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Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka signed for Arsenal in 2016 and had a year remaining on his contract but was expected to leave with the Gunners pursuing a move for England's Declan Rice Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka has joined Bayer Leverkusen from Arsenal on a five-year deal, the German club announced on Thursday.

Xhaka, 30, signed for Arsenal in 2016 and had a year remaining on his contract but was expected to leave with the Gunners pursuing a move for England international Declan Rice.

“In Granit we have been able to bring in an absolute top player,” said Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes in a club statement.

Xhaka returns to the Bundesliga in a reported 25-million-euro ($27.2m) switch after a seven-year stint with Arsenal that saw him win the FA Cup twice but also be stripped of the club captaincy.

He scored 23 goals in 297 appearances for the Gunners, including twice on the final day of the season in a 5-0 home win over Wolves as Arsenal finished second in the Premier League.

Fantastic player

His fond farewell from Arsenal supporters was evidence of Xhaka’s remarkable turnaround after he infamously swore at the crowd during a 2019 match with Crystal Palace.

“We are saying goodbye to a fantastic player and person loved by all of us,” said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

“It has been an incredible journey together for him and he has given absolutely everything for this club.”

Xhaka, who began his career with hometown club Basel, played in the Bundesliga with Borussia Moenchengladbach from 2012 to 2016.

“I know the league inside out and I watched it when I was in London,” said Xhaka.

“Bayer 04 is a club with an impressive history and ambitious targets.”

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Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta with teammates during training in April. Image Credit: Reuters

Azpilicueta joins Atletico Madrid

Cesar Azpilicueta’s 11-year stay at Chelsea came to an end on Thursday as the Spanish defender returned home to join Atletico Madrid.

Azpilicueta made 508 appearances for the Blues and won nine trophies, including the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

“Cesar leaves an everlasting mark at Chelsea as a warrior, as a champion, and as a loyal Chelsea legend,” said the club’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali in a statement.

“He has set the standards at the club for more than a decade and demonstrated to everyone what is required day in, day out to achieve success.”

Azpilicueta won the Premier League title under Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte, becoming a fan favourite for his work ethic and willingness to deputise in a number of positions.

However, his final season at Stamford Bridge was a difficult one.

'Incredible journey'

Chelsea finished 12th in the Premier League — their lowest placing since 1994.

“It’s difficult to express with words what I feel,” said Azpilicueta in a video posted on Chelsea’s social media accounts.

“It’s been incredible. Just thank you to everyone because it couldn’t happen without the help of a lot of people. What a journey!”

The 33-year-old, who joined Chelsea from Marseille and began his career with Osasuna, has signed a one-year deal with Spanish side Atletico.

“Cesar Azpilicueta is a new Atletico Madrid player after an agreement reached between our club and the footballer from Navarra, who will sign for one year,” Atletico said in a statement.

Real Madrid signs Arda Guler

Real Madrid reached a deal to sign Arda Guler on Thursday, adding another young player to its midfield.

The 18-year-old Turkey international arrives from Fenerbahce on a six-year contract. He will be officially introduced by Madrid on Friday.

Spanish media said the talented youngster arrives on a transfer fee of €20 million ($21.7 million), with add-ons that could reach €30 million ($31.6 million).

Madrid recently signed 20-year-old England midfielder Jude Bellingham and renewed the contracts of veterans Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

The Spanish club also has Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Dani Ceballos in the midfield. Ceballos also had his contract extended recently.

Madrid also recently extended the contract of defender Nacho Fernández, and boosted its attack with the loan of Spain striker Joselu from Espanyol. Not returning next season are forwards Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Eden Hazard and Mariano Díaz.

Mount: I wasn’t in Chelsea’s plans

Manchester United’s new midfielder Mason Mount claims he left Chelsea because he realised he was not in the club’s plans several months ago.

Mount signed a five-year contract with United on Wednesday for a reported initial fee of £55 million ($70 million).

The England international’s move to Old Trafford was reportedly sparked by an impasse in negotiations over a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

But Mount said he had the feeling Chelsea were willing to plan without him for the long-term, a suspicion that convinced him to join the Red Devils.

“Several months ago I think it became clear that I wasn’t in Chelsea’s plans moving forward and once I knew that United were involved, my decision was made,” Mount told MUTV.

Massive club

“It’s a massive club, huge, iconic players have played here, and I wanted to be a part of that from the beginning. Getting in early, ready for preseason to start, was a main objective of mine as well.”

Mount spent 18 years with Chelsea and helped them win the Champions League in 2021 before suffering a dip in form last season as the Blues struggled through a turbulent campaign.

His high work-rate, knack for scoring crucial goals and providing key assists should make him an important member of Erik Ten Hag’s side.

“I’ve always seen myself as a midfielder, a number eight that can obviously get forward and attack, try to score goals, create goals, but also be able to do the other side as well and defend and help the team when we’re under pressure,” he said.

Mount is set to wear the United number seven shirt made famous by Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, George Best and David Beckham.

Keen to follow in the footsteps of those icons, the 24-year-old revealed he cut short a family holiday in Disneyland to ensure the United transfer was finalised.

“We had a little trip to Disneyland, for the niece mainly. I enjoyed it as well, of course!” he said.

“We came back a bit early just to make our way up here, drive up here, see what the trip’s like and everything. But it was well worth it, and it’s great to be up here now.

“It’s been an amazing couple of days, coming here, seeing everyone, meeting everyone at the training ground, such a warm welcome. I feel very much at home already.”