Ornstein: Transfer deadline guide, Pepe’s 25% pay cut, Premier League’s plane shortage

The summer transfer window closes at 11pm BST (3pm PDT, 6pm EDT) on Thursday and many Premier League sides are still in for a hectic few days. Here’s a run-through of some of the most live issues as the clock ticks down…

Chelsea are having second thoughts about signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona. The club made a proposal worth £15million ($17.6m) to sign the former Arsenal striker earlier this month but have not yet reached an agreement with Barcelona or personal terms with the player.

There is a question mark over the value of the proposed deal given Aubameyang is 33 and will expect a high salary, which Chelsea would want to include performance incentives.


Chelsea are thought to have cooled their interest in Aubameyang (Photo: David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Manchester United have also been keeping tabs on Aubameyang and Memphis Depay, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Old Trafford remains uncertain.

Chelsea are still keen to sign Frenkie de Jong and may be the midfielder’s most probable destination if he was to leave Barcelona but, as things stand, he will be staying.

The chances of Everton’s Anthony Gordon completing a move to Stamford Bridge are now thought to be slim too, with sources pointing to a substantial gulf in valuation between the negotiating clubs. Manchester United are believed to have made a late check on Gordon’s availability before stepping up their pursuit of Ajax winger Antony.

Conor Gallagher and Christian Pulisic are expected to stay at Chelsea, barring a bid for either player that is too good to refuse. While Armando Broja is regarded by the new ownership in west London as one of Europe’s best young strikers, which looks set to result in him being given first-team opportunities, the club are still considering centre-forwards.

Brighton are interested in Billy Gilmour but nothing has advanced yet. Chelsea would prefer not sell the 21-year-old and instead loan him out to a top-flight side, be it in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe.

One of the most talked-about players this summer has been Cody Gakpo, with a host of suitors linked with the PSV Eindhoven attacker. Manchester United’s interest is believed to have cooled somewhat after they agreed a deal in principle to sign Antony in a deal worth €100million (£84m, $99m).

Everton, Leeds United and Southampton are also among those to have pursued Gakpo but it is Southampton who are thought to have made the most concrete approach so far, submitting an offer to PSV that has been turned down.

The 23-year-old Netherlands international has been a key target for Southampton this summer and Rasmus Ankersen, co-founder of the club’s ownership group Sport Republic, has led talks with their Dutch counterparts.

Everton, though, could well be among the busiest teams as, along with the likes of Leicester City, they will finally get clarity on what might be possible before the window shuts.

The priority for Frank Lampard’s side is Idrissa Gueye. An agreement has been in place with the 32-year-old and Paris Saint-Germain for some time but there is still no agreement between Gueye and the French club to finalise his departure. Everton want a resolution quickly or they will move on to other targets, with two or three incomings — ideally another midfielder and a striker or a wide forward — wanted before Thursday evening.

James Garner is their top target in addition to Gueye (or as an alternative) but Everton are waiting for Manchester United to engage. Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Hwang Hee-chan is another option, although this may require Conor Coady’s loan move to Goodison Park to be made permanent.

Contributors: Simon Johnson and Laurie Whitwell

Pepe agrees 25 per cent pay cut to leave Arsenal on loan

Nicolas Pepe became Arsenal’s record signing when he joined the club following a £72m move from Lille in the summer of 2019.

Just three years on, it can be revealed the 27-year-old has taken a £2.5m pay cut to leave north London after agreeing a season-long loan move to Nice.

Pepe, Nice

Pepe has joined Nice on a season-long loan from Arsenal (Photo: Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ligue 1 club are paying half of his salary, which is understood to be around £10m a year. Arsenal are then contributing 25 per cent and Pepe has agreed to forgo the rest, such was his eagerness to return to playing in France.

Sources have commented on how unusual this is at clubs that are not experiencing financial difficulties, such as Barcelona. The deal is a straight loan for Pepe and Nice have no option to buy.

The Ivory Coast international made his debut in a 3-0 home defeat by Marseille on Sunday and is set for a reunion with Lille on Wednesday.

Arsenal had hoped to bring in Pedro Neto following Pepe’s departure but the move is now looking highly improbable, with Wolverhampton Wanderers reluctant to sell this summer and the level of fee that might persuade them otherwise looking unrealistic for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Fofana set for Chelsea medical in the US

Chelsea finally agreed a fee of around £70m ($82.3m) with Leicester City for Wesley Fofana late last week but the deal is still not expected to be completed for a couple of days.

The Stamford Bridge hierarchy have opted to send Fofana to the US for his medical, and the 21-year-old flew out on Sunday after missing Leicester’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea for personal reasons.

Wesley Fofana, Leicester City, Chelsea

Chelsea want to take the utmost care over the deal for Fofana (Photo: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)

There are not expected to be any problems but Fofana has agreed a six-year deal and the club’s new owners are looking for additional peace of mind. The defender broke his leg and injured ankle ligaments when caught by a horrible challenge in a pre-season friendly in August 2021, ruling him out for seven months.

Chelsea were bought out by a consortium led by Todd Boehly and investment firm Clearlake Capital in May. Boehly is guiding them through his first transfer window as interim sporting director after Marina Granovskaia’s exit.

Shortage of planes causing problems for Premier League clubs

It may not be something most of us will ever have to think about, but a shortage of private planes is causing a real headache for Premier League clubs.

Before Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Leeds United earlier this month, Thomas Tuchel’s squad had to travel to Yorkshire using three 14-seater aircraft. The coaching staff followed by bus because there was a technical issue with the original aircraft that had been booked.

