Roberto Firmino has gone "rogue" with his lockdown haircut, but James Milner can be proud of his "absolute worldie", according to Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson.

Following a two-month hiatus owing to the coronavirus pandemic, Liverpool's players returned to their Melwood training base last week to take part in small group sessions.

The look of many of the Reds' players has dramatically altered since they were last in action, with barber shops across the United Kingdom forced to close during the lockdown.

Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and Alisson Becker have each embraced a new look, but it is Firmino's longer locks that have taken Robertson most by surprise.

"There are a couple of questionable ones," he told Liverpool's official website. "Alisson's just keeps growing and growing – I don't know what state that is going to be in when we get back playing!

"Bobby's is interesting. Usually he's quite sharp but he's kind of let it go a wee bit rogue. Joe Gomez's is really bushy on top. Lallana just took the hit, didn't he?

"He just shaved it all off, so I think we've gotten used to Adz having no hair now. That's what happens, isn't it? You have to adapt to these situations – and unfortunately sometimes you have to put trust in people who don't have a clue what they're doing!

"That's what we've all done – some of us don't trust their household members [with it] as much as some of us have. But hopefully Bobby can get back to his fresh haircut soon."

Milner is another who has altered him image, but Robertson believes the veteran midfielder – unlike many of his other team-mates – can be pleased with his fresh trim.

"I think Mrs Milner has pulled off an absolute worldie with that one, to be honest," he said.

"I think it took him about five or six weeks to put his trust in her, but I think he should have done it beforehand, to be honest she’s done a good job.

"My missus had a go on mine; I told her not to touch the top, just to do the sides. She did an okay job - it's growing in a bit better, so I think I've gone under the radar a wee bit. I'm quite proud of her for that, to be honest!"

Andy Robertson admits he feared a return to Premier League action might not be possible and he is now determined to end Liverpool's 30-year title wait.

Jurgen Klopp's men opened up a 25-point lead at the top of the table before football was brought to a halt in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Premier League is on course to restart in mid-to-late June after clubs voted on Wednesday for a return to full-contact training.

Liverpool need just two victories from their remaining nine games to win the title and Robertson is delighted a restart is now in sight, albeit with fans not permitted to attend games.

"It's been 30 long years for this club and the fans probably couldn't have imagined we'd have to wait nine weeks when we were so close to going into games where we hopefully could have won to seal the Premier League title," he told Liverpool's official website. 

"But we'll get back to it, we'll get going again, we'll get our rhythm again and hopefully we can win the games we need to win and that's what our aim is now.

"The light at the end of the tunnel was just getting back into training, to be honest. At times, there were some days you didn't think that would have been possible, but now we're back here, we can look forward and look to the next step. 

"Then, like I said, hopefully with the games we've got ahead of us, we can get back to it. Would we like to play in front of 55,000 people at Anfield? Of course we would. 

"Winning games or whatever without the fans won't feel the same, but it's something we know we need to go through and it's something we know that in their houses and stuff they will be supporting us like mad and we'll feel that support.

"Hopefully we can celebrate a title if we get the job done - and there will be time to celebrate it when the time is right.

"But for now we need to keep focused, we know whatever games are coming up and whenever they start, we need to get them won and get that trophy for this club."

Robertson and his Liverpool team-mates returned to their Melwood training base last week for the first time in two months to partake in small group sessions.

And the Scotland international says he is like an excited schoolboy after reuniting with his colleagues, who remained in close contact during lockdown in the United Kingdom.

"We made sure we kept in contact with each other a lot, we made sure we were all in a big WhatsApp group where we could talk things through, and we were all on Zoom calls – I think it was every three days and you could see each other," he said.

"But the first day back at Melwood it was like a kid leaving school for holidays probably, to be honest. I bounced out the front door; it's probably the first time I've smiled at home about football in a while.

"I couldn't wait to get in and I'm sure all the lads were like that. Everyone was talking in their cars in the car park from a distance on the first day. It was just nice to catch up.

