Arsenal issued a strong response to Saint-Etienne after the French club criticised them over negoations concerning William Saliba ahead of the Coupe de France final. 

Saliba signed for Arsenal in a reported £25million deal last year before being loaned back to Les Verts for the 2019-20 campaign. 

Although Ligue 1 was ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Coupe de France final is to go ahead on July 24. 

Saint-Etienne will face Paris Saint-Germain in that contest and had hoped Saliba, 19, would be available for it, while Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta also expressed a desire for the France Under-20 international to have that opportunity. 

But Saint-Etienne confirmed on Tuesday they were unable to reach an agreement with the Gunners, who they claimed tried to impose "absolutely unacceptable sporting and financial conditions" on any extension. 

Arsenal insist they were willing for Saliba to extend his stay, but they wanted him to be on a specific training schedule and to not lose out financially. 

"Throughout our discussions with Saint-Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan," a statement read. 

"Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so. 

"As William is returning from injury, we asked that Saint-Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.

"To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.

"While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to Saint-Etienne.

"We know this is a disappointment for William, but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal."

The postponed Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue finals will take place on July 24 and 31, respectively, the French Football Federation (FFF) has confirmed.

Both matches were postponed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, with prime minister Edouard Philippe announcing all sporting events had been halted in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.

Although that led to the premature conclusion of Ligue 1, with final places in the table decided on a points-per-game basis, the FFF delayed a decision regarding the two cup finals, giving rise to the possibility the showpiece events could go ahead at a later date.

With the virus largely under control in France, provisional dates in late July were put forward as possibilities.

The FFF confirmed those dates on Friday, with the Coupe de France final between Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Etienne set for July 24.

PSG will then contest the Coupe de la Ligue finale a week later, with Lyon their opponents on that occasion.

Up to 5,000 supporters are expected to be allowed into the Stade de France to watch the two matches after it was confirmed last week that stadiums will be able to open at a reduced capacity next month.

It will be the last iteration of the Coupe de la Ligue following a September 2019 decision to suspend the competition, owing to a desire to reduce the French football season's schedule.

Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel is hopeful William Saliba can remain with the club for the Coupe de France final before he has to link up with Arsenal.

The centre-back signed for Arsenal on a long-term contract last July but immediately returned to Saint-Etienne on a season-long loan.

Les Verts progressed to the Coupe de France final before the French football season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

While Ligue 1 was decided on a points-per-game basis, with Saint-Etienne consigned to a lowly 17th-placed finish, they can still qualify for the Europa League by beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France final.

That contest is provisionally scheduled to take place on July 24, but Saliba's loan is due to end on June 30.

"William is at the end of his contract at the end of the month," Puel said in a media conference.

"He takes great pleasure in training with his team.

"We will see what can be done to keep him a little longer with us."

 

Have Barcelona found their new Dani Alves?

According to reports in Spain, the Blagurana have identified Ajax teenager Sergino Dest as the long-term solution to their problematic right-back spot.

Despite his inexperience, it seems the 19-year-old could command a sizeable eight-figure sum.

 

TOP STORY – DEST THE BEST FOR BARCA

Nelson Semedo's proposed move to either Manchester City or Juventus looks set to pave the way for Barca to bring in a highly rated new right-back.

And the Catalan club know exactly what it will take to land their preferred target: €20million.

That is the fee Spanish newspaper Sport suggests will be enough to secure United States defender Dest when the transfer window reopens.

The Dutch-born full-back, who spurned Netherlands' interest in his international future, only recently graduated from Ajax's youth setup, making 15 Eredivisie starts before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed his breakthrough 2019-20 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- AC Milan are interested in Freiburg centre-back Robin Koch but the Rossoneri could face competition from Serie A rivals Napoli, claims CalcioMercato.

- Heading across town and Inter appear more interested in attacking reinforcements amid the uncertainty surrounding Lautaro Martinez. La Repubblica suggests the Nerazzurri are on the cusp of agreeing personal terms with Napoli forward Dries Mertens, who will become a free agent on June 30.

