Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and former Manchester United star David Beckham expressed their gratitude towards healthcare workers in the United Kingdom amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 23,900 people have died from COVID-19 globally, with over 528,000 confirmed cases as the world struggles to contain the spread of the virus – which has brought sport to a standstill.

In the UK, there have been 578 deaths and almost 11,700 cases, and the country came together to pay tribute to NHS staff as part of the "Clap for Carers" initiative on Thursday.

With the Premier League on hiatus, Klopp – whose Liverpool were top of the table prior to the postponement – delivered a message via the club's official channels.

"Myself, the staff and all the players of LFC would like to take this opportunity to deliver a message to say thank you to all the incredible people who work in the health services, all the health workers, if you want, out there," Klopp said.

"It's unbelievable what you are doing and on behalf of all of us from LFC, I would like to say thank you. Or, how we would say in Germany, vielen dank."

Ex-United, England, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Milan winger Beckham also used social media to show his appreciation.

"Happy to be able to come together with the whole country to thank the brave healthcare workers and our brilliant NHS working tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19," Beckham – now co-owner of new MLS franchise Inter Miami – said in a caption on Instagram.

The world is experiencing a crisis that is unprecedented in our times and the knock-on effect is that sport, that great escape for so many of us, is also suffering.

Pandemics are rare, and those that cause societal shutdown are even more rare, but as we retreat indoors to preserve our health, our favourite sports clubs may be battling to stay in business.

A number of clubs have laid off staff and players already, while other are asking highly-paid players to accept pay cuts, reportedly including Barcelona.

But while Lionel Messi and co will not suddenly need to raid Catalan food banks, the pinch is being felt elsewhere within football, and particularly in the lower leagues.

There are concerns that some English Football League and non-league clubs of long-standing and rich tradition may be pushed to the brink in the coming weeks and months.

With this in mind, Stats Perform spoke to leading sports lawyer Richard Cramer, who presented a considered analysis of how clubs, specifically those in England, could rally to stave off this existential threat.

A NEW EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE

Richard Cramer says: "In my experience as a sports lawyer, unbeknown to people you draw on your experiences because of what you've done in the past. But these are unprecedented times and I don't think anybody in the whole world has experienced what we're going through right now.

"We've all got our own emotions and we're all trying to adapt to the scenarios we're faced with."

STAYING AHEAD OF THE GAME

Richard Cramer says: "The key as a lawyer, not just in sport but in business as well, is to keep ahead of what's going on, to check what the laws are, because the laws are changing by the hour ... and then almost to sort of say, 'Okay, well if these are the laws now, then how do they apply to the various clubs or institutions?'.

"The rich ones have got a better chance of surviving because they've got more money, they've got more reserves."

TROUBLE LURKS DOWN THE LEAGUES

Richard Cramer: "The Premier League clubs, half of them are owned by countries so they've got a better chance of survival. Where it becomes more problematic is [when] we go lower down the pyramid, because there isn't the money within those clubs to sustain businesses.

"But the way I would be looking at it is almost as if I was advising any other business, to say, ‘Talk to your suppliers, look at the payments that you make'."

SOLUTIONS ARE OUT THERE

Richard Cramer: "Clearly, HMRC [the UK taxation body] right now appear to be sympathetic to organisations that are struggling to pay the PAYE. The Government have given a three-month… not a holiday but a deferment in relation to VAT, which goes into next year. There are grants available."

AGE OF THE FURLOUGH FOOTBALLER*?

Richard Cramer: "Obviously the furlough type of worker which nobody had even heard of until last Friday may well apply now to clubs lower down the pyramid that aren't on huge wages, so if they can't work, and based on the Government lockdown procedures [announced on Monday], if they cannot work then they may well be able to get the grants from the Government to help pay players and staff."

(*a furloughed employee is one who has not been made redundant but who cannot work because employers have closed their workplace, in this case due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to whom the UK Government will pay 80% of salary, up to £2,500 per month)

A PROBLEM SHARED...

