Coronavirus: Real Madrid player ‘tests positive’ ahead of Champions League tie against Man City


Real Madrid’s Champions League preparations are thrown into chaos as striker Mariano tests positive for coronavirus after his holiday – just 10 days before trip to face Manchester City

  • Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus
  • Mariano returned from a short holiday and was tested by the club on Monday
  • He is now in quarantine for two weeks but the club say he is ‘in perfectly health’ 
  • It is unclear how the positive test will affect the game at Manchester City
  • UK re-imposed requirement for travellers from Spain to have 14 days in isolation
  • City and Real are set to conclude their last-16 Champions League tie next Friday 

Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus and will now miss their Champions League tie with Manchester City next week.

The club have confirmed that Diaz returned a positive Covid-19 test and is now in quarantine at home after missing training on Tuesday. 

Spanish newspaper Marca are reporting that Diaz returned a positive test on his return from holiday following a short trip after the conclusion of the LaLiga season. 

Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus after returning to the club

Diaz returned from a short holiday after the LaLiga season finished and was tested on Monday

Diaz returned from a short holiday after the LaLiga season finished and was tested on Monday

The Spanish giants are due to play Manchester City in the Champions League next Friday 

A club statement read: ‘After the COVID-19 tests carried out individually on our first football team yesterday (Monday) by the Real Madrid Medical Services, our player Mariano has given a positive result.

‘The player is in perfect health and complying with the sanitary isolation protocol at home.’

The Spanish giants are due to play the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at the Etihad Stadium on August 7.

Mariano will now have to undertake a two-week quarantine period, ruling him out of the game against the Premier League side. 

It remains to be seen how the positive test will impact the game against Manchester City

It remains to be seen how the positive test will impact the game against Manchester City

The UK re-imposed requirement for travellers arriving from Spain to spend 14 days in isolation

The UK re-imposed requirement for travellers arriving from Spain to spend 14 days in isolation

The news comes amid the ongoing row between the UK and Spanish Governments after the UK re-imposed the requirement for travellers arriving from Spain to spend 14 days in quarantine. 

But the positive test is now likely to bring the game into question, particularly if more Real players test positive in their next round of testing.

It will also ramp up the pressure on the Government, with the Spanish champions currently allowed to the travel and play despite the UK’s new quarantine rules due to exemptions surrounding their ‘bubbled environment’.   

It was decided on Saturday that the UK should remove Spain from its list of safe countries to travel to after fears were raised that the European country was experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections. 

Ministers decided to reimpose quarantine travel restrictions on Spain from midnight on Sunday after it emerged 10 Britons had returned home from the country with coronavirus.

The UK’s chief medical office, Professor Chris Whitty, led a meeting with six senior ministers to discuss the worsening situation in Spain and insisted action had to be taken. 

Mariano (second from right) has played just seven times for Real this season in all competitions

Mariano (second from right) has played just seven times for Real this season in all competitions

Real Madrid won the LaLiga title this season, finishing five points clear of rivals Barcelona

Real Madrid won the LaLiga title this season, finishing five points clear of rivals Barcelona

It comes just over a week after Real wrapped up their LaLiga campaign, which followed a strict set of protocols to ensure the season could be concluded after the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.

Real won the LaLiga title, finishing five points clear of rivals Barcelona, but face an uphill task to eliminate City from the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s side hold a 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg at the Bernabeu way back in February. Captain Sergio Ramos was also sent off so he will be missing for the return leg.

Mariano is far from a key player for Zidane. He has played just seven times for Real this season across all competitions and has scored one goal. 

Coronavirus: Real Madrid player ‘tests positive’ ahead of Champions League tie against Man City


Real Madrid’s Champions League preparations are thrown into chaos as striker Mariano tests positive for coronavirus after his holiday – just 10 days before trip to face Manchester City

Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus and will now miss their Champions League tie with Manchester City next week.

The club have confirmed that Diaz returned a positive Covid-19 test and is now in quarantine at home after missing training on Tuesday. 

Spanish newspaper Marca are reporting that Diaz returned a positive test on his return from holiday following a trip after the conclusion of the LaLiga season. 

Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus after returning to the club

Diaz returned from a short holiday after the LaLiga season finished and was tested on Monday

Diaz returned from a short holiday after the LaLiga season finished and was tested on Monday

The Spanish giants are due to play Manchester City in the Champions League next Friday 

A club statement read: ‘After the COVID-19 tests carried out individually on our first football team yesterday (Monday) by the Real Madrid Medical Services, our player Mariano has given a positive result.

‘The player is in perfect health and complying with the sanitary isolation protocol at home.’

The Spanish giants are due to play the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at the Etihad Stadium on August 7.

The player will now have to undertake a two-week quarantine period, ruling them out of the game against the Premier League side. 

The news comes in the wake of the ongoing row between the UK and Spanish Government’s after the UK re-imposed the requirement for travellers arriving from Spain to spend 14 days in quarantine. 

But the positive test is now likely to bring the game into question, particularly if more Real players test positive in their next round of testing.

It will also ramp up the pressure on the Government, with the Spanish champions currently allowed to the travel and play despite the UK’s new quarantine rules due to exemptions surrounding their ‘bubbled environment’.   

It remains to be seen how the positive test will impact the game against Manchester City

It remains to be seen how the positive test will impact the game against Manchester City

It was decided on Saturday that the UK should remove Spain from its list of safe countries to travel to, after fears were raised that the European country was experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections. 

Ministers decided to reimpose quarantine travel restrictions on Spain from midnight on Sunday after it emerged 10 Britons had returned from the country with coronavirus.

The UK’s chief medical office, Professor Chris Whitty, led a meeting with six senior ministers to discussing the worsening of the situation in Spain.  

It comes just over a week after Real wrapped up their LaLiga campaign, which followed a strict set of protocols to ensure the season could be concluded in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Real won the LaLiga title but face an uphill task to eliminate City for the Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s side hold a 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg at the Bernabeu in March.  

More to follow. 

Liverpool could join Arsenal and Rangers in winning the league at their rivals


Liverpool could deal Everton the ultimate humiliation by winning the Premier League title in their backyard next month as football returns after the coronavirus pandemic.

The two sides are set to meet in the Merseyside derby during the first weekend of full fixtures following the restart with plenty to play for – and that’s an understatement!

The Reds sit 25 points clear of reigning champions Manchester City as they look to win their first-league title in 30 years.

Having won 27 of 29 games played this term – drawing one and losing the other to Watford – Liverpool only need six points from their last nine games to be handed the trophy.

Should City lose their first game back to the Gunners on June 17, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be confirmed as champions if they beat rivals Everton just a few days later.

A result against the Toffees next month could see them join the exclusive list of clubs that have been fortunate enough to claim a title in their rival’s backyard.

Including those such as Arsenal who won at both Old Trafford and While Hart Lane and Rangers who secured the title at Celtic Park in 1999. 

