Roberto De Zerbi has promised to ‘publicly defend’ Mason Greenwood if he signs for Marseille amid unfolding controversy over his potential move to the French Riviera. 

The Manchester United academy graduate is seeking a permanent move on the heels of his 2023 season-long loan move to Spanish side Getafe, which ended with the 22-year-old being named the club’s Player of the Season. 

Greenwood is not expected to continue his career at his boyhood club after United issued a statement last year confirming the ‘mutual decision’ between both parties. 

The statement came on the heels of an internal investigation into Greenwood’s conduct in the wake of 2022 charges against the player of attempted rape and assault. These were dropped in 2023 by Crown Prosecution Services following the withdrawal of key witnesses. 

Marseille has emerged as the front-runner for Greenwood’s signature following interest in the forward from a number of European clubs, and are thought to have made an offer worth £27million and a substantial sell-on fee for the player. 

Roberto De Zerbi said that he would try to protect Mason Greenwood if he moved to Marseille

The Manchester United outcast spent last season on loan at Spanish side Getafe in Madrid

The Manchester United outcast spent last season on loan at Spanish side Getafe in Madrid

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Incoming head coach De Zerbi, when asked about bringing Greenwood to Stade Velodrome, seemed to suggest that he would be interested in working with him. 

‘Greenwood isn’t recruited yet so there isn’t much to say. He’s a champion, an international level player,’ De Zerbi said. 

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Furious Marseille fans launch #GreenwoodNotWelcome campaign as they close in on move

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‘I don’t know what happened, I’m not concentrating on private lives. When a player signs for the club, I consider him my child.

‘Even if I can pull his ear in private, I will defend him publicly. My players are like my sons.’

While De Zerbi may be keen to look purely at Greenwood’s performances on the pitch, the transfer could yet prove a controversial one if it goes ahead. 

Fans of the southern French club have launched a public campaign –  #GreenwoodNotWelcome – and are insistent that signing Greenwood could do ‘irreversible damage’ to the club’s reputation. 

A statement on OM Forum said: ‘At a time when negotiations for the arrival of Mason Greenwood are announced as becoming increasingly heated, it seems necessary to explain, once again and before the damage becomes irreversible, why this transfer seems inconceivable in view of the values displayed by the club and why it would mean for many of us a red line that would irreparably damage the passion that we have for this club.’

Marseille fans have started a protest movement in a bid to keep Greenwood from signing

Marseille fans have started a protest movement in a bid to keep Greenwood from signing 

The hashtag has also been circulating on social media, with fans sharing their unease at their potential new signing. 

One fan tagged the club and sporting director Medhi Benatia, while writing: ‘What makes us love this club is above all it’s values. Don’t betray them.’ 

Greenwood held talks with United officials at Carrington on Monday but did not train with his team-mates on the first day of pre-season.

Marseille have moved ahead of the likes of Lazio, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in the race to sign the player.

Should Greenwood move to Marseille, he would become the first major signing under De Zerbi, who signed a three-year contract with the club last month.  

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