Giorgio Chiellini has revealed he was quick to forgive Luis Suarez after the striker bit him because he sees a lot of himself in the Uruguay striker.

The incident occurred in a group game at the 2014 World Cup, with Suarez stunning a worldwide television audience by committing the third biting offence of his career.

But Chiellini, despite calling for action to be taken at the time, was sympathetic towards Suarez when FIFA imposed a four-month ban on the then Liverpool player.

And now the Juventus and Italy captain has disclosed why he feels a kinship with Suarez.

Chiellini wrote in a new autobiography, quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Nothing strange happened that day. I had marked [Edinson] Cavani for most of the game, another attacker who was difficult to handle, then suddenly I noticed that Suarez had bitten my shoulder.

"It happened, and this is his way of dealing with direct confrontations, and, if I can say it, it is also mine: he and I are alike and I like to face challenges in this way. I admire his malice, if he lost it he would become a normal striker."

Chiellini said he and Suarez spoke days after their June 2014 clash, which came in a game Uruguay won to advance beyond the group stage at the expense of Italy.

"After a couple of days we spoke again on the phone and there was no need to apologise," Chiellini said.

"I am a great son of a b**** on the pitch as well and I am proud of it: malice is part of football, I don't even call it impropriety. You have to be smart and I have always admired Suarez."

Suarez has gone on to join Barcelona and become a mainstay with the Camp Nou giants, putting the biting controversies behind him, after previous offences while at Ajax and Liverpool.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and their Barcelona team-mates returned to training on Friday.

Barca were permitted to start holding individual sessions, with the squad divided over three pitches to ensure social-distancing requirements are upheld, after the squad was subjected to medical tests and the Ciutat Esportiva was inspected.

The players were told to arrive in their kit and head straight to their designated pitch, returning home immediately upon the conclusion of the session without entering the changing rooms. They trained at different times and will follow a similar routine on Saturday.

LaLiga's reigning champions tweeted photos of them being put through their paces for the first time since sport across the majority of the globe was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Striker Suarez, who had been sidelined since January due to a knee injury, tweeted: "Good to be back!"

Spain has been one of the most-affected countries during the COVID-19 outbreak, though LaLiga hopes competitive games can return in mid-June.

Barcelona players returned to the club's training ground on Wednesday to undergo medical testing, with some wearing protective masks.

Stars including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were pictured arriving at the Ciutat Esportiva as a resumption of training draws closer.

Griezmann, Arturo Vidal and Frenkie de Jong were among those to wear masks.

LaLiga was brought to a halt in March amid the coronavirus pandemic but preparations for a possible return are being stepped up.

Teams have been granted permission to resume training this week after the Spanish government eased restrictions prohibiting outdoor exercise.

Barca's training facilities were inspected on Tuesday and the champions are now carrying out appropriate testing "to guarantee the players' health".

The top two leagues in Spain have agreed a 'Return to Training Protocol', with the country's ministry of health to allow players to restart individual training programmes.

The intention is for small group sessions to then be phased in as part of a gradual build-up towards a possible restart of LaLiga in June.

Barca were two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table with 11 matches left to play when the competition was suspended.

Juventus and Real Madrid have long been linked to Paul Pogba.

The Manchester United star is reportedly unhappy at Old Trafford, where he endured an injury-hit campaign prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

But another club are reportedly trying to sign Pogba.

 

TOP STORY – INTER EYE POGBA

Inter are dreaming of signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Pogba has been heavily linked to former club and Serie A champions Juventus, as well as LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

However, Inter are now in the mix to bring the French star back to Italy.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira claims Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig's Timo Werner. The Premier League leaders and Champions League holders have offered a five-year deal for the German, who has already turned down Bayern Munich.

Barcelona are ready to sell nine players, according to the Mirror. Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are month the names that could leave the LaLiga champions.

Atletico Madrid are still hopeful of signing soon-to-be free agent Edinson Cavani. The Paris Saint-Germain forward was wanted by the LaLiga club during the January transfer window, but a move did not materialise. However, Mundo Deportivo claims Cavani is set to join Atletico.

Milan are trying to prepare for life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Lille's Victor Osimhen is being considered, according to Calciomercato. Chelsea and United have also been linked to the Nigerian forward.

- France Football reports PSG are interested in Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, who is on loan at Ligue 1 rivals Monaco.

West Ham are open to selling club-record signing Sebastien Haller, says the Express. Haller only arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of the season.

Unai Emery hit out at referee Deniz Aytekin, Barcelona forward Luis Suarez and an un-named Paris Saint-Germain player as he reflected on the 6-1 Champions League collapse suffered at Camp Nou in 2017.

