French soccer star Patrice Evra’s storied career might be over. On Friday, European soccer’s governing body suspended the 36-year-old through June 30, 2018, over a pregame incident last week that saw the player kick a fan in the face. UEFA also fined Evra roughly $10,000.
Following UEFA’s announcement, Evra’s now former club Marseille immediately moved to terminate his contract, which did not come as much of a surprise, as the player was signed to a 18-month deal that was set to expire before his suspension would’ve been up.
“By mutual agreement, Olympique de Marseille and Patrice Evra have decided to stop working together,” the club said in a heartfelt statement on Friday. “Since January 2017 Patrice Evra has exhibited exemplary behavior on the pitch and in the changing rooms. He played an important role in the team’s revival, the significant improvement in its results and the rebirth of greater sporting ambitions.”
“Today we are sad,” team chairman Jacque-Henri Eyraud added, but noted Marseille is “more determined than ever to show on the pitch and off that we are motivated by the highest possible standards, both individually and collectively.”
Evra, who is still able to sign and play with any team not under UEFA’s jurisdiction, did not immediately offer any direct comment on the ruling. Whether any team would want to bring on the controversial figure this season or sign the player who will turn 37 in May in the future, remains questionable.
Many would not be surprised if this is the last thing Evra, a former Manchester United captain, is remembered for in his playing career. ESPN FC’s Julien Laurens compared last week’s incident to when Zinedine Zidane was sent off during the 2006 World Cup title game for head-butting an Italian player. Zidane, who was 34 at the time, never played again. (He now coaches Real Madrid.)
“There is no way back, and why would there be?” Laurens wrote.
The incident that led to these consequences occurred before Marseille’s 1-0 Europa League loss to Portugal’s Vitoria S.C.Evra, who was listed as a substitute for the game, was warming up with his team when he encountered a group of fans who had breached the stands to approach the advertising boards to heckle him. The boos eventually enticed Evra over to the fans, where the argument escalated until Evra delivered the blow to the fan’s face with his cleat. The final straw for Evra, according to the BBC, which cited a French report, was when the fan told Evra, an avid social media user, to “keep doing your (online) videos, but stop playing football.”
The move earned Evra an instant red card, as well as a team scolding.
“At all times, a professional player must keep his cool in the face of provocations and insults, no matter how harsh or unjustified,” Marseille said in a statement last week.
The statement, however, also added a veiled defense of Evra’s actions by condemning “pseudo fans, who insult their team’s players when they should be supporting them.”
On Friday, the club once again scolded fans for their part in the fracas, noting the incident “highlighted the unacceptable attitude of a small number of people who shouted insults and verbal threats at the player and his family and then invaded the pitch, against the regulations.”
Incidentally, UEFA fined the club roughly $25,000 for “damages caused by its supporters” to the visiting stadium.
Evra signed an 18-month deal with Marseille in January but at times had struggled to perform to expectations. Evra rose to fame as a standout with Nice in the early 2000s before signing with Manchester United in 2006. During his seven-season stint with the team, he helped United to five Premier League titles, as well as a Champions League trophy in 2008.