Saint-Etienne have pointed the finger of blame at Arsenal after a loan move for William Saliba collapsed on deadline day.

Saliba, 19, was signed by Arsenal for a reported £27million (€29.7m) last year before being loaned back to the Ligue 1 club for the 2019-20 season.

The centre-back was seemingly expected to have a role in the Arsenal first-team squad in 2020-21, though it now appears another loan spell with Les Verts was on the cards.

Or it was until – according to Saint-Etienne – administrative delays on Arsenal's end caused the deal to fall through on deadline day.

A club statement released on Tuesday read: "Long before the transfer window closed, Saint-Etienne had reached an agreement with William Saliba and accepted Arsenal's offer for a one-season loan.

"Unfortunately, all the administrative conditions could not be met in time, in England, for the finalisation of the deal.

"The disappointment is great for Saint-Etienne and William Saliba, [who was] particularly determined to return to the club where he had flourished."

The two clubs were at odds last season as well, when they failed to find a loan extension agreement that would have allowed Saliba to play in the Coupe de France final in July.

 

 

Premier League pace-setters Leicester City have completed the signing of teenage defender Wesley Fofana from Saint-Etienne in a record-breaking deal.

The French side declared earlier in the week that the move would be the biggest sale in their history, with reports that Leicester are paying in the region of £30million (€32m) for Marseille-born Fofana.

Now the deal taking the 19-year-old to England has been sealed, Leicester announced on Friday.

Fofana told Leicester's official website: "I'm very happy to be here. I've watched Leicester City closely since they won the title and they're a top club in the Premier League.

"I know I will learn a lot from the players and the manager here, which is one of the main reasons I came. I can't wait to get started."

Fofana was described by Saint-Etienne as "one of the greatest French talents of his generation" on Tuesday, when they revealed the centre-back was heading to Leicester.

He was called up for the France Under-21 squad this week.

Saint-Etienne described Leicester's bid as "exceptional, especially given the uncertain economic context caused by the [COVID-19] health crisis".

Leicester stunned Manchester City 5-2 on Sunday to make it three wins from three so far under manager Brendan Rodgers in this season's Premier League. They also have a Europa League campaign ahead.

Fofana played 14 matches in Ligue 1 last season, made two appearances in the Europa League, and helped Saint-Etienne reach the Coupe de France final, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain.

Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana is heading to Leicester City in a deal that breaks the French club's transfer record, it was announced on Tuesday.

Fofana was described by Saint-Etienne as "one of the greatest French talents of his generation" as they confirmed the 19-year-old centre-back was heading to the Premier League.

There have been reports Leicester will pay a fee in the region of £30million (€32m) for Marseille-born Fofana, with the transfer a huge financial boost for Saint-Etienne.

In a statement, the Ligue 1 club said: "AS Saint-Etienne reached an agreement on Tuesday evening with Leicester, the current leaders of the English Premier League, for the transfer of their defender Wesley Fofana. The amount of this transfer is the largest ever obtained by the club."

Saint-Etienne said the decision to sell Fofana was reached collaboratively by the club's board and shareholders, describing Leicester's bid as "exceptional, especially given the uncertain economic context caused by the [COVID-19] health crisis".

Leicester, who stunned Manchester City 5-2 on Sunday to move level atop the Premier League, have yet to comment on the deal.

Fofana played 14 matches in Ligue 1 last season, made two appearances in the Europa League, and helped Saint-Etienne reach the Coupe de France final, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain.

In April, Fofana signed a new four-year contract with Saint-Etienne, who are coached by former Leicester boss Claude Puel.

However, Fofana told L'Equipe the chance to move to Leicester was irresistible.

He said: "Coming from a poor family from the northern districts of Marseille, I can't turn this down. I would be mad to say no to Leicester."

Eduardo Camavinga is highly coveted following his exploits for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes.

The 17-year-old's stock has also risen after making his first France appearance.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – GIANTS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR CAMAVINGA

Real Madrid face competition from Paris Saint-Germain to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Marca.

Camavinga, who made his international debut for France on Tuesday, has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga champions Madrid.

However, Ligue 1 holders PSG are reportedly determined to keep the 17-year-old in France.

The front page of Friday's AS Diario adds Camavinga, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are being targeted by Madrid in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- TyC Sports claims Barcelona have made a new offer for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Repeatedly tipped to swap Inter for Barca, Martinez's agents are believed to be in Spain to discuss another bid.

