Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer expects a significant decrease in transfer fees following the coronavirus pandemic.

Deals worth in excess of €100million have been commonplace in the past four years, with Neymar becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined Paris Saint-Germain for €222m in August 2017.

Bayern have been more conservative but broke their transfer record by splashing out €80m on Lucas Hernandez last year.

Links to Leroy Sane and Timo Werner led to suggestions the Bavarian giants were willing to break the bank again, but Hainer believes the inflation in the market will have been stemmed by the proliferation of COVID-19.

Revenues have dried up for clubs across the world, with players at Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid among those to take pay cuts while football is on hiatus.

Asked about the potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on transfer fees, Hainer told Bayern's 51 magazine: "As I said, although serious predictions are difficult to make, it's obvious there'll be changes. I agree with Uli Hoeness' assumption that transfer fees will decrease. That's just logical.

"When income decreases, there's less money in circulation. And given the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis on people's everyday lives, outrageous sums in the millions are even less justifiable than they already were.

"My hope is that more common sense will be applied here as well. I have to take my hat off to Hasan Salihamidzic and our sporting leadership. They're handling the coronavirus situation very well."

Bayern players agreed to a 20 per cent wage reduction during the Bundesliga suspension, which is scheduled to last until at least April 30.

Hainer acknowledged the situation has put clubs in precarious financial positions, but he is confident Bayern will be able to get through the crisis without "any major damage".

"Of course, the situation is very tense. It's about the existence of individual clubs. And even FC Bayern faces a major financial challenge – that's no secret," said Hainer.

"But our club is in an excellent position. We work day after day to ensure that FC Bayern can navigate through this phase without any major damage.

"Despite this immense task, we're looking to the future with confidence."

Serie A clubs could be allowed to finish the 2019-20 season as late as October, according to Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina.

Italy's top flight was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of coronavirus, and the FIGC stated on Friday that the season would not be resumed until the health and safety of all concerned could in some way be guaranteed.

Italy has been the country hardest hit by COVID-19 in Europe, with close to 129,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,800 deaths, although official figures over recent days have indicated strict lockdown measures are having an effect on the spread of the virus.

Gravina says the proposed date of May 17 to restart Serie A remains a possibility, but he insists it would be best to allow 2019-20 to finish much later this year if necessary, rather than declare the season cancelled.

"It's a hypothesis," Gravina told RAI when asked if a September or October finish had been put forward. "At the moment, a possible date to restart could be May 17, but I want to clarify that this is only a hypothesis.

"Finishing the season would be the best way not only so the 2019-20 season is not compromised, but also to avoid compromising the 2020-21 season in any way."

There are signs Italy's stringent measures to enforce social distancing and limit all non-essential travel are working, with the number of new deaths falling over the past three days, while the rate of confirmed new cases also appears to be going down.

However, prime minister Giuseppe Conte admitted earlier on Sunday that he cannot offer any guarantee when lockdown measures will be eased.

"Right now, I can't say when the lockdown will end. We are following the directions of the scientific committee, but Italy was the first nation [in Europe] to face the emergency," Conte said.

"Our response was maybe not perfect, but we have done our best based on the knowledge we have.

"The validity of the measures we have taken has been recognised by the World Health Organization and the results indicate we're on the right path."

Aritz Aduriz does not see his retirement nor Athletic Bilbao's Copa del Rey final with Real Sociedad as important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The veteran striker, who has scored 172 goals in over 400 appearances for Athletic, announced his intention to retire at the end of this season back in August.

His final season as a player is set to be marked by an all-Basque Copa del Rey final between Athletic and La Real.

Originally scheduled to take place on April 18 in Seville, the Copa showpiece - along with the vast majority of sport around the world - has been put on hold.

It is not clear when the final will be played. However, Aduriz accepts even an occasion as momentous as the clash with La Real has little significance amid a crisis that has killed over 12,000 people in Spain.

"This coronavirus crisis is forcing us to think twice and consider what matters," Aduriz told Athletic's official website. "And now my retirement, or football in general, or if we will play [the Copa del Rey final] or not doesn't matter.

"I think there are many other more important things to stop and solve. I'm sure with everyone's help together, with each of us playing our role, we will get ahead of it. That's what I'm focused on at this moment and that's the most important thing."

Aduriz was born in San Sebastian, where Real Sociedad hail from, but he expects a respectful reception from their fans if and when the final goes ahead.

He added: "Maybe all of us are keeping in mind the Copa del Rey final, but we're prioritising other things now.

"We're all going through a tough time where many people are struggling a lot and even passing away…so, the final of the Copa has its importance, but maybe not that much now.

"There are other things we need to solve together, and if the day [of the final] finally comes, I'm Donostiarra [people originally from San Sebastian]. I've always felt very comfortable in Donostia [the city's Basque name] and that won't change whatever happens in any football game. I'm sure they will treat me in the same way, no doubt."

