Afcon returnees face bleak future

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Marseille’s Senegalese star Mamadou Niang returns to the his club after a disappointing Afcon campaign, fully aware that he’ll need to do something special in training to win back his place.

Niang left Marseille in January with high hopes for shining in Ghana after a fine start to the season with the French south coast club, only to return home empty-handed after a disappointing campaign.

Now, he'll need to hit the ground running and prove to Eric Gerets that he deserves to immediately re-take his place in the Marseille line-up.

Easier said than done, because although he is the club’s top scorer with ten Ligue 1 goals, Djibril Cisse has undergone a renaissance of late and is looking a good bet to be number one at the Velodrome for the forseeable future.

“I'm happy that Djibril has his confidence back, but I’m ready to compete and to fight to win back my place. I’ll always respect the coach’s decision, but I'm fresh and ready to play on Sunday if he needs me.”

Marseille, who have pulled away from the relegation zone since Gerets’ appointment, face Nice on Sunday, with Niang possibly enjoying a berth on the left wing.

Meanwhile, Mahamadou Diarrà’s future at Real Madrid is up in the air after Fernando Gago performed so well in his place when he was away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Mali midfielder returned against Almería last weekend and did not impress, leading many to speculate that he could be off-loaded at the end of the season.

A section of the Madrid board are not keen on Diarrà’s physical style in the midfield and prefer Gago to be employed in front of the back four instead.

Bernd Schuster has also not been impressed of late with the former Lyon star and was unhappy that he returned late from the tournament in Africa.

Another bone of contention with the Madrid hierarchy is that Diarrà cost Euro 26 million (R26-million) and is reported to be earning almost double what Gago is currently on.

Last summer Los Merengues reportedly rejected a R15-million offer for the 26-year-old, but could well reconsider should a club offer a similar quantity in four months time.

Schuster believes that if a new and more versatile defensive midfielder could be found then he would let Diarrà go once he had his replacement installed.

In England, Everton boss David Moyes has left Aiyegbeni Yakubu out of the squad for today’s (Saturday) Premier League clash with Reading following the Nigerian striker’s late return from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Super Eagles striker also faces a hefty fine with reports suggesting he will be docked two weeks wages, estimated to be around R1,1- million.

Yakubu turned up at the club’s Finch Farm training ground on Friday morning, two days later than anticipated.

“It is an internal matter. Yak has been in this morning, I have spoken to him and he won't be included in tomorrow's squad,” Moyes said.

Yakubu’s Nigeria team mate Joseph Yobo was back at Everton by Wednesday’s deadline