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Al Ahli will pay €12.5 million ($13.72 million) for Franck Kessie, who joined Barca from AC Milan in 2022. Image Credit: Twitter

Cairo: Barcelona’s Franck Kessie has joined Saudi Pro League side Al Ahli, the Laliga club announced on Wednesday.

Al Ahli will pay €12.5 million ($13.72 million) for the 26-year-old, who joined Barca from AC Milan in 2022.

However, the Ivory Coast midfielder struggled to secure a place in Xavi’s starting lineup.

Al Ahli have appointed Matthias Jaissle as manager on a three-year deal after Red Bull Salzburg sacked the German coach.

Kessie became the fifth Europe-based player to join Al Ahli, who returned to the Pro league following a season in the second division, after Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Alain Saint-Maximin.

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Sander Berge has joined Burnley on a four-year contract from fellow newly-promoted side Sheffield United. Image Credit: Reuters

Burnley secure Norway midfielder Berge

Norway midfielder Sander Berge has joined Burnley on a four-year contract from fellow newly-promoted side Sheffield United, both Premier League clubs announced on Wednesday.

No financial details were disclosed on the deal for Berge, who becomes Burnley manager Vincent Kompany’s eighth new signing ahead of their return to the top flight.

“It’s a great environment full of young talented players from all around the world, so I just think it’s the perfect fit for me,” Berge, 25, said in a statement.

“The club has high ambitions, making several signings, and it all just fits into what I’m looking for.” Berge joined United in 2020 from Belgian side Racing Genk, with the Yorkshire club reluctantly accepting Burnley’s bid.

“Unfortunately, along with his representatives, he has opted to move to Burnley and we would like to place on record our thanks for his service over the past three and a half years,” United said in a statement.

Luton sign Barkley on free transfer

Luton Town have signed former Everton and Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley on a free transfer, the newly-promoted Premier League club announced on Wednesday.

Barkley, who made 33 appearances for England, spent last season at Ligue 1 club Nice and the 29-year-old said he was looking forward to a return to English football.

“Why Luton? Going from the Conference to the Premier League is a great story and for me personally to be back in the Premier League, it’s great motivation,” Barkley said in a statement.

He played 28 games for Nice in all competitions last season, scoring four times. Barkley previously made over 200 Premier League appearances, scoring 29 goals, for Everton and Chelsea.

Luton are making their Premier League debut and Barkley is a welcome addition to manager Rob Edwards’ squad.

“Ross brings loads of experience at the top level, has international experience and brings an x-factor,” Edwards said.

“He gives us something different, he has that ability to make something out of nothing and we need that in the Premier League.” Barkley will wear the number six shirt and could make his Luton debut at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

Wolves appoint O’Neil as new manager

Wolverhampton Wanderers have appointed former Bournemouth coach Gary O’Neil as their new manager on a three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Wednesday, a day after Julen Lopetegui abruptly left the role.

Spanish manager Lopetegui left Wolves after less than a year in charge following differences of opinion, three days before the start of the new season.

O’Neil who initially took over at Bournemouth as a caretaker manager in August last year before being handed the job full-time in November, helped the south-coast club secure their top-flight status but he was sacked in June.

“At 40 years of age, O’Neil becomes the Wolves’ youngest manager this millennium and is the first permanent British coach to lead the club in six years, bringing Premier League experience after playing and managing at this level,” Wolves said in a statement.

O’Neil’s first game in charge of Wolves will be away to Manchester United on Monday in their first Premier League game of the season.

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Matt Turner has earned 32 caps since his national team debut in February 2021 and also captained the US during their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign this year Image Credit: AP

Forest sign US keeper Turner

Nottingham Forest have signed goalkeeper Matt Turner from Arsenal with the United States international signing a four-year deal, the two clubs announced on Wednesday.

No financial details were given but British media said Forest will pay £7 million ($8.92 million) for Turner plus three million in performance-related add-ons.

The 29-year-old has earned 32 caps since his national team debut in February 2021 and also captained the US during their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign this year. He won that tournament in 2021 and the 2023 CONCACAF Nations League.

Turner shot to fame in Major League Soccer where he made 111 appearances for New England Revolution before moving to Arsenal last year. Turner was back-up goalkeeper to Aaron Ramsdale at the Gunners and made seven appearances.

“When I heard that there was interest to bring me here it just felt right for my family, it felt right when my agent spoke to me about it and it feels like the right move for me right now,” Turner said in a statement.

“The manager (Steve Cooper) and the backroom staff, everything about the club has a little sparkle to it. It’s felt right from the start and I’m happy it’s got done.” Turner is Forest’s third recruit of the close season after Ola Aina and Anthony Elanga. The American might even face his former side when Forest travel to Arsenal on Saturday for their first match of the Premier League season.

Arsenal are expected to replace Turner with Brentford keeper David Raya, according to British media.

