Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe has joined Ligue 1 side Nice on a season-long loan deal.

The Ivory Coast international, who arrived from Lille in August 2019 for a club-record fee of £72million (€79m), returns to France as he links up with Lucien Favre's side for the 2022-23 campaign.

Pepe was presented to supporters at Allianz Riviera prior to the second leg of Nice's Europa Conference League play-off tie with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where the French side are aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

The forward has racked up 111 appearances across all competitions during his three seasons at the Emirates Stadium, scoring 27 goals, and will link up with another former Gunner Aaron Ramsey. 

However, the 26-year-old has struggled to nail down a regular starting berth in recent times, starting just five Premier League games last season under Mikel Arteta.

And Pepe did not play a single minute during the early stages of this campaign, appearing as an unused substitute during the top-flight victories over Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

Pepe will hope he can make his debut for Nice when they welcome Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Ligue 1 referees have given out 11 red cards this weekend, the most in a single matchday in 30 years.

There were four dismissals in the game between Montpellier and Auxerre, while Nice also had two players given early baths as they fell to defeat at Clermont.

In total, six matches this weekend have had at least one red card awarded, with one game left to play between Lille and PSG on Sunday.

In comparison, there has only been one red card in both the Premier League and Bundesliga so far this weekend.

Bernardo Silva's future at Manchester City has been the subject of speculation throughout the transfer window.

The 28-year-old has another three years remaining on his contract with the reigning Premier League champions.

Despite that, rumours about interest from elsewhere have swirled, though City manager Pep Guardiola is desperate to keep him at the club.

TOP STORY – CITY TO OFFER SILVA NEW CONTRACT TO KEEP HIM IN MANCHESTER

Manchester City are set to offer Bernardo Silva a bumper new deal to stave off rival interest, claims the Sunday Star.

Both Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with the Portuguese midfielder over the past few months.

City slapped an £80million price tag on Silva to retain his services, but are now ready to offer him a new lucrative long-term deal.

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Real Madrid are set to use the money generated by the sale of Casemiro to fund a deal for Borussia Dortmund's English midfielder Jude Bellingham, reports Marca.

Chelsea and Everton are both weighing up a move for Brentford forward Ivan Toney, who has also been linked with Manchester United, according to The Sunday Mirror.

Christian Pulisic will not be going to United, should he leave Chelsea, as he will only move to join a club playing in the Champions League, claims the Mail.

– Fabrizio Romano says Arsenal and Nice are deep into negotiations on a loan deal for Nicolas Pepe. Sevilla have been linked with Pepe but are yet to made a bid.

Ismaila Sarr is close to a move from Watford to Aston Villa with the two clubs having a verbal agreement over a deal, according to Foot Mercato.

Manchester United have had a long pursuit of Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong this off-season, which has not borne fruit.

But the Red Devils have switched their attention with links to Juventus' Adrien Rabiot and now another potential midfield signing.

United are desperate for reinforcements after losing their opening two Premier League games under new boss Erik ten Hag.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD MOVE FOR CASEMIRO IN £60M DEAL

Manchester United are on the cusp of landing Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro on a four-year contract in a £60million (€70m) deal, claims Marca.

It has only taken three days of negotiations, with Casemiro cleared by the Spanish club to undergo a medical at United on Friday.

The four-year deal includes the option of a further 12 months, with the exact fee to be £50.7m plus £8.5m in add-ons.

If the deal is completed on Friday, it is unlikely he will be available for Monday's clash with Liverpool as he still requires a visa.

 

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– AS claims that Madrid are considering a move for Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes as a replacement for Casemiro amid United's interest in him.

– United are interested in signing Napoli's Hirving Lozano according to Gianluca Di Marzio, re-opening speculation around a swap deal involving Cristiano Ronaldo.

– PSV are not open to selling forward Cody Gakpo until their Champions League qualifying tie with Rangers is settled, following links with United, reports Daily Mail.

– Sky Sports reports that United have also had a £67.6m (€80m) bid for Ajax forward Antony rejected. United are weighing up whether to make an improved bid, but Ajax are understood to want to keep the Brazilian.

– L'Equipe claims that Marseille are open to selling Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik before the transfer window closes. Everton and United have been linked to Milik who scored 20 goals in all competitions last season.

– Gerard Romero claims that an agreement on personal terms between Barcelona and Villarreal right-back Juan Foyth is close, but the clubs are yet to agree on a deal with the Argentinian have a €42m release clause.

Nice are targeting former Real Madrid full-back Marcelo according to Foot Mercato. The ex-Brazil international was released by Madrid after last season.

Newcastle United are reportedly engaged in discussions with Chelsea about a quartet of players, with the club said to be interested in Conor Gallagher, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Armando Broja.

Pulisic is the oldest of the four players at 23, and while that could mean Newcastle are looking for long-term building blocks, they are said to be interested in securing one on a loan deal, with a report from The Evening Standard indicating that would be Hudson-Odoi.

The St James' Park club have been relatively unsuccessful this transfer window, with goalkeeper Nick Pope and centre-back Sven Botman highlighting their business thus far, but they could change that quickly if Chelsea are willing to play ball.

