Pro14: League plans for 22 August return with games between teams from same nation

The Pro14 hopes to return to play on 22 August with a series of behind closed doors matches.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed plans for their provinces to play a series of inter-provincial fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.

The league’s resumption will see teams from the same nation play against each other before the season is concluded via semi-finals and a final.

It is hoped that the 2020-21 campaign can begin in October.

  • Pro14 agrees CVC investment deal
  • Sanzaar & Six Nations teams in talks to plan out global rugby union calendar

With all professional rugby in Europe suspended since March, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said teams would need at least six weeks training before they are ready to play competitive matches.

It would therefore be expected that Pro14 clubs are back in some form of training by no later than 11 July.

The 2019-20 final, which was scheduled for 20 June has been cancelled, and currently no date has been revealed for a potential rescheduled final.

With the league encompassing teams from five nations, it cannot be assured that all clubs will be able to resume at the same time with countries releasing restrictions at different rates.

“At least if we have a target date set we can try and work towards it,” said Browne

“Otherwise we are just going to be chasing shadows.”

In a video meeting on Friday, Browne acknowledged that the IRFU’s ‘Return to Train and Play’ roadmap was dependent on government approval.

A return to rugby is listed under stage five as the Republic of Ireland’s own roadmap out of lockdown, which it is hoped will be reached on 10 August.

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How the Premier League will be kitted out next season

Liverpool’s huge £70m Nike contract gives them the top deal to match their team, Everton are keeping it retro with cult classic Hummel… but will new pretenders like Castore snap any clubs going free? How the Premier League will be kitted out next season

  • Liverpool will be wearing Nike next season after sealing a record-breaking deal 
  • After legal battle with New Balance, a £70m-a-year agreement will go through
  • Everton have also struck a new partner, having swapped Umbro for Hummel 
  • Newcastle and Watford are both currently without a kit deal for 2020-21 season 

Liverpool will start next season in Nike shirts thanks to the biggest kit deal in Premier League history in the latest indication of a powershift at the top of the English game.

Having been given the green light after winning their court battle against New Balance, their £70m-a-year deal will commence this summer, trumping the current biggest agreement held between Manchester United and Adidas.

It is the surest sign yet that the tide is turning with regard to commercial appeal in the top flight, but it is not just at the top where clubs are improving their income through kit manufacturers.

Liverpool stars are set to be kitted out in Nike next season after the club struck a record deal

On the other side of Merseyside Everton have announced their next venture, swapping Umbro for Hummel and a £10m-a-year contract.

‘It is really important that we drive maximum value from our commercial deals and this is a Club-record deal for a technical partnership for Everton,’ said Denise Barret-Baxendale, the chief executive, emphasising the significance of their deal.

It makes the Toffees the first club outside of the traditional Big Six to reach eight figures a season for their manufacturer contract.

Everton will also  be wearing a new manufacturer, after swapping Umbro for Hummel

Despite that, they are still some way off catching up with the division’s leaders.

Manchester United, who held the record until Liverpool’s groundbreaking deal, still command £75m a season from their contract with adidas. That deal is in place until 2025.

Behind them are rivals Manchester City, with the reigning Premier League champions’ deal with Puma worth £65m a year in a partnership that will continue up until 2029.

With the Reds deal with Nike, City will be the only team in the Big Six next campaign to not have a contract in place with neither the American brand or adidas.

Manchester United’s deal with adidas had previously been the most expensive in the league

Manchester City are one of the top earners, with their Puma deal worth £65million a year

Nike will still have their deals in place with both Chelsea and Tottenham, the former holding an agreement until 2032 worth £60m each term, while the latter’s is worth £30m, going up until 2033.

Arsenal’s £60m-a-year contract with adidas runs up until 2024.

With so many long-term deals in place, there is little room for competition to disrupt the monopoly held by the two sports manufacturing giants at the top of the Premier League.

It creates an interesting conundrum for the likes of Castore, a luxury sports brand that has set its sights on challenging Nike and adidas in arenas such as England’s top flight.

Castore founders Tom (left) and Phil Beahon (right) have stated their ambition to work with Premier League sides

The company’s founders have already expressed their desire to work with top-flight sides in the next two years.

With a desire to work with teams challenging for trophies and Europe, there are options on the horizon.

Newcastle United could appear an appetising venture should their pending takeover be finalised, backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, with their current deal with Puma expiring this summer.

Watford are also in the same position, with their adidas deal expiring at the end of this season.

