Soccer notebook: Napoli’s Maradona stadium could host Italy-Argentina match and more under the radar stories


Another week is almost in the books in European soccer with plenty going on ahead of the October international break. Full slates of UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League games have thrown up more intrigue on the continental scene with minnows Sheriff stunning the world with their victory over Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu. With headlines like that and Ronald Koeman’s impending departure as Barcelona boss, you would be forgiven for missing some of this week’s other stories away from the pitch.

We are here to remedy that.

FFF open to World Cup discussion

French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet has expressed openness towards Arsene Wenger’s proposed biennial World Cup and international calendar overhaul, telling L’Equipe that it would be “an error” to not at least give it consideration.

“I am very favorable for the girls,” he said. “As long as it happens in winter and not in summer when it is too close to the guys’ one. For the guys, personally, I am not against it, but I would not give it a blank cheque either. There is a big reflection on my part — I need to know if the project enriches or impoverishes the French federation which I preside over.

“Not looking at this project would be an error. I understand that other countries are upset that Europe has organized a new competition (the Nations League) which prevents them from playing friendlies against European teams.

“We cannot ignore other areas of the world. I am not opposed to a World Cup every two years, even if I would like to get a closer look at the project.”

Continental kings to meet

UEFA has announced that European Championship winners Italy will face Copa America champions Argentina next summer with a clash between the two continental titleholders a step closer to European cooperation with South America’s CONMEBOL governing body.

Although the date and venue are yet to be confirmed, Napoli’s Stadio Diego Armando Maradona is a strong contender due to the late legend’s ties with both countries while the game is expected to take place sometime in June.

Lacroix extends until 2025

Champions League participants VfL Wolfsburg have tied star defender Maxence Lacroix to an extended contract after fighting off interest from across Europe for his signature this summer which included RB Leipzig just one year after his arrival from FC Sochaux Montbeliard for around $6 million.

“Maxence developed brilliantly last season,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schafer. “Which is why we are pleased that we can continue to pursue our goals together.”

“I am very pleased to have extended my contract,” added Lacroix. “I am really settled in Wolfsburg and still have big plans. It is fun to play in this team and I am looking forward to improving together and being successful.”

Bayo commits to Clermont

Clermont Foot 63 are enjoying their first foray into Ligue 1 with Mohamed Bayo netting four times in the newcomers’ opening eight games and while results have suffered of late, the Guinea international who scored 22 times in last term’s promotion has extended with the club until 2024.

“Clermont is my club,” said the 23-year-old. “I have experienced so much here. I decided to stay because I feel good here at home! Clermont is my club but not just that — this city is a part of my life.”

Atalanta’s Gosens blow

The Serie A outfit saw star man Robin Gosense pick up a serious looking right hamstring injury this week which could now keep him out for months with AC Milan, Manchester United, Juventus and Lazio games all on the horizon as La Dea face a nervy wait to hear the damage done.

Freiburg move

SC Freiburg bid an emotional farewell to the Dreisamstadion last week with a 3-0 win over Augsburg their last before legendary boss Christian Streich and his team move to the modern SC-Stadion with Lukas Kubler, Lucas Holer and Vincenzo Grifo’s goals the last ever for the Breisgau outfit at their old home.

Samir Nasri on Pep Guardiola’s Messi obsession

Former Manchester City, Arsenal and Olympique de Marseille man Samir Nasri recently confirmed his retirement from soccer and the ex-France international turned pundit served up an anecdote about playing under Lionel Messi-obsessed Pep Guardiola at Etihad Stadium.

“He spoke to us about Messi at the start of 2016-17 to get a message across,” said Nasri. “He told us he would be our friend up until the first matchday of the season at which point he would have to make choices. Some players were going to be unhappy.

“He asked us in the dressing room ‘is Lionel Messi in here?’ and we all looked at each other and said no, he is not here. ‘So you do not have the right to talk, because he is the only player I would never put on the bench, he is allowed to sulk.’

“Messi is someone that he greatly appreciates. They benefited from each other as he started him through the middle and Messi won him titles — they have that kind of relationship.”

Record-breaking Williams

Athletic Club’s Inaki Williams could set a new La Liga record if he features against Alaves this Friday as it would be his 203rd consecutive appearance which would overtake the previous record held by Real Sociedad’s Juan Larranaga.





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