Liverpool could win the Premier League title in Everton’s backyard during clash on June 20

1989 – Arsenal win at Anfield

Regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history, Arsenal won the league title against Liverpool at Anfield in the final moments of the game.

Liverpool, the defending champions, had won 17 of their last 18 fixtures in all competitions. The Merseyside team were expected to win again as they hadn’t lost by two goals at Anfield since February 1986.

Whereas Arsenal, the underdogs, were trying to win the title for the first time since 1971 and needed to win by two or more goals to secure the title.

Arsenal manager George Graham used Steve Bould as a third central defender and his 3-5-2 system was designed to frustrate.

There were no goals in the first half but the complexion of the game changed dramatically after an opening goal from Alan Smith on 52 minutes gave the visitors hope.

Before an injury-time winner from Michael Thomas made their title dreams become a reality. 

Arsenal's 1989 win at Anfield is regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history

Arsenal’s 1989 win at Anfield is regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history

1999 – Rangers win at Celtic Park

Old Firm games between Rangers and Celtic are known for their sectarian songs, offensive banners, fierce atmospheres and violence.

The Glasgow derby is one of the fiercest rivalries in sport, let alone the result of the match leading to the confirmation of the title.

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to the Celtic Park in hope of clinching the title by winning the Old Firm.

Rangers won the game 3-0 thanks to Neil McCann and Jorg Albertz, securing the title at Celtic Park that will live long in the memory for any Gers supporters.

However, the game was later dubbed as the ‘Shame Game’ following a series of incidents during the game.

Fans tried to invade the pitch twice while the game was being played and also targeted referee Hugh Dallas by throwing a coin at his head during the match. Dallas was forced to receive treatment on the pitch.

Dallas went on to award a penalty to Rangers and send off two Celtic players, causing more drama.

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to Celtic Park and won the title following a 3-0 victory

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to Celtic Park and won the title following a 3-0 victory

However, the game was later dubbed the 'Shame Game' following a series of violent incidents

However, the game was later dubbed the ‘Shame Game’ following a series of violent incidents

2002 – Arsenal win at Old Trafford

Arsenal made the trip to Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the 2001-2002 campaign, in the hope of sealing an historic Double.

Four days before the trip to Manchester, the Gunners won the FA Cup beating Chelsea 2-0 with goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.

Despite the absence of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams on May 8, 2002, Wenger’s side secured the title after Sylvain Wiltord, on his 100th appearance for the club, slotted home the winner.

The Gunners finished seven points clear of United and ended the campaign with 13 consecutive victories as they went unbeaten away from home and scored in all 38 matches.

Arsenal finished seven points clear of United, ending their run with 13 consecutive victories

Arsenal finished seven points clear of United, ending their run with 13 consecutive victories

2004 – Arsenal win at White Hart Lane

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal’s Invincibles made history by securing the Premier League title at White Hart Lane and celebrated in front of the home fans.

Understandably, a move that made waves and fuelled the flames even further of the Gunners’ long-running rivalry with fellow north Londoners Tottenham.

Though, celebrations were in order as Arsene Wenger’s team went on to win the Premier League without a single defeat – earning themselves the nickname ‘The Invincibles.’

Tottenham, did however, hold The Invincibles to a 2-2 draw, with a late equaliser from Robbie Keane, but one point was enough to seal the deal.

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal's Invincibles made history by securing the title

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal’s Invincibles made history by securing the title

Arsene Wenger's team managed to win the Premier League without suffering a single defeat

Arsene Wenger’s team managed to win the Premier League without suffering a single defeat

Liverpool could join Arsenal and Rangers in winning the league at their rivals


Liverpool could deal Everton the ultimate humiliation by winning the Premier League title in their backyard next month as football returns after the coronavirus pandemic.

The two sides are set to meet in the Merseyside derby during the first weekend of full fixtures following the restart with plenty to play for – and that’s an understatement!

The Reds sit 25 points clear of reigning champions Manchester City as they look to win their first-league title in 30 years.

Having won 27 of 29 games played this term – drawing one and losing the other to Watford – Liverpool only need six points from their last nine games to be handed the trophy.

Should City lose their first game back to the Gunners on June 17, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be confirmed as champions if they beat rivals Everton just a few days later.

A result against the Toffees next month could see them join the exclusive list of clubs that have been fortunate enough to claim a title in their rival’s backyard.

Including those such as Arsenal who won at both Old Trafford and While Hart Lane and Rangers who secured the title at Celtic Park in 1999. 

Liverpool could win the Premier League title in Everton’s backyard during clash on June 20

1989 – Arsenal win at Anfield

Regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history, Arsenal won the league title against Liverpool at Anfield in the final moments of the game.

Liverpool, the defending champions, had won 17 of their last 18 fixtures in all competitions. The Merseyside team were expected to win again as they hadn’t lost by two goals at Anfield since February 1986.

Whereas Arsenal, the underdogs, were trying to win the title for the first time since 1971 and needed to win by two or more goals to secure the title.

Arsenal manager George Graham used Steve Bould as a third central defender and his 3-5-2 system was designed to frustrate.

There were no goals in the first half but the complexion of the game changed dramatically after an opening goal from Alan Smith on 52 minutes gave the visitors hope.

Before an injury-time winner from Michael Thomas made their title dreams become a reality. 

Arsenal's 1989 win at Anfield is regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history

Arsenal’s 1989 win at Anfield is regarded as one of the most dramatic season-finales in history

1999 – Rangers win at Celtic Park

Old Firm games between Rangers and Celtic are known for their sectarian songs, offensive banners, fierce atmospheres and violence.

The Glasgow derby is one of the fiercest rivalries in sport, let alone the result of the match leading to the confirmation of the title.

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to the Celtic Park in hope of clinching the title by winning the Old Firm.

Rangers won the game 3-0 thanks to Neil McCann and Jorg Albertz, securing the title at Celtic Park that will live long in the memory for any Gers supporters.

However, the game was later dubbed as the ‘Shame Game’ following a series of incidents during the game.

Fans tried to invade the pitch twice while the game was being played and also targeted referee Hugh Dallas by throwing a coin at his head during the match. Dallas was forced to receive treatment on the pitch.

Dallas went on to award a penalty to Rangers and send off two Celtic players, causing more drama.

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to Celtic Park and won the title following a 3-0 victory

On May 2, 1999, Rangers headed to Celtic Park and won the title following a 3-0 victory

However, the game was later dubbed the 'Shame Game' following a series of violent incidents

However, the game was later dubbed the ‘Shame Game’ following a series of violent incidents

2002 – Arsenal win at Old Trafford

Arsenal made the trip to Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the 2001-2002 campaign, in the hope of sealing an historic Double.

Four days before the trip to Manchester, the Gunners won the FA Cup beating Chelsea 2-0 with goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.

