Aston Villa have further bolstered their defensive stocks with the signing of England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa from Championship side Brentford.

Villa reportedly triggered the centre-back's £12million release clause to make him their seventh signing since winning promotion to the Premier League.

The Charlton Athletic product briefly played under Dean Smith at Brentford, for whom he made 42 league appearances in 2018/19.

Konsa joins Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause, both now committed to permanent deals, among Villa's defensive reinforcements and will fly out to the United States with his new team-mates on Thursday.

"Ezri fits the profile of the type of player we were searching for," manager Smith said.

"It helps that [assistant coach] Richard O'Kelly and I have worked with him before. He's a high-potential player who I believe can step up to the Premier League and I'm really looking forward to working with him again."

Konsa formed part of the England squad that stumbled to a premature exit at the recent European Under-21 Championship.

Villa have not confirmed the length of the contract.

Arsenal say they are "very disappointed" in Laurent Koscielny after confirming the defender has refused to travel on their pre-season tour of the United States.

The Gunners are due to ramp up preparations for the new campaign with a friendly against Colorado Rapids in Denver and three International Champions Cup encounters but will do so without their captain.

Koscielny's refusal to join his team-mates in making the trip comes amid intense speculation surrounding his future.

Ligue 1 sides Lyon and Bordeaux have been linked with the 33-year-old former France international, as have Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

An Arsenal statement read: "Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel to the US for our pre-season tour.

"We are very disappointed by Laurent's actions, which are against our clear instructions. 

"We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time."

Koscielny made 17 appearances in the Premier League last season after returning from a long-term Achilles injury in December.

His compatriot, teenage centre-back William Saliba, is on the cusp of completing a transfer to Emirates Stadium, but is expected to then return to Saint-Etienne on loan.

Marcus Rashford believes Manchester United must "settle" under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in order to reassert a fading sense of identity.

Solskjaer is overseeing his first pre-season after signing a three-year contract in March to become United's full-time manager.

His predecessor, Jose Mourinho, is the only man since Alex Ferguson to have held the post for longer than two seasons.

Though a fan favourite in his playing days, there will be pressure on former striker Solskjaer to achieve early results after failing to secure Champions League qualification last term.

Successfully implementing a vision before the new campaign could prove critical and star forward Rashford thinks the ingredients are right for a period of stability.

"I feel like we can start to settle and I think that is what we needed most," Rashford told United's official website.

"It has been a lot of chopping and changing, different tactics and different systems, and now I think we can settle in to what we are trying to do and really get that identity back."

United's planning has already been hit by an admission from agent Mino Raiola that his client, Paul Pogba, wants out of Old Trafford.

Rashford, 21, is at least certain to stay after signing a new four-year contract earlier this month.

And the England international has observed positives ahead of Saturday's friendly against Perth Glory, despite the uncertainty surrounding World Cup winner Pogba.

"The thing that has gone up for me is the intensity and just the level of training," he said.

"I think we are starting to understand it all a bit better. We can use this. This is Ole's first pre-season and he can really stamp down what he wants to do.

"We have got to use the remainder of the time here and then in Singapore and China to keep progressing and improving."

Sam Allardyce claims he rejected the chance to speak to Newcastle United about returning to the club as Rafael Benitez's replacement.

Newcastle are searching for a new manager after Benitez left for China following the expiry of his contract at the end of June.

Steve Bruce has reportedly emerged as the favourite, but another former Sunderland boss in Allardyce claims to have been contacted about the role, much to his own surprise.

The former Bolton Wanderers, West Ham and England manager spent eight unhappy months in charge of Newcastle before a parting of ways in January 2008.

"I was certainly extremely surprised," Allardyce told talkSPORT about the approach.

"It never really got to the sort of talks people are suggesting. I had to chat to my agent and, as much as I respect Newcastle, Newcastle fans and Mike [Ashley, Newcastle owner], it wasn't for me. I politely said no and moved on.

"It's that thing [in your mind]... don't go back.

"Maybe if it was the first time around I'd have jumped at it, but not now. I appreciate the offer. I was very flattered that I was being considered.

"I had a think about it, but it wasn't something I thought about too long. It was better that I made a quick decision for everybody because they're in pre-season now.

"I never got to talk to Mike, it was just my agent contacted me and I had a quick think about it and a look at the situation. [It was] not for me."

Allardyce, 64, has not held a full-time coaching role since leaving Everton in May 2018.

