European soccer roundup: Benzema blackmail trial, Blatter hospitalized, Arsenal’s COVID-19 loan and more – CBS Sports

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The opening week of 2021 has been eventful on and off the pitch and as always there are stories that will have gone unnoticed.

We are here to ensure that you do not miss anything each week, be it Karim Benzema’s legal scrapes, Arsenal’s bank bail-out or an update from Mick McCarthy in Cyprus.

Here are some of the alternative headlines from the start of January.

Benzema sex tape affair going to court

French prosecutors have confirmed that Karim Benzema will face trial for attempted blackmail in the case featuring Mathieu Valbuena’s infamous sex tape.

The Real Madrid man, who has not played for France since the scandal broke in 2015, has been accused of paying individuals to threaten Valbuena with publication of the video in exchange for money.

Benzema, now 33, has claimed that the police used dishonest tactics to involve him after Valbuena reported the attempted blackmail to police.

The episode cost both Benzema and Valbuena their places in France’s UEFA Euro 2016 squad and the latter is now playing for Olympiakos in Greece.

Alverca mourn Apolinario’s tragic loss

Portuguese third tier side Alverca suffered a tragic loss earlier this week when Alex Apolinario died at just 24 years of age.

The Brazilian suffered cardiac arrest last Sunday during the clash with Almeirim and despite resuscitation on the pitch, he was unable to survive the impact on his brain and died four days later.

Apolinario, who started his career with Botafogo in his native Brazil, is remembered fondly for scoring the opening goal in last season’s 2-0 win over Sporting CP in the Portuguese Cup.

Blatter hospitalized

Ex-FIFA chief Sepp Blatter is in hospital in a serious but not life-threatening condition, his family have confirmed.

“My father is in hospital and is getting better by the day,” daughter Corinne told Swiss outlet Blick. “He needs time and rest. On behalf of my family, I ask for privacy.”

Blatter was FIFA president for 17 years from 1998 until a corruption scandal ended his tenure in 2015 which resulted in eight-year bans from football — later reduced to six — for him and former UEFA supremo Michel Platini.

Niort aggrieved at Valenciennes COVID walkover

French Ligue 2 side Chamois Niortais have publicly slammed the Professional Football League’s (LFP) decision to award Valenciennes a win in the postponed December 22 clash.

Niort feel that they have been punished by the committee for “excessive caution” in the face of a number of positive COVID-19 cases and stands by their decision to “prioritize safety and follow medical advice.”

The club are now considering an appeal, and will no doubt look to the example of Napoli’s clash with Juventus in Serie A where a similar default result was awarded alongside a points deduction and then later overturned.

McCarthy’s APOEL adventure is already over

Mick McCarthy is already out as APOEL Nicosia coach after just two months in charge of the Cypriot outfit. Four consecutive losses saw the side drop to 10th in the table after last season’s third-place finish and the Irishman’s dismissal came just hours after recent signing Jack Byrne made his debut.

Brest see lighter side of Larsonneur gaffe

Stade Brestois 29 almost registered a contender for own goal of the year when talented goalkeeper Gautier Larsonneur contrived to hit his own crossbar and post trying to clear the ball during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over William Saliba’s OGC Nice in Ligue 1. Thankfully, Brest see the funny side of it…

Arsenal take out COVID loan

Finally, my CBS Sports’ colleague James Benge makes a cameo appearance to break down Arsenal’s loan from the Bank of England.

Sizeable cash influxes in January usually send fans into transfer delirium but Gunners supporters would be wise to wait before getting excited about the potential arrival of an Emiliano Buendia or Julian Brandt.

Arsenal have just received a $163 million bank loan, but it is not to fund an overhaul of Mikel Arteta’s squad.

The Londoners have instead secured the funds from the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will go towards ensuring the smooth running of the club’s finances as the absence of fans at Emirates Stadium continues to hit hard.

No Premier League club earns as much matchday revenue as Arsenal do and they have only been able to welcome small numbers of fans to two matches since the pandemic hit last March.

Those two home games with Rapid Vienna and Burnley were run at a loss with just 2000 spectators, club sources confirmed to CBS Sports.

Tottenham Hotspur and the Football Association (FA) have previously utilized CCFF funds and it is available to companies who make “a material impact on the UK economy” and also “demonstrate sound prior financial health” with British Airways and John Lewis other recipients.

With Arsenal’s losses potentially around the $190 million mark, the CCFF funds ease any immediate cashflow worries until broadcasting, Premier League, UEFA and sponsor money arrives at the end of May.

Other countries, such as France, are looking at other ways to avoid financial jeopardy until the COVID-19 pandemic is over and Ligue 1 presidents met with French football’s players’ union on Thursday to discuss potential wage cuts.

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