Despite the absence of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams on May 8, 2002, Wenger’s side secured the title after Sylvain Wiltord, on his 100th appearance for the club, slotted home the winner.

The Gunners finished seven points clear of United and ended the campaign with 13 consecutive victories as they went unbeaten away from home and scored in all 38 matches.

Arsenal finished seven points clear of United, ending their run with 13 consecutive victories

Arsenal finished seven points clear of United, ending their run with 13 consecutive victories

2004 – Arsenal win at White Hart Lane

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal’s Invincibles made history by securing the Premier League title at White Hart Lane and celebrated in front of the home fans.

Understandably, a move that made waves and fuelled the flames even further of the Gunners’ long-running rivalry with fellow north Londoners Tottenham.

Though, celebrations were in order as Arsene Wenger’s team went on to win the Premier League without a single defeat – earning themselves the nickname ‘The Invincibles.’

Tottenham, did however, hold The Invincibles to a 2-2 draw, with a late equaliser from Robbie Keane, but one point was enough to seal the deal.

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal's Invincibles made history by securing the title

April 25, 2004, marks the date when Arsenal’s Invincibles made history by securing the title

Arsene Wenger's team managed to win the Premier League without suffering a single defeat

Arsene Wenger’s team managed to win the Premier League without suffering a single defeat

Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City AND Chelsea in KPMG’s list of Europe’s most valuable clubs


Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City AND Chelsea in KPMG’s list of Europe’s most valuable clubs as their valuation jumps 19 per cent to £2.25BILLION… but they still lag some way behind mega-rich Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United

  • European champions Liverpool were biggest winners in KPMG Rich List
  • Their values soared by almost a fifth to £2.25bn during a successful 2019
  • That saw them leapfrog Manchester City and Chelsea to fifth in the rankings
  • But they still trail the wealth of Real Madrid, Man United and Barcelona 
  • Real hang on to top spot in KPMG list with an enterprise value of £2.95bn 
  • United saw a slight decrease in value but remain second with worth of £2.84bn 

Liverpool have leapfrogged Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in the list of Europe’s most valuable clubs with their valuation soaring by 19 per cent to almost £2.25billion.

But the reigning European champions remain some way behind the wealth of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona in the annual rich list.

The Bernabeu club remain top of KPMG’s rankings for 2020 with an enterprise value of £2.95bn following a small increase of 1.5 per cent over the past year.

Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2019 helped them soar up the KPMG Rich List 

Real Madrid remain top of the KPMG rankings, however, with an enterprise value of £2.95bn

Real Madrid remain top of the KPMG rankings, however, with an enterprise value of £2.95bn

But it was enough to keep them ahead of United in second place, whose value actually went down two per cent to £2.84bn over the past 12 months.

That has allowed Barcelona, who overtook Bayern Munich into third, to close the gap following a 12.2 per cent rise in value to £2.7bn.

But Liverpool are the big winners off the back of their Champions League triumph last season and likely Premier League success if this season can resume.

A rise in value of 19.3 per cent was recorded by KPMG’s figures, which saw them move ahead of Man City and Chelsea with an enterprise value of some £2.25bn.

City recorded a tiny 0.3 per cent contraction and are worth £2.21bn, while Chelsea, who won last season’s Europa League, are valued at £1.88bn, down 6.3 per cent.

Manchester United remain second in the list with a value of £2.84bn despite a small decrease

Manchester United remain second in the list with a value of £2.84bn despite a small decrease

Barcelona return to third place, overtaking Bayern Munich following a 12 per cent rise

Barcelona return to third place, overtaking Bayern Munich following a 12 per cent rise

Liverpool moved ahead of both Chelsea and Manchester City following their European win

Liverpool moved ahead of both Chelsea and Manchester City following their European win

Rich List rankings 

Shows each club’s Enterprise Value for 2020 and year-on-year change 

1. Real Madrid (unchanged) – £2.95bn (+1.5%)

2. Manchester United (unchanged) – £2.84bn (-2%)

3. Barcelona (+1) – £2.71bn (+12.2%)

4. Bayern Munich (-1) – £2.44bn (+0.4%)

5. Liverpool (+2) – £2.26bn (+19.3%)

6. Manchester City (-1) – £2.21bn (-0.3%)

7. Chelsea (-1) – £1.88bn (-6.3%)

8. Tottenham Hotspur (+1) – £1.75bn (+15.8%)

9. Paris Saint-Germain (+2) – £1.62bn (+36.7%)

10. Arsenal (-2) – £1.57bn (-13.2%)

Source: KPMG 

Tottenham, who lost to Liverpool in last season’s Champions League final, climbed a place into eighth, while Paris Saint-Germain recorded enormous growth of 36.7 per cent to move above Arsenal and Juventus into the top 10.

Arsenal, who have missed out on Champions League football for the past two years, slip 13.2 per cent in value to 10th at £1.57bn.

However, KPMG make clear their figures were compiled five months ago on January 1 and do not include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit every football club. Next year’s valuations will take this impact into account.

Other big winners included Inter Milan, whose value rose by 33.7 per cent, lifting them to 14th position and fellow Serie A club Roma, who climbed five spots to 16th.

In all, there are eight Premier League clubs in the top 20, with West Ham and Leicester adding to those in the top 10.




MARTIN SAMUEL: Jack Grealish, you are a fool and a COVIDIOT


Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Wise words. And having tweeted them to those with their noses pressed to the glass in the hope of seeing another human being, off went Jack Grealish to a private party.

Well, not a party as such, more a gathering. A soiree if you will. One that was lively enough to still be going at 4am, according to the neighbours, culminating in Grealish playing bumper cars with his Range Rover and several parked vehicles as he attempted to exit a Solihull street four hours later.

On Monday night, he was back on social media recording another message, to apologise for his behaviour and to implore people to do the opposite of his actions at the weekend.

His apology came shortly after he urged people to stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak

Jack Grealish apologised for going to a party (left) after urging people to stay at home (right)

Easy, isn’t it, though? A tweet. A clap. A line. A video. The empty gesture. Like a great many high-profile figures in sport, Grealish had been asked to spread the Government message on coronavirus and duly obliged. He just didn’t think those same orders applied to him.

He is famous, after all, he is not a civilian. Standing at the scene of his accident, dishevelled, wearing one flip-flop, one furry slipper, Grealish’s main concern, witnesses said, was getting away before the authorities arrived. He offered to pay for the damage, and swiftly departed.

‘Suddenly, he wasn’t around,’ said a neighbour. Tweets, shoots and leaves. It is the style of the modern professional footballer.

Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester manager, identified how easy it was for a player to excuse a poor performance these days. A glib post-match apology to the fans on Instagram and it was all forgotten, he said.

A white Range Rover damaged two parked cars in a crash in the early hours of Sunday morning

A white Range Rover damaged two parked cars in a crash in the early hours of Sunday morning

Previous generations had a week to stew on a poor result, seven days for the next match to come around in the hope of making it right. These days, 10 seconds, more or less, depending on thumb speed.

