Nantes have agreed a two-year loan with a purchase option to bring Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont to Stade de la Beaujoire.

The 20-year-old was Fiorentina's first-choice goalkeeper in 2018-19, making 34 appearances as La Viola finished 16th in Serie A after joining for €8.5million from Toulouse in July 2018.

Despite holding down his place in the team under Stefano Pioli and then Vincenzo Monella, Lafont failed to settle in Tuscany and opted to return to Ligue 1 with Nantes, who have an option to make the signing permanent for a reported €7million fee.

Born in Burkina Faso, Lafont has played for France at youth level and made 98 Ligue 1 appearances during three years at Toulouse.

He told FirenzeViola the decision to leave was his own rather than Fiorentina's, saying: "I was really happy in Florence, a very beautiful city and it will always remain in my heart because of its history. But it had to end, I felt that my path had come to an end.

"I take all the responsibility, it was my choice. I had already decided well before the end of the season to leave. I explained to my entourage my desire to go to another club and fortunately everything was concluded quickly.

"I could have opted for other destinations, given that the offers were not lacking, but in the end I decided to return to the country where I've done my best things."

Fiorentina have welcomed Polish goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski back to the club after he completed a loan at Empoli and fellow shot-stopper Michele Cerofolini has also returned to Stadio Artemio Franchi after spending 2018-19 at Bisceglie in Serie C.

Police investigating the death of Emiliano Sala have confirmed a man has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the plane they were travelling in to Wales, after the 28-year-old striker joined Cardiff City from Nantes, crashed in the English Channel on January 21.

Detective Inspector Simon Huxter, of Dorset Police's major crime investigation team, said in a statement on Wednesday: "We have carried out a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr Sala and continue to work with partner agencies including the Civil Aviation Authority.

"As part of this investigation we have to consider whether there is any evidence of any suspected criminality and as a result of our enquiries we have today, Wednesday 19 June 2019, arrested a 64-year-old man from the North Yorkshire area on suspicion of manslaughter by an unlawful act. He is assisting with our enquiries and has been released from custody under investigation.

"This matter therefore is still subject to a live investigation and I would ask the media and members of the public to refrain from speculation, as this could cause additional distress to the families involved as well as potentially hinder the investigation.

"As is standard practice, we will not be releasing any further information as to the identity of the individual who has been arrested unless that person is charged to appear in court and again would discourage any speculation in relation to this."

Police added in a statement that the families of Sala and Ibbotson have been informed.

Paris Saint-Germain host Nimes in the first game of their title defence when the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season gets under way.

Thomas Tuchel's side - who are seeking a third straight title in France - then face Rennes, Toulouse and Metz in their other August fixtures.

Marseille's first league game under new coach Andre Villas-Boas comes at home to Reims. The first Classique of the season is hosted by PSG in October and the return game is set for late March.

Lille finished a distant second to PSG last term and their season starts at home to Nantes with games against Amiens, Saint-Etienne and Reims following in the opening month. PSG host Lille in November and the reverse fixture is set for January.

Monaco, who narrowly secured survival after the return of Leonardo Jardim following Thierry Henry's short spell in charge, are at home to Lyon on the opening weekend, when Ligue 2 winners Metz will be at Strasbourg.

After securing a return to the top flight alongside Metz, Brest will be at home to Toulouse first up with Nice versus Amiens and Angers hosting Bordeaux among the other opening fixtures. 

Dijon, who beat Lens in a play-off to stave off relegation, are at home to Saint-Etienne with the round completed by Montpellier hosting Rennes.

Ligue 1 2019-20 opening round in full:

Dijon v Saint-Etienne
Marseille v Reims
Nice v Amiens
Strasbourg v Metz
Montpellier v Rennes
Angers v Bordeaux
Lille v Nantes
PSG v Nimes
Brest v Toulouse
Monaco v Lyon

Sevilla have confirmed the signing of defender Diego Carlos, who joins the LaLiga club from Nantes.

The 26-year-old has signed a five-year deal with Sevilla, who paid a reported €15million fee.

