Leeds United have confirmed the signing of Manchester City winger Jack Harrison on loan for a third successive season.

Harrison has spent the past two campaigns at Leeds, becoming a first-team regular under Marcelo Bielsa.

The 23-year-old made 46 appearances as Leeds won the Championship and sealed promotion to the Premier League last term, scoring six times and providing eight assists.

Leeds also confirmed the loan transfer is with a view to a permanent deal.

Harrison becomes Leeds' third addition of the transfer window, with Helder Costa and goalkeeper Illan Meslier having made their stays permanent following impressive loan spells from Wolves and Lorient respectively in 2019-20.

Could Paulo Dybala swap Italy for Spain?

The Juventus attacker was close to leaving Juventus for either Manchester United or Tottenham prior to the 2019-20 season, while Paris Saint-Germain were also linked.

Now, Real Madrid are reportedly targeting the 26-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – KROOS OUT, DYBALA IN?

Real Madrid are set to offer Toni Kroos or Isco as part of a deal to bring Juventus star Paulo Dybala to the Santiago Bernabeu, according to SportMediaset.

LaLiga champions Madrid are eyeing a move for Dybala, who has been in negotiations with Serie A titleholders Juve over a new contract amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Juve are unwilling to part with the Argentina international – who enjoyed a fine Serie A campaign prior to Maurizio Sarri's sacking as he looks ahead to life under Andrea Pirlo.

ROUND-UP

- Kicker claims Jadon Sancho has told Borussia Dortmund he is happy to stay at the club if a blockbuster transfer to Manchester United fails to materialise. The England international has been heavily tipped to join United, with personal terms reportedly agreed.

Barcelona want to sign Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, reports The Telegraph. The LaLiga giants are eyeing a cash-plus-player deal to try to prise the Portugal international to Camp Nou.

- Premier League champions Liverpool are poised to sign Olympiacos left-back Kostas Tsimikas, according to widespread reports. Having failed to strike a deal with Norwich City for Jamal Lewis, Liverpool are close to prising Tsimikas from the Greek powerhouse. Meanwhile, The Sun says Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are targeting a shock £35million swoop for Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks.

- The front page of Monday's edition of Marca says Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane must sell before he is able to sign players ahead of the 2020-21 season. Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are two players unwanted in the Spanish capital as Madrid continue to be linked with the likes of PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe, Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga.

- AS Diario reports Villarreal are on the verge of signing Valencia pair Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin. Valencia captain Parejo and team-mate Coquelin have been told they are free to leave Mestalla.

Napoli have joined the race to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon claims Sky Sport Italia. On loan at Sevilla, Reguilon has been linked to Chelsea and Everton.

- According to Calciomercato, Inter are interested in Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. However, salary demands may prove problematic amid talk of a swap deal involving Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City must win the Champions League to be considered one of the competition's great clubs.

The City manager also vowed it should not be considered "a disaster" if his team miss out on European success during his tenure, yet he can now sniff glory after the last-16 victory over mighty Real Madrid.

With LaLiga's champions ousted, and Serie A winners Juventus also eliminated, every team through to the quarter-finals will sense a genuine opportunity.

Lyon, the team that edged past Juve on away goals, are next in City's crosshairs, with their meeting scheduled for next Saturday in Lisbon.

Guardiola says he "would love" to bring Champions League glory to City, having missed out with Bayern Munich after achieving 2009 and 2011 successes while in charge at Barcelona.

He recognises that although City are becoming part of the competition's establishment, there is still a next step they have to take.

"You have to lift it, this title, to be 'okay, we've got it'," Guardiola said.

"We beat Real Madrid, of course for us it's so important. We know the credit, the value, the prestige that Real has.

"They are a massive club. To compete with them, beat them twice, for this season and for the future it will be so good."

Guardiola agreed when it was suggested the rest of the tournament could feel like a World Cup, saying it would feel "quite similar".

The last eight teams standing will head to Lisbon for one-off games in each remaining round rather than two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals.

"Now every game is a final. You are in, or you are out. We will see a final against Lyon," he said.

But Guardiola's overriding message, as he spoke shortly after his side saw off Madrid, was that Champions League success can rest on fine margins, pointing to the errors from the usually unflappable Raphael Varane that helped City fend off Zinedine Zidane's side.

