Sevilla players warned by Liga chief Javier Tebas after flouting coronavirus lockdown rules

La Liga chief Javier Tebas said on Sunday that footballers must remember to act responsibly to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus after four Sevilla players broke the Spanish government’s rules on social gatherings.

Argentine trio Ever Banega, Lucas Ocampos and Franco Vazquez as well as Dutch striker Luuk de Jong were pictured at a party alongside eight other people over the weekend.

Spain has eased one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe as its coronavirus infection rate has slowed and the death toll has declined, although gatherings of more than 10 people are still not permitted by the guidelines.

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The picture, which was posted on Instagram by Banega’s wife, also showed a shisha pipe.

“Players are an example to society and should be careful with their actions,” Tebas told television network Movistar.

“I call on all footballers to not act like this. We have to be very careful because a lot of people’s jobs are at stake.

“Safety is guaranteed at training grounds and matches but I’m worried about other places and parties like this. We should all be very cautious,” he added.

The players all issued statements to apologise for their behaviour, which Sevilla published on the club’s official Twitter account.

Sevilla did not state whether the players would face disciplinary action and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All organised soccer in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic although on Saturday the government said the top two divisions could resume from June 8.

Sevilla’s derby match with neighbours Real Betis is set to be the first La Liga game to be played when the season resumes next month, with Tebas saying he hopes the match will be played on June 11. Reuters

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La Liga to resume from June 8 as Spanish Prime Minister confirms restart date

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has given the go-ahead for La Liga to return as soon as 8 June.

There has been no football played in the country's top division since Eibar's game against Real Sociedad on 10 March, but there is now optimism it can follow the lead of the Bundesliga, with matches set to resume behind closed doors.

Spain has been on of the worst-hit countries in Europe from coronavirus, but with cases now dropping businesses are gradually re-opening, and football looks set for a comeback in the near future.

While Sanchez suggested June 8 as the possible restart date, it appears more likely that June 12 or June 19 will be chosen as the dates for a return.

La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to officially confirm the news in the coming days. 

In response to the news, a statement from La Liga read: "We are very pleased with the decision, it is the result of the great work of clubs, players, coaches, CSD, agents, etc.

"But we cannot lower our guard, it is important to follow health regulations and ensure the pandemic doesn't come back."

La Liga clubs have been back in training since earlier this month, and the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis looks set to be the first game back on the calendar.

Barcelona currently top the table with 58 points after 27 games, with Real Madrid just two points behind them.

Each team has 11 more matches to play, meaning the season could be concluded in theory by the end of July.

Earlier this week Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said he was confident his side could overtake Barcelona if La Liga is able to return.

Speaking to Real Madrid TV, he said: "We have to think positively.

"The players see that there are 11 games left (in LaLiga) and they want to finish strongly in order to win a trophy. It's in the DNA of the club.

"I'm happy to be back training with my players after 60 days. We're all happy to be back. We planned the physical preparation and they worked really well at home. They were in shape.

"This week has been very good for working, albeit in small groups. But we can work on a little more tactically. The team looks better this week."

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La Liga plunged into uncertainty as government ‘bans’ fans until 2021

La Liga president Javier Tebas has suggested there will be no matches played in front of supporters in the division until next year amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries in Europe by Covid-19, and the lockdown imposed by the government looks set to continue into next month.

It could, therefore, be some time until football resumes, and according to Barcelona-based publication Sport Tebas told club bosses via a video call on Wednesday to prepare for the possibility of fans not returning until 2021.

The lack of matchday revenue for teams is set to have a catastrophic financial impact, with an estimated total figure of £306m being lost up to this point.

It remains to be seen whether La Liga will return to action behind closed doors in the near future, but Tebas' warning is the latest development as top divisions all around Europe try to decide how to handle the remainder of their campaigns.

The Netherlands' Eredivisie announced on Friday that their season would effectively be nulled and voided, with no title winner and no teams relegated.

They have followed the lead of Belgium, who have also cancelled their season, but there is hope coming from Germany, with the Bundesliga hoping they can resume by May 9.

The German Football League (DFL) chief executive Christian Seifert said on Thursday: "If we start on 9 May, we are ready. If it is later, we will be ready again.


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Inside Real Madrid’s £500m Bernabeu makeover including retractable roof

Real Madrid have released a video showcasing their vision for a redeveloped Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – complete with retracting roof and a 360 degree video screen.

Despite the current coronavirus pandemic bringing a halt to football around the globe, the La Liga giants are continuing work on upgrading their iconic home after receiving planning permission in March.

And now Los Galacticos have released footage showing what it is hoped the stunning stadium will look like once work is completed in October 2022.

The main features of the new-look Bernabeu include the retractable roof, similar to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, which will protect the pitch from all elements.

