Man United target Maddison and Soyuncu to restart Foxes contract talks

Manchester United target James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu set to resume contract talks as Leicester push for to get duo on long-term deals

  • With the Premier League restarting Leicester are to restart new contract talks   
  • James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu  are in line for improved Foxes deals 
  • Maddison is a target of Manchester United and expects to double his wages 
  • Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs, 2016 title winners, are also set for discussions
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Leicester are set to revive contract talks with James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu after discussions over long-term deals were placed on hold with the Premier League suspended.

The pair, two of the Foxes’ key players, had been in negotiations over improved terms before the top flight was suspended on March 13 due to COVID-19. 

Maddison, who is admired by Manchester United, was expected to double his £50,000-a-week wages, while Soyuncu was also anticipating a significant rise after becoming an automatic choice in central defence.

James Maddison is set to re-enter contract talks with Leicester with football ready to resume 

Team-mate Caglar Soyncu is also in line for a new deal after Leicester’s superb season so far

Maddison has thrived under Brendan Rodgers this term and is a target for Manchester United

Leicester are also working to ensure 2016 title winners Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs, as well as Nampalys Mendy, remain at the club for the rest of the campaign. 

All three had deals that were due to expire at the end of this month.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said: ‘Guys like Papy (Mendy) and Wes and a few of them that are out of contract, they’re back in here working and training and their representatives will be in communication with the club.

Premier League title winners Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs are also in line for new deals

‘We want to keep all those guys so they’re here to finish the season at the very least. 

‘And then what will happen after that will be organised with the club.’ 

Asked about others who were discussing longer-term deals, Rodgers added: ‘That’s obviously been put on hold and later down the line those discussions will resume and take place.’ 

Rodgers expects the pandemic to cause substantial changes to the market and is anticipating a majority of loan deals when the transfer window opens.

Rodgers has masterminded a superb season as the Foxes sit third in the European places

The Leicester boss had been keen to add experience to his squad for a possible Champions League campaign – the Foxes are third in the table with nine games remaining – yet he conceded that all clubs will have to adjust to the new reality.

He added: ‘The market will be really difficult this summer and maybe for a bit. You might see more loans in this market as opposed to buys. There’s no doubt it will change.

‘Clubs have been hit financially, it’s been very difficult for many clubs, so that will have an impact on transfers I’m sure. What that will be, we’ll have to wait and see.’




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Manchester United and Chelsea sent warning over Kai Havertz transfer deal

Bayer Leverkusen assistant coach Marcel Daum has likened Kai Havertz to Zinedine Zidane and warned Manchester United and Chelsea that it will take a sizeable offer to land the attacking midfielder this summer.

Havertz. 20, is regarded as one of the most promising young talents in European football after racking up 11 goals and five assists in the Bundesliga this season.

Though Havertz has been coy when discussing his future, his recent performances have done little to quell the speculation.

The youngster scored Leverkusen’s winner against Freiburg on Friday night to take his tally to five goals since the return of the German top flight and Daum has been massively impressed.

‘Everyone is asking about Kai Havertz. If you see him play it tells you everything’ the Leverkusen assistant told talkSPORT.

‘For me, he has the elegance of Zidane. If you see his movement, he’s very elegant, he’s always calm, he has great passing ability.

‘What a lot of people don’t see, because we watch him every day, is that he’s pretty fast. That’s a big bonus.

‘He’s a great player; he’s scoring goals, he’s great in the air and he’s pretty fast.

‘It’s up to him how far he can go.

‘I can’t say he will be the best German player ever, but he has the talent and there are no limits. He’s displaying signs of Zidane.’

Daum admits it’s a possibility Havertz could leave Leverkusen this summer but believes the club will be demanding a significant fee for their prized possession.

‘The situation with coronavirus is so strange and so complicated that it’s still open that he will leave us,’ he added.

‘I don’t know what will happen, but at Bayer he has the right place to develop his strengths and improve.

‘The only thing I know is that Bayer won’t sell him for a cheap fee.’

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Messi says 'life and football will never be same' after coronavirus

‘I don’t think football, like life in general, will be the same’: Lionel Messi believes fans will have to get used to a new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in an emotional outpouring

  • Lionel Messi believes life and football will ‘never be the same’ after coronavirus
  • Messi admitted his ‘huge frustration’ knowing people’s loved ones are dying
  • Messi and his teammates return to full training Monday as La Liga faces return 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Lionel Messi feels that football and life will ‘not be the same again’ after the coronavirus pandemic struck the world, with hundreds of thousands falling victim to the deadly virus.

