Bruno Labbadia has been named as the new head coach of Hertha Berlin.

The Bundesliga club have brought forward the appointment of the 54-year-old, who was originally due to take over at the end of the season before the Bundesliga was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labbadia, who will take charge from April 13, succeeds Alexander Nouri in the role after he had overseen four games since the resignation of Jurgen Klinsmann.

"Due to the current situation regarding the coronavirus and the interruption to the season, we're currently experiencing a kind of early summer break," said Hertha managing director Michael Preetz.

"We have decided to take this opportunity to be able to prepare the team over the next few weeks for a possible continuation of the season."

Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert confirmed this week that the league plans to resume behind closed doors during May.

Labbadia was most recently in charge of Wolfsburg but left at the end of last season after leading them to a sixth-place finish in the league and qualification for the Europa League.

Hertha were 13th in the table when the season was halted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Thomas Muller does not think he would have signed a contract extension at Bayern Munich were Niko Kovac still at the helm as head coach.

Former Germany forward Muller penned fresh terms at the Allianz Arena to run until June 2023 this week.

The 30-year-old will be forever synonymous with Bayern and sits fourth on their all-time scoring charts with 195 goals across 521 appearances.

However, he found himself out in the cold under Kovac, who was sacked in November.

Since Hansi Flick's arrival, initially as an interim head coach, Muller has been a player revitalised, netting six goals and supplying a remarkable 12 assists in 15 Bundesliga games.

"In autumn, I was left out of the starting 11 for six games in a row. It was difficult. Of course, it made me think," he told an online news conference on Thursday.

"Emotionally, it was very tense back then. I wasn't necessarily thinking that I would be extending my contract in the spring.

"With the change of coach and different playing style, everything has developed positively.

"Not only have I been playing more, but I've also been able to put my stamp on our games again."

Bayern's players returned to training in small groups on Monday, with the club offering assurances that "all hygiene regulations will be strictly observed" amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"We try to stick to what is specified from above," Muller said. "I don't know what is specified and restricted in other areas.

"We have to fit into the overall structure. I don't know if football has a special position."

He added: "We all want to play football, of course, but only from the point of view that makes sense. This is an exceptional situation, not only for football."

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes it is imperative the Bundesliga resumes when possible for financial and sporting reasons.

Like most competitions around the world, the Bundesliga has been suspended in an effort to limit the impact of coronavirus.

However, it would appear Germany's top flight is closer to returning than other leagues as most teams have already resumed training in small groups, with games set to take place behind closed doors in early May.

There have been fears that some leagues may have to be scrapped entirely if they cannot be concluded in the coming weeks, yet Rummenigge is vehemently against that notion.

"We know that it is necessary to start again for two reasons," he told Corriere dello Sport. 

"The first is the sports one. You have to assign the title, know which team will participate in the cups, who will be demoted. 

"The second, no less important, is economic. Here the televisions that broadcast the games have a strong impact on revenues."

To help lessen the financial impact, Bayern and Germany's three other Champions League representatives in 2019-20 - Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen - have all pledged €20million to Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga clubs.

Rummenigge warned such collaborations will be necessary across the game after a decade of big spending.

"For 10 years, football has lived beyond its means and the clubs have taken all the risks," he added.

"In such a difficult moment, balance sheets do not count as much as cash.

"The crisis is global, the solution must be shared. The field can limit the damage. FIFA and UEFA must improve their relations and act economically."

Neymar is Lionel Messi's "natural replacement" and would love to return to Barcelona, according to Brazil World Cup winner Mazinho.

Brazil superstar Neymar departed Camp Nou for a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2017-18 season but has consistently been linked with a move back to Barca.

Despite regular speculation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, Neymar remained in the French capital and has scored 18 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions this term.

Neymar is once again being tipped to join Barca, though it was said at the time he left the club in part to try and escape the shadow of superstar team-mate and now six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

But Mazinho feels the 28-year-old is ready to come back and is capable of taking on Messi's mantle as Barca's talisman.

Speaking to Radio Marca, he said: "[Barcelona] would be delighted if he can return tomorrow.

"He is Messi's natural replacement. There is no other to replace Messi."

Mazinho's son Thiago Alcantara is part of a Bayern Munich side who returned to training this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bundesliga champions trained in small groups without contact and Mazinho, who was part of the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazil team, said he trusts the club have taken appropriate measures.

"[Playing football amid the coronavirus outbreak] is worrying because it is a complicated situation that we are all experiencing," he added.

