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Lyon asks French prime minister to reconsider early end of Ligue 1 season

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Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is asking French authorities to backpedal on their decision to end the football season prematurely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The men’s league was canceled four weeks ago with 10 rounds remaining, Paris Saint-Germain declared champion, and Lyon finished outside the European places in seventh.

In a letter on Monday to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, Aulas argued the premature conclusion of the season will have catastrophic consequences for French clubs, which could face losses of “700 to 900” million euros ($760 million to $980 million).

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Alongside Amiens and Toulouse – the two clubs demoted to the second division – Lyon took action against the league decision but their case was thrown out last week by a Paris administrative court. Lyon now wants France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to issue a ruling on the matter.

In the letter, Aulas said the fact that the French league was the only one among the seven biggest European leagues to opt for an early end should convince authorities to reconsider their move.

In Europe, the Dutch and Belgian leagues have also ended their 2019-20 seasons early.

Aulas has argued for the French league to be given a chance to be completed by late August with a temporary playoff system, but with PSG staying the champion given its large lead before play was stopped.

“The Bundesliga resumed matches on May 16, Spain will resume matches on June 8. Italy, Russia and Portugal have resumed collective training and England is working on a resumption after June 19,” Aulas wrote. “How can France not be downgraded very quickly and see its professional football devalued?”

On June 2, the French government is expected to make further announcements related to France’s lockdown exit strategy.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date, so that France can gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas said. “Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and to allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a gradual resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the 2019-2020 season over the months of July or August?”

Lyon, meanwhile, still hopes to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating Italian champion Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 match on Feb. 26. The return leg in Turin was suspended.

Amiens launches petition to restore Ligue 1 status; Seeks 22-team league

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“For Justice” is the headline of a new post on the web site of Ligue 1 side Amiens SC, who is furious at its relegation from a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Amiens were four points back of safety with 10 matches to play, winless in 16 matches but picking up draws in five of their last seven before the coronavirus pause.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Ligue 1 canceled its season and awarded Paris Saint-Germain the title, sending Amiens and Toulouse to Ligue 2, but Amiens is petitioning the French league to play a 22-team table in 2020-21.

“Amiens SC is asking the Football League to review its position and make the fairest choice: a Ligue 1 with 22 clubs for the 2020/2021 season. Supporters from Amiens and football lovers, support our initiative that would make football and sport grow,” the club wrote, linking to a petition and asking for fans to sign.

Amiens’ anger extends into the fabric of the city, with the mayor arguing that the club exiting Ligue 1 makes the area “lose part of our attractiveness as a city by default.”

The 119-year-old club finally hit the heights of the top flight when it won promotion in 2016-17. Like any club whose season is shortchanged in a degrading manner by the pandemic, they are righteously aggrieved.

But what’s the proper solution? Expanded tables lead to more fixture congestion, which taxes the more successful clubs. Expanded tables would also demand either the slimming of European competition or severe changes to the domestic cup schedule. Could we see a season without domestic cups?

Transfer rumor roundup: Umtiti to Man Utd, Krafth to Newcastle

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Perhaps Manchester United has tired of Leicester City’s hesitance to accept a deal for Harry Maguire, and is now looking west.

That’s where Samuel Umtiti plays at Barcelona, a club which has reportedly made him available in a number of deals (swap or otherwise).

[ MORE: Lukaku, Dybala swap? ]

Le10 Sport claims that the World Cup and La Liga winner could be headed to Old Trafford on a $56 million deal, with United “saving” some cash given the world record fee expected for Maguire.

Umtiti has 31 caps and four goals for France, but has struggled to keep a foothold at Barca following a move from Lyon in 2016. He played just 14 times for Barcelona following a pair of 40-match seasons during his first two campaigns.

With Steve Bruce comfortably in the manager’s chair, Newcastle continues to be linked with additions after picking up Brazilian striker Joelinton, English-American midfielder Kyle Scott, and British backstop Jake Turner.

Sky Sports says the Magpies have been shut down in a bid to loan Harry Wilson from Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp preferring no move or a permanent transfer for the player, but they may have more luck in Ligue 1.

Newcastle has been linked with Emil Krafth of Amiens, though the fees have been typically tricky to understand. The French side purchased the right-sided player from Bologna for around $4 million, and Newcastle has reportedly been shot down with a $5.5 million bid.

Krafth, 24, has 20 caps for Sweden and three assists, playing both of the nation’s knockout round matches at the 2018 World Cup.

Report: Tottenham lands $82M Ndombele from Lyon

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This could be a big one.

Tanguy Ndombele had one of the top seasons in Ligue 1, and Tottenham Hotspur will reportedly smash their transfer record to sign the Lyon midfielder according to Sky Sports.

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The fee will be above $82 million for the 22-year-old, who scored a goal with a career-best seven assists in league play this season, adding a pair of goals against Hoffenheim in the Champions League.

Ndombele is a center midfielder who will give plenty of options for Mauricio Pochettino in the midfield, and he joins a pair of similar-minded midfielders who moved from Ligue 1 to the Premier League on big money last season (Fulham’s Jean-Michael Seri and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa).

Lyon had Ndombele on loan for a year before spending around $10 million to buy him from Amiens, who retained a 20 percent stake in any profit Lyon would make on a future sale of the player.

Ndombele has six caps for France, and his last three were all starts.

Amiens captain subjected to racist abuse in French league

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PARIS (AP) Amiens’ French league game at Dijon was temporarily halted on Friday after the visiting side’s captain Prince-Desir Gouano was subjected to alleged racist insults.

“We’re in the 21st century. It’s unacceptable. I want to convey a message that is love, that’s all,” Gouano told broadcaster Bein Sports.

The 0-0 draw was stopped for five minutes toward the end when Gouano, who is black, appeared to be targeted.

Amiens said on Twitter, “The players will restart but will stop playing if it continues. Total support to our captain Prince Gouano. Racism has no place in a football stadium.”

The French league (LFP) said in a statement that it condemned the racist insults and that it was supporting Gouano.

“The disciplinary committee will receive the file. This evening, the Dijon club identified the perpetrator of the racist insults who was subsequently arrested,” the LFP said.

The draw kept Amiens seven points clear of Dijon, which is third from the bottom in the relegation zone with six rounds remaining.

Nantes was hosting Lyon in the late game on Friday.