"This is the new normal, we need to get used to the protocols we're following but it's something I think we've all got used to quite quickly. 

"Being able to see the lads and being able to be in this training ground again most days, it's a special place and we like being here.

"We went through it all together. From the very start the staff in the WhatsApp group were saying if anyone is struggling with anything, put it in here because if you’re struggling with something, someone else might be struggling with the exact same thing and we can all get to somewhere better."

Erling Haaland will end up in the Premier League but the Borussia Dortmund striker is unlikely to rush a move to England, according to Jan Aage Fjortoft.

Fjortoft, who won 71 caps for Norway in his playing career as well as spending time in the Premier League with Middlesbrough and Barnsley, has been hugely impressed by his compatriot.

Haaland and his management team have chosen their transfer-market moves with careful planning, a trend that should continue even if English clubs come calling for him again.

Manchester United were in the hunt for the Norway international's signature before he moved to Dortmund from Salzburg in a €20million January move.

The 19-year-old has gone on to score 13 goals in 14 games across all competitions for BVB and Fjortoft thinks the speed of his rise this season may have taken him by surprise.

"What I've been impressed by from Erling and the team around is they have chosen the places where he can develop as a player," Fjortoft said to Sky Sports.

"He went from Molde – where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was his manager, so you can imagine how hard it was for Manchester United not to get him when he moved to Dortmund – to Red Bull Salzburg.

"They chose to go to Salzburg because it is a great arena for a young kid, not going to Juventus when they had a fantastic offer from them at the time.

"And this time he went to Dortmund, which is the right place for him to be now.

"Do I think he will play in the Premier League in the future? Absolutely, I think he will go to the Premier League eventually, but where he will end up, I am not sure.

"It might take him some time; I think it went quicker than he had thought in Salzburg, with success in the Champions League, but he is in a good place now.

"I can't see him moving in the short term, but in the long term yes, of course, he will end up in the Premier League, like all big players will eventually."

Louis van Gaal has criticised Manchester United's transfer strategy during his time in charge and says he is proud of what he achieved at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman succeeded David Moyes as United boss in 2014 and lasted two seasons before being sacked, two days after victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.

United spent big on Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind ahead of Van Gaal's first season, while Radamel Falcao joined on loan.

However, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach has claimed he did not get any of his first-choice targets after inheriting an "outdated" squad.

"Manchester United did not have the qualities to become champions and had an outdated selection with 10 players over 30, five over 35," he told Voetbal International. 

"So I told them I was going to rejuvenate and which players should come. I didn't get one of those. 

"Then you end up in a different segment and as a coach you have to push your boundaries. You don't expect that at the richest club in the world.

"A turnover of £600million and you can't buy the players you need. You should buy number one and not number seven. 

"Of course, the selling club also thinks: If you are so rich, you also have to pay the highest amount imaginable for a player. That was what happened with transfers. 

"Then you have to do with the numbers seven or eight on your wish list. For which you actually pay way too much money, on which the coach is judged and convicted."

As well as lifting the FA Cup in his second season, Van Gaal got United back into the Champions League in 2014-15 following their struggles under Moyes.

A failure to finish in the top four in 2015-16 and complaints over his style of football ultimately cost the 68-year-old his job, but he ranks his achievements with United as the best of his career. 

"I am an optimist. You have to disappoint me more than once if I want to close the door," he said. "Everyone gets a second chance with me. 

"Despite those disappointments, Manchester United did win the FA Cup. Manchester United has actually been the greatest achievement of my career."

Troy Deeney is expected to return to Watford training after holding positive talks with health officials.

The Hornets captain, though, detailed the significant abuse he had received after initially opting not to train when clubs were permitted to resume non-contact sessions.

Deeney, 31, had concerns over the health of his son – who has breathing difficulties – and statistics that showed BAME people were more at risk from COVID-19. 

