Fabio Cannavaro has sympathised with Virgil van Dijk after the Liverpool star narrowly missed out on winning last year's Ballon d'Or award.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi came out on top by just seven points in the voting to claim football's most prestigious individual honour for a sixth time.

A defender has not won the award since Cannavaro did so in 2006 in the wake of Italy's victory at the World Cup.

Cannavaro felt Van Dijk was extremely unfortunate not to triumph after the huge impact he had on Liverpool's backline on their way to Champions League glory in 2019.

He believes defenders start at a disadvantage when compared to attacking stars like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I messaged Van Dijk to congratulate him on last season but, as a defender, it is difficult to win," Cannavaro said to Sky Sports.

"You don't just need to have a great performance and to win trophies.

"You need to be lucky not to have a striker like Ronaldo and Messi in front of you. This is the key. If you have Messi or Ronaldo you start the game 1-0 up."

Liverpool had three of the top five players in last year's Ballon d'Or voting, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also faring well.

"Liverpool had an amazing season and they deserve to win and celebrate this league," added Cannavaro, referring to the Reds' position at the Premier League summit.

"But we are in this [coronavirus] situation and it's a shame for them.

"I respect Salah a lot. He's changed a lot at Liverpool. For the last three years, he's been like a machine. 

"He's the player every coach would like to train because he can defend and attack and he leaves everything on the field, he never gives up."

Cannavaro, who is in charge of Guangzhou Evergrande, hopes to manage in the Premier League one day.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola are among those he is impressed by.

"I watch every game in the Premier League and I like the ambiance and culture of football in England," he said.

"I am in China to try to improve my system and idea within football. I am at one of the best Asian clubs and of course, in the future, I'd like to try one experience in Europe. 

"I like the Klopp mentality but at the same time, I like the Pep culture about football because always we need intensity with and without the ball. 

"But you need to control the game and try to win. I have my system and I hope one day you will see."

Kalidou Koulibaly's future remains a talking point and Liverpool are reportedly in "pole position" to sign the Napoli defender.

Koulibaly, 28, has been linked with a move amid reported interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs.

And it seems a Koulibaly-Virgil van Dijk central defensive pairing is getting closer at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL IN 'POLE POSITION' TO SIGN KOULIBALY

Liverpool are in pole position to sign Koulibaly after Paris Saint-Germain withdrew their interest, according to Le 10 Sport.

With Manchester United having also reportedly withdrawn from the race, Jurgen Klopp's side and Newcastle United – pending takeover – could land the defender.

Koulibaly is contracted at Napoli until 2023 and it will reportedly take an offer of £88.4million (€100m) to land the defender.

ROUND-UP

- PSG do seemingly want to hold onto Mauro Icardi beyond the end of his loan from Inter. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports PSG are willing to offer Julian Draxler as part of a deal for Icardi, who joined with a €70m purchase option.

- Staying at PSG and the Ligue 1 giants are looking to sign Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to Le 10 Sport. Tonali has been linked heavily with a move to Juventus.

- t seemed Barcelona and Juventus were preparing for a swap deal. But Goal reports an exchange involving Barca midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic is off, with the LaLiga giants also wanting money for the 23-year-old Brazil international.

- Dries Mertens is drawing plenty of attention with his contract at Napoli expiring at the end of the season. Mundo Deportivo reports PSG have joined Atletico Madrid, Inter and Chelsea in a fight for the forward.

- Also with Inter, the Serie A club are still considering forward Jonathan David, according to CalcioMercato. David, 20, has scored 23 goals in 40 games for Gent this season.

- With his loan deal at Roma ending, Chris Smalling looks set to return to Manchester United. Corriere dello Sport reports Roma are considering Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Barcelona's Jean-Clair Todibo, who is on loan at Schalke, to replace Smalling.

Arsene Wenger admitted he still worried about Arsenal and the former manager hopes Mikel Arteta can restore the club's style.

Arteta replaced Unai Emery at the helm in December last year, with Wenger having retired at the end of the 2017-18 season.

But the 70-year-old still keeps a close eye on his former club and said he hoped Arteta could bring back Arsenal's possession-based style.

"I worry about the club still a lot and I watch all of the games," Wenger told talkSPORT on Friday.

"I believe there is a culture in the way to play football at Arsenal that I want to be respected.

"And I hope Mikel can get that back."

