Has there ever been a football player you've loved watching so much that you could be confident of writing down a long list of reasons for your adoration?

For me, that player is Ronaldinho, and seeing as the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2005 Ballon d'Or recipient turns 40 on Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute.

The former World Cup winner will celebrate his birthday in a maximum-security Paraguayan prison after being accused of entering the country on a fake passport – and he apparently continues to rack up goals and assists in kickabouts behind bars. Only Ronaldinho.

In honour of the legendary Brazilian on this landmark day, here are the 40 reasons why I love him.

 

1. Within three minutes of kick-off in a Paris Saint-Germain versus Marseille game I recorded on VHS in March 2003, he flicked the ball over the heads of two players and won a free-kick when dribbling away. When he scored with a dink over the keeper later in that game, a love affair was born.

2. He was the master of the no-look pass. And it didn't even need to be necessary.

3. Whether you call it an elastico or a flip-flap, Ronaldinho loved them. It was the trick I was most beguiled by as a teenager and, to my endless frustration, could never get right myself.

4. He marked his debut for Barcelona with a stunning 30-yard drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. It was gone 01:00 local time!

5. Ronaldinho had arrived in Catalonia with the reputation of a party lover firmly established. Who can blame him – if you were that good, wouldn't you just want to constantly celebrate?

6. That goal against Chelsea.

7. He assisted Ludovic Giuly in a 3-0 win over Osasuna in October 2005 using his back. I mean, who does that?!

8. He picked Barcelona over Manchester United. Nothing against the Red Devils, but it would have been tough to watch him play for a Premier League team that wasn't mine.

9. That samba shuffle celebration and the thumb-and-little-finger hand gesture.

10. He got a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu – as a Barcelona player.

11. Those cascading locks and gummy smile.

12. He scored directly from a corner for Flamengo during a 3-2 defeat to Avai in 2011. Anyone with a 'gol olimpico' on their resume gets the utmost kudos.

13. As a keen follower of Brazilian football, I was delighted when Ronaldinho signed for Fluminense – the team I'd chosen to support during a three-month stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was somehow even better when he terminated his 18-month contract after just nine appearances.

14. Alongside former Everton striker Jo and current Everton winger Bernard, he helped Atletico Mineiro win their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.

15. He always seemed to be playing with a smile on his face, or at least not far away from it.

16. Ronaldinho may have been in decline and far from his twinkling best when he rocked up at Liga MX side Queretaro, but a double against Club America earned him a standing ovation at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

17. He posed for a photo with me in Barcelona. OK, it was via a green screen, all right?!

18. That was during an October 2003 visit to the city that included going to watch Barca take on Real Murcia. Ronaldinho made sure to treat me to a goal in a 3-0 win.

19. He made England's elimination from the 2002 World Cup a little less painful with the most outrageous of goals. (I reckon he meant it, too.)

20. For starring in Nike's iconic 'The Cage' and 'Ole' adverts.

21. Somehow, he scored from behind the goal during a training session with Flamengo. It was the kind of sorcery most can only dream of.

22. Before going viral was a thing, Ronaldinho went viral. Footage of him juggling the ball and volleying it against the crossbar FOUR times in succession without it hitting the ground wrote him into folklore. I still don't know whether it was real or not…

23. When Ronaldinho dribbled, he did it at electric pace and with startling agility, and although he often took several knocks he did his utmost to stay on his feet.

24. It was a Champions League semi-final against Milan: chest control, the ball lifted over Gennaro Gattuso's head, flicked past Andrea Pirlo with two more touches, and when Alessandro Nesta deigned to get in his way, Ronaldinho stretched a leg out behind him and used his heel to square to Samuel Eto'o.

25. In the days before Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite struggled with freestyle tricks at Barcelona presentations, Ronaldinho was balancing the ball on his head, rolling it forward to give it a little kiss, then sending it back to rest on his forehead. That's how you do it.

26. He made great use of his shoulder; either to deftly bring the ball down or flick it on to a team-mate.

27. His 360-degree spin to get between two Werder Bremen players. It doesn't even matter that he was tackled by the next defender.

