FOOTBALL: Marseille go bust

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Marseille, the 1993 European champions, were put into receivership yesterday when a court in the French city ruled that the club were no longer able to pay their debts.

Marseille, who have debts estimated at around £38m, were relegated to the Second Division at the end of last season because of financial problems and a match-rigging scandal.

The court, which named an administrator, was to announce the decision next week but Marseille's directors requested it to be brought forward in order to clarify the situation. In French law, applicants wishing to take over the club have six months to declare an interest.

Clubs which go bankrupt or into receivership are forced into compulsory relegation under French League rules. Marseille now face relegation to the regional leagues, the equivalent of a Third Division, unless they can seal one of three promotion spots at the end of this season. They are currently second in a close promotion race between six sides. Should they stay in the top three, they would be allowed to remain in the Second Division as the League would count that as relegation from the First.

Diego Maradona, whose playing days seemed over after failing a drug test at the World Cup finals, is planning a comeback in September once a 15- month worldwide ban expires, according to the Racing Club president, Juan Destefano.

"Diego instructed me to start negotiations with his lawyer for a comeback," Destefano said. However, the 34-year-old could see his latest comeback thwarted if found guilty of firing an air rifle at reporters last year. A prosecutor has requested that Maradona serve a four-year prison term. The former national captain has taken 20 days' leave as coach of Racing to get over a bout of depression allegedly linked to marital problems.

Johan Cruyff yesterday dismissed speculation that he will quit as coach of Barcelona at the end of the season, and pledged his future to the club for the next two years.

"There are no problems. I am going to continue. Everything looks very good. The future looks fine and I am content," the volatile Dutchman said.