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

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

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

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA IN NO RUSH OVER NEYMAR

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

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

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

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

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Lampard's Chelsea were held to a draw in the Blues great's first game as head coach after Bohemians scored a late equaliser in an entertaining pre-season friendly.

The Blues boss took the opportunity to give 22 different players a run out at Dalymount Park, with Willy Caballero, Cesar Azpilicueta, Danny Drinkwater and Pedro all featuring in a strong Chelsea starting line-up.

It took Michy Batshuayi just eight minutes to score the first goal of the Lampard era, firing home instinctively from six yards after he collected the rebound from Kenedy's deflected shot.

Pedro skied a free-kick over the crossbar as Chelsea dominated the first half, although Caballero was forced into a first save when former Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Danny Mandroiu forced the Argentine goalkeeper to punch a dipping shot away.

Lampard sent on 11 different players after half-time, with returning loanees Kurt Zouma, Izzy Brown and Tiemoue Bakayoko given the chance to impress.

Teenage midfielder Billy Gilmour and Bakayoko both squandered second-half chances as Chelsea failed to extend their lead, and the hosts passed up a number of opportunities to test Chelsea's second-half goalkeeper Jamie Cumming.

But Bohemians midfielder and trialist Eric Molloy made no mistake when he burst into the box with just over a minute left on the clock, lashing the ball high into the net beyond Cumming to deny Lampard a first win.

Harry Kane says Tottenham are motivated to become an even stronger team following last season's Champions League final heartbreak.

A 2-0 loss to Premier League rivals Liverpool in June's showpiece denied Spurs what would have been a first major trophy since 2008.

Goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi gave Liverpool victory in Madrid, where Kane returned from injury but struggled to make an impact.

But Kane is hopeful the European run will not be a one-off for his side, who have moved to strengthen by bringing in Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club-record fee.

"I think it just motivates you to get better," Kane told Sky Sports. "With the Champions League final, you want to play in those games all the time.

"We know it's going to be tough to get back there this year and it's down to us to perform."

Spurs finished the 2018-19 campaign fourth in the Premier League to guarantee themselves a place in the Champions League group stage.

New signings Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are eager to prove themselves and have a big part to play at Manchester United, according to midfielder Juan Mata.

Following the disappointment of finishing sixth in the Premier League last season, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has focused on bringing in young, British talent in the transfer market.

James arrived in a reported £15million deal from Swansea City in June and Wan-Bissaka followed close behind from Crystal Palace for around £50m.

The duo, both aged 21, have been training with their new team-mates over the past week and Mata said they are settling in well.

"You can see it from the first moment - they both have their qualities," he said in an interview on United's official app. "Wan-Bissaka has played in the Premier League before and James has been doing great things at Swansea. 

"Hopefully they can give us a lot. They are very important because they are very young and very hungry to give their best for the club."

Academy products Tahith Chong, James Garner, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes are also part of United's squad for their pre-season tour of Australia and Asia.

Mata, who signed a new two-year deal with the Red Devils in June to take him through until the age of 33, is happy to take the younger members in the group under his wing.

"I have to say that first of all they are very nice guys," he said. "Sometimes when you are their age you can lose your head a little bit and think you are a better player, or bigger players, than you actually are. 

"But they are very calm and very humble, the four of them. They are trying their best. I really like them as personalities and as players. That is why they are here.

"[Solskjaer] knows that in a squad you need balance, you need a mix of young players and more experienced players." 

He added: "It is true that time flies and it feels like yesterday when I was 22, 23, but I have been playing football now for a long time - 12, 13 years as a professional. 

"I enjoy that part of the game, speaking to young players now and trying to tell them how I understand football, how I think professional football players should be, but obviously my focus is still on giving my best on the pitch.

"I want to play as much as I can, I want to score and to assist. That is my main focus. But I enjoy speaking with Marcus [Rashford], with Mason, with Jimmy, with Gomes and Chongy. They are great guys and they have a great future ahead."

Divock Origi has signed a new long-term contract at Liverpool, the club announced on Wednesday.

The striker's previous deal was due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 season, but the club have moved to retain him in the wake of his heroics in Liverpool's triumphant Champions League campaign.

Origi scored twice as the Reds stunned Barcelona with a 4-0 triumph in the second leg of the semi-finals and then wrote his name into Anfield folklore with a goal in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the final as Liverpool clinched Europe's top prize for the sixth time.