The Brazilian, who passed a medical on Monday, now hopes to break into Tite's national team plans following his move to Spain.

Sevilla are yet to name their new head coach after Joaquin Caparros took a post supporting sporting director Monchi.

But they are reportedly closing in on the former Spain and Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui.

Emiliano Sala was not keen on joining Cardiff City from Nantes, a voice message from the striker has revealed.

The Argentinian expressed his concerns over the £15million move to a friend two weeks before he tragically died when the light aircraft he and pilot David Ibbotson were travelling in to Wales crashed on January 21.

L'Equipe obtained the WhatsApp recording and included it in a documentary published on Wednesday.

Sala said: "Last night, I sent a message to Meissa [N'Diaye, Sala's agent]. He called me a few hours later.

"We had discussions and he told me the last night Franck Kita [son of Nantes owner Waldemar] sent him a message to talk, so he called him. They spoke. And, they want to sell me.

"There is an offer from Cardiff today. On their side, they have negotiated to get a lot of money, so they absolutely want me to go there.

"It is true that it is a good contract but from a football perspective it is not interesting for me. They are trying in every way to get me to go there.

"Me, I am not scared to go there, because I have battled throughout my career, so to go there and fight, that does not make me scared. On the contrary.

"But I'm also thinking to myself that Meissa must find me something better between now and the end of the [transfer] window. Meissa has said no to Cardiff because he does not want me to go there.

"He thinks that, in terms of football, in terms of where we are today, we are in a position of strength in every way, in terms of on the pitch, the contract, all of that. But I don't care about that and I do not want that. I don't give a f*** about being in a position of strength.

"It is true that I would like to find something interesting in terms of contractually and also from a football perspective, but sometimes you can't have both."

The clubs wrangled about the payment of the transfer fee in the aftermath of Sala's death. Nantes made a complaint to FIFA as Cardiff stalled on the instalment, with Bluebirds chairman Mehmet Dalman pointing to alleged "anomalies" in the deal.

Nantes president Waldemar Kita, who was played Sala's voice message during the documentary, said he no longer has any interest in receiving payment for the striker.

"The truth is, I don't even want that money, and I may never get it," Kita told L'Equipe.

"I don't want to make money on someone who died tragically. I'm not interested in that."

When asked why he had therefore not brought the issue to a halt, Kita replied: "I am not involved at all in the case. The lawyers are in charge of it."

The father of Emiliano Sala has died just three months after the footballer was killed in a plane crash. 

Horacio Sala, who was 58, passed away at his home in Progreso, Argentina following a heart attack. 

Julio Muller, the mayor of the town in the Santa Fe province where Emiliano Sala was born, confirmed the news to radio station La Red. 

"This year doesn't stop surprising us with bad news in this town," he said. 

"At five o'clock, Horacio's partner called me because she was very upset. We live four blocks from their house. When I arrived, the doctors were already there, but he had already passed away." 

Muller said Horacio Sala had struggled to come to terms with the death of his son, whose body was recovered in the English Channel after the plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed. Pilot David Ibbotson has not been found. 

"I cannot believe it. This is a dream. A bad dream. I am desperate," Horacio told Cronica TV shortly after the crash, which happened when his son was travelling to the UK to link up with Cardiff City after agreeing to a £15million transfer from Nantes in January. 

Daniel Ribero, the president of Emiliano Sala's old club San Martin de Progreso, said Horacio had recently shown signs of recovery from his grief. 

"I was with him during the week," said Ribero, as quoted by Ole. "I passed him in the street and we spent half an hour talking about the soybean harvest, the truck... 

"I noticed he was better, he was keen to talk." 

Thomas Tuchel slammed Paris Saint-Germain for producing "no performance" during a 3-2 loss to Nantes on Wednesday.

PSG again failed to wrap up the Ligue 1 title after suffering a second straight loss, a Diego Carlos double lifting Nantes to an upset win.

Kylian Mbappe was dropped for the encounter and PSG lost their third league game of the season, although they are still 17 points clear at the top.

