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Lukaku extends amazing European record as megastar Mbappe drops bombshell on French champs

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15th February, 2024
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Romelu Lukaku has kept up his hot scoring form in the Europa League by netting the equaliser to give Roma a 1-1 draw at Feyenoord in the first leg of the playoff to qualify for the round of 16.

Brazilian winger Igor Paixão put the hosts ahead with a header in first-half injury time before Lukaku nodded home in the 67th after meeting a cross into the box.

It was Lukaku’s sixth goal of this season’s Europa League campaign and now has 21 in his last 18 games in the competition.

It is the third time in three years the two teams are playing each other in Europe, including the 2022 Europa Conference League final which Roma won 1-0 to give Jose Mourinho another major trophy.

This was the first European game in charge for former Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, who replaced the fired Mourinho as coach last month.

The eight runners-up in the Europa League group stage are playing the eight third-place teams from the Champions League group stage in the playoffs.

The return matches are scheduled for February 22. The eight winners will then take on the Europa League’s group winners, who qualified directly for the round of 16.

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They include Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton from the Premier League, as well Leverkusen, Atalanta, Villarreal, Rangers and Slavia Prague.

In a tense finish in Hamburg, Marseille substitute Iliman Ndiaye’s 90th-minute goal put his team ahead 2-1 before Shakhtar Donetsk’s Eguinaldo salvaged a 2-2 draw in a game played in Germany due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Watch every match of the UEFA Europa League exclusive & ad-free, live & on demand on Stan Sport.

Earlier, Marseille striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his 30th career goal in the Europa League to equal the competition record before Mykola Matviyenko equalised for the hosts.

Mauro Icardi scored a late winner in stoppage time with a low shot from the edge of the area for Galatasaray to edge Sparta Prague 3-2 after both teams were reduced to 10 men.

Jan Kuchta had scored for Sparta to make it 2-2 just minutes after Galatasaray defender Victor Nelsson received a red card. Sparta midfielder Matěj Ryneš was later sent off for his second yellow.

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Also, Sporting Lisbon earned a 3-1 away win at Young Boys.

In the third-tier Conference League, Belgian league leaders Union Saint-Gilloise came back from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Eintracht Frankfurt despite having a player sent off in the 78th.

Sturm Graz posted a 4-1 victory over 10-man Slovan Bratislava, Molde beat Legia Warsaw 3-2 while Olympiacos defeated Ferencvaros 1-0.

The competition’s playoffs features the runner-up teams from the group stage facing the third-place finishers in the Europa League group stage. The eight group winners, including Aston Villa and Fiorentina, have advanced to the last 16.

Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe, one of soccer’s brightest stars, has told Paris St Germain he will leave the club at the end of the season in a move which is bound to fuel speculation that the French superstar is Real Madrid-bound.

The terms of his departure are yet to be fully agreed, and it is expected official confirmation once those details have been agreed will come in the months ahead. 

But the World Cup winner has communicated his intention to leave to the French club’s executives. 

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Mbappe’s current contract with PSG expires in the summer and since January 1 he has been able to hold pre-contract talks with other clubs. 

The 25-year-old has been widely linked with a move to Real Madrid. 

Mbappe’s departure is being seen by those within the club as the final step in moving away from the old ‘bling bling’ approach to marquee signings of individuals, following from the exits of the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar. 

PSG are seeking to remodel their squad and will use the money saved on Mbappe per year – which club sources put at 200 million euros ($A330 million) gross – on multiple new signings and renewing deals for young talents such as Warren Zaire-Emery, Xavi Simons and Bradley Barcola. 

UEFA is currently phasing in financial sustainability regulations which require clubs involved in its competitions to ensure squad costs do not exceed 70 per cent of revenue by 2025-26. 

Last summer, PSG received a world-record Stg 259m ($A501 m) bid from Al Hilal for Mbappe and gave the player permission to talk to the Saudi club. 

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But it was reported Mbappe turned down the chance to even discuss a move to Al Hilal when delegates from the club came to Paris. 

He was barred from training with PSG’s first-team group as part of a contract dispute but was reintegrated on August 13 after what were described as “positive and constructive talks”.

© AAP

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