The Barcelona forward stressed his frustration for the families and friends that ‘couldn’t even say goodbye’ to loved one who have been lost as the world continues to suffer from the outbreak of COVID-19. 

‘They couldn’t even say goodbye,’ he said in an interview with El Pais Semanal. ‘There is nothing worse than losing the people you love the most.’ 

Lionel Messi believes life and football will ‘never the same’ again after coronavirus pandemic

The sporting world was brought to a halt as thousands continue to lose their lives to covid-19 

‘Nearly all of us have the doubt about how the world will be after everything that has happened. 

‘Beyond the lockdown and the situation that caught us by surprise, many people have had a really bad time because the situation has affected them in some way, like with those that lost friends and family without even being able to say goodbye.’

The six-time Balon d’Or winner added: ‘I think there have been many negatives in this crisis, but there cannot be anything worse than losing the people you love the most, that frustrates me hugely and seems unfair on everyone.’

Messi and his Barcelona teammates returned to training ahead of La Liga’s June 11 return

Messi concluded that football ‘will never be the same’ once the crisis is over and that our everyday lives with be different. ‘I don’t think football, like life in general, will be the same,’ he said. 

Messi and his Barcelona team-mates have been permitted to return to full training on Monday as La Liga edges closer to its return from the coronavirus crisis. 

The Spanish government have declared that the league can return to action on June 11, with Sevilla poised to take on Real Betis first up in an eagerly-awaited derby.




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Scot Connor Syme and England’s Matthew Jordan part of five-player virtual win

Connor Syme has won a second virtual title in two weeks after sharing the honours at the BMW Indoor Invitational.

The Scot, England’s Matthew Jordan, Spanish Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia and Rafa Carbrera Bello, plus Frenchman Damien Perrier all posted one-under-par 71 over Real Club Valderrama.

The £8,100 prize money is to be shared by charities chosen by each player.

“Valderrama was as tough as it is in real life,” said Syme, who also won over Royal Portrush.

“Guys like Sergio and Rafa were involved, so to compete with them and be tied at the top was cool.”

  • European players set to wear microphones during ‘UK Swing’
  • ‘I think Ryder Cup will be postponed’ – McIlroy
  • Syme wins virtual event

Jordan added: “I’m delighted to get the win at Valderrama – it’s one of my favourite courses. It’s a bit tight and narrow so any of my friends watching this will be confused as to how I won.”

The 38-player field for the 18-hole strokeplay at-home tournament organised by the European Tour also included the likes of former world number one Martin Kaymer and Belgian Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts.

Former Masters winner Garcia, who has triumphed four times at Valderrama in the Andalucia Masters, donated his share of the prize money to the Red Cross of Spain.

The European Tour – suspended since 8 March due to coronavirus – will resume in July with a six-week ‘UK Swing’ tournament and run until December.

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Racing returns and Pinatubo could even outshine Frankel

Racing returns and Pinatubo could even outshine Frankel: Is this the wonder horse who can bring some joy back to a nation starved of sport?

  • Racing to resume behind closed doors on Monday with meeting at Newcastle 
  • The 2,000 Guineas next Saturday will be first major sporting event in Britain
  • After 11 weeks of shutdown, the whole of sport are in need of a good news story
  • And Pinatubo, who won his six races as a two-year-old, could deliver it

Those gathered for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile on April 30 in 2011 experienced an unfolding drama that is seared into their memories.

It wasn’t just the scintillating, front-running performance of Frankel as he pulverised opponents under jockey Tom Queally that made the day so memorable, but the spontaneous round of applause that swept through the Newmarket crowd with two furlongs of the mile contest still to go as those present realised they were witnessing something special.

When the 2,000 Guineas is held at Newmarket next Saturday — the first major sporting event in Britain after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed sport can resume behind closed doors from on Monday with a race meeting at Newcastle — the stage will be different. The stands will be deserted, with only key personnel allowed through the gates.

The 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket next Saturday will be first major sporting event in Britain

This will largely be racing back to its roots — a throwback to the 1600s when King Charles II was among the in-crowd following the horses, with the only sounds being the thunder of the thoroughbreds’ hooves on turf accompanied by the shouts and screams of the jockeys.

It may be a world away from the stage Frankel graced but it could still witness something special from Pinatubo. After 11 weeks of shutdown, racing and the whole of sport are in need of a good news story. And this pugnacious colt, who won his six races as a two-year-old, might be capable of delivering it.

