Ten of the leading international rugby union teams are exploring the possibility of a new aligned schedule.

South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina - the nations that make up SANZAAR - and the half a dozen countries that compete in the Six Nations are aiming to collaborate for the sport's benefit.

Several unions have been affected by the impact of coronavirus, with World Rugby having postponed all July Tests and setting aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Now discussions are ongoing between SANZAAR and Six Nations boards over a new calendar designed to limit club-versus-country rows and create more lucrative games between the world's best teams.

A joint statement read: "Even though there may be different preferences, from the outset the nations have adopted a mindset that has sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish."

It added: "The nations, together with other key stakeholders, remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path."

Last month World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont suggested a Nations Championship - similar to cricket's recently formed ICC Test Championship - could get off the ground after being met with initial resistance.

 

Lautaro Martinez partnering Lionel Messi at Barcelona would benefit Argentina but it will be tough to sign him from Inter, Albiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni acknowledges.

Barca have reportedly earmarked Martinez as the long-term replacement to Luis Suarez, who is now 33, which would see him form a mouth-watering tandem with international team-mate Messi.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi himself last week talked up the talents of Martinez, though he was reluctant to discuss any potential deal being struck.

Martinez scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions this term prior to the suspension of Serie A due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scaloni thinks his burgeoning talent would only improve playing regularly with Messi, but says Martinez is already playing for a top team who have little incentive to sell.

Speaking to RTVE, Martinez said: "Lautaro today is the fashionable striker, the one who every big team wants.

"He is already with a big team, which competes equally with other teams and it will be very difficult to get him out of there.

"If Lautaro is lucky enough to go and play with a team-mate like Messi at Barcelona, for us, the more they play together, the better.

"Lautaro is a young player with an incredible future. He is strong and has a great desire to succeed.

"I don't want to interfere, but if he does change clubs, I hope he does well."

 

A little over two minutes before the moment that will forever define his career, Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero showed sharpness in the Queens Park Rangers goalmouth that would not have been out of place at Old Trafford.

Old Trafford cricket ground that is, just down the road from City's bitter rivals and their home of the same name.

As Edin Dzeko's equaliser from David Silva's right-wing corner bounced back off the netting, Aguero pounced, snaffling it like a quicksilver short-leg fielder and darting back to the centre circle for City's final tilt at the improbable.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the striker's movement after Joey Barton brazenly tried to dead leg him – one of many surreal and key incidents that fed into a frenzied and famous race against the clock on May 13, 2012.

                                                                *********************

The whole story is now as well worn as any in football history.

On the cusp of a first top-flight title for 44 years, Robert Mancini's Manchester City faced relegation-threatened QPR on the final day of the season. In their previous 18 Premier League home matches that season, they had won 17 and drawn the other – the most recent of those a 1-0 win over United that tipped a titanic Mancunian tussle back towards the blue side of town.

City simply needed to match United's result at Sunderland and led 1-0 at the interval thanks to Pablo Zabaleta, only for second-half goals from Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie to turn the contest on its head.

It remained 2-1 heading into stoppage time despite QPR operating with 10 men. City youth product Barton was dismissed for tussling with Carlos Tevez and responded to Mike Dean's red card by thumping his knee into Aguero's thigh before aiming a headbutt at Vincent Kompany. Fireworks enthusiast Mario Balotelli poured some petrol on this particular bonfire by confronting the combustible Scouser as he stomped towards the tunnel.

Aside from that significant blemish, QPR's discipline was otherwise impeccable. Despite ceding 81.3 possession overall and 84.1 per cent during the second half, they only made seven fouls. Stoppages were infrequent as City thrashed and flailed with increasing desperation and diminishing artistry around the opposition penalty area.

Without Barton's meltdown, there is little chance five minutes of stoppage time - or the three minutes and 20 seconds they ultimately required - would have been signalled. It was time City desperately needed and time they could put to good use with their top scorer's fast-twitch fibres bristling.

                                                                *********************

Barton was not the only QPR man with City connections. His team-mates Shaun Wright-Phillips and Nedum Onuoha had also graduated through Jim Cassell's Platt Lane youth system, while Rangers boss Mark Hughes was Mancini's immediate predecessor, having been axed shortly before Christmas in 2009.