It was the same for Grealish. He trotted out his coronavirus slogans without a thought to what they actually meant, then posted a 58-second mea culpa when he failed to live up to his own standards.

He is not alone. We all know people who clapped for the NHS last Thursday, having given public houses their best night of the year the previous Friday. It is no effort, clapping. It is the other stuff that is arduous, staying home, staying two metres, saving lives.

Maybe Grealish is surprised by the reaction to his latest — certainly not the first — indiscretion. He shouldn’t be. Coronavirus is an enhancer. It adds perspective, context, like little before. It reveals character, it focuses minds.

An image of a man resembling Grealish, wearing odd footwear, was circulated on social media

An image of a man resembling Grealish, wearing odd footwear, was circulated on social media

Take Mike Ashley. He confesses his mistakes as owner of Newcastle United, and appears plausible. When he admits failing to invest at the right time, or explains the background to Rafael Benitez’s departure, his remorse sounds genuine. Yet, last week, first attempting to keep his Sports Direct chain open against Government advice, then ramping up the price on certain items to take advantage of the coronavirus lockdown, his actions became inexcusable. More apologies and an offer to make his fleet of lorries available to the NHS followed. Yet it was too late. The damage was done.

On Monday, Newcastle became the first Premier League club to put their non-playing staff on furlough. It may be that others follow. It is certainly no different from the instincts of thousands of businesses, in all fields of enterprise, around the country.

Coming from Ashley right now, however, it feels different. After last week, nobody will forget what he described with tone-deaf understatement as a misunderstanding. In the shadow of coronavirus, people understand only too well.

It is no different for Grealish. Quite probably, the cost here may be greater than a dented bumper, a smashed rear light and a lost no claims bonus. This was meant to be his summer. The summer of Grealish. The summer he got the big move out of Aston Villa, the summer he made England’s squad for the European Championship finals, maybe even the team.

This summer was supposed to be when Grealish got his big move away from Aston Villa

This summer was supposed to be when Grealish got his big move away from Aston Villa 

Now, he is back where he started. All his good work across the last two seasons is undone. He is back to being the nitrous oxide inhaler of 2015, the player who was photographed passed out on a street in Tenerife. In a world where money is tighter than ever before, would you take a chance on this man?

Anyone who thinks the 2020 transfer market will boom as always is spending no time in conversation with the nation’s chief executives. One of the reasons clubs may soon begin to clamour for the season to be curtailed is because only then can the Premier League hand out its merit payments.

Clubs will have to accept a league position frozen at 29 games — with perhaps an aggregate adjustment for those with a match in hand — but at least they can then make salary demands. The reason many are none too keen on bailing out lower leagues is they cannot be sure of paying their own bills yet. So this is the market into which Grealish arrives, his most recently memorable contributions being an underwhelming Carabao Cup final turn and an appearance in every national newspaper beneath the headline COVIDIOT.

And that may be harsh because Grealish has had an outstanding season and Villa would be in considerably more trouble without him. Yet, equally, this is a transfer measured in tens of millions that may be the limit of the summer budget, even at a club the size of Manchester United.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may now be less inclined to sign Grealish

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may now be less inclined to sign Grealish

So balance that with the risk Grealish took at the weekend. Not just with family members and the public, but with his club if there is a plan to return on the first Saturday in May. Training may start soon. Villa need the whole staff to be sensible. Grealish heads off to a jolly-up and then, his driving skills found wanting, is forced to stand in close proximity to several bystanders, giving his details. A smart guy off the pitch is likely to be a smart guy on it, too. What does this say about Grealish’s smarts?

Gareth Southgate is no rigid disciplinarian, but he believes in personal responsibility, as James Maddison discovered. If he has a decision to make on Grealish, it may already be formulating. If he didn’t indulge Wayne Rooney, why would he indulge a player who hasn’t even made his team yet?

Coronavirus is heightening awareness. It is not enough to clap, or tweet, or record your empathy these days. Mean it, or forget it. Mean it, or stand on the kerb in one flip-flop and a furry slipper, looking like the fool you are.

STAY SAFE – AND STAY PATIENT! 

Watford defender Christian Kabasale says he is spending time at home with his son, playing Pokemon. 

‘I am trying to enter his world, trying to make the time go faster,’ he says. He may have picked the wrong activity there. Pokemon is a design classic, a brilliant game and recommended for all, but patience is required. 

Put it like this — in the animated series, Ash Ketchum, the hero, finally achieved his dream of becoming a Pokemon master in September last year. The show started in 1997.

Not one for Jack Grealish, perhaps. Stay safe all.

IT’S A HAZARD OF A JOB, BUT RONALDO PUTS EDEN IN SHADE 

Eden Hazard wishes to put the first season at Real Madrid behind him. ‘It’s been one of adaptation,’ he said. ‘I’ll be judged on next season.’ 

Injury has affected Hazard, true, but he turned up for pre-season unfit and in the 15 games he has played, scored a single goal. 

Compare this to Cristiano Ronaldo, who came from the same league as Hazard but needed no spell of adaptation, rewarding Real with 33 goals in 35 games in his first campaign. 

Hazard will have to go some to match his second season, too — 53 goals in 54 games —although one might say judgement is already in. Ronaldo is a different class, plainly. 

Eden Hazard has endured a difficult first season at Real Madrid, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo

Eden Hazard has endured a difficult first season at Real Madrid, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo

GAMES ANNIVERSARY WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD 

There really shouldn’t be an argument over the London Stadium’s priorities this summer. Whether what remains of West Ham’s Premier League fixtures or the Anniversary Games take place is unknown. but, as anchor tenants, the football club has clear primacy.

Any hope of compromise probably took a hit, too, when the new chief executive of UK Athletics, Joanna Coates, blundered unhelpfully into the conversation by calling on West Ham to waive tenancy rights so a dwindling crowd can wallow in past glories at enormous cost to the taxpayer.

The Anniversary Games — a needy branding that harks back to the 2012 Olympics — were scheduled to take place on July 4-5, with the stadium refit for those nights weighing in at over £4 million.

It is money the Government does not have at this time.

The reconfiguration also takes several weeks and it cannot be known from a reasonable distance whether large gatherings will be permitted, or whether stadium workers are even allowed in proximity for the refit. It could be that £4m is spent for nothing because if the Olympics cannot take place at the end of July, how will London be ready for the start of that month?

West Ham, meanwhile, could play behind closed doors through the summer. Indeed, some would argue they are the one club who would not suffer from a loss of atmosphere — while still paying rent.

Year on year, interest in athletics and its Olympic anniversary fades. In 2019, UKA boasted 40,000 attending across two nights but refused to say how many in the crowd were guests. 

West Ham’s average attendance per league game this season is recorded at 59,896 and the crowd drawn to the Anniversary Games was more in line with their family fun day. It is a pity, but athletics’ sense of entitlement around the London Stadium is an indulgence we can increasingly ill afford.

