Sadio Mane would "understand" if the 2019-20 season was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, even though Liverpool are just two wins away from claiming the title.

The Reds have been champions-in-waiting for some time, having taken 79 points from 29 games to open up a 25-point lead over Manchester City.

Yet the Premier League, like the vast majority of competitions across the world, has been halted due to restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

It remains to be seen when, or even if, the Premier League will return as the hiatus has extended past the beginning of May already.

However, Mane insists there are bigger concerns given over 83,000 people have died after contracting coronavirus worldwide.

Asked if he felt like a champion already, Mane told talkSPORT: "I think not yet. I love my job and I love football, I want to win on the pitch.

"I want to win the games and I want to get the trophy, it's what I would love.

"But with this situation, whatever happens I will understand.

"It has been difficult for Liverpool, but it has been more difficult for many millions of people around the world. Some people have lost family members and that is the more complicated situation.

"But for myself, it's my dream and I want to win it this year.

"If that's not the case, I will accept. It's part of life. Hopefully we will win it next year."

Some - such as Manchester United's Luke Shaw - have suggested the Premier League should be voided if the season cannot resume.

However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said earlier this week he sees "no way" in which Liverpool could be denied the title.

The Reds have not won a top-flight championship since 1989-90, prior to the inception of the Premier League.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a stunning return to Real Madrid, but it seems that is just about impossible.

The Juventus star only left the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, yet recent reports linked him with a Madrid return.

However, it appears that is unlikely.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID RETURN FOR RONALDO RULED OUT

Real Madrid are not thinking about bringing Ronaldo back, according to both Marca and Sport.

It has been reported that Juve would consider selling Ronaldo for €60million, which is €40m less than what they paid in July 2018.

Ronaldo had scored 25 goals in 32 games this season before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Barcelona. Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain would be willing to accept payment in instalments from Barcelona, something that proved to be an issue last close season.

- Paul Pogba looks set to leave Manchester United for either Juventus or Real Madrid. AS reports the France midfielder will prioritise an offer from the LaLiga giants.

- On loan at PSG from Inter, Mauro Icardi's future is uncertain. Sport reports PSG have decided they will use their purchase option of €70m to land the forward permanently.

- It seems Barcelona know what they want for Philippe Coutinho. The LaLiga giants have set their price for the attacker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich, at €90m, according to Sport.

- David Silva will leave Manchester City at the end of the season and where he ends up remains to be seen. CalcioMercato reports AC Milan met the playmaker's agents over a possible move.

- It is shaping as a busy close season at Barcelona. Sport reports PSG left-back Layvin Kurzawa, out of contract at campaign's end, wants a move to Barcelona. Meanwhile, AS reports Barca are also eyeing Real Madrid's 19-year-old midfielder Cesar Gelabert.

Liverpool star Sadio Mane revealed Jurgen Klopp said he was "like a rapper" as he turned down the chance to sign the attacker while at Borussia Dortmund.

Klopp opted against signing Mane during his time at Dortmund, where he was coach from 2008 to 2015, a decision he later said was a mistake.

Mane felt the Liverpool manager had made an error, joking about how Klopp had perceived him at the time.

"He said I was like a rapper!" Mane told The Guardian.

"But I think I gave my best so what can I say? That's part of life – you never know how you are going to get along with people. But I think he was wrong for sure.

"It was an experience for me as well though. I knew I had to show him more until we met again."

Together at Liverpool, Mane has developed into one of the world's best attackers under Klopp.

Mane praised the German for his belief in his players, highlighting Liverpool's incredible comeback win over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

"What makes him special is that he never stops believing," Mane said.

"In the meeting before the game he was really convinced that we could do it, even though we were missing two of the best players in the world [Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino].

"He pushed the boys hard to give everything possible and tried to take the pressure off us."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin sees "no way" in which Liverpool could be denied the Premier League title this season despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool were 25 points clear atop the table when the campaign was suspended due to coronavirus last month.

It remains unclear when, and if, the season will resume, but Ceferin said Jurgen Klopp's men were almost certain to be champions, giving the club their first top-flight title since 1990.

"I see no way to keep Liverpool untitled," he told Slovenian sports daily Ekipa.

"If it is played, then they will almost certainly win it – theoretically they have not reached the guaranteed level, but it is practically close.

"However, if it could not be played, it would also be necessary to announce the results in some way … and then the champions should be determined. And of course again I don't see a scenario that would not be Liverpool.

"I understand that fans will be disappointed if it happens in an empty stadium or even at a green table, but I believe they will win the title in one way or another."

However, Ceferin insisted the plan was still for leagues around the world to be completed.

"I just spoke hypothetically," he said. "We are also preparing for such scenarios, but we are not dealing with the details for now.

"At this point, we are fully committed to completing the competition."

