Southampton have completed their club-record signing of Ghana and Rennes winger Kamaldeen Sulemana for £22million (€24.95m).

Sulemana, 22, arrived at Rennes prior to the 2021-22 season for a €20m fee. He made 11 starts among his 20 appearances during his first Ligue 1 campaign before his season was cut short in February due to a back injury.

He has struggled to force his way back into the club's best XI this time around, with only two league starts to his name, but his stock received a massive boost after a terrific showing for Ghana at the Qatar World Cup.

Sulemana appeared in all three of Ghana's group stage matches, where he clocked the fastest sprint speed (35.7kp/h) out of every player at the tournament.

He has earned 15 senior international caps so far, although the lightning-quick forward is yet to record his first goal for his country.

The £22m fee exceeds the £20m paid to sign Danny Ings from Liverpool in 2019, and has the potential to rise to £24.6m if certain add-ons are activated.

In a second under-the-radar move, Southampton also confirmed the signing of 28-year-old Genk striker Paul Onuachu, who is the leading scorer in the Belgian top flight.

Onuachu, a Nigerian international, has scored 16 goals in his past 13 league games, and the towering 201cm presence was secured for a fee of £18.5m (€22m).

Europe's elite clubs raced to beat the January transfer deadline as Pedro Porro signed for Tottenham and Enzo Fernandez neared a record Premier League move when the window slammed shut.

Argentina's World Cup winner Fernandez appeared set to complete a long-awaited move to Chelsea in a record-breaking Premier League transfer.

While Chelsea aimed to bring in the youthful Fernandez, veteran Italy international Jorginho departed as he joined Arsenal after Mikel Arteta's side were unable to secure Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo.

Manchester United also looked to strengthen their midfield with a loan deal for Bayern Munich's Sabitzer after an injury to key playmaker Christian Eriksen at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Tottenham solidified their defensive options by snaffling Spanish wing-back Porro from Sporting CP after lengthy negotiations.

Stats Perform provides a rundown of the notable deals as the mid-season transfer window finally closed.

 

BOEHLY BREAKS RECORD FOR FERNANDEZ

Fernandez emerged as a target for Chelsea following his influential displays for Argentina during their World Cup triumph in Qatar and the Blues' Todd Boehly-led consortium appear to have finally got their man. 

After already snatching Mykhaylo Mudryk from under the noses of Arsenal, Chelsea are set to splash a reported £105.5million (€120m) on Fernandez from Benfica.

That would break the Premier League record of £100m Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish, as the Blues looked to secure the former River Plate midfielder on a reported seven-and-a-half-year contract.

ARSENAL'S CAICEDO BLUES CURED BY JORGINHO

Arteta and Arsenal's pursuit of Caicedo fell on deaf ears as Brighton refused to budge, despite the Gunners lodging a reported £70m bid for the 21-year-old.

After missing out on primary midfield target Caicedo, Jorginho switched the blue shirt of Chelsea for the red of Arsenal as he completed a reported £12m transfer to the Premier League leaders.

The 31-year-old will provide able competition for the impressive Thomas Partey after penning an 18-month contract at Emirates Stadium.

TEN HAG FINDS ERIKSEN COVER IN SABITZER

With Eriksen ruled out for three months, Erik ten Hag and United acted swiftly to attempt to bring in experienced midfielder Sabitzer on a short-term loan.

Opportunities had been hard to come by for the Austria international after joining Bayern from Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig ahead of the 2021-22 season.

He started just 15 times in his 40 appearances for the Bundesliga champions, though he may now have the chance to impress in the Premier League with Ten Hag's resurgent Red Devils.

CONTE GETS PORRO AS DOHERTY AND SPENCE DEPART

It appeared Tottenham may not secure the services of attack-minded wing-back Porro, formerly of Girona and Manchester City, after it seemed negotiations had come to a halt with Sporting.

But Spurs confirmed the 23-year-old's arrival late on, with Porro signing a five-and-a-half-year deal after a reported £40m (€45m) move from Sporting, who signed Barcelona's Hector Bellerin as a replacement.

That transfer saw Djed Spence, who only signed from Middlesbrough in a deal worth up to £20m in July, sent out to Ligue 1's Rennes for the rest of the season on loan.

Fellow full-back Matt Doherty also made way as he joined Atletico Madrid on a six-month contract, with Spurs terminating the 31-year-old's contract to "enable him to join another club".

