As we approach the end of another week in European soccer which has included Manchester City and Real Madrid’s sensational seven-goal thriller in the UEFA Champions League semifinals and some wild Europa League and Europa Conference League action (all on Paramount+), we make sure that nothing escaped your notice. From Ronald Araujo’s new Barcelona contract to Kylian Mbappe receiving French presidential votes, we have your covered for those hard-to-reach stories.
Barça tie Araujo down
The Catalan giants have announced that the Uruguay international will stay with the club until at least 2026 with a massive minimum fee release clause more than $1 billion included in the deal. One of the outstanding performers at a testing time for Barça, the South American joins Ansu Fati and Pedri in effectively settling his long-term future.
Why it matters: Although they have hit another bumpy patch of the field, the Blaugrana have turned things around of late and in addition to their new financing deals, they are starting to tie down their best talents ahead of what could be a renaissance period under Xavi.
Mbappe receive French votes
Emmanuel Macron might have beaten off competition from Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election last weekend but there was also a surprise name on the ballot in the tiny eastern village of Tallenay — Paris Saint-Germain and France superstar Kylian Mbappe. According to L’Est Republicain, 10 of the 348 registered voters pre-printed ballot papers with the 23-year-old’s name on them before submitting them.
Why it matters: It means nothing in the grand scheme of things but is once again a reminder of Mbappe’s almost universal approval and a hint perhaps that he has a future in politics once he hangs up his cleats.
Milan sale progressing
AC Milan could be the next European giant to change ownership this summer with Chelsea’s sale dragging on and the Italian title contenders are the subject of interest from Bahrain-founded Investcorp with talks reportedly already well underway with current owners Elliot.
Why it matters: At an expected price of over $1.1 billion, this move could mark the return of Milan as a major player on the European scene. Although any deal is unlikely to be announced as the team battles for the title with bitter rivals Inter, the deal is close to being done.
Camp Nou renovations to begin
On top of tying down promising players such as Araujo, Barça are also pushing on with their plans to renovate Camp Nou: “We will start work this coming June to carry out the remodeling works of the stadium,” club president Joan Laporta said at Barcelona city hall. “It will be the largest and most innovative sports and entertainment space to be built in a city.”
Why it matters: Part of this renovation will “concentrate on the first and second stands, the technological area, the stadium’s surroundings, and the exterior urbanization” before requiring Barça to leave Camp Nou during the 2023-24 season when the team will play home games at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Montjuic.
French COVID scandal
The French Football Federation has hit Canet RFC with a 10-point penalty after the fourth-tier side were found guilty of falsifying COVID-19 cases within the squad to avoid playing Le Puy Foot this past February. Canet, who enjoyed a Coupe de France run in recent years, were short on players at the time and attempted to pass off four flu cases as COVID which would have been enough to postpone the game instead of forfeiting.
Why it matters: The penalties have been severe after the FFF medical team suspected the potential forgery and Le Puy have not only been awarded the three points, Canet have also been hit with a 10-point deduction, fined just over $1000 and had a co-president banned for the next three years. The club could have appealed the decision but chose not to and recognized their error.
Joaquin to play on!
Whether it was the post-Copa del Rey success champagne talking or something which has been in the works for a while, Real Betis captain and legend Joaquin says that he will play on beyond this season despite having initially planned to retire: “I do not know if I am going to spoil a plan I have, but I am very sorry,” said the popular 40-year-old. “I am going to carry on for another year.”
Why it matters: Joaquin is the undisputed face of modern Betis who are enjoying a resurgence under Manuel Pellegrini’s leadership and the player who is now in his second stint with the club became the only play in Betis history to win two titles with the club.
Rennes academy director attacked by parent
Stade Rennais announced earlier this week that their academy director was attacked by the father of a youth team player last weekend and that training sessions were canceled for an initial period of three days: “In support of Denis Arnaud, Director of the Academy, and victim of an attack by a parent of a young footballer on Saturday at the Henri Guerin training center, Rennes have decided to cancel all training sessions at the Red and Black Academy until Thursday. Given the seriousness of the facts, a complaint will be filed.” Noah Francoise has since confirmed and condemned via social media his father’s actions.
Why it matters: This is not the first time we have seen parents get menacing with club figures as about one year ago Gianluca Scamacca’s father went on a rampage at Roma’s Trigoria base with an iron bar. However, the actions of pushy parents also endanger their children and their promising careers which may well be the case here.
“Under no circumstances should educators, managers, players, referees and volunteers suffer from the irresponsible behavior of a minority,” added Rennes. “Soccer must remain a celebration and a source of togetherness. Such actions are not compatible with the values of sport, they jeopardize the proper functioning of clubs and the progress of young players.”