Ronald Koeman has handed Barca a four-player shortlist, including Lyon's Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Inter defender Stefan de Vrij and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, claims Marca.

- FootMercato reports Madrid are considering a move for City attacker Riyad Mahrez.

- Sky Sport says Inter are convinced they will sign Arturo Vidal from Barca. It comes as Cagliari and Rennes try to sign veteran Nerazzurri defender Diego Godin, while Inter reportedly close in on Parma full-back Matteo Darmian.

- Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud has agreed a provisional contract to join Juventus as the Serie A champions wait on Barca veteran Luis Suarez, claims Sky Sports Italia. Juve have also been linked with Roma's Edin Dzeko, Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik and Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid. Andrea Pirlo's Juve have also eyed former forward Moise Kean but Everton are unwilling to do a loan deal, reports Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is set to complete his move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

Leicester City want to sign Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana but former Foxes boss Claude Puel is reluctant to part with the centre-back, according to Le10 Sport.

The first match of the new Ligue 1 season has been postponed after Marseille confirmed they had reached four positive coronavirus cases.

Marseille were due to host Saint-Etienne on Friday in the opening game of the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign.

But the new French top-flight season will instead start with a match between Bordeaux and Nantes on Saturday.

Prior to the LFP announcement on Tuesday, Marseille said a trio of "suspected" coronavirus cases had been confirmed just three days before the start of the new season.

The Ligue 1 club previously revealed on Sunday that three individuals within their "professional workforce" had been detected as potentially having COVID-19.

Their communication at the time indicated the club was seeking confirmation regarding these cases and follow-up tests on Monday all came back positive.

Those results took the club's positive cases up to four in the space of four days.

A statement from Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) read: "In view of the medical results communicated by Marseille on Tuesday, the national COVID commission has indicated to the LFP's Competitions Commission that the virus is circulating within the Marseille club and proposed the postponement of the match.

"According to the protocol for the organisation of matches, the LFP's Competitions Commission has decided to postpone the match to Wednesday 16 or Thursday 17 September 2020, subject to the evolution of health conditions at Marseille. 

"The final date will be determined in agreement with the match broadcaster."

Marseille announced a trio of "suspected" coronavirus cases have been confirmed just three days before the start of the new season.

The Ligue 1 club revealed on Sunday that three individuals within their "professional workforce" had been detected as potentially having COVID-19.

Their communication at the time indicated the club was seeking confirmation regarding these cases and follow-up tests on Monday all came back positive.

These take the club's positive cases up to four in the past week.

Marseille are due to kick off the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign this Friday at home to Saint-Etienne – it is unclear how these new positive tests will impact on that scheduled fixture.

Friday's match will be the first Ligue 1 contest since early March, when French authorities suspended action due to the coronavirus – the competition was then officially ended prematurely on April 28.

Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel insisted Loic Perrin had no intention of hurting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Perrin was sent off in the first half of Saint-Etienne's 1-0 Coupe de France final loss to PSG after a sliding challenge on Mbappe, who was substituted with a suspected ankle injury.

Puel hopes Mbappe's injury is not serious as he said Perrin was simply trying to play the ball.

"It is a problem of commitment and the quality of these players [at PSG]," he said.

"You think you've got the ball and they've got such mastery that they can make the difference at any moment. That's been the case.

"I think we still have a few management problems where you have to commit yourself while remaining in control of your actions in any situation. It's also about learning – finding the right mix.

"Of course, I regret his injury and I hope it's nothing important concerning Kylian.

"There was no intention to hurt him. The intention was to play the ball."

Neymar's 14th-minute goal proved to be the winner for PSG.

Thiago Silva had mixed feelings after Paris Saint-Germain won the Coupe de France, saying he was sad for the injured Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe was substituted in the first half of PSG's 1-0 victory over Saint-Etienne in the final on Friday after a tackle by Loic Perrin, who was sent off.

The PSG star suffered a suspected ankle injury as Neymar's 14th-minute goal secured the trophy for Thomas Tuchel's men.

PSG captain Silva was glad to secure the silverware, but is hoping Mbappe is not sidelined for too long.

"It is difficult when things like that happen. We are sad for Kylian but also happy to win the trophy," the defender said.

"It’s true that today was a very difficult game. We didn’t play well. We struggled a lot as the coach explained well.