28. He did not join Manchester City after leaving Barcelona. (See point eight.)

29. For filling countless hours of my time at university with his YouTube highlights.

30. Ronaldinho was able to baffle defenders without even touching the ball.

31. Because he scored one of the most jarring chips during his time at Atletico. From 16 yards out on the left side of the box, with the Arsenal de Sarandi goalkeeper seemingly in a good position, Ronaldinho clipped a beautiful effort into the top-left corner.

32. Most of the greats excel from free-kicks. The sight of Ronaldinho stepping up to one in a central area from a 90-degree angle to the goal was a thing of beauty.

33. Because he did not retire straight away after leaving Fluminense. He said he wanted to continue playing (but only after Rio's famous carnival, of course) and ended up going on tour, playing in exhibition games for whoever would pay him.

34. For teeing up Lionel Messi's first senior goal for Barcelona, and doing it with a scoop pass.

35. Against Villarreal at Camp Nou in the 2006-07 season came one of his most memorable strikes. After controlling Xavi's cross with his chest, he span 180 degrees and sent a bicycle kick back across goal. *chef's kiss*

36. For scoring under-the-wall free-kicks at Barcelona, Flamengo and Atletico.

37. His 'water bottle trick' when Atletico took on Sao Paulo. Go and look it up. He showed zero shame in punishing Rogerio Ceni's goodwill.

38. Throughout his career Ronaldinho kept trying to score by stealing the ball away from goalkeepers as they took a drop kick.

39. Another El Clasico moment from April 2004. This time it was an outrageous scoop in behind for Xavi to lift beyond Iker Casillas in the 86th minute and secure a 2-1 win.

40. Because in my lifetime, no other player has made watching football as enjoyable as he did.

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England was halted last week in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Football Association confirmed its leagues would not return until at least the end of April.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

 

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.


 

BURNLEY v WATFORD

Home win: 49 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 25 per cent

Watford may have handed Liverpool their first defeat of the Premier League season, but with just one victory in their past three visits to Turf Moor it is Burnley who are expected to win by the predictor. Sean Dyche's side have gone unbeaten in seven top-flight matches to move into a more comfortable position in the middle of the table.

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY

Home win: 30 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Manchester City are the pick to prevail at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Pep Guardiola has lost on two of his three Premier League visits. Kevin De Bruyne's winner in September 2017 fired City's charge to a 100-point title romp but goals from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz saw the Blues hand Guardiola's men the first league defeat of their triumphant 2018-19 campaign. Kante and De Bruyne were both on target when the sides met at the Etihad Stadium back in November, before Riyad Mahrez sealed a 2-1 comeback win for the hosts.

LEICESTER CITY v BRIGHTON

Home win: 62 per cent
Draw: 22 per cent
Away win: 16 per cent

Brighton won at Arsenal back in December, but that was just one of two away victories for the Seagulls so far in the Premier League this season, so their prospects at Leicester were inevitably looking bleak. After a worrying slump, Leicester looked to have rediscovered their mojo by the time the league ground to a halt, with Jamie Vardy back on the goal trail following a drought. Leicester’s nine wins at the King Power Stadium this term looked highly likely to become 10.

LIVERPOOL v CRYSTAL PALACE

Home win: 76 per cent win
Draw: 16 per cent
Away win: 8 per cent

A predicted triumph for Liverpool at Anfield is by no means a surprise given they are on a top-flight record of 22 straight home wins. With just an eight per cent chance of winning, Palace had the lowest chance of victory in this round of fixtures. However, with City predicted to come out on top against Chelsea, the Reds' wait to clinch the Premier League title would have continued.

MANCHESTER UNITED v SHEFFIELD UNITED

Home win: 48 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The halt in football action came at a bad time for Manchester United, who were on a magnificent roll - 11 matches unbeaten with eight victories. The Opta predictor backed the hosts to continue that run, but at 48 per cent, a home win was seen as far from a certainty. Amid an amazing season, Sheffield United are just two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and at 30 per cent, it is the most likely contest on the matchday to end in a draw. That was also the outcome in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane in November.