Arsenal were ninth in the Premier League when the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool were 25 points clear at the top and Wenger feels Jurgen Klopp's men are champions, regardless of whether the season is finished or not.

"Jurgen has done extremely well because that club has waited 30 years for this title," the Frenchman said.

"And when you think they have such a massive difference to the second team, Manchester City, as well – 25 points, it's absolutely massive.

"No matter what England will decide, Liverpool are champions in everyone's head, I think."

Bojan Krkic believes Barcelona would be better off signing Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino than Argentinian target Lautaro Martinez.

Inter striker Martinez has been strongly linked with a switch to Camp Nou at the end of the season, where he would team up with international colleague Lionel Messi.

But former Barca star Bojan suspects Martinez does not have the qualities that Barca require, given their shape and playing style.

And he has warned signing another out-and-out striker could prove an error, after the difficulty Antoine Griezmann has encountered in settling following his move from Atletico Madrid.

With Luis Suarez established as Barcelona's main target man, when fit, Griezmann has been forced into a wide role.

Writing on Spanish website Sport, Bojan said Martinez was well suited to Inter's counter-attacking game, and stressed he was an "excellent" player.

But he also expressed doubt over the Barcelona link, saying: "Inter don't usually take the initiative and that makes me think that Lautaro could occupy an area at Barca that is naturally not his. [That is] something that would certainly be a shame.

"If you allow me a name, I would bet more on Firmino: a link player, with a lot of presence and great mobility. I do not intend that this reflection be interpreted as a refusal to sign the Argentine, but I understand that his profile must be analysed very well because it would be unforgivable that, as happened with Griezmann, we sign a striker to put him on the wing and then complain that it doesn't work.

"That cannot happen again because, although it seems obvious, a nine is a nine. That is his natural habitat and to move him from there is to waste his talent. If Barca need a nine, sign him, but do it to really use him."

Brazil international Firmino joined Liverpool from Hoffenheim in 2015 and signed a long-term contract extension in April 2018, going on to help Jurgen Klopp's team win the Champions League last season and top the Premier League this term.

The Champions League delivered drama in droves last season.

With the 2019-20 competition on hold for now, it is the perfect opportunity to remember just how crazy Europe's premier competition became 12 months ago.

In a run of games from early March to early May, the Champions League churned out a succession of classic contests that will live long in the memory.

Here we look back at three months where Europe's grown-up football tournament started behaving like a devil-may-care teenager and was all the better for it.

March 5, 2019: Real Madrid 1 Ajax 4 (3-5 agg)

Ajax's team of fearless young stars produced one of the great Champions League campaigns.

Despite their impressive display in a 2-1 first-leg defeat, nobody really seemed to think Erik ten Hag's side could turn things around in the last 16 at the Santiago Bernabeu. Sergio Ramos certainly did not – he earned a booking to avoid the risk of a quarter-final ban, earning an extra game suspension from UEFA in the process.

In the absence of their captain, Madrid completely capitulated to their fearless and thrilling opponents.

Hakim Ziyech and David Neres put the visitors 2-0 up after only 18 minutes and it was 3-0 just after the hour mark thanks to the inspired Dusan Tadic.

Marco Asensio got a goal back, but Lasse Schone's free-kick beat Thibaut Courtois and sent Madrid crashing out. It was the first time they had ever been knocked out after winning the first leg of a Champions League tie.

March 6, 2019: Paris Saint-Germain 1 Manchester United 3 (3-3 agg, United won on away goals)

A day on from Ajax's thrashing of Madrid, Manchester United made history at the Parc des Princes.

No side had ever won a knockout tie after trailing 2-0 from a first leg at home and with 10 senior players missing, including the banned Paul Pogba, United's chances looked slim.

Romelu Lukaku scored just two minutes in, though, and despite Juan Bernat's equaliser on the night, Lukaku struck again after a Gianluigi Buffon error to make it 2-1.

As the game crept towards second-half injury time, Diogo Dalot's shot struck Presnel Kimpembe's arm and the referee awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR review. Marcus Rashford scored it, United progressed, and the clamour for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be given the permanent manager's job grew louder.

April 17, 2019: Manchester City 4 Tottenham 3 (4-4 agg, Spurs win on away goals)

Tottenham scored through Son Heung-min in a tense, frenetic first leg. Crucially, as it turned out, City did not. They were not about to make the same mistake as Raheem Sterling thrashed an early opener past Hugo Lloris at the Eithad Stadium.

