Marseille announced the departure of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta amid uncertainty over head coach Andre Villas-Boas.

Ligue 1 outfit Marseille and Spaniard Zubizarreta parted ways by mutual consent, it was confirmed on Thursday.

Zubizarreta joined Marseille in 2016 and saw the club finish second in 2019-20 after the Ligue 1 campaign was ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The exit of Zubizarreta has now raised doubts over Villas-Boas, who has previously said he will not stay if Marseille cannot match his ambitions.

"I want to thank Frank McCourt, Jacques-Henri Eyraud and Rudi Garcia for their confidence in me," Zubizarreta said. "It was a great joy to participate in a project as important as this one with OM.

"Thanks to André Villas Boas for having delighted me with his football and for becoming a true friend. Thank you to all the sporting staff with Albert Valentin on the front line, for your professionalism and pride. And what can I say of my players? And you, OM supporters? Thank you, thank you very much.

"We shared a project in which we experienced great joys and dark days, but in which I fought every day to do the best possible for the club minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day ... behind the scenes or in full light, always trying to give my best.

"It is the project, this club, this city that have been in my heart and in my brain 24/7, because when there is so much passion around a club, it requires as much passion on a personal level, with feelings and energy.

"Thank you all for your confidence and your ability to always go forward. In Basque we say: "amaya da asiera" - 'the end is the beginning'. I close the door as Sporting Director and I begin as an OM supporter."

Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud added: "Andoni is the first leader I recruited at the start of our project. It is therefore with great emotion that we part ways today.

"Since 2016, he has been by my side in all our battles. He was fully dedicated to bringing OM back to the heights it should be held to, and he always brought his expertise as we rebuilt the foundations for both the first team and the academy.

"Andoni is an honest man with great integrity. Beyond his immense role, he is a high-quality professional with whom I will always have a lot of fun talking. "

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas wants to be told the names of Ligue 1 club presidents that reportedly urged the government to cancel the 2019-20 season.

According to L'Equipe and Le Parisien, high-ranking officials from a number of teams called government offices to ensure the campaign did not restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) announced last month the season would not continue, with Paris Saint-Germain crowned champions and Toulouse and Amiens relegated to Ligue 2.

The move to determine the final standings on a points-per-game basis was made after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe banned sporting events until September.

As a result of the LFP's decision, next season will be Lyon's first without European football since 1996-97.

In response to a tweet from L'Equipe du Soir that claimed Ligue 1 presidents called the offices of president Emmanuel Macron, Aulas requested names of those involved.

He tagged Le Parisien and the ministry of sports into a Twitter post that read: "It would be good to see the information of Dominique Severac of Le Parisien in order to know who among the concerned presidents regularly called the advisers of l'Elysee, Matignon and the ministry of sports to get the championship stopped."

Amiens have announced they plan to launch an appeal against the decision to stop the season, while Lyon previously warned they could do the same.

Luring Lautaro Martinez from Inter to Barcelona appears complicated.

Barca are reportedly determined to sign Martinez as the Spanish giants look to bring in a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

But, Barca reportedly need some help from other clubs to get the deal over the line.

 

TOP STORY – TRIO KEY TO LAUTARO DEAL

Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester City are set for a three-way swap involving Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to Sport.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Inter for Barcelona but the LaLiga champions are trying to drive down the price.

The proposed exchange deal would see Nelson Semedo leave Barca for City, allowing Joao Cancelo to return to Inter as Martinez moves to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United have agreed a £62million (€70m) deal for Lyon striker Moussa Dembele, reports TodoFichajes. Dembele has been linked with United, Chelsea and Barca.

- The Telegraph says Bundesliga titleholders Bayern Munich are preparing a €56m (£50m) bid for City star Leroy Sane, who is set to return to Germany.

- Could Houssem Aouar replace Miralem Pjanic at Juventus? Pjanic is reportedly set to sign for Barca despite interest from United and Le10Sport claims Juve are eyeing Lyon star Aouar.

