Marseille

Boubacar Kamara
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Man City linked with Kamara addition, Cancelo sale

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Joao Cancelo may be heading back to Spain, and his current club is being linked with a young Frenchman.

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Cancelo, 25, seemed like a home run of transfer when Man City acquired him from Juventus in a swap deal for Danilo, but the fit hasn’t matched the theory.

Instead the two players have played similar minutes in league and Champions League play, Cancelo topping Danilo in cup competitions.

Sport is reporting that Cancelo is keen on returning to Spain, where he played with Valencia before moving to Serie A with an Inter Milan loan.

Meanwhile, a report from French site Foot Mercato claims City may take advantage of Marseille’s need to make some money.

Boubacar Kamara has been linked with City for some time. Foot Mercato says Kamara isn’t angling to leave his boyhood club, but Marseille is in a “delicate financial situation.”

The 20-year-old center back has also proven adept at defensive mid for Andre Villas-Boas’ second-place OM. He’s passing at 86 percent, 2.8 tackles per game, 2.1 clearances, and 1.4 interceptions

Kamara has 79 first team appearances with three goals and three assists despite not turning 21 until November.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

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“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FFF president rips Lyon leader: ‘The only enemy today is the virus’

Ligue 1
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The French Football Federation’s president isn’t holding back when it comes to the thoughts of Lyon president that the Ligue 1 season should be “null and void” due to the coronavirus.

Well, if he is holding back, then we’d love to hear his unobstructed takes on the matter.

Lyon boss Jean-Michel Aulas claimed earlier this week that the Ligue 1 season should be annulled and that European qualifiers would remain the same as 2018/19 while no teams would be relegated to Ligue 2.

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It should, of course, be noted that Aulas is acting only out of self-preservation. Lyon qualified for the Champions League last season but is nine points back of the top four.

See-through stuff, and Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud called the comments “the selfishness of someone whose only compass is his participation in the Champions League.”

Marseille, you could probably guess, sits in a UCL place after failing to qualify last season.

French football president Noel Le Graet took it even further, blasting Aulas for his comments and taking aim at Eyraud for the response.

From the AFP, via France24.com:

“I don’t want any controversy. It’s the French Football Federation that will decide if it continues or not, the only enemy today is the virus,” he said.

“I find it quite ridiculous, stupid, clumsy and inappropriate to what’s happening,” he added, asking the two club presidents “to calm down and be dignified in their statements, which make no sense and don’t make them any bigger.”

He’s right, even if his past resume is far from unimpeachable. The Lyon president is acting foolishly, and Eyraud would’ve done better to hold his tongue.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Marseille striker Benedetto wears swim cap after head injury

Benedetto swim cap
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Marseille striker Dario Benedetto came off the field with blood pouring from a head wound, and went back on wearing a swimming cap in his side’s 2-2 home draw against struggling Amiens on Friday.

The bizarre scene happened after he clashed heads early on with an Amiens defender. After briefly receiving treatment, Benedetto ran back on with a tight-fitting blue cap covering his wounded head.

Marseille’s reputed “Cercle des Nageurs” swim club has trained former Olympic champions, the siblings Florent Manaudou and Laure Manaudou, as well as former world champion Camille Lacourt.

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Benedetto kept his cap on for the rest of the French league game, but failed to add to his club-leading 11 league goals as second-placed Marseille carelessly threw away a 2-0 lead after goals from midfielders Morgan Sanson and Dimitri Payet.

Amiens replied in the 84th thanks to forward Serhou Guirassy’s penalty and equalized in the fifth minute of injury time through Iran midfielder Saman Ghoddos.

Marseille forward Valere Germain was at fault, naively trying to lead his side to a third goal with 30 seconds left, rather than just kicking the ball out.

Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas was sent off as he protested angrily to referee Francois Letexier after the final whistle.

Yet his players were squarely to blame.

“It’s not possible. We can’t complain about the referee,” Marseille’s Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman said. “If you want to play the Champions League, you can’t play this way.”

Marseille trails Paris Saint-Germain by 12 points, but remains favorite to qualify directly for next season’s Champions League. Marseille leads third-placed Rennes by nine points with 10 rounds remaining after this weekend.

PSG’s game Strasbourg on Saturday was called off following a decree from the Alsace city prefecture because of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, the roof at Stade Pierre-Mauroy will remain open even if it rains when Lille hosts Lyon.

The coronavirus reached 577 cases in France by Friday afternoon, with nine deaths.

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.