Toulouse to bring international talent to Carrow Road for City’s final friendly

Former Leeds forward Max Gradel, left, pictured in action against Norwich City back in 2011, is one of Toulouse's star players  Picture:  Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Former Leeds forward Max Gradel, left, pictured in action against Norwich City back in 2011, is one of Toulouse's star players Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Focus Images 2011

Another top-flight team provides the final test of pre-season for Norwich City, with French side Toulouse bringing some international talent to Carrow Road this afternoon (4pm kick-off).

Les Violets are about to begin their 17th consecutive campaign in Ligue Un but have hovered just above trouble in their past five seasons, finishing just four points clear of the relegation play-off place earlier this year.

In 2018 they did end up in that play-off, although a 4-0 aggregate win over second-tier side AC Ajaccio saw them escape the drop. That led to the return of Alain Casanova as manager.

The former Le Havre keeper had finished his career with Toulouse in the mid-90s and took over as manager in 2008, sparking a drastic upturn which led to fourth place - qualifying for the Europa League - and the semi-finals of the Coupe de France during his first season in charge.

Top-half finishes in four of the next five seasons continued the good work but Casanova left in March 2015 as Toulouse diced with relegation. His first season back in the south of France proved rather mediocre though and some influential players have been lost over the summer, with centre-back Christopher Julien sold to Celtic in a deal reportedly worth around £7m and Swedish international winger Jimmy Durmaz joining Galatasaray on a free transfer.

Talented midfielder Manu Garcia also returned to Manchester City at the end of his season-long loan, with around £3m spent on PAOK Salonika striker Efthymios Koulouris, a Greek international, and £2m for Uruguayan defender Agustin Rogel from Russian side KS Samara.

Former Leeds, Leicester and Bournemouth forward Max Gradel was the star player last season, scoring 13 goals and assisting another 10 during 39 games.

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Another player to watch out for is defensive midfielder Ibrahim Sangare, who is reportedly a target for Everton following the sale of Idrissa Gueye to PSG for £29m, with Toulouse said to be holding out for a fee in excess of £20m.

Gradel has been linked with well-paid moves to Saudi Arabia recently but, along with Sangare, returned to training on Tuesday after both helped Ivory Coast reach the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Other recognisable names include former Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo and an Englishman in former Crystal Palace and Tottenham midfielder John Bostock, who had loan spells at clubs including Hull, Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday.

Toulouse's season starts on Saturday, August 10, away to Stade Brest - the day after City's opener at Liverpool - so will be looking to finish their pre-season on a high as well.

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