He is now poised to join his team-mates when Watford train next week after the approval of contact training, having held discussions with Dr Jonathan Van-Tam, the Government's deputy chief medical officer, and the Premier League.

"I only said that I wasn't going back for the first week," Deeney told CNN. "People took that as I'll never go back.

"Jonathan is doing really well, not only answering questions, he has also been honest enough to say at times: 'I don't have the answer'.

"The first conversation I had with Jonathan was maybe three weeks ago. The last conversation we had was on Friday and he had so much more information, so much more detailed analysis.

"So it just filled me with confidence that he's trying his best to make sure that we have all the information. The risk factor will be down to players.

"He's been doing very, very good research and there is a lot of goodwill on his part to tell me, ultimately, that I'm going to be looked after as best as they can.

"Ultimately, there is going to be some form of risk for all of us going back to work. Lockdown [ending] and the social distancing measures coming down mean people will still always have risk."

Deeney said some of his meetings with the Premier League were "productive", while others were "heated". 

"I needed more questions answered with a bit more authority and, at the start, they couldn't really do that, but it was just because they didn't have the information," he said.

"I think everyone can appreciate everything that the Premier League is trying to do as well. I don't think it's a pure neglect of: 'We're going back to work and get on board or [else],' it's nothing like that. They have very good lines of communication.

"There's some frustrating conversations. When somebody said I'm at the same risk of getting coronavirus by playing football or going to the supermarket, I said: 'I've never had to jump for a header while picking up a cucumber'."

While the issue over his training dilemma appears to be solved, Deeney was unhappy with abuse he received, particularly that which targeted his son.

He added: "I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: 'I hope your son gets coronavirus'. 

"That's the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: 'Ah, we've got him' and they keep doing it.

"In a time where it's all about mental health and everyone says: 'Speak up, speak out,' Danny Rose spoke out – and I spoke out and we just get absolutely hammered and battered for it.

"The missus gets direct messages and you'll be walking down the street and people will be like: 'Oh, I'm at work, you go back to work’."

If Lautaro Martinez heads to Barcelona, Inter may land Timo Werner as his replacement as Liverpool withdraw from the race for the RB Leipzig star.

Martinez and Werner are two forwards linked with moves during the close season after impressive campaigns at Inter and RB Leipzig respectively.

And Werner could reportedly fill Martinez's boots at San Siro if the Argentina international makes the switch.

 

TOP STORY – WERNER COULD REPLACE BARCELONA TARGET LAUTARO

RB Leipzig star Werner is the leading candidate to replace Martinez if the Inter forward joins Barcelona, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Werner has been heavily linked with a transfer to Liverpool, but the Mirror reports the Premier League leaders have withdrawn from talks as they are unwilling to meet his £49.4million (€55m) release clause.

Meanwhile, AS reports Philippe Coutinho could be part of Barca's bid to land Martinez, even as Inter say the only way the 22-year-old will leave is by his reported €111m clause being paid.

ROUND-UP

- Will Barcelona and Juventus get an exchange deal done? Sport reports Juve are pushing to land Arthur, but the midfielder wants to stay with the LaLiga giants. Miralem Pjanic has been linked with a move to Camp Nou.

- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports the club are willing to let Ousmane Dembele leave if a good offer arrives. The attacker has been linked with a switch to Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar reportedly a target for Barcelona.

- David Luiz's future appears uncertain. Sky Sports News reports the defender's stay at Arsenal could be coming to an end after one season as his contract expires next month and no talks are planned over a new deal.

- It seems Tiemoue Bakayoko could be set for another transfer. Le 10 Sport says the midfielder, on loan at Monaco from Chelsea, is being targeted by Milan and West Ham, with PSG's interest having eased.

- With Kepa Arrizabalaga out of favour, Chelsea are said to be looking for a new goalkeeper. The Sun says the Premier League side are lining up a £15m (€16.7m) move for Borussia Dortmund shot-stopper Roman Burki.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are also reportedly eyeing a left-back. The Mirror reports they are keeping an eye on developments around Ajax full-back Nicolas Tagliafico, who could be available for around £22m (€24.5m).