The London Stadium should play host to West Ham's games above anything else this summer

The London Stadium should play host to West Ham’s games above anything else this summer

TRAGIC MASON THE FORGOTTEN SCANDAL VICTIM 

Anyone who cares about the true cost of cheating in sport will be saddened by the story of Germaine Mason.

At the Beijing Olympics, he won silver in the men’s high jump, finishing second to Russia’s Andrey Silnov.

The Athletics Integrity Unit has now charged Silnov with doping offences as a result of the McLaren investigation, presented to the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016. S

Silnov was already a discredited figure as a senior vice-president of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been banned from the sport since 2015, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport will now consider whether a suspected positive test for the anabolic steroid Turinabol can impact on his status as a gold medallist in 2008. 

If it does, Mason will be placed atop the Olympic podium, an honour he will never know after perishing in a motorcycle accident in 2017. Tragedy upon tragedy; that is what cheating inflicts.

LET McLEAN HAVE HIS JOKE 

Everybody knows what James McClean is, everybody knows the type of people he regards as heroes, or martyrs.

Yet seeing his photograph in a black balaclava, supposedly home-schooling his children with the caption: ‘Today’s lesson — history’ made me laugh. It was a joke; a joke about his beliefs.

Then again, I’ve never understood why clubs are fined when their fans sing ‘F*** the IRA’ at him either. The FA act as if it is a form of racist abuse. It isn’t.

The IRA were a terrorist organisation. They were murderers. They killed innocents, they killed kids. So, yes, f*** the IRA. But allow McClean his joke.

James McClean posted this image of himself wearing a black balaclava in front of his children

James McClean posted this image of himself wearing a black balaclava in front of his children

A correction to last week’s column. I am indebted to reader Nick Perry for pointing out that it is the 150th Open that will be marked next year, not the Open’s 150th anniversary. 

Meaning, if the event is not played at Royal St George’s this year, there would be no problem bumping each venue back 12 months. Unless, of course, there are already several warehouses in Fife packed to the rafters with merchandise celebrating the 150th Open, St Andrews, July 15-18, 2021. 

OLYMPIC-SIZED PROBLEM FOR JAPAN TO SOLVE 

In Japan, the view is growing that coronavirus numbers were suppressed to avoid damaging their status as Olympic hosts this summer.

The daily infection count has risen steadily since last week when the event was finally cancelled, leaving many suspicious about previous figures.

Yukio Hatoyama, prime minister from September 16, 2009 to June 8, 2010, is among those arguing the count is changing now Tokyo has no reason to disguise it. ‘To make an impression that the city was taking control of the coronavirus, Tokyo made the number of patients look smaller,’ he said. ‘It has spread while they waited. It was Olympics first, not Tokyo’s residents.’

The IOC’s response, meanwhile, has been to rush through another date on which the Tokyo Olympics must begin: Friday, July 23, 2021. It is almost as if they want the world to just pretend.

 

MARTIN SAMUEL: Jack Grealish, you are a fool and a COVIDIOT


Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Wise words. And having tweeted them to those with their noses pressed to the glass in the hope of seeing another human being, off went Jack Grealish to a private party.

Well, not a party as such, more a gathering. A soiree if you will. One that was lively enough to still be going at 4am, according to the neighbours, culminating in Grealish playing bumper cars with his Range Rover and several parked vehicles as he attempted to exit a Solihull street four hours later.

On Monday night, he was back on social media recording another message, to apologise for his behaviour and to implore people to do the opposite of his actions at the weekend.

His apology came shortly after he urged people to stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak

Jack Grealish apologised for going to a party (left) after urging people to stay at home (right)

Easy, isn’t it, though? A tweet. A clap. A line. A video. The empty gesture. Like a great many high-profile figures in sport, Grealish had been asked to spread the Government message on coronavirus and duly obliged. He just didn’t think those same orders applied to him.

He is famous, after all, he is not a civilian. Standing at the scene of his accident, dishevelled, wearing one flip-flop, one furry slipper, Grealish’s main concern, witnesses said, was getting away before the authorities arrived. He offered to pay for the damage, and swiftly departed.

‘Suddenly, he wasn’t around,’ said a neighbour. Tweets, shoots and leaves. It is the style of the modern professional footballer.

Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester manager, identified how easy it was for a player to excuse a poor performance these days. A glib post-match apology to the fans on Instagram and it was all forgotten, he said.

A white Range Rover damaged two parked cars in a crash in the early hours of Sunday morning

A white Range Rover damaged two parked cars in a crash in the early hours of Sunday morning

Previous generations had a week to stew on a poor result, seven days for the next match to come around in the hope of making it right. These days, 10 seconds, more or less, depending on thumb speed.

It was the same for Grealish. He trotted out his coronavirus slogans without a thought to what they actually meant, then posted a 58-second mea culpa when he failed to live up to his own standards.

He is not alone. We all know people who clapped for the NHS last Thursday, having given public houses their best night of the year the previous Friday. It is no effort, clapping. It is the other stuff that is arduous, staying home, staying two metres, saving lives.

Maybe Grealish is surprised by the reaction to his latest — certainly not the first — indiscretion. He shouldn’t be. Coronavirus is an enhancer. It adds perspective, context, like little before. It reveals character, it focuses minds.

An image of a man resembling Grealish, wearing odd footwear, was circulated on social media

An image of a man resembling Grealish, wearing odd footwear, was circulated on social media

Take Mike Ashley. He confesses his mistakes as owner of Newcastle United, and appears plausible. When he admits failing to invest at the right time, or explains the background to Rafael Benitez’s departure, his remorse sounds genuine. Yet, last week, first attempting to keep his Sports Direct chain open against Government advice, then ramping up the price on certain items to take advantage of the coronavirus lockdown, his actions became inexcusable. More apologies and an offer to make his fleet of lorries available to the NHS followed. Yet it was too late. The damage was done.

On Monday, Newcastle became the first Premier League club to put their non-playing staff on furlough. It may be that others follow. It is certainly no different from the instincts of thousands of businesses, in all fields of enterprise, around the country.

Coming from Ashley right now, however, it feels different. After last week, nobody will forget what he described with tone-deaf understatement as a misunderstanding. In the shadow of coronavirus, people understand only too well.

It is no different for Grealish. Quite probably, the cost here may be greater than a dented bumper, a smashed rear light and a lost no claims bonus. This was meant to be his summer. The summer of Grealish. The summer he got the big move out of Aston Villa, the summer he made England’s squad for the European Championship finals, maybe even the team.

This summer was supposed to be when Grealish got his big move away from Aston Villa

This summer was supposed to be when Grealish got his big move away from Aston Villa 

Now, he is back where he started. All his good work across the last two seasons is undone. He is back to being the nitrous oxide inhaler of 2015, the player who was photographed passed out on a street in Tenerife. In a world where money is tighter than ever before, would you take a chance on this man?