- Is a transfer battle brewing in Manchester? The Sun claims City boss Pep Guardiola wants to beat crosstown rivals United to Argentine attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, the promising Velez product said to be viewed as the successor to David Silva.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United could encounter more transfer frustration if Aston Villa continue to stand firm over their Jack Grealish valuation. According to the Mirror, relegation-threatened Villa are not prepared to budge on their £80m asking price.

- Ligue 1 heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain could move for experienced former Arsenal right-back Mathieu Debuchy, now of Saint-Etienne, to replace the out-of-contract Thomas Meunier, reports Le10Sport.

Michel Platini’s claim to fame comes from being one of the finest passers the game has ever seen. His efforts from the penalty spot and from free kicks are legendary but he was also quick and elegant on the ball, combined with being a very intelligent reader of the game. His technical ability was also renowned during a period where South Americans were believed to be the masters in this arena. Platini also had an eye for goal from his more withdrawn role behind the strikers and was prolific as a midfielder, winning a number of top goalscorer accolades throughout his career.

Playing Career

Full name: Michel Platini

Date of birth: 21 June 1955 (age 64)

Place of birth: Jœuf, France

Height: 1.79m (5ft 10 in)

Playing position: Attacking midfielder

Club Career

           Years                Team                    Apps      (Gls)

  • 1972–1979          Nancy                    181        (72)
  • 1979–1982          Saint-Étienne         104        (58)
  • 1982–1987          Juventus                147        (68)
  • Total                                              432    (224)

 

Club Honours

  • Nancy - Coupe de France: 1977–78; Division 2: 1974–75
  • Saint-Étienne - Division 1: 1980–81; Coupe de France runner-up: 1980–81, 1981–82
  • Juventus - Serie A: 1983–84, 1985–86; Coppa Italia: 1982–83; European Cup: 1984–85; runner-up: 1982–83; European Cup Winners' Cup: 1983–84; European Super Cup: 1984; Intercontinental Cup: 1985

International Career

  • 1976–1987 France 72 (41)
  • 1988 Kuwait  1   (0)

International Honours

  • UEFA European Championship: 1984
  • Artemio Franchi Trophy: 1985
  • FIFA World Cup third place: 1986
  • 1976 Pre-Olympic Zone European

 

Individual Honours

  • Ballon d'Or: 1983, 1984, 1985
  • Onze d'Or: 1983, 1984, 1985
  • Onze d'Argent: 1977
  • IOC European Footballer of the Season: 1983–84, 1984–85
  • World Soccer Player of the Year: 1984, 1985
  • UEFA European Championship Player of the Tournament: 1984
  • UEFA European Championship Top Scorer: 1984
  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 1984
  • French Player of the Year: 1976, 1977
  • French Player of the Century: 1999
  • L'Équipe French Champion of Champions: 1977, 1984
  • FIFA XI: 1979
  • Guerin d'Oro: 1984
  • Capocannoniere (Serie A Top Scorer): 1982–83, 1983–84, 1984–85
  • European Cup Top Scorer: 1984–85
  • Intercontinental Cup Most Valuable Player of the Match Award: 1985
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1982, 1986
  • FIFA World Cup All-Time Team: 1994
  • World Team of the 20th Century: 1998
  • FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2002
  • Italian Football Hall of Fame member
  • English Football Hall of Fame member (voted All-Time Greatest European Footballer. He is only the second person outside the English game to be honoured by the Museum.)
  • Artemio Franchi Prize
  • Golden Foot: 2004, as football legend
  • FIFA 100
  • UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll: #9
  • Premio internazionale Giacinto Facchetti: 2011
  • Globe Soccer Awards Player Career Award: 2012
  • IFFHS Legends
  • Juventus Greatest XI of All Time: 2017

Substitute Ryad Boudebouz's stoppage-time winner sent Saint-Etienne into the Coupe de France final with a dramatic 2-1 victory over defending champions Rennes on Thursday.