Tuchel, whose team had gone ahead through Dani Alves, said he was unable to defend his players' display.

"In Lille, we controlled the game during 60 minutes, many players were injured. It was a game with a Champions League level. It was different," he said.

"Today, we didn't perform in 90 minutes. There was no performance, no performance at all. So it was impossible to win.

"We can lose, we can do mistakes, and we [the club] will always defend players if they play with a good mentality, with desire and as a team.

"I always defend my players, but today it's not possible."

Diego's brace and an Abdul Majeed Waris goal gave Nantes control after Alves' opener, and PSG were beaten despite Metehan Guclu's late strike.

Tuchel slammed PSG's performance, saying they were fortunate the defeat was not even greater.

"We played very, very bad. Nantes deserved to win. We should happy we didn't lose 4-1 or 5-1. It is easy to analyse," he said.

"I don't know what we lacked, but it is the reality. It was a very, very bad game. We deserved to lose."

Paris Saint-Germain blew a third chance to claim the Ligue 1 title as they slumped to a morale-sapping 3-2 loss at Nantes on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel watched from the stands as a patchwork side ravaged by injury failed to protect Dani Alves' stunning opener and fell to a second straight defeat, having been thrashed 5-1 at second-placed Lille at the weekend.

There was perhaps more embarrassment in conceding three times to a relegation-threatened team they had beaten in each of their past 14 top-flight meetings.

Diego Carlos did the bulk of the damage for Nantes with two goals either side of Majeed Waris' tap-in in the 44th minute.

And, though substitute Metehan Guclu grabbed a late consolation for PSG, their eventual celebrations of a sixth title in seven seasons look certain to be muted.

PSG needed a lift after their crushing loss to Lille and appeared to have it when wing-back Alves lashed a sweet 30-yard strike over Maxime Dupe in the 19th minute.

That joy disappeared barely three minutes later as Diego Carlos nodded in Valentin Rongier's corner, and Nantes compounded the away side's misery shortly before the break.

Kalifa Coulibaly dispossessed Thilo Kehrer and squared for Samuel Moutoussamy, whose side-footed effort was turned in by striker Waris.

The second half brought little defensive improvement for PSG as another Nantes corner evaded several players at the near post and squirmed in off Diego Carlos' standing foot.

A fourth should have followed after Gianluigi Buffon wandered well outside his area but Coulibaly, gifted the ball by Leandro Paredes, shot over an open goal.

Guclu pulled one back via Colin Dagba's cut-back, but the match will be remembered for PSG stumbling into another hurdle in their awkward attempt to cross the finish line.

 

What does it mean? Reinforcements needed imminently

Kylian Mbappe was the latest star to slide out of PSG's decimated squad as conflicting reports mentioned a possible falling out with head coach Tuchel and minor fitness concerns as possible explanations. That left the champions without each member of their star-studded front three and desperate for established leaders like Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani to return.

Rongier finds his range

PSG's inability to defend set-pieces became obvious early in proceedings and captain Rongier ensured Nantes exploited the vulnerability. The midfielder's delivery was excellent for both of Diego Carlos' goals, and his usage of the ball in general play was of an equally high standard.

Kehrer struggles continue

Routine mistakes might be acceptable from the younger players thrust into action for PSG, but defender Kehrer is now 22 and making them on a regular basis. His latest indiscretion was to all too easily allow Coulibaly to bully him off the ball in the first half, an incident that summed up the away side's timid defending.

What's next?

If Lille fail to win at Toulouse on Sunday, PSG will be crowned champions a matter of hours before they welcome Monaco to Parc des Princes. Nantes also have three days' rest before hosting fellow strugglers Amiens.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel has rejected suggestions that the club are in crisis but concedes that they are experiencing a "difficult phase".

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders have now missed two opportunities to wrap up the title after a 2-2 draw at home to Strasbourg on April 7 was followed by a crushing 5-1 defeat to second-place Lille on Sunday.

PSG have another chance to wrap up a second consecutive league title when they travel to Nantes on Wednesday and Tuchel is keen to play down his side's blip in form.