Hughes, of course, also played for United with distinction across two spells, and those loyalties struck a chord as news came through Bolton Wanderers had failed to beat Stoke City, meaning the Londoners were safe irrespective of the outcome at the Etihad Stadium.

"[City] got back on level terms and I always remember, at that point, I knew we were safe because the other result came in," he told the Coaches Voice earlier this year.

"I'm thinking, 'I wouldn't mind United winning, if I'm honest'. It's 2-2 and Jay Bothroyd looked over, asking what we wanted them to do [from the restart]. The players understood the [Bolton] game was over and we'd stayed up. We just said kick it as far as you can, right in the corner and the game's over."

Hughes' recollections from that point credit City with a poise they absolutely lacked. Rarely can a team have scored twice in this space of two minutes and – save for a crucial few seconds – played so shambolically.

Bothroyd's hoof found touch and scampering Joe Hart ran out of his goal to take the throw-in. The England goalkeeper almost missed the pitch.

Gael Clichy carried the ball down the flank, only for his attempted cross to turn into a block tackle with Mackie. Samir Nasri's aimless, floated effort that followed did little more than give Clint Hill a ninth successful clearance of the afternoon.

Nasri then excelled himself by shepherding the ball out for a QPR throw-in. Just 40 seconds before that explosion of ecstasy there was fury and anguish in the stands. Aguero watched it all from roughly the QPR penalty spot. Apparently he'd seen quite enough.

                                                                *********************

Now 31 and City's all-time top scorer, Aguero honed his lethal skills playing against bigger boys in Buenos Aires on the neighbourhood potrero – the hard gravel and mud neighbourhood pitches that football purists in Argentina bemoan are a diminishing presence.

"When you play you have to think fast. Who to take on, who not," Aguero said when recalling those days in a 2018 documentary for City's in-house television channel. "You know who is going to play dirty, who isn't.

"You start to realise what you can do on the pitch and what you can't."

Reflecting further in the 2019 book 'Pep's City' by Pol Ballus and Lu Martin, he further explained the proving ground that readied him for Barton and others.

"Getting kicked black and blue was all part of the game," he said. "You held on to the ball any way you could.

"Running with the ball was a whole different concept for us. I'd be up against big, tough boys and I was always the smallest. But I learned how to survive."

Aguero remembered those matches were played for the prize of a peso, which would garner one of his favourite sweet treats, an alfajor or dulce de leche.

As United's players took in full-time and three points at the Stadium of Light, and Nigel de Jong brought the ball forward in Manchester to the soundtrack of QPR celebrations – their fans aware of Bolton's fate – the stakes were somewhat higher.

Vacating his spot in a penalty area already crowded by substitutes Dzeko and Balotelli, along with a marauding Kompany, Aguero took possession from De Jong 30 yards from goal.

He faced up to a compact QPR back four, with the visitors' four midfielders all in his immediate vicinity.

"You start to realise what you can do on the pitch and what you can't."

A shuffling touch to his left engineered space outside Shaun Derry, but Aguero needed help. Ideally from someone reliable, given the complete lack of any margin for error.

                                                                *********************

Balotelli was on the pitch in a Manchester City shirt for the first time in over a month.

Mancini had not trusted his wayward protege since a brainless red card in a 1-0 Easter Sunday defeat at Arsenal left City eight points behind United with six games to play. Tevez, who had spent the bulk of the campaign AWOL playing golf in Argentina, represented a far more dependable option.

But with nowhere left to turn, he dared and prayed for Mario to be super. However briefly.

Introduced in the 76th minute, Balotelli gave the impression he had not just been banished from Premier League arenas, but football pitches altogether since his previous game.

The Italy striker managed to run through seven attempts – two on target, five blocked – during a frenzied cameo. It was probably as well Aguero found him with his back to goal, inside the D and grappling with Anton Ferdinand.

"I tried to control the ball and I had a contact from the defender and the ball went a little bit far from my foot," Balotelli told City TV five years on. "I thought in that half second there is maybe going to be a little bit of space for Sergio."

If Balotelli had stayed upright, the likelihood is QPR would have seen through their final piece of dogged tireless defending. In being forced on to his backside for the only assist of his Premier League career, he created opportunity and chaos.

