PSG’s full pre-season squad for Japan tour

As confirmed by the club, PSG have selected a 25-man squad to travel to Japan for a pre-season tour, sending a signal to several high-profile players who have been left out that they will be expected to find a new club before the end of the window.

Director Antero Henrique, in charge of selling players, was handed a list of 11 unwanted names to be sold before September last week, but many of those names have still been included in the tour party. The full squad is as follows:

1. Keylor Navas2. Achraf Hakimi3. Presnel Kimpembe4. Sergio Ramos5. Marquinhos6. Marco Verratti7. Kylian Mbappé8. Leandro Paredes9. Mauro Icardi10. Neymar Jr14. Juan Bernat15. Danilo Pereira16. Sergio Rico17. Vitinha19. Pablo Sarabia22. Abdou Diallo24. Thilo Kehrer25. Nuno Mendes27. Idrissa Gueye28. Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe29. Arnaud Kalimuendo30. Lionel Messi33. Warren Zaïre-Emery90. Alexandre Letellier99. Gianluigi Donnarumma

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Those missing from the tour squad include Georginio Wijnaldum (31), Julian Draxler (28), Layvin Kurzawa (29) and Ander Herrera (32). The likes of Leandro Paredes, Abdou Diallo and Danilo Pereira are surprise inclusions in the group given that Paredes has seen more interest than most from the likes of Juventus and Manchester United while Diallo is perhaps the closest to leaving Paris with AC Milan interested. Danilo, meanwhile, was reportedly concerned that he was going to be left out of the tour party after a frank exchange with Luis Campos.

World Rugby laws: ‘Shot clock’ timer introduced for penalties and scrums as officials encouraged to cut down on time-wasting

World Rugby have set their stall out to increase the speed of the game, which is aimed at cutting out time-wasting and improving the on-field product.

Many have called for changes to attract more fans to the sport, as well as help officials, coaches and players, and the governing body hopes these simple but effective measures will do the trick.

They will come into effect on January 1, 2023 and will be implemented in all competitions across the globe.

The law alterations

  • Law 8.8d Conversion: (The kicker) takes the kick within 90 seconds (playing time) from the time the try was awarded, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed.
  • Law 8.21 Penalty Kick: The kick must be taken within 60 seconds (playing time) from the time the team indicated their intention to do so, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed, and a scrum is awarded.
  • Law 9.7d: A player must not waste time. Sanction Free Kick
  • Law 18.12 Lineout: Teams form the lineout without delay. Sanction: Free-kick.
  • Law 19.4 Scrum: Teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made. Sanction: Free-kick.

In regards to the shot clock, World Rugby director of rugby Phil Davies said: “World Rugby, member unions and competitions will work with broadcasters and match hosts to implement on-screen (stadia and broadcast) shot clocks for penalties and conversions to ensure referees, players and fans can view the countdown, mirroring what happens in the LNR (French leagues) and Sevens.”

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There will also be a change to the TMO procedure as they attempt to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach decisions.

“There was excellent debate at the Shape of the Game conference on this topic, including leading match officials, coaches and player representatives. It was agreed that reviews can often take too long, suggesting the offence being reviewed is not clear and obvious,” Davies said.

“While we can always enhance the technology interaction to speed up the process, the match official teams – led by the referee – should attempt to make speedier decisions and limit replays where not necessary.”

Moving in the right direction

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont added: “As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“These law application guidelines are a step on the road to reimagining our sport and come directly from the Shape of the Game conference in London in November, attended by players, coaches, referees, union CEOs and competition owners. By working together, we can achieve positive outcomes.

“I would like to thank all for their contributions and the match officials specifically for implementing the directives and we look forward to seeing the results.”

Coulthard: ‘Nervous’ F1 stewards taking ‘overcautious’ decisions

David Coulthard believes extreme apprehension is leading F1’s race control and the FIA stewards to take “overcautious” decisions in the heat of the moment.

Last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was marked by none less than three red flags, two of which were debatable according to many drivers.

In the first instance, the race was stopped in the wake of Alex Albon’s crash to allow for a proper clean-up after the Williams had scattered gravel onto the track.

George Russell, who was ordered to pit by his Mercedes crew as soon as the safety car was called out, simply couldn’t understand why the red flag decision had been made, if not simply for the need for Formula 1 to ‘put on a show’ to entertain the fans.

“I don’t really know what’s going on with some of the decisions at the moment,” he said. “We’re all trying to work together with the FIA to improve things, but it’s seemingly a bit of a challenge.”

In the second incident of the day, following Kevin Magnussen’s brush with the wall that led to debris on the track, race control also opted to halt proceedings with just four laps to go, a decision that baffled Max Verstappen.