He could also start a story that could be the narrative of the racing summer in this most extraordinary year. Pinatubo, a son of Shamardal who carries the colours of Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin stable, already has a lofty reputation — but one that does not extend beyond the racing village… yet.

International handicappers rated Pinatubo as the best European two-year-old for 25 years

His first-season performances included a nine-length romp in the Group One National Stakes at The Curragh, wins at Epsom’s Derby meeting, Glorious Goodwood, Royal Ascot plus Newmarket’s Dewhurst Stakes — the most prestigious two-year-old race of the British season.

That form influenced a team of international handicappers to rate Pinatubo the best European two-year-old for 25 years.

In fact, his two-year-old efforts, the handicappers said, were superior to the level of form achieved by Frankel, whose improvement under the tutelage of legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil ultimately saw him become the highest rated racehorse of all time in an unbeaten 14-race career.

The racing world is full of stars that have crashed and burned but there will many who will be hoping Pinatubo can continue being the real deal — and his trainer Charlie Appleby believes he has the model racehorse.

‘Pinatubo’s main asset is that he is the ultimate professional,’ said Appleby. ‘Any sportsman at the top, you generally do not see them fretting going into a champion competition whatever it is, boxing or golf.

‘Those cool, calm customers are the ones that often turn up with their ‘A’ game and channel their positivity into the swing of the club or the punch of the glove.

‘Pinatubo has a great mind. He turns up and knows that, once those starting gates open, it is game on. He is not a horse who lights you up in the mornings.

‘We went to Wolverhampton [for his debut last year] for that reason. If we thought he was going to be the horse he has turned out to be, we would probably have turned up in a Newmarket maiden.

‘He is a well-balanced colt. He showed his true attributes last season, taking in some of the most challenging tracks in Britain at Epsom, Goodwood and Newmarket — and he has strengthened over the winter.

‘He has met every challenge we have set him so far.’

To match Frankel’s achievements both on and off the track, Pinatubo has a massive act to follow.

But Ed Chamberlin, who will anchor ITV’s coverage of the 2,000 Guineas, says the stage next weekend offers a bigger-than-normal springboard to a colt who could potentially go on to the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot or, in an even bolder statement, have a tilt at the Investec Derby at Epsom on July 4.

Chamberlin said: ‘On the ITV journey, we have had two horses in Enable, of course with Frankie Dettori, and dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll, which have resonated beyond racing.

‘Despite his brilliance as a two-year-old, Pinatubo is miles off that at the moment. But he has the opportunity to change that largely because the 2,000 Guineas this year will have a larger audience than any recent 2,000 Guineas with people desperate for sport.

‘There will be plenty of new eyes watching the 2,000 Guineas. Our job will be to get Pinatubo into their conscience and sell the thrill of racing with a potential superstar.’ Despite Pinatubo being odds-on favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, bookmakers also see the value of him winning.

Simon Clare of Coral added: ‘The Guineas is an important race. If you get a great performance like we saw from Frankel and Sea The Stars in 2009, it sets up the season.

‘After the false start, we need something special, something explosive and thrilling. Pinatubo is the horse who could deliver it.’




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Sergio Ramos, Manuel Neuer and Olivier Giroud could miss out on Euros

Spain’s most-capped player Sergio Ramos is in danger of missing out, Luka Modric isn’t getting any younger and Kieran Trippier is set to be ousted by younger stars… here are the big names who could be left in the cold for the Euros in 2021

  • The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the summer’s football schedule
  • The Euros have been postponed and will take place from June 11-July 11 in 2021
  • The flagship tournament was pushed back to allow domestic seasons to finish 
  • Here, Sportsmail takes a look at what players could suffer from postponement
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the football calendar upside down and for some big-name stars, it could unfortunately represent the beginning of the end of their glittering international careers.

UEFA were forced to make the tough decision of postponing the 2020 Euros by a year, with the flagship tournament now scheduled to take place between June 11 to July 11 in 2021 after the coronavirus outbreak threw a spanner in the works.

Not only will the postponement of the Euros have a knock-on effect for the countries competing, but for the players themselves it could throw up a harsh new reality.

Many players will have potentially been eyeing up this summer’s showpiece event as their swansong on the international stage but with an extra year of miles on the clock, some may now be denied that opportunity.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at what players are in danger of missing out on next summer’s Euros and having their international careers ended abruptly… 

The 2020 Euros was inevitably postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic

SERGIO RAMOS – SPAIN

When next summer’s Euros come around, Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos will be the grand old age of 35. There is no doubt the veteran centre back will be sweating about his place under former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique.