PSG, then coached by Emery, romped to a 4-0 win in the first leg of their last-16 tie, but on March 8, a day Emery remembers as the worst of his career, Barca recorded an unbelievable second-leg comeback.

Leading 3-1 on the night but still trailing 5-3 on aggregate after 88 minutes, Barca were on the brink of elimination.

However, they managed to score three times in a dramatic finale to seal the largest comeback in Champions League history, with future PSG star Neymar scoring twice for Luis Enrique's hosts.

Reflecting on the devastating loss more than three years later, Emery hit out at the performance of Turkish official Aytekin.

He also discussed his belief Suarez kept going down easily in the box and suggested there was a PSG player who was "hiding" as he explained the other circumstances that worked against his team.

"There are lots of details in that game that can be scrutinised," Emery said, per EFE, in a discussion with his former Sevilla assistant Diego Martinez, who now coaches Granada.

"But if I start from the end, I'd change the referee and that's it. I watched a repeat of the game the other day because I found it while I was zapping through channels. I watched it from the 50th minute to the 82nd minute.

"We were 3-0 down, we scored to make it 3-1 and we had a one-on-one that Edinson Cavani hit at the goalkeeper to make it 3-2; a clear penalty on Angel Di Maria that wasn't given; and in the 82nd minute, Di Maria fouled Neymar for the goal. That's when I stopped watching.

"In that section of the game, I saw that one of our important players, who had had injury problems during the season, was hiding in the result. Maybe I would substitute him now. 

"They are details, circumstances that escape you in a game.

"Then there are other key circumstances: the Barcelona players, especially Suarez, going down in the box continuously, pressuring the referee until he fell into their trap."

Barca were knocked out in the by eventual finalists Juventus in the last eight.

Luis Suarez showed "phenomenal" strength to recover from biting bans to become a Barcelona star, according to former Liverpool team-mate Charlie Adam.

Suarez has won 13 major trophies with Barca since moving from Liverpool in 2014, including the treble of LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League in his first season in Spain.

The Uruguay star secured a switch to Camp Nou after a stunning campaign in the Premier League in 2013-14, in which he scored 31 goals in 33 league games to win the European Golden Shoe and be crowned the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season.

Suarez could not make his Barca debut until October 25, though, after he was banned for four months by FIFA for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

It was the third time in his career Suarez was found guilty of the offence, the player having bitten Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax in 2010 and then Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea three years later, which saw him given a 10-game ban.

Adam, who was a team-mate of Suarez in his first season at Liverpool in 2011-12, says the way the forward has kicked on in his career is remarkable.

"He will have been disappointed at what had happened [his ban for biting], how he got involved in the situation, both situations, and how it occurred," Adam told Stats Perform.

"But the way he's bounced back from that mental toughness has been incredible. I still say he's one of the best number nines in the world where he could occupy a defence on his own.

"He's hungry to score goals, he's playing for one of the best teams in the world with the greatest player I've ever seen [Lionel Messi]. It's phenomenal to see that he's made that step up.

"It was crucial for him when he left Liverpool to go to Barcelona and everyone thought 'was he the right type of player for Barcelona?' but he's been phenomenal and I was grateful to be able to share the dressing room with him."

Adam has been hugely impressed with the link-up between Messi and Suarez at Barca, which has yielded four LaLiga titles in the past five seasons.

"The top players connect well. Even when Neymar was there, the three of them seemed to connect," said the Reading man. "There was no ego about any of the players, they wanted the best for the team and that's the important thing.

"You sort of saw it when they signed [Ousmane] Dembele. He was the other type of player that was all about him. When you're at Barcelona it's all only about one person and that's Lionel Messi. It's not being disrespectful, but you have to try and manipulate your game to suit him because he's the main man. But Dembele's not really gone there and expressed how Neymar did.

"Neymar knew that he wasn't going to be the main man at that time, but he got his head down, knuckled down and they had some great success together, the three of them."

Adam moved to Stoke City in 2012, where he played alongside former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic and ex-Real Madrid man Jese Rodriguez.

Neither player was able to fulfil their promise with the Potters, with Bojan – whose best run of form was interrupted by a serious injury – now playing under Thierry Henry at MLS side Montreal Impact and Jese back with Sporting CP in Portugal, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

"Bojan was a player who came with the pedigree of where he'd played, Barcelona, he'd been at Roma and he'd been somewhere else [Ajax], and then he came to Stoke. And from day one he just hit the ground running, he was phenomenal," Adam recalled.