“What the f**k! We don’t need a red flag,” quipped the Dutchman over the radio.

“I don’t think we needed that second red flag, I think that could have been done with a Virtual Safety Car or a Safety Car at worst,” Verstappen commented after the race.

“We’ll talk about it, I think it left a lot of drivers confused about why we needed a red flag.”

    Read also: Wolff wants more clarity from F1 on use of red flags

Coulthard reckons that F1’s race director Niels Wittich and those officiating in the stewards’ room have become so fearful and jittery of their actions that they are taking an “overcautious” approach to their decisions.

“I think okay he hit the wall, he got a puncture, there’s a little bit of debris on the track, but I just don’t see the red flag in that,” the Scot told Channel 4, referring to Magnussen’s slip-up.

“And this is really what’s too confusing for me.

“It’s almost like… it’s a difficult job, let’s get it, the referee is always going to be in a difficult situation and in this case of course it’s the stewards and the race director.

“But it’s like they’re so nervous of making a wrong decision, they’re just taking the overcautious decision every time.

“A full Safety Car would have handled that in my opinion.”

Coulthard’s Channel 4 colleague Mark Webber also questioned the necessity to deploy the red flag for the incident involving Magnussen given that it occurred just a few laps from the checkered flag.

“I think that Magnussen’s crash was unfortunate timing,” said Webber. “You’re right on that bubble of having a ‘do we need a restart? Can we finish the race at that point?’

“So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t like rolling the jeopardy card too much because these are the best guys in the world, and I think for them to go down there, we saw the result on cold tyres.

“One lap, bang. They go down there and that’s on Soft tyres, you know, so it wasn’t a good result, and I think the drivers were probably a bit frustrated with how that was handled.”

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Salernitana beat Verona, Angers and Brest to Junior Sambia signing

As reported by Fabrice Hawkins, midfielder-turned-right-back Junior Sambia, who has been a free agent since leaving Ligue 1 club Montpellier at the end of his contract last month, has agreed to join Italian side Salernitana.

The 25-year-old will sign a four year contract with the side and the final few details of his move are expected to be settled this coming weekend despite interest from Hellas Verona, Angers and Brest. The player has also seen interest from Strasbourg and Crystal Palace this summer after Racing submitted a concrete contract proposal last month. Champagne local news outlet L’Est Eclair added that ESTAC Troyes had also drawn up a contract proposal for the player who has also been monitored by Marseille and Lille too.

After joining the Ligue 1 side from second tier Niort in 2018 for €2m, the Frenchman has played 162 times for the club, scoring six goals while adding 15 assists. A versatile player on the fringes of the MHSC team, Sambia rose to prominence having been repurposed as a flying right-wing-back under Michel der Zakarian.

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Alassane Pléa agrees Fenerbahçe terms but Gladbach want €5m fee

As reported by Ignazio Genuardi, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s French striker Alassane Pléa has agreed personal terms with Turkish giants Fenerbahçe.

The 29-year-old had also been interesting OGC Nice, his former club, but the Turkish side are much further along in their pursuit of the player and are now looking to agree a fee for the forward with the Bundesliga club demanding around €5m with just one year to run on Pléa’s contract in Germany.

However, Nice could yet have hope over signing Pléa as the Frenchman considers the Riviera side ‘the club of his heart’ and is open to returning this summer. Lyon and Crystal Palace were keeping an eye on the striker last summer too, according to L’Équipe.

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Since moving to Gladbach in 2018, Pléa has managed 47 goals and 28 assists in 143 games across all competitions and made a sole appearance for the French national team back in 2018 in a friendly against Uruguay. 

FEATURE | Breel Embolo to Monaco – What to Expect

Breel Embolo’s six-year stint in Germany has come to an end. The Switzerland international has signed a four-year deal with Monaco, keeping in Ligue 1 until 2026, having moved from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a reported €12.5m fee and becoming the club’s second major signing of the summer. Get German Football News looks back at Embolo’s time in Germany and what Monaco are getting for their money as they prepare for Philippe Clement’s first full season as manager of the Principality side.

Embolo signed for Schalke from Basel for €20m in 2016 after winning three consecutive Swiss Super League titles. He made his debut in the first round of the DFB-Pokal away to FC 08 Villingen, scoring in a 4-1 victory before, a week later, Embolo made his first Bundesliga appearance in a 1-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, coming on as a substitute at half-time. However, a decent start to the season was cut short in October as he suffered a complicated ankle fracture, ruptured syndesmosis and medial collateral ligament damage after a challenge from Kostas Stafylidis in a game against Augsburg.