The 24-year-old told the club's official website: "I'm very happy to be able to sign this contract and it gives you a boost at the beginning of the season, as well as the end of the season last year. So I'm very happy.

"I always felt comfortable here. I made steps during my career, I say that I became a man here at this club, I signed when I was 19.

"When we had to make the decision I just wanted to speak with the club first and my entourage, but the feeling was always that I wanted to stay and extend my contract."

Liverpool paid Lille a reported £10million for Origi in July 2014 but he has struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular.

After being loaned straight back to Lille for a season he made seven Premier League starts in 2015-16 and scored five goals.

A loan spell at Wolfsburg followed in 2017-18, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp kept Origi in the squad last term and he scored some crucial goals for the Premier League runners-up.

"It's an amazing club, we have a good group, the staff are amazing. Even coming into Melwood, the people that work here and everything, you feel there is something special going on here," said Origi.

"We're still young so there's a lot of potential in the group. I'm just having fun in training and on the pitch. Those are all important factors as a player.

"[I want] to keep progressing and trying to maximise the potential and talent I have each and every day. At the end of my career I want to sit back and be proud that I used all of my gifts and talents.

"I think the next years are going to be very special – prime years, maybe – and I'm going to try to use them to the fullest."

Standards must be raised at Manchester United following last season's disappointment, according to Juan Mata.

Former Spain international Mata previously described United's end-of-season slump, which saw them win just two of their last 12 matches in all competitions and miss out on Champions League qualification, as "very painful".

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led the club to eight consecutive victories after taking over from Jose Mourinho last December but soon found himself under pressure as the club failed to win any of their last six matches in 2018-19.

Mata started 16 Premier League games last season – the fewest across the course of a full season since he joined the club in January 2014.

In an interview with United's official app, the former Chelsea and Valencia playmaker issued a rallying cry as the team look to return to the club to its former glories.

"Last season was not easy for any of us and for them [the fans] also," he said.

"I have to say thank you because they helped us in the difficult moments. All I can say is that we will try our best to make them proud. We know that we have to improve.

"We have to set ourselves higher standards and demand more from each other if we want to improve. We know that from the first day of pre-season and we are determined to improve, to have a better season and to make them proud.

"We had a meeting on the first day in which the manager and the staff spoke about what they expect from us, what they expect from Manchester United players and I think that is the right thing to do.

"I think we all have to know what we represent, we have to know the level that people expect from us and I think it is good to do it the first day. Since then, they are trying to help the players, trying to improve in the way they want us to play and it is all fine so far."

Mata, who turned 31 in April, surprised some of the club's supporters by signing a new two-year United contract in June, with the option for a further season.

"We know that in football there are three or four big clubs in the world, or in Europe, and United is one of them," said Mata, who has won the FA Cup, the EFL Cup and the Europa League during his time at Old Trafford.

"Despite the fact we haven't been living the best moment in our history, even if we were winning trophies, that feeling of waking up every day and feeling like a Red Devil is unbelievable. I wanted to keep feeling that, I wanted to stay and I wanted to give my best to bring United to where it belongs.

"I have been here a bit more than five years and I have realised how amazing the supporters are and especially in the tough moments. I cannot imagine how it would be if we win a big trophy, how the town would turn red and I imagine myself in that situation.

"That is another reason why I wanted to stay. I have lived difficult moments but I am really looking forward to living great moments in this club. I wanted to stay, I wanted to commit to the club, to keep enjoying wearing the shirt and keep trying my best."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rumoured Manchester United target Mario Lemina has confirmed he is seeking a move away from Southampton and would prefer to remain in the Premier League.

The 25-year-old has been left out of the Saints' squad for their pre-season training camp in Austria amid reports that United have been given permission to speak to him.

Arsenal and Leicester City are also said to have made contact with Lemina, who arrived at St Mary's Stadium from Juventus two years ago in a reported £15.4million deal that could potentially rise to £18.1m.

But the Gabon international has made it clear he wants to further his career elsewhere, with a move to another English club his priority.

"I am physically preparing myself at the training centre, with a few other players including Charlie Austin and Jordy Clasie," he told France Football. 

"I did not accompany the team in training in agreement with the coach [Ralph Hasenhuttl]. He wants to build his group with the players who want to stay at the club, so he left me out.

"The best option for me would be to stay [in the Premier League], but I do not close the door to any club, no country. I aspire to play for the biggest clubs.

"I had chosen to leave Juventus for Southampton to have more playing time - I got it. I have made a good impression in England."