NEWCASTLE UNITED v ASTON VILLA

Home win: 54 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The predicted win for Newcastle is something Aston Villa – second from bottom and 10 points shy of Steve Bruce's men – could ill afford in reality. Newcastle are unbeaten in five matches at St James' Park, although that run includes three consecutive 0-0 draws. Villa have lost four in succession in the Premier League and only won three times in the top flight since beating the Magpies 2-0 in the corresponding fixture on November 25.

NORWICH CITY v EVERTON

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Norwich prop up the Premier League table and the predictor reflects as such, with Everton having a greater chance of victory on the road. The Toffees' last win at Carrow Road came in 2004, though, and Everton were beaten 2-0 at home by Daniel Farke's side back in November, Todd Cantwell and Dennis Srbeny with the goals at Goodison Park.

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Southampton’s resurgence during December and January had given way to a worrying patch of form over February and early March. Ralph Hasenhuttl's men did beat Aston Villa at home, but this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta’s leadership are a different prospect to the team Saints held 2-2 in north London back in November. The Gunners are unbeaten in the Premier League in 2020, and they would have fancied claiming all three points on offer at St Mary's.

TOTTENHAM v WEST HAM

Home win: 70 per cent
Draw: 17 per cent
Away win: 13 per cent

The Hammers were not predicted to fare particularly well at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but they did defy the odds with a 1-0 win at the same venue in April 2019, Michail Antonio scoring the winner. Tottenham were the victors in the reverse fixture this season, a 3-2 triumph in Jose Mourinho's first match in charge.

WOLVES V BOURNEMOUTH

Home win: 58 per cent
Draw: 23 per cent
Away win: 19 per cent

Wolves are unbeaten in all three of their Premier League matches against Bournemouth, including a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, and the predictor has them as the more likely winners on this matchday. That would come as a welcome relief to Wolves, who have won just one of their last five home top-flight matches, while Eddie Howe's men would be primed for a seventh consecutive away loss.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption with the global sporting schedule, but you can still get your fix if you know where to look.

Whether you are in self-isolation or practicing social distancing, in a way it has become easier than ever to watch sport as you pass the time.

Some of the biggest leagues and governing bodies have reacted to the global crisis by providing free access to a back catalogue of content.

We run down the best places to look if you're missing sport.

 

FIFA OPENS UP ARCHIVES

From Saturday, FIFA are making full match replays of over 30 games from World Cup and Women's World Cup history available.

The matches appear set to be available until football is back up and running in most countries.

 

A SWISH OFFER FROM THE NBA

Basketball fans rejoice. The wait for the playoffs may go on longer than anticipated, but the NBA is offering free access to the premium League Pass subscription service until April 22.

You can view full replays and highlights from all games played in the 2019-20 season, as well as classic matches.

 

NO LONGER BEHIND GRIDIRON BARS

If the NFL is more your thing, then why not use their Game Pass until the end of May?

You can watch full-length games or condensed versions, while the 'Hard Knocks' and 'A Football Life' series are available on demand, too.

 

MORE FROM THE STATES

Maybe ice hockey is what you are missing most. If so, the NHL.tv is free to all until April 30.

There is also the MLB Vault YouTube channel, which will provide you with hours of classic baseball games.

 

MISSING MESSI?

If you are in Europe, there is the option to watch Rakuten TV's 'Matchday - Inside FC Barcelona' and 'MessiCirque' documentaries without charge. (They also have over 150 films available on a free channel.)

Until the Premier League returns, Manchester City has opened the doors to the CITY+ subscription service. All you need to do is sign up for long-form, in-house content, historic games and full match replays.

 

FOR THE GAMERS OUT THERE...

If re-runs don't sate your appetite to help fill the hours, you can try out the full version of the Football Manager 2020 computer game via the Steam app until 15:00 GMT on March 25.

The Premier League has been suspended until at least April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so what does that mean for the rest of the season?

Decisions made by UEFA and CONMEBOL to push back Euro 2020 and the Copa America until 2021 opened the door for domestic competition to continue longer than initially planned.

Upon announcing a four-week extension to the initially planned hiatus on Thursday, the Football Association (FA) revealed it would allow its leagues to continue beyond the June 1 deadline set out in its regulations.

The eventual run-in could prove to be heavily congested. Some Premier League teams are still competing on three fronts, others possess a game in hand, while UEFA is still hoping for a round of international matches in June.