"On day one, you could see the talent he had. But most of all, he was a great guy. He was a great guy to have in the dressing room, always laughing and joking. But his mentality to work hard was incredible.

"The only thing about Bojan was when he got that knee injury, that was when his football went a different way. He had to change and adapt his game, he wasn't as sharp as he was but [he was] a phenomenal player.

"It's a shame to see an injury like that curtail someone's career because he could have been phenomenal for Stoke. I loved playing with him, I was playing that night against Rochdale [in an FA Cup match in January 2015] when he did his cruciate [ligament] and it was heartbreaking for the lads to see it because in the dressing room he was a great guy and it was disappointing for him.

"Jese was one where he came to the club from Real Madrid, he was the boy wonder at Real Madrid. He got that serious knee injury from that tackle with [Sead] Kolasinac [for Madrid against Schalke in 2014] and he ended up with a cruciate injury as well.

"He probably never fulfilled the potential or the career that he was going to have before that injury and that's what serious injuries do to you. For Jese, I think there was a lot of other things going on off the pitch, which probably never helped, and that was difficult.

"It was a strange one but, as a group of players, you've got to adapt and you've got to try your best but unfortunately, it never worked out for him."

Luis Suarez was plotting to leave Barcelona for a return to his first club Nacional when it appeared Sebastian Abreu had a chance of becoming coach, the former Uruguay international claims.

Nacional were without a coach late last year when Alvaro Gutierrez quit, with Abreu – who spent three spells there as a player – adamant he was a leading candidate to get the job.

At that time he conversed with Suarez, who apparently suggested returning to Uruguay was a real possibility despite being among the highest-paid players in Spain and contracted to Barcelona until 2021.

Abreu was a team-mate of Suarez's in the national team between 2007 and 2012, with both a part of the selection that helped Uruguay to a fourth-placed finish at the 2010 World Cup, and the Barca striker had seemingly expressed a desire to link up with 'El Loco' once again.

"I had full, real chances [of being Nacional coach]," he told Uruguayan radio station Sport 890.

"And when in those days, after December 18, Luis was about to come, I said to him: 'Look, Lucho, it is not anything concrete, but there may be a possibility … What's your situation? What do we do?'

"[Abreu claims Suarez replied:] 'If you get to be [coach], let me talk to Sofi, talk about the family. I always told you that if you were a coach I could come back.'"

He added: "Going back to Nacional was something that motivated Luis, it was a nice challenge."

Former goalkeeper Gustavo Munua, also once an international colleague of Abreu, got the job.

Abreu remains player-coach at Boston River, while Suarez looks set to at least see out the remainder of his contract at Camp Nou.

Luis Suarez views Barcelona's reported interest in fellow forwards Neymar and Lautaro Martinez as an encouraging sign.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou having won two LaLiga titles and a Champions League playing alongside Suarez during his previous stint at the club.

He is not the only striker reportedly on Barca's radar, though, with Inter's Martinez another attacker thought to be considered an intriguing prospect to the Blaugrana hierarchy.

Rather than see such speculation as a threat to his place in the team, Suarez has given his approval to those pursuits.

"It is difficult to talk about players today," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"As is the situation in the world today, talking about who can come because of how everything is complicated. But I can speak about what these players are like and they are huge players. 

"Obviously, Ney, everyone knows him and we know the appreciation that we have for him in the dressing room, which as a player is indisputable because he still has a lot to give and in the dressing room he would always be welcome because of the affection he has. 

"Lautaro is a player who has been growing a lot in Italy, he is a 'nine' who has movements that are spectacular and that reflects how great a striker he is. 

"It is not that you feel compatible but that you feel happy that the club wants to incorporate players who come to help and fulfil the same objective of everyone - that of wanting to win everything. 

"Then when it comes to healthy competition in the team, which there will always, we will always be on the same side. 

"So players who come to fight for a place and help the team will always be welcome, it will always be better and it will strengthen the group."

Luis Suarez defended Barcelona players and said they were the first who wanted to reach an agreement over a pay cut.

Barcelona players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut earlier this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement confirming the move on Monday, Barcelona star Lionel Messi took aim at senior figures at the club for putting players under pressure over something they always knew they would do.

Suarez said players were hurt by reports they were unwilling to accept a salary reduction.

"A lot of hurtful things have been said about the squad's salary cuts," the forward told Sport 890 on Thursday.

"People have said that the players didn't want to accept them, then it was said that players from other areas of the club had reached an agreement, when the reality is that we were waiting to try and find the best solution for the club."

