Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

He played in 31 of Milan's 38 Serie A matches and scored six goals from midfield, a tally only bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (eight), Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud (both 11).

However, fresh terms could not be agreed between the Rossoneri and Kessie, meaning the Ivory Coast international became a free agent on July 1.

Barca were always considered the strong favourites to land the 25-year-old, whose Camp Nou contract contains a €500million release clause.

 

Kessie will compete with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong for a midfield spot, though the latter is expected to join Manchester United.

In all, Kessie played 174 Serie A games for Milan since initially joining from Atalanta in June 2017, with Napoli's Piotr Zielinski (179) the only midfielder to feature more times.

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

Milan have confirmed the signing of Alessandro Florenzi from Roma on a permanent deal following the right-back's successful spell on loan last season.

Florenzi made 30 appearances in all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign, including 24 league outings in Milan's first Scudetto-winning campaign in 11 years.

Having played his part in that historic triumph, Milan announced on Friday they have taken up the option to sign Florenzi on a three-year-deal.

The Italy international had been on Roma's books since 2011, but he fell out of favour and spent time on loan at Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain prior to joining Milan.

Milan also announced on Friday that back-up goalkeeper Antonio Mirante, who did not feature at all last season, has extended his contract until the end of this coming season.

It comes after club directors Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara – who overlook transfer activity – extended their own stays at San Siro.

Stefano Pioli's men begin their Serie A title defence at home to Udinese on August 13.

Technical director Paolo Maldini and sporting director Frederic Massara have signed two-year contracts at Milan, the club confirmed on Friday.

The pair's previous deals had expired on Thursday with the end of the 2021-22 season.

However, Maldini had belatedly confirmed he would be staying at the club following a tough start to the close season.

Although Milan won the Serie A title last term with a team built in part by Maldini and Massara, they have struggled to add reinforcements for the coming campaign.

With the Rossoneri in the midst of a takeover, they could not compete with Newcastle United for highly rated defender Sven Botman.

The centre-back was said to be a primary target for Maldini, while reports have suggested Paris Saint-Germain have jumped the queue for Botman's Lille team-mate Renato Sanches.

However, Milan, Maldini and Massara have now come to an agreement that will see two key figures remain in their roles for at least another two seasons.

"This deal highlights the importance of continuity we see throughout the club as we continue to strengthen and grow," Milan said in a statement.

Paolo Maldini is glad that Milan can now "plan for the future" after confirming he has reached an agreement with the Serie A champions to stay on as technical director.

Club legend Maldini was considered one of the main architects behind Milan's first Scudetto success in 11 years last season thanks to his work behind the scenes.

He has held a boardroom position for the past four years, three of those in his current role, and helped sign the likes of Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao and Mike Maignan.

The 54-year-old was due to be out of contract come the end of Thursday, but he announced shortly ahead of that deal expiring that he will remain in the job.

"Everything is sorted. We renewed at the last minute, but we did it," Maldini told reporters outside Milan's headquarters.

"I am very happy to be here and ready to plan for the future, with even more victories. There's still time [this transfer window]. We started a bit late, but we'll recover lost time."

Director of football Frederic Massara is also reported to have signed an extension to the contract that was due to expire on Thursday.

According to reports from Italy, the delay in reaching an agreement with the pair was down to the lack of funds being made available for transfers this window.

Milan have already missed out on Sven Botman to Newcastle United, while Paris Saint-Germain appear to have pipped the Rossoneri to fellow Lille player Renato Sanches.

Stefano Pioli's men begin their 2022-23 Serie A campaign with a home match against Udinese on August 13. 

Sven Botman considered Newcastle United "a little better" than Milan as he weighed up his transfer options, settling on a "dream" Premier League move.

Lille defender Botman is expected to complete his move to Newcastle on Friday, with a deal in principle announced earlier this week.

That reported £31.8million (€37m) agreement brought to an end a long-running saga, with the centre-back the subject of interest from both Newcastle and Milan.

Botman discussed the merits of signing for both clubs following a January window in which neither could convince Lille to sell.

Milan initially seemed favourites to finally land their man following the 2021-22 season, but they could not match Newcastle's offer.

And Botman explained to De Telegraaf: "Newcastle's great project and the chance to play in the Premier League were two decisive aspects in making a decision.

"Milan had also given me good feelings, but Newcastle more so; they seemed a little better.

"I've been dreaming of the Premier League all my life and now this dream comes true."

Botman revealed he was concerned after missing out on a January transfer, believing such opportunities "only pass once".

But he was ultimately pleased to stick around, face Chelsea in the Champions League and depart Lille "in the right way", still joining Newcastle.