Facing his own goal, Derry had to hurdle a prone Balotelli, while Wright-Phillips' route back to defend was also compromised. With his centre-back partner grounded, Hill held his position square on, while Kompany's haring towards the six-yard box dragged left-back Taye Taiwo with him.

A pocket of space opened up. A spot of turf Balotelli was able to locate from his sedentary position. As limbs flailed around him and a tight defence scattered, Aguero was thinking fast. The law of the porteno.

                                                                *********************

Argentina's aforementioned tradition of tough, uncompromising neighbourhood football goes hand in hand with the mystique and mythology that cloaks the country's national sport.

A playing style grounded in skill and improvisation - La Nuestra, which translates as "our way" – was locked into the collective consciousness during the first half of the 20th century. The preeminent football magazine El Grafico, served to deepen this romantic attachment, with depictions of the pibe – literally a kid or urchin, whose rough and ready footballing techinique combined street smarts and skill and was something of an archetype. Typically they would dribble in the gambeta style, a description that implies close control, cunning and deceit of opponents.

The idea that the likes of Diego Maradona, Ariel Ortega, Lionel Messi and all those other squat, explosive and technically brilliant attackers from Argentina immersed themselves in the yellowed pages of El Grafico archive is far-fetched, but the style is unquestionably embedded. Think of the amount of barrelling, dribbling goals such players have produced – close control, small pauses and faints as thighs piston their way through defences.

As the walls were closing in on City's title bid, Aguero showed himself to be a proud product of this lineage. When Balotelli began his battle against gravity, he deftly checked his run behind and around Wright-Phillips to open up a path to the penalty area.

Letting the pass roll, he shaped to shoot, drawing a scampering Taiwo, who left his Kompany decoy a little too late to remain in control. Aguero did not actually touch Balotelli's return pass until his body position persuaded a rash slide tackle that he nudged beyond with the outside of his right boot.

With Taiwo suitably gambeta'd, there came one last stroke of fortune.

                                                                *********************

"I touched it again and saw I was close to the goal, so I said 'I'll shoot'. The worst thing was that I wanted to shoot hard across goal and it went to the near post, I don't know what happened" Aguero told TyC Sports last month – the latter sentiment at least aligning him with every soul inside the Etihad Stadium that day.

"After watching it back, I realised that if I had shot across goal a defender could have blocked it. I celebrated the goal and told everybody, 'I hit it so well!'."

Goal 23 of a personal Premier League tally that now reads 180, one of 127 with Aguero's ferocious right boot, understandably left an indelible impression on the suddenly defeated Hughes.

"Of all the games I've been involved in, that noise at that moment when that goal went in is different to anything I've ever heard before or since.

"It was just unbelievable sound – different sound to a football crowd. It was a mixture of screaming and noise. It was just an unbelievable moment."

That racket has since been replayed thousands of times across the world. A goal on a tightrope that altered the course of English football, which began with gifting the opposition a 92nd-minute throw-in and ended thanks to a miscue after the main protagonist's strike partner fell over.

It is the Premier League's most famous goal - a moment as synonymous with Manchester as cotton mills and the Hacienda, and yet Argentinian to its very bones.

Diego Maradona is the greatest of all time, not Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to Fabio Cannavaro.

Maradona and Messi are both regarded as two of the greatest players and the Argentine duo's standing atop football's history is often debated.

Messi is a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner but former Italy defender Cannavaro believes 1986 World Cup champion Maradona is the greatest.

"I respect Messi a lot. For the new generation he is one of the best, but Maradona is different because the football was different," Cannavaro – now head coach of Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande after captaining Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 – told Sky Sports.

"They kicked him a lot, but he was always in control and he was tough.

"Messi is top, but Maradona is another world. I never compare him with other players. I never saw Pele, but I watched Maradona, for seven years I saw every game.

"He's not one of the best, he's the best."

Maradona won silverware at Barcelona, helping the Spanish giants to Copa del Rey, Copa de la Liga and Supercopa de Espana glory.

The 59-year-old then went on to become an icon with Napoli, where he won two Serie A titles, as well as UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

Messi has won 10 LaLiga crowns and four Champions League titles among other honours at Barcelona, though he has not tasted senior success with Argentina.

