into the 2022-23 season.

Even accounting for the €38m and €41.5m PSG handed over for the first two of those players alone, neither fit into the category of signing we have become accustomed to seeing at the Parc des Princes.

This is a clear tactic from the club, with president Nasser Al-Khelaifi himself admitting in an interview with Le Parisien earlier this year that "dreaming is one thing, reality is another", and that PSG no longer "want to be flashy or bling-bling; it's the end of the glitter".

Instead, Galtier will look to integrate hungry quartet Mendes, Vitinha, Ekitike and Mukiele into his squad, which already contains an all-star cast of talent across the field, most notably in attack where Messi, Mbappe and Neymar form one of the great all-time trios.

On paper, at least, as the front three did not exactly click last season in the manner many were expecting and Galtier has remained coy on the subject of Neymar's future since replacing Pochettino.

Sixth manager lucky in quest for Champions League crown?

With a new head coach comes a new approach, and Galtier was quick to implement a code of conduct for PSG's pre-season tour of Japan. Not only that, the 55-year-old made clear at his first news conference in charge exactly what he expects from every player.

"I want to see intensity, rhythm, and the players winning the ball back quickly high up the pitch," he said. "I haven't met the players yet but I've spoken with the management about what I want to do: demanding, hard work, respect, and the team above all. 

"No player will be above the team. My objective is that this sum of talents becomes a great team with great strength. I am convinced that together we can have the best season possible. If players step out of this framework, they will be cast aside."

To put it simply, the dynamic around PSG has completely altered in the space of two short months. Whether the change in direction pays off will ultimately not be answered until further down the line.

But having failed to achieve their aim of winning the Champions League with Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel and Pochettino, PSG's wealthy backers believe the appointment of Campos and Galtier is ultimately a gamble worth taking.

The 2022-23 season is right around the corner, with plenty to keep an eye on across Europe.

Title battles in England, Spain and Italy could be too close to call, while France and Germany will see rivals trying to knock Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich off their respective perches – while there is even more set to occur in the fight for European qualification and to avoid the drop.

Central to these battles will be the players, both new signings and established members of the old guard, and here are 10 to watch in the year ahead.

 

Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona

Previously considered to be one of the biggest pieces of evidence on Barcelona's transfer failings in recent years, Dembele turned a corner in the second half of last season to finish the campaign as one of Xavi's most important players.

Dembele finished with 13 assists in LaLiga last term, the most in the competition, 11 of which came in the final 15 games of the season – with the tally being more in that run from February than he accumulated across all competitions combined in the previous two seasons.

Handed a fresh new contract, all eyes will be on Dembele to see whether he is back to his best or whether the former Borussia Dortmund winger, who now has Raphinha for competition, merely had a purple patch.

 

Matthijs de Ligt – Bayern Munich

It has now been three years since De Ligt shone with the Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals, where his performances made him one of the most coveted players in world football.

Stability was never quite found at Juventus, however, with shoulder injuries hampering his progress and the defender himself admitting the style was a "bit different" in Turin to what he experienced with Ajax.

Now at Bayern, De Ligt will look to return to the heights he was once at and is expected to form an exciting partnership with Dayot Upamecano.

Rafael Leao – Milan

In Milan's title-winning campaign last term, Leao was the team's joint-leading scorer in Serie A with 11 goals, alongside Olivier Giroud, but that was way off the pace in the overall charts as 15 players found the net more times.

Milan's total tally for goals in 2021-22 was 69, less than three of their rivals in the top five, and pressure is on Stefano Pioli's side to improve that return – with the signing of Divock Origi showing the desire to improve their return in the final third, with rivals Inter having strengthened by bringing Romelu Lukaku back to San Siro on loan.

It may all fall upon Leao, however, with the 23-year-old needing to show consistency in order to prove a significant venture into the market next year to replace veterans Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not required.

 

Djed Spence – Tottenham

Middlesbrough will likely wonder what might had been if they retained Spence's services, having loaned him to Championship rivals Nottingham Forest and seeing him play a key part in their promotion back to the big time.

From September, the only two games Spence missed during Forest's league campaign were the two clashes with his parent club and his displays, including those in the FA Cup against the likes of Arsenal, made him hot property.

Spurs ultimately signed the England U21 international, who could be a contender to break into Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad if he quickly finds his feet in north London. He is a right-back, after all...

Darwin Nunez – Liverpool

Liverpool's prowess in the transfer market is facing its biggest test under Jurgen Klopp, who is looking to rejuvenate what has been a brilliant attacking trio with Sadio Mane moving on and Roberto Firmino's future uncertain.

Having signed Luis Diaz in January, the Reds raided a Portuguese giant again – this time Benfica – for Nunez.

Nunez scored six Champions League goals in the 2021-22 season and plundered a further 26 in the league, averaging a goal every 76 minutes. Nunez certainly has the capability to fill Klopp's Mane-shaped void, even if his style is slightly different to the Senegal attacker.

 

Matteo Guendouzi – Marseille

Swiftly breaking onto the scene at Arsenal but just as quickly earning himself a bad-boy reputation, Guendouzi flourished in his loan spell with Marseille last season and has now made the switch permanent.

