Rumour mill in a spin over Monaco star Falcao

The build-up to the action in Ligue 1 this weekend has been dominated by speculation over the well-being of Monaco's star striker Radamel Falcao, who continues to be absent because of a "mystery" injury. The rumour mill in France has spun into overdrive.

Rumour mill in a spin over Monaco star Falcao
Monaco's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, seen here sucking his thumb, has been the subject of speculation over a "mystery injury" that has kept him sidelined. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

Radamel Falcao has insisted he is happy at Monaco ahead of Saturday's trip to Guingamp, despite continued speculation over his "mystery" injury.

The Principality club have been in fine form recently and trail leaders Paris Saint-Germain by just two points following four successive wins.

But the continuing absence of record-signing Falcao, who will sit out his fourth match in a row with a hamstring problem, has seen the rumour-mill spin into overdrive.

On Thursday, leading sports daily L'Equipe said the Colombian's continuing absence was a "mystery" and that all the elements needed to create a "problem" existed.

But the player himself swatted away any such suggestions.

"I'm happy at Monaco," he said. "I feel bad due to all the speculation.

"First of all, I want to thank (coach) Claudio Ranieri who has kept his patience at this time, who is waiting for me to be better without putting pressure on me.

"The people close to me know full well that I feel very good at Monaco and everything is going well with the club."

Midfielder Jeremy Toulalan had said it was simply a case of mischievous press speculation.

"As soon as there's a little thing you (the media) plunge into it," he said.

"I don't have the impression that there's a problem. But even if I say that, you'll keep going. That's the game. For us, there's no problem."

The issue had threatened to detract from Monaco's recent upturn in fortunes.

Earlier this month, they travelled to fellow Ligue 1 new-boys Nantes on the back of one win and just five points in their previous four games.

Nantes were on a good run and had they beaten Monaco, would have leapfrogged the Principality club into third place and the final Champions League qualification berth.

But in a tight game, Mounir Obaddi scored the only goal 20 minutes from time to spark a Monaco revival.

Having faced the prospect of dropping to eight points off PSG had they lost, four wins later and they are the champions' closest challengers once again.

Monaco have been flying without Falcao, although he was instrumental to their fine early season form when he shot to the top of the scoring charts.

Even without having found the net since scoring in the 1-1 draw at home to Evian more than a month ago, he is still third in the charts, behind only star PSG pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.

The champions travel to Rennes on Saturday ahead of which a curious dispute has sprung up after the local police chief banned all PSG fans from entering the Ille-et-Vilaine department where Rennes is located unless they have tickets for the game.

A lawyer representing PSG fans has challenged the ruling in court describing it as "illegal" and "a serious attack on the fundamental liberty of coming and going".

Rennes are struggling this season down in 13th place and have lost their last three away games. But they have not been beaten at home since Nantes emerged with a 3-1 success at the end of September.

PSG have demonstrated a touch of fragility recently, losing 2-0 at Evian two weeks ago before being beaten 2-1 at Benfica in midweek.

However, coach Laurent Blanc had rested star performers Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Alex for that match, despite Marco Verratti and Gregory van der Wiel being suspended.

PSG had already secured top spot in their Champions League group and so this recent blip can hardly be seen as a crisis, not least because between those two defeats they crushed Sochaux 5-0 and before losing at Evian were on a 36-match unbeaten run.

In other games, Lyon, down in 10th, and Marseille, fifth but with 10 defeats in their last 14 matches in all competitions, meet at the Stade Gerland on Sunday.



Montpellier v Saint-Etienne (1930 GMT)

Saturday (1900 GMT unless stated):

Rennes v Paris SG (1600GMT), Ajaccio v Lorient, Evian v Reims, Guingamp v Monaco, Nantes v Toulouse, Nice v Sochaux


Bordeaux v Valenciennes (1300 GMT), Lille v Bastia (1600GMT), Lyon v Marseille (2000)

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Billionaire owner of Monaco football club taken into custody

The Russian billionaire owner of Monaco football club was in custody Tuesday, his lawyer confirmed, the latest twist in his legal battle with a Swiss art dealer who he claims cheated him of up to one billion dollars and Sotheby's auctioneers.

Billionaire owner of Monaco football club taken into custody
Dmitry Rybolovlev. Photo: AFP

The Russian billionaire owner of Monaco football club was in custody Tuesday, his lawyer confirmed, the latest twist in his legal battle with a Swiss art dealer who he claims cheated him of up to one billion dollars and Sotheby's auctioneers.

Police officers also carried out a search Tuesday morning of Dmitry Rybolovlev's luxury penthouse apartment in the principality, said a source close to the case.

Rybolovlev's lawyer Herve Temine confirmed the latest developments, while stressing the principle of the presumption of innocence.

Temine's colleague Thomas Giaccardi said the latest move came after the seizure and analysis of a mobile phone belonging to one of Rybolovlev's lawyers, Tetiana Bersheda.

Since 2015, Rybolovlev has been locked in a legal battle with Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, who he accuses of having swindled him out of up to a billion dollars, by charging inflated fees.

When Rybolovlev's lawyer Bersheda produced an audio recording from her mobile phone that she said supported his case, the investigating magistrate in the case ordered text messages from the same phone to be extracted.

That led to Monaco prosecutors opening a corruption investigation against Rybolovlev in 2017.

His legal team has repeatedly argued that this analysis of the phone was a violation of the lawyer-client confidentiality. That issue is still being fought out in court, but some of the compromising text messages have already been leaked to the French press.

On October 2 this year, Rybolovlev opened a new front in his legal battle, launching a $380-million (333-million-euros) lawsuit against Sotheby's auction house through the New York courts.

In it, he accused the auction house of having helped Bouvier, their art advisor, carry out “the largest art fraud in history” — at his expense.

Rybolovlev says Bouvier tricked him over the acquisition of 38 works of art he bought from him over a decade for more than $2.1 billion.

“He repeatedly and blatantly misrepresented the acquisition prices for the paintings,” pocketing the difference himself, says the lawsuit.

Sotheby's has dismissed the lawsuit as “entirely without merit”.

In November 2017, it filed its own lawsuit against Rybolovlev in Switzerland and is seeking to have the action in New York dismissed.