Ligue 1

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Transfer rumor roundup: Dembele to Man Utd, Fraser to Arsenal

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Manchester United will fire off a $45 million opening bid to bring Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Old Trafford.

It seems unlikely that number will do the trick for the Ligue 1 outfit which bought him from Celtic for $25 million last summer.

Prolific in Scotland after making his name at Fulham and letting his contract run out, the 22-year-old scored 15 goals with five assists in his first Ligue 1 season. He also scored three goals between UEFA Champions League qualifying and the tournament itself.

That comes from Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre, which also has the report that United remains interested in Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff — we’ve covered that before — and has cooled on Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton due to a $45 million price tag.

Nathaniel Clyne is a man in demand after his loan stint at Bournemouth furthered his chances of leaving Liverpool.

Sky Sports says the right back’s price tag is around $20 million, and that Napoli, Crystal Palace, and West Ham are all interested in his services.

Clyne had an assist in 13 matches on loan for the Cherries, who are also worried about interest in star playmaker Ryan Fraser.

The diminutive midfielder showed a dynamic connection with Callum Wilson and rang up seven goals and 14 assists at the age of 25.

But Bournemouth is said to want $38 million for its star. Will Arsenal go that high?

PSG boss Tuchel admits Neymar, Mbappe could leave

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Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel hopes to hold onto his two biggest stars, but recognizes that both Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could leave Ligue 1 for the right offer.

Neymar has been in the headlines after his season ended early following a suspension for hitting a fan after PSG lost the French Cup Final. It would be easy to see him leaving PSG, especially with Real Madrid and Manchester United among those expected to spend big this summer.

[ MORE: Bayern confirms Sane pursuit ]

And Mbappe said he was keen on a “new project,” later saying that could be at PSG. And Les Parisiens released a statement saying he was not for sale.

Tuchel admits that hasn’t eased his concerns.

“I was a bit hesitant after what Mbappe said,” Tuchel said.

“As a coach, I do want them to continue, but this is football, we are not naive. Many clubs want to transfer many players. But if you ask me, the manager, yes, I want them here next season. But if not, we will find solutions.”

There are very few clubs on Earth which wouldn’t want either player, but few with the resources to buy and then pay them. And in terms of the Premier League, you’d almost bet on Neymar to have big interest in Manchester United if the Red Devils were in the Champions League.

Do you think either will stay at PSG?

Either player would be huge dominoes in the transfer market, and could trigger the movement of essentially anyone else to Paris: Paul Pogba? Ousmane Dembele? Toni Kroos? Almost anyone would be on the table.

PSG president targeted by French corruption probe

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been placed under investigation for corruption as part of an inquiry into the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said Thursday.

The official told The Associated Press the preliminary charge of “active corruption” was filed against the beIN media group chairman in mid-May in a case focusing on the payment of $3.5 million to an IAAF official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

The official said Al-Khelaifi is suspected of corruption “in regards with Qatar’s track and field worlds.” Al-Khelaifi is from Qatar.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment and beIN media group declined to comment on the case because it said it “doesn’t relate in any way to the company.”

The chief executive officer of beIN, Yousef Al-Obaidly, was also handed preliminary charges of corruption, while former IAAF president Lamine Diack is suspected of “passive corruption” in the same case.

According to Al-Obaidly’s lawyer, investigative magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke based his suspicion on documents showing that a former IAAF official received two payments totaling about $3.5 million from Qatari investors before the vote for the 2017 track world championships. Qatar eventually lost to London but was later awarded the 2019 worlds. The championships will be held in Doha from Sept. 27-Oct. 6.

The two payments from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund linked to the Qatari government, were made to Pamodzi Sports Marketing in October and November 2011, days before the vote.

Al-Obaidly’s representatives say the payments made by Oryx to the IAAF’s appointed agent were transparent and part of the normal bidding process. Set up to handle the sponsorship and rights for Qatar’s bid, Oryx accepted to pay $32.5 million for the event’s commercial rights, including the $3.5 million paid to Pamodzi as a non-refundable deposit. The full amount would have been paid only if Qatar’s bid had been successful.

According to the online news site Mediapart, Oryx is owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid. Mediapart said Al-Khelaifi was questioned by the judge in March and denied any knowledge of the payments at the time.

Pamodzi was founded by one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. A former marketing consultant at the IAAF, he has been banned for allegations of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Russian marathon runner to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 Olympics. France has issued a wanted notice for him via Interpol.

In another case, Brazilian and French authorities are trying to find out whether Lamine Diack and his son played a role in arranging alleged bribes to help Rio de Janeiro earn the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics. Diack, who ran the IAAF from 1999-2015, has also been accused of covering up failed Russian doping tests in exchange for money.

Al-Khelaifi is a member of the UEFA executive committee, representing European clubs, and is due to take part in the body’s meeting on Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Al-Khelaifi was selected as a club delegate, and confirmed by UEFA member federations in February, despite being the subject of a criminal proceeding for bribery in Switzerland since 2017. The Qatari television executive is suspected of bribing FIFA’s then-secretary general with use of a luxury villa in Italy to help secure 2026 and 2030 World Cup broadcasting rights in the Middle East for Doha-based beIN Sports.

