Ligue 1 news

Verratti agent calls for leniency

April 30, 2013
By Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Marco Verratti's agent has pleaded with the French football world not to "criminalise" his impetuous young client while his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Salvatore Sirigu faces a lengthy ban in the wake of Sunday's mass brawl at Evian.

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Verratti, 20, picked up the first red card of his PSG career after being shown a second yellow card for dissent by referee Olivier Thual during his club's 1-0 win last weekend.

The Italy international trudged off the Parc des Sports pitch in Annecy only to be berated by a finger-wagging Carlo Ancelotti who told his compatriot: "It's not the first time. I've already told you. It's always the same thing. Imbecile!"

With 11 yellow cards and one red to his name in Ligue 1, as well as a further three in the Champions League this season, Verratti is the second-most sanctioned player in the top flight after Bastia bad boy Sambou Yatabare. However, his agent, Donato Di Campli, demanded a degree of indulgence.

"You mustn't criminalise Marco. He's 20 and makes mistakes. I saw him after the game on Sunday. He was really annoyed with himself. At the moment, people are only talking about his faults, but you mustn't forget that up till his red card against Evian, he was the best player on the pitch," Di Campli told Le Parisien, adding Verratti's disciplinary problems would not have a negative impact on planned negotiations for a pay rise.

"It changes nothing. My relationship with Leonardo is very clear. Marco has become an important player for PSG, and the club has to understand that. As soon as PSG have achieved their objectives, we'll get round the table."

Given his record this season, Verratti may well be handed more than the habitual one-game ban for such a dismissal when the French Football League's (LFP) Disciplinary Commission meets on Thursday; Sirigu risks a much weightier sanction.

Heavily involved in the ugly on-pitch scenes which followed the final whistle in Annecy, Sirigu, 26, was asked to return to the pitch along with Evian forward Saber Khlifa to be shown a red card by Thual, but the Italy goalkeeper refused with PSG club officials advising him not to go.

Consequently, the former Palermo man could be hit with a suspension of up to eight games if found guilty of "brutality or blows not provoking injury".

Though a hearing will not be held before a statutory 15-day delay after this week's sitting of the commission expires, Sirigu is likely to be suspended provisionally as requested by Evian president Patrick Trotignon to ensure equality between the PSG player and Khlifa, who did comply with Thual's request. The LFP commission will look closely at reports sent by Thual and match delegate Dominique Federico before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Thual, 36, who also sent off PSG's David Beckham, 38, in added time has found himself the target of vengeful fans of the club from the French capital. A near two-minute-long sex tape featuring a man bearing a resemblance to the referee was posted on a fake Facebook page in Thual's name on Monday. The page has since been deactivated.