The France international featured in every game for Marseille in the 2021-22 season, starting in 35 of his 38 Ligue 1 appearances, and forced his way back into contention to make Didier Deschamps' squad on a regular basis ahead of Les Bleus' World Cup defence in Qatar.

Guendouzi's growing maturity saw him captain Marseille in a 2-0 defeat against Lille last season and the forthcoming campaign may continue his redemption arc.

Adam Hlozek – Bayer Leverkusen

A name that will be familiar to Football Manager enthusiasts, Hlozek has earned his big move to one of Europe's top leagues after leaving Sparta Prague in his homeland for Bayer Leverkusen and the challenges of the Bundesliga.

Capable of playing across the front line, Hlozek heads to Germany with a stellar record of 29 goals and 30 assists in 91 league appearances in the top-tier in the Czech Republic.

Add in the 24 goals that compatriot Patrik Schick netted for Leverkusen last season along with the creativity of Florian Wirtz from midfield and the result is one that could be extremely exciting.

Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

A formidable season for Vinicius saw the Brazilian net 17 goals and contribute 10 assists during Real Madrid's La Liga title-winning campaign, only being outscored by team-mate Karim Benzema in the league.

Benzema, who was one of only two players to get more assists than Vinicius last season, is now in the twilight years of his career and will soon surely hand the mantle to the next star forward at the Santiago Bernabeu – with Vinicius near-certain to be that man now Kylian Mbappe has decided to remain in Paris for the time being.

In a World Cup year, Vinicius could enjoy a campaign that sees him take the leading man tag for both club and country come the end of the season.

 

Hugo Ekitike – Paris Saint-Germain

Arriving into an attacking that already boasts Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, it remains to be seen just how much football 20-year-old Hugo Ekitike will manage to play for Christophe Galtier's side.

Moving initially on loan, Ekitike, who was also a target for Newcastle United, is certainly one for the future.

With 10 goals and four assists for Reims last term, Ekitike has shown his prowess in the final third and could be a valuable asset in the hunt to end the elusive wait for a Champions League crown.

Samuele Ricci – Torino

Long touted as the next star in Italy's midfield, Samuele Ricci has moved on from Empoli but, to the surprise of some, did not take the leap to one of Serie A's big guns and instead continued his development by joining Torino in January.

Ricci featured 13 times for Torino, including nine starts in what was a stellar breakout year in Italy's top tier, with the 20-year-old having previously been crowned Serie B's best player in the 2020-21 season.

Breaking into Italy's squad in 2022, Ricci's meteoric rise should continue, and he may find himself coveted by some of the biggest clubs across Europe.

Chelsea are hoping to raid Leicester City for both Wesley Fofana and Jamie Vardy during this transfer period, with the former reportedly telling the club he wants out, while the latter's contract is set to expire in 12 months.

Fofana, 21, has emerged as one of the most valuable young defenders in the Premier League despite missing most of this past season with a broken leg. He has represented France's Under-21s, and appears on track to a long international career at the senior level.

Vardy, 35, has scored at least 13 goals in each Premier League season since 2014-15, and if he indicates he has no interest in signing a new contract to stay in Leicester, this transfer window will be their last opportunity to cash-in on the club legend.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA SET SIGHTS ON DYNAMIC LEICESTER DUO

While Vardy will likely have a significant say in his future due to his contract situation, the same cannot be said for Fofana, who recently signed an extension that ties him to the club through 2027.

90min reports both Chelsea and Manchester United are monitoring Vardy's situation, with the thought that he could potentially be a relatively cheap replacement option after Romelu Lukaku was shipped out on loan to Inter, as well as Timo Werner having one foot out the door.

There is no word about an asking price for Vardy, but according to ESPN, Leicester are adamant Fofana is not available at any price, despite previous rumours that they value him at £85million. 

Meanwhile, the Mirror claims that since the Stamford Bridge side's interest became clear, the centre-back has been actively pushing for the move to Chelsea, and he has removed any mention of Leicester from his social media pages.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sky Sports is reporting that Sampdoria have accepted Brentford's £16.7m bid for 22-year-old Danish midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard.

– According to 90min, if Tottenham cannot secure Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo, they will switch attention to Wolves winger Adama Traore.

– Football League World is reporting Sevilla and Wolves will battle it out for the signing of 23-year-old striker Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers.

– Fabrizio Romano claims Sevilla are also interested in United full-back Alex Telles, who is said to be behind both Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia in the club's pecking order. 

– The Guardian is reporting Chelsea are interested in Southampton's Kyle Walker-Peters, and that an offer between £35m and £40m could get the deal done.

Timo Werner has only managed 23 goals in his first two seasons with Chelsea after joining from Leipzig in mid-2020.

The new Blues owners are open to allowing Werner, who signed on a five-year contract, to depart on loan.

The 26-year-old scored 95 goals in 159 appearances with Leipzig from 2016 to 2020.

TOP STORY – LEIPZIG LEAD RACE FOR CHELSEA'S WERNER

Leipzig are leading the race to sign Chelsea striker Werner ahead of Juventus, claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Bundesliga club met with Chelsea on Sunday, proposing a swap deal for Werner, who is Leipzig's main target.