Ramos sits pretty as Spain’s most-capped player ever featuring 170 times for his country but just how many more appearances will he make for the national team? 

His future with Real Madrid is currently up in the air – there is no new contract on the table and his relationship with club president Florentino Perez has soured in recent times, meaning he could soon be on his way out of the Bernabeu.

Leaving Madrid could also spell the end of his international career, if he isn’t playing on the biggest stage in Spain at club level, Enrique could potentially overlook Ramos next summer.

Spain’s most-capped player, Sergio Ramos, will be 35 when next year’s Euros come about

OLIVIER GIROUD – FRANCE

Olivier Giroud appeared to be making his move at exactly the right time ahead of this summer. After months and months on the bench working as Tammy Abraham’s understudy at Chelsea, the Frenchman was looking for a move to try and force his way into France’s Euro squad.

But after an ankle injury to England international Abraham presented a rare chance to impress, Giroud stayed put. Frank Lampard called on the Frenchman to fill the void. He scored key goals against the likes of Tottenham and proved to be a good focal point in attack.

He proved he could still mix it at the top level and showed exactly why France have put so much faith in him over the years but the postponement of the Euros could be one step too far for Giroud, who will be 34 when the tournament eventually takes place.

There is plenty of competition for places up top for World Cup winners France, and with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele (currently out injured), at the peak of their game, Giroud will have an extremely tough job on his hands to maintain his place in Didier Deschamps’ squad.

Olivier Giroud will have a tough job on his hands to secure a spot within the France squad

KIERAN TRIPPIER – ENGLAND

England manager Gareth Southgate is blessed with an array of talent at right back at the moment, with both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka widely regarded as the future for the Three Lions. 

Their rapid rises are certainly set to spell an end to Kieran Trippier, who moved abroad last summer to join Atletico Madrid from Tottenham as he sought a fresh challenge. 

Liverpool right back Alexander-Arnold, who has played an influential role for the Reds as they close in on their first-ever Premier League title, has started England’s last two games and looks set for a long and successful career with the Three Lions.

Meanwhile, Wan-Bissaka has proved a fantastic signing for Manchester United since his £50million move from Crystal Palace last summer and will look to battle it all the way with Alexander-Arnold for a starting spot.

It is last chance saloon for Trippier, who missed out on the UEFA Nations League Finals last June, to revive his international career and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if he wasn’t selected by Southgate for the Euros in 2021.

The FA announcing earlier this month that they will be investing Trippier over an alleged breach of betting regulations in regards to his transfer to Atletico will not have done him any favours either.

Kieran Trippier is set to be behind Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back

MANUEL NEUER – GERMANY

For so long now Manuel Neuer has ruled the roost in the goalkeeping department for both club and country. He has proved a formidable presence in between the posts, winning seven Bundesliga titles and one Champions League crown for Bayern Munich and the World Cup with Germany in 2014. 

But his position as Germany No 1 is under serious threat from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has recently spoken out about his disappointment of not starting under Joachim Low in what is a new-look younger national team.

Germany skipper Neuer recently claimed Ter Stegen should stop complaining that he is not starting for Germany, but the Barcelona shot-stopper has since hit back – starting a war of words with his compatriot. 

Ter Stegen is clearly determined to do all he can to usurp Neuer in the starting XI and his stock has continued to rise at Spanish giants Barcelona in recent times. 

And it appears as if Low has taken note of Ter Stegen’s determination, playing the Barcelona goalkeeper in two of Germany’s last four matches. If Ter Stegen – recently linked with a move to Bayern Munich – continues to improve over the next year, then Neuer could be in for a disappointing summer next year. 

Manuel Neuer’s position as Germany No 1 is under huge threat from Marc-Andre ter Stegen

TONI KROOS – GERMANY

As mentioned above, Low is bringing through a new-look Germany side with fresher and younger players, such as Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich leading the way.

Germany’s new philosophy, as they look to build their superior reputation again following their disastrous 2018 World Cup, could spell the end of the road for Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos.

The 30-year-old, who has featured 96 times for Die Mannschaft, hinted last year that Euro 2020 could represent the ideal time for him to step away from his national duties. 

‘After the tournament, it’s a good time to think about it,’ Kroos told German publication Kicker in August last year. 