Pablo Zabaleta revealed Manchester City players were putting Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo up in the locker room after being taken over in 2008.

Zabaleta joined City from Espanyol in that year as the Abu Dhabi United Group took over the club, leading to big spending by the Premier League outfit.

The full-back said City players were preparing to welcome Barcelona star Messi and Ronaldo, then at Manchester United, to the club.

"Ten days after my arrival, the purchase of the club by the people of Abu Dhabi is executed," Zabaleta told La Nacion.

"Four days later, they invest £40million for Robinho and there I said, 'Now what do I do? I'm going to last six months here.'

"We took it a bit as a joke and ... in the locker room we started putting 'Messi', 'Cristiano Ronaldo'. We were s******* ourselves."

Zabaleta, who left City for West Ham in 2017, is nearing retirement from club football.

The 35-year-old last played for Argentina in 2016 and the 58-time international discussed Messi's impact on the nation, saying it was greater than just on the field.

"In addition to everything it would have lacked on the field, without Leo, the AFA [Argentine Football Association] would have had much less money," Zabaleta said.

"Of course Leo generated fabulous income and that meant that Argentine clubs also had more money. In the improvements of the infrastructure of Argentine soccer, there is Leo.

"Leo is a product that generates millions, and Argentine football will have to be grateful all his life because for him, the AFA had millions of dollars that he will surely have poured into the clubs."

Pablo Zabaleta could end up retiring this year with the coronavirus pandemic making him question his desire to continue playing.

Former Manchester City and Argentina international Zabaleta is contracted to West Ham until the end of the Premier League season, which has been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There is no date set for the resumption of football in England, though it is hoped teams can return to training in the coming weeks and matches can be played behind closed doors from mid-June.

Zabaleta, 35, is in his 12th season in the Premier League and had been considering a move to Serie A before hanging up his boots. However, the pandemic may have put paid to such plans.

Asked what his future holds if the Premier League does not return, the right-back told La Nacion: "I think about it every day. I wake up thinking, 'Is this what awaits me after retirement?'

"Now, somehow, we'll go back to training and we will see. But it's all still uncertain.

"I had even come to think, at the end of this season, to give myself the joy of playing one more season in another league, perhaps in Italy, but now I don't know.

"The chances are you won't play in front of a crowd, so what motivation could I have left? Why go to Italy if mythical stadiums like the Olimpico in Rome or San Siro will be closed?

"Now, let's wait to see how this season ends, and then, in the European summer, depending on how everything is rearranged, I'll see what I do.

"But retirement is a possibility, yes. Maybe the coronavirus will make me anticipate the decision."

Zabaleta had discussed returning to San Lorenzo, where he took his first steps in professional football, with club president Marcelo Tinelli last year, but his family situation makes it difficult for him to envision a move to Argentina.

"It's true that I had contact with Tinelli last summer and I told him that we could talk at the end of the season, but today Argentina is not a priority," said Zabaleta.

"Also for family reasons; my wife is Catalan and the boys are very young.

"I don't want to rule anything out, but no. I prefer to leave my future in the air a little so that I can analyse what to do in a moment of greater stability.

"No one expected this virus. It is the first time that something like this has happened in many generations and it will definitely change our lifestyle."

Diego Maradona was "pure art" and Lionel Messi is "a Speedy Gonzales", according to Argentina assistant coach Roberto Ayala.

Ayala played alongside Maradona at the start of his career and in his twilight years lined up with Messi.

The former Napoli, Milan and Valencia centre-back believes there are significant differences between the two players widely regarded as the best to have come out of Argentina.

"I played with both of them, with Diego I was taking my first steps. They are two footballing giants, and when he retires, Messi will be remembered," Ayala told FOX Sports.

"I don't know if it'll be like Diego, it doesn't matter. They are different. Diego was pure art in all his mannerisms, Messi a Speedy Gonzales who carries the ball two centimetres from his foot."

Messi's failure to win a senior international title with Argentina often counts against him when he is compared to Maradona, who spearheaded the country's success at the 1986 World Cup.

Barcelona star Messi has suffered defeat in four finals – three at the Copa America and the 2014 World Cup – but Ayala is confident he can be successful with Argentina.