Newcastle United will be in the market for a new manufacturer with their Puma deal expiring

Watford’s agreement with adidas is also set to expire this summer and will need a new partner

PREMIER LEAGUE KIT DEALS

1.  Liverpool – £80m per year, Nike (contract expires: N/A)

2. Man United – £75m, adidas (2025)

3. Man City – £65m, Puma (2029)

4. Arsenal – £60m, adidas (2024)

5. Chelsea –  £60m, Nike (2032)

6. Tottenham – £30m, Nike (2033)

7. Everton – £10m, Hummel (2023)  

8. Southampton – £9m, Under Armour (2023) 

9. Newcastle – £6.5m, Puma (2020)

10. West Ham – £5m, Umbro (2023)

11. Crystal Palace – £4m, Puma (N/A)

12= Aston Villa – £3m, Kappa (2022)

12= Leicester City – £3m, adidas (N/A)

12= Wolves – £3m, adidas (2022)

15. Norwich – £2.5m, errea (2024)

16= Brighton – £1.5m, Nike (2022)

16= Burnley – £1.5m, Umbro (2022)

18. Bournemouth – £1m, Umbro (2022)

19= Sheff Utd – £750k, adidas (2021)

19=  Watford – £750k, adidas (2020) 




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Champions League 'to finish with final four tournament in Istanbul'

One-legged quarter-finals and a ‘final four’ tournament held in Istanbul: UEFA’s new plan to finish this season’s Champions League which could be rubber-stamped next month

  • UEFA are ready to ditch two-legged ties in their competitions this season
  • Ties from the quarter-finals onwards would be played over 90 minutes
  • A ‘final four’ tournament would then take place in Istanbul in late August
  • If these proposals are approved, then start of next season could be delayed 

UEFA officials are preparing to ditch two-legged ties in their competitions this season before hosting a new ‘final four’ tournament in Istanbul in an attempt to finish the current campaign, according to reports.

The European governing body are looking to finish the final round of 16 ties from August 6 before squeezing in the rest of the competition before the end of the month.

According to AS, UEFA are hoping to host the semi-finals and the final of the Champions League in Istanbul, which is set to be mulled over at the organisation’s Executive Committee meeting which will be held on June 17.

UEFA are reportedly ready to ditch two-legged ties in their competitions this season

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is hoping to conclude this season’s tournaments in August

The tournament would be held in Turkey over a four-day period to allow domestic seasons to finish.

Clubs would play a one-legged semi-final and final that would be contested in Istanbul.

The proposals will be discussed at UEFA’s Executive Committee meeting which will be held on June 17.

Next month’s meeting, which was initially scheduled for May 27, will see the proposals put forward where clubs still in the Champions League and Europa League will learn their fate.

Should the idea get the green light, all game following the round of 16 will be contested over 90 minutes instead of the traditional two legs, freeing up more space on the calendar.

The mini-tournament in Istanbul is thought to be played at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, in an attempt to reduce travel for the final four teams left in the competition while it has been reported to take place over a four-day period.

UEFA officials are also drawing up plans to host a final four tournament in Istanbul 

The report also suggests that the Europa League’s restart date is being pencilled in for August 6, while the Champions League will get back underway on Saturday, August 8.

However, approval of the plans would also reportedly mean having to delay the start of next season, with footballers to be allowed vacations in September.

The domino-effect would also see Nations League games in September postponed, meaning the tournament itself could face a similar fate to the Euros.




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Mental Health Awareness Week: Brentford’s Thomas Frank on the ‘normality’ of mental health issues

“If you don’t have any weakness, you don’t have any strength.” That is the key message from Brentford head coach Thomas Frank, speaking as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Frank is back with his family in his native Denmark, waiting to find out – like so many players, officials and fans – when and how football will return in England.

The 46-year-old had guided Brentford to fourth place in the Sky Bet Championship before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to the season in March.

But like everyone reacting to life in a changed world in the age of COVID-19, Frank is having to focus his attention on more fundamental matters.

Speaking in a candid interview, he reflected on how normal it is to have mental health issues, as well as the importance of football in many people’s lives in offering “something to rely on”, a factor brought into sharp focus by its current absence.

“Everybody has some weakness. If you don’t have any weakness, you don’t have any strength,” said Frank.

“It’s linked, everything is linked.

“It’s OK to have a mental health issue. Everybody has it one way or another.

“I would say it’s normal, in a way, that you have something you worry about or that you are struggling with.