So after the decision was made to push back the Euros by a year, maybe just maybe Kroos will make the tough call to hang up his international boots to allow the chance for Germany’s youngsters to shine on the biggest stage of all. 

Toni Kroos said he would think about retiring from international football after Euro 2020

LUKA MODRIC – CROATIA

Rewind two years ago and Luka Modric had just scooped up the Ballon d’Or and The Best FIFA Men’s Player awards after a sensational year for both club and country, guiding Croatia to the final of the World Cup, where they lost to France.

But fast forward to the present day and Modric, now a veteran in the game at 34, does not appear to be the same player he was two years ago.  

His position at Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane is no longer certain, as the next generation of stars, including Fede Valverde, are coming through and forcing their way firmly into the starting XI plans. 

Furthermore, Modric’s chances of game-time could be restricted even further if Madrid end up signing Paul Pogba, who could form a midfield triumvirate alongside Valverde and the ever-impressive Casemiro.

A summer move to the MLS has been touted but regular football in America’s top-flight may not be competitive enough to earn a place in Croatia’s squad.

Luka Modric is not the same player as two years ago and isn’t getting any younger

JAN VERTONGHEN – BELGIUM

It is fair to say it has been a rocky road for Tottenham’s experienced centre back Jan Vertonghen ever since Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino at the helm in November last year.

He has been in and out of the team this season, featuring 19 times in the Premier League, and his deal with the north London outfit expires at the end of the current campaign, which has led to plenty of uncertainty surrounding his future.

Vertonghen even recently admitted he is torn over whether to extend his eight-year stay at Tottenham: ‘I’m in a process right now that I have to grab a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons of the options I will have soon.’

However, as Vertonghen gets set to turn 33 on April 24, will any big clubs make their move for the Belgium centre-back if he does decide to seek pastures new? Or will a potential exit from Spurs signal the end for the defender on the biggest stage?

If it’s the latter, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez could be tempted to opt for a younger set of legs at the back when the Euros eventually take place. 

Belgium and Tottenham centre back Jan Vertonghen’s future is up in the air at the moment

AND WHAT ABOUT CRISTIANO RONALDO…?

It couldn’t happen, could it? Surely the great Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t miss the Euros?

He will be 36 by the time the Euros come about, which for many would represent the perfect time to retire from international football, but thanks to his extraordinary physical prowess and ability, he is still a shoo-in for Portugal.

Ronaldo has the biological age of someone still at the peak of their game and he is showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down. And he has recently claimed that he wants to carry on playing football into his 40s.  

The Portuguese icon told Marca: ‘Much will depend on what I feel, on my motivation. Physically it will never be a problem. I am treating myself well and I think can play safely up to 40 years.’

No one is doubting Ronaldo and the man himself will be desperate to lead Portugal to back-to-back European Championship triumphs…

Cristiano Ronaldo will be desperate to help Portugal defend their European crown




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Barcelona and Inter discuss Martinez… but Vidal will not be in swap

Barcelona and Inter Milan ‘discussing move for Lautaro Martinez… but Arturo Vidal will not be included in the swap deal as Nou Camp side look to reduce £100m fee for the striker’

  • Barcelona want to sign Lautaro Martinez and include players in a swap deal 
  • They have put names to Inter Milan but the Italians are not keen on Arturo Vidal 
  • Antonio Conte does not want him despite working closely with him at Juventus 

Arturo Vidal will not be included in a swap deal between Barcelona and Inter Milan for striker Lautaro Martinez, according to reports.

Reports in Spain suggest that negotiations are still taking place over a deal that would see the Argentina striker move to the Nou Camp in the summer transfer window.

And Marca are claiming that Barcelona want to include players as part of the move to bring down the asking price.

Barcelona and Inter Milan are still in talks over a possible move for striker Lautaro Martinez 

There is a €111million (£99.7m) release clause in Martinez’s deal at the San Siro.

But Barcelona are not willing to spend that much in the summer on a player they view as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

They have instead put forward a number of their players as possible options for Inter to pick from – and the Italian side are in the process of deciding which they want.

But Inter are not interested in signing midfielder Arturo Vidal as part of the deal for Martinez

Vidal, however, is not being considered by Inter, despite his close relationship with their manager Antonio Conte. 

The pair worked closely together at Juventus and helped turn them into the juggernaut they are today.

Conte is still not keen on him, instead preferring the likes of Nelson Semedo and Junior Firpo.

