• The Canadian Press

    Mbappé pays tribute to Tuchel as PSG mum on reported firing

    PARIS — Kylian Mbappé is publicly bidding farewell to coach Thomas Tuchel, even before Paris Saint-Germain does so.The defending French champions have not confirmed Tuchel's firing but it was widely reported on Thursday, a day after PSG beat Strasbourg 4-0 and after Tuchel was questioned about comments he made to German broadcaster SPORT1.“Unfortunately it’s the law of soccer but no one will forget your time here,” Mbappé wrote on Instagram late Thursday. “Thank you, coach.”Mbappé also thanked three of Tuchel's assistants, including Arno Michels, who responded: “Thanks Kylian, it was a great pleasure.”In the SPORT1 comments, Tuchel reportedly claimed that managing the club was more akin to being a politician or a sports minister, such was the level of difficulty, and that he did not receive enough recognition for leading the club to its first Champions League final.Tuchel’s side — third in Ligue 1 — has struggled at times this season with four league defeats. It lost two of the first three games in the Champions League though PSG ended up advancing to the knockout stage by topping its group.Tuchel, hired before the 2018-19 season, was also at odds with PSG sporting director Leonardo, who publicly rebuked him over comments made shortly before the end of the transfer window in October.Tuchel said he needed new recruits, and that the club let players go too easily, such as 200-goal top scorer Edinson Cavani and stalwart defender Thiago Silva. Their contracts were not renewed and both are doing well in the English Premier League. Goal-scoring winger Angel Di Maria is also nearing the end of his contract.Last week, Tuchel fretted that his players were already mentally tired so early in the season tired heading into a table-topping showdown with Lille. That match finished 0-0 and followed on from a 1-0 home loss to Lyon, which leads the league from Lille heading into the winter break.PSG’s campaign has been littered with injuries to star players like Neymar and Mbappé. Its season start was delayed after several players — including Neymar, captain Marquinhos and Di Maria — tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a club-sanctioned holiday trip to the Spanish party resort of Ibiza.In his first season, PSG opened with 14 straight league wins but failed to retain both of its domestic cup trophies and lost a string of league games near the end. It was also eliminated from the Champions League in the round of 16. Last season, Tuchel bounced back by leading PSG to a domestic treble and the Champions League final.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press

  • After TV deal collapse, French soccer clubs face uncertainty
    The Canadian Press

    After TV deal collapse, French soccer clubs face uncertainty

    PARIS — The collapse of French soccer’s main broadcast rights deal has disrupted teams' financial plans in already pandemic-hit season just before the global transfer window reopens in January.As a result, clubs in France’s top-tier Ligue 1 seem more vulnerable than usual to offers for their players from rivals in the four wealthier European soccer nations — England, Germany, Italy and Spain — looking to capitalize on the disarray.Just months into its four-year contract with broadcaster Mediapro, France’s Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) last week terminated a deal that was to be worth more than 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) for the 20-team top tier.Mediapro had already missed a scheduled payment in October of 172 million euros ($209 million) to televise games on its new Téléfoot network. Another for 152.5 million euros ($185 million) was not made this month.Instead, the Spanish agency, majority owned by a Chinese equity fund, agreed with the league to pay 100 million euros ($122 million) and relinquish its rights to games in the top two divisions.Those rights revert to the league “in the near future,” Mediapro said in a statement. “This agreement will be submitted to the commercial court of Nanterre in the coming days so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.”Christophe Galtier, the coach of Ligue 1 leader Lille, had grave concerns about the fallout.“Soccer’s economy is obviously going to find itself in great difficulty. With the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit coming, it’s going to get complicated,” Galtier said. “We have to trust the directors, the authorities and the club presidents to get through this storm, because it’s a real storm.”The French league, apart from the Qatari state-backed wealth of champion Paris Saint-Germain, is traditionally ripe to have its talent picked by clubs in the big-4 leagues.Yet off-season signs pointed to promised new television revenue having emboldened Ligue 1 executives and changed the market.In 2019, French clubs made a net profit of $251 million from sales on international player transfers processed by FIFA, according to the world soccer body’s research.In the recent off-season, with clubs worldwide counting the cost of empty stadiums and devalued commercial deals due to the coronavirus pandemic, French clubs were net spenders of more than $75 million combined, FIFA said.That outlay now looks to have been based on shaky foundations.Galtier was critical of Mediapro and its CEO Jaume Roures, without directly naming him.“In my eyes the only one responsible is Mediapro,” Galtier said. “We know the one who is responsible. He has a name, a face. He should stop talking and go away.”Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas was also angry when the first missed payment was revealed.“I’ve never seen that in my life,” Villas-Boas said in mid-October. “A guy (Roures) who presents himself as the big saviour of French football and now he doesn’t have the money to pay the contract. It’s absurd.”Téléfoot was created only four months ago and found too few customers for its 25 euros ($30) monthly subscription.It will soon be shuttered, though its scheduled matches — eight of the 10 from each round of top-tier fixtures — will still be screened on Wednesday, and over the weekend.Established French broadcaster Canal Plus already had two Ligue 1 games from each round, including the top pick.Canal Plus looks the likeliest buyer for the LFP’s newly returned rights, though at a significantly lower rate.Rennes coach Julien Stéphan said he hopes less fortunate clubs than his team, whose long-time owner François Pinault is among the world’s richest people, will not be heavily impacted.“I just hope that the best solution will be found in everyone’s interests,” Stephan told sports daily L’Equipe, “and that clubs are not in trouble in the near future.”___Dunbar reported from Geneva.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsGraham Dunbar And Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press