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Harry Maguire's new deal is expected to be around worth around £30 million ($38 million) Image Credit: Reuters

West Ham agree deal for Maguire

West Ham United have agreed a deal in principle with Premier League rivals Manchester United for England defender Harry Maguire, media reported on Wednesday.

Sky Sports television and the BBC said the deal was worth around £30 million ($38 million) and personal terms were not expected to be a problem.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag last month stripped Maguire of the captaincy after the 30-year-old made only eight Premier League starts last season, spending much of the time on the bench or injured.

Maguire has become surplus to requirements at United and needs playing time to remain in England manager Gareth Southgate’s plans with the Euro 2024 championships looming next year.

“Inevitably it’s not a situation that can continue forever,” Southgate said in May of a player who has 57 senior caps for England.

The world’s most expensive defender when United signed him from Leicester City for 80 million pounds in 2019, Maguire’s contract is due to end in 2025.

The Premier League season kicks off on Friday with promoted Burnley hosting champions Manchester City.

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Van Dijk, who also captains the Netherlands national team, replaced Jordan Henderson as the Merseyside outfit’s skipper. Image Credit: Reuters

Van Dijk understands ‘doubts’ over lack of recruitment

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk said he understands people’s concerns over the Premier League club’s lack of transfer business ahead of the new season but the defender urged his teammates to step up following the departure of several key players.

The 32-year-old Van Dijk, who also captains the Netherlands national team, replaced Jordan Henderson as the Merseyside outfit’s skipper after the England midfielder ended a 12-year-stay at Liverpool to join Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq last month.

Liverpool have lost as many as six senior players, with Henderson and Fabinho moving to Saudi Arabian sides, while fellow midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Naby Keita and forward Roberto Firmino leaving on free transfers.

With three days to go before the start of the new season, the number of arrivals at Anfield has not kept pace with exits, with midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai being the only two players Liverpool have signed in the close season.

“I can definitely understand it in some ways but I’m not a very negative person,” said Van Dijk, who moved from Championship side Southampton to Liverpool in 2018, referring to fans’ worries.

“But obviously, when a lot of players are leaving, when your captain is leaving, your vice-captain is leaving, and at the moment, there are only two incomings.

“And the way we have been playing, in possession really good but defensively when you concede goals it’s not as good, I can understand some people having doubts.” After narrowly missing out on an unprecedented quadruple in the 2021-22 season, winning two domestic cups, the six-time European champions will not feature in the Champions League for the first time since manager Juergen Klopp’s first full season in 2016-17.

“Let’s see if more players are coming in and then we have to be ready again for a long season. It will be very tough if we look at the teams around us, but we want to be up there again, we want to be challenging again,” the Dutchman said.

“We have to be confident, we should be confident, and we should still be learning each and every day.

“There have been characters leaving, players who have played a big part in the success, but others have to step up. That’s a nice challenge in my opinion. We should be excited.”

Liverpool will kick-off their campaign with a trip to Chelsea on Sunday.

Oh Hyeon-Gyu facing six weeks out injured

Celtic striker Oh Hyeon-Gyu could be sidelined for up to six weeks with a calf injury.

The 22-year-old South Korea international suffered the original problem playing in James Forrest’s testimonial match against Athletic Bilbao but did not reveal the injury before taking his place on the bench for champions Celtic’s Scottish Premiership opener against Ross County at Parkhead on Saturday.

“Oh will probably be out for a few weeks,” Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers said Wednesday.

“He hurt his calf against Athletic Bilbao but no one knew and he trained on.

“He was involved in the game at the weekend and then he trained on the Sunday and afterwards he spoke to the medical team to say he felt his calf and it has ended up that he has a calf problem which might put him out for four to six weeks. So that’s where he is at.”

Rodgers added: “Apart from that, the injured guys are doing really well.

“Ali Johnston is back on the grass, running, working, he is increasing his intensity so that is really good news for us.

“Marco Tilio is also now out on the grass and moving well so we expect him to be another month or so away.”

DAZN to stream Saudi Pro League matches

DAZN has secured the rights to stream Saudi Pro League matches for a two-year period in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Canada, the sports video service said on Wednesday.

As part of the deal, DAZN will stream three Saudi league matches per week. It will also stream all the matches of Al-Nassr, the club that signed Cristiano Ronaldo last year and recruited Sadio Mane from Bayern Munich in the close season.

Since the capture of Portugal forward Ronaldo, the Saudi league has grown in stature by signing top players from Europe, including Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema who left Real Madrid to join champions Al-Ittihad.

“The RSL (Roshn Saudi League) is rapidly developing into an international phenomenon, attracting some incredible talent that will only improve an already strong and vibrant competition,” Shay Segev, DAZN Group CEO, said in a statement.

“It’s a great opportunity for DAZN to deliver greater and deserved prominence for the RSL, its clubs and the Saudi game more generally, as well as adding even more quality content to our platform for our subscribers.”

The new season kicks off on Friday with Al Ahli — who have signed Champions League winners like Riyad Mahrez, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Roberto Firmino — taking on Al-Hazm.