Asked about recognition for his achievements from Athletic fans, Aduriz replied: "If we've learned something from this pandemic or virus that we're struggling with, it's that we should think twice about what is important.

"I sincerely believe the people who really deserve a statue and recognition are clear nowadays, and it's not me or any football player.

"I would build a statue to those who are battling every day at the very front line against the virus in all the hospitals. They're showing us what really matters.

"We have to realise what's important and what isn't. And this is probably showing us that football isn't important enough for this kind of recognition."

Ben Foster believes Premier League clubs must commit to a blanket policy on pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, or else it could "get a bit messy".

The topic of footballers' salaries is in the spotlight after health secretary Matt Hancock suggested players in the top flight should make a contribution to help during the health crisis.

The Premier League called for players to take a 30 per cent pay cut in a statement released on Friday, though the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) responded by pointing out such a move would lead to a loss in important revenue via tax contributions.

Watford goalkeeper Foster revealed there is an "understanding" from players that something needs to be done during these unprecedented times, but said any action - whether through salary cuts or wage deferrals - should come as a united front.

"Pretty much every footballer I've spoken to... I think it is something we understand, we completely agree that something needs to be done," Foster told talkSPORT.

"But from a player's point of view, and I’m sure the PFA will be talking about it today. As long as it is done in a structured manner.

"It is important to cover every team with the same [policy], whether it's a deferral or a cut, so that we are all under the same blanket.

"Now, more than ever, it is so important that we do this together. When you start getting teams doing their own individual wage cuts or deferrals, that's when it starts to get a bit messy.

"I know from talking to everyone at Watford that we are understanding that this needs to happen.

"Something like this is unprecedented. No one knows where it's going or how hard it's going to be. If we can do something in the meantime, you've got to do it."

The Premier League season is suspended indefinitely due to the virus, though there remains a commitment to completing the 2019-20 fixtures.

West Brom chief executive Mark Jenkins will give up 100 per cent of his salary for the duration of English football's suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the Championship club remain "financially stable" for the foreseeable future, Jenkins has volunteered to give up his wages and says several other members of the senior management will take "significant" cuts to personal income.

West Brom will also pay the additional 20 per cent of staff salaries if the club are forced to take advantage of the government's furlough scheme, which guarantees 80 per cent of worker wages up to £2,500 a month if businesses are unable to operate as normal.

The announcement from the Baggies, who were second in the Championship before 2019-20 was halted, comes two days after the English Football League (EFL) confirmed the season has been postponed indefinitely until it is safe to resume domestic competitions.

"At the moment, the club is financially stable and remains so for the foreseeable future," Jenkins said in a statement published via the club's website.

"But everybody is fully aware these are very uncertain times in which we simply cannot forecast what the future holds. Until we regain a level of certainty, we cannot be sure if planned income will actually be received or if we will be forced to utilise cash the club already holds to refund existing commitments.

"With that in mind, I think it is only correct that for the duration of this lockdown I take a 100 per cent cut in my salary and other members of the senior management team have also offered to take significant reductions in their remuneration.

"Like many other clubs, we have considered using a furlough approach with non-playing staff who are now unable to work owing to the lockdown and we have made plans for this eventuality.

"At present we have not been required to sanction this action, but if the lockdown continues and football remains 'on-hold' then this decision may have to be changed. What we will pledge is to ensure none of the staff effected [sic] suffer a reduction in pay; the club will make up the 20 per cent shortfall not covered by the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

"I should perhaps add at this point that nothing underlines the spirit of our staff, or the commitment they have for Albion, than to tell you that several have volunteered to take pay cuts in order to help the club navigate a way through these difficulties. It says everything about the core values which run through our staff for which I and all the senior management team are both mindful and appreciative."

Jenkins' pledge comes amid criticism of major football clubs, including Tottenham and Premier League leaders Liverpool, for utilising the option to save costs by furloughing staff despite their healthy financial positions.

Premier League stars have been urged to take voluntary pay cuts by UK health minister Matt Hancock, with discussions between club captains said to have taken place this weekend with a view to establishing a charitable foundation into which donated wages can be funnelled.

Manchester City became the first Premier League club to confirm that their non-playing staff will not be furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic after leaders Liverpool were heavily criticised for their handling of the crisis.

A number of Liverpool's non-playing staff were suspended on furlough, it was announced on Saturday, leaving them free to claim 80 per cent of their wages from the United Kingdom government while the club tops up any shortfall in their pay.

Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth took similar action by utilising the government's furlough scheme, prompting widespread criticism of wealthy clubs opting to put further strain on public funds.

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy was among those to slam the quintet, describing their actions as "grotesque".