Fans will also be in for a treat too, with a futuristic 360 degree video screen wrapping its way around the inside of the roof like the one seen at at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The video also showcased some revamped social facilities inside the stadium, with the Real Madrid museum – housed inside the Bernabeu – looks set for an overhaul as part of the makeover.

The overall space of the venue will expand to 66,000 square metres, with the complex also set to house shops, restaurants and a hotel.

However, despite all of the brilliant upgrades, the stadium's capacity will be reduced as a result of the works to 80,242 – down one from what it can currently hold.


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Liverpool transfer target Diego Carlos compared to Napoli ace Kalidou Koulibaly

Liverpool transfer target Diego Carlos is known in Spain as 'The Beast' – and has been compared to highly-rated Napoli centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly.

Carlos has been identified as a possible summer target for Liverpool, with manager Jurgen Klopp reportedly believing the Sevilla defender can complete his back four playing alongside Virgil van Dijk.

The 27-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona and has declared he would only leave Sevilla for "a much bigger club" – but world and European champions Liverpool certainly come into that category.

And 6ft 1ins Carlos has been described as one of the top three or four centre-backs in La Liga this season, having been labelled "a revelation" by Spanish football anaylst Domagoj Kostanjšak.

"He's a really physical player – he's built like a tank and they don't call him 'The Beast' for no reason," Kostanjšak said to the Liverpool Echo's Blood Red podcast.

"He's really good in the air and he's decent on the ball as well – you have to be under [Sevilla boss] Julen Lopetegui.

"He's been in my top three or four centre-backs in Spain this season, along with Rafael Varane and Inigo Martinez – he's been a bit of a revelation."

Carlos is believed to have a £61million release clause – but while splashing out £75m on Virgil van Dijk paid off handsomely for Liveroool, Kostanjšak urged caution against spending so much on Carlos.

Kostanjšak added: "The release clause is usually higher than the actual value of the player.

"I'm not sure it would be a smart sum and spending so much money on a defender is maybe not the way to go, but his performances have been good enough to generate genuine interest.

"He's playing the best football of his career and he immediately settled in.

"He settled perfectly and he is definitely the most important defender in Sevilla.

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Arsenal target Dayot Upamecano sent transfer warning amid Liverpool link

Arsenal target Dayot Upamecano has been given a transfer warning after also being linked with Liverpool and Tottenham.

RB Leipzig defender Upamecano is believed to be top of Mikel Arteta's wishlist as the Arsenal boss looks for a centre-half this summer.

Upamecano is reported to have a release clause of £50million, but his contract with Leipzig expires at the end of next season, so the Bundesliga club may have to resign themselves to losing the highly-rated 21-year-old.

Arsenal had a bid turned down for Upamecano last summer, according to German publication Bild, while the defender has also been touted as an option for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp looks to strengthen his options alongside Virgil van Dijk.

But RB Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche has urged caution as French under-21 international Upamecano considers his next move.

Krosche reckons the coronavirus pandemic that has brought football to a standstill may influence the thinking of the, as clubs wait to discover what the financial cost of the crisis will be.

“This is a far-reaching decision for a player. He should take his time with that,” Krosche told German publication Kicker.

Referring to the coronavirus outbreak, he added: “Maybe that has changed a bit as a result of the new situation.”

An alternative to Upamecano for Arsenal is Unai Nunez, with the Gunners reportedly considering a swoop for the Athletic Bilbao defender, according to Deia.


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Seven La Liga stars who should be on your club’s list of transfer targets

La Liga is brimming with talent, but often the bargains to be found lie outside the top two of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The Spanish giants have a huge say in the market and their duopoly over La Liga means you can be forgiven for failing to recognise some of league's other talent.

Release clauses being stipulated in every player’s contract mean that inflation in the market can make expensive price tags become affordable ones in short spaces of time.

Here are seven players outside of the main Spanish spotlight that could soon be in another ambitious club’s transfer crosshairs.

Mauro Arambarri

Age: 24

Club: Getafe

Position: Central midfielder

Mauro Arambarri arrived in Spain as something of an unknown quantity. Now, he stands as one of the poster boys for Getafe’s excellent recruitment policy since their return to La Liga in 2017.

After long being ignored by the Uruguayan national set-up, the 24-year-old was picked for their next round of international fixtures — testament to his improvement.

Arambarri can control the tempo of a game, battle hard and show tenacity when off the ball and has an impressive range of passing.

He has shown that while he has the stereotypical grit of any player hoping to play for Uruguay in their current style, he has a refined side to his game that makes him a must-buy for a club long-established in European competitions — especially with a release clause rumoured to sit at around €20m.

Marc Roca

Age: 23

Club: Espanyol

Position: Central midfielder

Heavily linked with a move to Bayern Munich last summer, Marc Roca still sits at a club which he holds dear but should have aspirations far beyond.