Anyone who thinks the 2020 transfer market will boom as always is spending no time in conversation with the nation’s chief executives. One of the reasons clubs may soon begin to clamour for the season to be curtailed is because only then can the Premier League hand out its merit payments.

Clubs will have to accept a league position frozen at 29 games — with perhaps an aggregate adjustment for those with a match in hand — but at least they can then make salary demands. The reason many are none too keen on bailing out lower leagues is they cannot be sure of paying their own bills yet. So this is the market into which Grealish arrives, his most recently memorable contributions being an underwhelming Carabao Cup final turn and an appearance in every national newspaper beneath the headline COVIDIOT.

And that may be harsh because Grealish has had an outstanding season and Villa would be in considerably more trouble without him. Yet, equally, this is a transfer measured in tens of millions that may be the limit of the summer budget, even at a club the size of Manchester United.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may now be less inclined to sign Grealish

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may now be less inclined to sign Grealish

So balance that with the risk Grealish took at the weekend. Not just with family members and the public, but with his club if there is a plan to return on the first Saturday in May. Training may start soon. Villa need the whole staff to be sensible. Grealish heads off to a jolly-up and then, his driving skills found wanting, is forced to stand in close proximity to several bystanders, giving his details. A smart guy off the pitch is likely to be a smart guy on it, too. What does this say about Grealish’s smarts?

Gareth Southgate is no rigid disciplinarian, but he believes in personal responsibility, as James Maddison discovered. If he has a decision to make on Grealish, it may already be formulating. If he didn’t indulge Wayne Rooney, why would he indulge a player who hasn’t even made his team yet?

Coronavirus is heightening awareness. It is not enough to clap, or tweet, or record your empathy these days. Mean it, or forget it. Mean it, or stand on the kerb in one flip-flop and a furry slipper, looking like the fool you are.

STAY SAFE – AND STAY PATIENT! 

Watford defender Christian Kabasale says he is spending time at home with his son, playing Pokemon. 

‘I am trying to enter his world, trying to make the time go faster,’ he says. He may have picked the wrong activity there. Pokemon is a design classic, a brilliant game and recommended for all, but patience is required. 

Put it like this — in the animated series, Ash Ketchum, the hero, finally achieved his dream of becoming a Pokemon master in September last year. The show started in 1997.

Not one for Jack Grealish, perhaps. Stay safe all.

IT’S A HAZARD OF A JOB, BUT RONALDO PUTS EDEN IN SHADE 

Eden Hazard wishes to put the first season at Real Madrid behind him. ‘It’s been one of adaptation,’ he said. ‘I’ll be judged on next season.’ 

Injury has affected Hazard, true, but he turned up for pre-season unfit and in the 15 games he has played, scored a single goal. 

Compare this to Cristiano Ronaldo, who came from the same league as Hazard but needed no spell of adaptation, rewarding Real with 33 goals in 35 games in his first campaign. 

Hazard will have to go some to match his second season, too — 53 goals in 54 games —although one might say judgement is already in. Ronaldo is a different class, plainly. 

Eden Hazard has endured a difficult first season at Real Madrid, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo

Eden Hazard has endured a difficult first season at Real Madrid, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo

GAMES ANNIVERSARY WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD 

There really shouldn’t be an argument over the London Stadium’s priorities this summer. Whether what remains of West Ham’s Premier League fixtures or the Anniversary Games take place is unknown. but, as anchor tenants, the football club has clear primacy.

Any hope of compromise probably took a hit, too, when the new chief executive of UK Athletics, Joanna Coates, blundered unhelpfully into the conversation by calling on West Ham to waive tenancy rights so a dwindling crowd can wallow in past glories at enormous cost to the taxpayer.

The Anniversary Games — a needy branding that harks back to the 2012 Olympics — were scheduled to take place on July 4-5, with the stadium refit for those nights weighing in at over £4 million.

It is money the Government does not have at this time.

The reconfiguration also takes several weeks and it cannot be known from a reasonable distance whether large gatherings will be permitted, or whether stadium workers are even allowed in proximity for the refit. It could be that £4m is spent for nothing because if the Olympics cannot take place at the end of July, how will London be ready for the start of that month?

West Ham, meanwhile, could play behind closed doors through the summer. Indeed, some would argue they are the one club who would not suffer from a loss of atmosphere — while still paying rent.

Year on year, interest in athletics and its Olympic anniversary fades. In 2019, UKA boasted 40,000 attending across two nights but refused to say how many in the crowd were guests. 

West Ham’s average attendance per league game this season is recorded at 59,896 and the crowd drawn to the Anniversary Games was more in line with their family fun day. It is a pity, but athletics’ sense of entitlement around the London Stadium is an indulgence we can increasingly ill afford.

The London Stadium should play host to West Ham's games above anything else this summer

The London Stadium should play host to West Ham’s games above anything else this summer

TRAGIC MASON THE FORGOTTEN SCANDAL VICTIM 

Anyone who cares about the true cost of cheating in sport will be saddened by the story of Germaine Mason.

At the Beijing Olympics, he won silver in the men’s high jump, finishing second to Russia’s Andrey Silnov.

The Athletics Integrity Unit has now charged Silnov with doping offences as a result of the McLaren investigation, presented to the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016. S

Silnov was already a discredited figure as a senior vice-president of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been banned from the sport since 2015, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport will now consider whether a suspected positive test for the anabolic steroid Turinabol can impact on his status as a gold medallist in 2008. 

If it does, Mason will be placed atop the Olympic podium, an honour he will never know after perishing in a motorcycle accident in 2017. Tragedy upon tragedy; that is what cheating inflicts.

LET McLEAN HAVE HIS JOKE 

Everybody knows what James McClean is, everybody knows the type of people he regards as heroes, or martyrs.

Yet seeing his photograph in a black balaclava, supposedly home-schooling his children with the caption: ‘Today’s lesson — history’ made me laugh. It was a joke; a joke about his beliefs.

Then again, I’ve never understood why clubs are fined when their fans sing ‘F*** the IRA’ at him either. The FA act as if it is a form of racist abuse. It isn’t.

The IRA were a terrorist organisation. They were murderers. They killed innocents, they killed kids. So, yes, f*** the IRA. But allow McClean his joke.

James McClean posted this image of himself wearing a black balaclava in front of his children

James McClean posted this image of himself wearing a black balaclava in front of his children

A correction to last week’s column. I am indebted to reader Nick Perry for pointing out that it is the 150th Open that will be marked next year, not the Open’s 150th anniversary. 

Meaning, if the event is not played at Royal St George’s this year, there would be no problem bumping each venue back 12 months. Unless, of course, there are already several warehouses in Fife packed to the rafters with merchandise celebrating the 150th Open, St Andrews, July 15-18, 2021. 

