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Payet slams former coach Garcia

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Dmitri Payet has spiced up the latest edition of the Choc des Olympiques with some choice comments for former Marseille coach Rudi Garcia.

Garcia coached Marseille for three seasons until the end of May, 2019. However, instead of staying through the end of his contract – which reportedly was extended through the 2021 season – Garcia decided to leave and eventually landed at Lyon, which sacked former Arsenal defender Sylvinho after a poor start to the season. Payet, who was never one in England to hold his tongue, revealed he was surprised to see Garcia join Lyon, especially because he had spoken passionately before about Lyon when it was just an opponent.

“Yes. Already, it’s weird to see him in the opposite side,” Payet said at a press conference. “A few months ago (May 12) , we faced Lyon, and heard (Garcia’s) talk about Lyon players, Lyon fans, the Lyon president … I will not go into detail, because it is not the goal either, but I would not like him to talk about us like that. It’s odd that he postulates three months later for this club. But he did well, since he is there. We must not begin to put our feelings in a match like that, it could make us thwart. We have to put it in a corner of our head, use it to boost ourselves.”

Payet’s comments surely turn up the heat in this year’s first leg of the French Olympique Classico. Though there isn’t an intense rivalry between the clubs, Payet’s accusations could lead to the game having a higher importance. It would be ineresting too to see what Payet thought of some of his coaches in England.

It’s no secret that Payet didn’t get along with Garcia, and likely was glad to see him go at the end of he season.

“I do not know how to say,” Payet said. “There were times when it was rather hot, the communication did not pass, – I speak of my personal case. There were headaches, I have a strong character, it did not help either. We did not separate on good terms.”

All eyes will be on Payet this Sunday to see if he has anything else to say to Garcia, or whether it’s gone in his mind now.

Lyon planning to purchase NWSL franchise

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Arguably the best club soccer team in European women’s football, Olympique Lyon, is looking to expand into the United States.

Jean-Michel Aulas, president of OL Groupe, which owns Lyon’s men’s and women’s teams as well as the grand Groupama Stadium, said in a statement that Lyon was in negotiations to “take over” an NWSL team. Negotiations could finish soon enough that it could start with the 2020 season.

[READ: Berhalter preaches patience with Pulisic]

“Our international expansion also involves a project in the United States with the decision to take over a women’s football franchise,” Aulas said, via Lyon’s website. “The project is progressing well and we aim to be operational before the start of the next season, in March-April 2020.”

It’s unclear exactly whether Aulas would purchase a team off a current investor, start an expansion franchise, or revive a former club like the Boston Breakers or FC Kansas City. The Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC are both in tough situations and could do with an injection of cash. Lyon had revenues of more than $300 million over the past year, and assuming some would be allocated to the NWSL club, that would be a massive boost for them.

In addition, Lyon’s women’s team is currently the four-time defending UEFA Women’s Champions League winners, especially thanks to Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg. Lyon has also won Ligue 1 for 13-straight years, staying above Paris Saint-Germain despite significant investment in talent from the French side.

If Lyon plans to treat an NWSL team like its club in France, this is a win-win proposition from NWSL. It allows a massive brand to lend its weight to the league, and also enables some of Lyon’s young guns to come to the U.S. and compete against some of our best stars. In addition, it could lead to more chances for American players with Lyon, should U.S. Soccer allow them to move abroad at some point after the Olympics.

UCL wrap: Suarez leads Barca comeback; Ajax rocks Valencia

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The UEFA Champions League has completed two rounds, and we have some surprise names atop the groups in Europe.

You could say they go from A to Z.

Ajax and Zenit Saint-Petersburg top their groups after two matches, while Borussia Dortmund has managed a tiebreaking lead over Barcelona.

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There’s plenty of time to play, but the UCL showed us some more fun on Wednesday.

Barcelona 2-1 Inter Milan

Inter took an early lead at the Camp Nou, threatening to thrust Barcelona deeper into internal turmoil, but Luis Suarez showed that he’s got plenty in the tank.

The Uruguayan scored twice, the second off a Lionel Messi assist, to offset Lautaro Martinez’s second minute goal and send Barca level on points with Borussia Dortmund.

RB Leipzig 0-2 Lyon

Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier scored with Lyon’s only shots on target, a pretty fortunate win against Bundesliga opposition.

Zenit Saint-Petersburg 3-1 Benfica

Artem Dzyuba and Sardar Azmoun scored, with Zenit also collecting an own goal en route to a three-goal lead. Raul de Tomas scored late, but the damage had bene done and Zenit joined Lyon on four points.

