Marseille head coach Andre Villas-Boas believes Paris Saint-Germain's spending power means they are operating in "another league" from their domestic rivals in France.

The Parisian giants have dominated Ligue 1 since they were taken over by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011, winning six out of a possible eight league titles.

They are also responsible for paying the two biggest transfer fees of all time, shattering the record when they spent €222million to get Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, while Kylian Mbappe cost €135m from Monaco.

Unsurprisingly, they have wasted little time in stamping their authority on the league again this season, racing into a five-point lead at the summit after 10 games.

Marseille travel to Parc des Princes for Le Classique on Sunday but Villas-Boas says the game matters little to him, given their opponents' financial muscle.

"We're going to have a completely different game against a team that, for me, is not part of this championship because of the investments they've made over the years," he told the media after his side's 2-0 win over Strasbourg on Sunday.

"We're going to try to play the game for the game's sake, but it's a game that doesn't mean much to me. PSG-Marseille, or Marseille-PSG, for me, this is an opportunity to try to do something.

"We obviously dream of winning, but it's a team from another league. It was a Classique in the past. But we're going to Paris; we're going to think of a strategy to play. The most important thing is to have possession of the ball there."

Marseille are fourth in Ligue 1, having picked up 16 points from their opening 10 games.

Dimitri Payet has been handed a four-match suspension after he insulted a referee during the Ligue 1 game between Marseille and Montpellier.

The France international has already served a one-game ban but will be unavailable to Marseille for matches against Rennes, Amiens and Strasbourg, the Ligue de Football Professionnel confirmed.

Payet had been booked for a foul on Montpellier's Hilton and he responded angrily towards referee Amaury Delerue, who produced a second yellow card.

The 32-year-old, who has scored two Ligue 1 goals this season, will be back to face Paris Saint-Germain in Le Classique at the Parc des Princes on October 27.

There were three red cards in the game and Marseille defender Boubacar Kamara has been banned for two matches for his sending-off against Montpellier.

Jordan Ferri was also sent off after a scuffle with Kamara in the closing stages and the Montpellier midfielder will serve a three-match suspension.

Marseille will also be without Kevin Strootman for their Ligue 1 match against Amiens due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Marseille winger Florian Thauvin is expected to miss the rest of the first half of the season as he prepares to undergo keyhole surgery to correct an ankle problem he sustained in April.

Thauvin was injured during Marseille's 3-1 victory at Guingamp on April 20 and exacerbated the problem in training, although he recovered in time to help his side finish the 2018-19 season with back-to-back victories as they claimed fifth place in Ligue 1.

However, the issue continued to hamper the France international, who has played just 10 minutes as a substitute in the top flight this term, and he has made the decision to go under the knife in order to return to full fitness.

A statement on the club's official website said: "Florian Thauvin suffered an accidental ankle injury in a match about four and a half months ago.

"This type of lesion, small, very localised, usually allows [the player] to resume after appropriate care and rest. His current progress has allowed him to return to the group but the player still feels a discomfort.

"In order to be able to return to 100 per cent of his capacity, Florian and Olympique de Marseille have decided to carry out a small operation (arthroscopy) in the coming days.

"His period of unavailability should last until the winter break."

The news means Thauvin is likely to be out of action until January, with Ligue 1's mid-season break scheduled to run from December 20 until January 10.

Thauvin's injury problems hampered his side's progress last season, with a heel injury in October 2018 forcing him to miss a Europa League defeat to Lazio before his April absence left Marseille short of creativity at a key stage in the season.

Andre Villas-Boas' side had a mixed start to the new campaign, recovering from an opening-day defeat at home to Reims to go unbeaten in their past three league matches.

Marseille travel to Stade Louis II to face Monaco in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Nice midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou and Marseille captain Steve Mandanda condemned the homophobic banners that forced Wednesday's Ligue 1 clash to be halted.

Marseille emerged 2-1 winners away to Nice midweek, but not before a controversial delay in play at Allianz Riviera.

Referee Clement Turpin decided to stop the game after two signs including homophobic language were seen in the crowd – the delay lasting around five minutes.

"We will not hide behind the interruption of the match," Lees-Melou said. "But it hurt us, we were in a strong time. 

"Was this decision justified? We are all against discrimination. We will not be able to change everything overnight.

"I heard such songs on the grounds. Now, if you have to police every game, it will be complicated."

Goalkeeper Mandanda added: "I totally understand the referees. It must be stopped.

"The stadium is supposed to be a festive and fun place. As for us, the players, this kind of interruption is always complicated. It is always difficult to return quickly then in the game."