OTHER DEALS

Bournemouth paid their second-highest transfer fee in history for Illya Zabarnyi, parting with a reported £24m (€27.2m) for the Ukraine centre-back from Dynamo Kyiv.

Gary O'Neil's Bournemouth added a second signing soon after, confirming the arrival of Sassuolo midfielder Hamed Traore on a loan that will become permanent on a five-year deal in June.

Nottingham Forest continued their spending after signing Atletico centre-back Felipe on a deal that will run until 2024, while Jonjo Shelvey also arrived from Newcastle United on a deal until 2025, and a move for Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas on loan was reportedly nearing.

Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace bolstered their midfield by bringing in Naouirou Ahamada for a reported £10.5m (€12m) fee from Stuttgart, while Arsenal's Albert Sambi Lokonga joined on a six-month loan.

Leeds United's Diego Llorente joined Jose Mourinho's Roma on loan until the end of the season, with an option for a permanent transfer reportedly worth €18m (£15.9m).

Ayoze Perez is another Premier League player who will spend the second half of the term on loan, with the Leicester City forward moving to LaLiga side Real Betis.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's Serbia team-mate Sasa Lukic traded Torino for Fulham in a transfer reportedly worth £8.8m (€10m) including add-ons, signing a contract until June 2027.

Lukic will likely be joined by Arsenal full-back Cedric Soares after Marco Silva's side reportedly agreed to bring the former Southampton defender on a six-month loan.

Outside of England, Borussia Dortmund and Belgium midfielder Thorgan Hazard completed a short-term loan move to Eredivisie title hopefuls PSV.

Newcastle United have reportedly pushed Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to the top of their extended transfer wish-list.

Calvert-Lewin, 25, is in his seventh season with Everton, which has been highlighted by a pair of terrific seasons in 2019-20 and 2020-21 where he combined for 29 of his 46 total Premier League goals.

He missed three months this past campaign due to a fractured toe, and spent the first two months of the current season on the sideline nursing a knee injury, resulting in only one league goal since May.

Despite his lack of production in recent months, Calvert-Lewin already has 11 senior international caps for England under his belt, and could be viewed as a depreciating asset due to Everton's struggle in the relegation zone.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE IDENTIFY CALVERT-LEWIN AS TOP FORWARD TARGET

According to The Sun, Newcastle want to secure Calvert-Lewin this month as he is "right at the top" of their list of targets.

The report states he is valued at £35million, and Everton are bracing themselves for bids as they sit 19th after just three wins from 19 matches.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph adds Newcastle are in discussions to send striker Chris Wood on loan to Nottingham Forest, as well as listing a number of players the club have expressed interest in.

They include Calvert-Lewin's team-mate Anthony Gordon, Chelsea trio Conor Gallagher, Hakim Ziyech and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Manchester United's Scott McTominay.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic are reporting Brighton and Hove Albion have rejected a £55m bid from Chelsea for 21-year-old midfielder Moises Caicedo.

– According to AS, Barcelona would like to sign 26-year-old Wolves forward Goncalo Guedes on a loan with a mandatory buy clause, but Italian journalist Matteo Moretto is reporting Guedes is in Portugal ahead of completing a loan move to Benfica.

Everton are in talks with Rennes about a loan with an option to buy 20-year-old winger Kamaldeen Sulemana, although the Ghana international is expected to cost in the range of £40m (€45m), per GiveMeSport.

– Bild are reporting highly rated 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko – who had interest from Chelsea and Barcelona as he entered the final six months of his contract – is in the final stages of signing a three-year extension with the German club.

Leicester City have offered £10m for 24-year-old Stoke City centre-back Harry Souttar, who was a standout for Australia at the World Cup, per GianlucaDimarzio.com.

Christophe Galtier sucked up another painful Ligue 1 defeat for Paris Saint-Germain and told his World Cup stars they must find their focus again.

PSG began the year with a seven-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, but that has been clipped to three after defeats to Lens and now Rennes, who beat the Parisians 1-0 on Sunday.

Head coach Galtier will face scrutiny for such domestic losses, given the superstars at his disposal, and he knows he and the team must start to show their best again.

Galtier told Prime Video: "I'm mainly disappointed with our performance. We didn't create anything, we had very few favourable situations.

"We focused on having possession of the ball and we had far too many players who dropped back without having players high enough to secure the Rennes defensive line."