RIchard Cramer: "If I was advising, I would say, 'Talk to as many professionals as you can - lawyers, accountants, tax advisers. There are organisations that are specialists in gaining access to finance, who can raise finance'.

"So that's the key: keep talking. What I have noticed already is that the emails are obviously flooding in, but I think we now have time on our hands to talk to people whereas in the past we hadn't. And I think talking and engaging in dialogue is clearly critical."

 

- Richard Cramer is a sports lawyer with UK firm Front Row Legal

Athletes are at risk of having their careers cut short if soon-to-be free agents face a prolonged period of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, warned World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill across the globe, with the 2020 Olympic Games, major European football leagues, the NBA, MLB and NHL postponed.

Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 have been pushed back to next year amid the fight to combat the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 21,290 lives.

It remains to be seen when and if the 2019-20 Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 seasons will resume, raising doubts over the futures of football players – whose contracts are due to expire in June.

The likes of Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva (both Paris Saint-Germain), Willian (Chelsea) and Dries Mertens (Napoli) are all set to become free agents.

As clubs and organisations try to reduce costs amid the economic crisis, Schwab – who works for World Players, which brings together 85,000 players across professional sports through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries – told Stats Perform: "The challenge is to ensure enough liquidity during the shutdown so that the same content can be delivered to fans, broadcasters and brands but over a longer period.

"Existing contracts and regulations such as contract expiry dates and transfer windows will all need to be reformulated which can only be done though collective decision-making involving governments, sports bodies, broadcasters, stadia operators, player unions and civil society. The impact on the sporting schedule will be long-lasting and may take several years to return to normal.

"Seasons just starting – such as MLB, AFL and NRL – have a longer struggle in many ways. Shortened seasons are likely, but it all depends on the length of the shutdown, liquidity and the window available to complete seasons. Sports which own their own infrastructure will have greater flexibility and will be in a stronger position to design solutions.

"The key is collective decision-making, goodwill and long-term thinking, all of which can be difficult during such uncertainty. Many key sports governing, commercial and player contracts have 'force majeure' clauses which may apply in these circumstances. Certain parties may be able to 'cut and run', but that will only worsen the bleeding and make recovery more difficult. We need to bunker down, show we care about our people, fight the pandemic, exercise restraint, save as many jobs and legitimate commercial interests as we can, and re-emerge with a renewed, sustainable and collectively developed economic model.

"Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of arguably football’s most influential figure, Johan Cruyff. He famously said that there is advantage in every disadvantage. That thinking is needed right now."

Schwab added: "Individual players will be impacted differently. The destiny of free agents will depend much on the state of the leagues once the shutdown has been lifted. There is a risk that players coming off contract will face a prolonged period of unemployment if the shutdown continues, which can be career ending.

"The top players should be OK during this period, but remember they are a fraction of players and athletes who work professionally. It is likely that the economic impact of the shutdown will result in a deflated labour market for some time, which will suppress wages even among the viable leagues. For leagues outside the very top echelon, it may be a battle for survival.

"However, sport's essential role in society will be unchanged and may even be renewed and elevated. It will have a critical role to play as the community reunites after the pandemic and we expect a major resurgence in demand. Sport is therefore an important part of government planning, and it is pleasing to see that progressive governments in Switzerland, Sweden and some other countries have included sport in the stimulus packages they are announcing. They will reap a community dividend for doing so even as they balance the essential interests of the broader society and economy."

"[Next year] an intense year for sport as current seasons will now run well into the northern summer and that will require a readjusted schedule in 2021," the Australian executive continued. "The postponement of the Olympics may allow for existing concerns to be addressed including the health and safety impacts of the extreme heat of July-August in Tokyo. These issues all need to be worked through. We shouldn't assume the Olympics are simply put back 12 months. We are consulting with our affiliates about how to approach the shaping of the 2021 sports calendar."

