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Neymar left out of PSG opener, exit talks ‘more advanced’

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Paris Saint-Germain revealed on Saturday that Neymar transfer talks are “more advanced than before” after the Brazilian was dropped for the French champions’ opening Ligue 1 match.

Sporting director Leonardo confirmed to reporters that the Brazilian was near the exit door but that PSG were “not yet ready to give their approval (to the transfer)” ahead of Sunday’s game against Nimes at the Parc des Princes.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said: “Neymar did not complete training and it’s not possible that he plays tomorrow.”

The club are impatient for the transfer saga to reach a conclusion, one way or another.

“It’s important to shape our future for everyone,” Neymar’s fellow Brazilian Leonardo told a press conference.

“If he stays, he plays. If he leaves, he leaves. The quicker (we know) the better.”

Real Madrid or a return to Barcelona are the most likely destinations for the world’s most expensive footballer, with Spanish media on Friday saying that Zinedine Zidane’s side will battle Barca for the 27-year-old’s signature.

Sports newspaper AS claimed Neymar has been offered to Madrid by PSG, who are open to selling if they can either recoup the 222 million euros ($249 million) they spent on him in 2017 or receive half that amount with players included in the deal.

Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo says that he would prefer a move back to Catalonia to play alongside former teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar started the new season by angering the Qatari-backed club when he turned up one week late for training.

The player’s camp maintained he had a prior agreement to stay away but that didn’t wash with his employers who threatened to take “appropriate action”.

Off the pitch, Neymar was informed by a Brazilian judge on Friday that the rape case which has been hanging over the footballer for months had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Neymar had vehemently denied allegations he raped a Brazilian woman in a Paris hotel in May.

– Courting controversy –

The forward, whose time in France has been marked by injuries and controversies, has made a series of remarks that strained his relationship further with the club and sparked outrage on social media.

Asked by an online sports channel about his best memory in football, he cited Barcelona’s incredible 2017 Champions League last-16 comeback against PSG when he inspired the Catalans to a 6-1 second-leg victory after a 4-0 first-leg defeat.

Neymar was signed by PSG to bolster their hopes of a maiden Champions League title, but they have instead since lost twice in the last-16 phase — to Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Neymar hobbling off the pitch in January with the injury that was to rule him out of the rest of PSG’s ill-fated Champions League campaign 

He missed PSG’s last games in both Champions League campaigns through injury and twice courted controversy last season.

Neymar insulted VAR officials on Instagram after the team’s humbling by United and received a three-match ban from UEFA, and then appeared to punch a Rennes fan after PSG’s shock French Cup final defeat.

In total, he has scored 51 goals in 58 games for the capital side, winning two Ligue 1 titles and the 2018 French Cup and French League Cup.

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Spain: Thousands march against spain’s ruling on separatist leaders

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Three other defendants, who were also on trial for their involvement in the October 2017 referendum held in spite of a ban and a short-lived independence declaration, were found guilty only of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

All defendants were acquitted of the gravest charge, rebellion, but leading separatists were quick to condemn the court’s decision and the jailed men sent out messages of defiance, urging people to take to the streets.

“This sentence is an attack on democracy and the rights of all citizens,” the head of the regional parliament Roger Torrent said. “Today we are all convicted, not just 12 people.”

Former head of Catalonia’s regional government, Carles Puigdemont, said the prison sentences were an “atrocity.”

In Barcelona, three main streets were blocked by protesters holding signs calling for “Freedom for political prisoners” and a crowd chanted “We’ll do it again” – a slogan used by separatist supporters who want to hold another referendum.

Protesters blocked train and metro access to the Barcelona airport and others temporarily halted traffic on the A2 highway, as well as on several regional roads across Catalonia, officials at the road traffic agency said.

The regional train network was interrupted in the separatist stronghold of Girona by people standing on the tracks, wrapped in pro-independence flags.

The Catalan independence drive attracted worldwide attention and triggered Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades and unnerved financial markets.

The ruling and its fallout is likely to color a national election on Nov. 10, Spain’s fourth in four years, and influence the direction taken by the separatist movement..

The jailed separatists said via social media that they would carry on their fight.

“Nine years in prison won’t end my optimism. Catalonia will be independent if we persist. Let us demonstrate without fear, let us move forward determinedly from non-violence to freedom,” said Jordi Sanchez, who was sentenced to nine years in jail. Sanchez was the leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) grassroots movement.

Protests for Catalonia’s independence have been largely peaceful over the past years but police sources have said authorities are prepared for any violence.

The regional head of Catalonia, separatist Quim Torra, called for an amnesty for all 12 leaders and said he would seek an urgent meeting with Spain’s King Felipe VI and acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. However, Torra stopped short of repeating past weeks’ calls for civil disobedience.

Sanchez was quick to rebuff the demand for an amnesty, saying the sentences must be carried out.

“Today’s decision confirms the defeat of a movement that failed to gain internal support and international recognition,” he said in a televised address to the nation. He also called for dialogue, saying now was time for a new chapter over the Catalan issue.

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Trump prepares to drop sanctions hammer on Turkey

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President Donald Trump’s administration is set to impose economic sanctions on Ankara, potentially as early as this week, for its incursion into northern Syria, one of the few levers the United States still has over NATO-ally Turkey.

Using the U.S. military to stop the Turkish offensive on U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters was never an option, defense officials have said, and Trump asked the Pentagon on Sunday to begin a “deliberate” withdrawal of all U.S. troops from northern Syria.

After Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that Trump had authorized “very powerful” new sanctions targeting Turkey, the administration appeared ready to start making good on Trump’s threat to obliterate Turkey’s economy.

On Sunday, Trump said he was listening to Congress, where Republicans and Democrats are pushing aggressively for sanctions action.

“Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the loyal Trump ally and U.S. senator who lambasted the president last week.

“Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!” he added.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that sanctions were “being worked out at all levels of the government for rollout.”

Trump is struggling to quell harsh criticism, including from some of his staunchest Republican backers, that he gave Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a green light to attack the Kurds last Sunday when he decided to pull a small number of U.S. troops out of the border area.

Turkey’s offensive aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and seen by Ankara as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. But the SDF has also been Washington’s key ally in fighting that has dismantled Islamic State’s jihadist “caliphate” in Syria.

Trump’s decision, rooted in his long-stated aim to get the United States out of “endless wars,” has prompted bipartisan concerns that it opens the door to the revival of Islamic State.

While sanctions appear to be the strongest tool of deterrence, the United States and its European allies could also ponder arms sales bans and the threat of war crimes prosecutions.

“Good decision by President @realDonaldTrump to work with Congress to impose crippling sanctions against Turkeys outrageous aggression/war crimes in Syria,” Graham tweeted.

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