PSG had only eight attempts on goal, their lowest total in a league game this season, and only one went on target. The defeat was a third in their last four trips to Rennes in the league, with the Breton side firmly established as a bogey side for the capital giants.

Galtier pointed to issues with Lionel Messi and Neymar having no obvious targets when looking to move the ball forward, and that situation persisted when Kylian Mbappe came on as a substitute early in the second half, replacing the ineffective Hugo Etikike.

The former Lille, Saint-Etienne and Nice coach said there was an "urgent" need for PSG to get back on track.

"Obviously we're going to have to find a lot more play and connection between the lines," he said. "We knew we would have a difficult match, and we had it. The opposing goalkeeper was barely troubled. We need to find a lot more rhythm, intensity and technical relationship between one another.

"I'm not going to talk about worry, but there has to be awareness. We can find a thousand excuses, but the World Cup is over.

"Even if we have been dispersed for eight weeks, we need to find cohesion and rhythm in our game."

PSG will head to Saudi Arabia next to face a Riyadh Season Team, made up of players from Al Hilal and Al Nassr, in an exhibition game on Thursday.

Al Nassr's new signing Cristiano Ronaldo could be involved in that game, but Galtier wants intense focus from his players when they get a chance to train on the getaway.

They do not have another Ligue 1 game until Reims visit the Parc des Princes on January 29, although there is a Coupe de France tie against minnows Pays de Cassel on January 23.

"We will have 10 days to work," Galtier said.

Lens are their nearest challengers, but Marseille are only five points adrift of PSG.

"The championship is tight," Galtier said. "I'm not used to looking at the standings but I'm concentrating on performance and I have work to do."

Warren Zaire-Emery, at the age of 16 years and 313 days, became the youngest player in PSG's history to start a Ligue 1 match. He played 72 minutes before being replaced by Carlos Soler.

Galtier will gather his players to show them video comparisons with how the team are performing now and how they played prior to the World Cup.

Mbappe was the World Cup's top scorer, while Messi brilliantly captained Argentina to the trophy, being named player of the tournament. Such form has been mostly lacking since resuming PSG duties, but they are not the only ones culpable.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was absent from Qatar 2022 after Italy failed to qualify, said PSG's players are furious by their collective drop-off in performance.

"We are angry, and we have to bounce back immediately after this match, from this defeat, because we have no more time to lose," Donnarumma said, quoted on the club's website.

"It was an avoidable loss. They didn't have many chances but we should have done more. We have to learn from this game. We are upset, but now we have to focus on the next game."

Kylian Mbappe fluffed a golden chance on his 200th Ligue 1 appearance as leaders Paris Saint-Germain stumbled to a 1-0 defeat against bogey team Rennes.

Hamari Traore stunned the capital city giants by breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute with a clinical left-footed strike, his first league goal of the season.

Substitute Mbappe squandered a clear opportunity for a leveller after being played in behind the Rennes defence soon afterwards, sweeping a powerful shot over the bar when he only had Steve Mandanda to beat.

PSG pushed for a leveller, but Rennes had their number once again at Roazhon Park, which has been the way of things in recent seasons.

The visitors' threat was stifled in the first half, and the best chance fell to Rennes striker Arnaud Kalimuendo, whose volley from 10 yards was blocked by Gianluigi Donnarumma. The Italian also later saved well from Amine Gouiri.

Lionel Messi was not at his sharpest, sending one shot from 20 yards soaring high over the crossbar and failing to hit the target with any of his three goal attempts before the break.

Neymar was similarly subdued, but PSG had a weapon up their sleeve with Mbappe among their substitutes.

Danilo Pereira looked to have squandered a big chance when Mandanda parried his close-range header early in the second half, but the defender, making his 100th PSG appearance, was one of three players offside in the build-up.

Coach Christophe Galtier sent on Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi in the 55th minute, as Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele made way. However, the opening goal went to Rennes, with captain Traore lashing a stabbed cutback from Adrien Truffert low and past the reaches of Donnarumma from 12 yards.

Mbappe then missed woefully after connecting with a long pass from Messi, and try as they might, the visitors could not find a way back to level terms.

Manchester United are set to be busy in the January transfer window following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit in November.

Erik ten Hag's side are in the market to bolster their forward options, having already been linked to a host of players.