"We are feeling both sad for Kylian and happy for the trophy. We have some time and I hope that Kylian will be fit soon.

"He’s a pivotal player for us."

PSG face Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue final next week before taking on Atalanta in the Champions League quarter-finals on August 12.

Thomas Tuchel admitted he was "worried" about Kylian Mbappe after the Paris Saint-Germain star's injury against Saint-Etienne.

Mbappe was substituted in the first half of PSG's 1-0 Coupe de France final win on Friday after suffering a suspected ankle injury following a tackle from Loic Perrin, who was sent off.

The injury comes less than three weeks before PSG are due to face Atalanta in the Champions League quarter-finals and head coach Tuchel admitted to concern over Mbappe.

"Anyone who saw it is worried," he told a news conference.

"Anyone seeing that foul is worried."

Neymar's 14th-minute goal settled the contest, in which there was a red card and 10 yellows.

Tuchel was unhappy with referee Amaury Delerue for failing to control the game.

"It started with a foul on Neymar. We took three yellow cards after the foul on Kylian," he said, via L'Equipe.

"And, at the beginning, he gave a card for this foul, and we, for having asked to protect the player, we took three.

"These are not the same criteria that are applied. I say this for all players. Viewers are there to watch players, people watching TV too.

"And most importantly, to protect all the players, not just mine. It's a game for the players and it wasn't like that."

Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos conceded the squad have been left concerned by Kylian Mbappe's injury following their Coupe de France triumph over Saint-Etienne.

In their first competitive match since the suspension of football in France due to coronavirus in March, PSG clinched the Coupe de France crown thanks to Neymar's 14th-minute goal on Friday.

However, the victory was overshadowed by an injury to Mbappe, who was scythed down in the 31st minute by Loic Perrin – the defender subsequently seeing red for a tackle which sparked a touchline fracas.

Mbappe later returned to the bench on crutches and with his leg in a brace, casting serious doubt over his fitness for PSG's Champions League clash with Atalanta in August – while he will almost certainly miss next week's Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon.

PSG also lost defender Thilo Kehrer to injury, and Marquinhos acknowledged the champions have been dealt a blow. 

"Obviously, Mbappe's injury worries us, and that of Kehrer," he told France 2. "Hopefully this is not too serious. We will see how it goes.

"They are two important players in the squad. You just have to think about preparing and working well. There are still trophies to go for. We will see day by day."

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, labelled the triumph as an "expensive victory".

"Yes, we won. In a final, that's the most important," Tuchel told Eurosport. "It was complicated for several reasons. We won, but there are many things to improve and analyse.

"That's good. But it's an expensive victory. In the last three matches against Saint-Etienne, they always have a red in the first 30 minutes. And I'm not telling you what is said in the locker room before. And in addition, we are the ones who take three yellow cards.

"I have no news from Mbappe yet."

Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Jessy Moulin, meanwhile, came to the defence of team-mate Perrin, who has played his final match for the club.

"There is no one who can blame him," Moulin said on France 2. "When you see his career, he is exemplary in all areas.

"He was a leader throughout his career, thanks to his qualities on the pitch. It's a true Saint-Etienne player who is leaving us. And it hurts a lot to know that he won't be sitting next to us in the locker room anymore. I hope he stays close to us. But he knows we all love him."

Kylian Mbappe limped out of the Coupe de France final and was later on crutches as Paris Saint-Germain beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 thanks to Neymar's goal.

PSG, awarded the Ligue 1 title on a points-per-game basis after the season was called off in April, made it a double through Neymar's 14th-minute effort but it proved a pyrrhic victory.

Loic Perrin was sent off in the 31st minute following a cynical tackle on Mbappe, who was withdrawn with an apparent ankle injury and later returned to the bench on crutches with his leg in a brace, making him a serious doubt for PSG's return to Champions League action next month.

That challenge sparked a huge melee in the first competitive match in France since March, watched by a small crowd at the Stade de France, with PSG - who also lost Thilo Kehrer to injury - seeing out the win despite a spirited effort from 10-man Saint-Etienne.

 

 

 

Arsenal issued a strong response to Saint-Etienne after the French club criticised them over negoations concerning William Saliba ahead of the Coupe de France final. 

Saliba signed for Arsenal in a reported £25million deal last year before being loaned back to Les Verts for the 2019-20 campaign. 

