Islam Slimani brings Monaco back in the game

Monaco’s Algerian forward Islam Slimani reacts after scoring a goal in this file photo, taken on Sept. 24, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Islam Slimani brings Monaco back in the game

  • The Algerian star’s return from wilderness is aiding the troubled club’s Euro charge

PARIS: Monaco are gunning for a return to European football ahead of the visit of high-flying Montpellier, powered in part by wantaway attacker Islam Slimani’s return to the fold.

A troubled club over the past few seasons, Monaco are suddenly looking like genuine contenders for European football next season after two straight wins that have highlighted a new level of togetherness, and Slimani’s comeback has embodied that.

Last week, the Algerian international ended his period on the sidelines following his push for a move away in January and bagged the stoppage time winner at Amiens that shot them up to seventh in Ligue 1, five points away from the European places.

“I’m happy to be back playing. It’s important for the team and important for me to come back,” Slimani said after the dramatic win.

Monaco host Montpellier on Friday buoyed by the return of the 32-year-old, who has scored eight times and provided eight assists this season, helping the Principality club become the second-highest scorers in France behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

Slimani is favorite ahead of Stevan Jovetic to be rewarded with a starting place against Montpellier, who sit in fifth and are making their own bid for Champions League football despite a relatively paltry budget of 40 million euros ($43.4 million) a season.

He and Ligue 1 top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder have between them scored 24 of Monaco’s 40 league goals, and their partnership has been a high point in a topsy-turvy season that saw them languish in the bottom three before their surge up the table.

Also battling for a place at Europe’s top table are Marseille, who face off with fellow Champions League chasers Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Sunday looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s French Cup exit at the hands of Lyon.

Marseille should be able to count on star man Dimitri Payet, who has scored six in his last nine matches but was substituted as a precautionary measure during Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat after feeling a pain in his hamstrings.

His form has been crucial to Andre Villas-Boas’ side taking a firm grip on second place, eight points ahead of Rennes in third.

However, they face an almost impossible task to catch PSG, who are 12 points clear and have the relatively simple task of a trip to relegation-threatened Amiens on Saturday.

Lille, meanwhile, are a further point back and will be hoping Nigeria international Victor Osimhen, scorer of 12 Ligue 1 goals, will recover in time from a thigh injury that led to him being stretchered off during his team’s 2-0 win at Angers last week.

With 16 goals in 22 appearances and top spot in the Ligue 1 scorer’s chart, this season has seen Ben Yedder hit the form of a lifetime in his debut season on the south coast.

The 29-year-old is on track for his best-ever league tally, already just two goals behind the 18 he struck in La Liga for Sevilla last season, and is one of France’s form forward as Euro 2020 hones into view.

Monaco’s fate this season will largely rest in his hands thanks to a leaky defense which has conceded more goals than any team outside the relegation zone.


Neymar donates $1m to fight coronavirus

Updated 03 April 2020

Neymar donates $1m to fight coronavirus

  • Neymar donated part of the money to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • The rest of the donation went to a charitable fund launched by his friend Luciano Huck, a Brazilian TV presenter

RIO DE JANEIRO: Neymar has donated $1 million to fight the impact of the new coronavirus in his native Brazil, according to TV network SBT.
The Paris Saint-Germain star, the world’s third-highest-paid footballer, donated part of the money to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the rest to a charitable fund launched by his friend Luciano Huck, a Brazilian TV presenter, the report said.
The striker’s press office declined to comment, saying: “We never talk about donations or amounts.”
Neymar, 28, followed the example of PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe, who last month made what was described as a major donation — amount undisclosed — to a French charity helping fight the impact of COVID-19.
Huck, who has been touted as a possible candidate in Brazil’s 2022 presidential election, launched his fund to help poor Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.
The donations come as high-paid footballers face pressure to forego some of their salaries amid the crisis, which has ground the sporting world to a halt and left some clubs struggling to pay their staff.
Neymar is riding out the pandemic at his luxury villa in Mangaratiba, a resort town outside Rio.
He faced criticism last week after he was photographed relaxing with a group of friends on a beach volleyball court, even as half the world’s population — including most of Brazil — is in confinement to slow the virus’ spread.
His press team said he was receiving no visitors and was in quarantine at a “completely isolated” residence with people who made the trip from France with him.