Whether City experience Champions League success during his reign or not, Guardiola does not see it defining his stay in Manchester.

"I live in Manchester, and an incredible club will be my memories. This is my happiness. Of course, we are going to try. But this competition is so difficult," he said

"But I don't want to live right now being here [saying] if we don't win the Champions League it will be a disaster.

"I know what I live is great. I've met incredible people. This is my life. And is it going to change my relations because I lift a title? Honestly, no.

"In Munich, we won a lot of titles but we didn't win the Champions League. Am I going to tell you I was unhappy in Munich? No. That I don't have friends in Munich? I have many.

"We're going to put in everything. But sometimes the opponents are better. Or you get wrong decisions of the strikers, or mistakes by the defenders. It's part of the life, it's part of the process, part of football. It's little details, margins, it happens."

With the Champions League back on, I went in search of predictions about who fans in Jamaica thought would win.

What I found was there aren’t really fans. Well, I didn’t find what I expect from a fan.

The term fan is an offshoot of the word fanatic. A fanatic is someone who shows so much loyalty to something that they, not only, have strong emotion about it, but are knowledgeable by virtue of spending so much time dedicated to understanding it.

In seeking answers to my questions predicting the winner of the Champions League, I found humiliating explanations, shallow reasoning and anything but persuasive arguments for one team or another.

Come to think of it, maybe they used a little strategy. There were two matches being played at the same time in the UEFA Champions League— Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon. Fans were aware and had to develop a strategy to watch them both. But that's just about it.

When I asked my ‘fair-weather friends’ who they think would win the Champions League and why, their responses were uninspiring.

They usually started confidently enough, but that was where the solidity ended.

“BARCELONA!”, “MAN-CITY!”, “CHELSEA!”, “REAL MADRID!” etc, came the answers even before the questions were completely out of my mouth.

The problem they all encountered though, was the question of … why?

Suddenly the confidence of the answers were replaced with almost incoherent, largely uninformed drivle.

“Definitely you know it’s Barcelona. And I know other persons are going to say otherwise but this is the reason why: Barcelona is a champion...beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion…”

Another picked Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as his winner.

“Neymar is a star baller,” was his ‘very solid’ reason.

I wanted a response from a seasoned fan. I figured it would have some substance but a seasoned fan is not common place.

“Man City definitely! I think they have the best ballers,” is the closest I could come to something resembling a thought-out explanation.

That being the best of the answers left me, an admitted novice, dejected.

Look, I’m not expecting fans to necessarily be able to provide reasons with the analysis of seasoned commentators like Lance Whittaker, but I would expect that a ‘fan’, has more to offer in the way of some understanding about the game.

The Champions League is now down to eight teams, who will play straight knock-out games in Lisbon, Portugal beginning October 12.

The teams in the quarterfinal are; Atalanta, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Lyon.

Who do you think will come out tops?

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Paris Saint-Germain are focused on Kylian Mbappe and Neymar over Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mbappe and Neymar have both been linked with moves away from the Ligue 1 champions, while Ronaldo has reportedly been a target for PSG previously.

PSG seemingly know where their priorities are.

 

TOP STORY – PSG FOCUS ON MBAPPE, NEYMAR OVER RONALDO

PSG would prefer to extend the contracts of Mbappe and Neymar than chase Juventus star Ronaldo, according to ESPN.

Mbappe and Neymar are both coming to the end of their contracts in 2022 and have been linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal are reportedly ready to splash the cash. The Sun says the Premier League side are set to spend £100million on Real Madrid's Dani Ceballos, Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey and Lille's Gabriel Magalhaes, but must sell at least three players.

- With Eric Garcia set to leave Manchester City, Barcelona are preparing a move. The Sun reports Barca will make a €15.5m (£14m) bid for the defender.

- Will Chelsea find a way to land West Ham star Declan Rice? The Daily Star says Chelsea are looking to raise £65m to land the midfielder.

- Liverpool continue to be linked with moves. The Liverpool Echo reports Watford attacker Ismaila Sarr is on the Premier League champions' shortlist.

- Staying at Anfield and Yahoo reports Liverpool are tracking Vasco da Gama's 18-year-old forward Talles Magno.