"We have to accept this kind of period in a season," he told a media conference. "In the middle there are a lot of positives but there are also complicated, hard weeks.

"It's not a crisis but a difficult phase. I will take the same crisis next season if it comes with a 17-point lead! We have to stay calm and together.

"It is our goal to be champions very quickly. We had the opportunity to become champions against Strasbourg and Lille, but we couldn't seize it. There are always obstacles to overcome."

PSG will be without the injured Thomas Meunier, Edinson Cavani, Neymar, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria for the visit to 15th-place Nantes, while Juan Bernat and Marco Verratti are suspended.

Tuchel denied that he has any issues with the way players' injuries are being handled by the club's medical staff but did say the workload was becoming difficult for those who can play.

After listing the players that will be missing, Tuchel said: "That is not our squad for the quarter-finals for the Champions League, they are our wounded.

"I am not angry. We work hard together. The doctors, physiotherapists and staff are all together. We have to think about each injury individually. I have confidence in them.

"There are not enough players, that's the reality. If a lot of people are missing the ones remaining have more responsibilities. It's demanding. They're physically and mentally tired. They do not stop."

Brazil superstar Neymar is working his way back from a foot injury sustained in PSG's Coupe de France clash against Strasbourg on January 23, but no timescale has been put on when the world's most expensive footballer will return to full fitness.

Tuchel has confirmed that he is not suffering any lasting pain from the injury and is aiming to return soon.

"Neymar has no pain," he added. "He is very confident and wants to come back as soon as possible."

Thomas Tuchel has backed Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting despite another difficult evening for the Paris Saint-Germain striker in Wednesday's Coupe de France win over Nantes.

The Cameroon international played from the start in PSG's 3-0 semi-final victory, but failed to find the back of the net.

Since arriving from Stoke City the 30-year-old has only scored twice for the Ligue 1 giants and his latest blank means he has netted just once in his previous 24 matches.

With Edinson Cavani and Neymar sidelined with injury, Choupo-Moting's lack of goals has been even more noticeable, but Tuchel retains faith in the forward.

"It's not easy for Choupo to start the game, to have pressure, to start at PSG," said Tuchel – who substituted the striker after 77 minutes on Wednesday.

"Normally, he's a very important guy when he gets into a game, it's his strength. His strength is to be ready after 60, 70 or 80 minutes, to help defensively, offensively.

"When he plays a lot at the beginning of a game, it's not his strong suit. It is a great pressure to start for the PSG. But he's doing his best, I can tell. 

"As I say, he is part of this team, he is reliable, he is not injured, he works, works and works, he helped us to get this result, he is part of this group and this group is exceptional."

PSG's victory keeps them on course for a fifth Coupe de France title in a row, although Tuchel knows final opponents Rennes will be no pushovers.

"Rennes played very, very well here at Parc des Princes during the first half, they were an exceptional team," he added. 

"It was very, very difficult to play against them, they played very good matches against Arsenal, with a high level, as yesterday [against Lyon], they deserved to win.

"It's never easy to play against them, it's something to prepare for. But I have a lot of confidence in my team and in a final, we're here to win."

Thomas Tuchel joked Marco Verratti's eating habits must have changed as he tried to explain the midfielder's recent scoring spree after his depleted Paris Saint-Germain side reached the Coupe de France final with a 3-0 win over Nantes.

A PSG side shorn of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Thomas Meunier reached their fifth successive Coupe de France final - where they will meet Rennes - courtesy of Verratti's first-half strike, Kylian Mbappe's penalty and Dani Alves' late goal.

Prior to last week, Verratti had gone 58 games without a goal but he followed up scoring in Italy's 6-0 win over Liechtenstein by firing home from the edge of the box at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

"I am not sure what is going on with him," Tuchel told reporters at a news conference of Verratti's sudden purple patch.

"Perhaps he ate something while on international duty!

"It was necessary today because we lack offensive players.

"I am very happy, normally he always looks for the pass or to offer a decisive pass."