RB Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff insisted Timo Werner "won't get any cheaper" amid reports linking the forward with Liverpool.

Werner, 24, is reportedly a target for the Premier League leaders after scoring 30 goals in 39 games in all competitions this season.

According to reports, the Germany international has a release clause of around £49.4million (€55m) that must be triggered by June 15, but Liverpool are said to be unwilling to meet that price.

Mintzlaff, however, said there was no way Werner, who is contracted at the Bundesliga club until 2023, would be any cheaper.

"It won't get any cheaper. We will not sell a player below value if he is under contract for more than a year," he told Sport Bild.

"In general, we always have to ask the following question – can we replace a player if we sell him for less than his market value?

"But, I only think about those things once I have the facts on the table."

Watford captain Troy Deeney believes the integrity of the Premier League season is "already gone" and said the coronavirus pandemic has spoiled Liverpool's dominance.

Liverpool held a 25-point lead atop the Premier League table when the campaign was suspended in March due to COVID-19.

While the Premier League is bidding to restart its season, Deeney has spoken about his health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And the 31-year-old forward feels for Liverpool because their dominant season has been spoiled.

"I believe that when it comes to the integrity of this season anyway, it's already gone," Deeney told CNN.

"I feel sorry for Liverpool because no matter how it plays out, they deserve to win the league. They deserve to get the trophy.

"But no matter how it plays out, even if we play all the games, it's still going to be the year spoiled by the pandemic.

"It's not going to be that year that Liverpool won the league being the best team and, you know, it's 30 years they haven't won for."

Liverpool had won 27 of 29 Premier League games this season, with one draw and a loss to Deeney's relegation-threatened Watford, who ended their 'Invincibles' bid.

But Deeney said the integrity of this Premier League campaign had been ruined.

"I do feel sorry for Liverpool and their players and Jordan [Henderson, captain], but in terms of integrity, there's no way you could say that this is a viable competition," he said.

"It's like running a marathon, 20-odd miles, stopping for two months and then sprinting the last bit and going: 'Ah, that was a good time that.'"

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith's father Ron has died after contracting coronavirus, the Premier League club have confirmed.

Ron, like Dean, was a lifelong Villa supporter and previously worked as a steward at Villa Park.

He had been in hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, having spent the past six years in a care home after being diagnosed with dementia.

A club statement read: "The Aston Villa family are saddened to announce that Ron Smith, the father of our current head coach Dean, has passed away at the age of 79.

"Ron, who had recently been living in a care home after being diagnosed with dementia six years ago, contracted coronavirus four weeks ago and, after a short spell in hospital, passed away with his family at his side."

Villa added: "The thoughts of everyone at the football club are currently with Dean and his family at this most distressing of times and would kindly ask for the family's privacy to be respected."

Napoli could be forced to sell Kalidou Koulibaly if they do not qualify for the Champions League, Andrea Dossena has warned.

The Italian top flight is on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Napoli in sixth place and nine points adrift of Atalanta in fourth.

Before the shutdown, coach Gennaro Gattuso had been starting to make his impact felt having succeeded Carlo Ancelotti in December.

Dossena, who played for Napoli between 2010 and 2013, fears the club could lose some of their key players if they are unable to join Europe's elite again next term, having reached the round of 16 before play was halted this season.

And he is sure Koulibaly in particular would flourish, with the defender a reported target of Liverpool and Manchester United.

"To get nine points back from Atalanta is a mammoth challenge so should Napoli not clinch a Champions League berth, they should sell some players," Dossena told Stats Perform News.

"The two most valued are Fabian Ruiz and Koulibaly; the latter is the most likely to leave. Physical and speedy, he is one of the best central defenders in the world and can have his say in the Premier League, too."

Reflecting on Napoli's 2019-20 campaign to date, Dossena conceded the club had underachieved with Ancelotti at the helm but felt Gattuso was having a positive effect.