Inter manager Antonio Conte is not keen on Vidal, despite working with him at Juventus

Both Jean-Clair Todibo and Samuel Umtiti have also been offered to Inter as part of the deal – although the latter is not keen on leaving the Catalan club.

Inter boss Conte is also thought to be particularly keen on Ivan Rakitic and would want him to be an option, but the midfielder has made it clear that he does not want a move.

‘If the Lautaro deal depends on me going in the opposite direction, I don’t think it will get done,’ Rakitic admitted in an interview with COPE. 




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Scotland's League One and Two could be off until JANUARY

Scotland’s League One and Two could be off until JANUARY with SPFL set for crisis talks on the future as clubs fear they won’t be able to pay players beyond October

  • Scotland’s League One and Two could be off until January with crisis talks set
  • Sportsmail understands the costs of playing without fans will be spelled out 
  • Several clubs have been reliant on the government’s job retention scheme 
  • That will be reviewed in October and clubs fear the costs of paying players

Scotland’s lower-league clubs could be placed in cold storage until January next year with the SPFL set for crisis talks.

League chairman Murdoch MacLennan and chief executive Neil Doncaster are scheduled to hold discussions with chairmen from Leagues One and Two via Zoom.

And Sportsmail understands the crippling costs of playing third and fourth-tier games behind closed doors without supporters will be spelled out in stark terms.

 Scotland’s lower-league clubs could be placed in cold storage until January next year

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell and chief medical consultant Dr John MacLean held talks on Wednesday with Professor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s National Clinical Director.

However, with no sign of a coronavirus vaccine or a relaxation of social-distancing measures, league chiefs estimate the cost of testing footballers and staff could come to around £4,500 a week per club.

Deprived of gate income, clubs have leaned heavily on the UK government’s job-retention scheme to pay players. With the scheme up for review at the end of October, lower-league chairmen now face the very real prospect of signing players in July that they can’t pay later.

Chief executive Neil Doncaster (above) will meet with League chairman Murdoch MacLennan

A senior league source told Sportsmail that any decision over an extended hibernation will be taken by lower-league clubs themselves.

With the SFA and SPFL joint response group examining options to get the Premiership and Championship up and running by September, there is now a growing realisation that the third and fourth tiers could prove financially unviable.

Admitting the situation now looks ‘grave’, Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy admits it’s time to ask some unpalatable questions at Thursday’s meeting.

‘We need to know now what the situation is. That’s key,’ he said.

‘We are all in the job market taking people on and talking to players.

‘But there is no point signing players if there is no prospect of playing football until January.

‘We would potentially have to pay their wages with no income.

‘So we have to reach decisions now before we get into the nitty gritty of discussing contracts.’

Any decision to place League One in cold storage would represent another bitter financial blow to Partick Thistle after the Firhill club were relegated from the Championship after the season was called early.

League One side Falkirk were one point behind leaders Raith Rovers before the cancellation 

A reconstruction resolution being prepared by Hearts owner Ann Budge may yet offer a lifeline to Thistle or Falkirk, with the Bairns having been lying second in League One behind leaders Raith when the campaign was brought to a premature halt.

While acknowledging that some clubs will resist the idea of shutting down the lower leagues until January at the earliest, McMenemy urged all sides to think the unthinkable.

‘Other clubs might have other ideas, but we need to ask ‘what if’ questions now,’ he said.

‘What if we are not starting the season until January?

‘What if we can only play behind closed doors and you are running at a loss because you don’t make enough revenue to cover your wage bill for six months? We need to factor all this in.

Hearts owner Ann Budge is preparing a reconstruction resolution after her side were relegated

‘Not all clubs will, of course. But if that’s the case then they could potentially gamble themselves to oblivion.

‘I think everybody is still plodding on as if the league season is about to start again in couple of months’ time.

‘I don’t think personally we will be in a position to restore any kind of sense of normality.

‘I think the situation is getting potentially more grave as every day goes past. In a practical sense, hibernation makes sense.

‘But if there were no football club operations for a year – while other teams in other divisions did play – then potentially you are losing sponsors and supporters and fans.

‘Deals with kit manufacturers in place probably couldn’t be honoured and we would have to give money back.

‘But, again, nether option is either attractive or easy. It’s all about finding the least worst option now.’