If no games are cut out, we look at how the calendar for English teams could hypothetically shape up if competitions across Europe were able to resume following April 30.

 

May 2/3 - Matchday 30

May 7 - Postponed Europa League last-16 first legs and unplayed matchday 29 games

May 9/10 - Matchday 31

May 12/13/14 - FA Cup quarter-finals

May 16/17 - Matchday 32

May 19/20/21 - Champions League and Europa League last-16 second legs

May 23/24 - Matchday 33

May 26/27/28 - Champions League and Europa League quarter-final first legs

May 30/31 - Matchday 34

June 2/3/4 - Champions League and Europa League quarter-final second legs

June 6/7 - Matchday 35

June 13/14 - International week

June 20/21 - Matchday 36

June 23/24/25 - Champions League and Europa League semi-final first legs

June 27/28 - Matchday 37

June 30/July 1/2 - FA Cup semi-finals

July 4 - Matchday 38

July 7/8/9 - Champions League and Europa League semi-final second legs

July 11 - FA Cup final

July 15 - Europa League final

July 18 - Champions League final

Europe's top five leagues have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and there is widespread uncertainty over the future of the 2019-20 season.

Will tournaments be completed when conditions are suitable? Will things finish as they are? Will the campaign be declared null and void?

With the help of Opta, we look back over the previous 10 seasons to see who would have been crowned champions if the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga had stopped where there are now.

 

Aguer-no!

It was an iconic moment in Premier League history. Sergio Aguero scored Manchester City's second stoppage-time goal as they came from behind to defeat QPR 3-2 and clinch their first top-flight title in 44 years, beating crestfallen arch-rivals Manchester United to the trophy on the final day of the season.

However, if the campaign had been stopped where it is now it would have been United who were celebrating due to a one-point advantage.

It is the only occasion since 2009-10 that the team on top after 29 matchdays has not won the Premier League.

 

Atleti's title wiped out

Atletico Madrid incredibly broke the Barcelona and Real Madrid duopoly in LaLiga in 2013-14, with Diego Godin salvaging a draw at Camp Nou on the final day to ensure they finished top of the pile.

However, it was local rivals Real Madrid, led by Carlo Ancelotti, who sat three points clear after 27 games of the season, meaning Diego Simeone's crowning achievement would not have occurred.

The only other instance of a team being displaced in the final 11 matches came in 2009-10, when Madrid sat ahead of Barca on goal difference but ended up seeing Pep Guardiola's men go on to win LaLiga for a second straight season.

 

Juventus dominance broken up

Eight straight Serie A titles have seen Juventus create history in Italy, but they would have only managed five if the previous seasons stopped after 26 games – the total the majority of clubs have completed in 2019-20.

The Bianconeri went undefeated under Antonio Conte in 2011-12, although it was Milan who topped the table at this point in the campaign, meaning Massimiliano Allegri would have won successive Scudetti at San Siro.

Maurizio Sarri would also not have had to have waited until winning the Europa League with Chelsea last year for his first major title.

Sarri's Napoli only surrendered top spot to Juve on matchday 27 in 2017-18 and they failed to recover it, missing out on their best chance to finish top since the Diego Maradona era.

 

QSI off to the perfect start

The landscape of Ligue 1 changed dramatically when Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) bought Paris Saint-Germain in June 2011, although no silverware was added to the Parc des Princes trophy cabinet in the first season following the takeover.

However, they would have been crowned champions had the 2011-12 season finished after 28 games, denying a Montpellier side powered by the goals of Olivier Giroud an unlikely first Ligue 1 title.

There would have been bad news for PSG in 2014-15, though, as the trophy would have gone to Hubert Fournier's Lyon due to a one-point margin.

Bordeaux would have made it back-to-back titles in 2009-10, too, with Marseille having made the most of a collapse that saw Laurent Blanc's side slip from first to sixth over the final 10 matches.

 

Bundesliga business as usual

What changes with the Bundesliga title winners if you stop the previous 10 seasons after 25 games? Nothing.

Bayern Munich would have won eight championships to Borussia Dortmund's two.

A man has been charged over alleged racist behaviour during Manchester City's home Premier League match against Manchester United.

