Brighton chief executive admits summer football will provide different challenge

Summer football will present a new challenge to some Premier League players and will require additional measures in order to succeed, according to Brighton chief executive Paul Barber.

Top-flight clubs have resumed non-contact training with a view to resuming matches next month and playing out the remainder of the campaign through the warmest period of the year.

And while international stars will have plenty of experience of the heat, Barber believes some players could suffer, and safeguards must be adopted to ensure the new schedule is fair for all.

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Barber said: “I think we’ll certainly be looking at all the physiological challenges and demands that players are going to be under playing in warmer months.

“I would imagine that drinks breaks will be a regular feature of matches, and certainly in terms of the way players train, and the period for which they train, will change. I’m sure that will be factored in.

“But the great thing these days is the amount of expertise that’s around us – strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, medical staff. They are all very highly trained, so I would expect them to be taking all these things into consideration.

“A lot of the players in the Premier League are full internationals and they play tournaments in summer. But clearly other players won’t be used to that. That’s when we’ll need to use the experts around them.”

Meanwhile, Barber has refused to commit to the suggestion that the Premier League could be expanded in the event of its inability to finish the campaign, by scrapping relegation and promoting the top clubs from the Championship.

Clubs like Leeds and West Brom will expect the right to promotion while those at the bottom of the Premier League table are unlikely to accept being replaced in the top-flight if the Championship season is not concluded.

Barber added: “That’s definitely one for the Premier League and EFL. I think we’re all very conscious of the need to finish the season for the best possible sporting outcome, both in the Premier League and Championship.

“But we’re also aware of the challenges that we all face. It’s hard for me to talk about an expanded Premier League.

“Clearly extra games is great, but not if the season is already condensed. And of course you’ve got all the challenges of European fixtures and two cup competitions.

“But equally we all want the best possible sporting outcome. At the moment we’re very much focused on getting players back to training and then to the next stage.” PA

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Jadon Sancho’s move to Man Utd could hinge on bitter rivals Man City

Manchester United's bid to bring Jadon Sancho back to the Premier League is set to hinge on bitter rivals City having their European ban upheld.

Borussia Dortmund are demanding £100million-plus for Sancho – and United's hopes of luring the former City winger to Old Trafford suffered a devastating blow when executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward admitted that it “will not be business as usual” after confirming his club's debts had risen by almost £130million during the coronavirus crisis.

United's coffers would get a much-needed £50million boost if United qualified for the Champions League.

And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will resume the Premier League season in fifth place – a position which would launch them back into the Euro elite if City fail with an appeal to get their ban from UEFA competitions overturned next month.

That would strengthen Woodward's hand when it comes to testing Dortmund's resolve to keep Sancho at the club, with the high end of the transfer market expected to collapse in the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic.

The Bundesliga title chasers have said they will sell the 20-year-old – but only if the price is right.

Dortmund will have to choose between reducing their valuation or keeping the England international until the market recovers.

That uncertainty helps United – but only if they can qualify for the Champions League.

That would allow them to recover some of the losses that have seen the club plunge £429.1million in the red after writing off over £30million in lost broadcasting and match-day revenues.

And Sancho himself will want to play in the top competition after experiencing it with Dortmund in the last two seasons.

United will resume the season hoping they can qualify for the Champions League without the need to see their rivals fail at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Reds are unbeaten in five Premier League games and were just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea when lockdown came.

But they would not hesitate to cash in on any City misfortune with CAS.


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Liverpool and Man Utd target Kai Havertz given Premier League transfer advice

Kai Havertz has been handed some harsh advice over a move to the Premier League, with Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all monitoring the Bundesliga star.

Manchester City are the latest club to join the race for the Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder, who scored twice in his side's 4-1 win over Werder Bremen on Monday.

The 20-year-old Germany international, who can also play as a centre-forward or on the right wing, has now scored eight goals and notched five assists in 23 Bundesliga games this season, also netting three in the Europa League.

But while his performances have alerted the Premier League's big guns to his qualities, former United and Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov has told him not to let the speculation go to his head.

Berbatov played for Leverkusen himself, and switched to the Premier League when he joined Spurs in 2006.

