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Newcastle adds mercurial Saint-Maximin, Dutch back Willems

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Newcastle has now filled three needs in the transfer market window, taking on combustible wizard Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice and loaning Dutch international leftback Jetro Willems from Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: Maguire, meet expectations ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, is known for his many tricks and adventurous dribbles, and will be expected to fill the void left by Ayoze Perez. The fee is expected to climb above $22 million, and the player is comparable to former Newcastle fan favorite Hatem Ben Arfa in both skill and attitude, having had some issues with Patrick Vieira at Nice last season.

The young right wing has 11 goals and 14 assists in 74 appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit, and was Nice’s second-best rated player last season according to WhoScored.com. His 4.2 successful dribbles per game ranked second in Ligue 1, behind only… Ben Arfa.

Watch him go:

Newcastle has a loan-to-buy deal when it comes to Willems, who leaves much-changed Eintracht with 22 Netherlands caps, a German Cup, and a decent trophy case from his time with PSV Eindhoven.

At 25, Willems is a candidate for Newcastle to buy after the season and also would give Steve Bruce some flexibility going to a back four, as Paul Dummett has been a decent left center back in a 3-5-2 but not so good at out-and-out LB.

Here’s how the Magpies could line up in both a 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 next season if no more players arrive at St. James’ Park.

3-4-3

Dubravka

Lascelles — Schar — Dummett

Ritchie — Shelvey — Longstaff — Willems

Saint-Maximin — Joelinton — Almiron

4-2-3-1

Dubravka

Yedlin — Lascelles — Schar — Willems

Shelvey — Longstaff

Saint-Maximin —  Almiron — Muto

Joelinton

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

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PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.

Report: Steffen passes Man City medical; Loan likely

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American goalkeeper Zack Steffen is indeed off to Manchester City, though not for long.

Goal.com reports that the 23-year-old USMNT backstop has passed his medical and signed a contract ahead of January move from Columbus which will earn the Crew between $7.5 and 10 million when all is said and done.

[ MORE: Risk worth it for Steffen ]

The report says Steffen is not likely to be approved for a UK work permit. Should that happen, Girona in La Liga and Nice in Ligue 1 are named as loan options. Paul Tenorio of The Athletic says a loan back to Columbus is also possible.

Canada-born Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, 27, is the entrenched starter at Girona, though (complete speculation here) perhaps this could be a loan swap to get Man City an upgrade at back-up to Ederson (again, assuming Steffen is denied a UK work permit). The same could be true for Walter Benitez at Nice, who is managed by long-time NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira.

Steffen is expected to rival Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath for the USMNT’s No. 1 shirt, with many perceiving the Crew man to have a leg up due to his relationship with longtime Columbus and new USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

Ligue 1: Falcao paces Monaco; Vieira loses on Nice debut

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PARIS (AP) Radamel Falcao came off the bench to score and set up another goal as Monaco opened its French league campaign with a 3-1 win at Nantes on Saturday.

A dull match quickly improved when Falcao came on midway through the second half. The veteran Colombia striker immediately started combining well with Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic, who set up a headed goal for attacking midfielder Rony Lopes with a deflected cross in the 69th minute.

With 10 minutes left, Falcao gathered a high ball near halfway and intelligently flicked the ball over his head into the path of Jovetic, who scored with a cool finish.

Three minutes later, Falcao was celebrating after tapping in Samuel Grandsir’s low cross from the right, after Grandsir was freed by Jovetic’s measured pass inside the penalty area.

“Falcao is an important player for us, it’s easier when you have players of his quality,” Lopes said. “We didn’t play well in the first half.”

Nantes salvaged some pride through striker Emiliano Sala’s goal in the second minute of injury time.

In Friday’s season-opening match, attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet scored twice as Marseille beat Toulouse 4-0.


Patrick Vieira’s first match in charge of Nice ended in a 1-0 home defeat to Reims.

The former France and Arsenal midfielder was not helped by the fact he had no recognized striker, with Mario Balotelli – last season’s top scorer – suspended and Alassane Plea sold during the offseason.

That left Vieira with midfielder Bassem Srarfi as a makeshift forward – and the Tunisia international was ineffective.

Midfield counterpart Moussa Doumbia scored for Reims after just three minutes.