It was Marseille's first victory of the season following a draw and loss under new head coach Andre Villas-Boas, while the result ended Nice's perfect start to the campaign.

The Ligue 1 match between Nice and Marseille on Wednesday was paused after homophobic banners were displayed.

Two signs including homophobic language were seen in the crowd at Allianz Riviera, leading referee Clement Turpin to stop the game.

A delay of around five minutes followed before the match got back under way, with Nice player Wylan Cyprien critical of the interruption.

"We can't stop a game every time that stupid people act like that," he said to Canal+. "I am against every discrimination, homophobia or racism.

"But we can't stop games for that. It's ridiculous."

Referees in France have been instructed to stop matches if homophobic banners are displayed, or homophobic chanting is heard, during the 2019-20 season.

The Ligue 2 match between Nancy and Le Mans on August 16 was the first to be temporarily suspended, while a referee threatened to do the same during the meeting of Monaco and Nimes in the top flight on Sunday.

The controversy at Nice came in the week British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe completed his long-awaited takeover.

Ratcliffe is the president of petrochemicals company INEOS, which this year bought the cycling outfit formerly known as Team Sky.

France defender Adil Rami has joined Fenerbahce following his sacking by Marseille.

The 33-year-old's contract with the Ligue 1 side was terminated two weeks ago for gross misconduct, after he reportedly skipped training to take part in a reality TV show.

Rami, who spent two years at Marseille following spells with Lille, Valencia, AC Milan and Sevilla, has been handed a one-year deal by Fenerbahce with the option of a further 12 months.

"I'm very happy to be here," he told his new club's official website. "I've watched the derbies before - there is a real passion here.

"I'm going to start training now with my new team-mates. I'm going to try to find myself slowly, then I will prepare for the matches.

"I'm so proud to be here. I will do my best as a part of the Fenerbahce family."

Rami was part of France's World Cup-winning squad last year but did not play a single minute in Russia.

Mario Balotelli has signed for hometown club Brescia after agreeing a "multi-year" contract with the Serie A outfit.

The Italy international was a free agent after his short-term deal with Marseille expired and when negotiations with Brazilian club Flamengo broke down he looked set to start the new season without a club.

But Brescia president Massimo Cellino told Gazzetta dello Sport Balotelli made it clear he wanted a move to Stadio Mario Rigamonti on August 12 - his 29th birthday.

"That day he expressed his desire to return to his city," said Cellino of Balotelli, who spent much of his childhood in the region of Brescia.

"Hence all those rumours have only caused confusion, because there was no written agreement and Flamengo rushed to Monte Carlo to trip us up."

Balotelli scored eight Ligue 1 goals in 15 appearances for Marseille in 2018-19 but the club's failure to qualify for the Champions League forced them to lower their wage budget and allow him to leave.

Prior to his move to Stade Velodrome, Balotelli impressed during a two-and-a-half-year spell at Nice, where he scored 33 league goals in his first 51 appearances, before enduring a difficult start to the 2018-19 campaign.

Cellino has high hopes for him at Brescia.

"I have good feelings," said Cellino.

"I'm sure Mario will give everything for survival, which remains a difficult goal.

"It is also a way to thank Brescia, who is very close to me. I won't talk about figures, but this operation costs a lot."

Balotelli could make his debut when newly promoted Brescia begin their Serie A campaign with a trip to Cellino's former club Cagliari on Sunday August 25.

Mario Balotelli being without a club once again as a new season approaches is "not normal", says Italy head coach Roberto Mancini.

Balotelli is reportedly close to joining hometown club Brescia after negotiations to join Brazilian giants Flamengo broke down.

He scored eight goals in 15 appearances for Marseille last term, having impressed in an early stint with their Ligue 1 rivals Nice, but budgetary constraints at the Stade Velodrome left the 29-year-old once again seeking pastures new.

Mancini managed Balotelli at Inter and Manchester City and ended his four-year international exile by recalling the striker when appointed as Azzurri boss in 2018.

Nevertheless, some exasperation with his one-time protege was evident in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

"At 29, and for the second year in a row, less than 10 days before the start of the championship, he still didn't have the absolute certainty of a team," Mancini said.

"He didn’t prepare, he didn't train regularly. He must reflect, it is not normal."

On whether Brescia might be the right option in terms of Balotelli getting back into the Italy fold, he replied: "Whether it will be a good solution does not depend on Brescia but on him.

"Perhaps by playing closer to home he will feel more comfortable but it is not [guaranteed to] be enough.

"I love him, but for him I can't do anything anymore. He must think that he is in the middle of his career and that he still has much to give – if he wants."