PSG, who are 20 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, did not have it all their own way on Wednesday, Mbappe seeing a retaken penalty saved by Nantes goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu before he eventually converted another spot-kick five minutes from time, while Marquinhos was forced off with a first-half injury.

He joins PSG's growing injury list and while Neymar returned to training on Wednesday, Tuchel was quick to stress just how stretched his side are.

"It's horrible," he said.

"We miss a lot of key players and even like that we win every three days and we work hard, it's exceptional.

"But it's impossible to manage the minutes of guys. Players are too used and it is a risk to play them."

It has been reported that Tuchel will be given a contract extension by PSG, even after they threw away a two-goal first-leg lead in the Champions League when knocked out by Manchester United in the last 16.

Asked about a fresh deal, Tuchel replied with a smile: "I cannot confirm anything, you will have to wait!"

Paris Saint-Germain booked a Coupe de France final clash against Rennes as Kylian Mbappe made up for having a penalty saved by converting another spot-kick in a 3-0 win over Nantes.

Marco Verratti scored his first Paris Saint-Germain goal in 17 months with a strike from the edge of the box in the 29th minute to set Thomas Tuchel's side on their way.

Mbappe, who had scored in his previous five games for club and country, initially squandered the chance to double the lead as Ciprian Tatarusanu saved his retaken effort midway through the second half.

Nantes had Kalifa Coulibaly sent off for two yellow cards and Mbappe atoned for his earlier penalty miss when presented with another opportunity from 12 yards five minutes from the end before substitute Dani Alves added a third in stoppage time.

 

 

Cardiff City are seeking talks with Nantes to settle the dispute over the £15million transfer fee for the late Emiliano Sala.

FIFA had originally ordered the clubs to resolve the matter by Wednesday but has agreed to Cardiff's request for an extension, which will run until Monday, April 15.

The Premier League side refused to make the first scheduled payment, owing to what chairman Mehmet Dalman identified as "anomalies" in the deal, prompting Nantes to make a complaint to FIFA.

A statement from Cardiff read: "Cardiff City has requested and been granted an extension to the deadline to respond to FIFA on this matter.

"Cardiff City recently wrote to FC Nantes proposing a meeting to discuss issues surrounding the Emiliano Sala tragedy and planned transfer, in line with FIFA's request for our two clubs to come to a resolution directly.

"To date, Cardiff City has not received a response from FC Nantes."

Cardiff claim the deal to make Sala their record signing was not legally binding because conditions insisted upon by Nantes were not fulfilled.

Omnisport understands the player's Cardiff contract was rejected by the Premier League because it did not align with its rules regarding signing-on fees and Sala was unable sign the revised terms before his death.

The 28-year-old died when the light aircraft he was travelling on from Nantes to Cardiff crashed on January 21.

Paris Saint-Germain will face either Nantes or Vitre in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France.

The Ligue 1 leaders avoided Lyon in Thursday's draw, with Bruno Genesio's side to meet Rennes in the other last-four match.

PSG eased past Dijon in the quarter-finals with a 3-0 victory on Tuesday, in which Angel Di Maria scored twice.

They will host the winner of next Wednesday's clash between Nantes and fourth-tier side Vitre, who came from 2-0 down to beat Lyon Duchere 3-2 in the last round.

The matches will take place on April 2 and 3.

Nantes have made a claim against Cardiff City in connection with the transfer of Emiliano Sala to the Premier League club, FIFA has confirmed.

Sala became Cardiff's record signing when he joined the Premier League club for a reported £15million in January, but the striker died in a plane crash before making an appearance.

Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman has promised the club will be "honourable" over the deal, but also said they want to investigate "anomalies" in the transfer before making a payment.

Neil Warnock confirmed Cardiff had been given an extension for the first instalment of the transfer fee last Thursday, but Nantes have since taken the matter to the world's governing body.

A FIFA spokesperson told Omnisport: "We can confirm that we have received yesterday [Tuesday] evening a claim of a contractual nature from FC Nantes against Cardiff City in connection with the transfer of Emiliano Sala.

"We are looking into the matter and consequently we have no further comments at this stage."

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