- Ryan Sessegnon continues to be linked with a move from Tottenham. The Guardian reports Ajax are interested in Sessegnon on loan.

Zinedine Zidane moved to stamp out any speculation over his future on Friday, insisting he will be the Real Madrid coach next season.

Madrid's 2019-20 campaign finally came to an end at the Etihad Stadium with a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League – Los Blancos exiting the competition with a 4-2 aggregate loss.

The club do have the league title to show for the campaign, and it is their first LaLiga crown since 2017.

Asked if he planned to be in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2020-21, Zidane gave a defiant response.

"Well, I'm here, I'm Madrid's coach until something happens which is out of the ordinary. I'm here, of course," he told a news conference.

"You don't have to think anything. I am the coach of Madrid, and that's it. 

"There are no more questions to ask in this regard. Now we are all going to rest and we will return to have a great season."

Raphael Varane's error gifted Raheem Sterling an early opener in Manchester, though Karim Benzema's excellent header gave Madrid hope midway through the first half.

However, their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals were dealt a fatal blow in the 68th minute – Gabriel Jesus pouncing on a second Varane calamity to seal the win for City.

Zidane, though, is adamant his team must be proud of their achievements this term.

"We need to be proud. I'm certainly very proud of what we've achieved," he added.

"We can't, when we lose, be happy. The players aren't happy, for sure. But what we can be proud of is that we have had a great season.

"The key today was to give everything on the pitch and that’s what we did, we were just missing a little something, I don't know what.

"I think we've still got to be happy with the season. We will see what will happen next season. For now, we rest a little."

Forward Gabriel Jesus has the ambition to try and match Brazil's greats after sealing Manchester City's place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Jesus put in a tireless performance as Pep Guardiola's side beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to close out a 4-2 aggregate triumph for a spot in Lisbon.

Starting on the left-hand side of the City attack, Jesus harried Raphael Varane into an early error to tee up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal.

Karim Benzema equalised to ensure it was all square on the night at the break but Jesus, switched to a more conventional centre-forward role after half-time, seized upon another Varane lapse to produce a smart first-time finish in the 68th minute.

"I work to be a great striker, you know," he told BT Sport.

"I work every day hard to be a striker like Ronaldo was.

"I know his quality is different from me to be a great striker."

Indeed, being able to call upon Jesus' adaptability was crucial for Guardiola throughout the tie, with the 23-year-old having also put in a relentless shift out wide at the Santiago Bernabeu before switching centrally to head an equaliser.


"Like the last game we ran a lot, played good with the ball and scored goals," he said.

"That's so important for us against a club like Real Madrid, the best club in this competition. For us it is massive.

"I think it's all about belief that they can make mistakes. I always press, I press a lot to help my team. I was happy."

Lyon completed a shock win over Juventus in Friday's other tie on away goals, despite losing 2-1 in Turin on the night, and will be City's quarter-final opponents.

Jesus rejected the suggestion that dishing out a first Champions League knockout stage defeat to Zinedine Zidane had sent a message to City's European rivals.

"No, I don't think like that," he added. "We have to keep working, do the simple things and stay strong for the next game."

Manchester City's brilliant energy and passion were the reasons for their victory over Real Madrid, according to Raheem Sterling.

City booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 defeat of Madrid at Etihad Stadium on Friday, securing a 4-2 aggregate triumph.

Sterling netted the opener – his 100th goal for the club – following Raphael Varane's error, with Gabriel Jesus then pouncing on another mistake from Madrid's beleaguered centre-back in the second half after Karim Benzema had restored parity.

Sterling believes the difference between City and Madrid came down to effort.

"Just energy, passion. It's one of those competitions which we want to do well in – we want to play football but if we run our socks off, the result will follow," Sterling told BT Sport.

"The important thing today – we know how good they are and know how good we are – the difference was going to be who ran the most and who was willing to put the extra yard in. I thought we were brilliant today.

"That was part of the plan. To be on the front foot, aggression and be right on them. From our pressing we got two goals from it.

"With the players we've got, there's no inferiority. We played really well. They've got some great players but the energy and performance we showed, we were brilliant."