But United look set to settle for short-term loan deals with little money available for a transfer fee, limiting their options.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD INTERESTED IN EX-CHELSEA FLOP MORATA

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing Spain international forward Alvaro Morata on loan, according to ESPN.

United missed out on signing Cody Gakpo, who has joined Liverpool, while they face stiff competition to land Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix along with a reported total package worth €22million for six months.

The report claims the Red Devils are hoping Atletico are willing to listen to loan offers, with the 30-year-old having been loaned to Juventus this season.

ROUND-UP

– Media Foot claims Manchester United and Tottenham have both commenced talks with Rennes on £34m-valued striker Martin Terrier.

Chelsea are rapidly closing in on a deal for 21-year-old Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs, with personal terms agreed.

– The Athletic reports that Chelsea have taken positive steps in talks with N'Golo Kante on re-committing to the club on a new deal. Kante's contract expires in June and he has been linked with several clubs in the January transfer window, including Barcelona .

Manchester City will offer Milan forward Rafael Leao a contract worth €12m per season as they bid to lure him to England in January, claims TuttoMercatoWeb.

Borussia Dortmund have joined the race to sign Juventus' United States international midfielder Weston McKennie, according to Tuttosport, with the German club viewing him as a suitable replacement for Jude Bellingham.

– PSG defender Sergio Ramos is being pursued by Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr, claims Marca. Al Nassr are trying to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to join the club, which is their priority move.

Barcelona will face Manchester United in their return to the Europa League after the Blaugrana were drawn against the Premier League club in the knockout round play-offs.

Xavi's side dropped into Europe's second-tier competition for the second season running after failing to progress from the Champions League group stages, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter.

It sets up the outstanding tie with Erik ten Hag's United, who are looking to end a trophy drought stretching back to when they last won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

United came second to Real Sociedad in the Europa League group stage, ultimately missing out to La Real by one goal.

They have paid the price for their failure in that regard, with Barca arguably the toughest draw they could possibly get and La Real already through to the competition's last 16.

Joining Barca in dropping down from the Champions League are Juventus, though they will likely be much more content with their draw after being paired with Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Europa League knockout round play-offs:

Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting CP v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV
Salzburg v Roma

Manchester City's incredible squad depth means some players may be tempted away despite their success.

Among those is centre-back Nathan Ake, who has only managed 30 Premier League appearances since his move to Etihad Stadium in 2020, although he has made five starts this term.

The 29-cap Netherlands international joined City for a reported £41million fee from Bournemouth.

TOP STORY – INTER PLOT MOVE FOR CITY'S AKE

Inter are trying to lure Manchester City defender Nathan Ake to Serie A, claims Ekrem Konur.

The 27-year-old Dutchman has been on City's books since 2020, joining on a five-year contract.

Inter may be looking for reinforcements for their defensive stocks, with uncertainty over Milan Skriniar's future.

ROUND-UP

– Paris Saint-Germain will move again for Inter defender Skriniar in January, reports ESPN. Skriniar is in the final year of his Inter contract and may be available for a cut-price fee.

– Liverpool have joined Juventus and Napoli in having an interest in 21-year-old Rennes winger Jeremy Doku, according to Calciomercato.

– Chelsea are monitoring teenage Villarreal midfielder Yeremy Pino, potentially in the event of Mason Mount leaving the club, claims The Telegraph.

– Football Insider reports Gabriel Martinelli and Arsenal are in talks over a new deal, with the Brazilian's existing contract set to expire in 2024.

– Arsenal are interested in 23-year-old Club Brugge forward Ferran Jutgla, claims Todofichajes.

Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan have withdrawn from France's squad for their trip to Denmark after sustaining injuries, leading Didier Deschamps to call up Rennes' Steve Mandanda.

Goals from Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud ensured France picked up the first win of their Nations League campaign against Austria on Thursday, but their injury crisis worsened at the Stade de France.

Deschamps' team were already without Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and others for their final Nations League fixtures, and Juventus midfielder Pogba is a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

They were further depleted when Barcelona new boy Kounde was withdrawn after 23 minutes against Austria, and it has now been revealed Maignan was in pain before his own half-time exit.

A statement issued by the French Football Federation on Friday read: "Mike Maignan had to give up his place to Alphonse Areola at half-time in France-Austria on Thursday evening at the Stade de France, due to pain felt in the left calf.