Son responded with two superb finishes of his own, leaving Pep Guardiola's side with a mountain to climb. They duly began to scale it. Bernardo Silva scored, Sterling scored again. There had only been 21 minutes played.

Something faintly resembling a normal football match broke out and Sergio Aguero finished emphatically to give City the lead in the tie for the first time in the 59th minute.

In a sight Ajax are now familiar with, Spurs looked spent until Fernando Llorente bundled them back into the lead on away goals. That advantage ultimately remained, but only after Sterling thought he had completed his hat-trick. Bedlam ensued until VAR showed Aguero was fractionally offside during the build-up.

May 7, 2019: Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (4-3 agg)

Fresh from netting a late winner at Newcastle United the weekend before, Divock Origi allowed the Liverpool faithful to dream by poaching his maiden Champions League goal in the seventh minute. Still, overturning the 3-0 advantage Barca had brought to Merseyside looked a tall order.

Jurgen Klopp needed Alisson to be on form as he saved from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, before another unlikely hero emerged.

Andy Robertson's injury forced James Milner to left-back and Georginio Wijnaldum into the fray at half-time. By the hour, the Dutch midfielder had Liverpool level thanks to two goals in 122 delirious seconds.

Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner, leaving Barcelona and Messi crestfallen.

May 8, Ajax 2 Tottenham 3 (3-3 agg, Spurs win on away goals)

As they did at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Ajax made a smooth start and led through their inspirational captain Matthijs de Ligt in the fifth minute.

Ziyech emphatically made it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate, but Lucas changed the complexion of the contest as he was supported by Dele Alli's intelligent running from midfield and Llorente's robust accompaniment in attack.

Ziyech hit the post and Spurs centre-back Jan Vertonghen hit the bar. Amsterdam held its breath and Lucas proved to be the coolest man in the stadium in the 96th minute, sending his side through to face Liverpool in Madrid, where the Reds ultimately prevailed.

A year on from Liverpool's stunning Champions League win over Barcelona, Stats Perform's Russell Greaves recalls a memorable night at Anfield.

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There are banners promoting Liverpool football club adorning lampposts in the streets around Anfield that display prominently the words 'dream' and 'believe'.

A big line runs through the word 'dream', leaving 'believe' to stand proudly as a slogan for the club and their fans.

On May 7, 2019, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool believed in something that many would not have dared to dream of, and willed it into existence.

From a 3-0 first-leg deficit against the mighty Barcelona, the Reds produced a comeback for the ages to secure a spot in the Champions League final for the second season running.

Klopp had seemingly already prepared himself for a semi-final exit, conceding that any side would "have to be perfect" to beat Barcelona.

If their 4-0 win did not quite hit that lofty mark, it was simply because perfection is obtainable only in dreams. This was reality.

The scale of the task facing the hosts was so great that their manager had planned for the best way to lose the tie. In his pre-match media conference, Klopp suggested they would at least strive to "fail in the most beautiful way".

He also called for a "football party" on Merseyside, and outside the ground before kick-off many were happy to oblige in providing the revelry.

Victory over Newcastle United in the relentless Premier League title race had helped supporters digest the disappointment of the Camp Nou result and there was an atmosphere around Anfield prior to the game that suggested they would enjoy the occasion, despite the apparently insurmountable odds.

There was not, however, any real sense of what was about to happen. Nobody outside of the home dressing room could genuinely bring themselves to the point of believing that a miracle would unfold on this night.

This was, after all, Barcelona. This was Lionel Messi. One goal from the much-vaunted LaLiga champions would have made the impossible somehow even less possible.

And even for an unhinged optimist, the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for a Liverpool side who needed goals, and plenty of them, certainly made the improbable less probable.

All of this meant that the only sensible approach for Liverpool fans was to allow for a little flicker of hope and see how far that would take them before it was inevitably extinguished.

It took seven minutes for Divock Origi's opener to turn that flicker of hope into the embers of belief. In two second-half minutes, amid the tinder-box atmosphere of Anfield, Georginio Wijnaldum's double set alight those embers.

It does not take quite such a leap of faith to believe in something when it is happening in front of your eyes.

But that third goal had only levelled the aggregate scores. Extra time awaited, maybe penalties. Then again, Barca only needed that solitary strike to force Liverpool into requiring another two.

The Reds stood on the brink of either their greatest comeback, or what would be perhaps their most agonising near-miss.