Ayala has been impressed by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's humility in the national team set-up.

"I hope that he gives us his footballing level, that he makes us grow as a team. Having a team with him, not of him," said Ayala.

"He wants to be treated like this, like just one more. We told the players, 'He will not be treated differently by us. You all have to step up, do what you do for your clubs, and he will help you. You have to take advantage of that.'"

Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi, just known as Mario Kempes, was a good goalscorer before he cemented his name in history by leading Argentina to their first World Cup title in 1978. Kempes would score two goals in that World Cup final against the Netherlands and lead all scorers. He would become just one of three men in history to not just lift the World Cup, but also to win the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards at the same time. The other two are also considered all-time greats, in Brazil’s Garincha and Italy’s Paolo Rossi. Kempes would also lead the LaLiga goalscoring charts on two occasions during his playing days with Valencia where he scored 95 goals in just 142 games. That kind of performance earned him the nickname El Matador. Kempes was difficult to mark because he chose to operate like the modern-day false nine, arriving from outside the box with surging runs and rangy drives.

"He's strong, he's got skill, he creates spaces and he shoots hard. He's a player who can make a difference, and he can play in a centre-forward position," said César Luis Menotti, Kempes’ 1978 coach. And his description of Kempes was spot on.     

Playing Career

Full name: Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi

Date of birth: 15 July 1954 (age 65)

Place of birth: Bell Ville, Argentina

Height: 1.84m (6ft 0 in)

Playing position: striker

Club Career

           Years           Team                    Apps   (Gls)

  • 1970–1973 Instituto                        13     (11)
  • 1973–1976 Rosario Central            107     (85)
  • 1976–1981 Valencia                      142     (95)
  • 1981–1982 River Plate                    29      (15)
  • 1982–1984 Valencia                       42      (21)
  • 1984–1986 Hércules                       38      (10)
  • 1986–1987 First Vienna                  20        (7)
  • 1987–1990 Pölten                          96       (34)
  • 1990–1992 Kremser SC                  39        (7)
  • 1992–1993 Fernández Vial              11        (5)
  • 1993–1994 Pelita Jaya                    18       (12)

Total                                                    555    (300)

Club Honours

  • Valencia - Copa del Rey: 1978–79; UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1979–80; UEFA Super Cup: 1980
  • River Plate - Primera División: 1981 Nacional
  • Pelita Jaya - Galatama: 1993–94

International Career

  • 1973-1982 Argentina 43 (20)

International Honours

  • FIFA World Cup: 1978

Individual Honours

  • Argentine Primera División top scorers: 1974 Nacional, 1976 Metropolitan
  • Pichichi Trophy: 1977, 1978
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Boot: 1978
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1978
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1978
  • Ballon d'Or: 1978 - Le nouveau palmarès (the new winners)
  • Onze d'Or: 1978
  • Olimpia de Plata: 1978
  • South American Footballer of the Year: 1978
  • UEFA Cup Winners' Cup top scorers: 1979–80
  • FIFA 100: 2004
  • South American Player of the Century: Ranking Nº 23: 2006
  • Golden Foot: 2007, as football legend
  • AFA Team of All Time (published 2015)

It is almost a guarantee that whenever the name Diego Armando Maradona is spoken it will be in discussion about who is the greatest football player of all time. He was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award.

Maradona's vision, passing, ball control and dribbling skills combined with his small stature (1.65 m or 5 ft 5 in), giving him a low centre of gravity and allowing him to manoeuvre better than most other football players. He would often dribble past multiple opposing players on a run.

His presence and leadership on the field had a great effect on his team's general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition. In addition to his creative abilities, he also possessed an eye for goal and was known to be a free-kick specialist. A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), a name that stuck with him throughout his career.

In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals.

Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.

His second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal, a 60-metre dribble past five England players was voted "Goal of the Century" by FIFA.com voters in 2002.

