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SERIE A

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS –

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'Heartbroken' Pogba To Appeal Four-year Doping Ban At CAS -

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba’s career hung in the balance on Thursday after he was handed a four-year doping ban but the France international said he would try to clear his name by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The France international was provisionally suspended by a tribunal of Italy’s national anti-doping organisation (NADO Italia) in September after testing positive for DHEA – a banned substance which naturally raises levels of testosterone.

Juventus did not comment on the ban but a source confirmed they had been notified about the decision and would assess the next steps.

The 30-year-old Pogba, who has a contract at Juve until June 2026, denied any wrongdoing.

“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said in a statement.

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“As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against.

“As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he added, referring to sport’s highest court.

NADO Italia declined to comment on Pogba’s case, citing privacy rules.

The doping test was performed after Juve’s 3-0 Serie A season-opening victory at Udinese on Aug. 20.

The tribunal had said it detected the prohibited substance “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites”, adding that the results were “consistent with the exogenous (external) origin of the target compounds”.

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Pogba was an unused substitute in that game but made two appearances off the bench against Bologna and Empoli before he was handed a provisional suspension.

Pogba’s positive doping test was also confirmed in a counter-analysis on a second sample in October.

The ban could effectively end Pogba’s career at the highest level.

The Frenchman was among the sport’s highest-earning players at his peak after he completed a then-world record transfer of over 100 million euros ($108.42 million) in 2016 to Premier League Manchester United.

MINIMUM WAGE

According to a source, Juve are paying Pogba a minimum wage of 2,000 euros ($2,200) per month.

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If the ban is upheld by CAS, Pogba’s contract could be terminated and he will not be able to return to action until September, 2027 – when he will be 34.

“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations,” Pogba added.

Pogba has had a disappointing second spell with Juve due to injuries since he returned to the Turin-based club following his departure from United on a free transfer in 2022.

The 2018 World Cup winner barely featured last season due to knee and hamstring injuries as well as knee surgery, which prevented him playing for France at the World Cup in Qatar.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes end with 0-0 draw against Lecce

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If Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen remains in Napoli in the next season, he will not have any action in UEFA competitions.

Napoli lost their slim chances to participate in European competitions next season when they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Lecce in their last Serie A game of the campaign on Sunday.

Last season’s champions Napoli finished 10th on 53 points, level with ninth-placed Torino who were beaten 3-0 at Atalanta in a simultaneous kick off on Sunday.

Despite their loss, Torino can now still earn a Europa Conference League playoffs spot if eighth-placed Fiorentina, who have a game in hand, win the Europa Conference League.

Fiorentina face Greece’s Olympiacos for the title on Wednesday.

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Napoli needed a win to maintain their European hopes but despite 24 shots, five of them on target, they ended their disappointing campaign winless in their last seven games.

Substitute Cyril Ngonge had a good chance to give Napoli the lead just after the break but his shot from the edge of the box was saved by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Jens Cajuste hit the far post with a low strike shortly before Ngonge hit the bar in the 64th minute.

Europa League winners Atalanta, meanwhile, secured at least fourth spot after Gianluca Scamacca, Ademola Lookman and Mario Pasalic were all on target in a 3-0 win against Torino.

They sit fourth on 69 points but can still leapfrog third-placed Juventus, on 71 points, if they beat Fiorentina in their last remaining game next Sunday.

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-Reuters

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes hanging by a thread

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Italian champions Napoli’s hopes of playing European football next season were hanging by a thread after they played out a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina in Serie A on Friday.

Napoli took the lead in the eighth minute through defender Amir Rrahmani, who nodded home a corner by Matteo Politano.

Cristiano Biraghi levelled for Fiorentina in the 40th minute from a free kick, before M’Bala Nzola put the hosts in front two minutes later when he fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia responded with another stunning free kick early in the second half to rescue a point for his team.

Eighth-placed Fiorentina, on 54 points and with a game in hand, are five points behind Lazio in seventh.

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They can still earn a Europa League spot either by leap-frogging the Rome side or by winning the Europa Conference League final in which they face Greece’s Olympiakos on May 29.

Ninth-placed Napoli, on 52 points, still have a slim chance of making the Europa Conference League playoffs.

-Reuters

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SERIE A

Last chance for Osimhen’s Napoli to clinch continental ticket

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Serie A - Napoli v AS Roma - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - April 28, 2024 Napoli's Victor Osimhen celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Napoli’s defence of the Serie A title has long since ended and they must beat Fiorentina on Friday to have any hope of playing European football next season.

Napoli strolled to the Scudetto last year, clinching the title with five games to spare and finishing 16 points ahead of runners-up Lazio.

This time around it was Inter Milan who wrapped up the league with five games remaining, and Napoli are ninth in the standings, 41 points adrift of the leaders with a Conference League spot their only chance of European competition.

Fiorentina, two points ahead of Napoli with a game in hand, won their previous meeting 3-1 which could prove vital should the sides end the season level on points and the head-to-head record comes into play.

Napoli are without a win in their last five games, while Fiorentina have won three of their last five league matches.

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Fiorentina have qualified for this season’s Conference League final, where they face Greek side Olympiakos in Athens, looking to go one better than last year when they lost to West Ham United in the final

The Viola, unbeaten in Europe this season, will look to end the league campaign on a high and take that momentum into the final.

Napoli will probably be without top scorer Victor Osimhen, a serious doubt for the trip to Florence with a muscular problem, while Fiorentina welcome back Andre Belotti who missed Monday’s win over Monza.

Atalanta will bid to overcome the disappointment of Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final loss to Juventus when they play Lecce away on Saturday. Atalanta are fifth, the last Champions League spot, with a three-point lead over AS Roma and a game in hand.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta side may well go into this game with one eye on next week’s Europa League final against Bayer Leverkusen, and victory in that would also guarantee them Champions League football.

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Roma can take advantage of an Atalanta slip-up when they host Genoa on Sunday. Lazio are one point behind Roma in seventh and travel to champions Inter.

Bologna moved into third place ahead of Juventus on goal difference last weekend, and the sides meet on Monday, where the hosts will hope Juve continue a poor league run of five successive draws. AC Milan, who have secured second place, are at Torino on Saturday.

There is still much to be decided at the bottom of the table.

Salernitana, the only club definitely relegated, on Monday they host Hellas Verona who are 14th in the standings, two points ahead of Empoli in 17th.

Empoli on Sunday visit Udinese, another side in danger who one point ahead in 15th. Sassuolo are 19th, three points from safety, and must beat 16th-placed Cagliari on Sunday to give themselves any hope of survival.

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-Reuters

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