Lyon edged past Juventus on away goals despite a double from Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin, and will be City's quarter-final opponents on August 15 in what will be a straight knockout competition in Lisbon.

"It's going to be more like an international scene," said Sterling, who would have been playing in Euro 2020 with England in June and July if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

"It'll be interesting, but I'm just grateful that we're there."

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane took the blame for this side's Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City on Friday.

Pep Guardiola's side won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to claim a 4-2 aggregate victory and reach the quarter-finals, where they will face Lyon.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead after Varane lost possession to Gabriel Jesus in just the ninth minute of the game.

Karim Benzema equalised but Jesus restored City's advantage after Varane made a mess of a header and then failed to nod the ball back to Thibaut Courtois.

It was a rare poor performance from the France international, who was without usual centre-back partner Sergio Ramos due to suspension, and he was prepared to accept responsibility.

"This defeat is mine. I have to assume that. This defeat is my responsibility," he told Movistar.

"We prepared well for it, but mistakes cost you. I can't explain the mistakes - it can happen in football.

"I'm sad for my team-mates. Until the 1-1, we had a chance to go through and today it didn't go well.

"This has not happened to me very often before. You have to have character to come back stronger."

The defeat marked the first time Zinedine Zidane has lost a Champions League knockout tie as boss, but he maintains Madrid's LaLiga title triumph means their season has been positive.

"Unfortunately, he [Varane] made a couple of errors, we can't be happy, obviously," Zidane said.

"We've lost a game and we're knocked out. We're proud of what we've achieved throughout the whole season. This is football. We've lost this game against a good side. You have to accept it.

"We had chances to score. The second half, we were a little bit better. Ninety-five per cent of what we've achieved this season has been excellent. Today, we've played against a good team and we have to accept it."

Back when Pep Guardiola was in his playing pomp and Zinedine Zidane was plotting his path towards the summit of the European game, elite clubs loved to look towards Brazilian brilliance to supply a vital measure of Champions League pizzazz.

Guardiola could delight in picking out the lethal Romario from midfield. Where he trod for Barcelona, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho duly followed.

"Pep has a special feeling for Brazilian players," Guardiola's former assistant and newly appointed Flamengo boss Domenec Torrent told Globoesporte earlier this year.

"In fact, he has a preference for Brazilians because they are very versatile and can adapt to any type of football."

It was little surprise to see Brazil internationals at the heart of Guardiola's plans for Friday's Champions League showdown with Real Madrid, with a 2-1 win and 4-2 aggregate victory their reward. But Jogo Bonito, this was not.

FERNANDINHO'S STEADYING HAND

Eric Garcia's decision to reject a new contract at City has the teenage centre-back heading for the exit door – a situation sure to have caused his manager anguish on the eve of Madrid's arrival in Manchester.

Guardiola has placed great faith in a 19-year-old he declares "does not make mistakes". Negotiating your way out of a potentially triumphant Champions League campaign might count as one.

Garcia had established himself as Aymeric Laporte's first-choice partner in central defence over recent weeks. His apparently pending return to boyhood club Barcelona meant a defensive recall for a man 16 years his senior.

In their first season since Vincent Kompany's departure, City have wanted for leadership and presence on the big occasions. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all have victories over them.

The sight of Fernandinho, striding out as captain felt like a grown-up heading into a situation where one was required. Converted from a central midfielder this season, he made a perfectly judged tackle when the in-form Karim Benzema lurked on the edge of the City area in the fifth minute.

TIRELESS JESUS GIVES VARANE NO REST

At the other end of the field, Fernandinho's international team-mate Gabriel Jesus resumed the hard yards he carried out in City's 2-1 first-leg win. Guardiola doesn't often have a need for left-wing donkey work. When he does, Jesus dutifully trots over from centre-forward and gets to work. Romario would never have entertained such a thing.

Jesus lined up in an ever-alert and harassing front three alongside Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling. He seized upon Raphael Varane's first error of a personal ordeal to selflessly give Sterling his 100th goal in City colours.

The Brazilian in the City line-up possessing the most flair was arguably their goalkeeper. Ederson's passing was once again bafflingly good in its range an execution, but he had the basics of his craft in immaculate order as he denied Benzema sharply and snaffled any other shot that came his way.