Juventus and Newcastle United have also shown an interest in the Germany international. 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are considering a move for Leipzig defender Angelino should they miss out on Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso, claims Diario Sport.

Everton could make a move for forgotten Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi, according to talkSPORT. The Toffees lost Richarlison to Tottenham last month and will turn to Batshuayi, who scored 14 goals on loan at Besiktas last season.

– Portuguese forward Diogo Jota is set to be rewarded for his strong second season at Anfield, with Liverpool to offer him a lucrative pay rise as part of a new deal, despite having three years to run on his contract, claims The Telegraph.

Napoli and Chelsea are in talks on a loan deal for Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, according to Sky Sports.

– Football Insider reports that Leicester City have informed Newcastle that midfielder James Maddison will cost them £60million as they circle for his signature.

– Leicester City are set to farewell goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel,  who is on the cusp of joining French Ligue 1 club Nice, reports the Mail.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey has signed for Ligue 1 side Nice after being released by Juventus.

The 31-year-old joins as a free agent less than a week after agreeing to terminate his contract with the Bianconeri, with Nice yet to disclose the length of his deal.

Ramsey spent three years with Juventus, joining in 2019 after his contract at Arsenal expired, but he struggled to establish himself in Italy and made just three Serie A appearances last season before joining Rangers on loan.

He featured seven times for Rangers in the Scottish Premiership, but his time in Glasgow will mostly be remembered for his crucial penalty shoot-out miss in the Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville, which Rangers went on to lose.

Ramsey will be keen to get some minutes under his belt to prepare for the World Cup in Qatar in November.

He becomes the second Wales international in quick succession to move to France's top tier, with centre-back Joe Rodon joining Rennes on loan from Tottenham on Monday.

Nice finished fifth in Ligue 1 last season and have already added Alexis Beka Beka, Rares Ilie and Badredine Bouanani in recent weeks.

The club have also been linked with moves for Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and Empoli centre-back Mattia Viti.

Wales defender Joe Rodon has secured a season-long loan move from Tottenham to Rennes, with a permanent option included.

The 24-year-old leaves Antonio Conte's side in search of more regular opportunities ahead of Wales' World Cup campaign, which will be the nation's first since 1958.

Rodon made just 10 appearances for Spurs last season, including in the Conference League against Rennes, amid fierce competition for first-team football – and the signing of Clement Lenglet from Barcelona pushed him further down the pecking order.

Opportunities should be more forthcoming with the Ligue 1 side, who hold a clause to make the deal permanent next year for a reported fee of £17million.

The former Swansea City defender is a key part of Rob Page's international set-up, forging a partnership with Spurs' Ben Davies at the heart of Wales' backline and earning 28 caps to date.

Wales sealed their spot in Qatar with a play-off victory against Ukraine and will be in Group B alongside England, Iran and the United States.

A transfer to Rennes will also offer the opportunity of European football, with a fourth-placed finish in Ligue 1 last season securing a spot in the Europa League.

Rennes technical director Florian Maurice said Rodon had "no hesitation" about joining.

"He's a real central defender who likes to defend, he has that aggressive side that we need to allow us to be even more effective defensively," Maurice said.

"He is an international, a starter with Wales and will certainly be called up to play in the World Cup in November."

Mauricio Pochettino does not believe Kylian Mbappe had a big say in his sacking and maintains he did a good job at Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG parted company with the Argentine coach in July, just 18 months after appointing him as head coach, naming Christophe Galtier as his replacement.

The former Tottenham boss won the Ligue 1 title last season, the Coupe de France in 2021 and the Trophee des Champions during his short reign.

Pochettino was unable to mastermind a first Champions League triumph for the Parisian giants, though, as they were knocked out by Real Madrid after squandering a two-goal lead in the last-16 stage.

There has been talk of Mbappe perhaps having increased power at PSG after he snubbed Madrid to sign a new contract, but Pochettino does not think the France forward pushed for him to be fired.

Pochettino said in a long interview with Infobae: "What I think is that PSG have done everything possible to retain Kylian and I also agree with that.

"He is one of the best players in world football today and I think that PSG, having all the resources to do it, have convinced him to stay.

"But I don't think Kylian is the one who designed the new project either. Those who rule, in this case the president [Nasser Al-Khelaifi], are those who would have thought that the most convenient thing was a new project in the club."

 

Pochettino feels there is too great an obsession with winning the Champions League at PSG, with anything but lifting the trophy deemed to be a failure.

"The only thing that has changed a bit now [from when he played for PSG] is the expectation, which is the Champions League, the Champions League and the Champions League," he said.

"The obsession is the Champions League and everything that is not winning the Champions League is synonymous with failure, but not for us. I believe that.

"We have done a job in which we have been honest, we have worked as hard as we could, and we had that misfortune in the last minutes against Madrid.

"We reached a semi-final last year when Mbappe was injured in the first leg against Manchester City, and with him in Manchester we could have reached the final after knocking out Barcelona and Bayern Munich. In other words, I think we have done a good job, perhaps not recognised externally because the expectation was to win the Champions League."

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