 

Playing Career 

Full name: Diego Armando Maradona

Date of birth: 30 October 1960 (age 59)

Place of birth: Lanús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Height: 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in)

Playing positions: Attacking midfielder/Second striker

 

Clubs

Years                  Team                           Apps        (Gls)

1976–1981          Argentinos Juniors           167         (116)

1981–1982          Boca Juniors                     40           (28)

1982–1984          Barcelona                         36           (22)

1984–1991          Napoli                            188           (81)

1992–1993          Sevilla                              26            (5)

1993–1994          Newell's Old Boys                5            (0)

1995–1997          Boca Juniors                      30           (7)

Total                                                      491         (259)

Honours

  • Boca Juniors - Argentine Primera División: 1981 Metropolitano
  • Barcelona - Copa del Rey: 1983; Copa de la Liga: 1983; Supercopa de España: 1983
  • Napoli - Serie A: 1986–87, 1989–90; Coppa Italia: 1986–87; UEFA Cup: 1988–89; Supercoppa Italiana: 1990

International

  • Argentina: 1977-1994 (91 Apps, 34 Gls)

 

Honours

  • FIFA World Youth Championship: 1979
  • FIFA World Cup: 1986
  • Artemio Franchi Trophy: 1993

Individual

  • Argentine Primera División top scorers: 1978 Metropolitano, 1979 Metropolitano, 1979 Nacional, 1980 Metropolitano, 1980 Nacional
  • FIFA World Youth Championship Golden Ball: 1979
  • FIFA World Youth Championship Silver Shoe: 1979
  • Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1986
  • South American Footballer of the Year: (official award) 1979, 1980
  • Olimpia de Oro: 1979, 1986
  • Guerin d'Oro (Serie A Footballer of the Year): 1985
  • UNICEF European Footballer of the Season: 1989–90
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup Silver Shoe: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup Most Assists: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1986, 1990
  • Onze d'Or: 1986, 1987
  • L'Équipe Champion of Champions: 1986
  • United Press International Athlete of the Year Award: 1986
  • World Soccer magazine's Player of the Year: 1986
  • Capocannoniere (Serie A top scorer): 1987–88
  • Coppa Italia top scorer: 1987–88
  • FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball: 1990
  • FIFA World Cup All-Time Team: 1994
  • South American Team of the Year: 1995

Sergio Aguero does not understand criticism directed at Lionel Messi for Argentina, insisting the superstar is the "first to suffer " and continues to make himself available for the national team.

Messi has won everything on offer during his time as a Barcelona player – the Champions League, LaLiga, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is yet to taste senior success in an Argentina jersey following a runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup, having also reached back-to-back Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016.

Messi excluded himself from international selection after Argentina's last-16 exit at the 2018 World Cup, before returning and helping the country to the Copa America semi-final last year.

The 32-year-old continues to be criticised for his Argentina performances but countryman Aguero defended his team-mate.

"I do not understand those who criticise him in the national team," Aguero told TyC Sports. "He is the first to suffer and continues to come."

The coronavirus pandemic has brought sport to a standstill, with the Premier League and LaLiga among the leagues on hiatus, while the 2020 Copa America has been pushed back to next year.

The Premier League has been suspended since last month and it remains to be seen when, and if, the 2019-20 campaign will resume.

Manchester City star Aguero is contracted until 2021 and the Argentine forward has been linked with a return to boyhood club Independiente.

But Aguero does not know what the future holds, adding: "For now, I'm not thinking about what to do. With all this, the clubs are having problems.

"Up until next year it can be extended for two months or more. There are players who end contracts this year and if it is played in July, August or September, the clubs are going to have problems.

"I don't know if they can renew with players for three months or six. The first thing is to end this season and hit everything next."

Paulo Dybala has revealed the troubling reality of life with coronavirus and insists staying at home is the best way to steer clear of the pandemic.

The Juventus forward was one of the first notable footballers to confirm he had tested positive for COVID-19, though Dybala is optimistic he has shaken off the illness.

He and girlfriend Oriana Sabatini have been in self-isolation, and Dybala said both would be re-tested to check if they were now clear.

The 26-year-old said he would rather experts give advice on how to handle the virus but added: "I always try to give a message of what happened to me, that people take it seriously and that they stay at home."

Dybala also revealed how Juventus doctors have been in daily contact.

"All the people here have been very good to us and there are many cases here. I always tell them I'm fine and to try to see the people who really need it," he said.

Italy has been hit hard by the global health crisis, and Dybala is acutely aware there are many having a worse experience with coronavirus than he and his girlfriend.