“The best advice I can give is to talk to people. Talk. And don’t feel that it’s unnatural. I think it’s a strength to show weakness.”

As for his message to Bees supporters in lockdown back in the UK, Frank urged them to make the most of the good spells – something they have already enjoyed in recent seasons – when football is finally allowed to return.

“Hopefully, we can get back playing football,” he added.

“Sport is a help to a lot of people. Either they are doing it on their own or they are following football.

“They have something to rely on, it’s a big thing for them. So we are really looking forward to playing on the pitch again, enjoying the highs and lows in football, just like in life.

“Go through the bad spells and really, really enjoy the good spells and [I] look forward to seeing them again.”

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Brentford’s new stadium: Work resumes; fans may have seen last Griffin Park game

Work has resumed on the building of Brentford’s new Community Stadium – but it appear fans have already seen games at Griffin Park for the last time.

Completion of the 17,500-capacity ground at Lionel Road had been delayed by the coronavirus lockdown but building has recently picked up in line with social distancing guidelines.

The completion phase is set to be ramped up even further in the coming weeks after lockdown measures were eased by the government to allow construction workers back on building sites.

The Bees remain confident of moving in for the start of the 2020-21 season – but it is increasingly unlikely supporters will be allowed back inside stadiums in time for the switch.

That leaves the prospect that March 7’s 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday will be Griffin Park’s final competitive match with supporters.

If the Championship is resumed this summer, Brentford still have four remaining home games from their last nine, but all matches are expected to be behind closed doors.

The club would be open to organising an invitational game at Griffin Park if fans were allowed to return before they relinquish the site – but that looks unlikely, especially due to cost of running two stadiums in the meantime.

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Premier League are going round in circles as decision deadline looms

SAMI MOKBEL: The Premier League is reeling after fruitless restart talks… Club execs are going round in circles amid accusations of sabotage and greed and there’s LITTLE prospect of a quick return

  • Monday’s Premier League meeting only agreed the extension of player contracts
  • A vote on the season’s timetable moving forward was delayed until next week
  • The meeting saw more clubs voice their opposition at the use of neutral venues 
  • Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal joined the bottom six in expressing opposition 

Another meeting, another set of unanswered questions. It seems we’re going round in circles at the moment.

The only definitive to emerge out of Monday’s Premier League meeting was to agree to extend playing contracts that conclude at the end of next month. 

But the biggest question of all remains shrouded in complexity. Will Project Restart get off the ground? The answer is: we don’t know.

The timetable for the restart of the Premier League is still up in the air after Monday’s meeting

The vote has been delayed amid unrest at neutral venues, led by Brighton CEO Paul Barber

The vote, which was originally due to take place at Monday’s Premier League meeting, has been postponed until next week.

The issue of playing the remaining 92 games at neutral venues remains the most divisive factor between clubs.

Some are happy to complete the season away from home but a growing number of clubs – at least two thirds – have now spoken up in opposition against the plan.

For the dissenters, the theory is that playing at neutral venues severely damages the reputation of the competition.

Of course, that is a valid argument. The Bundesliga, for example, are aiming to complete their season as normal at each venue.

So, too, are the Championship. Indeed, the plan to complete the Premier League season at neutral venues has confused many in the EFL, who simply can’t comprehend why such a plan has been hatched when they, albeit behind closed doors, are proposing to finish the season as normal.

The prospect of fans congregating outside stadiums remains a key factor behind the neutral venues plan. So, does that mean we can’t trust our supporters to be responsible? That’s a dangerous view to take.

Liverpool fans are known to turn out in huge numbers to support their club on match days

Equally, those in favour of playing at neutral venues will point to the financial implications if no more games are played.

Clubs have been warned they face receiving virtually no income from August 1. Clubs will have no option but to make redundancies in that scenario.

There is a frustrations among clubs that are happy to play at neutral venues towards those who are trying to sabotage the proposals.

‘They are being short-sighted,’ said one Premier League official.

Brighton, though opposed to neutral venues, is among grounds listed as potential hubs 

Premier League execs, such as Man Utd’s Ed Woodward, can’t currently agree on the restart

‘They are trying to stay in the Premier League by hook or by crook. That’s fine – but what sort of Premier League will they be in if we don’t get games up and running?’

The arguments for and against are compelling in equal measure. As it stands, the majority of clubs want the Premier League, to at the very least, investigate the prospect of seeing out the season at their own stadiums.

Whether or not the government or police are willing to give clubs the green light to do so remains to be seen.