Coronavirus has largely affected the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, but Schwab said: "We have been concerned with some of the heath information being conveyed, including that COVID-19 is a disease that mainly affects the elderly and the vulnerable. Athletes, too, are vulnerable, despite being young and fit. The disease attacks the lungs, and athletes themselves have suffered very severe symptoms which may be long-lasting. There have been fatalities among people between 20 and 44 and young people can transmit the virus even if they don't have symptoms.

"Players have also been forced into quarantine when living away from their families. It is necessary that effective support mechanisms are in place to ensure the mental health and social wellbeing of players as well as their physical health. Our player unions play an essential role here."

Barcelona seemingly continue to make progress in their pursuit of Lautaro Martinez, while Real Madrid reportedly have seven transfer priorities.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez has been linked with a move away, with Barcelona appearing to be leading the chase for the forward.

Meanwhile, Barcelona's rivals Madrid have priorities of their own.

 

TOP STORY – INTER READY TO ACCEPT PLAYERS FROM BARCELONA IN MARTINEZ DEAL

Barcelona want to make their move for Martinez cheaper by offering several players and Inter view this option positively, according to the cover of Sport.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games in all competitions for Inter this season.

Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich, and Ousmane Dembele are among the Barcelona players to have been linked with moves away.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have seven major questions to answer, according to Marca, which says the LaLiga club must sign a goalscorer, extend Luka Modric's contract, bring Martin Odegaard back from loan, decide on the future of Achraf Hakimi, sign Donny van de Beek, decide between Alphonse Areola or Andriy Lunin as second goalkeeper and loan out or sell Dani Ceballos.

- Will Jadon Sancho leave Borussia Dortmund? The Mirror reports Manchester United are increasingly confident of landing Sancho during the next transfer window. The Sun, however, says Dortmund may be changing their plans with the attacker due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- Barcelona may want to sell Samuel Umtiti, but it is shaping to be difficult. AS says the club are aware selling the France defender is likely to be tough due to his injury problems.

- With Martinez potentially leaving, Inter are lining up replacements. Sport claims Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud would be one of their signings, while they are also targeting Atalanta's Duvan Zapata.

- On loan at Monaco from Chelsea, Tiemoue Bakayoko may see his future elsewhere. Calciomercato reports the 25-year-old is keen to return to Milan, where he was on loan in 2018-19. It also reports Milan are targeting Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen.

- There could be other departures at Stamford Bridge. According to The Sun, Chelsea are ready to sell Emerson Palmieri and Victor Moses to raise around £30million with the duo linked to Juventus and Inter respectively.

Pedro may be out of contract at Chelsea soon, but the World Cup winner insisted he has not "stopped to think" about his future.

The 32-year-old, who moved to Stamford Bridge in 2015, has only played in nine Premier League games this term and was due to be a free agent in four months once the current campaign concludes.

However, the suspension of the Premier League due to the coronavirus pandemic means it remains uncertain when the 2019-20 season will finish.

With that in mind, Pedro stressed thoughts of what's next in his career have not entered his mind.

"I finish the contract but right now it is not the most important thing, nor have I stopped to think about it," Pedro told Cadena Ser.

"From there, what has to do with my future will come, but right now it is not the most important thing when you don't even know when you are going to train again."

Spain international Pedro has donated 3,000 protective screens for hospitals in his native country, which has been one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.

There have been almost 50,000 confirmed cases in Spain and nearly 3,500 deaths.

"The materials are a little scarce and everything that can be helped is welcome," Pedro added.

"They have told us from the hospitals that [the protective screens] are a good resource for them.

"We wanted to contribute with these protective screens."

Harry Kane is unlikely to join Manchester United because Jose Mourinho would not allow Tottenham to sell their star striker to the Red Devils, says Rio Ferdinand.

There has been growing speculation England captain Kane will be open to the idea of departing Spurs if the club do not realise his ambition of winning major trophies.

It is thought Spurs would want at least £150million for their talisman, with United having been touted as a possible destination for Kane.

