Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood’s proposed exit has taken a twist after the mayor of Marseille labelled a potential move ‘a disgrace’ and vowed to intervene in the transfer.

Marseille are in pole position to sign Greenwood as the forward edges closer to the end of his controversial United career. The French club are in advanced talks with Old Trafford executives with a move worth around £27 million reportedly close to completion.

However, the deal has taken a late twist after Benoît Payan, the Marseille mayor, was interviewed by RMC where he said he will try and block the deal.

“I saw images that deeply shocked me. I believe he cannot have a place in this team,” Payan said. “The values of Marseille and the values of Olympique de Marseille are anything but that. It’s anything but racism, anti-Semitism. It’s anything but … can you imagine, violence against women? Do you realise that? And he claims to play for Olympique de Marseille, Greenwood? It’s a disgrace.

“I will ask the president of Olympique de Marseille not to recruit Greenwood. I don’t want my club to be covered in the shame. It’s not acceptable.”

Payan said he would speak to Marseille president Pablo Longoria and added: “He knows, in any case, what my convictions and my opinions are. And I’ve already told him that our history and our club is made up of people who come from different backgrounds.

“It is unbearable. I cannot imagine for a second that Pablo Longoria would make this major mistake.”

Former Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi, the new Marseille coach, was asked about Greenwood at a press conference and said: “First up, we have not signed him yet, so we’re talking about nothing. After that, he is a champion, an international level player.

“I don’t know what happened in the past. I think people who get into private lives without knowing are making a mistake.

“What I can say is that once a player signs for Olympique Marseille, they become like my children and I will protect them against anyone. If I need to give them a telling off or pin them to the wall, I will, but in front of people I will defend them like my children.”

Greenwood, 22, who has one senior cap for England, has been pursued by a host of overseas clubs since his loan spell ended at Getafe, where he played 33 league matches and scored eight goals last season. He held talks with United officials at Carrington on Monday but did not train with his team-mates on the first day of pre-season.

In February, new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe stopped short of ruling out Greenwood’s return at United as he said he needs to make “a fair decision” reflecting the club’s values.

But Greenwood has been told United’s position remains unchanged after the club said in August last year that he would “rebuild” his career elsewhere after attempted rape and assault charges were dropped.

Greenwood has not played for United since he was arrested following attempted rape and assault allegations in 2022, but charges were dropped in February last year. Greenwood denied the charges.

Richard Arnold, the former chief executive, was previously criticised over his handling of an internal investigation into Greenwood, which drew criticism and led to some calls for his resignation after United were forced to backtrack on plans to bring the striker back into the first-team squad.

Senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes, who has chaired the women and equalities committee, has previously expressed concern at Greenwood continuing his career in top-level football.

Ratcliffe said in February this year that the club would take a decision on Greenwood’s future in the summer.

“It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made,” the Ineos founder said. “We will make a decision and we will justify it one way or the other.”

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2024-07-09T15:08:04Z dg43tfdfdgfd