Leonardo weighed in with his thoughts on Zlatan's stamp
During Paris Saint-Germain’s crucial showdown match with Lyon at the Parc des Princes recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to stamp on a prone Dejan Lovren after the two tussled for the ball. Seemingly innocuous to some who claimed that it was the product of the two players being focused solely on winning the ball, Lovren and Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas took exception to it. The reaction has now stirred controversy with all sides weighing in with their thoughts in the press and Ibra now due to face a disciplinary committee early next year, which could result in a ban.
PSG Sporting Director Leonardo had this to say about his counterpart Aulas following the match: “Who is Aulas to judge? What does Aulas do? I don’t really understand anymore. Does he work for the league’s disciplinary committee?”
With many calling for a retrospective ban for the Swede, the moment marks a year of high controversy for French football. Here are some of the other moments…
John Utaka's goals encited a mini-riot in Auxerre
En route to claiming the Ligue 1 title in May, Montpellier were made to wait longer than expected to lift the trophy. Facing already relegated Auxerre at the Stade de l’Abbe Deschamps, the hosts’ fans took exception to their having been relegated from France’s top flight for the first time in over 20 years. A horrible show of vandalism and hooliganism, still a problem rife in French football, followed and threatened to see the game finished prematurely.
With PSG victorious over Lorient in Brittany, for a while it looked like the capital club were going to snatch the title at the last minute. However, the game resumed after lengthy stoppages and Rene Girard’s side eventually got the victory that secured them an historic title after a John Utaka double had cancelled out a Roy Contout opener.
Unfortunately the Auxerre incident was not in isolation. Just week’s prior to the debacle, Ajaccio hosted a similarly ugly incident. Hosting Lyon in Corsica, the Ajaccio fans, who are known for their high emotion and intimidating behaviour, disrupted the game with their bad behaviour.
The result was to play a match behind closed doors and a two-point penalty for the Corsican side, which they overturned at the first time of asking with away victory over Nice in this season’s opener. However, dangerously close to the bottom three and having just sacked coach Alex Dupont due to a lack of dressing room harmony, those two points could make all the difference come season end in a league where the bottom half of the table is notoriously tight.
PSG's Mamadou Sakho at the centre of controversy
2012 has been a particularly contentious year for refereeing decisions and a number of them have centred on Mamadou Sakho. Controversially, Sakho saw red in PSG’s crucial visit to Lille last season with four games to go in the title race. A win for the capital club would have seen them take the lead ahead of the final stretch of games and it was looking good until this point. Instead, 1-0 up and approaching the 70th minute, the 22-year-old was dismissed harshly by referee Pascal Vileo with a straight red card having been introduced as a first half substitute.
Similar happened against Montpellier earlier this year, with Sakho seeing straight red inside of 10 minutes for tugging on the shirt of the hosts’ Gaetan Charbonnier. A goalscoring chance perhaps but not a clear cut one, Clement Turpin’s decision almost cost PSG a game that they still managed to draw despite play for 60 minutes with 10 men. Younes Belhanda also saw red to even up the sides.
Ibrahimovic is no stranger to the spotlight since arriving in France.
Despite his exceptional goal-getting exploits, he has also hit the back pages for the wrong reasons in his first six months in the capital. A dangerous high-flying kick on Saint-Etienne’s French goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier saw the Swede dismissed with a straight red card, earning him a two-match ban. His teammates struggled in his absence, whilst the decision was highly debated.
Would Hollande be an interested spectator in a football league with no star names?
Controversially, following his election to power earlier in the year, President Francois Hollande quickly announced plans for a 75% tax on anybody in the country who earns more than €1million. Suffice to say that within the world of French football the news was met with consternation to say the least.
The reaction perhaps best summed up by League President Frederic Thiriez with his thoughts on the matter: “It would simply be the death of French football.”
Barton had to watch from the sidelines until November
Not a team to shy away from players who fiercely split media opinion, Marseille revere their bad boy signings.
However, none come more hated than England’s Joey Barton who arrived in Provence before the end of the summer transfer window despite the fact that he could not feature for OM until November. Heavily criticised, not least by Barton’s former French teammate at Manchester City Ousmane Dabo who had an altercation with the midfielder, the QPR man’s arrival generated huge interest good and bad.
Barton went out of his way to try to endear himself to the locals though, adopting a faux French accent when giving one of his first press conferences. Following OM’s clash with Lille in which the Englishman made his league debut, his comments became an immediate Youtube sensation.
“Yesterday, I make one tackle and all everybody speak about is this tackle,” he said. “Nobody speaks about the 50-yard pass that kills Balmont and causes a red card for ‘im.”
Nobody did because they were too dumbstruck by Barton’s attempt to speak “French” akin to Steve McClaren’s infamous Dutch accent.
Yann M'Vila's hangover had huge consequences
Following a well-publicised night out with his French under-21 teammates in Paris on the eve of France’s vital European Championship qualifier with Norway, Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila’s miserable 2012 was complete. Disciplined for poor behaviour during France’s ill-fated Euro 2012 campaign in Ukraine and Poland and unable to secure a move away from his employers, M’Vila’s actions earned him a whopping ban until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Jeunechamp may have to hang up his boots following his year-long ban
37-year-old Cyril Jeunechamp took exception to a journalist’s prying questions after their 1-1 draw with Valenciennes in November. The defender punched the hack in the face after alleging that Jeunechamp’s attempts to oust coach Rene Girard were having an adverse effect on the team’s performances. Jeunechamp received a one-year ban for his actions in December, effectively ending his career. He plans to appeal the decision.
Leonardo welcomes Ancelotti to PSG after harshly firing Kombouare
Coming right at the turn of the year, Paris Saint-Germain did the unthinkable. They sacked their manager who had led them to top spot, three points clear of rivals Montpellier going into the winter break. For long parts of the first half of the season, there had been speculation that sporting director Leonardo Araújo planned to replace former player Antoine Kombouare with former AC Milan and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. On the eve of 2012 those claims became reality with PSG demonstrating just how fickle football can be, releasing Kombouare in acrimonious circumstances.
The capital club went on to lose out on the title, which arguably the club would have won had Kombouare stayed. Scant consolation for the former PSG stalwart who saw his loyalty rewarded with a very public humiliation.