- Exchange deals might be needed for Juve to have a chance of completing their dream transfers. Linked to former star and United midfielder Paul Pogba, Il Bianconero says Douglas Costa, Adrien Rabiot and Federico Bernardeschi could be used to tempt the Red Devils. An exchange deal with Chelsea could also see Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey, and Jorginho and Emerson Palmieri, trade places.

Dries Mertens prefers a move to Inter over Chelsea should he leave Napoli, according to Sky Sport Italia. The Belgium international is set to become a free agent.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are focused on bringing Brescia and Italy sensation Sandro Tonali to San Siro.

Edinson Cavani is hopeful he has several years left in football as a clamour grows for Paris Saint-Germain to keep hold of their record scorer.

The Uruguayan remains unsure about his PSG future, with his contract at the Parc des Princes due to expire at the end of June.

However, a poll conducted by French daily L'Equipe showed there is an overwhelming view among the capital club's fans that Cavani should be retained.

Of 46,592 votes, a resounding 77 per cent called for the 33-year-old to be kept hold of.

And Cavani is focused on what lies ahead, telling PSG's official magazine: "My career will last for maybe several years still, here or elsewhere, I don't know.

"I've spoken about it a lot with my entourage.

"I've always said that I would like to quit football rather than football quitting me."

Signed from Napoli in 2013, Cavani has been a clinical finisher for the Parisians, his goals playing a key role in them becoming established as France's top team.

He has won six Ligue 1 championships alongside a host of cup medals, with the only frustration being a lack of comparable success in the Champions League.

In January he appeared close to linking up with Atletico Madrid, but a move to Spain did not materialise.

He went on to score his 200th goal for PSG in February.

Competition for places at PSG has increased in recent seasons with the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and latterly Mauro Icardi at the club, but Cavani may still have a role to play.

He added: "I'd really like to finish having given everything. To get to that point where I'd say, 'Guys, this is the point where I have to go.' I don't want life to lead me to play when I wouldn't be capable of giving my best.

"The day will come where it will be obvious that the time's come to move on to something else."

Barcelona and Juventus are getting close to an incredible exchange deal.

Miralem Pjanic has continued to be linked with a move to Camp Nou, although there has been uncertainty over how, and if, Barcelona could get a transfer done.

It seems they are on the verge of sealing a deal for the midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA, JUVENTUS CLOSE TO AGREEING EXCHANGE DEAL

Barcelona and Juventus are close to agreeing an exchange deal involving four players, according to Sport.

It says Pjanic and Mattia De Sciglio will join Barca, with Jean-Clair Todibo – who is on loan at Schalke this season – and Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic heading to Turin.

Barcelona have also been linked with moves for Inter star Lautaro Martinez and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar.

ROUND-UP

- Kingsley Coman is wanted by three of Europe's biggest clubs. Sky reports Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City are interested in the Bayern Munich attacker.

- Linked with a move away from Tottenham, Tanguy Ndombele may be going nowhere. The Mirror says Spurs will not allow the midfielder, reportedly a target for Barcelona, to leave this close season.

- Another Spurs player, however, could leave. Tottenham defender Juan Foyth, who is contracted at the club until 2022, is being eyed by Barca, according to the Mirror.

- It seems Angel Gomes is leaving Manchester United. The Mirror claims Chelsea feel they are close to landing the midfielder, whose deal at Old Trafford expires at the end of June.

- Real Betis and Portugal midfielder William Carvalho is drawing plenty of attention. Diario de Sevilla reports Wolves are the latest club to join the race for Carvalho, who has been linked to Tottenham, Monaco, Leicester City and Watford previously.

Marseille star Dimitri Payet insisted he was happy at the Ligue 1 club after enjoying a fine season.

Payet, 33, helped Marseille finish second in the table – their best league campaign since 2012-13 – as the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The midfielder scored nine goals and provided four assists in 22 Ligue 1 games this season.