He had little chance when Madrid's number nine powered in a header to equalise on the night. After that wobble, Jesus bought a free-kick then won a header from a long ball pumped to his flank.

Little flecks of dirty work to draw the sting from a difficult moment. And all while a Yorkshireman at right-back was gallivanting about like gloriously renegade Cafu. Kyle Walker gained possession nine times - more than any other City player - and won all seven of his duels.

MADRID'S AURA EBBS AWAY

As has been the case over the course of City's season, chances were created and spurned by vibrant but profligate attackers. If they lose in Lisbon, it will probably be in circumstances were they feel they shouldn't have.

It felt dicey to have left the door ajar to such greats of the competition. But during an increasingly torrid second period for Madrid – in line with Juventus's woes in Turin – the layers of an aura fell away and time ticked loudly on some great careers.

Kevin De Bruyne was romping around and tearing holes in a manner reminiscent of the man in the away dugout and errors from a ragged Madrid defence were piling up.

Dani Carvajal, who could have done without Sterling's company when Guardiola shuffled his front three at half-time, coughed up possession 15 times. Ferland Mendy and Varane were also into double figures in that regard, with the latter culpable when the tie was put to bed.

Lurking with maximum nuisance value was Jesus, producing a one-touch finish to make Romario and his other great countrymen purr. A moment of triumph etched from a thousand beads of sweat rolling down Guardiola's robust Brazilian spine.

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus sent Manchester City into the Champions League quarter-finals as a 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid on Friday sealed a 4-2 aggregate win.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg of their last-16 tie in February, City hit the front early on at the Etihad Stadium when Raphael Varane gift-wrapped Raheem Sterling his 100th goal for the club.

Karim Benzema's fine header restored parity in the 28th minute, only for Varane to again cost Madrid midway through the second half.

Jesus was the benefactor of the centre-back's second calamity of the game, with a quarter-final clash against Lyon the reward for City.

Varane's nightmare started in the ninth minute, with the France international playing himself into trouble, Jesus robbing possession and teeing up Sterling for a simple finish.

Sterling very nearly had his 101st goal in sky blue moments after, but his chipped effort dropped just over the bar.

Ederson had to make two fine saves as Madrid fought back, but City did not heed the warning, and the visitors were on level terms when Benzema headed in from Rodrygo's cross.

Sterling could have done better with a shot into the side netting following the restart, before Thibaut Courtois denied Kevin De Bruyne direct from a corner.

Courtois was in action again with 25 minutes remaining, tipping Jesus' effort over, but City had their second soon after.

Having messed up his initial header, Varane put nowhere near enough power on his nod back to Courtois, with Jesus nipping in to prod home cleverly from a tight angle.

Handed an Etihad farewell in the final stages, David Silva was inches away from making it 3-1 with a dipping free-kick, but City ultimately settled for what they had as they knocked out the 13-time European champions.

 

What does it mean? Jekyll and Hyde City must sharpen up to break Champions League duck

Sterling's opener was City's 150th Champions League goal, in their 76th appearance in the competition, yet they then conceded their 100th goal in the tournament under 20 minutes later.

If they are to end their wait for Europe's top club trophy this season, City's defence must give more support to their stellar forwards.

Century up for Sterling

Though the goal was gaping, Sterling still showed real composure to nudge City ahead early on, and in doing so he became the 17th player to reach a century of goals for the Citizens and the first Englishman since Dennis Tueart in 1981.

Varane horror show proves decisive

With Sergio Ramos suspended, the pressure was on Eder Militao heading into Friday's clash, yet it was his experienced defensive partner Varane who was left red-faced after his two errors resulted in both of City's goals.

What's next?

Lyon, who knocked out Juventus on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw, are next up for City on August 15 in Lisbon, while Madrid's focus will switch to the new season.

Raheem Sterling moved on to 100 goals for Manchester City after he put Pep Guardiola's side ahead against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Sterling opened the scoring nine minutes into Friday's last-16 second leg, finishing in composed fashion after Gabriel Jesus pounced on Raphael Varane's mistake.

It put City 3-1 up on aggregate and took Sterling to a century of goals for the club.