A cool finish into the bottom-right corner in the 94th minute from Boudebouz sent the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard into raptures and booked a meeting with Paris Saint-Germain on April 25.

Saint-Etienne started the brighter of the two sides but found themselves behind when M'Baye Niang resoundingly converted a 33rd-minute penalty awarded following William Saliba's foul on Raphinha.

Timothee Kolodziejczak restored parity ahead of half-time and Boudebouz - who had replaced Yann M'Vila in the 83rd minute - struck at the last, with the final whistle followed by a pitch invasion from the jubilant home supporters.

Lyon's last-gasp win over Nice means they will face Marseille in a Choc des Olympiques in the Coupe de France quarter-finals.

Houssem Aouar's 93rd-minute penalty ensured Lyon's progression on Thursday, with the substitute scoring just four minutes after Adam Ounas had made it 1-1, cancelling out Moussa Dembele's opener.

It means the headline fixture from the last eight will be a derby clash between Lyon and Marseille, who last met in November when Andre Villas-Boas' side won 2-1.

Meanwhile, 12-time winners PSG – who defeated Pau 2-0 in their round of 16 tie – have been handed an away match against Dijon.

Defending champions Rennes will take on fourth-tier Belfort, who defeated Montpellier on penalties in the previous round.

Fellow minnows Epinal also inflicted a shock in the round of 16, defeating Lille, and will face another Ligue 1 side in the form of Saint-Etienne.

The ties will take place on February 11 and 12.

Mauro Icardi has exceeded expectations at Paris Saint-Germain following his Coupe de la Ligue hat-trick, according to team-mate Marco Verratti.

Icardi's three goals led French champions PSG past 10-man Saint-Etienne 6-1 and into the semi-finals on Wednesday.

The Argentina international forward has flourished since arriving on an initial loan deal from Serie A outfit Inter at the start of the season, scoring 17 goals across all competitions.

PSG midfielder Verratti hailed Icardi – who was linked to Juventus, Napoli and Real Madrid prior to joining Thomas Tuchel's side – after his latest exploits in Paris midweek.

"Mauro? He may not touch the ball, he knows the ball will reach him and he will score, he is always ready," Verratti told Canal +.

"This is his main characteristic of Mauro. We didn't think it was going to be as good, the first six months are always difficult, but it is incredible and we hope it will continue like this."

Icardi has hit the ground running in the French capital, with nine of his goals coming in Ligue 1 as defending champions PSG top the standings by seven points.

"Starting the year well is important for everyone and for the team," Icardi told reporters. "We already did it with the last match in the Coupe de France, we demonstrated the team we have. And today, at home, we once again demonstrated the team we had, facing another opponent, by making a great match.

"The fantastic four [Icardi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria] ? We are working to improve, to have an oiled collective game, to attack together, to defend together, to do it in the best way. We know what we have to do. That's why we will have good results.

"We know that if we want to play with four forwards we must all make the sacrifices together. And that's what we've been doing since the coach changed systems. And we're doing it very well. "

Kylian Mbappe dodged questions about his contract negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain, insisting "it's not the right time to make some waves".

Mbappe has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga giants Real Madrid, where head coach and fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his admiration for the 21-year-old star.

PSG sporting director Leonardo has previously revealed talks over a new contract are progressing, with Mbappe's current deal running through to the end of the 2021-22 season.

Asked about his future following PSG's 6-1 Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final rout of Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, Mbappe told reporters: "I am ready to play football first. Because we are in January.

"We start the final sprint, where we can compete for trophies. I think it's not the right time to make some waves.

"The club are calm, serene, everyone is walking in the same direction so talking about external things of the pitch would not be realistic or good."

Mbappe was on target against 10-man Saint-Etienne as PSG cruised into the semi-finals thanks to Mauro Icardi's hat-trick midweek.