Payet wants to stay at the club, telling Eurosport: "I feel very good in Marseille.

"You never know what may happen in football, but for there to be a story, you have to be two in this kind of situation. We have no plans to move."

Payet added: "Today, I am a very happy person on and off the pitch. It has been seen and I will do everything to keep it going next year."

A 38-time France international, Payet returned to Marseille in 2017 after starring for West Ham.

Patrick Vieira praised Mikel Arteta's impact on Arsenal, saying the head coach had brought energy back to the club.

Arteta has been praised since taking the helm in December last year, having lost just two of 15 games in charge.

Former Arsenal captain Vieira, who was also linked to the job, hailed Arteta for his work so far at Emirates Stadium.

"When you're a Gunner, always a Gunner, so I'm watching them all the time, I watch their games," the Nice head coach told Ian Wright in an interview for Adidas.

"What is really interesting with Arteta is that he brings the energy back and it looks like they are playing for the club, but for the manager as well, and I think that is really important."

Vieira has been at the helm of Nice since 2018, and was linked with a return to Arsenal after Unai Emery was sacked last year.

The Frenchman said he wanted to manage a big club, but he is happy at Nice.

"I really don't know what the future will be, but doing this job it was like being a player," Vieira said.

"I wanted to play at a high level, I wanted to play for the national team, I wanted to go to the World Cup, I wanted to play with the best players and there is no doubt as a coach I have the same kind of ambition.

"I would want to manage a team that will have a chance to win the Champions League, to play the Champions League competition.

"But at the moment, honestly, right here at Nice I am in the perfect place, perfect place because I can fulfil my ambitions, the club is really ambitious and the club give me the tools to grow as a manager, but to be a part of a winning team and to play good competitions as well.

"The team is growing up really fast, really quick and hopefully I can get my ambitions with OGC Nice."

Djibril Cisse wants to come out of retirement to score 100 Ligue 1 goals, with the former Liverpool and France striker insisting he "won't be at peace" until he tries.

Cisse swapped football to focus on a DJ career in 2017, though he made brief comebacks with Swiss side Yverdon and Italian minnows Vicenza 1902, having initially retired in 2015.

However, the 38-year-old – who earned 41 caps and claimed the 2003 Confederations Cup with France and celebrated Champions League, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup success at Liverpool – is determined to make a comeback.

Cisse is stuck on 96 Ligue 1 goals following spells with top-flight French clubs Auxerre, Marseille and Bastia.

"At the start, it was almost a joke," Cisse told L'Equipe. "But little by little, it really became a wish. 

"I have always said that passing the 100-goal mark was something very important to me. Being four goals away bothers me.

"If it doesn't happen, at least I would have tried and I could close the book of 100 goals. But until I try everything, I won't be at peace."

Cisse added: "You have to see this as a bet, as an additional player in the workforce and not as an element that can play 90 minutes. Even I can't lie to myself to that extent, but I can still do service."

Amiens president Bernard Joannin is planning to take legal action over the decision to relegate the club from Ligue 1.

Last month, the Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP) confirmed the final standings had been decided on a points-per-game basis after French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe banned all sporting events in France until September due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning a restart of the league was not possible.

The decision meant Amiens were relegated alongside Toulouse, with Lorient and Lens promoted from the second tier.

Joannin initially reacted to that announcement by saying Amiens reserved the right to appeal against the decision, labelling the ruling an "injustice" given then they still had 10 games left to play.

The club also urged fans to sign a petition in their bid to "seek justice".

Joannin, speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, has now confirmed he plans to take his challenge to the courts and is confident of being successful.

"We are fighting. This fight, we are fighting it against injustice," he said.

"We find this decision contrary to fairness in sport. It is a sanction decision by the League. I repeat, this decision is unfair. A championship is 38 games. 

"We are forced to go to court. The legal arguments are on our side. I am convinced that justice will prove us right. 