"It was supposed to be a great season for Napoli, the season with the biggest budget," he said.

"The owner [Aurelio De Laurentiis] had spent a lot and this was supposed to be Ancelotti's glory season. But there has been this setback, some difficulties.

"Then Gattuso came in and was so good at conveying his charisma, grit and will but mostly at giving the squad an elaborated style of passing and some established and clear ideas.

"But most of all he was logical in putting all the players in their natural role, going back to the 4-3-3 formation."

Four individuals returned positive results in the latest round of coronavirus testing in the Premier League, it has been confirmed.

A total of 1,008 players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday this week. 

The Premier League revealed in a statement that four people from three clubs returned positive tests and will now self-isolate for seven days. 

It brings the total number of people to test positive from among Premier League clubs to 12. 

Watford defender Adrian Mariappa, Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan are among the confirmed cases from previous rounds of testing. 

The latest figures were announced on the day that clubs voted unanimously to resume contact training this week as part of plans to get the competition back underway, potentially in June.

A statement from the Premier League read: "The Premier League can today confirm that on Monday 25 May and Tuesday 26 May, 1008 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19.

"Of these, four have tested positive from three clubs.Players or Club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of seven days.

"The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing."

England's top flight was suspended in March with Liverpool 25 points clear at the top of the table, having played a game more than champions Manchester City. 

The Bundesliga remains the only one of Europe's top five leagues to resume matches since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

 

 

Four individuals returned positive results in the latest round of coronavirus testing in the Premier League, it has been confirmed.

A total of 1,008 players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday this week. 

The Premier League revealed in a statement that four people from three clubs returned positive tests and will now self-isolate for seven days. 

It brings the total number of people to test positive from among Premier League clubs to 12. 

Watford defender Adrian Mariappa, Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan are among the confirmed cases from previous rounds of testing. 

The latest figures were announced on the day that clubs voted unanimously to resume contact training this week as part of plans to get the competition back underway, potentially in June.

 

 

Four individuals returned positive results in the latest round of coronavirus testing in the Premier League, it has been confirmed.

 

 

Jose Mourinho predicted a delayed opening of the transfer window for Premier League clubs and expects there to be a cautious approach to transfer fees out of respect for the global crisis.

Tottenham are eighth in the Premier League table amid a turbulent 2019-20 season and, should play resume in order to finish the campaign following a break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic, supporters will expect improvements.

Mourinho said his players are keen to return to action but moved to cool any expectations of a bumper transfer window at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

"The first question after that is when will the transfer window be?" Mourinho told Sky Sports. "I don't think it will be in July or August anymore, it has to go further than that.

"It is normal you are going to have a different market, I don't see the world – especially the football world – ready for some crazy numbers we used to have.

"I would like my club to be what I know what we will be: sensible, balanced and not going to spend rivers of money. We are trying to respect the situation, not just the football but the situation in the world and society overall."

 

Tottenham have returned to training following a two-and-a-half-month break and Mourinho said that the club's focus is on the health of his players rather than plans for the transfer window.

"To be honest in this moment it is the last thing we are thinking," he said.

"In the club we are not thinking about it. No talks about it, because in this moment we think about safety, following every rule inside of the training ground, we are trying to be perfect, not just in the testing but in everything in the club, we are trying to be perfect.

"Since the moment Bundesliga started, the Portuguese league and Spanish league announced a date to start, I think it is the most difficult moment for us, because we want to play.

"It is hard to see other countries playing football and we don't do it."

Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed to resume contact training in groups.

The British government gave teams the green light to recommence "competitive" training earlier in the week, with authorities gearing up for a potential return of Premier League match action following a hiatus of more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, all clubs agreed to the implementation of Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol.

A Premier League statement read: "Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training – marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so.

"Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact.

"The Premier League's priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants. Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

"Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association], LMA [League Managers' Association] and the government. Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow."

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