PSG led 3-0 at half-time via Icardi, Neymar and a Jessy Moulin own goal, and the hosts maintained their dominance in the second 45 minutes.

Mbappe helped Icardi complete his hat-trick with a pair of assists before the latter returned the favour by setting up the Frenchman in the 67th minute – Saint-Etienne's Yohan Cabaye bagged a consolation four minutes later.

On the relationship between Mbappe and Icardi, who is on loan from Serie A outfit Inter, PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel said: "I don't know if they reach another level but I know they love to play together.

"They play all four with great complicity especially Kylian and Mauro. It's obvious and it's necessary. If you play with four strikers, it's necessary that they try to find themselves on the pitch. They try to put each other in the best conditions. They give the ball to make an assist or to find a guy in a better position.

"They did great tonight. We speak a lot about the four strikers but you know that for me it's all about the team, we need to play as a team with the eleven players. That's football."

Paris Saint-Germain cruised into the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue after Mauro Icardi scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory over 10-man Saint-Etienne.

The 2017-18 champions were in control of a one-sided contest before Wesley Fofana received his marching orders, leaving his team-mates to face an onslaught from PSG's four-pronged attack.

Icardi opened the scoring early in the first half and, after Neymar dinked in the second and goalkeeper Jessy Moulin bundled a third into his own net, the former Inter striker fired a second-half brace.

Not to be left out of the goal glut, Kylian Mbappe scored a sixth before Yohan Cabaye's late strike proved little consolation for Claude Puel's men, who bowed out with their tails between their legs.

Thomas Tuchel can reflect on another rampant attacking performance from his side, who have scored 29 goals in their last six games in all competitions, and remain very much in contention for silverware on four fronts.

Saint-Etienne were carved open with ease after two minutes when Thomas Meunier's slide-rule pass into the box found Icardi, whose angled shot Moulin would have saved had the visiting goalkeeper stood tall but it flashed over his crouching frame and high into the net.

Having earlier been booked for handball, Fofana was sent off after he caught Angel Di Maria's heels as the Argentina winger sprinted towards goal, and the 10 men were powerless to stop Neymar chipping Moulin for PSG's second after Di Maria threaded the assist.

Any hopes Puel had of rallying his team at the interval were spoiled when Mbappe's audacious backheel put Di Maria through for a cross that ricocheted off two defenders' shins before rebounding off the post, onto Moulin's legs and into the unguarded net.

Di Maria started the move that delivered PSG's fourth just four minutes after half-time, his pass releasing Mbappe whose cross deceived Moulin and left Icardi to fire into an empty net.

Saint-Etienne failed to cope with Mbappe's pace down the left and he burst clear before squaring to Icardi for the hosts' fifth shortly before the hour mark, and Icardi returned the favour 10 minutes later when he met Di Maria's long pass with a volley that played Mbappe in to score at close range.

Substitute Edinson Cavani had the ball in the net 10 minutes from time but he was flagged offside, compounding the Uruguayan's frustrations at missing out on much of a prolific period for PSG.

After Di Maria felled substitute Edmilson Indjai Correia in the box 20 minutes from time, Cabaye had a penalty saved by Sergio Rico but the midfielder met the rebound with a header that glided over the goalkeeper and into the net.

What does it mean? Icardi catching Mbappe

With few teams able to go toe-to-toe with PSG this season, their forwards are competing among themselves and Icardi's treble takes him to within two goals of catching Mbappe's tally of 19 in all competitions as the club's leading goal-scorer.

What a difference a year makes

It seems hard to believe that little short of a year ago Icardi was injury plagued, unsettled and facing an unclear future at Inter.

His revival under Tuchel has been spectacular and here he was back to his clinical best.

Juan to forget

On a night when Saint-Etienne barely got a sniff of the ball, Juan Bernat's overplaying at the back still threatened to allow them back into the game early on and he was wasteful with the ball going forward.