 

TOP STORY – THE MAGPIES TURN TO STAMFORD BRIDGE FOR REINFORCEMENTS

According to The Telegraph, there is "widespread belief that several players at Stamford Bridge will be offloaded in the last few days of the window", and Newcastle are making sure they are in prime position to take advantage.

The report also mentions that the club are hampered by financial fair play rules, and despite their wealth, they will likely only be able to sign one player on a permanent basis, adding importance to the potential loan of Hudson-Odoi.

In another recent report from The Sun, it claims Newcastle view Conor Gallagher as their top overall target, although he would likely be the most expensive of the quartet at more than £40million.

 

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Atletico Madrid would be willing to swap one of Antoine Griezmann or Alvaro Morata to Manchester United in exchange for Cristiano Ronaldo, according to The Times.

– Marca is reporting United are also interested in Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, although SB Nation's Lucas Navarrete claims it would take an "impossible to reject" offer to make Madrid budge.

– According to Foot Mercato, Nice are in talks with Arsenal about a loan move for Nicolas Pepe.

– Mundo Deportivo claims 21-year-old American right-back Sergino Dest "is feeling pressured" to leave Barcelona as they search for another full-back, and United are said to be a potential landing spot.

– Sky Sports are reporting West Ham are hoping to complete a £10.1m move for Paris Saint-Germain defender Thilo Kehrer in time for Thursday's Europa Conference League tie against Viborg FF.

Paris Saint-Germain have been open about wanting three more new signings before the transfer window closes.

PSG head coach Christophe Galtier also explained that among those was the desire to bring in a forward.

The French champions have already sealed the services of Renato Sanches, Nordi Mukiele, Hugo Ekitike, Vitinha and Nuno Mendes during the off-season.

TOP STORY – PSG IN TALKS WITH MAN UTD'S RASHFORD

PSG have opened talks with Marcus Rashford's representatives about joining the Ligue 1 club from Manchester United, according to L'Equipe.

The England international striker is contracted with United until 2023, having signed a four-year deal in 2019 with the option to extend by a further year.

Sky Sports, however, claims that PSG are unlikely to follow up on their initial interest, having first enquired about Rashford last week.

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Manchester City are targeting Atletico Madrid's Brazilian Renan Lodi as they look to add a new left-back, according to The Telegraph. City want to bolster their options in the position following Oleksandr Zinchenko's departure for Arsenal. City are also considering Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney, claims 90min.

– Foot Mercato reports that Italian champions Inter are looking at Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo as a possible replacement for Martin Skriniar, should he leave. Todibo also has interest from PSG and Chelsea . Inter have also been linked to Borussia Dortmund's Swiss defender Manuel Akanji along with Lazio veteran Francesco Acerbi.

– Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri is drawing interest from both Nottingham Forest and Atalanta, according to the Evening Standard. The 28-year-old left-back is being squeezed out at Stamford Bridge following Marc Cucurella's arrival.

Napoli and Argentina international forward Giovanni Simeone have reached a verbal agreement, reports Sky Sport Italia. Simeone is set to join Napoli on loan from Hellas Verona, but Sky Sport Italia claims Juventus are prepared to poach him at the last minute.

Edinson Cavani is eyeing a move to Spain following his departure from Manchester United, according to Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere, who has ruled out a deal to sign the Uruguay international.

Cavani left United as a free agent at the end of last season, having scored 12 goals in 41 Premier League appearances during a two-year spell at Old Trafford.

The 35-year-old's 200 goals for Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, make him the Ligue 1 club's all-time top goalscorer, and he had been touted to make a return to France with Nice.

But Rivere has shut down such speculation, revealing the striker sees his future in LaLiga.

"Cavani, he wants to play in Spain," Rivere told reporters. "We will close the subject of Cavani [coming to Nice]. What is important is the balance of the team. 

"The coach has needs, we will try to meet those needs. What is important is to find a team that is balanced with young and old, and with more than headliners - it's not the goal to have a headliner. 

"The goal is to have players who perform well and who respond to what the coach wants, to be able to work as well as possible. 

"So [with] Cavani, let's close the case, I had already clarified it, but I'll clarify it again."

Nice, who lost boss Christophe Galtier to PSG following their fifth-placed finish in Ligue 1 last term, recently signed Aaron Ramsey and Kasper Schmeichel after reappointing Lucien Favre as head coach in June.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOP STORY – LEIPZIG LEAD RACE FOR CHELSEA'S WERNER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan Rodgers insisted Leicester City would not be selling Wesley Fofana to Chelsea and derided Newcastle United's reported offer for James Maddison.

Leicester are the only Premier League club yet to make a new signing with less than a week to go before the start of the season.

With finances said to be tight at the King Power Stadium, a number of key players appear to be of interest to rival clubs.

Chelsea are reportedly considering a move for centre-back Fofana, having lost Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen to Barcelona while missing out on top targets Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern Munich and Jules Kounde also to Barca.

Reports suggest Leicester would only countenance the sale of one of Fofana or Maddison, and Rodgers ruled out the possibility of his top defender departing.