But Ferdinand doubts former Red Devils boss Mourinho, now in charge at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, would allow a deal to happen.

"Would I take Harry Kane now? Of course you would," former United centre-back Ferdinand said on Instagram Live.

"If he's fit and he's raring to go, you take Harry Kane at Man Utd, 100 per cent.

"Top player, you're guaranteeing goals, in the Premier League you're guaranteeing goals.

"This geezer scores goals but I don't see Tottenham letting Harry Kane go.

"And with Mourinho there, I don't see Mourinho letting him go to Man Utd."

United are also thought to be among the clubs chasing a big-money deal for Kane's England team-mate Jadon Sancho.

The former Manchester City forward has been a sensation for Borussia Dortmund and Ferdinand would love to see Sancho gracing the Old Trafford turf.

"I would take Sancho all day, to Man Utd," Ferdinand said. "Whether we'll get him, though [who knows?].

"Great player, great potential, English, he's brilliant. I would take Sancho now."

While Sanco is being tipped to leave Signal Iduna Park, Birmingham City's highly sought-after teenager midfielder Jude Bellingham could be on his way to Dortmund.

United are another club said to be in the hunt for Bellingham, who turns 17 in June, and Ferdinand says while a reported price tag of £30million appears excessive, the club should take a gamble on the prodigious talent.

"Jude Bellingham, huge talent, huge talent, really good-looking footballer in the way he plays, the balance he's got, the maturity at such a young age," Ferdinand said.

"I want to see more but the price tag is phenomenal. £30million odd for a kid, for a 16-year-old boy, it's unbelievable.

"But it's the way of the world now and the way you've got to think about it, if you're paying £30m, if we keep him for 10 years it's money well spent.

"It's a gamble, it's an expensive gamble, but for the kid to be playing in the Championship and doing what he's doing and looking the player he is, it's a gamble but a calculated one.

"I think he's someone I would 100 per cent take. If I'm Man United now, go in and get him."

Another day, another Lautaro Martinez rumour.

Inter star Martinez continues to dominate headlines as Barcelona reportedly circle.

Barca appear to be closing in on the Argentina international forward.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA MOVE CLOSER TO MARTINEZ

Barcelona have reached an agreement in principle with Inter forward Lautaro Martinez, according to Tuttosport.

Martinez is a player in demand amid links to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City.

But Barca are desperate to sign Martinez and the report claims the LaLiga champions have reached a deal on the contract and must now negotiate with Inter.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports United are "optimistic" they will have Paul Pogba at their disposal in 2020-21 as no club can afford him. The disgruntled star has been linked to former team Juventus and Madrid.

- Serie A champions Juve are keen on replacing forward Gonzalo Higuain with City's Gabriel Jesus, says Calciomcercato.

Barca are struggling to offload Brazilian attacker Philippe Coutinho, according to Marca. Coutinho, on loan at Bayern Munich, has been linked to Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham. However, Barca have been unable to find a team willing to spend at least €80million (£73m). Another loan spell is being considered.

- Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland has become Madrid's primary transfer target, ahead of the likes of Martinez and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, claims Marca. Madrid continue to eye Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe as his contract is due to expire in 2021, while team-mate Neymar is reportedly another option.

Napoli will demand at least €40m for striker Arkadiusz Milik, says Calciomercato. It comes as Milan and Inter reportedly circle the Poland international, who is no closer to signing a new deal in Naples.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Zlatan Ibrahimovic is considering retirement but Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis wants the 38-year-old striker to sign a new deal.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is at the top of Juve's wish list, Tuttosport claims. Tonali is also wanted by Inter, United, City and PSG. Alternatives for Juve are Roma pair Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, as well as Fiorentina duo Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli.

Fabio Cannavaro believes it will be difficult for European football to return before the season ends amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport has been brought to a standstill due to COVID-19, with Serie A, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League all on hiatus.

The Champions League and Europa League finals have also been postponed, with Euro 2020 pushed back to next year following more than 18,800 deaths worldwide – over 9,800 of the casualties from Italy and Spain.