Police responded to complaints over the actions of a spectator during the December 7 match at the Etihad Stadium, where United won 2-1 against their neighbours.

It was alleged he directed racist gestures and sounds towards players.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said 41-year-old Anthony Burke would appear at Salford and Manchester Magistrates Court on April 15.

GMP said "Anthony Burke of Wythenshawe has been charged with a racially aggravated section 5 public order act."

The police statement added: "At around 6.55pm on Saturday 7 December 2019 police were called to a report of a supporter making alleged racist gestures and sounds towards players during the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium."

Eliaquim Mangala confirmed he has contracted coronavirus, but the Valencia defender said he is "feeling good".

Valencia team-mate Ezequiel Garay – who was due to miss the rest of the season due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – became the first LaLiga player to confirm a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday.

The Spanish club later released a statement, revealing five members of the first-team playing squad and coaching staff had been diagnosed with coronavirus – though they did not name Garay or Mangala.

Former Manchester City centre-back Mangala, however, announced via social media he was one of five Valencia players to have tested positive.

"I knew today that I am #Coronavirus positive," Mangala, who has only made four LaLiga appearances this season, said in a Twitter post.

"I'm feeling good and I have no symptoms associated with the virus. However, I am confined in house and separated from my family.

"I learned that we can carry the virus without having symptoms, that's why I recommend everyone to follow the confinement measures and avoid contact with other people, as much as possible, even if you feel well.

"If everyone respect these instructions, together we will avoid the propagation as much as possible and fight to avoid transmitting it to people, who may have aggravating symptoms.

"Many thanks for your support message, take care of yourself and your loved ones and respect the confinement instructions to avoid the spreading."

Mangala spent five years at City before moving to Valencia in 2019 and the Premier League giants tweeted: "Everyone at Manchester City wishes you a speedy recovery, Eliaquim".

There have been at least 7,800 coronavirus cases in Spain, with more than 290 deaths.

Globally, more than 6,400 people have succumbed to the virus from almost 170,000 cases.

The 2019-20 Premier League campaign has been suspended at least until April 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been 1,372 confirmed cases of the virus and 35 deaths in the United Kingdom, prompting a pause in the football season.

The disruption comes with Liverpool just two wins away from a first league title in 30 years, while Manchester United are improving in pursuit of Champions League qualification.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the most interesting facts relating to England's 'Big Six' and their campaigns so far.


LIVERPOOL

- Jurgen Klopp's side are top of the pile but do not look as defensively solid as they did in the 2018-19 season. Liverpool have conceded 21 times in the league so far this term, just one goal fewer than in their entire previous 38-game campaign.

- Roberto Firmino finally ended a long wait for an Anfield goal against Atletico Madrid this week. It was his first home Liverpool strike in 20 games in all competitions since netting against Porto in April 2019, 337 days earlier.

- The Reds were just starting to wobble slightly. With the reverse at home to Atletico, Liverpool have lost four of their past six matches in all competitions – as many defeats as in their previous 67 games.


MANCHESTER CITY

- Manchester City have lost seven Premier League games this season, one more than they had in their previous two campaigns combined.

- Heading into the break, Sergio Aguero had scored 180 Premier League goals for Manchester City. Only Wayne Rooney - 183 for United - has scored more for a single team in the competition's history, with Aguero passing Thierry Henry - 175 for Arsenal - earlier this term.

- Kevin De Bruyne has become the first player to register 15 or more assists in three different Premier League seasons. Only Cesc Fabregas had previously done so in more than one campaign.


CHELSEA

- Chelsea have lost five Premier League home games already this season. Only in 1994-95 - seven times - have they been beaten more often at Stamford Bridge.

- The Blues are also still winless away from home in the league in 2020, drawing three and losing one of their four matches. They last endured a longer such run in the 2015-16 season, failing to taste victory over seven straight away trips.

- Frank Lampard has been reliant on homegrown talent this season. Only Leicester City (31) and Southampton (24) have more goals from English players than Chelsea's 21 - level with United.


MANCHESTER UNITED

- United are unbeaten in 11 in all competitions, but their points return of 45 is still their lowest through 29 games of a Premier League season.

