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Toulouse in takeover talks with U.S. firm RedBird

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TOULOUSE, France — The owner of struggling French soccer club Toulouse is in negotiations to sell an 85-percent stake to American investment firm RedBird Capital Partners.

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Toulouse was relegated after finishing last in the first division this season but Amiens, another team relegated from Ligue 1, have launched an appeal against ending the season early after the French government said no games in empty stadiums could take place before September.

The league was ended early with 10 rounds remaining because of the coronavirus pandemic and a points-per-game model was used to determine the final standings for the 2019-20 season in France’s top-flight.

“I am convinced RedBird Capital Partners has the competence and resources needed to allow us to return among the elite of French soccer,” owner Olivier Sadran said in a club statement on Thursday.

Sadran has been club president since 2001 and will retain a 15% stake in his hometown club.

“I feel responsible,” he said. “They can always count on my passion and my support.”

RedBird Capital founder Gerry Cardinale confirmed the takeover bid.

“We’re eager to finalize our partnership with Olivier and to put Toulouse on the path to success in the future,” he said in the statement.

Barcelona adds Toulouse defender Jean-Clair Todibo

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has reached a deal to sign young Toulouse defender Jean-Clair Todibo in July.

Barcelona said Tuesday he will join on a free transfer after his contract with the French club ends on June 30.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-0 Chelsea ]

The 19-year-old Frenchman joined Toulouse in 2016 and made his first-team debut earlier this season. The central defender has made 10 appearances, all as a starter, and scored in the team’s 1-1 draw at Rennes in September.

Todibo is known for his good ball technique and can also play in the midfield. The tall defender is considered a threat on set pieces.

He has played for France’s under-20 team.

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

VAR in the spotlight again, this time for not working

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PARIS (AP) – The video assistant referee system has been much talked about since being used at the World Cup earlier this year – praised by some for spotting fouls, criticized by others for slowing down matches.

On Sunday, VAR attracted attention for another reason altogether: it stopped working during the 1-1 draw between Rennes and Toulouse.

“The fourth official came to see me 10 minutes from the end of halftime to tell me it wasn’t working,” Toulouse coach Alain Casanova said. “There was a problem, quite simply.”

Casanova said he and his Rennes counterpart, Sabri Lamouchi, as well as the two team captains, were all informed before the second half started.

Toulouse may have cause for regret because VAR was not used to review images when a penalty was given to Rennes midway through the second period. It was awarded after striker M’Baye Niang fell under a challenge from Jean-Clair Todibo, who was shown a yellow card for protesting the decision.

Niang converted in the 70 minute, but Todibo headed in the equalizer two minutes from time for Toulouse.

Toulouse played with 10 men for the second half after forward Aaron Leya Iseka was sent off in the 43rd for a second yellow card.

The draw leaves Rennes struggling in 16th place – two places above the relegation zone – while Toulouse is seventh.

IMPRESSIVE MONTPELLIER

Montpellier continued its fine start by beating local rival Nimes 3-0 to move into second place – although Marseille can take second by winning at Lille later Sunday.

Defender Ambroise Oyongo put Montpellier ahead and striker Andy Delort made it 2-0 after nine minutes of first-half injury time. A metal gate gave way after Montpellier fans celebrated Oyongo’s goal, sending a few of them spilling onto the pitch and causing the match to be delayed.

Reports said two fans sustained light injuries.

The outstanding Florent Mollet set up striker Gaetan Laborde for a diving header in the 79th, after which a crowd disturbance caused the match to be stopped for about 30 minutes.

Some 70-80 riot police came onto the pitch to block a section of agitated Montpellier fans from confronting their Nimes counterparts.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Neymar nets winner as league leader PSG wins 1-0 at Toulouse

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PARIS (AP) Neymar showed there was no hangover from his lavish birthday party by scoring the winner as leader Paris Saint-Germain won at Toulouse 1-0 in the French league on Saturday.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Citizens crack 70 points, Tottenham wins NLD ]

Neymar settled a scrappy match with a typical moment of skill midway through the second half. He drifted into the left side of the penalty area and cut past two players before his deflected shot somewhat fortuitously wrong-footed goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

The win moved PSG 13 points clear of second-place Marseille, which drew at Saint-Etienne 2-2 on Friday.

But this was a largely uninspired PSG performance aside from Neymar. He has 19 goals in 18 league games since joining from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($260 million).

Neymar had plenty of spare cash to throw a mega-party last Sunday to celebrate turning 26. He privatized a Parisian club and invited 300 guests – including his teammates, his coach, his club president – and 50 keen partygoers from Brazil.

As a result, coach Unai Emery gave Neymar a rest on a chilly Tuesday when PSG played at Sochaux; and it proved a judicious move as the silky Neymar looked in fine form. He almost added a second goal late on with a brilliant curling shot from 25 meters which bounced off the crossbar.

PSG needs Neymar like this. The club has a massive game at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, in the first leg of the last 16. PSG has a big point to prove after being humiliated 6-1 by Barcelona in the second leg at the same stage last year – with Neymar PSG’s chief tormentor that night.

“We’re ready. It will be a very important game for our season and we don’t have the right not to be ready,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “We’re content because things are going well in the league. ”

Later Saturday, Monaco looked to move above Marseille and into second place with a win at Angers. But Monaco is without injured top scorer Radamel Falcao.