City took a divergent move on Sunday, with a club spokesperson saying in a statement: "We can confirm, following a decision by the chairman and board last week, that Manchester City will not be utilising the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (government funded furloughing).

"We remain determined to protect our people, their jobs and our business, whilst at the same time doing what we can to support our wider community at this most challenging time for everybody."

City are second in the Premier League table, 25 points behind Liverpool, and the league announced on Friday that play will not resume in early May as had been planned.

Premier League clubs met on Friday to discuss the prospects for completing the season, and the possibility of players taking a 30 per cent wage reduction was also discussed.

UEFA has denied president Aleksander Ceferin set a deadline of August 3 for the Champions League and Europa League finals to be completed.

Ceferin was widely reported as telling German broadcaster ZDF on Saturday that the competitions, which have been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, needed to be completed by that date.

With the majority of European leagues on hiatus, UEFA postponed Euro 2020 and all its internationals in June to help clubs complete the 2019-20 campaign.

However, with football unlikely to be able to return imminently, the chances of clubs delivering on a pledge to complete their seasons by June 30 remains a source of contention.

UEFA has now stated quotes attributed to Ceferin were false and the possibility of games being played in July and August is under consideration if required.

The statement read: "It has been reported that UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, told ZDF in Germany that the UEFA Champions League must finish by August 3. This is not true.

"The president was very clear not to set exact dates for the end of the season. 

"UEFA is currently analysing all options to complete domestic and European seasons with the European Club Association and the European Leagues in the working group set up on March 17. The primary priority of all the members of the working group is to preserve public health. 

"Following on from that, it is to find calendar solutions to complete all competitions. Options are currently being studied to play matches in July and in August if needed, depending on restart dates and the permission of national authorities."

Fiorentina trio Patrick Cutrone, German Pezzella and Dusan Vlahovic are clear of coronavirus, the Serie A side announced on Sunday.

Vlahovic was the Viola's first confirmed case of COVID-19, with the striker revealing in an Instagram post that his fever at one stage reached 39 degrees.

Fellow forward Cutrone and defender Pezzella also contracted the virus, though all three are "no longer positive" following tests, Fiorentina revealed.

"Fiorentina is delighted to announce that tests have revealed that Patrick Cutrone, German Pezzella and Dusan Vlahovic are no longer positive for COVID-19," the club announced in a statement.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the doctors, nurses and hospitals that are continuing to care for all those who require medical attention at this difficult time for Italy and indeed the whole world."

Italy has been hit particularly hard during the global health pandemic, with over 15,000 lives lost in the country.

In response to the outbreak, Fiorentina set up a 'Forza e Cuore' fundraiser that reached the initial target of €500,000 inside three days, with the money used to help buy key materials and equipment.

"Fiorentina is working with the Careggi and Santa Maria Nuova ONLUS foundations through its Forza e Cuore campaign, which has so far raised in excess of €760,000," the Viola announced. 

"The money has been used to purchase key materials and equipment for use in the fight against the pandemic."

Bayern Munich have made "a wise decision" by appointing Hansi Flick on a permanent basis, says Jupp Heynckes.

It was announced on Friday that Flick had signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November.

Flick, Joachim Low's former Germany assistant, rejuvenated the struggling Bundesliga champions and guided them back to the top of the table, opening up a four-point advantage over second-placed Borussia Dortmund before the coronavirus pandemic brought action to a halt.

He has also led the Bavarian giants into the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal and secured a 3-0 aggregate lead over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13, believes keeping Flick on permanently was the right choice.

"Bayern made a wise decision by signing Hansi Flick as head coach," Heynckes told DPA.

"For me, he is the ideal coach because he has already had a lot of experience in various positions in football in the past.

"His qualities are professional competence, leadership in all areas, seriousness, solidity and an excellent public demeanour.

"I wish him and Bayern the greatest success in all three competitions."

Neymar is reportedly preparing for a return to Barcelona as Paris Saint-Germain accept the star's exit is "inevitable".

The Brazil international arrived at PSG from Barca in 2017 but has regularly been linked with a move back to Camp Nou.

Speculation over Neymar's future continues and he seems to be nearing a Barcelona return.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARES FOR BARCELONA RETURN AS PSG ACCEPT 'INEVITABLE' EXIT

Neymar is preparing for a Barcelona return and PSG are getting a strategy ready to sell the 28-year-old as it is 'inevitable' he will move on, according to Sport.

Neymar spent four seasons at Barca before a world-record €222million move to PSG.

The forward scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG before this season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Jadon Sancho is linked with a Premier League move this close season. But The Sun reports the Borussia Dortmund star is ready to reject Manchester United if they fail to secure a spot in the Champions League. United were fifth in the Premier League when the season was suspended.