For now, Mancini's hopes in attack for Italy are far more likely to rest on Moise Kean, who completed a surprise switch from Juventus to Everton during the close season.

Although he views the transfer as a disappointing development for Serie A, the 54-year-old feels it can ultimately benefit his national team.

"It is a pity because he is Italian and an international," he said. "But he goes to play in a beautiful and difficult league, at a club where they have not won for years and have to make the team competitive again.

"This can help him grow; my sorrow is more personal. But by now we know – it is no longer the football of 20 years ago, when everyone came to play in Italy, the most beautiful championship where they earned the most."

On whether Serie A should aspire to be more like the Premier League, Mancini added: "We can't expect the rhythm of the Premier League, that's just their thing. They have always been used to it – much faster and with fewer interruptions.

"With us, the pace can grow and we must understand that technical quality is essential. But we are making progress."

Mario Balotelli will not be moving to Brazil with Flamengo after the Rio de Janeiro club confirmed the end of negotiations.

Balotelli is a free agent following the expiry of a short-term deal with Marseille last season, during which he netted an impressive eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 matches.

The former Inter and Manchester City star is now considering his options for the new season and a move to Flamengo was mooted.

However, the Brazilian outfit said on Thursday in a short statement that negotiations had concluded without a positive outcome, with a return to Italy with Brescia now reportedly an option.

Flamengo's statement read: "Flamengo, athlete Mario Balotelli and their representatives decide, by mutual agreement and after two days of cordial meetings in Monaco, to close on this date negotiations involving the possible hiring of the athlete."

Having started his top-flight career at Inter before a big-money move to City, Balotelli has bounced around Europe, turning out for AC Milan, Liverpool, Nice and, most recently, Marseille.

A three-year deal with newly-promoted Serie A side Brescia is reported to have been proposed to the striker.

Neymar leaving Paris Saint-Germain would not be good for Ligue 1, Marseille head coach Andre Villas-Boas believes.

PSG star Neymar has been linked to former club Barcelona and Real Madrid before the LaLiga transfer window shuts on September 2.

Neymar reportedly wants to return to Barca after his world-record €222million exit in 2017, while Madrid are also an option.

Asked about Brazil international forward Neymar, Villas-Boas said: "This type of player has an important image in football, a bit like when Ronaldinho was here in Paris.

"There's this attractiveness, the football world wants to watch these kinds of players. I don't know what's going to happen, I can't comment on the separation because I'm not the PSG coach.

"He is an important player in the world of football. For me, it was the player who could succeed [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi for the Ballon d'Or. But he did not recover all the qualities he had shown in Barcelona.

"For Ligue 1, it's not good if he leaves. But we have other good players and clubs like OM, with an international reputation, who will always make Ligue 1 attractive."

Neymar has scored 34 goals in 37 Ligue 1 appearances despite both his seasons at PSG being interrupted by serious foot injuries.

In total, Neymar has managed 51 goals in 58 games for PSG – who opened their title defence with a 3-0 win over Nimes in the absence of the 27-year-old.

Dario Benedetto has sealed his reported €14million move from Boca Juniors to Marseille, becoming Andre Villas-Boas' second signing in France.

Argentina international Benedetto joins centre-back Alvaro Gonzalez in moving to Marseille, where he will hope to go some way towards replacing Mario Balotelli.

Balotelli scored eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 matches in an entertaining stint with the club. He left when his contract expired at the end of last season.

Benedetto has taken the number nine shirt worn by the Italian, who has been linked with a switch to Flamengo.

Benedetto has taken the number nine shirt worn by the Italian, who has been linked with a switch to Flamengo.

Benedetto scored 30 goals in 34 appearances across his first two Superliga campaigns with Boca but was on target just twice in 15 outings in 2018-19 after returning from knee and Achilles injuries.

He played a starring role in Boca's run to the 2018 Copa Libertadores final, scoring in the second leg as arch-rivals River Plate won the trophy.

Marseille have endured a tough pre-season and coach Villas-Boas acknowledged star players could yet be sold to the Premier League following a friendly loss to Napoli.

Andre Villas-Boas is anxiously awaiting the closure of the transfer window in the Premier League on Thursday as he fears late moves for his Marseille stars.

Former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Villas-Boas joined Marseille this close season, but some of his top players have been linked with moves away from the Ligue 1 giants.

Florian Thauvin, once of Newcastle United, is a reported target for a host of clubs while Morgan Sanson has been linked to Newcastle, Wolves and West Ham.