Former Italy, Juventus and Real Madrid defender Cannavaro – now in charge of Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande – is not confident that football will resume by May.

"In less than a month it is not known what is going to happen in the world," the 43-year-old told COPE.

"I think it will take a long time for this to end in Italy and Spain.

"It will be difficult for European football to return before the season ends."

Cannavaro has been based in China since joining Evergrande in 2014 before returning in 2017, while he was briefly in charge of the national team last year.

China has enforced strict measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, which originated in the country and has claimed more than 3,270 lives.

"The virus in Guangzhou is under control and life is beginning to go back to normal," Cannavaro added. "There are no more restrictions, only 14 days at home.

"In two days, I finish my quarantine. All of us who come back have to do it.

"Staying at home is essential because we do not give the virus the opportunity to infect more people.

"We have to learn from China, they have more experience in this situation."

Pep Guardiola has made a €1million donation to aid in the fight against coronavirus.

The Manchester City manager made the sizeable contribution to the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation, which will invest it in medical equipment.

Guardiola is at home in Barcelona amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the foundation to which he made the pledge is focused on tackling the virus in the region.

The organisation's fundraising efforts started on March 21 and prior to Guardiola's gesture had raised €33,000.

A statement read: "Former football player and former FC Barcelona coach and current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has made a donation of one million euros to the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation for the purchase and supply of medical equipment in the face of a health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The donation campaign promoted by the Colegio de Doctors de Barcelona and managed through the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation aims to collect medical material and financial contributions from collegiate doctors and the general population for the purchase of medical equipment and equipment that is currently lacking in health centers in Catalonia.

"Also to be able to finance the alternative production (through 3D printing and others) of respirators and other elements of protection for healthcare staff."

Guardiola's decision to offer financial support follows in the footsteps of others across the world of sport.

The Germany national team donated €2.5m and Milan gave €250,000, while Bayern Munich players Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich set up a fund called 'We Kick Corona', chipping in a combined €1m.

 

Football's most powerful leaders must set aside their differences to rescue the game from its coronavirus crisis, a leading expert has said.

In a sport riven with spats and disagreements, a common goal has emerged since the world's top leagues ground to an abrupt halt.

With large parts of global society on government-imposed lockdowns to prevent the COVID-19 spread, sport is firmly on hold.

Yet it must resume eventually, and talks are taking place to determine when and how that can come about, with discussions ongoing about the possibility of behind-closed-doors Premier League games.

West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady last week questioned the implications for the English top division, and executives throughout the multi-billion-dollar industry will be considering their next steps.

Richard Cramer, a lawyer with UK-based sports law firm Front Row Legal, says relationships in football could be pushed to the brink.

But he believes it is realistic to be confident "that whatever decision is taken is definitely going to be the right one", given the experience of the decision-makers within clubs, national associations and the likes of UEFA and FIFA.

In an interview with Stats Perform, Cramer explained: "All the chief executives, the power-brokers within sport, will want to see everybody within their league or their own particular sector trying to agree on a unanimous basis, because what unanimous votes do is create certainty, and it eliminates those clubs that are feeling disenfranchised, which is usually the recipe for litigation. So, everyone is trying right now, I would imagine, to get full agreement.

"What we have seen which is so far very good is, number one, Premier League agree unanimous initial lockdown until April 3. Then they've agreed unanimously to go to April 30, and when they do resume, which will probably be I would imagine maybe June time - I think they're talking about June 1 - they'll want everybody within the Premier League, all the clubs, all the chief executives, to go with a unanimous vote on that one. And it's the same with the EFL [English Football League].

"Then you've got all the governing bodies - the Football Association, the EFL, the Premier League, FIFA, UEFA - and all of those organisations will want to work as one unit, which is quite unusual really because usually there are tensions and those organisations might be at loggerheads.

"But in a perverse sort of way, this unbelievable scenario we are in now might bring a closer unity between all sports and between clubs."