PSG is also under investigation by UEFA for possibly breaking financial rules.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

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Mbappe to stay at Paris Saint-Germain

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It appears that one of the transfer sagas of the summer is over before it truly began.

Kylian Mbappe, 20, hinted at leaving Paris Saint-Germain this summer for “a new project” in another country during his acceptance speech after being crowned the Ligue 1 Player of the Year on Sunday.

He has since stood by those comments, telling French outlet L’Equipe: “When I say something, I mean it. I said it. If it is at PSG, that’s good, if it is elsewhere, it is elsewhere.”

With Real Madrid leading the long list of clubs hoping to sign the Frenchman, who arrived at PSG in the summer of 2017 on loan from Monaco and then the move was made permanent for a fee of $210 million. That makes Mbappe the second most-expensive player in history behind his PSG teammate Neymar.

But PSG aren’t having any of this departure talk from Mbappe. Nope. Nada.

The French champions released a statement on Tuesday dismissing Mbappe’s comments and drawing their line firmly in the sand.

“Very strong ties have united Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappe for two years and this story will continue together also next season. With the shared ambition to write the history of European football, in the year of the 50th anniversary of PSG,a long awaited moment to write together a big page in the history of our club and in which everyone will have to do his part, always giving value to the collective.”

So, Monsieur Mbappe, over to you…

At 20 years of age he has plenty of time to move to Spain or England in the future but there’s no doubting Mbappe’s quality to move on and be a star for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man City, whoever he wants.

Those three are probably the only three clubs who can afford his transfer fee and wages combined, but his 32 Ligue 1 goals this season show his quality and we all saw how good he was for France at the 2018 World Cup last summer. Real need a new hero and if they offer Gareth Bale and a large chunk of cash to PSG for Mbappe, could Les Parisiens really turn that down?

After all, PSG have Neymar and Edinson Cavani up front, so losing Mbappe would hardly hit them in terms of their attacking prowess. But Mbappe is a local kid who is the rising star in the game. Selling him before they’ve conquered the UEFA Champions League, their holy grail, would be unthinkable.

Mbappe’s comments suggest he isn’t totally happy at PSG, but unless Real Madrid put down an offer the French champs can’t refuse, he’s staying in the French capital.

Marseille’s ‘Champions Project’ in tatters

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PARIS (AP) Ridiculous Project.

Arrogant Project.

Fiasco Project.

Deficient Project.

Defeat Project.

These were some of the slogans displayed by Marseille fans last weekend at Stade Velodrome, mocking the “Champions Project” plan of American owner Frank McCourt, who aimed to return the club back to the summit of French soccer and among the European elite.

[ MORE: Sarri’s job in jeopardy? ]

Instead, in front of those poster-holding fans, former European champion Marseille was humiliated by Lyon 3-0 at home.

Ahead of the trip to Toulouse on Saturday, Marseille is seven points behind fourth-placed Saint-Etienne. With only two rounds left in Ligue 1, it means the club won’t even qualify for the Europa League.

Two and a half years after McCourt took over, the southern side has not lived up to expectations, and coach Rudi Garcia’s future is hanging in the balance after he failed to find the right balance in a squad featuring some brilliant individuals.

Marseille, which made it to the 2018 Europa League final but earned only one point in the group stage this season, has 13 defeats in 36 matches in the French league, has conceded 50 goals – its worst total in more than 30 years – and lost all of its matchups against the top three teams.

Constant tinkering with the lineup – Garcia fielded 41 different starting XIs in 44 matches in all competitions – to find a winning combo contributed to Marseille going backward, in sharp contrast to the club’s motto of “Straight to Goal.”

“There is no point looking for excuses,” World Cup winner Florian Thauvin said last month after a loss in Bordeaux. “We should stop fooling ourselves. We did not make a good season. And even if we qualified for the Champions League, what could we achieve? Every year it’s the same thing. We don’t win the games we need, we make too many mistakes.”

Marseille Ultras supporters, who play a major role in the running of the club, have had enough, too, and are asking for Garcia’s firing. They are also unhappy with club president Jacques Henri Eyraud, who appointed the coach when McCourt, the former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, launched his project of making Marseille great again, then extended Garcia’s deal to 2021.

“It’s one of the most difficult seasons of my career,” says Garcia, who seems under no illusion his time is up at the club. “But it’s part of my experience, and I’m sure I will use it in the future.”

Upon arrival at the buoyant Mediterranean city, McCourt pledged to revive Marseille by investing 200 million euros ($210 million) over four years. Large amounts of cash have been spent on Mario Balotelli, Valere Germain, and Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Marseille’s squad also features Lucas Ocampos, Kevin Strootman, Dimitri Payet, and Florian Thauvin, but Garcia has failed to make them gel as a team.

Thauvin has appeared unconcerned in recent weeks, and has not scored in the league in more than two months. He has repeatedly said his main goal in club football is to play the Champions League and appears bound for a transfer this summer.

Balotelli is not expected to stay either, but Marseille could struggle to find credible replacements as it remains closely monitored by UEFA in regard to financial fair play rules, and might not be allowed to spend as much as it wants.

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