Valencia 0-3 Ajax

Ajax sent a statement in Spain, getting goals from Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes, and returning Donny van de Beek to move to 2-0 on the campaign despite selling some top talents this summer. Dutch-American teen Sergino Dest went 90 minutes at right back for the visitors.

Genk 0-0 Napoli

Thirty-one shots produced nothing on the score board, as Genk joined Salzburg in telling the big boys that Group E isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Slavia Prague 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

The Achraf Hakimi show saw the 20-year-old Moroccon cap off two lightning quick counters to move BVB onto the same footing as Barcelona after two match days.

Neymar scores late again in PSG win

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Paris Saint-Germain fans may have to return to liking Neymar again.

For the second consecutive Ligue 1 match, Neymar scored late to give PSG all three points in a massive 1-0 win at Lyon. With the win, PSG moved into a three-point lead in the Ligue 1 table.

[READ: Lampard explains why Pulisic has remained on the bench]

After being involved in the buildup in the 87th minute, Neymar found a pocket of space at the top of the box. After receiving the ball and facing up his defenders, he made a quick move to his left, took two steps and fired a strike into the low far corner to put PSG in front.

PSG fans have come out pretty clearly since the summer when news reports surrounding Neymar and his camp made it clear he preferred to leave PSG for a return to Barcelona. It appeared he was willing to give up on his dream to lead the line and be a new star for a team in another league, but the transfer never happened, mainly for financial reasons.

And yet, despite missing most of preseason recovering from his ankle injury suffered on international duty, Neymar returned to the side for coach Thomas Tuchel and has scored two massive goals to help earn PSG six points.

To Neymar’s credit, it appears he’s put his head down since the end of the transfer window and is working hard for his club and his teammates. Despite his hatred from fans and general observers for some of his on-the-field and off-the-field antics, he seems to have the trust of his PSG teammates, and there were many reports that Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the ones pushing for Neymar to come back from within Barcelona.

Even if he can’t win over some PSG fans for threatening to leave the club, more goals like these will certainly endear him to fans who may have been indifferent over the transfer saga.

Watch the goal below:

Koscielny refuses to go on Arsenal’s U.S. tour

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Arsenal’s captain Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel with the team on their preseason tour of the USA.

Koscielny, 33, has one year left on his current Gunners deal and the likes of Rennes, Bordeaux and Lyon in his homeland want to sign him.

It is believed Koscielny asked to be released from his contract a year early to head back to France, but that request was turned down and Arsenal’s captain has now decided to take this drastic step.

Arsenal have slammed Koscielny in an official statement, as the club have now opened disciplinary proceedings against the French international.

“Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel to the US for our pre-season tour. We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions. We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”

Flying out to California on Thursday, Arsenal will play against the Colorado Rapids in a friendly, then take part in the International Champions Cup with games against Bayern Munich in Los Angeles), Fiorentina in Charlotte and Real Madrid in Washington D.C. before heading back to the UK.

Koscielny’s decision to not turn up for preseason will surely see him stripped of the captaincy, but it also gives Unai Emery an unwanted headache. Last season Emery dealt with Mesut Ozil being unhappy and the Spanish coach was all about unity and having a collective spirit following Arsene Wenger‘s departure.

This decision from Koscielny will no doubt have a huge impact on the locker room.

Shokdran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers, Dinos Mavropanos and Sokratis are Arsenal’s current options at center back, but there’s no doubt Koscielny would have been a starter alongside Sokratis this season.

The Gunners are closing in on a deal to sign French youngster William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for $34 million then loan him back to the Ligue 1 club. Considering this situation with Koscielny, they may try and keep Saliba for the upcoming season instead.

Koscielny has been a fans favorite since he arrived in 2010 and his rise from the lower French leagues to the Premier League and UEFA Champions League while also captaining Arsenal is a great story.

However, in recent years injuries have hit him hard and although nobody really points the finger towards him with regards to Arsenal’s recent defensive frailties, Koscielny has been to blame with some major errors.

Arsenal should probably cut their losses here and let Koscielny leave on a free, as overall he’s been a good servant to the club and they are unlikely to receive that much for him in terms of a transfer fee. Then again, you cannot let one player dictate your transfer dealings as they sets a poor precedent.

What a mess. Koscielny hasn’t conducted himself well here, and Arsenal putting this out in the open has escalated the seriousness of the situation.