Who is Morgan Sanson? Things to know about Marseille’s star midfielder

Premier League teams are on the hunt for reinforcements, and it seems as though plenty of clubs have set their sights set on Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson.

The Frenchman has long attracted interest from English teams of various shapes and sizes, but as he approaches the final year of his contract, there are rumours that we could finally be about to see Sanson in England.

Here’s everything you need to know about him.

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A young Sanson in action for Le Mans | JEAN FRANCOIS MONIER/Getty Images

When Sanson broke through at Le Mans as an 18-year-old, it seemed as though he had the world at his feet. He seemed destined to become a superstar.

Links to the Premier League and some of Europe’s top clubs emerged between 2012 and 2014, when Sanson was billed as one of the game’s brightest youngsters, but things slowed down somewhat.

Four years at Montpellier didn’t bring the kind of progression most expected but, at 26, Sanson has got things back on track at Marseille.

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Injuries slowed Sanson down | PASCAL GUYOT/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that Sanson went a little quiet for a season or two during his time at Montpellier as he actually had to recover from a nasty cruciate ligament in 2015.

He went down in April and didn’t make it back until November, only to pick up a fresh knee injury in January 2016 which kept him sidelined for another two months.

He admits that beefing up and learning how to cope with the physicality of Ligue 1 was a real struggle for him, but it’s safe to say that he’s made it through to the other side now.

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Sanson is more comfortable in midfield | John Berry/Getty Images

Sanson’s recent resurgence can largely be attributed to the fact he’s actually figured out what kind of player he is.

During his time with Montpellier, Sanson was deployed all over the midfield, playing in deep, attacking and wide roles when needed. Thanks to his versatile skill set, he did everything pretty well, but he’s now getting the chance to play in his favoured position in central midfield.

“I would say I’m an 8, a player who likes to throw himself forward, but also recover the ball to raise cleanly, in the heart of the pitch,” he told Foot Mercato.

In his preferred position, Sanson gets to showcase all of his skills, but his bread-and-butter is starting counters.

With outstanding stamina, Sanson loves pressing opponents and is incredibly reliable in the tackle, but the fun really starts once he’s got the ball back.

You’ll regularly see Sanson pick himself up from a successful challenge and instantly look forward, and he’s never afraid to use his passing range to kick-start a counter. Defence to attack in a heartbeat.

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Sanson admits Villas-Boas helped him stay at Marseille | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Sanson openly admits that the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas at Marseille last summer is the reason he is still at the French club, and he’s in no urgent rush to leave now.

His agent told 20 Minutes: “For Morgan, his priority is Marseille. But he continues to be willing to listen to offers, so long as they are adequately in line with his sporting ambitions. Morgan has been approached a lot, but he will not leave if from a football perspective, what is being offered is not better than at Marseille. His aim is not to earn more money, but to improve in his football.”

He’s currently loving life at a side in the hunt for Champions League football, so it might take something special to lure him away.

Sanson might not be rushing towards the exit door at Marseille, but he’s admitted in the past that he would listen to any offers from the Premier League.

“What I like is the enthusiasm around this league,” he told So Foot. “The stadiums are full at all matches. They eat and sleep football.

“It’s not the only league that attracts me, but there is a big overall quality, so yes, it attracts me.”

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Sanson enjoyed watching Kaka & Ronaldinho | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

For someone with Sanson’s versatility, it should come as no surprise to hear that the midfielder modelled his game off a handful of different players.

“As a kid, I was a fan of Kaka and Ronaldinho,” he said. “I tried to be inspired by them, the same for [Andres] Iniesta afterwards.”

In other interviews, he’s also named Wayne Rooney and Luka Modric as another two of his inspirations, so it’s not hard to see where his do-it-all style of play has come from.

Earlier in his career, Sanson used to exclusively wear Nike boots, but the summer of 2018 saw him switch to Puma as he felt Nike’s footwear wasn’t protective enough for a player in his position.

“For a very long time, I had a heel problem that was triggered while I was playing in Nike Tiempo and that’s why comfort in the heel is so important to me,” he told Foot Pack. “I then switched to the Magista but the problem never really disappeared.

“Since the start of the season with Puma, I haven’t felt this pain anymore, which is a big positive for me. Beyond all the marketing aspects that I like about Puma, they mainly convinced me with the product which is essential to me as a professional player.”

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Sanson has been accused of being a closet PSG fan | Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Sanson’s move to Marseille wasn’t exactly met positively as a handful of tweets emerged suggesting that the midfielder was actually a fan of arch rivals PSG.

He was even spotted in a PSG shirt, but he has repeatedly insisted that he has never supported the French side.

Sanson told La Provence: “Marseille supporters can wonder. But I have never been a lover of Paris or a supporter of PSG. Many things that have been said are false.”

Sure.

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Rodrigo De Paul: The Jack Grealish clone who’d be perfect for Liverpool

Sampdoria versus Udinese might not normally be the most captivating prospect for your choice of Saturday night viewing, but the contest may well have enjoyed a strangely boosted number of onlookers in the area of Merseyside.

Particularly, among the households who support the red of Liverpool.