Suarez added: "It hurts when people say things like that because we were always the first people that wanted to reach an agreement, as we know what the club's situation is.

"No player in the squad refused a wage cut. A mutual agreement was reached between the players and the club. The captains spoke to the president and nobody refused it."

More than 52,900 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 10,300 in Spain.

Diego Godin compared in-demand Inter team-mate Lautaro Martinez to Luis Suarez and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero amid links to Barcelona.

Martinez has reportedly emerged as Barca's top transfer target, with the LaLiga champions keen to sign a long-term replacement for veteran forward Suarez.

Barca's LaLiga rivals Madrid are also reportedly interested, while Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City have both been linked.

Inter defender Godin heaped praise on 22-year-old Argentina international Martinez, who had scored 16 goals across all competitions before Serie A was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Lautaro is similar to Luis and Sergio Aguero," the Uruguayan centre-back told ESPN.

"He's learning to play using his whole body, with his back to the ball. He's a football player.

"His confidence has a high ceiling and he's maturing with every match. You can spot things in him that tell you he'll be around for 10 or 15 years."

Martinez swapped Racing Club for Inter in 2018 and he has quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after forwards in European football.

He has scored 25 goals in total since joining Inter from Racing Club in Argentina.

Barcelona star Luis Suarez said he will be ready to play when LaLiga eventually returns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Suarez has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery in January – an injury that was expected to keep him out of action for most of the season.

However, with LaLiga postponed due to COVID-19, Barca veteran Suarez is in contention to be fit once the league resumes.

"[My return] is within the possibilities that we've been managing and now there's been a change, but the idea of returning early was clear," Suarez, who has scored 14 goals in 2019-20, told Referi.

"My doctor was telling me that I've been doing so well and that gave me hope of returning to play as soon as possible.

"The different now is when the team returns, I'm going to be able to play."

Suarez, 33, added: "It was predicted to be at the start of May but, after the meetings I've had with the doctors and due to the continuing condition I've had, it went ahead a little earlier.

"I'd been coping very well with the work that I've been asked to do and that gave me strength to come back sooner than predicted."

Globally, more than 13,000 people have died from over 307,000 coronavirus cases.

In Spain, there have been over 1,300 deaths and almost 26,000 cases.

Lionel Messi would see out his career at Barcelona if the LaLiga champions build a competitive team, according to team-mate Luis Suarez.

Messi's future has been in the headlines following a public row with Barca sporting director Eric Abidal, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was reportedly unhappy with the club's failure to re-sign Neymar at the start of the season.

Amid a tumultuous campaign for Barca – who sacked head coach Ernesto Valverde in January and have been at the centre of social media controversy after allegations the Spanish giants hired a company to damage the image of people associated with the cub, including Messi – Suarez said the Catalans must support the superstar captain.

"[The fears are] understandable because it's what he's said as well, that we're not going to get what we want with what we have now," Suarez told RAC1. "It depends on how the club recruits.

"Messi is very happy here. He's so happy here, it's his home. If the club does what has to be done, building a competitive team, then it's going to be great for him and he'll stay here for his whole life.

"He's said that himself. I think the club understood his message.

"It's normal for them to want the best player in the world, in the history of the club, to continue at this level here at Barcelona. I hope he stays."

Barca have been heavily linked to Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who is reportedly seen as the ideal long-term replacement for veteran forward Suarez.

Messi previously hailed Argentina team-mate Martinez and Suarez – sidelined due to injury along with Ousmane Dembele – took aim at Barca for ignoring his calls for attacking reinforcements.

"Lautaro has a lot of quality because of the level he's now showing with Argentina and Inter," he said. "It's his second season in Italy and he's been on great form.

"But you have to understand that we, the players, don't make the decisions. We don't make the decisions.

"If it'd been down to the players, we would've brought in forwards a long time ago. I've been saying for two years that it would be good to bring in a forward, a young forward so that they can learn for when I leave the club, but they didn't listen to me."

Lionel Messi wants to stay at Barcelona, but it is "never easy" to renew his contract, according to the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal.

Messi's future has been thrown into doubt following a turbulent week at Camp Nou, during which he criticised Abidal in a social media post for his comments on the squad's efforts under former coach Ernesto Valverde.

The Barca captain called on Abidal to name names and accused him of "dirtying" the squad by suggesting certain stars downed tools during Valverde's final weeks in charge.

With Messi able to have his contract cancelled at the end of the season and leave for free, there have been suggestions he could seek a new challenge for 2020-21, although Pep Guardiola insisted on Friday he did not want Manchester City to sign the Argentina star.

