Khazri ends Sunderland nightmare to join Saint-Etienne

Tunisia’s World Cup captain Wahbi Khazri has ended an underwhelming spell at Sunderland by joining Saint-Etienne.

Khazri enjoyed a fruitful stint on loan with Rennes last season, scoring nine times in 27 appearances as they qualified for Europe.

That form, alongside two goals and two assists in Russia, encouraged Saint-Etienne to sign the winger on a four-year deal after paying an undisclosed fee, reported to be £6 million ($8m) rising to £9m ($12m).

The 27-year-old joined Sunderland in January 2016 from Ligue 1 side Bordeaux, having spent two seasons there following a move from Bastia. In total, he played just 42 times for the Black Cats, scoring just three goals for the club during a disappointing stay.

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Saint-Etienne director Frederic Paquet believes that Khazri can improve on his return to France, particularly after his impressive displays for Tunisia at the World Cup.

At 27, Wahbi has reached maturity,” Paquet told the club’s official website. 

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“He not only led his country to the finals of the World Cup but he also managed to show his great talent in a high-profile group where Tunisia faced two of the semi-finalists. 

“He is a technical leader and a player of character that the club needs to keep the sporting dynamics from the second half of last season. 

“The transfer window is a complex period but we must remain consistent and patient in our efforts, as we have just done to make the arrival of Wahbi Khazri happen.”


Taiwo Awoniyi commits long-term future to Liverpool with new deal

Taiwo Awoniyi has committed his long-term future to Liverpool after agreeing on a new deal with the English Premier League outfit on Tuesday.

The contract extension, which Goal understands to be a five-year deal with improved wages, comes on the back of his exploits last season while on loan at Belgian top-flight outfit Royal Excel Mouscron.

Awoniyi found the back of the net 10 times – including two goals to help Mouscron qualify for a Europa League play-off spot – and laid on seven others in 31 games across all competitions.

The feat placed him just behind the deadly trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane respectively in the club’s goalscoring chart in the 2017-18 season.

Taiwo Awoniyi

Awoniyi joined the Reds from Imperial Soccer Academy in 2015 and, prior to 2017-18 season, was sent on loan twice at FSV Frankfurt and NEC Nijmegen.

The two stints in Germany and Netherlands ended in disappointments before his fine form in Belgium last campaign.

Speaking with club website, the former U17 World Cup winner – who had two years left on his previous contract – said: “I feel excited and I feel very happy.

“It has been three years since I first came to Liverpool. So far, so good. The last year was the best for me, it has been an amazing year so far.

“I just have to keep working hard each year and I believe one day the dream will come true.

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“Thanks to my family, who have been so supportive. I’m very glad and excited about this contract and hopefully to have an even better year.”

The youngster is yet to secure a UK work permit to feature in Jurgen Klopp’s plan next season and, thus, would continue life off Merseyside – a fourth loan spell.

Suitors, however, are on his trail, with Belgian top-flight sides jostling for his signature. And Liverpool, Goal understands, will only agree to a loan agreement that would ease their plan of bringing him up to the pace of top-level football.


Lampard raids Chelsea and Liverpool in Derby double swoop

Derby County manager Frank Lampard has returned to his Premier League roots to secure loan deals for Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Liverpool’s Harry Wilson.

The highly-rated young duo will both spend the season at Pride Park under the guidance of the former Blues favourite.

Midfielder Mount, 19, scored an impressive 14 goals on loan at Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem last term, while 21-year-old Wales international Wilson netted seven times in a short stint with Hull City.

“I’m delighted to get both of these deals done and add players of their quality and calibre to the squad,” Lampard explained to the official Derby website. 

“I know Mason really well from my Chelsea links and I have also watched him play in their very successful youth teams.

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“I knew him from those days and I watched him closely at Vitesse, where he took it by storm.

“His numbers are incredible for an attacking midfield player of his age and it’s a massive coup for me to get him here.

“He can bring us creativity in the attacking midfield area, goals, assists as well as energy. He was wanted across Europe by top, top, clubs and we should be very happy that we have got him.”

