Soccer notebook: ECA slam biannual FIFA World Cup plan, Neymar’s Paqueta rant and more under-the-radar stories

It has been another busy week in European soccer and that is just the midweek slates in leagues such as Serie A and Ligue 1. Away from the pitch, plenty has been going on too with FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA) clashing, Neymar ranting about French referees, an update on the progress of the San Siro project and Turkey getting a new national team coach.

We fill you in.

ECA ‘gravely concerned’ by FIFA

The ECA have blasted FIFA’s proposed reforms which would see a biennial World Cup introduced as part of an international calendar facelift. Per an ECA statement, FIFA’s proposal would “lead to a direct and destructive impact on the club game” with said changes “in direct and unilateral breach of certain legal obligations.”  

Additionally, the ECA criticized FIFA’s lack of consultation on the Arsene Wenger-led reforms and warned of the dangers for soccer, its players, the World Cup’s prestige and even the women’s game as well.

Neymar referee rant

Even though referee Stephanie Frappart appeared to book Olympique Lyonnais’ Lucas Paqueta for turning his back when being spoken with, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar created controversy by claiming his fellow Brazilian was booked for a rainbow flick during OL’s 3-1 win over ESTAC Troyes.

“It is a sad episode, getting booked for dribbling,” wrote the superstar on Instagram. “Technical skill is a solution wherever you are on the pitch at any time during a game. It happened to me last season! This time, it is happening to Paqueta. I do not understand. This is the end of Joga Bonito.”

Neymar’s relationship with French referees has been strained over the years and he has been booked in the past for “disrespectful” acts of skill and targeting with very heavy tactics from opposing teams due to his “provocation.”

San Siro overhaul

Inter Milan and AC Milan’s spiritual home will soon be regenerated as part of an ambitious plan which will modernize one of European soccer’s oldest venues with developments expected before the end of the year in a move which could increase both teams’ financial capabilities long-term. You can catch Inter and AC Milan all season — Serie A, Coppa Italia, Champions League — on Paramount+.

Kuntz takes Turkey task

Former Germany under-21 and Olympic boss Stefan Kuntz has replaced Senol Gunes as head coach of Turkey’s national team after their disastrous Euro 2020 showing where many billed them as dark horses and continued poor form in their recent 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Sevilla sack ‘unprofessional’ Gnagnon

La Liga outfit Sevilla have terminated the contract of Joris Gnagnon citing his lack of professionalism amid long-term concerns about his lifestyle and weight with the $16 million signing from Stade Rennais back in 2018 not even registered for this season’s squad.

Saint-Etienne wanted by royalty

Ligue 1 outfit AS Saint-Etienne could soon be purchased by Cambodian prince Norodom Ravichak after he confirmed his intentions to make a move for Les Verts who have been in financial difficulty for some time due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and the collapsed Mediapro TV deal.

“It is true that I have officially put myself forward as a candidate to take over at ASSE,” he told RFI. “I am passionate about soccer and grew up enthusiastic about the French league, and of course for the French national team. I have always had a particular affection for ASSE — one of France’s big clubs.”

Bentaleb trains with Angers

Free since leaving stricken Bundesliga 2 outfit Schalke 04, Nabil Bentaleb is currently training with Ligue 1 side Angers SCO in the hope of earning a contract. The Algeria international would boost Les Scoistes after Gerald Baticle’s men saw a recent transfer ban overturned along with Ligue 2’s Paris FC. Meanwhile, Girondins de Bordeaux have activated the Joker option to sign Mbaye Niang on an initial two-year deal from Stade Rennais.   

Dark times for French soccer

The French domestic game has seen its damaged image take a further battering in recent weeks with several fan-related problems since supporters returned to stadium this season. On top of the well-documented abandoned clash between OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille, there have been other concerning developments.

This week, a Marseille fan died on his way back from a draw with Angers in an incident which saw others injured and will now see OM supporters banned on the road while SCO will have a stand shut at their Stade Raymond Kopa home until an investigation has been completed.

Elsewhere, Montpellier HSC ultras pelted Bordeaux’s bus with stones while Lyon fans have been banned from attending their derby with Saint-Etienne and the prosecutor wants to hit a OGCN fan involved in the ugly OM scenes with a five-year ban from stadiums.

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