"Well, luckily [we are] much better, these days we do not have any symptoms," he said.

"I had stronger symptoms, I got tired very quickly, when I wanted to train, I was short of breath after five minutes. There we noticed that something was not right and through the tests the club did we were told that we were positive.

"From there we had more symptoms, such as cough, tired body and when we slept I felt very cold, but from the club they had told us that we were going to be fine so we had to be calm."

Dybala said the first concern that you may have coronavirus is particularly difficult.

"It is a bit psychological, because you feel something and you are already afraid," he said. "I tried to think that it might not be that."

The couple are trying to make those in Argentina aware of the tough times they may face.

Dybala did also inject a little levity into his interview, which he gave to the Argentina Football Association's AFA Play service.

"Oriana and I will need to do the test again to know if is gone or not. And we will know the truth," he said. "I always joke, thinking that it was me who transmitted the virus to her since some of my team-mates of Juventus had it. I am sure it was me."

Squads for the upcoming Copa America could look vastly different by the time the tournament comes around following its postponement.

The latest edition of the competition was scheduled to start in June, but the coronavirus pandemic has seen it pushed back 12 months.

Some veteran players might now fade from the picture before the Copa America gets under way next year, while other stars will have time to recover from injury.

There could also be some new faces on the scene, with a host of uncapped prospects given an extra campaign to break through.

We take a look at five players who might emerge between now and the tournament.

 

GABRIEL MARTINELLI (BRAZIL)

Even beyond Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and co., Brazil have a wealth of attacking talent.

Matheus Cunha and Paulinho each starred at this year's CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament and are already plying their trade in the Bundesliga, yet the nation's most outstanding prospect might reside in London.

Gabriel Martinelli is eligible for both Brazil and Italy, but the Selecao will surely move swiftly to cap-tie the striker.

Martinelli trained with Brazil last year aged 17 after starring for Ituano, and he has continued to impress in his first season at Arsenal, scoring 10 goals in all competitions.

Further progress in the coming season would give Tite something to think about.

 

CRISTIAN ROMERO (ARGENTINA)

Argentina have long had problems at centre-back, with Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi still a regular at international level.

However, head coach Lionel Scaloni could soon have greater options to choose from, with younger talents now breaking through.

Nehuen Perez might well have gone to the 2020 Copa America, having been called up for the first time late last year after promising loan spells away from Atletico Madrid, but he could soon find himself nudged back down the pecking order.

Cristian Romero appears well-placed to establish himself, having earned a €26million move from Genoa to Juventus at the start of the season, although he returned on loan to his former club, who are enduring a testing campaign.

With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci ageing, Romero should get opportunities with Juve next term - and Argentina could soon come calling.

 

DIEGO ROSSI (URUGUAY)

Uruguay continue to rely on a number of their veterans of previous tournaments, but this will have to change in the coming months and years - especially in attack.

Luis Suarez faced a race to be fit for the 2020 edition, while Edinson Cavani's club future is in doubt as his Paris Saint-Germain contract expires. Even Cristhian Stuani is now playing in Spain's second tier. All three are 33 years old.

And Diego Rossi should back himself to be in position to put pressure on that star trio in 12 months' time.

Rossi left Penarol for Los Angeles FC aged 19 and has proven an instant hit in MLS, scoring 29 goals in 68 regular-season appearances, helping his club win the 2019 Supporters' Shield.

LAFC general manager John Thorrington has spoken of "significant interest" in Rossi from Europe, and such a move would give the forward a great chance of making the grade for Uruguay.

 

JORGE CARRASCAL (COLOMBIA)

Rossi's LAFC team-mates Eddie Segura and Eduard Atuesta both appear set for first Colombia caps, but Jorge Carrascal might now have nudged to the front of that queue.

A tricky winger who debuted for Millonarios at just 16, Carrascal initially struggled after joining River Plate on loan from Ukraine's Karpaty Lviv last year.

However, Carrascal improved as the season went on, earning a permanent switch to River - and, crucially, a call-up to the Colombia Under-23s.

Representing his country at youth level for the first time since 2015, the 21-year-old scored in each of his first three games at the Pre-Olympic Tournament and started all seven matches.

