Yassine El Ghanassy, right, moved to Nantes from Oostende in the summer.

Nantes midfielder Yassine El Ghanassy denied reports he has been given a prison sentence for repeated driving offences, telling 20 Minutes that he’s “not a bandit.”

Belgian and French media reported that El Ghanassy had been given a six-month jail term by a Bruges court this week for a 15th driving offence, the last of which had allegedly been committed while he was banned from driving.

“My lawyer told me that even the judge had been astounded while reading the newspapers this morning,” said El Ghanassy, who has made 14 Ligue 1 appearances this season. “I don’t understand why that has come out now. It hurts me, my family, my club. … Everyone called me [on Wednesday] in a panic, telling me that I was going to prison.

“I was given a fine because I was driving at 57 kilometres per hour (kph) instead of 50. There was never question of prison. There’s no problem anymore. I’m not a bandit. I’m not a vagabond. I haven’t killed anyone. I wanted to clarify things so that people don’t think I’m going to prison for having exceeded the speed limit by 7 kph.”

El Ghanassy, a 27-year-old Belgium international who arrived in France from Oostende last summer, also denied he had appeared in court on multiple occasions, claiming his country’s media had exaggerated and embellished the story.

“I have had 14 fines, but I was not summoned before the courts 14 times. It’s a lie,” El Ghanassy said. “Yes, I have been summoned to appear one or two times, that’s true. But those matters have been dealt with. I don’t understand why they add things. I have perhaps had 14 fines. I’m not going to hide that, but everyone has been caught by a speed camera with their car.”

He added that he and Belgian journalists have had a love-hate relationship: “I have often had problems with them. Absurd things are coming out today and it’s not the first time. My image must not be tarnished.”

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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