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Barca and Real Madrid return to non-contact training in groups of 10

Barcelona and Real Madrid return to non-contact training in groups of 10 as LaLiga clubs ramp up preparations ahead of June 12 resumption… but five-a-side games, free-kick routines and pressing drills are BANNED

  • Clubs throughout LaLiga stepped up their training sessions on Monday morning
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid players were both pictured training in small groups
  • Stars have been instructed to avoid contact and what they can do is limited
  • Government officials have given some clubs permission to train in groups of 10
  • Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Luis Suarez are all fit again after injury issues 

Training sessions were stepped up all over Spain on Monday morning but it was still very much: ‘after you; no, after you’ as players were instructed to avoid all physical contact.

Remember those recent revelations from Darren Fletcher that when Walter Smith became Sir Alex Ferguson’s No 2 at Manchester United he introduced training sessions where no fouls were given to toughen up Cristiano Ronaldo? This is as far removed from that as possible.

Players are no longer training on their own. They can train in groups of 10, and they can now pass the ball between themselves but there can be no five-a-sides, no free-kick routine practices and no pressing drills.

Barcelona players take part in non-contact training in a small group on Monday morning

Coaching staff wear face masks as they speak to a group of 10 Barcelona players in training

Real Madrid’s players were also pictured training together after new rules came into play

Players were tested for coronavirus again last Thursday and Friday, and although results have not been made public, Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, said on Spanish television on Sunday night: ‘It’s almost impossible that players catch the virus while training.’ 

That suggests a confidence that was also reflected in his reaffirmation that he wants the league to start again on Friday June 12, with games played almost every day until the 11 rounds of fixtures are finished.

For Real Madrid, this is being seen as the perfect chance for them to win a title that seemed to be slipping away from them. 

They have Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio back in training and if the short ‘pre-seasons’ that clubs are now going through give rise to less physical football for the final 11 matches – with players lacking fitness and wary of injury – then they feel that will suit the styles of two forwards they did not think they would be able to use this season.

Barca players were made to avoid contact as lockdown rules in Spain are eased gradually

Antoine Griezmann (left) plays a pass under pressure as one of his team-mates tries to block

Lionel Messi runs during training but players are restricted in terms of how much they can do

Barca manager Quique Setien wears a mask as he watches Messi and Co in action in training

Barcelona also welcome back someone who thought his season was largely over. Luis Suarez was hopeful of making it back for the final games but now he will be fit from the June restart.

There are reservations about football’s return but its importance to the economy has provoked support from the Spanish government.

The plan for clubs to progress to training in groups of 10 this week looked to have hit problems when it became clear that Spain’s gradual relaxation of lockdown had not yet reached the regions of Madrid and Barcelona.

That would have meant training in groups was still banned for many clubs but the government made exceptions so that Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Getafe, Leganes, Barcelona and Espanyol could all stay at the same level of preparation as the rest of LaLiga.

While the countdown continues to the planned resumption of fixtures, Madrid and Barcelona press have little alternative but to focus on the transfer market. Barcelona’s interest in Miralem Pjanic and Lautaro Martinez is very real and both players want to come.

Luis Suarez is fit again after being extra time to recover during the coronavirus shutdown

Stars such as Eden Hazard at Real Madrid could be back in competitive action from June 12

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas says it’s ‘almost impossible’ for stars to catch coronavirus in training

The problem remains: how do Barcelona make it work when what they need to be doing is making money, not spending it? 

They are having the same problems they had last summer. The players they could include in the deal – Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, Arthur Melo, Nelson Semedo, Rafinha and Carles Alena – either don’t want to leave or are not wanted by Juventus and Inter. Semedo’s sale would also create another problem because the club would be left without a right-back.

Madrid’s transfer market activity looks more likely to be centred on players leaving than arriving. But after Erling Haaland’s weekend performance, it was predictable that he would be back on the front pages. His place in a front three with Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe looks the stuff of fantasy in the present climate though.

Karim Benzema took centre stage in many of the pictures coming out of training from Valdebebas on Monday morning. He remains the club’s top scorer, the coach and president’s favourite. 

And for as long as the pandemic shakes the financial foundations of the club, he may continue to be their biggest player.

AS report that Real Madrid want the ‘Trident of the new Bernabeu’ with two new signings




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Championship and League One set for D-Day votes this week

Championship and League One set for D-Day votes this week to decide how to end the season while League Two could be FORCED to relegate Stevenage despite voting for them to stay up

  • The Championship and League One will decide how to end season this week
  • While League Two could be forced to relegate Stevenage to the National League
  • Rochdale boss David Bottomley agrees that League One season should end now
  • The EFL is likely to present the two unresolved divisions with a series of options 

The Championship and League One are set for D-Day votes this week to determine exactly how to end their respective seasons.