- Bruno Fernandes has inspired their change in fortunes, though, and he has been involved in more Premier League goals (five - two goals, three assists) since his February 1 debut than any other player.

- At 25 years and 86 days old, United have the youngest average starting XI in the Premier League this season.


TOTTENHAM

- No side have kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League than Tottenham's four this season. The last time they kept so few in the first 29 matches of a campaign was in 2006-07 (also four).

- Spurs are missing Harry Kane (131.18 minutes per goal), Son Heung-min (152.31 mins per goal) and now January signing Steven Bergwijn (280.5 mins per goal) through injury. Dele Alli has the best minutes per goal ratio - 298 - among the rest of the squad in all competitions this season.


ARSENAL

- Arsenal have drawn 13 Premier League games this season - already their highest such tally since 17 in 1993-94.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 17 goals have been worth 16 points to Arsenal this season. Only Sadio Mane's 14 goals have been worth more (18 points) to a single club.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar on Saturday with more major events and competitions being disrupted.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the globe, it has resulted in the postponement of competitions worldwide as governments attempt to combat the pandemic.

A small number of events still went ahead, but sports stars, teams and indeed supporters were otherwise left to find other means of entertainment.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 155,000, we round up all the latest news and updates.

 

Germany's prestige friendly with Italy later this month became the latest football fixture to bite the dust, with the majority of upcoming international matches having now been wiped out.

More major organisations have halted all footballing activities until a later date, including Qatar, Morocco and Egypt.

A small number of competitions, most notably the A-League, Russian Premier League and Mexico's Liga MX, did manage to go ahead as planned.

Indeed, NRL games also avoided the cut, as did a handful of Super Rugby matches before an indefinite ban was put in place later in the day.

Another competition to fall was Australia's one-day international series against New Zealand, which was already being played behind closed doors.

With New Zealand's government introducing strict protocols to attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the Black Caps – along with Super Rugby side Highlanders – returned home from Australia and Argentina respectively in order to beat the new restrictions, which will mean any new arrival to the country, even if they are a citizen, has to self-isolate for 14 days.

With the top-four tiers of English football being shelved until at least early April, there was plenty of focus on the National League as six games were given the green light.

There was some controversy in Argentina as River Plate's Copa Superliga clash with Atletico Tucuman was suspended after the home side refused to open their stadium.

Independiente's tie with Velez Sarsfield was played out in full, albeit behind closed doors, with the hosts claiming a 1-0 victory.

In Italy, Napoli urged their supporters to sing from their balconies in unison as Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone and two more Sampdoria players tested positive for COVID-19.

Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy revealed a negative test result after recently self-isolating, but Carlo Ancelotti and Angelo Ogbonna questioned the Premier League's handling of the outbreak, while Jordan Pickford denied reports he is self-isolating.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, meanwhile, claimed the competition should be "void" – a suggestion Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher quickly dismissed.

The lack of football did not stop certain clubs from keeping supporters entertained, though, with LaLiga side Leganes posting live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, which they won 2-1.

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton got Manchester City involved in an online game of noughts and crosses to help fill the void.

The downtime also gave football stars a chance to recuperate, with Sergio Ramos and Alexis Sanchez among those to post images of their extra-curricular activities.

Others, such as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, opted to use social media to educate their followers on how to properly wash their hands, while Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi used his profile to echo the sentiments of Cristiano Ronaldo in calling for people to follow the guidance of health organisations.

As Ronaldo and Jurgen Klopp were praised by the World Health Organisation for "protecting people from coronavirus", former United States president Barack Obama hailed a host of NBA stars – including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson – for donating large amounts to help support arena staff during the league's hiatus.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor labelled the pandemic "a stupid f****** virus", but later moved to clarify his aunt did not die after contracting the disease after previously suggesting as such.

And in more positive news, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe revealed his country still plan for the 2020 Olympic Games to go ahead in Tokyo, starting in late July.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say, but ABE is confident the Games will be staged "without problem".

The Premier League and LaLiga are both suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Manchester City, Southampton and Leganes provided some entertainment on Saturday.

All matches in Europe's major leagues – along with a plethora of events across other sports – have been postponed indefinitely or cancelled as governments attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In the absence of games, however, three clubs in particular got creative with their attempts to amuse their fans.