Ruled out for the rest of the season, Embolo only played ten games that year, scoring three times, but he would bounce back from his injury to make 23 appearances, adding three goals to his name, in his second campaign. His third season was more of the same, with six goals from 28 appearances. Embolo joined Marco Rose’s Gladbach in the summer of 2019 where he made an instant impact, coming on as a substitute to score against Mainz in a 3-1 win. The highlights of his time at Gladbach include scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Bayern Munich in the second round of the cup and regular playing time in European competitions.

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The 25-year-old joins Monaco having enjoyed his best goal-scoring campaign in Germany, scoring 11 goals in 31 appearances for what was a poor Mönchengladbach side who finished tenth in the league and were knocked out in the last 16 of the DFB-Pokal. A tall, powerful striker, Embolo will fit right in at Monaco. His experience in the Champions League will be useful as Monaco again look to qualify for the group stages. The forward also possesses explosive pace, is a physical presence and has excellent dribbling skills which makes him an exciting player in one-on-one situations. However, Embolo’s finishing can let him down. The powerful attackers only once outscored his xG (+0.2) in his three seasons at Gladbach but he does boast vast international experience, with 56 caps and nine goals for Switzerland having made appearances at both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 as well as the 2018 World Cup.

Embolo’s signing means Monaco have a wealth of attacking talent at the club, with the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder, former Bayer Leverkusen player Kevin Volland and new signing Takumi Minamino ready to go for the new season, making for an exciting and talented attack.

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Bordeaux reject Minnesota United’s €5m Hwang Ui-Jo offer

As reported by L’Équipe, Bordeaux have received an offer of €5m for their South Korean international striker Hwang Ui-Jo from American MLS outfit Minnesota United.

However, despite the club’s relegation to Ligue 2 at the end of last season after a disastrous campaign that resulted in a bottom-placed finish, Les Girondins have rejected the US club’s offer and are looking for a higher fee.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old prefers a move to elsewhere in Europe and has seen notable interest already this summer after 11 league goals last season. Last week, Strasbourg joined Nantes and Porto in the race to sign striker Hwang, who was then reportedly valued at €8m.

The Portuguese champions have also made an offer for the player but much will rest on Bordeaux’s appeal over their administrative relegation to the French third tier due to financial issues, which will be heard on Thursday.

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Wolff: Haas handling of Schumacher very different with Michael around

Toto Wolff believes Haas “would not have dared treat” Mick Schumacher the way it did had his legendary father been at his side during his two years with the US outfit.

Schumacher was dropped by Haas at the end of last year to make way for the experienced Nico Hulkenberg.

The first part of Schumacher’s 2022 campaign with the team, during which the young German crashed twice – in Jeddah and in Monaco – and wrote off a pair of VF-22 chassis likely weighed heavily in Haas’ decision to part ways with the 24-year-old.

Unfortunately, Schumacher’s much improved second half of the year was not enough to swing the pendulum back in his favour and award him a third year with the team.

Instead, the young gun was picked up by Mercedes to serve as its reserve driver.

“I can only say that his parents did nothing wrong in bringing him up,” Wolff told veteran F1 reporter Roger Benoit from Switzerland’s Blick.

“And I claim that if Michael had accompanied his son during the two Haas years, [Haas team boss] Steiner would not have dared to treat Mick like that!”

Schumacher is embedding this season with the Mercedes team at every race, and as the Brackley squad’s acting reserve, he is first in line to replace either Lewis Hamilton or George Russell if necessary.

“If one of our drivers gets Covid or gets injured, Mick will be in the Mercedes! Period, end of discussion!” stated Wolff.

Read also:

    Schumacher: Watching first F1 race felt like ‘day would never end’

Wolff also revealed that Mercedes is trying to put together a minimum test programme for Schumacher this year with one of its older-spec cars.

“We’re trying to get an old car ready for him as soon as possible.”

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Despite there being little chance of Schumacher racing for Mercedes next season, the German is hopeful of rejoining the fray at some point with another team.

“There’s obviously no guarantee [that I return to the grid in 2024], but I’m in a comfortable position where I feel I can learn, I can extract the maximum from this year even though I’m not driving,” he said earlier this year.

“But with the results I’ve shown in the junior categories, but also in F1, I’m sure there will be opportunities.

“Over the winter a few people have already mentioned that there is interest, so in that sense I’m not too worried.”

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FEATURE | The Rise of Presnel Kimpembe – Controversy, composure and heart

“Presnel Kimpembe has everything to become one of the best defenders in Europe,” those were the words of current Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel back in February 2019. At that moment, the German coach was in the midst of a two-legged tie with Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16, while a 23-year-old Kimpembe was sitting on the side lines battling injury. Now 26, the French centre-back has only missed six PSG games since then and has become a key, if slightly controversial, regular in the Parisian backline.

