Soccer notebook: Barca’s Ansu Fati extends, Pope Francis gets Messi PSG shirt, more under-the-radar stories

Another week of European soccer is almost in the books and that means that it is time for us to catch you up on the best stories which might have passed you by while the UEFA Champions League and Europa League action was in full swing. From Ansu Fati’s Barcelona contract renewal with a $1.2 billion release clause to Giorgio Chiellini wishing that Cristiano Ronaldo had left Juventus sooner, we have you covered.

Our picks.

Fati fee

Barca have extended the teenager’s contract until 2027 with a release clause of nearly $1.2 billion with the 18-year-old now the owner of Lionel Messi’s former No. 10 jersey. Fati follows Pedri’s lead in extending his deal at Camp Nou with a release clause more than $1 billion. The Guinea-Bissau-born Spain international is now back in action after injury and has 15 goals from 47 appearances.

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OM racism claims

Olympique de Marseille claim that their players were subjected to racial abuse during the 0-0 UEFA Europa League draw with Lazio and the French club suggested that they will pursue legal action against their Italian hosts.

“Following presumed of racist chanting towards our players,” read an OM statement. “The club reaffirms strong condemnation of all forms of discrimination. OM reserves the right to lodge a complaint if UEFA confirms these serious accusations are well-founded.”

Nagelsmann nuisance

Bayern Munich were without head coach Julian Nagelsmann for the German giants’ Champions League win over Benfica with the German tactician confined to his hotel with “flu-like symptoms” which were eventually found to be COVID-19 positive.

“Despite full vaccination, Julian Nagelsmann has tested positive for coronavirus,” read Bayern’s statement on Thursday. “He will travel back to Munich separately from the team and go into isolation at home.”

“Given the circumstances, I feel OK,” wrote Nagelsmann. “I am very proud of the team, my coaching staff and the team behind the team! You did a brilliant job yesterday and stood in for me perfectly.”

Pope’s Messi gift

Pope Francis received a special gift when France’s prime minister Jean Castex visited him on Monday with a signed Lionel Messi PSG jersey for the Argentine pontiff. The 84-year-old Francis has met Messi and declared him one of soccer’s greats with Castex handing the gift over in a glass frame.  

Chiellini on CR7

Chiellini told DAZN that it would have been better for Juventus if Ronaldo had moved on from the club sooner so that he and his teammates could embrace their new direction under Massimiliano Allegri.

“I had already figured out he could leave this summer because we reached a stage of the working relationship where Cristiano needed new motivation and a team that would play for him,” he said. When he finds a team like that, he can always be decisive, as he was at Juve too.

“Ronaldo left on Aug. 28, and it certainly would have been better if he had gone earlier so we could prepare. Unfortunately, we paid a price for that. It does create a shock to the system, and we lost points in the opening games because of that. If he’d left on Aug. 1, then we would’ve had time to reorganize.”

Puel ultimatum

Saint-Etienne fans have had enough of general manager Claude Puel with a banner unfurled demanding his resignation within 24 hours. The fallen French giants are currently bottom of Ligue 1 and winless all season with Friday’s clash with Angers SCO possibly his last with Les Verts.

Meanwhile, the LFP are considering the possibility of playing the next clash between Monaco and ASSE’s bitter rivals Lyon in Shanghai next year.

Nimes player arrested

From Ligue 1 to Ligue 2 and Nimes Olympique’s Sidy Sarr was identified as the player to have been arrested earlier this week on suspicion of underage prostitution with the Senegal international kept in police custody for an extended period while his case is examined.

Haag banned again

Nancy’s Giovanni Haag has been banned for the next three games after he was sent off last weekend for the fourth time this season despite just 12 games having been played. Haag, once his ban has been served, will have been suspended for seven of the first 15 fixtures in Ligue 2.

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