Lille president Oliver Letang has denied there have been discussions with Paris Saint-Germain regarding Renato Sanches.

The 24-year-old Portugal international has been heavily linked with a move to the French capital as he is poised to enter the final 12 months of his contract.

Reports have suggested Sanches is closing in on a move to Paris, who are expected to appoint former Lille boss Christophe Galtier as Mauricio Pochettino's successor, with it suggested the midfielder had arrived in the city on Thursday to finalise a transfer.

However, those claims have been rebuffed by Letang as he offered an olive branch to other interested clubs – confirming one offer from an unnamed side.

Milan appeared favourites for Sanches' signature for a long time. They were interested in his Lille team-mate Sven Botman, too, but saw the defender instead head for Newcastle United.

"There are players who can leave and there are players who can't leave. Without naming them today, we want to keep a competitive team," Letang told a press conference after Lille appointed Paulo Fonseca as their new coach.

"Renato is one of the boys who still has a year left on his contract. Renato could or should have gone to Barcelona last summer, before he injured his meniscus. 

"As of today, we've had no contact with PSG. We have seen lots of rumours about offers, but we've received no offer from PSG. 

"Other clubs are interested, especially one great European club, who have already made us offers. That’s the situation with Renato."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is eager to bring in two attacking players this off-season following their third-place Premier League finish last term.

The club's new owners are set to back Tuchel's plans, with the Blues linked to Raheem Sterling, Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele and Everton's Richarlison.

However, Chelsea could be set for their first splash of the window by signing a superstar from Elland Road.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO WIN RAPHINHA RACE

Chelsea are set to win the race to sign Leeds United's Brazilian forward Raphinha claims The Guardian.

Raphinha is being pursued by Arsenal and Barcelona along with the Blues, who are set to complete a £55million deal for the 25-year-old.

The winger is contracted with Leeds until 2024 and may follow Kalvin Phillips out of Elland Road with the England midfielder set to complete his move to Manchester City.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mail reports Chelsea are also interested in a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe claims that PSG's initial offer for the Slovakian was worth €50m.

- Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches is eager to join PSG from Lille according to Le Parisien, with a €10m offer on the table. Sanches has one year remaining on his contract.

- Univision reports that LAFC are not pursuing Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez amid speculation linking the Uruguayan with the MLS club after they recently landed Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini.

- Milan are looking into swooping to sign Juventus' Paulo Dybala who has been heavily linked with Inter, claims RadioRadio.

- Liverpool's Divock Origi is set to join Milan on a four-year deal pending a medical as widely reported by the Italian media.

- Argentinean outlet Relevo reports that Angel Di Maria is set to sign a deal with Juventus on Wednesday, having left PSG as a free agent.

Sven Botman is belatedly leaving Lille to sign for Newcastle United in a reported £31.8million (€37m) transfer.

Botman had been linked to both big-spending Premier League side Newcastle and Serie A champions Milan since January.

The defender discussed "very concrete" interest from both clubs, describing a "good project" at Newcastle, only for Lille to reject the Magpies' advances in the middle of the season.

Newcastle and Milan appeared to be frustrated at the start of this transfer window, too, with Lille demanding a significant fee for a player determined to leave Ligue 1.

But Eddie Howe's Newcastle forged a breakthrough late last week and agreed a deal that has now been confirmed following a medical on Tyneside.

The Magpies on Tuesday revealed that the formalities of the transfer are set to be concluded this week, with the 22-year then officially becoming a Newcastle player.

Botman, a former Ajax academy graduate who won Ligue 1 in his first season in France, has agreed terms to put pen to paper a five-year contract at St James' Park.

Following the signings of Matt Targett and Nick Pope, Botman would appear likely to come into Howe's team ahead of Dan Burn, another powerful, left-footed centre-back who was signed in his stead in January.

Burn won 4.3 aerial duels and made 6.1 clearances and 0.9 blocks per 90 minutes after signing from Brighton and Hove Albion for £13m, beating Botman's marks for the 2021-22 season in each metric (2.3, 4.5, 0.8).

But Howe will hope Botman can be key to Newcastle's development into a more possession-focused side; he completed 53.4 passes per 90 with Lille to Burn's 28.6 at Newcastle.

Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro might make a seemingly eternal midfield composition, but Real Madrid still need to prepare for life after them.

Following the signings of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni over the past two off-season transfer windows, Los Blancos will look for a third.

Reports suggest that what they are looking for is penalty area threat, and the intent is not necessarily to replace the attributes of the three veterans. All signs point to Germany, and Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE BELLINGHAM AS FINAL PIECE OF MIDFIELD PUZZLE

Real Madrid will look to sign Bellingham in the 2023 off-season transfer window, according to Diario AS.