With Anfield rocking, Barcelona reeling and Liverpool utterly dominant, Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick-thinking brilliance from a corner allowed Origi to add the finishing touch.

After the mayhem of the celebrations, which even a neutral might have got a little swept up in, a glance at one of the scoreboards displayed the absurd truth: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona.

You better believe it.

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

Anfield was the scene of wild celebrations this time last year as Liverpool produced a stunning comeback to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's side overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit to reach the final, which they would go on to win against Tottenham in Madrid.

Arsenal fans have fond memories of May 7, too, as it was the start of a run of results that has never been repeated in the Premier League era.

It is also a day of sadness, as it marks the anniversary of the death of golf great Seve Ballesteros.

 

2000 – David Coulthard finishes second at the Spanish Grand Prix after plane crash

McLaren claimed a famous one-two in Barcelona on this day 20 years ago, with Mika Hakkinen beating team-mate David Coulthard into second as Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a day to forget.

The fact Coulthard was even on the grid was astonishing given he had been injured in a fatal plane crash just five days earlier.

The pilot and co-pilot of the light aircraft were killed when it came down in flames in Lyon, with Coulthard escaping with fractured ribs.

The Scot said racing in discomfort was "a small price to pay" and made a point of not spraying champagne while on the podium, saying: "Two families suffered a huge loss last week and I didn't think it was right for me to celebrate in such circumstances."

 

2003 – Pennant hat-trick sees Invincibles born

With Manchester United having already won the title and with an FA Cup final around the corner for both sides, Arsenal's clash with Southampton on this day was not exactly fiercely contested.

The Gunners breezed to a 6-1 victory in which Jermaine Pennant marked his Premier League debut with a hat-trick, with Robert Pires bagging the other three and Jo Tessem netting a consolation.

The result had far-reaching consequences. It was the start of a 49-game run without loss in the top flight, stretching until October 2004, when United finally halted Arsene Wenger's relentless machine.

The 'Invincibles', who became the only team in Premier League history to go a whole season unbeaten in 2003-04, still hold the record for the longest undefeated streak in England's top division. Oh, and they beat Southampton in that FA Cup final, too.

 

2011 – Seve Ballesteros dies

The great Seve Ballesteros died on May 7, 2011 after a battle with brain cancer.

The Spaniard passed away at home in Pedrena three years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour following a collapse at Madrid airport in 2008.

Ballesteros is remembered still as an all-time star of the sport. He was a five-time major winner and claimed 90 titles overall, while he was successful as both player and captain in the Ryder Cup.

However, it was the style with which he played the game that won legions of admirers and prompted Lee Westwood, world number one at the time of Ballesteros' death, to describe him as "an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend".

 

2019 – Liverpool leave Barcelona reeling

Barcelona had suffered a humbling 3-0 loss to Roma in the 2017-18 quarter-finals that saw them knocked out on away goals after a 4-1 first-leg win.

Last season, with a 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the bag from Camp Nou and the memories of Rome still haunting them, they were determined there would be no repeat.

We all know what happened next.

Divock Origi put Liverpool ahead and, when Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice in 122 second-half seconds, the tie was level and Barca were rattled. Origi then got his second from a quick Trent Alexander-Arnold corner, Liverpool were 4-0 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate, Anfield was rocking, and Barca were out again.

Liverpool went on to become champions of Europe for the sixth time. As for Barca, that humiliating trip to Merseyside will likely never be forgotten.

Manchester City midfielder Rodri applauded Liverpool for their "amazing" Premier League season.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool were 25 points clear atop the table when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

City were coming off back-to-back Premier League titles, while Liverpool are on the verge of a first league crown since 1990.

Rodri paid tribute to Klopp's side, who have won 27 of 29 Premier League games this season.

"Sometimes football is like this. Liverpool have been amazing this season in the Premier League," the Spaniard told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.

"They have focused their entire mentality on the Premier League only and in these situations the only thing you can do is clap.

"But we've had many problems this year. We have had lots of injuries and important players out but it's not been a bad season for us – we're second.

"It's not where we want to be but sometimes it's like this and we have to keep going. I think we are proud of the season we've done."

While Liverpool were well clear in the Premier League, City sat second – having won the Community Shield and EFL Cup – and were still alive in the Champions League and FA Cup.

Rodri said he was pleased with City's campaign despite being so far off the pace in the Premier League.

"We already have two titles and we have a chance to get another two including the Champions League," he said.

"I think it's not a bad season so for me from an individual aspect I'm really happy with our season."