  • Tim Weah scores 1st goal for Lille in Europa loss at Celtic
    The Canadian Press

    Tim Weah scores 1st goal for Lille in Europa loss at Celtic

    American forward Tim Weah scored his first goal for Lille in his first start this season, a 3-2 loss at Glasgow Celtic on Thursday night in the Europa League.A son of 1995 FIFA Player of the Year and current Liberia President George Weah, Tim Weah tied it at 2 in the 71st minute with a 16-yard left foot shot after Shane Dufey’s headed clearance went to him following Yusuf Yazici’s free kick from a flank. David Turnbull regained the lead for Celtic in the 75th.The 20-year-old Weah is in his second season with Lille. He was limited to three appearances last season because of a torn right hamstring.He was making his first start of the season after 10 as a substitute, including three in the Europa League and seven in Ligue 1.Lille finished second to AC Milan in Group H and advanced to the round of 32.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press

  • The Canadian Press

    MATCHDAY: Chelsea has striker dilemma for Leeds visit

    A look at what’s happening around European soccer on Saturday:ENGLANDChelsea manager Frank Lampard has a dilemma about who to start up front against Leeds in the Premier League. Olivier Giroud has been third in the pecking order of strikers behind Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham in the league but staked his claim for a start by scoring four goals in a win at Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday. However, Werner could return from being rested in midweek and be back as the sole striker now that left winger Christian Pulisic is fit again. Lampard will be up against Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa for the first time in the Premier League — the pair clashed two seasons ago in the Championship after Bielsa admitted to spying on a training session of Derby, the team managed at the time by Lampard. Manchester United looks to continue its 100% away record in its trip to West Ham, while Manchester City hosts Fulham seeking to back up its return to scoring form in last weekend's 5-0 win over Burnley. Everton is at Burnley in the other game.SPAINAtlético Madrid can take the lead for the first time with a home win against Valladolid. Diego Simeone’s team has won six straight in the league and is two points behind leader Real Sociedad, which has played two more games than Atlético and visits Alavés on Sunday. Fourth-placed Real Madrid will look to end a three-game winless streak in the league when it visits fifth-placed Sevilla. Barcelona, back in the top half of the standings, will try to win its second in a row when it visits promoted Cádiz. Lionel Messi should be back in the lineup after being rested from the Champions League this week.ITALYAfter scoring his 750th career goal midweek, Cristiano Ronaldo faces the Turin derby match for Juventus against Torino. Ronaldo was rested for last week’s draw at Benevento. Álvaro Morata scored in that match but was also shown a red card after the final whistle for comments to the referee and is suspended for the next two matches. The derby could be one of the last chances for Torino coach Marco Giampaolo as his side has picked up just six points from the opening nine matches. Second-placed Inter Milan hosts Bologna and will be hoping for a win to close the gap to leader AC Milan to two points ahead of the Rossoneri’s match at Sampdoria on Sunday. Also, Lazio visits Spezia.GERMANYBorussia Dortmund has to overcome the absence of injured top-scorer Erling Haaland, giving coach Lucien Favre a riddle to solve at Eintracht Frankfurt. Dortmund can ill afford many more dropped points after losing at home to Cologne 2-1 last weekend, so Favre needs someone to score. The coach played Marco Reus and Thorgan Hazard together against Lazio on Wednesday, but neither player made a strong call for replacing Haaland on an ongoing basis. The Norwegian striker is expected to be out for a month with a muscle tear. Favre could give the 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko his first start in Frankfurt, though he had wanted to ease the youngster into action. Second-placed Leipzig visits Bayern Munich in the late game knowing it can overtake the Bundesliga leader with a win. Bayern leads Leipzig by two points and was able to rest several players against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday as it was already assured of winning its group.FRANCEThe timing could not be worse for Montpellier or better for Ligue 1 leader Paris Saint-Germain. Leading up to their match, Montpellier's best striker, Andy Delort, tested positive for the coronavirus for the second time in three months. It deprives Montpellier of a player who has six goals, assisted on three, and formed a strong strike partnership with Gaetan Laborde. It also spares a shaky PSG defence, which has conceded five goals in two games, from coping against one of the league's most physical and awkward strikers. Still, a home win for Montpellier will move it one point ahead of PSG. In the other game, Rennes must start finding its league form again after being eliminated from the Champions League, and can start against mid-table Lens.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press