What's next?

PSG will likely face a stiffer test when they entertain Monaco in Ligue 1 on Sunday, while Saint-Etienne are at home against fifth-placed Nantes.

Edinson Cavani looks set to stay at Paris Saint-Germain after Thomas Tuchel suggested January departures will breed uncertainty following Leonardo's reported decision to keep the Uruguayan.

Cavani, 32, is into the final six months of his PSG contract and had been linked with an early exit after falling out of favour, but that now seems unlikely.

Sporting director Leonardo is said to have told Cavani he will not be allowed to leave in January, despite the pre-season arrival of Mauro Icardi limiting him to just four Ligue 1 starts this term.

The former Napoli striker was reportedly a target for Manchester United and Arsenal, however he looks set to see out the final months of his contract in Paris.

When asked if he agreed with Leonardo's reported decision, Tuchel said: "We need to make difficult decisions and we [Tuchel and Leonardo] have the same opinion.

"We don't like to change during the winter. It's not monopoly, it's a locker room, men who get on well together and who have formed a spirit.

"Each player entering or leaving creates uncertainty. If it's not necessary to change, that's fine. I am happy with the group."

PSG have not suffered with Cavani's decrease in playing time, as Icardi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have scored 28 Ligue 1 goals between them.

But Tuchel did not rule out the experienced forward fighting his way back into contention.

"It depends on the quality of others and of him," Tuchel said. "It's healthy competition between attackers.

"Kylian and Mauro have been great together. Edinson is fighting for his place. This is what we ask of him.

"He can do it. He's a great player, we never forget about him, but there is great competition. They can all play, but I can't promise anyone anything."

Cavani scored a brace in Sunday's 6-0 Coupe de France win over Linas-Montlhery, and while Tuchel was happy with his display, he also highlighted it was a match against sixth-tier opposition and suggested he will pick a first-choice XI for the Coupe de la Ligue visit of Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.

"It's good and I'm happy for Edi, but we played with Edi, [Julian] Draxler, [Pablo] Sarabia and [Adil] Aouchiche against a team from the sixth division," the German added.

"They played well but that's what we expect of them. This is the best thing for Edi and the attackers because it gives confidence, but we can't forget what Mauro, Neymar, Kylian and Angel [Di Maria] did for several games.

"They have the opportunity to start together tomorrow [Wednesday]. We are a great team, we need each player in good shape."

Thomas Tuchel declared himself pleased after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Saint-Etienne in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.

PSG saw off second-tier opponents Le Mans 4-1 in Wednesday's last-16 tie at MMArena to remain on course for a record-extending ninth success in the competition.

The Ligue 1 champions thrashed Saint-Etienne 4-0 in last weekend's league clash and head coach Tuchel had no complaints about being paired with Claude Puel's men in the domestic cup.

"It's a good draw because the match will be played at home," he told Canal+. "It's good that we don't have to travel.

"The main thing is playing at home, which is easier to organise and easier for the players. We have a lot of travelling in January and February so it's good to play at home."

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kylian Mbappe gave PSG a 3-0 half-time lead against Le Mans, who pulled one back through Harrison Manzala early in the second half.

Angel Di Maria ensured a safe passage through to the last eight with his strike from range, but Tuchel felt PSG could have added more goals to their tally.

"We played players who have lacked rhythm, so I did not expect too much from them," he said. "We could have scored five or six, but we lost pace in the second half.

"We are now into the quarter-finals and there were no injuries, which was essential."

Choupo-Moting was brought into the side as one of eight changes and was on the scoresheet with his close-range finish shortly before half-time.

"When you win 4-1, it's important to be positive," he said. "We played in a good stadium with a good atmosphere.

"We were effective in the first period with three goals that made the game easy, but we must be even more dangerous."

Le Mans were the final remaining team from outside of Ligue 1 after eliminating Nice in the previous round, and coach Richard Dezire took positives from the run to the last 16.