And he has warned Havertz he still has work to do before he joins a club like Liverpool or United.

“Havertz needs to get used to the sounds that are being made about him following his two goals on Monday night because teams are going to come after him,” Berbatov told Betfair.

“There’s a lot of talk that Liverpool, Chelsea and other teams are interested in him. So now he needs to be careful, not let that go to his head and stay focused on his game.

“He has enough quality and if he continues the way he is going, teams will still be there – they won’t go away.

"All eyes are on the Bundesliga at the moment and when you score goals and play good football it is no surprise that teams like Liverpool want you.

“I would like to see Havertz in the Premier League at some point, but not right now.

"I think it is a bit too early for him. I want to see him play more games, score more goals and get more confidence and maturity.”


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Peter Crouch admits he’d have concerns over football return if he still played

Peter Crouch has admitted he would have concerns about returning to football amid the coronavirus pandemic if he was still playing.

Premier League stars returned to socially-distanced training sessions this week as 'Project Restart' took the first step towards a potential return to behind-closed-doors matches next month.

But some players have opted to stay away, with Watford captain Troy Deeney refusing to train over fears he could contract the virus and pass it on to his five-month-old son, who has previously suffered respiratory complications.

Deeney's decision not to return was set against the background of three positive tests for Covid-19 among Watford players and staff earlier this week.

Defender Adrian Mariappa and two staff members tested positive, and it emerged on Friday that two more players unnamed players has gone into isolation over health fears.

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante also opted not to train, after his older brother Niama died of a heart attack shortly before the 2018 World Cup.

Kante himself suffered from a health scare in March the same year when he passed out in front of his team-mates at the club's training ground, while he also lost his dad when he was 11 years old.

And former Tottenham, Liverpool and England striker Crouch – who has four children with his wife Abbey Clancey – said he is not sure he'd be back in training if he was still playing.

"I see Troy Deeney has been spoken about a lot this week, for not returning to training, but I put myself in his position and think what would I do?" Crouch told the Daily Mail.

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Girlfriend of Premier League star ‘caught smuggling stun gun’ on to private jet

The girlfriend of a Premier League player was reportedly caught smuggling a stun gun and a cosh on to a private jet for her 'protection'.

Border Force officers found the weapons when the WAG was asked to open her bag at a private jet terminal after a weekend away, report The Sun.

She allegedly told officials she had bought the items abroad following a spate of raids on homes of football stars in the UK.

The illegal items were reportedly seized from the woman on her return to the UK after she had apparently said she had nothing to declare.

A source told The Sun: "When asked to open her bag, officers found illegal weapons. She immediately burst into tears.

“It seems she very naively thought it would be OK to bring the stun gun into the UK to give her protection.

“She clearly had no idea possession of weapons like this is taken very seriously.”

Possessing a stun gun is punishable by up to six months in jail or a maximum fine of £5,000.

Extendable batons are also illegal to carry, being classed as offensive weapons.

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Three players Liverpool hope to sell to fund Timo Werner transfer move

Liverpool continue to be linked with RB Leipzig star Timo Werner – although the financial repercussions of Covid-19 look set to make that difficult.

Werner has been a target for the Reds for more than a year, and the 24-year-old is believed to favour a move to Anfield over other interested clubs.

And with stats like his this season the speculation isn't going away.

The Germany international has scored 21 goals and laid on seven assists in 26 Bundesliga matches, while in the Champions League he has netted four in eight games, along with a couple of assists.

Werner is expected to cost £51million – but given the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had across football, clubs even of Liverpool's stature are not expected to be spending huge sums.

According to The Athletic, the Reds are unlikely to splash out on Werner this summer – although given that the interest is mutual, he could move to Anfield in a later transfer window.

However, Liverpool are trying to offload three players whose sales could raise the necessary cash to fund a swoop for the striker, who is contracted to Leipzig until 2023.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic are all surplus to requirements for Jurgen Klopp's side and could be of interest to other clubs.

Wilson and Grujic have been on loan at Bournemouth and Hertha Berlin respectively, while Shaqiri has found it tough to break into Liverpool's first-team plans but could do a job elsewhhere in the Premier League.