On Wilson, Lampard added: “Harry brings incredible quality and hunger to the table here and he showed that last year while he was on loan at Hull. He’s a full international too and he has a real desire to come here and improve.

“He’s going to be a crucial player for us. I keep talking about creativity and the importance of trying to excite the fans and he’s the sort of player that can do that with the quality that he has.

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“For himself too, to have a year at this level and feel an important player at an important club, that will be important.

“Hopefully it’s a great platform for him, but on a selfish note, we have got ourselves a real quality player.”

Lampard’s first Championship fixture as Rams boss is away to Reading on August 3 ahead of a home outing against Leeds United eight days later.


Balotelli returns to Nice training after Marseille talks stall

Wantaway striker Mario Balotelli has returned to training with Nice after talks over a move to Marseille stalled.

Balotelli had come in for criticism from new coach Patrick Vieira, as well as fans, after failing to turn up for pre-season training as his move to the Stade Velodrome apparently edged closer.

However, negotiations have reportedly broken down and, though Balotelli was said to be keen not to return to Nice, he took part in training on Tuesday, going through an individual session.

Balotelli has scored 43 goals in 66 appearances for the Ligue 1 side, rebuilding his reputation after a disappointing few years in England and his home country.

The 27-year-old has been recalled into the Italy setup on the back of his good form, scoring against Saudi Arabia and starting against France in June.

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Balotelli signed a one-year deal last season, but Nice insist that if he does leave it will not be for free, despite the expiration of his contract.

“I had him on the phone a few weeks ago and we had arranged for him to start pre-season training,” Vieira had previously told L’Equipe. “Unfortunately, he is not here. 

“It’s a shame because he spent two beautiful years here, he built a very good relationship with the club and the supporters. It’s a shame that it ends like this. That he wants to leave is not a problem, it’s part of football today. But ruin two seasons like that, it’s a shame. 

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“Team members like Jean Michael Seri and Maxime Le Marchand, who knew they were changing clubs, were present. 

“It was not easy for them but they worked, respecting the club. They were able to greet everyone, the club and even the fans. 

“For Mario, it ends differently.”


Morientes tips Real Madrid to replace Ronaldo with Neymar or Mbappe

Fernando Morientes believes that Neymar or Kylian Mbappe should replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

The Portugal international completed a stunning move to Juventus earlier this month, the Italian side paying out €100 million (£88m/€117m) for the superstar.

His exit has left a gaping hole in Real’s squad, with the club having to replace their all-time top goalscorer in a market heavily inflated by the transfers of, ironically, Neymar and World Cup winner Mbappe.

Neymar moved to PSG from Barcelona for €222m (£196m/$258m) last year, while Mbappe cost €155m (£137m$180m) after an initial loan move from Monaco.

Real have repeatedly set the world transfer record, and did so when buying Ronaldo from Manchester United, and will surely have to again if they are to secure either of the PSG attackers.

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Speaking exclusively to Goal, La Liga ambassador Morientes said, when pressed on who could replace the decorated Ronaldo: “It’s hard. There is talk of Neymar, Mbappe, Harry Kane, [Eden] Hazard.

“I think it’s a question for the coach. The coach must give the answer to what he wants on the field, how he wants to play.

“If you ask me, I would love to play with two centre forwards and two wingers. So, for me the key player for that would be Neymar, even Mbappe.

“But if you want a footballer more like what Madrid has had, like in the last five years, and a different player in the centre of the field… that could be Hazard, who is very good and assists.


“There are many very good players, and very expensive too – that is going to be the problem.”

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Ronaldo enjoyed a remarkable spell at Real, moving to the club in 2009 and winning two La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, four Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups. He also scored a staggering 451 goals in just 438 appearances.

Morientes, thus, is sure that he will remain in the hearts of Real fans across the globe.

“He has given his best years in Real Madrid. It may be that he has a couple of good years in Juventus, but the best football has been in Real Madrid.

“It will be difficult for the fans to think badly about Cristiano.”