According to Cramer, any outlier in discussions where there is otherwise consensus may ultimately be shouted down, and the greater the unity, the less the threat of legal action at the end of this period of unprecedented disruption.

"If in the end an individual club is not happy with the decision, they may just be so marginalised that they've got no support from anybody, so their protests or their grievances might not carry a great deal of weight," said Cramer.

"So, because we're in such a unique scenario, I actually think litigation is probably highly unlikely if the governing bodies make the correct decision.

"That, I think, is where probably everybody will want to go with this, but relationships are going to be tested. There's no rule book on this one, but if everybody works together, I believe that common sense will prevail and we will make the right decisions."

Roy Keane believes the brilliance and unselfishness of striking quartet Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Dwight Yorke made Manchester United "really lucky" to have them.

Reflecting on United's treble success in 1999 and the three consecutive Premier League titles secured up to 2001, Keane and former team-mate Gary Neville hailed the club's strikeforce.

Current manager Solskjaer and Sheringham, who both scored in the Champions League final win over Bayern Munich, were integral rotation pieces who complemented the famed Yorke and Cole partnership.

Keane felt the personalities of that group were crucial in making it work at a time when, despite their quality, none of the four players were starting every week.

"We were really lucky with the four strikers we had at that time, Yorkie, Coley, Ole and Teddy - brilliant players," Keane said to Sky Sports.

"I always try make the point to remind people they were very good lads in the dressing room. People talk about strikers being selfish, they have to be, but I found all of these lads to be decent lads.

"They looked at the bigger picture, they had to bide their time as the manager rotated the squad.

"We were one of the first to rotate the squad throughout the competitions. The players made it work, they were professionals and when they got the opportunity they went out and did the business."

Asked who the best combination was, Keane added: "I don't like these conversations, I really don't, it's really unfair."

Neville, meanwhile, felt the partnership between Yorke and Cole could not have been replicated by other world-class strikers.

He said: "The thing about that partnership is that neither minded who scored.

"That is something you wouldn't have seen with partnerships involving Ruud van Nistelrooy and Michael Owen, who had to score to be happy.

"Yorke and Cole didn't hit it off from the start, it took 10 to 15 games from memory.

"Leicester away sticks in my mind, something just happened that day and after that they started socialising together, getting on off the pitch and a respect between each other developed.

"We knew Yorke was a good player from Aston Villa, but I don't think anybody realised how good a player he was, he surprised us when he came into the team."

Harry Kane has revealed he is at a "good stage" of his recovery and would be back training with his Tottenham team-mates in "two or three weeks" under normal circumstances

The England and Spurs captain has been sidelined since suffering a torn hamstring during a Premier League defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day.

Kane has made swift progress with his rehabilitation and would be back in full training next month if the season was not on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He told Spurs TV: "I'm not too far away – I'd normally hope to be back with the team in two or three weeks’ time.

"I'm at a good stage, pretty much doing everything, now it’s about building up my fitness.

"From a rehab and personal point of view, I’m in a good place, I'm doing really well. 

"I’m at a good stage now and just working hard, doing a lot of recovery, a lot of rehab and just waiting to see what happens to the season.

"Other than that, my family is well. Obviously everyone is thinking about coronavirus at the moment and it’s a time to be together, to stay safe and hopefully everything will be alright."

The Premier League season has been suspended until at least April 30, with the campaign extended 'indefinitely' as the United Kingdom begins a lockdown.

Kane added: "It's such a strange situation, no-one has been in this situation before. Like anything, you have to take the positives out of it and do what you can.

"So far, me and the family are well, and I'll continue to work hard, work in the gym, work from home and do what I can. We'll just have to wait and see.

"I'm taking it all as it comes but for the time being, I'm in a good place, happy where I'm at and let's see what happens."

Prior to his injury setback, Kane had scored 11 goals in 20 league appearances this season.

Jose Mourinho is "so intense" as a manager but most of his players would still speak fondly of him, according to Michael Ballack.