Tuchel, Chelsea

Tuchel’s side endured a problematic journey to Elland Road (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

On August 7, Brighton & Hove Albion flew back to Gatwick Airport in Sussex from Manchester after their 2-1 win against Manchester United. The aircraft had to drop off Graham Potter’s side and then go straight to Stansted Airport in Essex to pick up Manchester City, who had been playing at West Ham.

Another club reports having to pay as much as three times the cost of an equivalent trip this time last year.

“Nobody saw it coming,” says one Premier League executive. “It’s hit us all at the same time — a real conspiracy of circumstances that has caught everyone out.”

The impact of COVID-19 has forced some airlines out of business but other issues include a shortage of crew, higher fuel prices and a particular lack of bigger planes. Ideally clubs want enough seats for 50-60 staff but only smaller aircraft with a capacity of 25 or 30 people are available, meaning key individuals fly and the rest travel by coach.

Many Premier League clubs do not like using propeller aircraft, either, and prefer private jets because they look more slick and professional.

It is hoped the situation will ease slightly after the peak holiday season.

Players intensifying legal action over use of their data

Hundreds of sportspeople have stepped up legal action against betting, gaming and data-processing companies over the use of their performance and tracking information.

Letters of action have been issued, giving companies 28 days to enter discussions or risk further instructions asking them to stop issuing personal data, which the athletes believe has been issued with their consent or any compensation.

Muslim athletes are understood to be particularly concerned that their personal information is being used by betting companies given gambling is strictly forbidden in their religion.

Other footballers, including those from the Premier League, Scottish Premiership, Women’s Super League, EFL and National League, are frustrated by a practice that has been likened to the “wild west”. There is also annoyance at perceived inaccuracies of some of the data being sold and some players’ heights and even ethnicities being recorded incorrectly.

Players’ and referees’ GPS data is routinely monitored in all Premier League and Championship matches. There is nothing to suggest players are unhappy with their statistics being analysed for performance purposes but there is frustration that their permission has not been requested and their data is being sold on to aid businesses such as gambling or gaming.

Male footballers — as revealed by The Athletic in July 2020 — have now been joined by female counterparts and cricketers, while it is believed rugby players are close to joining the action, coined Project Red Card. More than 1,400 current and former sportspeople have signed up. They are led by the Global Sports Data and Technology Group, to pursue more than £400m in damages.

Spearheading the operation is manager Russell Slade, who said: “This case has always been about bread and butter footballers who normally have a limited career with a long life after football. It only seems proper that companies making millions share some of this income with the people who create their wealth.”

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough for Louis-Dreyfus and Sunderland

There was a time not so long ago when Sunderland fans were questioning the attitude of leading shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus — understandably, they felt misled over the ownership percentages on the board, write Michael Walker and Philip Buckingham. Dreyfus has partially resolved that issue by taking a majority stake in the club, and he has now shown a very different level of commitment to Sunderland.

Dreyfus, 25, was on a pre-planned climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Friday when then-manager Alex Neil drove into the Sunderland training ground to say he wanted permission to speak to Stoke City.


Louis-Dreyfus made a 7,000-mile trip back to Sunderland (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

It is not known where Louis-Dreyfus was on the fourth-highest mountain on earth, but the club got the Neil news to him and within 24 hours, apparently via a combination of helicopter and private jet, Louis-Dreyfus was in the directors’ box at the Stadium of Light for Saturday’s 12.30pm kick-off against Norwich City. Sunderland have been approached for comment.

Footage of his travel will be limited, however. Although there are Netflix cameras back on Wearside, there will be no third series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die. Instead there is a two-part retrospective in production that will update the club’s climb out of League One via May’s play-offs. Neil’s interview on the subject had not been recorded and presumably Netflix will have to go to Stoke City now to get his thoughts.

Keep an eye on Manchester City’s Adedire Mebude this week…

A younger player attracting a lot of interest as we edge towards deadline day is Manchester City prospect Adedire Mebude.

PSV Eindhoven and Club Bruges are both believed to be among the teams who have enquired about his availability. The 18-year-old winger is also being pursued by another Premier League club after helping City’s Under-18s win the title last season, when he scored 12 times and provided 17 assists.

Manchester City

Mebude celebrates after scoring against Blackburn Rovers Under-18s in February (Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Discussions between those clubs and City have been focused on a permanent transfer for Mebude, with a buyback clause included.

This is becoming a trend among Premier League clubs. They see the value in allowing young players to depart in search of senior action that they cannot offer. It then allows them to bring them back in the future if they fulfil their potential elsewhere.

That said, it is unclear what City will decide to do when it comes to Mebude. It is thought that among their considerations is the idea of offering him a long-term contract. The Scottish winger’s current deal at the Etihad Stadium expires in 2024.

Extra year for Brighton’s Mac Allister

Brighton have secured the future of influential Argentina international midfielder Alexis Mac Allister until at least the end of next season, writes Andy Naylor.

The Athletic has previously revealed Brighton had the option of an extra year written into the contracts of Danny Welbeck, Leandro Trossard and Joel Veltman, and it is understood to be the same with Mac Allister.

That will be a relief to supporters fearing the 23-year-old’s deal would expire next summer, thereby sparking a repeat of Yves Bissouma’s departure.

Bissouma was sold to Tottenham in June with a year left on his contract after he showed no inclination to sign a new deal.

The hole left by Bissouma as a deep-lying midfielder has been filled effectively for Graham Potter’s team by a combination of Mac Allister and Ecuador international Moises Caicedo.

(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)

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