The 25-year-old is the 17th player to achieve the feat for City, though he is the first Englishman to reach triple figures since Dennis Tueart in 1981.

Sterling, who went close to a second moments after his opener before Karim Benzema equalised, is also the sixth English player to score at least 20 Champions League goals – following Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Harry Kane.

Only Rooney – aged 24 years and 157 days – reached the total at a younger age than the City forward.

Eden Hazard and Rodrygo will start for Real Madrid against Manchester City in the Champions League last-16 second leg.

Belgium star Hazard had been battling to be fit after suffering discomfort in the ankle he injured in February, but head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed this week the player was feeling better.

He joins Rodrygo, preferred to Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior, alongside Karim Benzema in attack, while Eder Militao starts as expected in place of the suspended Sergio Ramos.

City boss Pep Guardiola has dropped Eric Garcia to the bench after announcing on Thursday that the teenage defender – heavily linked with a return to boyhood club Barcelona – would not sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium.

Veteran campaigner Fernandinho will partner Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence, with Phil Foden handed a start as David Silva begins his final game as a City player in Manchester among the substitutes.

Gabriel Jesus, who played much of the first leg on the left flank before heading in City's equaliser, starts up front in Sergio Aguero's ongoing absence through a knee injury, while Guardiola again appears to have opted for a double pivot in midfield of Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri, who both started at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Portugal international Joao Cancelo is preferred to Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, with Benjamin Mendy suspended.

City lead 2-1 from that first leg.

Liverpool dominate the nominations for the Premier League Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Manager of the Season awards for 2019-20.

Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year Jordan Henderson, along with team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, are up for the league's Player of the Season prize.

Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne, Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy, Southampton striker Danny Ings and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope are the other nominees.

Alexander-Arnold is also up for the inaugural Young Player of the Season, as are Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Chelsea duo Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount.

There are four Manchester United players on the shortlist: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Sheffield United.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp leads the nominees for the Manager of the Season prize, with Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Sheffield United's Chris Wilder also selected.

Frank Lampard, who took Chelsea to a fourth-place finish and lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal, is the other nominee.

Each award will be decided through a combination of fan votes and input from a panel of experts.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was named the Player of the Season in 2018-19, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has won the manager's accolade for the past two campaigns.

The final elite football game of the 2019-20 season in England will take place on Friday. Not a final, but a last-16 game in the Champions League. In August. Next season will start before the month is out.

In many respects, the new normal has become just that. Only when its component parts are listed does it sound completely bizarre. Manchester City versus Real Madrid will be staged without any of the normal razzamatazz and roars expected on such an occasion.

The big moments are the ones that linger from such defining evenings but, as all match-going fans know, it is – as Pep Guardiola might put it – the "small details" that contribute to the magic. Unchanging routines, familiar faces and a sense of community, within which new features quickly become part of the matchday tapestry.

One of those during the early months of 2020 was a gazebo stationed at the end of Howard Bernstein Way, opposite City's Academy Stadium, which lies adjacent to the Etihad Stadium.

"We started it after the General Election because… you know," said Alex Timperley, one of the founders of MCFC Fans Foodbank Support.

Over the course of six collections, Alex and his team amassed more than a tonne of food for Manchester Central Foodbank. They were not the only group of football supporters stirred into action by fears over that the next term of government might mean for the most vulnerable in the UK.

"It was a numbers game for me. I was thinking we've got 60,000 coming to the London Stadium every game and if we could just get a percentage of those donating, we were on a win-win," John Ratomski of West Ham's Irons Supporting Foodbanks told Stats Perform News.

"Also, you look at the East End community spirit, which has always been a very, very strong community. They've always helped themselves and each other. I felt the West Ham fan base would be very supportive of what we're doing."

Spiralling foodbank usage in the UK is unquestionably a stain upon one of the wealthiest countries in the world. However, a desperate situation has brought about countless extraordinary deeds from ordinary people, with football fans increasingly putting themselves at the forefront.

When starting up their own operations, Alex and John each reached out to the Liverpool-based Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF).

HUNGER DOESN'T WEAR CLUB COLOURS

Established by Liverpool fan and now Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby Ian Byrne and Everton supporter Dave Kelly in October 2015, FSF – proudly bearing its tagline "Hunger Doesn't Wear Club Colours"  – held 223 consecutive matchday collections at Anfield and Goodison Park, a run necessarily halted by June's behind-closed-doors Merseyside derby.