Despite talk of a move this summer, Kimpembe had previously stated he’d like to stay in that backline for the rest of his career. That’s not all too surprising for those who have followed Kimpembe since he started breaking through the ranks in Poissy as a 17-year-old. Born in Beaumont-sur-Oise in northern France, Kimpembe joined PSG aged eight in 2005. By 2013, Kimpembe was turning out for the senior side, however his minimal game time didn’t satisfy the centre-back and he openly criticised the club’s youth policy in 2016, telling French magazine Onze Mondial: “Those who work with the younger players could give them more of a push.”

He’d come through the ranks with Bayern Munich forward Kingsley Coman and he admits the winger’s departure two years earlier had affected him. Then-PSG coach Unai Emery must have heard those words as he gave Kimpembe 19 league starts in the following 2016/17 campaign. Since then, the 6ft defender has been ever-present, playing 220 times for Les Parisians already which puts him 27th on the list of all-time appearance makers at the club.

However, the defender’s composure on the ball helped him establish a permanent place in PSG’s team. Since the 2017/18 season, Kimpembe has been in the top two for pass accuracy in the PSG squad every single year, even leading Europe’s top five leagues for pass completion last season while no outfield player in the Paris squad was dispossessed less times per 90 minutes than he was, according to FBRef.

However, that hasn’t immortalised him in the eyes of all PSG fans due to some rash tackles and errors in judgement. In 2018/19 he received a three match ban following a reckless challenge on Tanguy Ndombele against Lyon, and arguably should have been sent off after fouling Marcus Rashford against Manchester United when he was already on a yellow card. In 2021, under Mauricio Pochettino, Kimpembe was called out by Arsene Wenger, a pundit French broadcaster beIN Sports, for quite literally jumping out of the way of a Riyad Mahrez free kick that sent Manchester City through to the Champions League final.

It’s not all been bad though, as most who’ve seen the clip of Kimpembe making a genuinely heroic tackle against eventual 2021 title-winners Lille would agree. With four Lille players breaking on the counter, Kimpembe, PSG’s sole defender, charged after Burak Yilmaz to throw himself in front of the ball and win it cleanly. The tackle is made all the more legendary by the fact Kimpembe pulls his hamstring moments before he chases down Yilmaz, showing heart as well as talent. The game finished 0-0.

Last year, Kimpembe enjoyed a less troubled season in Paris, and finally began to establish himself as a France starting centre-back after playing all available minutes at EURO 2020, becoming the first PSG graduate to captain the national side. Born to Congolese and Haitian parents, Kimpembe theoretically could have turned out in a different international shirt to Les Bleus’, especially since he made a single appearance aged 19 for DR Congo’s under 21 side back in 2014. He instead pledged allegiance to Didier Deschamps’ team and, while he failed to start two consecutive games in a calendar year until 2020, he’s played 90 minutes in seven of the last 11 games he’s been called up for.

Now, however, Kimpembe appears to be at a crossroads. While new coach Christophe Galtier laughed off links to Chelsea, the defender teaming up with Tuchel once more is still very possible this summer. Leaving Paris never appeared to be the plan, especially since he captained the side on nine occasions last season, but this is a footballer on the verge of his prime, and those years may yet be spent away from France. It would be a shame, considering Kimpembe is one of the few homegrown players to fully establish themselves in the Qatari era at PSG but, with Paris pursuing other defensive targets, a move may be needed if he’s to make good on the promise Tuchel spoke of.

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Brest interested in former Leicester, Monaco, and Lyon striker Islam Slimani

According to L’Équipe Brest are interested in the services of Sporting CP striker Islam Slimani (34), who left Lyon in January but could be set for another move after the forward’s relationship with Sporting boss Rubin Amorim has broken down. The 34-year old’s current contract runs until 30th June 2023. 

Whilst the player was performing well in the second half of last season for Sporting with 4 goals and one assists in 9 appearances – Portuguese coach Amorim accused Slimani of having a lack of commitment in training. This ultimately led to the Algerian’s playing time being slashed to 17 minutes against Paços de Ferreira, then another 32 minutes against Benfica. 

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During the first half of last season Slimani turned out for Lyon in Ligue 1, where he made 12 appearances but only scored one goal and provided one assist. He did feature in the Europa league where he was more prolific, scoring three goals in four appearances in European competition. 

The 88-capped Algerian international also played in Ligue 1 for Monaco, where he scored nine goals in 19 appearances on loan from Leicester City. 

Brest are interested in the idea of partnering Slimani up with his national teammate Youcef Belaïli – but are finding the financial feasibility for the 34-year old a difficult obstacle in the deal. Other Ligue 1 clubs are reportedly interested after Nottingham Forest were also informed of the forward’s situation.