Ballack was signed by Mourinho at Chelsea in 2006 and worked under the current Tottenham boss until his first Stamford Bridge departure the following year.

The Portuguese coach's confrontational style has seen him clash with some high-profile players during a career that has also taken in stints at Real Madrid, Manchester United and Inter.

But Ballack feels Mourinho's charisma and ambition are attractive qualities and, despite his intensity, critical players are in the minority.

"You really get caught by his personality and by his ambitions," Ballack said to Sky Sports' Transfer Talk.

"Working with a coach like that was something totally new for me. He was impressive and I felt totally comfortable with the decision [to sign for Chelsea].

"The relationship is still good with him. You will not find many players who speak badly about him."

Of Mourinho's sudden Chelsea exit in September 2007, Ballack added: "I was experienced enough to understand.

"When you are not winning, the coach is more or less the weakest person in the team who can be replaced. 

"He was in his fourth year. If you look at the average time a manager has to work in a club, it was quite a good time. 

"The way he worked was so intense that maybe you come to a point where things are not working anymore. Even then, the fans know what he achieved at the club to take them back to that level."

Avram Grant took over from Mourinho and took the club to the Champions League final in Moscow, where they suffered a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United.

"He never really had a chance. It is really difficult, after Jose Mourinho, to work at Chelsea," added Ballack.

"It could cause a problem for any manager because Mourinho had such a relationship with the players and the fans.

"Grant managed the team in a different way. A lot of players thought he would be weak, but he wasn't. He was really smart and intelligent."

Is Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Juventus coming to an end?

Ronaldo swapped LaLiga giants Real Madrid for Serie A champions Juventus in 2018.

But the 35-year-old superstar reportedly wants out of Turin.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO EYES JUVE EXIT

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Juventus as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United circle, according to Diario GOL.

The report claims Ronaldo has an offer from Ligue 1 champions PSG, who want to partner the five-time Ballon d'Or winner with Kylian Mbappe.

Ronaldo has also received a proposal from former club United and the 35-year-old wants to restore the glory days at Old Trafford, though it depends on Champions League qualification.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Star says Barcelona have made a bid for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez as their interest in Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has cooled. Aubameyang has been linked to Barca, PSG and United.

Chelsea have been offered the chance to sign out-of-favour Barca attacker Philippe Coutinho, reports The Mirror. Barca are looking to offload the Brazilian, who is on loan at Bayern Munich. United, Arsenal and Tottenham have also been mentioned as possible destinations.

- El Pais says Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors are keen on signing PSG forward Edinson Cavani, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Declan Rice to return to Stamford Bridge? Sky Sports says Chelsea are hoping to re-sign the West Ham midfielder, who spent most of his youth career with the Blues.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's future at Milan is uncertain. Calciomercato claims a farewell cannot be ruled out amid contract negotiations. Real Madrid, PSG and Everton are among the reported suitors for the Italy international goalkeeper.

- According to Calciomercato, Napoli are preparing for life without star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who continues to be linked with the likes of United, Madrid and Bayern. Freiburg's Robin Koch has emerged as an option for Napoli.

Inter and Juve are interested in former Milan midfielder and current Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports Calciomercato.

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho volunteered to help elderly people who are quarantined amid the coronavirus pandemic on Monday.

Mourinho gave a helping hand to Age UK and Love Your DoorStep – a business putting local people in touch with local products and services – in Enfield, preparing food parcels and other essentials for delivery.

The Spurs boss said in a video posted on the Love Your DoorStep account: "I am here to help Age UK Enfield, Love Your DoorStep Enfield and of course you can donate food, money or be a volunteer."

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson later announced strict lockdown measures, warning fines will be issued to people who do not comply.

The Premier League season was last week postponed until April 30 at the earliest, but it remains to be seen when the action will resume.

COVID-19 has killed at least 16,490 people worldwide, with more than 378,390 cases of the virus confirmed.

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