The fact Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts – the man in charge of football policing in England – told clubs against the notion of neutral venues to ‘get a grip’ last week suggests not.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts told those against notion of neutral venues to ‘get a grip’

Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow is another voice against neutral venues to finish the season

In that scenario, effectively meaning it’s either neutral venues or nothing at all, clubs are expected to vote for the former.

Not completing the season could have disastrous consequences for clubs after the FA chairman Greg Clarke insisted in Monday’s meeting that the campaign must finish on ‘sporting merit’

If games don’t recommence, that will likely be in the form of a points per game system, effectively consigning clubs to relegation without another ball being kicked.

You would imagine resuming the season is the more beneficial option in that scenario. There was optimism last week that the Premier League would secure the 14 votes necessary to get Project Restart in its current guise approved.

But there appeared to be a shift in opinion at Monday’s meeting; clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal joining the bottom six in expressing opposition to the plan to play at neutral venues. 

This is a significant shift in opinion, which led the Premier League to pledge to discuss the matter again with the Government.

Several clubs also spoke of their fears over losing significant revenue if they are unable to play at their own ground because of commercial deals linked to their stadiums.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is looking to restart the season next month

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters also confirmed that the possibility of curtailing the season had been discussed for the first time on Monday and that relegation would be imposed even in that instance.

All that means, it is looking increasingly likely that clubs are prepared to vote to play the remaining 92 matches.

The details of how top-flight football can return – however – is still to be concluded. Next Monday is D-day. But how many times have we said that recently?


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Wycombe hope to setup new ‘B team’ despite coronavirus pandemic

Wycombe Wanderers are planning to become only the second club in English football to implement a ‘B team’.

Although the financial uncertainty caused by coronavirus has put these plans on hold for now, the League One club still hope to make significant progress on their plans this year.

Wanderers effectively want to create a “shadow squad” made up of players on the fringes of the first team and promising young talent targeted via recruitment methods.

They would arrange invitational fixtures to give these players competitive minutes to develop and have a shot at breaking into Gareth Ainsworth’s plans, which could be in the Championship next season.

Wycombe scrapped their academy in 2012 despite its reputation for developing talent including Jordon Ibe, whom they sold to Liverpool for £650,000 and then earned more than £1m from his subsequent sale to Bournemouth.

Their plans mirror the successful model installed by Championship side Brentford, who controversially scrapped their academy category two academy in favour of a B team in 2017.

It formed part of the new club model to develop young players and sell them on, and their most notable success story so far has been Chris Mepham, who progressed into the first team and was sold to Bournemouth for more than £12m.

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National League chiefs fear games won't start again until JANUARY

National League chiefs fear games at their level won’t start again until JANUARY because lockdown rules prevent vital matchday income as clubs prepare to vote on how to conclude the season

  • Executives fear top two levels of non-league football won’t resume until 2021
  • National League clubs more reliant on matchday income than those above them
  • Playing start of the 2020-21 season behind closed door would add to their losses
  • National League sides have already decided to end the 2019-20 season in vote
  • Further votes are due on how to decide promotion and relegation issues
  • Barrow fear their Football League return after 48 years could be scuppered 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Some executives at National League clubs fear that next season at their level will not begin until January 2021 because of the coronavirus crisis.

National League teams have already decided to end the current season now and are planning a vote on how to decide promotion, relegation and play-off issues.

Some want to void the season but many are thought to favour places being decided on a points-per-game formula that would see Barrow being promoted to League Two.

National League leaders Barrow fear they may miss out on promotion to League Two after clubs decided to end the current season now amid the coronavirus pandemic

Votes will now be held to decide the best way to finish the National League season, with the fate of Ian Evatt’s Barrow resting in the hands of other clubs

Once those issues are resolved, though, some clubs are worried that they will not play again until early next year.

While divisions like the Premier League are keen to start playing again behind-closed-doors this summer, a similar outcome is problematic for non-league sides.

Fulfilling fixtures without spectators allows Premier League clubs to pull in the television revenue on which they depend.

But the leading non-league clubs are more dependent on match-day gate revenue and playing behind-closed-doors would only add to their losses.

There have already been calls for more financial aid to be given to lower league and non-league clubs from the Premier League and broadcasting companies to help them through the crisis.

Non-league clubs (pictured are Dulwich Hamlet) are reliant on matchday revenue to survive

Some executives at National League level fear games may not be able to restart until January

The situation is dominated by uncertainty and officials at other National League clubs are adamant they are preparing for an earlier return.