Espanyol have struggled once again this season, despite having some very talented technical players. Roca is one of them, a mainstay for Spain’s Under-21 set-up and built for a possession-hungry, dominant side.

His range of passing, coolness under pressure and ability to play out from deep, crowded areas of the field make him a ready-made purchase for any big club looking to keep the ball on the ground despite opponents pressing high and looking to compromise their style.

Mohamed Salisu

Age: 20

Club: Real Valladolid

Position: Central defender

Mohamed Salisu is one of the revelations of the current La Liga season. Since signing for Real Valladolid from an academy based in Nwasam, Ghana in 2017, Salisu has galloped his way into becoming one of his club’s most important players.

After the sale of Fernando Calero to Espanyol last summer, there were worries as to how Sergio’s side would fare, but Salisu has been immense.

Tall, athletic, physical and tidy on the ball, Salisu is a complete central defender. His inexperience at the top level makes his potential ceiling all the more scary, given that the 20-year-old has slotted into life in the Spanish top flight with ease.

His reported €12m release clause makes him a bargain waiting to happen.

Chimy Avila

Age: 26

Club: Osasuna

Position: Centre forward

Chimy Avila has had some bad luck this season. After impressing on loan at Huesca in 2018/19, where he scored 10 goals for the relegated La Liga side, it was a surprise that newly promoted Osasuna were the team to secure his signature for around £2.5m last summer.

His grit, aggression, work rate and passion for the club has endeared him to the club’s fans, while his nine goals in 20 league appearances before a serious ligament injury this season positioned him as one of the stand-out attacking options in the division.

Chimy can press, show intensity, is great on the ball and possesses a fierce shot. He could easily make the step up to a European club who play front-foot football.

Carlos Fernandez

Age: 23

Club: Granada (on loan from Sevilla)

Position: Centre forward

Carlos Fernandez may not be grabbing the headlines for Granada in terms of his goalscoring firepower, but his all-round play this season has been eye-catching.

The Sevilla loanee can lead the line, hold the ball up and lay it off to those around him, a useful foil for any sides who have pace or direct options in attack.

Eight goals and four assists in all competitions is not a disappointing record for a young striker at a newly promoted club, and Sevilla could well find a use for him at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan next season given that Julen Lopetegui has a penchant for a focal point that can bring others into play — see Luuk de Jong and Youssef En-Nesyri.

Igor Zubeldia

Age: 22

Club: Real Sociedad

Position: Central midfielder

Competent at both centre back and a deep-lying midfield role, Igor Zubeldia’s versatility has proven himself to be very useful for Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad this campaign.

Most adept in midfield, owing to his modest height, Zubeldia is an effective shield for his back four, but also slick in possession.

Still just 22, he already has a solid number of appearances under his belt for the Basque club (68) and shows a calmness and intelligence on the ball that points to a greater maturity than others of his age.

It is no surprise to see Real Sociedad shoot up the table as La Liga’s surprise package for the season, with a talented generation all coming through in San Sebastian.

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Xavi ‘wants to return’ to Barcelona as manager but demands authority over dressing room and decisions

Xavi believes he is ready to manage Barcelona but insists there cannot be any “toxicity” in the dressing room.

The midfielder spent the majority of his playing career with Barcelona, from 1998 to 2015, playing more than 700 matches.

During his time at the club he won eight La Liga titles and lifted four Champions League trophies and also played an crucial role in Spain’s three successive major tournament wins at Euro 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.

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In recent years he has moved into management with Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd, where he finished his playing career.

“I am clear that I want to return to Barcelona, I am very excited,” Xavi said in an interview with La Vanguardia.

“Now that I have seen myself coaching I think I can bring things to the players.

“But I made it clear to them that I saw myself in a project that started from zero and in which the decision-making was mine.”

Barcelona have already shown an interest in their former midfielder, reportedly approaching Xavi for the job following the departure of Ernesto Valverde, but the Spaniard did not think it was the right time.

On that decision, he added: “I have no problem: I don’t hide, I don’t take it back.

“I would like to work together with people in whom I have confidence, with whom there is loyalty and who are very valid people.

“There can’t be anyone toxic around the dressing room.”

Outlining what he would want to see in his Barcelona team, Xavi labelled several of their current side – including Lionel Messi, defender Gerard Pique and goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – the best in the world in their respective positions and midfielder Frenkie De Jong and Arthur as players to “win for 10 more years”.

Addressing the wide positions, he evoked the possible return of Neymar or a move for Borussia Dortmund and England’s Jadon Sancho or fellow Bundesliga star Serge Gnabry of Bayern Munich.

“I don’t know if Neymar would fit in due to the social issue, but in football terms I have no doubts it would be a spectacular signing,” he said of the Brazil star who played for the club from 2013 to 2017 before joining Paris St Germain.

“They don’t need many new players: maybe Jadon Sancho, Serge Gnabry…”

PA

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