And League Two could be ordered to relegate Stevenage to the National League despite their indicative vote for finishing the season on points per game, with a play-off tournament for promotion but without relegating the bottom club.

The EFL is likely to present the two unresolved divisions with a series of options, such as playing on, or ending the season now but continuing with the play offs, or ending the season now with the top three to go up.

League Two could relegate Stevenage to the National League despite their indicative vote

Clubs will vote until they have reached a 50 per cent majority on one option, with an option dropping off the ballot paper until a majority is reached.

The huge additional costs of testing players means that it’s likely that only the Championship will restart.

Even there opinion is divided but with Premier League clubs such as Norwich suggesting it would be unfair to promote clubs if the Premier League concludes and the Championship doesn’t, there may will be a will to play on to ensure the principle of promotion isn’t compromised.

And in order to maintain sporting integrity of promotion and relegation, which is essential to the EFL if they want three clubs to be promoted to the Premier League this season, it is unlikely that League Two’s indicative vote to save Stevenage will ultimately be upheld.

The entire EFL will vote on the final decisions and there is little chance they will spare clubs relegation, as it would allow the Premier League to argue they could do the same.

There is a suggestion that parachute payments to relegated clubs could be extended to those going down into League One, League Two and the National League to alleviate the financial damage whilst marinating the principle of relegation, so important to the EFL. That again, would require the consent and financial contribution from EFL clubs.

At present, the majority of Premier League clubs, the FA – who retain a golden share in the Premier League – and TV companies are insisting that there will be relegation in the Premier League even if the season was curtailed. But for the EFL to endorse a no relegation policy would leave the Championship hugely compromised.

League One looks likely to go the same way as League Two, despite the impasse of Friday’s meeting. It seems unlikely the rebel seven in League One can get another four votes to ensure play continues, meaning they are most likely to finish the season now with the options of four clubs competing in the plays off.

The only discussion then would be over whether to use points per game or weighted points per game, which is hugely contentious: Wycombe would join Oxford, Portsmouth and Fleetwood in the plays off under the former system and Peterborough would replace Wycombe under the latter system

Rochdale chief executive David Bottomley said League One clubs should end the season

On Saturday, Rochdale chief executive David Bottomley underlined a desire for League One clubs to end the season and not make decisions ‘stemming from financial greed’.

Bottomley, talking to Rochdale’s website, said: ‘While we do remain very much behind the collective, we have, as a club, fully earned the right to compete in the same league as many more illustrious and historically successful clubs who for various reasons are now plying their trade in the third tier of the greatest league competition in the world.

‘We will act as a fully responsible member of that collective group, and act with what we see as the best interests of our national sport and not decisions that potentially are made stemming from financial greed.’

Peterborough United, Oxford United, Sunderland, Fleetwood, Portsmouth and Ipswich Town released a joint statement on Thursday saying they had ‘no desire for voiding the season, points-per-game scenarios or letting a computer decide our footballing fate’. They were understood to have been joined by another club echoing that sentiment on Friday.

The seven clubs who wanted to carry on would need 51percent of the overall vote to pass it through. That is not the overall mood from club managers at the moment , who have also met.

Bottomley said the logistics and financial implications of completing the season meant League One teams should follow the lead of League Two clubs to allow ‘sensible planning’ for the 2020-21 season.

‘With every day that slips by the likelihood of allowing players a three-week mini pre-season … and then resumption and finish of season by 31 July (for player contract reasons) diminishes. We also believe that the potential excessive costs of testing staff and players twice per week, the ability to travel to away games whilst observing social distancing and the very clear moral issue of why can the football industry be tested at a time when clearly those tests are not available to all key workers, make it even more difficult to resume.’

The acrimony in League One is in stark contrast to League Two, where Friday’s meeting was consensual with a unanimous decision to end the season and proceed to the play offs, supported even by Port Vale, who are one point off the play offs. Vale owner Carol Shahanan was said to have been magnanimous in accepting that the decision was the best for all clubs and was widely praised. However, though there was a large majority voting for no relegation for Stevenage – Barrow will still come up from the National League as Bury have dropped out of the league for financial reasons – that decision may get overturned, as all decisions have to be ratified by the EFL.

The Premier League will be looking on closely if the EFL decided that clubs should not be relegated on the basis of a curtailed season but insist on three clubs still going up to the Premier League. As such, Stevenage may be relegated but be offered a parachute payment to offset the devastating £1million loss.




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