According to reports, Bellingham does not have a release clause in his deal at Dortmund and with his contract running to 2025, with the German club seeking a sale in excess of €100million.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid will not look to be the only suitors, with Chelsea and Liverpool also interested.

ROUND-UP

- Having already opened talks over Raheem Sterling, the Telegraph reports Chelsea are also looking to sign Manchester City's Nathan Ake.

- Meanwhile, Milan are considering a move for Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, per Calciomercato.

Tottenham want to sign Everton duo Richarlison and Anthony Gordon, according to Sky Sports.

- Christophe Galtier is close to being named as PSG's new boss, with Mauricio Pochettino on the way out, ESPN reports.

Stefano Pioli insists the Scudetto triumph must be a "starting point" for Milan after the Rossoneri lifted their first Serie A title in 11 years.

Pioli's side dethroned city rivals Inter by beating Sassuolo on the final day of the 2021-22 campaign, securing their first trophy since lifting the Italian Super Cup in 2016.

The Rossoneri won their final five matches and went 15 without defeat, with their final tally of 88 points their second best in the three-points-per-win era.

Inter will be hungry to reclaim the Serie A title in the 2022-23 campaign, with Simone Inzaghi looking set to bring in Romelu Lukaku on loan and Paulo Dybala on a free transfer.

Pioli, speaking after receiving honorary citizenship at Noceto on Monday, expressed his delight over Milan's success but acknowledged the champions will face stern competition in defending their title.

"I am very happy and proud to be here this morning. I am very attached to this city, I know the place well," Pioli said, as quoted by TuttoMercatoWeb. 

"The compliments make me happy, they are deserved for a club, a team, which has always believed and has always given our best.

"We have been able to hold on in difficult moments and that has produced great satisfaction.

"We know we have done something special, but it must be a starting point. We know the difficulties given the competitiveness that will be in Italy and in Europe.

"The guys have great enthusiasm and a lot of passion, every day they try to improve to be a team that knows how to accept defeats but which also knows how to enhance the strengths of their team-mates."

Stefano Pioli and Jose Mourinho confirmed their status as Serie A's best coaches by leading Milan and Roma to silverware last season, according to former Rossoneri and Giallorossi boss Fabio Capello.

Capello also claimed Inter's prospective move for Romelu Lukaku represents a "blow" for the rest of the Italian top flight, given his dominant displays during his successful first spell with the Nerazzurri. 

While Pioli became the first Milan boss to win the Scudetto since Massimiliano Allegri in 2010-11 last month, Mourinho ended Roma's 14-year trophy drought by winning the Europa Conference League in his first season with the club.

Capello, who led Milan to four Serie A titles in five seasons between 1991 and 1996 before masterminding Roma's most recent Scudetto triumph in 2000-01, hailed the duo's achievements as he declared next season will be make-or-break for many of the division's other top coaches. 

"The best? Pioli and Mourinho," he told Il Messaggero. 

"The first brought Milan back to success, the second confirmed himself as an international coach. Jose achieved a very important success. 

"[Juventus coach] Allegri, [Lazio's Maurizio] Sarri and [Napoli's Luciano] Spalletti paid for their return to Serie A. They were granted a transitional season. Now will be the moment of truth."

Meanwhile, with Inter reportedly set to re-sign Lukaku less than a year after his club-record £97.5million move to Chelsea, a series of Italian football's biggest names have spoken about his expected impact.

Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta said on Sunday the deal would make Inter title favourites, while Gianfranco Zola claimed the Belgian will make a "huge impact" for Simone Inzaghi's men after he scored 30 goals for the Nerazzurri in the 2020-21 campaign.

Capello concurred with those views, adding: "Lukaku is a great blow because in Italy, no one is able to mark him because of his excessive physical power."

However, while Milan are expected to work with a smaller budget than their rivals as they look to defend their crown, Capello hailed their recruitment policy and revealed his confidence that they can compete once more.

"I don't put my mouth on the market because these topics are the responsibility of the coaches," he added. 

"The experience of recent years leads me, however, to say that we must have confidence. At Milan, they have learned how to handle things, and they know how to choose [players]."

Romelu Lukaku completing his return to Inter would make the Nerazzurri favourites to win Serie A next season, according to Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta.

Lukaku is reportedly nearing an Inter comeback less than a year after making a club-record £97.5million move to Chelsea, where he scored just eight Premier League goals as Thomas Tuchel's men finished third.

The Belgian had scored 30 goals and added 11 assists during his final season with Inter, helping the Nerazzurri end an 11-year wait for a league title as they finished 12 points clear of local rivals Milan.