Villas-Boas is still hopeful Marseille will be at full strength come Friday, as the window remains open in Europe, but he acknowledges movement late in the day is yet possible.

"We will see. In August, everything can change," Villas-Boas told reporters. "I hope no one will leave our squad, but it can happen.

"We must wait for the end of the English transfer window because, at the end of the day, it is the only country that can change everything."

Villas-Boas has endured a tough first pre-season at Marseille, with notable defeats to Accrington Stanley and Rangers - the latter running out 4-0 winners.

New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long hopes the United Kingdom's "strange" work permit system will not deny him the chance to join West Ham.

Manuel Pellegrini is reportedly keen on signing the 26-year-old to bolster his options at centre-back.

Long started five times for the United States at the recent Gold Cup but has not yet satisfied the Football Association's requirements for endorsement of a work permit.

Premier League clubs must submit their applications before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

"As our biggest ally, it seems strange that a football player from the US can't automatically get a work visa to play in England," Long told Sky Sports.

"Every kid in the USA dreams of playing in the English Premier League.

"Not many players get the chance, so of course I would like to play there some day."

Multiple Ligue 1 clubs including Marseille have been linked to Long, the MLS Defender of the Year for 2018.

"I just signed a new contract, so the decision is up to my club and the other team," he said.

Manchester United could end up with not one but two Juventus attackers by the end of the transfer window.

Heavily linked to Paulo Dybala as they look to sell Romelu Lukaku, Mario Mandzukic has emerged as another target for the Red Devils.

It is going to be a busy couple of days, with the Premier League window set to slam shut on August 8.

 

TOP STORY – MANDUZKIC TO FOLLOW DYBALA TO OLD TRAFFORD?

Growing reports suggest Juventus pair Mandzukic and Dybala are being pushed to join Manchester United.

United striker Lukaku has agreed a €9million salary with Juventus, according to Goal, as the Red Devils look to sign Dybala in exchange.

Dybala is reportedly demanding €12m to make the move to Manchester, with the deal hinging on the Argentina international swapping Turin for Old Trafford.

Tuttosport, Goal and other outlets are also claiming Mandzukic has been discussed with United, in what would be a separate transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester City have set Leroy Sane's asking price at €158m (£145m) as Bayern Munich look to sign the Germany international.

Real Madrid are seriously considering a move for Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, Marca reports. Manchester United star Paul Pogba has emerged as a key target for Madrid. However, Zinedine Zidane's side are eyeing a €60m bid for Van de Beek.

- Champions League holders Liverpool are pondering a bid for Bordeaux forward Francois Kamano as Jurgen Klopp looks to add depth to his attacking options, according to The Sun.

- The Sun also reports that Arsenal have been put off by West Ham's £60m valuation of defender Issa Diop, who has also been linked to Manchester United. Arsenal have already signed William Saliba but the teenage defender has been loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 campaign.

Radamel Falcao will not be leaving Monaco for Turkish side Galatasaray, according to Fabrizio Romano. The 33-year-old has been hampered by injuries since moving to Monaco in 2013.

- ESPN FC says Manchester United and Leicester City are £15m apart in their valuation of centre-back Harry Maguire. In one of the most drawn-out transfer sagas this off-season, United have been tipped to sign Maguire in a world-record transfer for a defender, however, the England international is yet to arrive at Old Trafford. The Red Devils are reportedly offering £70m plus add-ons, while Leicester want £85m plus add-ons.

Juventus and Marseille have made offers for Barcelona left-back Juan Miranda, claims Sport. Juve reportedly want the 19-year-old on a permanent deal, while Marseille are open to bringing him to Ligue 1 on loan.

- As Lukaku nears a switch to Juventus, FCInterNews says Inter have turned to Atalanta's Duvan Zapata. The Colombia forward, who scored 28 goals in all competitions last season, is valued at €60m and Inter are willing to include Matteo Politano in exchange.

Alvaro Gonzalez has become Andre Villas-Boas' first signing at Marseille after joining on an initial one-season loan from LaLiga side Villarreal.

The agreement includes an option for Marseille to purchase the Spanish centre-back on a permanent basis.

It is the first time the 29-year-old has played outside his homeland and he will be tasked with shoring up a defence that shipped 52 goals in Ligue 1 last season.

His arrival comes as a welcome boost for ex-Chelsea boss Villas-Boas, who has endured a difficult few weeks since replacing Rudi Garcia.

Marseille lost 2-1 to Accrington Stanley in a friendly in Manchester and were then routed 4-0 by Rangers at Ibrox.

Star striker Mario Balotelli left the club on a free transfer at the end of last term.

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