Although Ligue 1 was ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Coupe de France final is to go ahead on July 24. 

Saint-Etienne will face Paris Saint-Germain in that contest and had hoped Saliba, 19, would be available for it, while Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta also expressed a desire for the France Under-20 international to have that opportunity. 

But Saint-Etienne confirmed on Tuesday they were unable to reach an agreement with the Gunners, who they claimed tried to impose "absolutely unacceptable sporting and financial conditions" on any extension. 

Arsenal insist they were willing for Saliba to extend his stay, but they wanted him to be on a specific training schedule and to not lose out financially. 

"Throughout our discussions with Saint-Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan," a statement read. 

"Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so. 

"As William is returning from injury, we asked that Saint-Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.

"To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.

"While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to Saint-Etienne.

"We know this is a disappointment for William, but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal."

The postponed Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue finals will take place on July 24 and 31, respectively, the French Football Federation (FFF) has confirmed.

Both matches were postponed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, with prime minister Edouard Philippe announcing all sporting events had been halted in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.

Although that led to the premature conclusion of Ligue 1, with final places in the table decided on a points-per-game basis, the FFF delayed a decision regarding the two cup finals, giving rise to the possibility the showpiece events could go ahead at a later date.

With the virus largely under control in France, provisional dates in late July were put forward as possibilities.

The FFF confirmed those dates on Friday, with the Coupe de France final between Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Etienne set for July 24.

PSG will then contest the Coupe de la Ligue finale a week later, with Lyon their opponents on that occasion.

Up to 5,000 supporters are expected to be allowed into the Stade de France to watch the two matches after it was confirmed last week that stadiums will be able to open at a reduced capacity next month.

It will be the last iteration of the Coupe de la Ligue following a September 2019 decision to suspend the competition, owing to a desire to reduce the French football season's schedule.

Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel is hopeful William Saliba can remain with the club for the Coupe de France final before he has to link up with Arsenal.

The centre-back signed for Arsenal on a long-term contract last July but immediately returned to Saint-Etienne on a season-long loan.

Les Verts progressed to the Coupe de France final before the French football season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

While Ligue 1 was decided on a points-per-game basis, with Saint-Etienne consigned to a lowly 17th-placed finish, they can still qualify for the Europa League by beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France final.

That contest is provisionally scheduled to take place on July 24, but Saliba's loan is due to end on June 30.

"William is at the end of his contract at the end of the month," Puel said in a media conference.

"He takes great pleasure in training with his team.

"We will see what can be done to keep him a little longer with us."

 

Have Barcelona found their new Dani Alves?

According to reports in Spain, the Blagurana have identified Ajax teenager Sergino Dest as the long-term solution to their problematic right-back spot.

Despite his inexperience, it seems the 19-year-old could command a sizeable eight-figure sum.

 

TOP STORY – DEST THE BEST FOR BARCA

Nelson Semedo's proposed move to either Manchester City or Juventus looks set to pave the way for Barca to bring in a highly rated new right-back.

And the Catalan club know exactly what it will take to land their preferred target: €20million.

That is the fee Spanish newspaper Sport suggests will be enough to secure United States defender Dest when the transfer window reopens.

The Dutch-born full-back, who spurned Netherlands' interest in his international future, only recently graduated from Ajax's youth setup, making 15 Eredivisie starts before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed his breakthrough 2019-20 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- AC Milan are interested in Freiburg centre-back Robin Koch but the Rossoneri could face competition from Serie A rivals Napoli, claims CalcioMercato.

- Heading across town and Inter appear more interested in attacking reinforcements amid the uncertainty surrounding Lautaro Martinez. La Repubblica suggests the Nerazzurri are on the cusp of agreeing personal terms with Napoli forward Dries Mertens, who will become a free agent on June 30.

- Is a transfer battle brewing in Manchester? The Sun claims City boss Pep Guardiola wants to beat crosstown rivals United to Argentine attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, the promising Velez product said to be viewed as the successor to David Silva.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United could encounter more transfer frustration if Aston Villa continue to stand firm over their Jack Grealish valuation. According to the Mirror, relegation-threatened Villa are not prepared to budge on their £80m asking price.

- Ligue 1 heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain could move for experienced former Arsenal right-back Mathieu Debuchy, now of Saint-Etienne, to replace the out-of-contract Thomas Meunier, reports Le10Sport.

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