Abidal seems hopeful of extending Messi's contract, which will expire in June 2021, but he concedes it is difficult to negotiate terms with a player considered the greatest in the world.

"It's a question for him," he told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Messi's contract. "Hopefully, he continues.

"Leo said Barca is everything for him, that he wants to continue here and, from there, there are conditions. We're talking about the best player in the world and to have a renewal of such a player is never easy."

Messi has always seemed likely to end at least his European career with Barca, although it is said he wants the club to be in a strong position to challenge for LaLiga and the Champions League before he commits to new terms.

Abidal appears hugely confident in Barca's chances of continental glory this season, suggesting they could be unbeatable if they play to their highest level.

"The Champions League is the objective. We know the challenge is difficult but it's not impossible," he said, with Napoli up next in the round of 16.

"For me, Barca's only rivals are Barca. If the team is good physically and mentally, it will be very difficult for us to lose the ball and not be able to win."

Barcelona's trophy hopes have already been dealt a blow by the loss of Luis Suarez, who is not likely to return until near the end of the season due to a knee injury.

The striker will also be out of contract after next season, but Abidal expects to begin discussions over a new deal when the time is right.

"First, you have to have respect for the players, for what they're giving, what they've given before and what they will give to the club," he said. "It's an injury situation now. Hopefully, he'll recover well and, aside from that, it's just talking.

"If things look good to us as a club, of course we'll enter into negotiations and he will also have to tell us how he feels because, in the end, it's [about] respect for the club and for the team."

Quique Setien has confirmed Barcelona are considering signing another striker to ease the loss of Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's knee surgery.

Suarez, 32, was said to have been carrying a knee injury for a while before Barca revealed he was set for surgery on January 11.

Reports suggested that Barca only expected him to be missing for a few weeks, but a club statement the following day confirmed their worst fears, with Suarez likely to miss most of the season.

Unsurprisingly Barca have been strongly linked with several strikers since, with Osasuna's Chimy Avila, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner all mentioned as potential targets.

And while Setien refused to comment on specific names, he did confirm Barca are contemplating making a move.

"It is true that we are considering the signing of a number nine. We still have to develop things a little more," the head coach said ahead of the Copa del Rey trip to Ibiza.

"It's not an issue that worries me too much, I am more concerned about the games. It's an issue that I will have to deal with sports management about and we will see which is the most convenient.

"It's a matter [talk of specific players] I can't respond to you about, I won't either. I spoke a lot with the sports management about it, but we haven't decided on anything.

"It's all internal, so its preferable you don't ask me, as I won't say anything more."

The return of Ousmane Dembele could alleviate some of the burden on the remaining Barca attackers without Suarez, as the Frenchman is back in training after almost two months out with a thigh injury.

Dembele's Barca career has been somewhat underwhelming so far, though Setien still has high hopes for him.

"He's undoubtedly going to be very important," Setien said. "He's an extraordinary player who unfortunately hasn't had much consistency.

"Of course, he'll be very important, we hope he'll help us a lot."

Quique Setien has confirmed Barcelona are considering signing another striker to ease the loss of Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's knee surgery.

Suarez, 32, was said to have been carrying a knee injury for a while before Barca revealed he was set for surgery on January 11.

Reports suggested that Barca only expected him to be missing for a few weeks, but a club statement the following day confirmed their worst fears, with Suarez likely to miss most of the season.

Unsurprisingly Barca have been strongly linked with several strikers since, with Osasuna's Chimy Avila, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner all mentioned as potential targets.

And while Setien refused to comment on specific names, he did confirm Barca are contemplating making a move.

"It is true that we are considering the signing of a number nine. We still have to develop things a little more," the head coach said ahead of the Copa del Rey trip to Ibiza.

"It's not an issue that worries me too much, I am more concerned about the games. It's an issue that I will have to deal with sports management about and we will see which is the most convenient.

"It's a matter [talk of specific players] I can't respond to you about, I won't either. I spoke a lot with the sports management about it, but we haven't decided on anything.

"It's all internal, so its preferable you don't ask me, as I won't say anything more."

The return of Ousmane Dembele could alleviate some of the burden on the remaining Barca attackers without Suarez, as the Frenchman is back in training after almost two months out with a thigh injury.

Dembele's Barca career has been somewhat underwhelming so far, though Setien still has high hopes for him.

"He's undoubtedly going to be very important," Setien said. "He's an extraordinary player who unfortunately hasn't had much consistency.

"Of course, he'll be very important, we hope he'll help us a lot."

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