- Mauro Icardi's future remains uncertain. Corriere dello Sport reports Icardi will leave PSG, where he is on loan from Inter, at the end of the season and Juventus are once again interested.

- With Manchester United again seemingly interested in Matthijs de Ligt, a swap deal could be on the cards. The Sun reports United are ready to swap Paul Pogba – who has been linked with a return to Juventus – for defender De Ligt.

- It may not be the only swap deal involving a Manchester club and Juventus. The Sun says Juve are ready to offer Douglas Costa to Manchester City in a bid to land Gabriel Jesus.

- Ivan Rakitic appears likely to leave Barcelona. Marca reports Atletico Madrid want the midfielder, while Sport reports Barcelona are unaware of their rivals' interest in the Croatia international.

- Barcelona were reportedly prepared to use Junior Firpo in a deal to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, but the left-back could head elsewhere. Sport reports Napoli are the most recent club to contact Barca over Junior's availability.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is the best player of all-time while Ronaldinho belongs among the greats, according to Xavi.

Messi is a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner and is considered among the modern-day greats, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

His former team-mate, Xavi, has no doubt the Argentina international is the greatest player ever.

"Ronaldinho is at the level of the best. Ronaldinho is at the level of the best, perhaps what he lacked was constancy," the Al-Sadd coach told Globo Esporte.

"Perhaps he lacked constancy in being at his peak. For me, only Messi is above Ronaldinho because of the constancy of the last few years."

Xavi added: "Messi is the best in history, but Ronaldinho is with the best. The rest follow.

"He [Ronaldinho] is with the best – with Ronaldo 'Fenomeno', with Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, that group."

Messi had scored 24 goals in 31 games this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ajax star Donny van de Beek insisted he was yet to start learning Spanish amid links with a move to Real Madrid.

Van de Beek, 22, is widely expected to eventually make a move away from Amsterdam after impressing at Ajax.

The midfielder said there were several aspects to making a decision about a potential switch, but insisted he was yet to take Spanish language classes.

"My feelings about a club have to be positive. I don't mean that it only important to feel wanted, I also need to fit in to the style of play," Van de Beek told Helden.

"And of course, I would need to know how much playing time I would be given."

He added: "It's always nice to play in the sun, but I haven't started taking Spanish classes yet."

Van de Beek had scored 10 goals in 37 games for Ajax this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former midfielder Danny Murphy labelled Liverpool's decision to furlough some of their staff as "grotesque".

The Premier League leaders announced on Saturday they had placed some staff on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the season being suspended.

Murphy, who made more than 200 appearances for Liverpool, slammed the decision, with Tottenham among the other clubs to have done likewise.

"It is grotesque because it wasn't introduced for Premier League clubs who have more than enough money to look after their own," the former England international wrote in the Daily Mail.

"I'm particularly disappointed with the decision coming from Liverpool yesterday [Saturday] because it runs against the togetherness and unity the club has always been renowned for, particularly over the last 30 years since Hillsborough.

"I think there will be a backlash and while the club's business people might think it will save them some money in the short-term, it will cause reputational damage."

It came as the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) claimed "essential public services" would lose important revenue if players took a 30 per cent pay cut proposed by Premier League clubs.

With Premier League players to donate to the National Health Service (NHS), Murphy believes they have been put in a tough position.

"The furlough controversy put those players in a predicament. I'm sure the players would have wanted to come together and find the money to enable other club employees to continue receiving their full pay packets. The furlough clubs put them on the back foot and even the health secretary jumped in," he wrote.

"The Premier League has now "advised" players to take a 30 per cent pay cut, apparently agreed by the clubs. I don't think the players would object to the principle but they deserve to know first what their money would be used for instead.

"We are talking significant amounts, millions of pounds. If it went to the frontline NHS or charities, that's one thing. If it remained in the clubs' pockets, that is another."

Former Tottenham striker Mido believes Zinedine Zidane has added nothing to Real Madrid in his second stint in charge.

Zidane returned to the helm of the LaLiga giants in March last year, having won three Champions League titles with Madrid during his first spell.

Mido, who played for Spurs, Ajax and Egypt during his career, criticised Zidane over his second stint, saying it was a mistake for the Frenchman to return.

"I really like Real Madrid. They are my favourite team in the league," he told AS.

"From my point of view, Zidane didn't add anything to Madrid [on his return]. As there is a saying that says, 'Do not marry the same woman twice'."

Having won the Supercopa de Espana this season, Madrid sat second to Barcelona in LaLiga and were in the Champions League last 16 when the campaign was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mido said the health of people was far more important than football, with uncertainty over when, and if, seasons will resume.

"Soccer is something secondary during the current situation, which of course will affect all the teams in the world," he said.

"But people's lives are more important than soccer."

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