"The Milan goalkeeper will not be able to play against Denmark on Sunday in Copenhagen. To replace him, Didier Deschamps called on Steve Mandanda. 

"Maignan will leave the group during the day, as will Jules Kounde, who is suffering from a left hamstring injury. Both players will take exams in the morning before being released to their club.

"Kounde will not be replaced in the group that will arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday."

Mandanda has won 34 senior caps since making his France debut in 2008, and was part of the squad which won the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

France could still be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and cannot progress to the competition's finals, with Croatia and Denmark locked in a battle for top spot in Group A1.

The transfer window has been gently eased shut, and there were plenty of last-minute deals to keep fans across Europe captivated.

Southampton were busy, adding Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Duje Caleta-Car to their ranks, among others, while Barcelona allowed Martin Braithwaite to join Espanyol on a free transfer and sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea.

As the seconds ticked down, clubs dotted their i's, crossed their t's and blew the dust off their fax machines, and here is just some of what took place in the closing hours.

Busy Saints bring in four, lose one

As far as the Premier League goes, it was Southampton who got up to the most activity in the final moments, signing Maitland-Niles on loan from Arsenal and Caleta-Car permanently from Marseille on a four-year deal, as well as adding two Manchester City youngsters in Juan Larios and Sam Edozie. They let defender Yan Valery to Ligue 1 side Angers.

Brighton and Hove Albion completed the signing of Billy Gilmour from Chelsea and released Romanian striker Florin Andone, while Chelsea let Ethan Ampadu join Serie A side Spezia on loan and finally allowed Kenedy to depart Stamford Bridge after seven years to join Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Carlos Vinicius returned to the Premier League after a loan spell with Tottenham in 2020-21, having joined Fulham from Benfica on a permanent deal. The Cottagers also completed a loan deal for Leeds United winger Daniel James.

The Whites were frustrated in their attempts to sign Bamba Dieng from Marseille, but instead clinched a deal for Italian youngster Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich for an undisclosed fee.

Nottingham Forest added signings number 20 and 21 of the window in Josh Bowler from Blackpool and Loic Bade from Rennes, with free agent Serge Aurier potentially making it 22, though a reported late move for Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi failed to materialise.

Jan Bednarek had been linked with a move to West Ham earlier in the day but ended up leaving Southampton on loan to another team in claret and blue as Aston Villa brought in the Polish defender.

Brooks was here, now he's in Lisbon

On the continent, Benfica completed the signing of American defender John Brooks from Wolfsburg, while Maxi Gomez left Valencia for Turkish side Trabzonspor.

Los Che brought in a replacement for Gomez in Justin Kluivert on loan from Roma after his move to Fulham fell through due to work permit issues.

In France, highly rated forward Amine Gouiri swapped Nice for Rennes in a reported club-record fee apparently worth €28million, while Lille secured a loan deal for Everton midfielder Andre Gomes.

As well as signing Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin and losing Braithwaite, Barcelona also said goodbye on a temporary basis to Ez Abde, who joined Osasuna on loan.

The European domestic season is now back up and running, meaning we are officially into a World Cup campaign.

For some players, the main focus over the next few months will be remaining fit with the hope of entering Qatar 2022 in peak condition for their respective nations.

For others, the first part of the 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to play themselves into contention for a squad place ahead of the biggest tournament of them all.

That includes an array of talented stars who have yet to represent their countries at senior level, but who could be given the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage.

With the big kick-off now just 100 days away, Stats Perform has identified five uncapped players who still have an outside shot of glory in Qatar.


Gleison Bremer (Brazil) – 25, centre-back, Juventus

If Bremer was not on the radar of Brazil head coach Tite ahead of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old certainly will be now. He ranked first among Serie A defenders last term for duels contested (451) and also led the way for headed clearances (75), showing that he can be relied upon at the back.

Indeed, Bremer's form last time out led to Juventus splashing out a reported €50million to sign him from Torino during the close season. Brazil must be quick, though, as the Italian top-flight's best defender last season is also eligible to represent the Azzurri.

 

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Lazio

Goalkeeper Maximiano is another who moved to a club of bigger stature just a few months out from the World Cup beginning after swapping relegated Granada, where he impressed in his only campaign, for Serie A side Lazio. The 23-year-old certainly had a chance to showcase his shot-stopping abilities last season, with his 127 saves the most of any keeper in LaLiga, and the fifth-most of anyone in Europe's top five leagues.