"In Germany they are progressing in that sense, with group training.

"You have to be very careful with all this. If Bayern do it, they do it because there is no risk and they are providing security to all their footballers.

"My son must work and be as prudent as possible."

Bayer Leverkusen have signed Kaiserslautern goalkeeper Lennart Grill, the Bundesliga club announced on Wednesday.

Germany Under-21 international Grill will swap third-tier German outfit Kaiserslautern for Leverkusen for the 2020-21 season.

Grill – whose deal with Leverkusen is until June 2024 – played in every game for Kaiserslautern prior to the postponement of football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"A big step forward to a top German team. I've watched a lot of Bayer 04 games up to the season being suspended. As a spectator, it was great fun watching their high tempo, possession football," the 21-year-old said.

"Bayer 04 Leverkusen are a club with European ambition and I'm happy to soon be part of it."

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes said: "We've been able to sign a very interesting and highly talented goalkeeper in Lennart Grill.

"It's a long-term signing and Lennart has great prospects. We are very happy we’ve been able to persuade him to join us."

The Bundesliga is aiming to resume in early May with games behind closed doors, German Football League (DFL) chief executive Christian Seifert has revealed.

Germany's top two divisions have been suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the John Hopkins University, the country has had over 110,000 cases of COVID-19 infection – the fourth most in Europe – with more than 2,100 deaths.

Seifert confirmed to the New York Times plans are being put in place for the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga to restart with spectator-free matches next month.

"We are part of the culture in the country, people long to get back a short piece of normal life, and that could mean the Bundesliga plays again," Seifert said.

"This is why we have to play our role here, and that means to support the government and to talk with the government about when we will be able to play again.

"The sooner we are finished, the more flexibility we can provide to the European football landscape."

Seifert also suggested that cancelling the season could put five Bundesliga clubs in serious financial trouble, while half the teams in the second tier would be "very much in danger to file for bankruptcy".

Bayern Munich chief executive Herbert Hainer said he expects the pandemic to lead to a significant reduction in transfer fees. Seifert believes a full collapse is on the cards.

"In the short term, I would say the transfer market this summer will not exist, it will collapse," he said.

"Some agents will suddenly understand that they will have to work hard, or at least work; some leagues will understand that money is nothing that is coming automatically every month from heaven."

Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland is the best in Europe in the box and could well be the world's leading talent in the future, according to Norway team-mate Havard Nordtveit.

After surging into the spotlight with a series of phenomenal Champions League displays at Salzburg, Dortmund stumped up €25million to activate the release clause in Haaland's contract and bring him to the Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old has maintained his stunning form, scoring 12 goals in 11 appearances – seven of which have come as part of the starting line-up – in all competitions for BVB before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to action in all major leagues across Europe.

Nordtveit, who also plays in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, expects Haaland to remain on an upward trajectory in part due to his dedication in off-field areas.

"He is perhaps already the best in Europe in the penalty area. He is also super professional, focusing a lot on things like sleep and nutrition," Nordtveit told SID.

"He does everything he can to become the best player in the world. It could work out.

"He has already broken the boundaries. You can barely stop him. Give him a few more years. If he can use his body even more, it will be difficult for any defender in the Bundesliga and from bigger leagues."

He added: "He's not a superstar in the dressing room. He has remained true to himself and a great person."

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking, passing, defending and goalkeeping numbers from 2019-20, but who has been letting the side down with shoddy discipline.

We have analysed five metrics for players now operating under the increasing scrutiny of VAR across the elite divisions.

These include the worst offenders in terms of fouls conceded, penalties conceded, offsides, yellow cards and red cards.

Check out our list of shame below, which is not the who's who of hotheads you might expect, while a lack of minutes on the field does not necessarily mean a player cannot irritate the officials.

THE WORST FOUL STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most fouls conceded: Robert Andrich (52) 
Most penalties conceded: Dedryck Boyata (3)
Most offsides: Timo Werner (35)
Most yellow cards: Klaus Gjasula (12)
Most red cards: Leon Bailey (2)

LALIGA:

Most fouls conceded: Jaime Mata (67)
Most penalties conceded: Ruben Duarte (4)
Most offsides: Alvaro Morata (28)
Most yellow cards: Gerard Pique (12)
Most red cards: Facundo Roncaglia, Zouhair Feddal, Clement Lenglet (all 2)

LIGUE 1:

Most fouls conceded: Andy Delort (69)
Most penalties conceded: Mathieu Debuchy (3)
Most offsides: Victor Osimhen (33)
Most yellow cards: Nicolas Pallois (10)
Most red cards: Ruben Aguilar, Racine Coly, Steven Moreira, Boubakary Soumare, Marcal, Anthony Briancon, Jacques-Alaixys Romao (all 2)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most fouls conceded: Etienne Capoue (47)
Most penalties conceded: David Luiz (3)
Most offsides: Chris Wood (31)
Most yellow cards: Jorginho (10)
Most red cards: Christian Kabasele (2)

SERIE A:

Most fouls conceded: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (52)
Most penalties conceded: Koray Gunter (3)
Most offsides: Cristiano Ronaldo, Rodrigo Palacio (both 21)
Most yellow cards: Ismael Bennacer (12)
Most red cards: Bremer, Federico Marchetti, Pawel Dawidowicz, Armando Izzo, Davide Calabria (all 2)

AND THE TOP FIVE:

Most fouls conceded: Andy Delort (69)
Most penalties conceded: Ruben Duarte (4)
Most offsides: Timo Werner (35)
Most yellow cards: Ismael Bennacer (12 in 1,620 minutes played)
Most red cards: Federico Marchetti (2 despite not playing a single minute of Lazio's Serie A season!)

Borussia Dortmund Marco Reus insists he never had any desire to join Bayern Munich.

Towards the end of Dortmund's impressive spell of success under Jurgen Klopp – an era that yielded back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels all swapped Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena.

Reus, who joined BVB from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012, was also a target for Bayern but explained in an interview with Sport Bild that his heart always lay at a club where he now proudly wears the captain's armband.

"The request came, as it did from other clubs. I have the greatest respect for Bayern Munich and what the club has been doing for decades," he said.

"But I always wanted to play for BVB. It was always the club my heart drew me to. When I played in Gladbach at the time, it was clear to me: within the Bundesliga, I only change to Dortmund, otherwise I go abroad."

Thomas Muller signed an extended contract until 2023 at Bayern this week, matching the terms his fellow 30-year-old Reus has at Dortmund.

“I think it is also important for the fans that there are guys like Thomas and me. They notice that we identify with their club as much as they do it themselves," he said.

"It has always been my dream to play for BVB. Here I have everything to be happy: my home, my family, my club. 

"And this feeling has always prevailed - even if another country with a different culture might have been attractive."

Thomas Muller is as important to Bayern as Oktoberfest is to the city of Munich, according to club president Herbert Hainer.

Muller signed a new contract on Tuesday to remain with the Bundesliga champions until 2023.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire career with Bayern and has made 521 appearances for the club, scoring 195 times and providing 146 assists since making his debut in 2008.

That has led Hainer to compare the former Germany international to one of Munich's most famous events.

"It is of course very good news and I was incredibly happy when I heard it," he said in quotes published on Bayern's Twitter account.

"Thomas Muller is a hero, a symbol of FC Bayern Munich. He's spent his entire footballing career here and he's blossomed once again in recent months under Hansi Flick.

"He provides so many assists, he's an outstanding player, and I think that Thomas Muller belongs to FC Bayern, much like Oktoberfest belongs to the city of Munich.

"And in that respect, that's really great news."

Muller is not the only key figure at Bayern to have penned an extension in recent days, with Flick agreeing a deal to remain as permanent coach last week.

Flick took over on an interim basis in November and Bayern were on a 15-match unbeaten run - winning 14 of those games - before competitions were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"When the matter was brought to the supervisory board, we made a very quick and unanimous decision," Hainer said of Flick's contract.

"As head coach of FC Bayern Munich, you will of course be measured by titles and that will certainly be the case with Hansi Flick.

"But we are absolutely convinced by Hansi Flick. If you look at what he has done with the team over the past few months, he has not only got the team winning, but it's also about the way the team plays.

"They play incredibly attractive, great, attacking football, they score a lot of goals and win most games.

"They're already so good, but I'm convinced Hansi Flick will continue to develop this team."

Hansi Flick is hopeful Bayern Munich can come to a positive resolution with a group of club stalwarts whose contracts are set to expire in 2021.

Flick was on Friday signed to a three-year deal by Bayern, having taken over as interim coach in November and restored them as Bundesliga favourites after a poor start under Niko Kovac.

Bayern are four points clear at the top with the Bundesliga, like most leagues across Europe, suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas Muller penned a new deal to remain with Bayern until 2023 on Tuesday, but a host of others will be out of contract at the end of next season.