Kylian Mbappe could be prepared to agree a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain – on one condition.

The France star has been linked heavily with a move to Real Madrid, although he is contracted in Paris until 2022.

Mbappe could also reportedly re-sign with PSG and it seems it is a possibility, although only if it includes a clause.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE WANTS REAL MADRID CLAUSE IN NEW PSG DEAL

Mbappe wants a clause in his PSG contract that allows him to leave for Real Madrid or another great club for a certain fee, according to AS.

The report compares the buyout clause to the one Neymar had in his deal before leaving Barcelona for PSG for a world-record €222million in 2017.

It says Real Madrid would prefer Mbappe did not re-sign as they would chase the attacker next year.

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are reportedly still pursuing Inter star Lautaro Martinez. But ESPN claims the LaLiga giants fear interest from Real Madrid, Manchester United and PSG could drive up the forward's price.

- James Rodriguez is seemingly still attracting interest from Atletico Madrid. El Universal reports the Colombia international is ready to make the move from Real Madrid and join Atletico.

- Again linked with a move, Nabil Fekir may be prepared to wait. AS says the Real Betis attacker is ready to wait for an offer from Barca or Real Madrid to emerge, amid apparent interest from Arsenal, Milan and Newcastle United.

- The chase is on for Aster Vranckx. The Mirror reports Manchester City and Liverpool will go head-to-head for the 17-year-old Mechelen midfielder, who is a Belgium youth international. It comes as The Mirror reports Liverpool are changing their transfer plans to focus on young talent.

- Brahim Diaz is yet to make an impression at Real Madrid and could make a move. Mundo Deportivo claims Betis are interested in the midfielder, who joined Madrid from Manchester City last year.

- Coming out of contract, Angel Gomes' future at Manchester United is unclear. The Sun reports United have made a last-ditch offer to Gomes, who has been linked with Chelsea and other Premier League clubs.

Whenever English football is able to resume following the coronavirus pandemic, things will undoubtedly be different.

Spectators are seemingly unlikely to be inside stadiums to see the action unfold, while Premier League players and staff may need to be quarantined away from families for their safety. Seasons may still be played out to a conclusion, but just not when we quite expected on the calendar.

However, could shorter games also be the future?

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor suggested as much during an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday.

"We don't know the future, what we do know is what propositions have been put, what ideas have been put, the possibility of having more substitutes, games possibly not being the full 45 minutes each way," he said.

With Taylor's comments causing quite a stir on social media, Opta worked out how the Premier League table would look right now if teams had played 80-minute matches instead - and the revised standings made for interesting reading.

 

Liverpool still remain well clear at the summit, of course, yet their 25-point lead over Manchester City would be whittled down to 15. The top four remains the same as the current table in terms of positions, though Manchester United close the gap to Chelsea for the final Champions League spot.

Arsenal receive a welcome bump up from ninth to sixth after gaining three points, just ahead of Crystal Palace and comfortably clear of rivals Tottenham, who slip into the bottom half.

Not going for the full 90 works out nicely for Aston Villa and Bournemouth, though, as they gain six and four points respectively to climb out of the relegation places. Watford are another to benefit, moving further clear of danger.

The team to suffer under the change are Newcastle United, as a deduction of seven points sees them slip to 19th, sandwiched by Brighton and Hove Albion and Norwich City. The Canaries do actually add five points to their current tally, yet still prop up the rest.

Such a scenario is hardly Taylor made for potential new owners at Newcastle, although they would still have games to play to get out of trouble.

Eduardo Camavinga, Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba have been among the names linked to Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid want to strengthen their squad.

However, Madrid's recruitment is reportedly not that straightforward.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PRIORITISING SALES

Real Madrid must sell before they can buy players as the LaLiga giants eye the likes of Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Madrid and their transfer plans have dominated headlines, but the report claims the Spanish powerhouse have to reduce the size of their squad amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been linked with moves away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Tuesday's Diario Sport reports Barcelona are "very close" to signing Inter star Lautaro Martinez. The LaLiga champions are willing to pay €60million up front, plus two players. It comes as Marca claims Arturo Vidal is happy to leave Barca.

- The Guardian says Liverpool have stalled their pursuit of RB Leipzig star Timo Werner. The Champions League holders reportedly told Werner's representatives that the club need more time due to the COVID-19 crisis.

- Mundo Deportivo says Neymar has turned down a €100million proposal from Paris Saint-Germain as he looks to return to Barca.