Prior to the pandemic, Liverpool would have been looking for around £27m for Shaqiri and £40m for Wilson and Grujic combined.

Of course, the Reds have had to contend with transfer interest in star attackers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, with Real Madrid keen on both players.

Le10Sport has reported that if either were to be tempted away from Anfield, the sums likely to be involved would open the door to a move for Werner.


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Jurgen Klopp explains how he’ll get creative in Liverpool’s title mission

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says he and his coaching staff are preparing to get creative to help the team prepare for a possible return to Premier League football.

The Reds will be back at their training base Melwood on Wednesday, but will only be allowed to engage in small group training to follow the government protocol with regards to staying safe amid the coronavirus crisis.

There are some worries that players will struggle to adapt to the intensity of the Premier League after such a long time off, but speaking to Liverpool's TV channel Klopp insisted his squad are looking in good shape, and that he and his staff are prepared to adapt to the new form of training.

"When we start, it goes really again for everything," Klopp said. "The competition will make the intensity. You will see, the intensity will go up.

"From a physical point of view, the boys are in a good shape, they could run a marathon probably. But we have to start getting used to the pitch, football boots and balls again; that’s a big challenge these football-specific things, make all the difference.

"The boys are fit but the moment you start playing football, you can see how different it is. That’s what we have to get through and we will get through it."

"We do whatever we have to do to stay safe, also keep other people safe, and still be able to play football."

With the Bundesliga returning behind closed doors at the weekend there is growing optimism that the Premier League could follow suit, and games could start again as early as next month.

Liverpool need just two more wins from their remaining nine games to secure their first ever Premier League title after picking up a staggering 82 points from their 29 matches so far.

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Andrea Pirlo hails Liverpool and Man Utd target Sandro Tonali ‘best in Serie A’

Liverpool and Manchester United transfer target Sandro Tonali has been widely dubbed 'the next Andrea Pirlo' – and the Italian legend himself has described his heir apparent as the best player in Serie A.

Tonali's time at Serie A's bottom club Brescia looks set to be over soon, as the 20-year-midfielder has some of Europe's top clubs queuing up for his signature thanks to his impressive displays for his struggling side.

As well as Liverpool and United, clubs credited with an interest in Tonali include Premier League rivals Manchester City plus Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid and PSG.

The midfielder has often been linked to World Cup winner Pirlo, the imperious deep-lying playmaker who started his career at Tonali's club Brescia before winning trophies galore with AC Milan and Juventus, earning 116 caps for Italy along the way.

And praise for the midfielder does not come any higher than from Pirlo himself.

"He is very good but he is different from me on the pitch," Pirlo told Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He has everything to be a champion but he is more a midfielder for a two-man midfield.

"He could already play for a great team; he is the best in this league."

Brescia owner Massimo Cellino has previously claimed Liverpool have spoken to him about the three-cap Italy international, while United were last year linked with a swoop to sign the wonderkid.

Earlier this season, Cellino said it would take a world-record offer to prize Tonali away from Brescia.

"In my view, he'd be better off remaining with Brescia," the former Leeds United owner said.

"The other day, his agent and his parents were telling me about this €50m evaluation. I replied that for me he is worth €300m, which means I don't want to sell."


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‘If I was still playing I’d want to be part of Premier League return next month’

I’ve been thinking about this ­question for some time. As a player, would I want to return when the Premier League resumes in June?

As a manager, my choice is clear. When they say it is safe to resume with Brisbane Roar, I won’t have a second thought about leading the team.

As a player, though, with the ­contact, the sweat and the closeness, would I be prepared to go out there?

The answer is a resounding yes. Absolutely. And I’d go further – I’d ­genuinely be amazed if there are any Premier League ­footballers who don’t want to play.

I’m not diminishing any fears because I have said all along they should only return when it feels safe to do so.

Chelsea star Willian and West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell are the latest players to hit out at Project Restart after Danny Rose, Glenn Murray and Sergio Aguero already expressed their concerns.

Sure, players will have ­reservations, but I believe, when presented with all the evidence, they’ll want to play.

We hear all the time about footballers living in a separate bubble to the rest of us.