OLYMPIC-SIZED PROBLEM FOR JAPAN TO SOLVE 

In Japan, the view is growing that coronavirus numbers were suppressed to avoid damaging their status as Olympic hosts this summer.

The daily infection count has risen steadily since last week when the event was finally cancelled, leaving many suspicious about previous figures.

Yukio Hatoyama, prime minister from September 16, 2009 to June 8, 2010, is among those arguing the count is changing now Tokyo has no reason to disguise it. ‘To make an impression that the city was taking control of the coronavirus, Tokyo made the number of patients look smaller,’ he said. ‘It has spread while they waited. It was Olympics first, not Tokyo’s residents.’

The IOC’s response, meanwhile, has been to rush through another date on which the Tokyo Olympics must begin: Friday, July 23, 2021. It is almost as if they want the world to just pretend.

 

What sporting stars like Neymar are up to as coronavirus pandemic shuts down sporting world


With the first weekend of elite sport suspended as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic upon us, it is not just the regular-going fans who are seeking alternative ways to spend their weekend.

Sports stars all around the world have themselves turned from entertainers to keeping themselves occupied.

Physical activity was of course at the centre of most of their alternative activities, but others preferred to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle for the time being.  

Sergio Ramos put himself through his paces at his Spanish home with La Liga suspended

The Real Madrid captain went full tilt on his home treadmill to keep up his fitness levels

The Real Madrid captain went full tilt on his home treadmill to keep up his fitness levels

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was chief among those keeping in shape, running full pelt on his large curved treadmill.

The Spain defender’s Instagram post was supplemented with #teleworking and #ITrainAtHome, with the latter a particular hashtag that sports stars have used this weekend.

Ramos’ Madrid teammate Fede Valverde however preferred to enjoy the Spanish sunshine.

Ramos' Madrid teammate preferred to enjoy the sunshine in Spain as he looked after his child

Ramos’ Madrid teammate preferred to enjoy the sunshine in Spain as he looked after his child

But the Uruguayan midfielder could not resist a game of kick and chase with his pet

But the Uruguayan midfielder could not resist a game of kick and chase with his pet

The Uruguayan midfielder showed his usual burst of energy, playing a game of kick and chase with his dog.

The 21-year-old became a father for the first time last month, but despite posting a picture of him and his baby on his page – it appeared a game against his pet was too tempting to turn down.

Italy was the first European country to feel the real effects of the coronavirus, and after games were played behind closed doors last weekend Serie A has now shut down for the long run.

The Brazilian has faced tougher opponents this season as his dog chased from side to side

The Brazilian has faced tougher opponents this season as his dog chased from side to side

Juventus winger Douglas Costa posted a video of him playing keep ball with his dog

Juventus winger Douglas Costa posted a video of him playing keep ball with his dog

That however has not stopped Juventus star Douglas Costa from keeping his tricky feet busy, even if his opponent at the moment is perhaps not the most challenging.

The Brazilian posted a video on his Instagram of him playing a game of keep ball, with a few keepy-uppies included, while his dog futilely chased it from side to side.

Costa’s Juventus teammate Matthijs de Ligt was also keeping busy, but the Dutchman preferred an indoor activity.

Matthijs de Ligt's girlfriend posted an Instagram story of the duo playing table tennis

Matthijs de Ligt’s girlfriend posted an Instagram story of the duo playing table tennis

Annekee Molenaar's post saw the Juventus defender wearing the club's shirt at his home

Annekee Molenaar’s post saw the Juventus defender wearing the club’s shirt at his home

The defender’s model girlfriend Annekee Molenaar also took to Instagram to show her playing a game of table tennis against her boyfriend, who was wearing the top of the current Serie A champions.

And Molenaar asked those who had viewed her story to predict who won between the pair, with the post accompanied by a laughing emoji. 

Lazio and Italy striker Ciro Immobile however turned his hand to a an art completely different to sport.

Lazio striker Ciro Immobile went a completely different way and turned to hairdressing

Lazio striker Ciro Immobile went a completely different way and turned to hairdressing

Immobile's wife Jessica Melena posted a video of the Italy striker cutting her relative's hair

Immobile’s wife Jessica Melena posted a video of the Italy striker cutting her relative’s hair

The 30-year-old’s wife Jessica Melena posted a series of stories of the former Borussia Dortmund striker giving her relative a haircut, showing as much precision with a razor in hand as he does in front of goal. 

Fellow striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show his dexterity as opposed to his brilliant skills with his feet.

The Polish marksman uploaded a photo of him building a series of figures with his child, with the hashtag #stayathome.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show skills with his hands

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show skills with his hands 

The Bayern Munich striker will soon have his hands even more full with partner Anna expecting their second child. 

Ben Foster however appeared to completely ignore the guidelines put in place to stay at home.

Three Watford players had been tested for coronavirus, but the former England goalkeeper refused to be tied down to the restraints of self isolation.

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster preferred to venture outside of his home on his day off

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster preferred to venture outside of his home on his day off

On his Instagram story, Foster captured a picture of his bike and a car and said: ‘ A free Saturday to do whatever I want with…’ 

Football of course is not the only sport to have been affected, with Formula One’s season-opening Melbourne Grand Prix – which was scheduled for Sunday – now off due to the pandemic.

But despite the cancellation, Lewis Hamilton – who was looking to begin his bid to match Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles this month – stuck around in the Australian city for some indoor rock climbing.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton stayed in Melbourne despite the Grand Prix's suspension

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton stayed in Melbourne despite the Grand Prix’s suspension

The 35-year-old tried his hand at indoor rock climbing in the Australian city to keep busy

The 35-year-old tried his hand at indoor rock climbing in the Australian city to keep busy

The 35-year-old posted on Instagram saying:  ‘Gutted to not be qualifying today. I decided to stick around Melbourne and go indoor rock climbing. It’s a great way for me to stay focused.

‘I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have been sending me such positive messages. Hope you are all staying safe. Sending you all love and positivity’.

Others however preferred to use this weekend for some rest and kicked back with digital entertainment.

Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil star Neymar caught up with Spanish Netflix series Elite

Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil star Neymar caught up with Spanish Netflix series Elite 

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar inspired his side to victory over Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

But with no further football on the immediate horizon, the Brazilian kicked back to catch up on Spanish thriller Netflix series Elite.

And NBA star LeBron James was seen embracing the Tik Tok culture, with his children dancing with animated TV series American Dad playing in the background. 

LeBron James recorded his children embracing the Tik Tok culture with a dancing video

LeBron James recorded his children embracing the Tik Tok culture with a dancing video

TheNBA star also had the American animated series American Dad on in the background

TheNBA star also had the American animated series American Dad on in the background

Neymar’s PSG teammate Ander Herrera however showed his mischievous side off the field this time.

The former Manchester United midfielder played on his partner Isabel Collado’s fear of snakes by putting a fake reptile on one of the chairs at his home.