Thomas Partey wants to swap Atletico Madrid for Arsenal, according to The Telegraph. The Ghanaian has also been linked to Manchester United.

- Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is set for talks over a new deal, according to the Daily Mail. Madrid and PSG are believed to be monitoring the situation.

Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius has "terminated" his two-year loan spell at Besiktas amid a disagreement over the payment of his wages.

Karius has been with the Turkish Super League club since August 2018 but announced the end of his stay in an Instagram post on Monday, saying "it is a shame it comes to an end like this".

The 26-year-old will return to Anfield having racked up 67 appearances for Besiktas across all competitions.

He reported Besiktas to FIFA last month, the second time he has done so due to a clash with the club over alleged unpaid wages.

Karius' departure ends a stay that had previously been tipped to end in a permanent transfer.

"You should know that I have tried everything to solve this situation without any problems," Karius added in his post, which was accompanied with a video of some of his memorable moments with Besiktas.

"I was very patient for months telling the board over and over again. Same things happened already last year.

"Unfortunately they haven’t tried to solve this situational problem and even refused my suggestion to help by taking a pay cut."

Karius, who joined Liverpool from Mainz in 2016, did express his gratitude to the Besiktas players, coaching staff and supporters.

"It's important to me that you know I really enjoyed playing for this club a lot," he said.

"Besiktas can be proud having such passionate fans behind them always giving amazing support. You always supported me in good and bad times and I will always remember you in the best way!

"Also I want to say thank you to all my team-mates, coaching staff, including all people working for the club. You welcomed me with arms wide open from day one – thank you so much!”

Neymar seems eager for a return to Barcelona – and he is reportedly prepared to show just how keen he is.

The Brazil international has been linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he left for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

But amid doubts over whether Barca could get a deal done, it seems Neymar is ready to make a huge sacrifice.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARED TO CUT SALARY IN HALF FOR BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar would cut his salary in half to return to Barcelona but wants guarantees, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says Neymar has rejected a renewal offer from Paris Saint-Germain as he eyes a return to the LaLiga giants.

Neymar scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ligue 1 later called off.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are making their move. The cover of AS says Madrid have made their first approach for Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, the 17-year-old they reportedly see as a substitute for Casemiro.

- Linked with a stunning move to Liverpool, Kalidou Koulibaly could find it hard to leave Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli are unwilling to negotiate a lower price for the star defender, who is also said to be a target for Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. Napoli have been reported to want £90m (€102.4m) for the defender.

- Luka Jovic has struggled in his first season at Real Madrid, leading to transfer talk. But Mundo Deportivo reports Madrid are maintaining confidence in the forward for at least one more season despite links to Newcastle United.

- With Thiago Silva seemingly set to leave, Paris Saint-Germain are targeting Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti as his replacement, according to Sport. Silva is out of contract at the end of the season and Umtiti has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

- A player linked to Barcelona is Tanguy Ndombele. However, The Telegraph reports the midfielder is determined to stay at Tottenham despite the LaLiga giants' interest.

- There could be plenty of movement at Barcelona, but Sport reports the club want to keep Carles Alena, 22, while Riqui Puig, 20, is set to get his chance with the first team.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes it would be "cruel" if Liverpool were denied the Premier League title due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jurgen Klopp's men were 25 points clear at the top of the table when the season was suspended in March due to COVID-19.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the Premier League campaign will resume, with recent reports suggesting it could get back underway in June.

Lloris, whose Spurs were eighth in the table, wants the season finished and said it could be particularly harsh on Liverpool.

"We are in a situation where everyone wants to finish and have the decision on the field," he told L'Equipe.

"It would be terrible if everything ended like that nine [matches] before the end of the Premier League.

"It would also be cruel for Liverpool with the lead they have … they are almost champions. As with everyone, there would be a taste of unfinished business. In addition, we are entering the most exciting period, the most beautiful moment of the season."

If the Premier League season resumes, it will almost certainly be without fans in attendance due to coronavirus, which has killed more than 248,000 people worldwide.

Lloris said it would be unusual to be playing behind closed doors, but added the financial positions of leagues and clubs needed to be considered.

"It will be weird wherever it happens. Football is not a closed-door sport," he said.

"Without the spectators, it is not the same. This is not how I see football. We are here to gather, share our emotions.

"We all want full stadiums with atmosphere, fans, colour and songs, but here we must take the context into consideration."

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