"We are determined to uphold sporting fairness, even if it has to go through the courts. It’s time that humanism and justice prevail over other interests."

Barcelona are seemingly getting closer to landing Lautaro Martinez.

The Inter star continues to be linked with a move to Camp Nou, where he could play alongside Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi more regularly.

It appears an agreement has almost been reached.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA, INTER AGREEMENT FOR LAUTARO 'IMMINENT'

Barcelona and Inter are finalising a deal for Lautaro Martinez, according to the cover of SPORT.

The report says the clubs are going to agree a deal of close to €60million plus two players – midfielder Arturo Vidal and either Nelson Semedo or Emerson.

SPORT also reports Barca and Martinez have a verbal agreement for a four-year deal.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are still looking to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba. AS reports Juve are offering the Premier League club Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot in their bid to complete a deal.

- Talk continues over Miralem Pjanic's potential switch to Barcelona. SPORT claims Juventus have also offered LaLiga's champions Mattia De Sciglio, along with the midfielder. SPORT also says Jean-Clair Todibo, who is on loan at Schalke, could be part of the deal.

- With 22 goals for Lyon this season, Moussa Dembele continues to attract interest from the Premier League. The Daily Star reports Manchester United are increasingly confident of landing the former Celtic forward in a £60m (€68.4m) deal.

- Odion Ighalo's loan at Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua expires at the end of June. The Sun says the striker is desperate to extend his stay at Old Trafford, with the Chinese Super League club reportedly demanding a transfer fee.

- Linked with a move to Liverpool, Werder Bremen striker Milot Rashica appears to be heading elsewhere. BILD reports the 23-year-old's move to RB Leipzig is becoming more and more likely. Rashica has scored seven goals in 20 Bundesliga games this season.

Fabio Cannavaro believes Real Madrid need Kylian Mbappe so he can follow in Cristiano Ronaldo's footsteps, but feels it will be tough to sign the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 21, continues to be linked with a move to Madrid from PSG, where he has starred during the past three seasons.

Madrid have found it hard to replace Ronaldo, who decided to leave the LaLiga giants and join Juventus in 2018.

Cannavaro, who won two LaLiga titles with Madrid as a player, said Mbappe could be the player the club need to follow what Ronaldo delivered.

"Real Madrid need players like Mbappe, a young star who could follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo," the Guangzhou Evergrande coach told AS.

"It's normal that Madrid want to sign him but it also has to be taken into account that PSG's owners don't need the money. They are ambitious and they want to win the Champions League.

"I think it will be difficult for Madrid to get him. The president of PSG is a person who wants to win, I know them well and they will fight tooth and nail to keep Mbappe."

Mbappe has won three Ligue 1 titles, a Coupe de France and a Coupe de la Ligue with PSG.

He scored 30 goals in 33 games in all competitions this season, with the Ligue 1 campaign cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Milan Skriniar has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world since moving to Inter from Sampdoria in 2017.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona have been linked to Skriniar.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested amid uncertainty over captain and defender Sergio Ramos.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID INTERESTED IN SKRINIAR

Real Madrid are eyeing a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar, according to Diario Gol.

With uncertainty over the future of captain Sergio Ramos, Madrid are looking to bolster their defence at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano have been linked but an exchange deal sending James Rodriguez plus cash to Inter could see Skriniar join Madrid.

ROUND-UP

- Marca claims Madrid forward Gareth Bale is a priority for Newcastle United's prospective new owners. Newcastle have also reportedly identified former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach and that could convince Bale to return to the Premier League.

Manchester City are monitoring Lyon sensation Houssem Aouar, says L'Equipe. The 21-year-old is valued at around £44million (€50m) by Lyon, who are prepared to cash in. Aouar has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Juventus.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli want at least £44m (€50m) for Hirving Lozano, who is attracting interest from Everton.

- The future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be decided in 20 days, according to Calciomercato. As Ibrahimovic prepares to return to Milan following the coronavirus pandemic, the Rossoneri want to define the 38-year-old's future as they plan ahead amid links to Madrid's Luka Jovic.