"Naturally, he's a top talent," Rodgers said following Sunday's 1-0 friendly win over Sevilla. "He's not for sale.

"He still has lots of improvements to make. He's very happy here, he really enjoys being here.

"Naturally, he will attract the interest of other clubs. Our job, in not signing anyone so far, is to at least keep the players we have. I know that's the intention of the club."

Rodgers was slightly less firm on Maddison's future, although he suggested the £40million fee Newcastle were said to be willing to pay fell well short of the midfielder's value.

Newcastle have also been linked to Maddison's team-mates Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes, while they last season targeted Rodgers himself before appointing Eddie Howe.

"He's still very much a player here," Rodgers said of Maddison. "Naturally, the players are sought after because they are talents.

"You see his performance, you see how happy he is, and he's not a player we want to sell.

"It's not for me to put valuations on the players, it's not my side, but [£40m] might just cover three-quarters of his left leg, that price. He's a top player."

Another player who could leave Leicester is captain Kasper Schmeichel, who has held talks with Nice.

Lucien Favre, coach of the Ligue 1 club, said over the weekend a potential move was "a real lead" but "not yet done".

Rodgers added: "There's been a little bit of interest over the summer.

"Kasper has earned the right to have a think about the next chapter of his career and where that's going to be. When there's something concrete, we'll sit and discuss it and take it from there."

The tense Frenkie de Jong transfer saga continues with uncertainty on his Barcelona future.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has two years to run on his Barcelona contract, having postponed part of his deal during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Jong is unwilling to accept another pay cut to remain at Camp Nou, though, amid the club's hefty off-season transfer spending.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG DECISION OVER ENGLISH SUITORS

Decisions will be made on Frenkie de Jong's future at Barcelona after their United States tour, with interest from Chelsea alongside Manchester United, reports Sport.

De Jong is reluctant to leave Camp Nou, particularly for a move to Old Trafford, despite ending last season out of favour.

However, the Dutchman is more open to Chelsea's advances, but the Blues are unwilling to pay as much as United, leaving the Blaugrana in a bind.

 

ROUND-UP

– Leicester City have placed a £70million asking price on Wesley Fofana, who is being courted by Chelsea, reports CBS Sports.

Newcastle United are considering a move for Chelsea's Germany international forward Timo Werner, claims Bild. Juventus are also interested in Werner according to Sky Sports.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar is pushing for a move from Shanghai SIPG to Flamengo, with talks ongoing.

– L'Equipe believes that Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has agreed to a deal with Ligue 1 club Nice, although Leicester City are yet to approve the move.

– Arsenal and Fulham are in talks over an £8m deal for goalkeeper Bernd Leno, claims Sky Sports.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is trying to woo Manchester United defender Eric Bailly to the Italian capital, reports The Daily Mail.

Christophe Galtier has been confirmed as the new Paris Saint-Germain head coach after Mauricio Pochettino left the Ligue 1 champions.

PSG won the league by a margin of 15 points in the 2021-22 season, but Pochettino departed on Tuesday following his failure to deliver their first Champions League title.

Galtier is the man who has been trusted to take over at PSG, strongly supported by new sporting director Luis Campos.

Campos and Galtier have worked together previously when they combined at Lille to create the team that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title by a point in 2020-21.

 

Galtier left Lille days after they won that championship, joining Nice.

But he spent only a single season on the French Riviera – finishing fifth and reaching the Coupe de France final – before leaving late last month, with Nice bringing back Lucien Favre as his replacement.

That move came as speculation persisted around Galtier's move to PSG, with Pochettino's exit anticipated since the end of last season.

Pochettino's departure was confirmed just hours before Galtier appeared alongside PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a news conference.

Galtier will be tasked with finally ending PSG's wait for Champions League glory, their latest failure in the competition coming in a second-leg collapse against eventual winners Real Madrid in the last 16.

He becomes the club's sixth coach since 2012.

Christophe Galtier has been confirmed as the new Paris Saint-Germain head coach after Mauricio Pochettino left the Ligue 1 champions.

PSG won the league by a margin of 15 points in the 2021-22 season, but Pochettino departed on Tuesday following his failure to deliver their first Champions League title.

Galtier is the man who has been trusted to take over at PSG, strongly supported by new sporting director Luis Campos.

Campos and Galtier have worked together previously when they combined at Lille to create the team that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title by a point in 2020-21.

 

Galtier left Lille days after they won that championship, joining Nice.

But he spent only a single season on the French Riviera – finishing fifth and reaching the Coupe de France final – before leaving late last month, with Nice bringing back Lucien Favre as his replacement.

That move came as speculation persisted around Galtier's move to PSG, with Pochettino's exit anticipated since the end of last season.

Pochettino's departure was confirmed just hours before Galtier appeared alongside PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a news conference.

Galtier will be tasked with finally ending PSG's wait for Champions League glory, their latest failure in the competition coming in a second-leg collapse against eventual winners Real Madrid in the last 16.

He becomes the club's sixth coach since 2012.

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