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Premier League last minute transfer scramble

FOOTBALL By AFP | August 31st 2016

International stars Mario Balotelli, Moussa Sissoko and Jack Wilshere were all reportedly poised for moves on Wednesday as the clock ticked down towards the European transfer deadline.

Spending by English Premier League clubs has broken through the one billion pounds (1.17 billion euros, $1.3 billion) barrier in one window for the first time, fuelling transfer activity across the continent.

Balotelli, Liverpool's wayward Italian striker, was on the verge of joining French club Nice on a season-long loan, having spent last season on loan at former club AC Milan.

"If the situation works out, maybe late in the day it will be done," an official from Nice told French sports daily L'Equipe.

"If we don't agree with Liverpool, he will leave again."

Newcastle United midfielder Sissoko was given permission to leave France's Clairefontaine training base in order to complete a transfer.

Newcastle, relegated from the Premier League last season, were reported to have rebuffed an initial 16 million pounds bid for Sissoko from Tottenham Hotspur.

Sissoko, 27, was France's stand-out player in the hosts' loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final and had expressed a desire to join Real Madrid.

Arsenal midfielder Wilshere, 24, was reportedly mulling over loan offers from Bournemouth and Crystal Palace after slipping down the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal spent around 50 million pounds on Tuesday to sign German defender Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia and Spanish striker Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna.

Wilshere's England colleague Joe Hart, meanwhile, is due to complete a loan move to Italian side Torino after being frozen out by new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

The blond-haired goalkeeper was pictured posing with a Torino shirt on Tuesday.

City striker Wilfried Bony, who has also failed to win over Guardiola, was pictured at Stoke City's training ground.

Bony tweeted: "It's a new day and I look forward to a new exciting challenge."

Samir Nasri, another City outcast, was thought to be close to joining Sevilla, while Eliaquim Mangala was reportedly due to sign for Valencia.

Leicester City, England's fairytale champions last season, were reported to be closing in on deals for Sporting Lisbon pair Islam Slimani and Adrien Silva.

Both deals would be expected to eclipse Leicester's 16.6 million pounds club-record move for Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa last month.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan and Barcelona paid top dollar for Brazil's Olympic gold medal-winning striker Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa and Valencia forward Paco Alcacer respectively.

Inter confirmed the signing of Barbosa on his 20th birthday late on Tuesday.

"Gabigol is an Inter player," the Serie A giants said in a statement, announcing a five-year contract.

Inter did not release financial details, but the Gazzetta dello Sport website reported Inter had paid Santos 27.5 million euros for 'Gabigol', who has drawn comparisons with his countryman Neymar.

Alcacer, who turned 23 on Tuesday, joined Barcelona from Valencia in a 30 million euros, five-year deal, the Catalan side announced.

The Spain international, who scored 13 goals in 34 league appearances last season, will heighten competition in the Barcelona frontline already led by Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Analysts predict European spending will easily be the highest yet when the two-month transfer window closes, between 1600 GMT for the Bundesliga and 2200 GMT for the Premier League.

Flush from the proceeds of a new 5.14 billion pounds domestic television rights deal, English clubs have led the way.

Manchester United set a new world record with an 89 million pounds deal to bring French midfielder Paul Pogba back to the club from Juventus.

Christian Heidel, sporting director for German club Schalke, said the Premier League has forced up prices everywhere.

"If English managers are on the phone, then the sums are automatically higher," Heidel said on a talk show for Kicker magazine.

"If the negotiations are within Germany, then it is often difficult to exclude the higher sums from England."

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