First, LaLiga side Leganes, in a bid to help keep people in their homes as Spain continues to be on lockdown, posted live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, who they were originally due to host this weekend.

Complete with a stoppage for a VAR check, match commentary and even a post-match news conference, the imaginary encounter finished 2-1 to Leganes, with Oscar Rodriguez and Guido Carrillo scoring for the home side and Enes Unal netting one for Valladolid.

"Thank you all for following and participating in the transmission of the Leganes v Real Valladolid," a final post read. "[We need a] lot of strength right now and we never lack a sense of humour."

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton attempted to get Norwich City – their scheduled Premier League opponents – involved in an online game of noughts and crosses.

However, Norwich did not respond to Southampton's initial move, with the Saints posting at half-time: "In truth, only one team making any effort to play here, but we're still waiting for the first real breakthrough."

Manchester City volunteered to take over, though, and the game finished level, prompting Southampton to appeal to the Premier League for a point.

It remains to be seen when the leagues will be able to recommence in more traditional fashion or if the season will be able to be completed at all.

While UEFA's 55 member nations will meet via a video conference on Tuesday, with the status of the Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2020 up for discussion, the Premier League has called an emergency meeting for Thursday after suspending all matches until April 3.

Manchester City left-back Benjamin Mendy has thanked fans for their support and confirmed "those around me" have tested negative for the coronavirus.

Mendy was widely reported to be the City player who self-isolated as a precaution earlier this week, after a member of their family fell ill and was tested for COVID-19.

In an Instagram post on Saturday that confirmed he had been placed in quarantine, the France international shared an update and urged his followers to heed instructions given by the World Health Organization (WHO), who are seeking to minimise the spread of a virus that has led to over 5,000 deaths around the world.

"First of all, I would like to thank you for your numerous messages of support following the news about my quarantine," wrote Mendy.

"Today, the results were negative for those around me, but it is important that everyone takes their responsibilities in this delicate period, to protect you but above all to protect the weakest in the face of the epidemic.

"I therefore invite you to follow the instructions given by the WHO in order to stop the spread of the virus as quickly as possible and to get back to normal."

It is not clear when City will return to competitive action, with the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid having been postponed and the Premier League also suspended until at least April 3.

Bruno Fernandes explained his gesture telling Pep Guardiola to be quiet in the Manchester derby was an issue of respect and revealed the Catalan had made him "mad".

Manchester City boss Guardiola threw the ball away from the Portugal international and the pair exchanged stern words in the closing stages of Manchester United's 2-0 win at Old Trafford last Sunday.

Fernandes then made a gesture putting his finger to his lips at former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach Guardiola.

And the 25-year-old, who set up Anthony Martial's opener before Scott McTominay sealed a famous win late on, has discussed how aggrieved Guardiola made him feel at the time.

Fernandes told Sky Sports: "I talked about this with some friends, and some people think, 'Pep won everything, who is Bruno to do this to him?' But I think it's about respect. 

"Now, when I'm outside of the pitch and calm, I don't do this again if I'm on the pitch now. 

"But in that moment, the words he tells make me mad, and I'm a little bit nervous and this is the kind of player I am. 

"I am so respectful of Pep and what he's won and what he did for football, but at that moment, he didn't respect me and he didn't deserve my respect."

Fernandes is now happy to move past the issue after his stunning start to life at United since joining from Sporting CP, which has seen him score three goals and set up four others in nine appearances to become an instant fan favourite. 

He continued: "For me, it doesn't matter what happens on the pitch, now we're out of it and it's past. 

"I have respect for him, so it doesn't matter what he said."

Riyad Mahrez only joined Manchester City in 2018 but the Premier League champions are already reportedly willing to cash in on the Algeria international.

With City's looming UEFA ban – the Manchester giants are appealing a two-season suspension – Mahrez could depart the Etihad Stadium.

And Paris Saint-Germain are a possible destination.

 

TOP STORY – PSG AN OPTION FOR MAHREZ

Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez is open to moving to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Calciomercato.

Premier League giants City are reportedly prepared to sell Mahrez and PSG are believed to be the Algeria international's preferred destination.

