Nothing Toulouse

Newcastle United target Moussa Sissoko has been suspended by Toulouse due to the ongoing row over the player’s long-term future.

The midfielder will miss the club’s French Cup tie against PSG after club chairman Olivier Sadran punished the 22-year-old, whose contract is set to expire in the summer.

While Sissoko will be entitled to leave for nothing in the summer, Toulouse are holding out for a fee of £2.5m should he leave now, which has angered the player and led to a souring of his relationship with his current club.

“The whole club shows full solidarity to that chairman’s decision,” Toulouse coach Alain Casanova told L’Equipe.

“It is really a shame a player educated at the club could leave as free agent. His absence is big loss for the team, but that decision is logical.”

Newcastle have already tied up deals for Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in recent days, and are set to seal a move for Yoann Gouffran soon after the player revealed on Twitter that he would be joining the Premier League side. That would make a quartet of French signings during the course of the January transfer window.

French farce

The influx of French players to St James Park has not gone unnoticed by former Gerard Houllier, who has warned of the problems Newcastle boss Alan Pardew now faces.

That aforementioned quartet would bring the total of French players at the club to 11 with Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Romain Amalfitano, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Mathieu Debuchy and Mehdi Abeid already there.

With French footballers having officially supplanted the Dutch as Europe’s most difficult to handle, Houllier believes the Francophile feel will unsettle the dressing room.

The former France national coach said: “The Newcastle dressing room will be totally unbalanced.

“You can’t stop French speaking French together. There’ll be problems.”

Relax Gerard, they can communicate in the universal language of football and besides, the word for relegation in French is relégation.

No French fancy

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has conceded defeat in the race for the Primera Division title while distancing himself from the manager’s role at Paris St Germain.

The Portuguese has been linked with a move away from Madrid amid speculation that he is at odds with several club directors and members of his playing staff.

A number of clubs in England are reported to be monitoring developments, and have-money, must-spend-it PSG are also thought to be a possible destination for Mourinho.

Mourinho told RMC Sport: “The La Liga title is impossible now, there is too big a gap. We have to focus on other goals like the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

“It does no good to obsess over these things, obsession only makes things more complicated. Nothing will be easy.

“We need to stay calm and make the most of every opportunity.”

Despite a huge outlay on players this season, PSG have struggled to dominate Ligue 1, prompting speculation about the long term future of coach Carlo Ancelotti, a man who

Mourinho believes the club will eventually prove to be a force to be reckoned with, but rejected suggestions he could replace Ancelotti in the summer.

“No, I don’t think I will coach PSG,” he added. “The success of PSG with Ancelotti and Leonardo means they have no need for another coach.

“I hope everything goes well for Carlo and PSG.

“Europe needs to have a city like Paris competing at the top level of football, and I think this project is going to work.”

Bad smell

The French Cup match between Rouen and Marseille was cancelled after a gas leak caused a strong odour in the French northwestern region, the French Football Federation (FFF) has announced.

“It is an indirect consequence of the incident that occurred Tuesday night at Lubrizol chemical plant located in Rouen,” the federation said.

A gas leak was reported at Lubrizol plant which makes industrial lubricants and paint, which officials said did not cause any danger to the public.

Relief all round, not least for Joey Barton, who now knows that he’s not the only thing that hangs around Marseille like a bad smell.

Thanks but no thanks

Liverpool are still hopeful of signing Inter midfielder Philippe Coutinho, even though the Brazilian youngster has told them he doesn’t want to move.

The Anfield club had a bid of around £8m rejected for the 20-year-old Brazilian last week but negotiations have continued and Liverpool believe an improved offer will be acceptable.

Coutinho signed for Inter from Vasco da Gama as a 16-year-old, though he remained with the Brazilian club until he was 18, and is regarded as one of the most promising young players in Serie A.

The player has placed responsibility for any transfer firmly on the Italian club by stating that he wishes to impress the coach, Andrea Stramaccioni.

Coutinho told Sky Italia: “The Liverpool offer? I’m happy with these offers, because it means I am doing my job well. But I think Inter have faith in me and I want to show my value here. I don’t feel that I’m on my way out. I hope to stay at Inter. The young players feel the faith of the coach and of the club.”

Goal of the day

Tunisia’s Youssef Msakni unleashes a stunning strike in stoppage time to secure a 1-0 victory over Algeria.

Quote of the day

“Champions of his (Drogba) calibre are very welcome. (Vice-president Adriano) Galliani will know if the deal is feasible. A player like Drogba would certainly improve both the technical level and self-esteem of the team. We’ll see what the club are able to do, otherwise we’ll carry on as we are, looking to have a good second half of the season because that is our objective.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri would welcome the arrival of Didier Drogba.

Like old times

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has recalled Ronaldinho to the national team, claiming he still ranks among the world’s best.

The 64-year-old has named the 2002 World Cup winner in his first squad to face England in a friendly at Wembley next month.

Asked to discuss the competing claims of the 32-year-old Ronaldinho and rising star of Brazilian football, Neymar, Scolari said: “I want what everyone else wants, which is that they play the football they are capable of playing.

“Few can play the game better than them. I also want good behavior. I want them to be responsible, regardless of their age.”

The former Chelsea boss also revealed he is confident Brazil can claim its sixth World Cup on home soil in 2014, amid high expectations of his side from the public.

“We have placed our bets on a World Cup win and that is what we are working towards,” he said.

“The supporters are right to demand it.”

Finally, Scolari refused to rule out a switch to a different system which would see them play without a proper striker, in the manner of Spain at Euro 2012.

“I always like to have a stronger type of player in the penalty area,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean to say we can’t change in the future and not have a fixed striker.”

Sure that will go down well with the Brazilian public.

Read the thoughts of World Soccer blogger James Young on Scolari’s selection.

The imposter

A player on Peru’s team at the South American under-20 championship has been accused of playing under a false identity.

The Ecuadorean Football Association told The Associated Press that the Peru player identified as Max Barrios is actually an Ecuadorean national named Juan Espinosa.

Ecuador association spokesman Victor Mestanza says CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American football, had been asked to investigate the case.

The tournament in Argentina ends February3 with four teams advancing to the Under-20 World Cup this year in Turkey.


Spare a thought for Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, who has been admitted to hospital to undergo medical examinations following his liver transplant.

The 33-year-old received a transplant in April, with his cousin Gerard providing the donation.

A statement on Barca’s official website read: ‘Eric Abidal will spend between three to four days at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic for examinations of the development of the transplant that he underwent last April.

“By express wish of the player, the club is asking for the utmost respect for his privacy and confidentiality.”

Abidal returned to full training in October but is yet to make his return to the Barcelona first team, despite being given the all-clear to resume playing in December.