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Now, that spike in ratings probably had little to do with a sudden passion for Claudio Ranieri’s Blucerchiati, although witnessing that beautiful strip in full flight is a real joy to behold.

No, it more likely has something to do with the presence of a certain attacking playmaker donning the yellow of Udinese, who goes by the name of Rodrigo De Paul.

The Argentine has been linked with a potential move to Anfield this winter, and with the Reds taking to the field on Sunday afternoon, it gave supporters a chance to see their transfer target in action.

One question must have been on every Liverpool fan’s lips after seeing De Paul dismantle Samp on Saturday: What the hell is this guy doing at a team like Udinese? In fairness, it’s a very valid question.

The 26-year-old put in a simply breathtaking display of individual brilliance, teamwork and maverick genius at the Marassi, but even his talents could not compensate for the shoddy companions which surrounded him.

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After another brilliant performance which yielded zero points, De Paul himself is probably pondering exactly what he’s doing in Udine, too.

Speaking after his teammates allowed all his majestic work to go to waste once again in the 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria, the Argentine admitted to Sky Sport that he ‘sets no limits’ for himself, fluttering those eyelashes at Europe’s heavyweights.

“I set no limits for myself.

“Once you join a National team like Argentina, you feel you are ready to play with anyone. I hope I am going to have a great career and I am working to achieve it.”

Let’s hope Jurgen Klopp tuned in to Serie A’s Saturday night showdown, too.

The German coach clearly demonstrated that he is searching for players to make this Liverpool side more unpredictable in the summer transfer window, starting with the signings of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota.

Thiago offers a creative outlet in the centre of the park which is lacking among his teammates, and the speed at which he moves the ball can help the Reds to unlock the deepest and most stubborn of backlines.

The Spaniard’s injuries – along with Jota’s long-term absence – have left Liverpool far more entrenched in a title race than Klopp would have hoped, and he must be wondering if a January addition will prove the difference between a title defence or an unexpected collapse.

If the answer is spend spend spend, then De Paul is your man.

The attacking midfielder is the closest clone to Jack Grealish that money can buy. The number 10 jersey, the captain’s armband, the weight and expectations of an entire city on his shoulders, the undeniable heart-throb good looks.

They’re extremely similar on the pitch, too. De Paul can play out on the left, centrally, or literally do the work of 10 other players while covering every blade of grass. Think back to when you played ‘Be a Pro’ mode on FIFA, and forced the computer to pass to your one player every second, purely because they couldn’t process thoughts on your level. That’s De Paul.

His ability to carry the ball, shoot from distance, use either foot effectively and produce sublime passes to pick out teammates makes him impossible to read as a defender, and equally as problematic to stop. Goals, assists and an incomparable work rate. He’s got the lot.

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His almost perfect display against Samp typifies everything he can offer over the course of 90 minutes.

The midfielder provided his first major contribution by collecting the ball in his own half, rolling his marker and then speeding towards the penalty area. Despite being chased by two and surrounded by three, he still had the composure to roll a perfect cross into the six-yard box, only for his striker to frustratingly miscue.

De Paul’s next big play was prime Grealish. He received the ball in a congested midfield area, used some neat footwork to shift left and roll a pass out wide. Instead of darting into the box, he lingered in that left channel, and possession was handed back to him.

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A similar baller | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Dropping his shoulder and taking two touches to get the ball out of his feet, he curled a missile towards the far corner, and was desperately unlucky to see his shot rattle the crossbar. He was getting closer, though.

The talisman’s big moment finally arrived in the second half. Loitering between the Samp midfield and defence, he picked up possession, and was awarded three cracks at goal. The first was blocked, the second saved, and the third – bingo.

We can add persistence to his list of skills, then.

Ultimately, his goal wasn’t enough to save Udinese from their below-average-selves, and a final 25 minute collapse left De Paul crestfallen and downbeat yet again. It must be difficult being such an incredibly gifted player in such a disappointingly drab side, all the while knowing that your departure could signal the downfall of an entire club.

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He’s ready for his move | Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

But the Argentine has carried the pressure of Udine for too long, and he deserves to be surrounded by players who can think on a similar wavelength and allow him to enjoy his football in the upper echelons of the game. Men of his ability should not be fighting relegation or settling for mid-table obscurity.

Liverpool would be the perfect home for De Paul, where his flashes of brilliance and tendency to create chances from any area of the pitch would pull the Reds over the line in the tightest of affairs.

All Klopp needs to do is say the word, and the title race will swing back in their favour.

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Virgil van DIjk kicks a football again as Liverpool defender steps up recovery

OK, everybody calm down.

Virgil van Dijk is back on the training pitch… with A FOOTBALL.

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The big defender hasn’t been seen since he took a few Jordan Pickford studs to the knee, and a ruptured cruciate means he isn’t expected to return to action until late spring at the earliest.

The official line from Liverpool has been one of caution, and it is understood they are putting no pressure on him to return this season. Behind the scenes, though, the club are doing everything they can to nurse him back to fitness, and he has spent the early part of the new year doing physio work at the Nad Al Sheba sports complex in Dubai.

That explains the splitting sunshine in the background of a video he posted on his Instagram story that has fans all hot under the collar.