Now we’ll see if they do ­because that is the whole point – they are removed from the threat posed by daily life many ­people are facing right now.

I keep reading about players “putting lives at risk”. Well, let me talk you through what will happen.

They will be tested for coronavirus, maybe three times a week.

But, on top of that, players already have regular blood tests to check their fitness markers. They wear heart monitors in training, they are weighed, they are examined, they have their ­oxygen levels, VO2 max levels, every level you can think of, tested all the time.

And those tests will be stepped up.

If there is even a slight fluctuation in ­oxygen levels or heart rate in a ­specific task, for instance, there will be medical examinations and an immediate ­Covid-19 test.

Why is that important? Well, a recent study from frontline doctors in the United States suggests that if virus is caught early, then the ­outcome is always much better.

And how do they detect it earlier, even when there are no symptoms? By checking oxygen ­saturation levels in the blood. Their study found that when people arrived at hospital with symptoms, it was often too late, with low oxygen levels that were ­life-threatening.

When they detected ­lowering oxygen levels early, though, it was much easier to treat patients, without having to resort to using ventilators.

And footballers will be able to have their levels checked throughout the day.

They are young and fit too, so not in the highly dangerous over-75 category.

And when people speak about the risk of having vulnerable family members at home, again, the testing programme could help.

If they are checked and there are signs of the virus, then they can isolate, away from those family members. Straight away.

If a footballer caught Covid-19 outside that bubble, then it may be days before they knew they had it, if at all.

And that’s a much greater risk to ­family.

There will be ­incredible ­precautions, too.

Isolation from the wider public, as ­footballers tend to do ­anyway. Extreme safety measures taken at work as well, such as deep cleans, ­protective ­equipment and strategic plans.

Of course, there is the argument that playing with all this testing and personal protective equipment takes away resources from the NHS.

To me, that is just going back to taking pot-shots at football for the sake of it, like when ­players were singled out for not taking pay cuts, even as ­billionaires in tax havens were pocketing taxpayers’ cash.

Where is the Premier League ­getting these tests from – out of hospital ­stockrooms? No, they are ­available to buy and our Government can buy them. They just haven’t done a very good job of doing that. In fact, they’ve been ­rubbish. But there is no global shortage.

If the Premier League said, “Okay, we won’t play so we don’t use testing kits”, not one extra test would go to the UK public. It’s a spurious, nonsensical ­argument and it is made by people who should be aiming their anger at the ­Government, not footballers.

In fact, footballers have been leading the way among “celebrities” in donating to help the NHS.

If it’s still a problem, aim your complaints at the Government. God knows, they deserve it for the failure to ­support NHS staff and careworkers in the early days of this crisis.

Look at the facts. To finish the season, they will need around 40,000 tests – fewer than a ­quarter of the daily number of tests the Government say they will be doing by June. So, if the Premier League donated those tests, it's six hours’ worth.

Even better, how about the Premier League donate 40,000 tests, to go with the millions of pounds given to the NHS? Or 100,000 tests?

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Fred opens up on extent of the influence Ferguson still has at Man Utd

Sir Alex Ferguson still has the run of Manchester United.

That's according to Fred, who says the former Red Devils boss is always at the training centre, the stadium, and sometimes even inside the dressing room.

Ferguson was United boss for 27 years before calling time on his career in football management at the close of the 2013 season.

During this time the 78-year-old won a staggering 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.

United haven't experienced success like it since Ferguson retired.

But while the Scot's presence has gone from the touchline, it seems he's still an active figure behind the scenes.

"It was an honour to meet this Sir. One of the guys who revolutionised football," Fred told Esporte Interativo.

"And each story of Alex Ferguson here is gigantic and it's a guy that Solskjaer played for, so he's always there in the training centre watching some training, at the stadium, sometimes he goes to the dressing room to greet us.

"Man, it's an incredible feeling to meet him, to touch his hand.

"He's a guy who, in Manchester United's history, I think he is, I don't think so, I'm sure he's the greatest coach in football history. So he's an idol, not only mine but of all football, and I'm very happy to have had the pleasure of meeting him and other idols here at the club. So I have enormous gratitude for that."

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