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Nantes confirms coach Claudio Ranieri’s departure

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NANTES, France (AP) Nantes coach Claudio Ranieri is leaving the French club at the end of the season.

Ranieri confirmed his departure on Thursday, a day after club president Waldemar Kita said the Italian manager would be in charge of his final game this Saturday against Strasbourg.

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In a statement released by Nantes, Kita thanked Ranieri and his staff for “all the work done this season. We wish them a lot of success in their future projects.”

The 66-year-old Ranieri was appointed last June on a two-year deal following the surprise departure of fans’ favorite, Sergio Conceicao.

After challenging for European qualification this season, Nantes has been in poor form in recent weeks, winning just one of its past eight league matches. The club is in 10th place.

“I want to thank the president because he offered me the chance to come to Nantes and to return to the French league,” Rannieri said.

He coached in the league from 2012-14, when he won the League 2 title with Monaco then led the Principality side to a runner-up finish in the topflight.

Ranieri, who guided Leicester to a stunning English Premier League title triumph in 2016, has also coached Juventus, Roma and Inter Milan in his much-traveled career. Ha has been in charge of other Italian sides as well as Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.

“I want to thank my players because the first half of the championship was wonderful, although the second part was more difficult,” Ranieri said. “They gave everything, it really matters to me.”

Ref suspended for kick at player: “Clumsy gesture was inappropriate”

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Ligue 1 referee Tony Chapron has been suspended from work and has apologized after kicking out at a player who knocked him over on Sunday.

Chapron was knocked to the turf by Diego Carlos in Nantes’ match against Paris Saint-Germain. The referee then sent Carlos off via a second yellow card.

He’s been suspended “until further notice” as a Nantes player has called for a 10-match ban.

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Chapron, for his part, admits he made a pretty significant mistake.

The incident baffled Nantes boss Claudio Ranieri, who said he’d “never seen anything like it. I am sure you haven’t either. I do not know what happened. … What I do know is that I could not have one of my players in the closing minutes and, more seriously, that he will be suspended for the next match. But why? Why?”

The red card, to no one’s surprise, will not come with a suspension.

Ligue 1 referee kicks out at player, proceeds to show him red card

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This has to be one of the more obscure soccer stories you’ll see, and it’s only the start of 2018.

On Sunday, Ligue 1 referee Tony Chapron appeared to inadvertently get tripped up by Diego Carlos on a push forward by Nantes during the second half of the team’s league match against French leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

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Although Carlos seemed to do so harmlessly, Chapron took offense to the encounter, and can be seen below attempting to kick out at the Nantes player before he gets back up to his feet.

Then, the official shows Carlos a second yellow card, which sent the Brazilian defender packing prior to the match’s conclusion.

Lille starts Bielsa era with 3-0 win over Ranieri’s Nantes

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PARIS (AP) Lille’s attacking potential this season was on display as coach Marcelo Bielsa’s new team started its French league campaign with a 3-0 win over Nantes on Sunday.

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After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the Argentine coach – known as “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa) to his fans – with the aim of returning to the Champions League while playing an exciting brand of football.

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Lille also recruited more than a dozen of new players and the northern club’s squad appears to have gelled.

Facing an unimaginative side, Lille dominated from the start but had to wait until the 48th to open the scoring through Paraguay defender Junior Alonso. Nicolas De Preville doubled his team’s lead from the spot and Anwar El Ghazi put the win beyond doubt.

The match also featured a duel between Bielsa and another prominent coach, Italian Claudio Ranieri. The managers, who had a quick chat before the game, returned to the French top flight after spending several years away.

With better players at his disposal following Lille’s ambitious recruiting campaign this summer, Bielsa’s team was in control from the start.

“We played a high-energy match, on a fast rhythm, and we made only a few fouls,” Bielsa said. “I believe that we deserved the goals we scored, and that it is a fair result. Let’s see if we can keep that rhythm and speed we want to play with throughout the whole season.”

Lille imposed a fast tempo by pressing high on the pitch – the Argentine’s trademark – and created several chances in the opening stages with fast moves down the flanks that caught out the Nantes back four.

But for all their possession the hosts lacked a cutting edge in the box. Bielsa’s influence was evident in the 14th when Nicolas de Preville tried and missed an acrobatic volley. The French striker did not give up though, tracked the ball down and managed to recover it before setting up newly signed Luiz Araujo, whose shot was blocked.

Nantes could have moved ahead against the run of the play when Abdoulaye Toure recovered the ball 20 meters from the hosts’ box and forced Mike Maignan into a superb dive with a long and powerful shot. The Lille `keeper managed to parry the ball onto the crossbar and Prejuce Nakoulma, alone in front of goal, fluffed his header from close range.

Lille finally broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half after taking advantage of a poor clearance from Nantes captain Leo Dubois. Alonso received the ball outside the box and unleashed a powerful strike into the bottom corner.

Maignan made a decisive save in the next minute to deny Emiliano Sala’s chip attempt at the conclusion of a slick counterattack to keep his team’s lead intact.

Lille was awarded a penalty in the 68th after Kevin Malcuit was fouled by Nicolas Pallois in the box, and De Preville converted from the spot by sending Maxime Dupe the wrong way. El Ghazi made it 3-0 three minutes later with a clean finish. El Ghazi celebrated his goal by taking his shirt off, revealing a tribute to former Ajax teammate Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed during a pre-season game this summer and suffered brain damage.

Bielsa guided Marseille to a fourth-place finish in 2015 while Ranieri – who famously led English club Leicester to the Premier League title in 2016 – helped Monaco win the second division title in his first season, and then finish runner-up in the top flight in 2013-14.

Schalke signs highly rated French U20 midfielder Amine Harit

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Schalke has signed highly rated French Under-20 midfielder Amine Harit from Nantes in a deal reportedly worth up to 10 million euros ($11.4 million).

The Bundesliga club says the 20-year-old Harit has signed a four-year deal.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco says, “Amine is a technically experienced player with strong dribbling skills who is also good in defense. He often looks for offensive solutions and can therefore make the difference.”

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Kicker magazine reports Schalke is initially paying 8 million euros ($9.1 million) for Harit, rising depending on bonus payments.

Harit played in 30 league games for Nantes last season, his first with the senior side after coming through the youth ranks. He won the Under-19 European Championship with France last year, when he was named among the players of the tournament.