Far from halting the efforts of a movement primarily based upon receiving donations from face-to-face interactions on a matchday, the post-coronavirus world and its myriad challenges have seen FSF and its affiliated groups, such as those at City and West Ham, step up activities and tailor them to the times.

A joint fundraising effort between City and their United counterparts tipped over £15,000 this week. That follows the two Manchester clubs, cajoled as much as inspired by the efforts of their respective fans, donating a combined £100,000 to the Trussell Trust shortly after lockdown took hold.

The Trussell Trust supports a network of over 1,200 foodbank centres nationwide. In April, it reported an 89 per cent increase in the need for emergency food parcels compared to the same month last year, including a 107 per cent rise in parcels given to children. The number of families with children receiving parcels doubled over the same timeframe.

"The one we work with, Manchester Central, in April gave out four times as many food parcels as they did last April," Alex told Stats Perform News, confirming a similarly grim picture locally.

"The flip side of that is they told us that our donations in cash and what we'd got out of the club had meant that two of the people who used to volunteer there have been able to work their full-time.

"They've got expanded capacity but that's quite a small win when you think that the expanded capacity means they're able to feed people who presumably would have needed feeding anyway but they wouldn't have been able to.

"The longer this goes on, the worse foodbanks are going to get hit so we need to keep going."

WORKING WITH CLUBS FROM THE OUTSIDE

And keep going they will. FSF is clear in the fact it does not wish to be a PR opportunity for individual teams, with working across clubs for the betterment of all a central part of its ethos.

Nevertheless, mutually beneficial relationships have been harnessed impressively, from the City group lobbying their club successfully over season ticket rebates and matchday staff pay for cancelled games, to donations and foodbank support at Liverpool and West Ham.

By mid-may, Liverpool had contributed £90,000 to its own emergency foodbank appeal, with fans more than doubling the £15,000 target of the associated fundraiser. During the spectacular on-field lights show that accompanied Jordan Henderson lifting the Premier League trophy, the FSF logo was beamed on to the Anfield pitch before a global audience of millions.

At West Ham, John's fledgling operation also won support from the boardroom.

"We reckon that, on average, we were raising about £700 a game in the value of cash and food donations," he explained.

"The owner, David Sullivan, found out that we were £3,500 short with the five cancelled games and made a direct donation from his own money to Newham Foodbank, covering any losses from those five games.

"He said he'll be more supportive, he admires what we do. That's a terrific gesture."

Sullivan also signed off a £1,500 contribution to cover 1,000 deliveries to London from the Merseyside PPE (personal protective equipment) hub, which has been a huge part of FSF's operations during the pandemic, working tirelessly to meet the shortfall experienced by frontline workers across the country.

EVERYDAY HEROES

Alex recounted the tale of Southport-based City fan Karl Dunkerly, who gave MCFC Fans Foodbank Support 3,000 PPE visors to be distributed through the Manchester care system and other groups who need them.

Even with fans being kept away from the game they love, football has provided a platform for these incredible acts of kindness to be felt more widely.

The philanthropic efforts of players through the Players Together fund, along with Marcus Rashford successfully bringing about a change in government policy as he campaigns against child poverty, were part of what started to look something like a social awakening for football in England during the COVID-19 crisis.

Premier League shirts bearing support for the NHS and Black Lives Matter, along with teams taking a knee before kick-off, underlines the shift of clubs, who are now multinational companies, embracing issues they might once have felt they could leave alone.

The group of fans committed to supporting society's most vulnerable will continue to show this kinder face of the game everywhere they look. As one strange season blurs into the next, it is no time to let up.

"I expect that there will be a large number of the public that equates a football fan to a hooligan," John said.

"It goes back to what happened in the 70s and 80s. This shows another angle to the football fan now, that they can make these contributions to the foodbank."

As the City group continue with plans to support Ronald McDonald House and campaign for more equitable arrangements in Manchester's rental sector, Alex concurs.

"There's nothing else in the country, maybe in the world, which organises people like football," he said "We're using that and we've got lots of plans."

Page 1 of 75
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.