Following the departure of long-serving Thomas Strakosha, Maximiano will be installed as first choice at Stadio Olimpico, where Portugal boss Fernando Santos may make a visit or two in the coming months.



Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Newcastle United

Despite catching the eye in Ligue 1 with Lille, particularly in 2020-21 when starting 37 of the 38 matches played in their stunning title-winning campaign, Botman has remained on the periphery of the Netherlands squad. He has been a regular for the Oranje at Under-21 level, but after joining Newcastle in a £31.8m (€37m) transfer last month, he is surely now in serious consideration for a place in the senior squad.

Having led the way among Lille players last time out per 90 minutes for successful passes (53.4), blocks (0.84) and headed clearances (2.2), the Dutchman will hope to hit the ground running in another new league.

 

Benjamin Bourigeaud (France) – 28, attacking midfielder, Rennes

Reigning world champions France are blessed with world-class talent right across the pitch, but could there be room for a wild card in the form of Bourigeaud? The versatile attacking midfielder can play in a number of positions, though was predominantly used out on the right in what was a career-best season last time out in Ligue 1.

While France are hardly crying out for another player to slot into the final third, Bourigeaud's 23 direct goal involvements for Rennes last season is a tally bettered by only four others, while his David Beckham-esque deliveries from wide can provide something a little different for Didier Deschamps' men.

 

Inaki Williams (Ghana) – 28, forward, Athletic Bilbao

Ghana's squad has been completely transformed since booking their place in Qatar, having persuaded six players to switch allegiance and represent them at the World Cup. Patric Pfeiffer, Stephen Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer are all available for selection, as are Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

Each of those players will enhance Otto Addo's squad, with Williams – capped once by Spain in a friendly – possibly a game-changing option in attack. He is someone who can be replied upon, too, having appeared in each of Athletic's past 233 LaLiga matches, a run spanning back to April 2016. 

Paris Saint-Germain striker Arnaud Kalimuendo has joined Rennes in a reported €25million transfer, penning a five-year deal with the Ligue 1 side.

Kalimuendo, a France Under-21 international who signed his first professional contract with PSG as a 17-year-old in 2019, had been strongly linked with Premier League side Leeds United after they missed out on Belgian forward Charles De Ketelaere to Milan.

The pacey forward has spent each of the last two seasons on loan at Lens, scoring 12 league goals in the 2021-22 campaign as they recorded an impressive seventh-placed finish.

Only nine players, including PSG stars Kylian Mbappe (28) and Neymar (13), outscored Kalimuendo last term, earning the 20-year-old a big-money move to Europa League qualifiers Rennes.

PSG boss Christophe Galtier had confirmed Kalimuendo's move was imminent earlier on Thursday, while Mauro Icardi is also expected to leave the Parc des Princes to make room for another attacking recruit.

Rennes lost their Ligue 1 opener to Lorient last Sunday and face a trip to Monaco in their second game of the campaign on Saturday.

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.

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."

Bayern Munich have confirmed the capture of Rennes teenager Mathys Tel, with the highly rated forward joining on a five-year deal in a €20million-plus move.

The 17-year-old will link up with the Bundesliga champions on a contract through to 2027 after showing glimpses of his potential in Ligue 1 last season.

Tel skippered the France Under-17 team to glory in the European Under-17 Championship final last month, and he has now been rewarded with a bumper switch to one of the continent's biggest clubs.

"Bayern are one of the best teams in the world," the forward said. "I'm very much looking forward to this great challenge and I will give my all for this club.

"I've been very impressed with the discussions with Hasan Salihamidzic and the Bayern management, and I quickly realised I definitely wanted to come to Munich."

Bayern sporting director Salihamidzic said: "Mathys Tel is one of the biggest talents in Europe. We've been watching him for a long time and we were able to convince him to take his next important steps in Munich with us now.

"The development of such an exceptional young player is an exciting project for us all. We are all convinced he has a great career in front of him and that he will help our team."

Tel made 10 senior appearances for Rennes last term and is the second player to depart the French outfit in a big-money deal during the close season, following Nayef Aguerd's move to West Ham.

He takes the number 39 shirt, with the number nine still vacant after Robert Lewandowski's departure to Barcelona.

Youngster Tel is reported to have cost Bayern an initial €20million, with a further €8.5million in add-ons tied into the deal.

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