"It's a match that will serve us well for the future," he said. "We beat the stadium attendance record today. Three or four years ago, we played at La Pincenardiere. 

"Today, we sold out the stadium to face PSG and we could have filled it three times. We are progressing at all levels. We know we still have gaps but we are working to correct them. The fundamental objective is to stay up this season."

Paris Saint-Germain will face Saint-Etienne in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria were on target as a much-changed PSG line-up secured a 4-1 victory over Le Mans in the last 16 on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's side were eliminated by Guingamp in the quarter-finals last season and will hope to go one step further when they entertain Saint-Etienne.

Reigning champions Strasbourg were handed a trip to Reims after Nuno Da Costa's 78th-minute goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Nantes.

Lyon beat Toulouse 4-1 in the absence of Memphis Depay and will take on Brest at Groupama Stadium, while Lille's reward for overcoming Monaco is a home encounter with Amiens.

The matches are scheduled to be played on January 7 or 8.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo praised the desire of Neymar amid ongoing speculation linking him with an exit from the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar was desperate to leave PSG during the previous transfer window, however, a return to former club Barcelona did not materialise.

There continue to be doubts over the PSG superstar's future in Paris ahead of the January transfer window.

Leonardo was asked about Neymar after the Brazil international supplied two assists and missed a second-half penalty in Sunday's 4-0 Ligue 1 rout of Saint-Etienne.

"I think Neymar is making a lot of effort in every way and also in terms of state of mind," Leonardo told reporters.

"I think the story we have lived is real, it happened a short time ago, but I see a lot of effort on his part.

"The system also forces him to go back, ditto for Kylian [Mbappe], [Mauro] Icardi too, [Edinson] Cavani always did and Pablo Sarabia and [Angel] Di Maria ... they make themselves available and we also have a balance behind that we are forced to have.

"Coming back to Neymar, he still has a lot to do, but I see a real desire on his part to make himself available."

With the transfer market set to reopen in January, PSG have been linked to Juventus outcast Emre Can – who could swap places with Leandro Paredes.

As speculation intensifies, Leonardo urged for Thomas Tuchel to be left alone over transfers.

"I think I'm going to ask you not to ask the coach questions about the transfer window," he said. "The transfer window is a club issue. I have been in football for a long time, I know the limit of the role of the coach, the president, the communication director and that everyone does their job.

"You have to stop with the coach, leave him alone, talk to him about the technical side of the team. The transfer window is a question of opportunity. This group there, for me, it is complete.

"What is also positive is that we managed to play in Ligue 1 two young kids, [Adil] Aouchiche and [Tanguy] Kouassi and that is nice. In addition I think that these are two players who will complement the workforce with their qualities."

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel backed Neymar to score his next penalty, saying the forward was "sad" about his miss against Saint-Etienne.

Neymar hit the post with a second-half penalty in PSG's 4-0 victory in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

It came just days after the Brazilian handed spot-kick duties to Edinson Cavani during a Champions League thrashing of Galatasaray.

But Tuchel still believes in Neymar, who provided two assists in the comfortable league win, from the spot.

"I'm always a little nervous as a coach, that's normal," he told a news conference.

"When he shoots, normally, I'm pretty sure he scores. He's sad because he still wants to score, it was a great opportunity for him.

"But he's going to kick the next penalty, and I'm sure he'll score again."

Already behind to Leandro Paredes' opener, Saint-Etienne were reduced to 10 men when Jean-Eudes Aholou saw red in the 25th minute.

Kylian Mbappe, set up twice by Neymar, scored a brace either side of Mauro Icardi's goal as PSG claimed a fifth straight Ligue 1 win.

"We have defended very well, with great intensity, always together," Tuchel said.

"This is a good time for us, victory is deserved. We had a lot of chances to score. We recovered a lot of balls high up in the opposing field.

"We never stopped defending, even after the red card. It was good, I'm happy. Congratulations to the team."

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