Collado was grabbed giving Herrera a stern look before walking away as the Spaniard zoomed in on the centre of his prank. 

PSG midfielder Ander Herrera played a prank on his partner Isabel Collado at his home

PSG midfielder Ander Herrera played a prank on his partner Isabel Collado at his home

The former Manchester United midfielder played on her fear of snakes with a fake reptile

The former Manchester United midfielder played on her fear of snakes with a fake reptile

 

What sporting stars like Neymar are up to as coronavirus pandemic shuts down sporting world


With the first weekend of elite sport suspended as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic upon us, it is not just the regular-going fans who are seeking alternative ways to spend their weekend.

Sports stars all around the world have themselves turned from entertainers to keeping themselves occupied.

Physical activity was of course at the centre of most of their alternative activities, but others preferred to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle for the time being.  

Sergio Ramos put himself through his paces at his Spanish home with La Liga suspended

The Real Madrid captain went full tilt on his home treadmill to keep up his fitness levels

The Real Madrid captain went full tilt on his home treadmill to keep up his fitness levels

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was chief among those keeping in shape, running full pelt on his large curved treadmill.

The Spain defender’s Instagram post was supplemented with #teleworking and #ITrainAtHome, with the latter a particular hashtag that sports stars have used this weekend.

Ramos’ Madrid teammate Fede Valverde however preferred to enjoy the Spanish sunshine.

Ramos' Madrid teammate preferred to enjoy the sunshine in Spain as he looked after his child

Ramos’ Madrid teammate preferred to enjoy the sunshine in Spain as he looked after his child

But the Uruguayan midfielder could not resist a game of kick and chase with his pet

But the Uruguayan midfielder could not resist a game of kick and chase with his pet

The Uruguayan midfielder showed his usual burst of energy, playing a game of kick and chase with his dog.

The 21-year-old became a father for the first time last month, but despite posting a picture of him and his baby on his page – it appeared a game against his pet was too tempting to turn down.

Italy was the first European country to feel the real effects of the coronavirus, and after games were played behind closed doors last weekend Serie A has now shut down for the long run.

The Brazilian has faced tougher opponents this season as his dog chased from side to side

The Brazilian has faced tougher opponents this season as his dog chased from side to side

Juventus winger Douglas Costa posted a video of him playing keep ball with his dog

Juventus winger Douglas Costa posted a video of him playing keep ball with his dog

That however has not stopped Juventus star Douglas Costa from keeping his tricky feet busy, even if his opponent at the moment is perhaps not the most challenging.

The Brazilian posted a video on his Instagram of him playing a game of keep ball, with a few keepy-uppies included, while his dog futilely chased it from side to side.

Costa’s Juventus teammate Matthijs de Ligt was also keeping busy, but the Dutchman preferred an indoor activity.

Matthijs de Ligt's girlfriend posted an Instagram story of the duo playing table tennis

Matthijs de Ligt’s girlfriend posted an Instagram story of the duo playing table tennis

Annekee Molenaar's post saw the Juventus defender wearing the club's shirt at his home

Annekee Molenaar’s post saw the Juventus defender wearing the club’s shirt at his home

The defender’s model girlfriend Annekee Molenaar also took to Instagram to show her playing a game of table tennis against her boyfriend, who was wearing the top of the current Serie A champions.

And Molenaar asked those who had viewed her story to predict who won between the pair, with the post accompanied by a laughing emoji. 

Lazio and Italy striker Ciro Immobile however turned his hand to a an art completely different to sport.

Lazio striker Ciro Immobile went a completely different way and turned to hairdressing

Lazio striker Ciro Immobile went a completely different way and turned to hairdressing

Immobile's wife Jessica Melena posted a video of the Italy striker cutting her relative's hair

Immobile’s wife Jessica Melena posted a video of the Italy striker cutting her relative’s hair

The 30-year-old’s wife Jessica Melena posted a series of stories of the former Borussia Dortmund striker giving her relative a haircut, showing as much precision with a razor in hand as he does in front of goal. 

Fellow striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show his dexterity as opposed to his brilliant skills with his feet.

The Polish marksman uploaded a photo of him building a series of figures with his child, with the hashtag #stayathome.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show skills with his hands

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski also preferred to show skills with his hands 

The Bayern Munich striker will soon have his hands even more full with partner Anna expecting their second child. 

Ben Foster however appeared to completely ignore the guidelines put in place to stay at home.

Three Watford players had been tested for coronavirus, but the former England goalkeeper refused to be tied down to the restraints of self isolation.

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster preferred to venture outside of his home on his day off

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster preferred to venture outside of his home on his day off

On his Instagram story, Foster captured a picture of his bike and a car and said: ‘ A free Saturday to do whatever I want with…’ 

Football of course is not the only sport to have been affected, with Formula One’s season-opening Melbourne Grand Prix – which was scheduled for Sunday – now off due to the pandemic.

But despite the cancellation, Lewis Hamilton – who was looking to begin his bid to match Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles this month – stuck around in the Australian city for some indoor rock climbing.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton stayed in Melbourne despite the Grand Prix's suspension

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton stayed in Melbourne despite the Grand Prix’s suspension

The 35-year-old tried his hand at indoor rock climbing in the Australian city to keep busy

The 35-year-old tried his hand at indoor rock climbing in the Australian city to keep busy

The 35-year-old posted on Instagram saying:  ‘Gutted to not be qualifying today. I decided to stick around Melbourne and go indoor rock climbing. It’s a great way for me to stay focused.

‘I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have been sending me such positive messages. Hope you are all staying safe. Sending you all love and positivity’.

Others however preferred to use this weekend for some rest and kicked back with digital entertainment.

Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil star Neymar caught up with Spanish Netflix series Elite

Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil star Neymar caught up with Spanish Netflix series Elite 

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar inspired his side to victory over Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

But with no further football on the immediate horizon, the Brazilian kicked back to catch up on Spanish thriller Netflix series Elite.

And NBA star LeBron James was seen embracing the Tik Tok culture, with his children dancing with animated TV series American Dad playing in the background. 

LeBron James recorded his children embracing the Tik Tok culture with a dancing video

LeBron James recorded his children embracing the Tik Tok culture with a dancing video

TheNBA star also had the American animated series American Dad on in the background

TheNBA star also had the American animated series American Dad on in the background

Neymar’s PSG teammate Ander Herrera however showed his mischievous side off the field this time.

The former Manchester United midfielder played on his partner Isabel Collado’s fear of snakes by putting a fake reptile on one of the chairs at his home.

Collado was grabbed giving Herrera a stern look before walking away as the Spaniard zoomed in on the centre of his prank. 

PSG midfielder Ander Herrera played a prank on his partner Isabel Collado at his home

PSG midfielder Ander Herrera played a prank on his partner Isabel Collado at his home

The former Manchester United midfielder played on her fear of snakes with a fake reptile

The former Manchester United midfielder played on her fear of snakes with a fake reptile