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French Ligue 1 club Montpellier have announced that they have reached a deal with Newcastle United for the transfer of midfield player Remy Cabella. The transfer will not be concluded until the end of the season, meaning Cabella can continue to play for his current club before moving to Newcastle at the end of this campaign. 

Although Newcastle fans are already showing excitement about this transfer on social media and other online forums, cynics may say the club has simply replaced Yohan Cabaye should he leave, which is looking increasingly likely, although Cabella’s style is more in the mold of Hatem Ben Arfa. That said, if this move turns out to be the first of a range of extended activity and is a sign of the club making a serious assault on the UEFA Champions League places next season, Cabaye could well be convinced to stay. However, an already decent squad will surely need further strengthening, with defensive cover and at least two strikers needing to be brought in as permanent signings to make the squad look capable of finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

Cabella has been capped at under-21 level for France but is yet to feature in a senior squad. Montpellier chairman Laurent Nicollin told local newspaper Midi Libre, "We have an agreement with the leaders of Newcastle that I will not reveal. "But it does not include a departure for Remy before June, it is a certainty."

Newcastle are denying that a deal has been concluded for a fee in the region of £12million, although given the selling club are the ones making the announcement, it would appear to be close to completion. Nicollin himself later denied that anything formal had been signed, but given that he’s speaking to the press he’s clearly confident a deal will be done.

Cabaye is a confirmed target of French champions PSG, with coach Laurent Blanc admitting he’d like to sign him this month. For their part, Newcastle have also been heavily linked with Liverpool target Mohamed Salah, currently at FC Basle and who would be more of a like for like replacement for Cabaye. Meanwhile the club are also reportedly in talks to take previous long-term target Luuk de Jong on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent summer deal.

In this season's Champions League, Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain will be quietly confident of progressing through the group stages and into the knockout rounds. France are currently placed sixth in UEFA's Country Ranking, but season 2013/14 has started poorly for Ligue 1's representatives in UEFA's club competitions.

In the Champions League Play-off round, Olympique Lyonnais were comprehensively beaten by Spaniards, Real Sociedad, losing both legs by 2-0 and must now settle for the Europa League Group stages. In the Europa League Play-off round, Saint-Etienne and Nice were both stunned by lesser opponents and knocked out. Nice could only manage a 1-0 home win over Apollon Limassol of Cyprus, losing 2-1 over the two legs. Saint-Etienne were sensationally beaten 1-0 at home by Esbjerg of Denmark, crashing out 5-3 on aggregate.

In last season's Champions League, France had three clubs in the Group stages, but two embarrassingly finished bottom of their respective groups. Lille lost 5 of their 6 games while then Ligue 1 champions Montpellier failed to win any of their 6 matches. Paris Saint Germain did top their own group and overcame Valencia in the round of 16 before succumbing to Barcelona in the Quarter Finals. However, no French club has progressed past the Quarter Finals since Lyon reached the Semi Finals in 2010.

French clubs have been left trailing by clubs from the big four European Leagues. Since the inception of the Champions League era, on only 2 occasions have French clubs reached a final (Marseille in 1993 and Monaco in 2004). This fairs poorly in comparison with Italy's 11, Spain's 9, England's 9 and Germany's 8. 

The pressure is on arch rivals Paris Saint Germain and Marseille to restore the famous Gallic pride.

Paris Saint Germain dropped points on the opening day of the French league season, held 1-1 Friday at Montpellier as they began their defence of the title. 

PSG have moved swiftly on since landing their first league crown in 19 years in May, with Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti leaving for Real Madrid and loan star David Beckham retiring. But awash with cash from their Qatari owners the capital club, touting a budget of 400 million euros, are hot favourites to repeat their success, even if newly-promoted fellow moneybags outfit Monaco will look to push them hard.

Falcao, a 60-million-euro acquisition from Atletico Madrid, is the big draw for the Monegasques, bankrolled by Russian billionaire owner Dimitri Rybolovlev. But the principality club must begin the season with a two-point deduction after a series of incidents at the end of a game last season.

Montpellier represented a tough opening day test for the Parisians given the southerners' status as 2012 champions though they saw the architect of that win, Rene Girard, switch to Lille in the summer, with Jean Fernandez arriving to replace him.

PSG, now under the stewardship of former France and Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc, elected to start with a strike tandem of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi, leaving 64 million-euro new boy Edinson Cavani on the bench to begin with at the Stade de la Mosson. But after an early Lavezzi header flashed off target it was the hosts who scored the opening goal of the new season, a rasping drive from Remy Cabella after just ten minutes.

Cabella robbed Ibrahimovic and then found Emanuel Herrera, who fired in an effort which was blocked only for Cabella to drive in at the second attempt. Though enjoying the lion's share of the possession PSG were forced to grind through the gears as they strove to respond and Ibrahimovic sent in a fizzing effort which Geoffrey Jourdren in the home goal tipped away.

A goal to the good at the break, Montpellier could have doubled their lead on 50 minutes but Herrera fired over from the edge of the area. And PSG finally managed to get back on terms on the hour mark through Brazilian Maxwell.

Javier Pastore fired over a cross form the left which Ibrahimovic just reached at the far post, nodding on for former Barcelona defender Maxwell to net from close range.

Montpellier had a nervous final 18 minutes after their Moroccan defender Abdelhamid El Kaoutari was red carded for a foul on Pastore.

Monaco open their campaign Saturday at Bordeaux, whom PSG's Blanc led to the title in 2009, while other weekend action sees Lyon host Nice and Lille welcome Lorient. Sunday sees Ajaccio take on former giants Saint Etienne with the former now being coached by former Italy striker Fabrizio Ravanelli.

Newly-promoted eight-time champions Nantes host Bastia on their return. Nantes recently acquired the services of American player Alejandro Bedoya.


Moroccan international Younes Belhanda's on-off move from French club Montpellier to Dynamo Kiev has finally been completed, the player announced on Tuesday.

Midfielder Belhanda, 23, spurned interest from both Arsenal and Aston Villa of the English Premier League, to join the Ukrainian giants for an undisclosed fee. But the deal appeared to have fallen through when French press reports suggested the player was reluctant to move to Kiev, having only signed an agreement in principle.

However, on Tuesday, he told the Dynamo website: "I am very happy to be a Dynamo player, I have signed a five-year contract with a club which is at the highest level and I want to win trophies here. "I'm not going to comment on the rumors, I can only say I intend to give my best to the club in the years to come."

Belhanda, born in the French town of Avignon of Moroccan parents, opted to play for the north African country after making two appearances at under-20 level for France, and has since won 21 caps.


A goal in the third minute of injury time from Clement Grenier gave Lyon a 2-1 win at champions Montpellier on Friday to keep their slim French title hopes alive. 

The win moved Lyon into second place on 59 points, one ahead of Marseille, who have a game in hand, but eight behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain. 

Grenier's potentialy decisive strike came after a corner from Yoann Gourcuff was only half-cleared by an Abdelhamid El-Kaoutari header. 

The ball fell for Grenier whose half-volley from the edge of the penalty area found the net off the crossbar. Lisandro Lopez had put Lyon ahead in the 26th minute after being set-up by Gourcuff and Grenier. But Moroccan international Younes Belhanda leveled five minutes before the interval with a fine individual goal.

Despite the three points, Lyon can be replaced in second place on Saturday when Marseille host relegation-threatened Brest.