The Premier League will follow Belgium's Pro League and cancel the rest of its season, according to Udinese sporting director Pierpaolo Marino.

With Liverpool 25 points clear atop the table, the Premier League was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many leagues around the world have been brought to a standstill, with Belgium set to cancel the rest of their campaign and award the title to leaders Club Brugge.

Marino, whose club are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo – the father of Watford owner Gino, believes England will do likewise.

"The Belgian federation has sanctioned the end of the championship, despite the threat of UEFA sanctions," he told Sportitalia on Tuesday.

"England is about to issue the same measure because the situation is becoming very serious. I speak of the Premier League."

Marino added: "We have to get away from this danger, no matter the weather. I'm worried about the coming seasons, not the old one."

More than 81,800 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, while there have been more than 1.4 million cases.

In the United Kingdom, more than 6,100 people have died from coronavirus.

Tottenham great Jimmy Greaves has been taken to hospital, the Premier League club have confirmed.

Spurs issued a statement late on Tuesday to confirm the 80-year-old has been admitted and that they are in contact with his family.

"We can confirm that our record goalscorer Jimmy Greaves is currently being treated in hospital," the club said.

"We are in touch with his family and will provide further updates in due course.

"Everybody at the club sends their best wishes to Jimmy and his family."

Greaves scored a record 266 goals for Spurs between 1961 and 1970 and netted 44 times in 57 appearances for England.

His total of 357 goals in England's top flight is the highest figure in the competition's history.

Greaves suffered a stroke in 2015 that left him severely disabled, although his son Danny insisted in February that he remained "in good spirits".

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it is unfair to call out footballers during the global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, United Kingdom health secretary Matt Hancock called on Premier League footballers to "take a pay cut and play their part" amid suggestions elite and well-paid players were not offering enough support to ease the financial problems caused by the outbreak.

Hancock's comments came amid growing criticism of clubs such as Tottenham, Newcastle United and Liverpool, who put staff on the government's furlough scheme despite boasting healthy financial positions compared to many other businesses. Liverpool later changed course and apologised for coming to the "wrong conclusion".

However, captains of Premier League clubs are said to have already started discussions over how players can help during the UK's lockdown phase before Hancock spoke out.

Solskjaer thinks footballers are something of an "easy target" and insists players need time to come to an agreement over the best way forward.

"For me, it's unfair to call on any individual or footballers as a group because I already know players do a great amount of work in the community, and players are doing a lot to help this situation," he told Sky Sports.

"Discussions are taking place between players and clubs, what kind of contribution they'll make. It's not easy for anyone, and to be called out is not fair for me.

"Mistakes are being made and have been made by loads of people and that's how we learn as well. Now it's about making better decisions, good decisions. I think we all want to help the NHS, the communities, and I think it's important every single club do what they think is right.

"We're all good people, and I'm sure we all want this to be over with as soon as possible. For me, it's about following the guidelines from the government as well.

"We are role models. Sometimes we're heroes in football; at the moment we have to take a back step. The real heroes are the workers on the front line. I think everyone appreciates and admires what they're doing."

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has warned the English game could be "decimated" by the coronavirus impact as he urged players and clubs to "share the pain" in a rescue effort.

In a stark message that English football is heading towards financial chaos, Clarke cautioned clubs and leagues risked being swept away to oblivion, saying it was time for major stakeholders to "agree common cause to save our game".

He also said there was no certainty the 2019-20 Premier League and English Football League seasons could be finished, despite every best intention, given the ongoing uncertainty of when matches can be played again.

Speaking at a meeting of the FA council on Tuesday, Clarke said the consequences of COVID-19 would strike clubs at all levels, from the Premier League to grassroots, and urged those with the wherewithal to "contribute".

The FA itself faces losing out on tens of millions in anticipated revenue, and Clarke says football is already "burning through its cash reserves".

The impact on broadcast deals, particularly if the current season has to be abandoned, could be dire for clubs that have come to rely on such income.

Clarke said that "prudence is our only sensible option", as he delivered a grim address in the midst of the unprecedented crisis.

"We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit," Clarke said.

"However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the government directs as the pandemic unfolds."

In a searing statement, he warned: "Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.

"We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse. Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.

"In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.

"Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.

"We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted. We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season. However, we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan."

Clarke suggested the game's authorities would be judged "harshly" should clubs go to the wall, and it was clear his message was an appeal to the Premier League, EFL and the richest clubs to help those facing the most grievous hardship.

"Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game. Pointing fingers serves no purpose," he added.

"It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game. Contribute. Football is a team game and now is the time for teamwork."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippe Coutinho's transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona was "difficult" but "fair" for the player, says Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Brazil midfielder Coutinho swapped Anfield for Camp Nou in January 2018 in a deal reportedly worth over £100million after protracted negotiations.