Chelsea will make a move for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice if they lose N'Golo Kante, says The Mirror. Madrid are reportedly tracking Kante.

- L'Equipe claims Manchester United are keeping tabs on PSG veteran Edinson Cavani. The soon-to-be free agent has been tipped to join Atletico Madrid, while an MLS switch is also an option for the veteran forward.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are committed to Paris Saint-Germain as Ander Herrera poured cold water on transfer rumours.

PSG star Neymar has been linked with a return to LaLiga champions Barcelona, almost three years since his world-record €222million transfer.

Mbappe, meanwhile, is reportedly wanted by Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid, where Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his admiration.

PSG team-mate Herrera, however, believes the pair are happy with the Ligue 1 holders in Paris.

"Mbappe and Neymar are still at PSG and even more so with the situation that we are currently in," Herrera told COPE.

"I had dinner with Neymar before the quarantine and he is very involved with the project. He told me that he has never been so happy in Paris.

"PSG's project is such that both feel fulfilled in Paris."

PSG were declared Ligue 1 champions after the 2019-20 season was cancelled last month due to the coronavirus pandemic in France.

Since swapping Barca for PSG in 2017, Neymar has won three successive Ligue 1 titles, to go with Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions honours.

Mbappe, who initially joined PSG on loan from Monaco in 2017, has celebrated the same silverware as Neymar in the French capital.

Lyon launched an emotional appeal calling for Ligue 1's "sudden" cancellation to be overturned on Sunday while denying a new date has been agreed for the Champions League clash with Juventus.

In a highly-charged statement, Lyon warned of French clubs facing cumulative losses of €900million, highlighted bankruptcy fears, and expressed concern over "football lovers who are deprived of their passion".

"There remains time, until May 25, to walk back and avoid an immense rout of the French championship," the statement said.

The Ligue 1 season was abandoned in late April after French authorities decreed there would be no live sport in the country until at least September.

Lyon missed out on qualifying for Europe through Ligue 1, finishing seventh in the curtailed campaign, and must win the delayed Champions League to earn a return to the competition next season.

The club said they had "made several credible proposals" on how to complete the 2019-20 French season, including giving over the months from September to December to ensure all fixtures are played, and insisted they were not acting purely out of self-interest.

"But, on April 30, the LFP [Ligue de Football Professionnel] suddenly decided to definitively stop the French professional championship," Lyon's statement added, "without taking into account all of UEFA's recommendations, or giving itself time to observe what our dozens of neighbours were planning: relaunching the championship while working on an entirely exceptional health protocol to protect the various players in football."

Lyon warned the gap between French football and neighbouring countries could grow because of the abandoned season, with the statement ending in a desperate plea.

It read: "We all love football, we all love this game. We love the values it conveys, the passion it exudes. Football is part of our life and our cultural heritage. The championship is our ritual.

"We absolutely must take care of it as all those did who came before us. We are their heirs."

The statement was not signed but was firmly in keeping with recent messages from club president Jean-Michel Aulas.

Aulas, meanwhile, told French broadcaster RTL on Saturday that Lyon's European away clash with Juventus had been rescheduled for August 7.

It now appears the trip to Turin may not be as inked in as Aulas indicated, with Lyon rowing back on the president's comments.

Lyon said on their official website on Sunday that a date for the last-16 second leg "has not yet been confirmed, contrary to what has previously been stated", saying such an announcement would come from competition organisers UEFA.

Lyon claimed a 1-0 win in the first leg in France in February thanks to a goal from Lucas Tousart. The competition was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis.

Aulas on Saturday predicted Lyon and PSG would "be massacred" by their European rivals if the competition resumes in August, given they will be out of match practice.

Leagues in England, Italy and Spain are pushing to resume within weeks in an effort to complete the domestic 2019-20 season, while Germany's Bundesliga will restart this month.

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