As shared on the player’s own Instagram stories, Van Dijk posted a short clip of himself back out on the pitch with the ball at his feet. And while we can’t read much into his recovery from nine seconds of tentative keepy-uppies, the fact that he is actually playing football again, so soon after a terrible injury, can only be a positive sign.

If you’re worried about Virg being out in Dubai on his lonesome, then don’t. As he continues his recovery, he has been joined by a member of the Liverpool physio team, while another familiar face swung by to pay a visit.

Former team-mate Dejan Lovren, currently on a mid-season break at Zenit, made sure to check in. The cheesing grins say it all.

On a more serious note, while the early prognosis on Van Dijk’s recovery is promising, we shouldn’t expect him back any time soon. The player is believed to be targeting the Euros in the summer for a full return to action, but Jurgen Klopp – speaking earlier in January – wouldn’t even give that as a target.

When asked by Sky Sports how he is faring, Klopp said: “Good, very good. I have no problem with talking about Virgil van Dijk. It’s very good but still a long way to go, that’s this kind of injury.

“I’m happy when I see these videos, to be honest, because it just shows that he makes good progress. But it will still take a lot of time, that’s how it is. I would like to say something else but these are the facts, unfortunately.”

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Man City prepare £200m summer spree with Erling Haaland & Romelu Lukaku on the list

Pep Guardiola is set to oversee a mammoth £200m transfer spending spree next summer, with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Inter’s Romelu Lukaku among the names supposedly on Manchester City’s shopping list.

The Citizens are in need of an attacking rebuild, and with Sergio Aguero’s future at the club hanging in the balance, they could be left with Gabriel Jesus as their only senior striker for next year.

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Haaland has been a smash hit at Dortmund | LEON KUEGELER/Getty Images

However, the Man City hierarchy are willing to put their hands deep into their pockets, and are preparing themselves for a massive summer spending spree.

According to The Telegraph, the Premier League giants could splash around £200m on new faces, with superstar strikers Haaland and Lukaku both linked with a switch to the Etihad stadium.

Haaland has not stopped scoring since joining Dortmund 12 months ago, hitting 35 goals in as many appearances for the German giants. At 20 years of age, he is already being tipped to become a fully-fledged global icon of the game, and his price tag will only rise with each passing year.

That may encourage Guardiola to force his employer’s hand, as he looks to find the missing piece to his puzzle. That missing piece could also be Inter star Lukaku, who has recaptured the form he showed at Everton, prior to a mixed couple of years at Manchester United.

The Belgian star equalled a Nerazzurri club record set by Ronaldo in 1998, scoring 34 goals in all competitions – the joint-highest for any player in his debut season at San Siro. Lukaku has continued that rich vein of form this campaign, and has silenced his critics time and time again.

Then again, their leading striker may still be right under their nose. Man City have not given up hope on convincing Aguero to extend his contract with the Sky Blues, and they believe he has the ability and fitness to regularly compete at this level.

However, should the Argentine decide to stay at the Etihad stadium beyond next summer, that won’t stop them from pulling the trigger on recruiting their all-time leading scorer’s successor.

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Aguero has finally regained fitness for Man City | James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

Man City began their rebuild in the summer, splashing over £100m on defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake, along with Valencia winger Ferran Torres.

As well as a new superstar striker, City are also in the market for a defensive midfielder and left back.

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Didier Deschamps admits he will ‘never forget’ Karim Benzema’s racism accusations

France manager Didier Deschamps has admitted he will never be able to get over comments from exiled striker Karim Benzema, who accused the boss of racism over his decision to freeze him out.

Despite being one of France’s best strikers, Benzema hasn’t represented his country since 2015, when reports emerged suggesting Benzema had been involved in a ploy to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena – something he is soon set to face trial over.

While the official line from France has always been that Benzema’s exile is because of that incident, the Real Madrid man told Marca in 2016 that he believed Deschamps had ‘bowed to pressure from a racist part of France’, suggesting that his Algerian origins were the actual reason for the decision.

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Benzema has been accused of blackmail | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

“The comments left a stain,” Deschamps told RTL. “Even if over time it calms down a bit, I cannot forget what was said.

“It is not related only to Karim Benzema. There are statements from other people who turned to violence, which also affects my family.”

Deschamps’ family home was vandalised in the summer of 2016, with those responsible writing the word ‘racist’ on a wall, and the France boss believes it stemmed from Benzema’s unfounded accusations.

“When it concerns me, my choices as a coach, the tactics, the technical aspect, that’s fine. It does not matter,” he continued. “This crossed a line.

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Deschamps believes Benzema crossed a line | Xavier Laine/Getty Images

“It affects my name, my family. For me, this is unacceptable. Saying certain things will always lead to verbal or physical aggression. I suffer the consequences. We cannot forget. I cannot forget. I will never forget.”

The Versailles prosecutor’s office confirmed that Benzema and four other people will soon stand trial on the charge of conspiracy to attempt blackmail, but a date for the proceedings has not yet been set.

The Real Madrid striker is said to have been approached by a childhood friend to encourage Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers, although he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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