Manuel Neuer, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara will all be heading into the final year of their current deals in the 2020-21 campaign.

Asked about prospective extensions for the quintet, Flick told a media conference held via Zoom: "These are also decisions that every player has to decide for themselves.

"In the past weeks and months, I have already explained how important Manuel Neuer, David Alaba or Thiago are to us.

"They have undergone enormous developments over the past six months and were real top performers. The club also noticed that and I hope that it goes in the right direction."

The Bundesliga is suspended until at least April 30 and the likelihood is that, if it is to resume, the season will be completed behind closed doors.

On the so-called 'ghost games', Flick added: "The DFL [German Football League] is based on very clear guidelines. So everything is controlled.

"We have to be open to changes in the short term in connection with politics and the whole development.

"At the moment we should avoid physical contact, so we concentrate after three weeks of cyber training.

"It's a welcome change for the players. It takes time to get things back in. It's important that you can get used to it again.

"We will also have to get used to the fact that the games will take place without fans. We want to deal with it professionally."

Thomas Muller's love affair with Bayern Munich is set to continue until at least 2023 after the Germany great signed a contract extension on Tuesday.

Rumblings that Muller may consider his future at the Allianz Arena at the end of the season have now been emphatically quashed, with the 30-year-old remaining, at least for now, a one-club man.

Since making his debut in 2008, Muller – a 2014 World Cup winner – has established himself as one of the best to ever pull on a Bayern shirt.

With the help of Opta data, we have crunched the number's behind Muller's Bayern career.


CLOSING ON BECKENBAUER AND RUMMENIGGE

Muller will forever be regarded as an all-time Bayern great.

Only six players can boast more than his 521 appearances in all competitions for Die Roten, with Franz Beckenbauer his next target to overtake.

In that time, Muller has scored an impressive 195 goals. Only Gerd Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Karl-Keinz Rummenigge can lay claim to more.

Muller is equally important for his creativity and he has contributed 146 assists to Bayern's cause, meaning in total he has 341 goal involvements, contributing to a goal every 112 minutes.


ENJOYING LIFE UNDER FLICK

At times, it looked as though Muller's role under previous bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Niko Kovac was becoming increasingly isolated.

But under Hansi Flick, who signed a three-year deal last week, Muller has simply flourished.

He is one of just three players (alongside Alphonso Davies and Manuel Neuer) to feature in all 21 games under Flick and his 21 goal involvements (eight goals and 13 assists) playing for the coach is bettered only by Lewandowski's 24.

Muller has provided 16 assists in total in the Bundesliga this term – a joint record with Kevin De Bruyne after 25 rounds in the top flight.

There is still time for Muller to break De Bruyne's record of 20 assists in a single Bundesliga campaign, which he managed playing for Wolfsburg in 2014-15. 


MULLER'S MILESTONES

- Muller made his competitive debut for the first team on the opening day of the 2008-09 Bundesliga season, coming on as a substitute for Miroslav Klose after 79 minutes in Bayern's 2-2 draw with Hamburg under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

- Aged 19 years, five months and 25 days Muller made his Champions League debut in March 2009 when Bayern hammered Sporting CP 7-1. He also scored his first goal for the first team in the 90th minute.

- His first two Bundesliga goals followed in a 5-1 win at Dortmund on September 12 2009, just a day before his 20th birthday.

- Like team-mate David Alaba, Muller has won eight Bundesliga titles – his former team-mate Franck Ribery (nine) is the only player to win the Bundesliga more often.

- Muller has won 247 Bundesliga games (as many as Claudio Pizarro). Only six players have won more matches in the German top-flight, Philipp Lahm (250) is just three wins away in fourth place.

- On May 1, 2010, Muller celebrated his first hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Bochum, making him the youngest player ever to score a hat-trick for Bayern in the Bundesliga, a record he still owns today.

- His best season came in 2015-16, when he was directly involved in 25 Bundesliga goals in 31 appearances (20 goals, five assists). In all competitions, he managed 32 goals and 10 assists.

- Kovac's last game as Bayern boss, the heavy 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt last November, was also Muller's 500th game for Bayern in all competitions. 

- In the 4-0 victory over Dortmund in November, Muller became the first player to reach 100 Bundesliga assists since the start of detailed data collection in 2004-05.

Hansi Flick was handed the Bayern Munich job on a permanent basis on Friday with the future of several first-team regulars top of his agenda.