While the Rossoneri fought back to end their own long Scudetto drought last month, Costacurta believes the return of Lukaku would shift the balance of power in Inter's favour.

"I think they also were [favourites] last year," he told TuttoMercato.

"Inter were the strongest last year and with Lukaku the gap with the others is getting wider."

 

Costacurta also expects Juventus to be back in the title mix after they finished fourth in consecutive Serie A seasons, but claims the return of Federico Chiesa, who sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in January, is more important to their prospects than the potential arrival of Paul Pogba.  

"A lot will depend on the recovery of Chiesa, one of the best players in Europe. If he recovers well, Juve will fight against Inter," the former defender said.

"This will be the blow, the one that most of all can shift the balance. More than Pogba."

Meanwhile, Milan are reportedly looking to bolster their own attack with moves for departing Liverpool forward Divock Origi and Real Madrid's Marco Asensio, and Costacurta, who won five European Cup/Champions League titles with the Rossoneri, believes both would be useful additions.

"I have never been in love with him [Origi], but he is a wonderful player," he said.

"Like [Olivier] Giroud, he will be able to help. They are not extraordinary players, but [you need] to have players like that, like Giroud last year." 

On Asensio, Costacurta added: "He is an excellent player, he has a lot of quality."

Costacurta's glittering playing career saw him establish a fearsome defensive partnership with Milan's current technical director Paolo Maldini, and although reports have suggested the Rossoneri legend could leave in the absence of a new contract offer, Costacurta remains confident his old friend will extend his stay.

"I can't imagine a Milan without Paolo Maldini," he said. "I don't think they [the club] are morons and so I imagine that as soon as they can, Maldini will sign. 

"I don't even ask myself the problem. A radical change of strategy would be harmful. 

"It seems to me that everything is going very well. The limited budget leads to a lot of ideas, I wouldn't worry much about it."

Milan will start their Serie A title defence at home to Udinese, while Inter's attempts to reclaim the Scudetto will begin at newly promoted Lecce.

Stefano Pioli's side edged out Inter for the championship in the 2021-22 campaign, their first Scudetto in 11 years, and will again face stern competition from Juventus, Napoli and Simone Inzaghi's side next season.

Milan visit Atalanta on the second matchday, with the first Derby di Milano between Pioli's side and Inter coming on September 4, when Lazio host Napoli.

Dusan Vlahovic will return to Fiorentina with Juventus on the same weekend, while Milan host Napoli and Massimiliano Allegri's side in the space of two weeks between matchday seven and nine.

The first Derby di Roma will see Jose Mourinho's side host Lazio on matchday 13, with the return meeting scheduled for matchday 27.

Inter will meet Milan for their second clash in week 21, while Serie A will take a break between November 13 and January 4, owing to the World Cup in Qatar.

The weekend of May 7 could be influential in the title race, with Atalanta hosting Juventus, Lazio visiting Milan, Inter travelling to Roma and Napoli playing at home to Fiorentina.

Milan lifted the Scudetto on the final matchday in 2022 and should it go all the way again, Pioli's men host Hellas Verona, while Inter make the trip to Torino and Juventus are away at Udinese.

Having finishing 15 points behind champions Real Madrid in LaLiga season, Atletico Madrid are in a bit of a rebuilding process.

While Hector Herrera, Luis Suarez and Sime Vrsaljko head for the exit, Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata return from loans, with Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel potentially also signing on a free transfer.

Reports suggest that Atleti are also particularly keen on keeping one of Witsel's international team-mates.

TOP STORY – ATLETI TO WARD OFF CARRASCO INTEREST

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is unwilling to let go of Yannick Carrasco amid growing interest from Premier League clubs, according to Diario AS.

Although Carrasco's contract expires in 2024, his reported release clause of €60million reportedly makes him an attractive prospect to the likes of ChelseaTottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

Simeone has apparently ordered the club to not field any offers for the 28-year-old, who he considers fundamental to his future plans.

Though the player is reportedly happy at the Wanda Metropolitano, offers from elsewhere could potentially play a role in any contract negotiations.

ROUND-UP

– Cristiano Ronaldo is considering a departure from Manchester United in response to a lack of recent transfer activity under Erik ten Hag, Record reports.

Barcelona have finally made a bid for Robert Lewandowski, with an opening offer to Bayern Munich of €40m, according to the Telegraph.

– The same publication is also reporting that, with one year remaining on his contract, France international Adrien Rabiot has requested a transfer from Juventus to the Premier League.

Milan are considering making an offer for Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, per TuttomercatoWeb.

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