Lemina missed four months of last season with an abdominal injury, but he insisted the problem is behind him and he is now fully fit.

"As early as last year, I had set my conditions: I wanted to go elsewhere this summer," he said. "I was also very frustrated by my injury that lasted four months, so I really want to discover something else.

"I'm not afraid. I made a choice and I take it to the end. I stand by my plan. I decided to tell the leaders that I wanted to leave, there is no turning back. 

"There is a risk, of course, but I know what I'm capable of. I'm 100 per cent fit and I'm going to prove that I can get back to my best. 

"Some clubs may be more cautious, but they already know me. Today I am fully recovered, I have worked a lot. I am ready to move on. The injury is a very hard one to handle and it requires a lot of work. I did it and now I'm doing very well physically."

Lemina has emerged as a rumoured target for United after impressing across his 52 appearances for Southampton.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have already lost midfielders Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini over the last five months, while Paul Pogba's future also remains uncertain. 

And after spending two years with Juventus, Lemina is hopeful that he can play for another big club.

"I'm trying to regain consistency and to become an important player in a team with high goals," he said. "I need to play. That's really my priority. I want to show everyone what I can do. 

"Everything depends on the project that is proposed to me... There are many unknowns. I'm waiting, even if I already had some approaches. I really hope that it will be done quickly, to be able to be part of a team before the resumption of the league."

Fenerbahce have distanced themselves from reports linking them with Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, adamant they cannot afford the playmaker.

Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013, and although he has been a key player for much of that time, he has also polarised opinion among the club's supporters.

After an underwhelming season under Unai Emery last term, media speculation had suggested Arsenal are willing to offload Ozil in order to lighten their wage bill, but Fenerbahce insist rumours of a loan move are wide of the mark.

Marcus Rashford accepts the controversial expletive-laden social media video posted by Manchester United team-mate Jesse Lingard while the pair were on holiday was "a mistake".

Lingard attracted negative headlines after he uploaded a video touring the unkempt Miami apartment he, Rashford and friends were staying in last month.

England international Lingard was criticised for using inappropriate language in the clip, with former United captain Gary Neville referring to him as "a bit of a prat".

It is claimed Lingard posted the video by accident, though he still attracted plenty of scorn for the language and behaviour on display.

The United squad is back together following their end-of-season break, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men preparing for friendlies in Australia, but Rashford says he has not been spoken to by his manager.

"I haven't spoken to the manager about it," Rashford told reporters in Perth.

"From what I saw of it, people have to understand that he was enjoying his holiday and it was a mistake.

"There's not really much I can say about that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains optimistic David de Gea will sign an extension at Manchester United rather than run down his contract.

The Spain international joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and, after a shaky start, has developed into arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.

Since the start of the 2013-14 season, De Gea has been the undisputed first choice at Old Trafford, putting in some remarkable performances.

A return to Spain has regularly been mooted, with Real Madrid long-time admirers having previously attempted to sign him, and his future remains uncertain.

De Gea's contract expires in 2020 and prolonged negotiations have failed to yield an agreement, posing the risk United could lose one of their most valuable assets for free, but Solskjaer is not resigned to losing the 28-year-old.

"I'm positive, of course, with David. I've said many times how lucky I am and happy we are to have him in goal," Solskjaer told reporters in Perth ahead of Saturday's friendly with Perth Glory.

"David has had a close-season where he has been negotiating and we hope we can get it sorted. I am positive. We hope he stays here for many years."

Following a disappointing 2018-19 campaign that saw United finish sixth in the Premier League, Solskjaer and the club's hierarchy have been tasked with making considerable changes to the squad.

Although only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have arrived, Solskjaer is confident more will follow, but stressed they will not be making rash decisions.

"Doing business in the football market is not a quick fix overnight," Solskjaer added.

"We have players I trust and who I know are going to be successful at this club and we've signed two, Dan and Aaron, with speed, hunger and quality, to be part of that.

"We know last year was disappointing and what we have to aim for this year. We've got to close the gap.

"We ended up sixth in a very competitive league and that's what Manchester United is all about - bouncing back after a season.

"When the league starts I'm sure we'll have a good team, a Manchester United team that is going to challenge.

"We're still in the market looking to do some business, but we're patient, we're Manchester United, we don't have to sell and don't have to overpay.

"You have to have the right players at the right price and if you look at the squad we've got now, there are so many good players, and the ones working here want to improve."

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