Six of his most experienced players were out of contract at the end of next season but that number can be trimmed to five after Thomas Muller extended his stay at the Allianz Arena.

The 30-year-old has penned a new deal until 2023 after a hugely impressive 2019-20 season that has seen him contribute six goals and 16 assists in 25 Bundesliga games.

It is a promising start to Flick's tenure, although there remains much to do.

Here, we look at the five players whose contracts expire in 2021.
 

 

MANUEL NEUER

A symbol of the modern era at Bayern and captain for club and country, Neuer has kept more clean sheets (10) than any other Bundesliga goalkeeper this term.

However, the 33-year-old's save ratio of 69 per cent leaves plenty to be desired, meaning Alexander Nubel's pending arrival next season should apply significant pressure.

It feels unlikely Bayern will not put a deal on the table for Neuer, but would the 2014 World Cup winner hang around as a number two?


DAVID ALABA

The lavishly gifted Austria star has flourished under Flick, stepping effortlessly into the heart of defence following injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez.

The 27-year-old has played every minute of Bayern's past 20 matches and has no shortage of admirers.

Amid reports of him being unsettled in Bavaria, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City have all been linked with his services of late.


JEROME BOATENG

In many ways, the exemplar of Bayern's renaissance under Flick. The former Germany defender played 13 of 26 matches at the start of the season.

Since January he has started nine of 11 games, performing with his customary assurance and recording a 92 per cent pass completion rate.

However, Boateng will be 32 in September and this run of form might come to be viewed as a fitting swansong at the Allianz Arena, especially once Benjamin Pavard and Hernandez return to fitness.


JAVI MARTINEZ

A well-liked and versatile performer, Martinez's eight years at Bayern have been peppered with injury woes.

The 30-year-old Spain international has started five of the past 12 games and a return to boyhood club Athletic Bilbao would not be a surprise.


THIAGO ALCANTARA

Thiago wowed with a midfield masterclass in the game that arguably sealed Flick's long-term future – the 3-0 Champions League win at Chelsea last month.

The Spain playmaker has supplied eight assists this season and won 61 per cent of his duels.

At 28, Thiago is in his prime and must be a central figure in any Bayern reboot.

Lothar Matthaus believes Bayern Munich should target Timo Werner rather than Leroy Sane to reduce "the risk of agitation and bling-bling".

Former Bayern and Germany captain Matthaus has also predicted Manuel Neuer will move on at the end of the season, ending a nine-year stay at the club.

Head coach Hansi Flick, who has agreed a three-year deal after a successful spell in interim control, is expected to stamp his mark on the Bayern squad this summer.

That is likely to see a new forward joining, and Matthaus would prefer to see RB Leipzig frontman Werner arrive rather than long-time target Sane.

"My soft spot for Timo Werner is well known," Matthaus wrote in a column for sport.sky.de.

"And I don't mean to say that I don't think Leroy Sane is great. But you get the feeling that Flick and [Bayern board member Oliver] Kahn are more likely to see Timo Werner as the player who could be better suited to this club in many respects.

"He is more flexible on the pitch, his character may correspond a little bit more to the wishes of those in charge."

The comments from Matthaus alluding to Sane's character may cause some upset.

"The risk of agitation and bling-bling is significantly lower," Matthaus said. "He [Werner] can play at the very front in [Robert] Lewandowski's place, hanging behind or play on the wings. And he should also be cheaper."

Matthaus said Werner has "clearly developed this season, while pointing to Sane's lack of action at Manchester City due to a knee injury.

"I don't want to be misunderstood," Matthaus added. "Both players would bring added value to Bayern. But if I had to choose today, I would go for Timo Werner if I was in Bayern's place."

Matthaus sees Neuer, meanwhile, as approaching the end of the road at Sabener Strasse.

Bayern have signed Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, in a deal that will take effect at the end of the season, yet 34-year-old Neuer is reportedly seeking a long-term contract.

Matthaus suggested Neuer, whose current deal expires next year, should accept a three-year contract rather than push for greater security, but he has a hunch the long-standing number one will move on.

"I think the signs point to goodbye," Matthaus said.

"He wants to play. He wants to play more and longer. This is totally understandable with his quality. I don't think he will play in Munich again next season."

Thomas Muller has signed a new contract with Bayern Munich that ties him to the club until 2023.

The 30-year-old, a one-club man who made his Bayern debut in 2008, follows head coach Hansi Flick in committing to the Bundesliga champions for the next three years. 

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