Klopp explained how Liverpool had initially held firm against a sale due to an injury to Adam Lallana, but relented at a time when the move made sense for all parties.

"I really respected Phil's switch from the first second," he told the Pure Football Podcast.

"Not that I do that all the time but it felt 'oh wow that could be difficult'.

"So it's not about yes we signed a new contract so many weeks before that but it was really clear he would not have asked me for any other club but for this club, there was no chance.

"Then we had to be hard in the summer because we had no other solution. We lost Adam Lallana in that time as well, we would have lost two players.

"That's not possible, you cannot solve that on the transfer market.

"He was open to that [staying] and that was really cool. Then you have to be fair in the window and say we can do it, we don't like it but we can do it."

Coutinho struggled to adjust at Barca and was shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich for the 2019-2020 season, which is suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bayern are not thought to be keen on making the move permanent, but Barca appear certain to sanction a sale elsewhere if they can recoup a large sum of the outlay they stumped up to Liverpool.

The Reds had been linked with a move themselves, although reports say they will not be in the market for their former midfielder, and Klopp wants the best for Coutinho wherever he ends up.

"Phil was our boy for a long time," he added. "We respect him a lot and wish him all the best.

"That's how football should be. That's the most important thing the club showed in that moment."

The signs that Jack Nicklaus was destined for golfing immortality came early in his decorated career.

Fifty-seven years ago on April 7, the 18-time major winner recorded one of his most incredible achievements on the verdant greens of Augusta.

Sharp shooting of a different kind was taking place in Texas on this day last year.

Here we look back at some of the major events to have happened in the world of sport on April 7.

 

1963 - Jack Nicklaus becomes youngest Masters winner

Having won his first major in a playoff with Arnold Palmer less than a year into his professional career, Jack Nicklaus made history with the first of six victories at Augusta.

A six-under second round of 66 was crucial for Nicklaus, who trailed Mike Souchak by a stroke at the 36-hole mark.

Souchak endured a third-round collapse, though, Nicklaus benefitting from the halfway leader tumbling down the board by shooting a seven-over 79.

Nicklaus subsequently held on to his one-shot lead, a three-foot putt on the last earning him a green jacket at the age of 23.

2018 - United comeback denies City title-clinching win

The prospect of clinching the Premier League title against their bitter rivals lay before Manchester City on this day two years ago.

Despite taking a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola's men missed the chance to do so as they were undone by a remarkable Manchester United comeback.

Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan had seemingly put City in command but Paul Pogba levelled matters with two goals in the space of three second-half minutes.

Chris Smalling was the unlikely hero for United, completing a stunning turnaround by volleying home Alexis Sanchez's free-kick.

City still cruised to the title, finishing the season with 100 points, with Jose Mourinho's United 19 points back.

2019 - Rockets break their own record

The Houston Rockets have long been known for their reliance on the three-pointer, and they displayed incredible accuracy from beyond the arc in a dominant win over the Phoenix Suns.

Houston already owned the record for the most three-pointers in a game, and the Rockets broke it by nailing 27 in a 149-113 victory.

James Harden scored 30 points in just three quarters, converting on five three-point attempts.

Eric Gordon drilled home eight, with Austin Rivers hitting the record-breaking effort with one minute and nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Liverpool have made a U-turn on their decision to furlough a number of non-playing staff impacted by the Premier League's suspension following a backlash, CEO Peter Moore has confirmed.

The Reds announced of Friday they were following the likes of Tottenham and Newcastle United in taking advantage of the United Kingdom government's job retention scheme, meaning 80 per cent of some staff wages would be paid by the state.

But that move was widely slammed given the club had less than six weeks previously announced £42million pre-tax profits, with former Liverpool players Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann among those to publicly lambast the decision.

Following the criticism, Liverpool have opted to seek alternative arrangements.

Tottenham forward Son Heung-min will commence his military service in South Korea during the Premier League suspension, the club has confirmed.

Son is in quarantine in South Korea having returned to his home country at the end of March after football in England was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 27-year-old, who has not played since February after fracturing his arm, will return to Spurs in May.

Son was exempted from the mandatory 21-month military service after leading South Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games in September 2018, but he was still due to complete a four-week programme ahead of the 2020-21 season.

However, with the Premier League acknowledging it will not resume in early May as previously planned, Son will use the period to undertake his duty.

"Our medical staff are in regular contact as he concludes his recovery after fracturing his arm in our 3-2 win against Aston Villa on 16 February and continues to train," a Tottenham statement read.

"Sonny had surgery on his arm in South Korea before returning to the UK at the end of February to continue his rehabilitation, prior to the initial announcement of the professional game in England being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Premier League has since announced that the 2019- 20 season will only return when it is 'safe and appropriate to do so' and is under constant review.

"Son will return to London following the conclusion of his military service in May."

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