A return to the River Plate XI this year could see Carrascal earn a senior Colombia call-up.


REINIER (BRAZIL)

It might seem a long shot for a player who has yet to feature for Real Madrid's first team and started only twice at the Pre-Olympic Tournament to be playing for Brazil's senior side in just over a year's time.

But Reinier will have the benefit of 12 months in the limelight at one of the world's biggest clubs.

After signing from Flamengo for €30m, Reinier netted a brace in just his third Castilla appearance - his final match before the coronavirus crisis intervened.

The pre-season will be key if the 18-year-old is to get a chance at Madrid in 2020-21, and there is no reason why he could not then do enough to catch Tite's eye.

Vinicius Junior made a big-money move from Flamengo to Madrid in 2018 and had debuted for Brazil within 12 months of his LaLiga bow. The path is clear.

Lionel Messi has "ousted" Diego Maradona as Argentina's greatest number 10, according to former Italy international Antonio Cassano.

Messi's consistency over such a long period has made him the finest player Argentina has produced according to Cassano, who has called for Maradona's fans to accept that the Barcelona talisman deserves to be recognised as the best.

Cassano helped Real Madrid to the 2006-07 LaLiga title at the expense of Barca and Messi, but that success in Spain has not altered his opinion on the forward.

"Maradona did something never seen before for four or five years, but Messi has done the same things for 15 years," he said in an interview with Corriere dello Sport.

"He has made 710 goals and 300 assists. When he plays you start with a 1-0 lead.

"The ‘Maradonians’ have to accept it: there is someone who has ousted him."

Cassano revealed that, prior to Messi moving to the top of the list, he believed Brazil striker Ronaldo – a former Madrid team-mate - was the game's greatest.

"We were losing 1-0 at home," Cassano recalled. "The whole stadium was whistling, especially him [Ronaldo].

"In the locker room the coach removes Ronnie to put [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy on, but he [Ronaldo] stops him and says 'no, you take me off in 15 minutes if I haven't scored two goals'.

"Minute 15: 2-1 and two goals from Ronaldo. I said that if there is a football god, it is Ronaldo. Then I discovered that Messi is above him."

Lionel Messi is the "leader and protector" of Argentina, according to international team-mate Nicolas Tagliafico.

Messi, 32, has faced criticism for his performances for the national team as his wait for a first senior trophy at international level goes on.

But Ajax defender Tagliafico, a 25-time Argentina international, said the Barcelona star was key for his nation.

"Messi was released from the pressure to get results [at the 2019 Copa America, where Argentina finished third]," he told Ole.

"He more than anyone gets angry when he loses, but Messi became more aware that he has to enjoy the national team.

"I don't know until when he will play, but it is not that he will have too many cups with the national team. He is at a stage where he wants to enjoy everything, training, games.

"He is the leader and protector of the team. That facet came out that we might not always see."

The Copa America was due to be played again this year, but has been pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tagliafico said it was crucial for Argentina, who are unbeaten in seven games, to develop a strong foundation.

"We must find a very solid structure, not only for Leo, but also for the future, for what is to come," he said.

"To be able to find a structure to grow. It is good to build a solid foundation and don't build a base and then take it apart.

"If we can help Leo and Leo can help us, we will do much better. Everything is going to multiply. You have to create a structure and from there start to grow."

Lionel Messi not winning the World Cup with Argentina would be unfair, according to goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.

Messi has won everything on offer during his time as a Barcelona player – the Champions League, LaLiga, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is yet to taste senior success in an Argentina jersey following a runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup, having also reached back-to-back Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016.

A two-time Argentina international, Pachuca goalkeeper Ustari warned against doubting captain Messi – the country's all-time leading goalscorer.

"I have no doubt that if Messi isn't world champion, football will be unfair," Ustari told Radio Mitre.

"Doubting Messi is nonsense. Things can go well or not, but I can tell you that I have seen him crying like a child because of what was happening in the national team. It's very difficult to be in his shoes.

"I remember that in the 2011 Copa America [Argentina were eliminated by Uruguay in the quarter-finals] I was recovering from my knee and, when they lost, I went to see Messi at the Ezeiza venue and I saw him like I had never seen him before, devastated."

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