Mahrez, who arrived at City in 2018, has started 15 of his 23 Premier League appearances this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Is Paul Pogba out of the picture? Juventus have been linked with a move for their former midfielder, however, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed the disgruntled star will be at Old Trafford next season. With that in mind, Calciomercato says Juve are targeting Lyon's Houssem Aouar as an alternative.

- The Daily Star reports Barcelona have decided on their salary for target and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Real Madrid, United and Chelsea have also been linked to the Argentina international.

- Fiorentina and Italy star Federico Chiesa is wanted by PSG, Juve, Inter and United, Le10Sport claims.

Angelino to Barca? The City left-back – who is on loan at Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig – has impressed the LaLiga champions, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Sport Witness says Napoli are ready to sell striker Arkadiusz Milik after failing to agree a new deal. Inter, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been linked.

- While Milik could leave, Torino's Andrea Belotti could arrive in Naples. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli, who signed Andrea Petagna in January before loaning him back to SPAL, could include the striker in a deal for Belotti.

Kai Havertz to Juve is not a possibility, says Calciomercato. The Bayer Leverkusen sensation is a player in demand but Juve have ruled out a move due to the €80million price tag. Havertz has been linked to the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool, United and others.

Brighton and Hove Albion have announced their Premier League fixture against Arsenal has been postponed after Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus.

Arsenal announced on Thursday that Arteta had the virus shortly after the Premier League had confirmed all weekend fixtures were set to go ahead as planned.

After the Arteta news broke, the Premier League then said an emergency club meeting would be held on Friday, with a suspension of matches expected as a result.

However, Brighton have already moved to confirm Saturday's home game against the Gunners will not be going ahead as Arsenal's first-team squad are going into self-isolation.

Chief executive Paul Barber said: "First and foremost our thoughts are with Mikel Arteta and we wish him a speedy recovery.

"It's absolutely essential the health and wellbeing of individuals takes priority and with that in mind Saturday’s match has been postponed.

"We apologise to all fans for any inconvenience but trust everyone will understand that we are all facing an unprecedented situation.

"The Premier League has announced this evening that they will convene an emergency meeting of all clubs tomorrow morning [Friday], and we will update supporters on future fixtures as and when we are in a position to do so."

Arteta is the highest-profile football figure to be diagnosed with the virus. Juventus defender Daniele Rugani has also tested positive for coronavirus.

Brendan Rodgers said three Leicester City players are in self-isolation after showing symptoms and Manchester City have confirmed a first-team player is self-isolating due to a family member having fallen ill. City's game against Arsenal on Wednesday was postponed amid the crisis.

Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League last month by Olympiacos, whose owner Evangelos Marinakis later tested positive for the virus after attending the game at Emirates Stadium.

Top-flight fixtures in Italy and Spain have already been suspended while FIFA has announced this month's South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup have been postponed.

Premier League fixtures are to go ahead as planned, with no games played behind closed doors, despite fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Sporting events and competitions across the globe have been either postponed or cancelled altogether as governments and organisations attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Thursday the British government would not yet be cancelling large-scale public events, though that is subject to change.

Following this announcement, the Premier League – now the only major European league not to either postpone entire rounds of fixtures or play matches behind closed doors – confirmed this weekend's round of fixtures would go ahead.

The Merseyside derby is among the latest round of games, with Liverpool just two wins away from clinching a first league title since 1990.

"Following the latest update from government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend," a statement on the league's official website read.

"While the prime minister advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now, he also indicated that government is considering banning major public events, like sporting fixtures.

"We are therefore continuing to work closely with our clubs, government, The FA, EFL and other relevant stakeholders to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place as and when circumstances change. 

"The welfare of players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow Public Health England guidelines thoroughly."

Shortly after the statement was released, Arsenal confirmed head coach Mikel Arteta had tested positive for coronavirus.

Arsenal's London Colney training centre was closed, with Arteta the first confirmed case in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, an unnamed Manchester City player – reported to be Benjamin Mendy – is self-isolating after a member of their family fell ill and was tested.

Brendan Rodgers earlier confirmed three Leicester City players had also self-isolated after showing coronavirus symptoms.

The English Football League has also confirmed matches will continue to take place until it is advised otherwise.

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