There are deep concerns that such a long lay-off would decimate the non-league structure and affect the livelihoods of those who depend on it.

Many non-league footballers will be out of contract before the end of next month.

The concern for others is that both the Bundesliga and Serie A, who are said to be planning to return behind-closed-doors in the coming weeks, have suggested they will not play fixtures in front of fans until January.

Stockport County celebrate scoring a goal during their game at Maidenhead before the lockdown of football in England

Maidenhead United’s Nana Ofori-Twumasi greets a fan with an elbow bump before a match

Fears of National League clubs not being able to return until 2021 were given credence yesterday when England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the UK would have to endure some form of ‘socially disruptive measures’ for at least the rest of the year.

He said the chance of developing a vaccine by the end of this year was ‘incredibly small’ and until then the UK would need to rely on disruptive social distancing measures.

‘First piece of the jigsaw,’ Andy Holt, the owner of League One side Accrington Stanley, said in response. ‘No season ticket sales and no crowds until 2021.’

 

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League Two side Oldham face a player REVOLT

League Two side Oldham face a player REVOLT after they are given ultimatum to accept pay cuts worth up to 65% or be made redundant

  • Owner Abdallah Lemsagam is facing a revolt after the players were left fuming
  • They were told to accept pay cuts worth up to 65% or be made redundant 
  • The players were told the club want to furlough players during coronavirus crisis 
  • Oldham plan to use the Government Job Retention Scheme for their players
  • But Oldham have no intention of topping up their wages so they are paid in full 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Oldham players have been left fuming after being effectively told to accept pay cuts worth up to 65 per cent or be made redundant.

Owner Abdallah Lemsagam is facing a player revolt following the attempt to back the Latics squad into a corner with the ultimatum.

Members of Dino Maamria’s squad have been left stunned after being told the club want to furlough their players due to the impact of the coronavirus for the next few months, using the Government Job Retention Scheme so they receive 80 per cent of their money but have no intention of contributing to their salaries by topping up their wages so they are paid in full.

Oldham players have been told to accept pay cuts worth up to 65% or be made redundant

Sources have told Sportsmail that the only alternative offered to the players is they are made redundant.

With the government scheme capped at £2,500-per-month some at Boundary Park would see their money fall by as much as two-thirds if they sign up to Dubai-based Lemsagam’s proposal – leaving them in severe financial peril.

Oldham’s players received details of the proposal via an email sent from managing director Natalie Atkinson.

A handful of members – believed to be those close to the Oldham’s owner – have accepted the offer.

But the majority have rejected it out of hand, knowing that no other club in the division has put their players in the same no-win situation.

Oldham’s League Two rivals who have furloughed players are topping up their salaries or, at worst, have deferred portions of their wages until a later date. 

Owner Abdallah Lemsagam (right) is now facing a player revolt following his ultimatum

Oldham’s proposal would see their players being forced to give up money they will never see again.

Latics players who have so far stood their ground are willing to accept being furloughed to help the club but also want their salaries topped up so they remain in line with the rest of the division.

And their determination to hold out has been strengthened by claims that they are already chasing previously unpaid wages.

The sense of helplessness felt among Oldham’s squad has been compounded by advice from the PFA to accept the club’s offer as it is preferable to finding themselves out of work.

Though a planned video conference to discuss the matter on Wednesday afternoon is understood to have been cancelled following intervention from the PFA.

Members of the squad have been left stunned following the attempt to back them into a corner

Oldham failed to respond to request from Sportsmail for comment, but later released a statement.

It read: ‘The Oldham Athletic players will be paid their full March salaries, but with income vastly reduced and no dates for resumption of football, we must limit our outgoings. In order to safeguard the future of the club, we have therefore had to take the very difficult decision of furloughing our playing staff.

‘All players have been spoken to individually and as a group to explain the reasoning and how we’ll work with them on the resumption of football to return to normality as quickly as possible. Players can decide whether to accept the furlough and should they do so, they’ll receive the full level of Government support and their contracts will remain in place.

‘In the unfortunate instance that furlough is rejected, normal employment practice decrees that they are placed at risk of redundancy. We must stress that this is a last resort and we are continuing discussions with all players and their agents to avoid this outcome for any player.’ 




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Willian claims Premier League could bring game into disrepute

‘Even Liverpool players will say that they are concerned about their own health and that of their families, not the title’: Chelsea winger Willian claims Premier League could bring football into disrepute by returning too soon amid coronavirus crisis

  • Willian has warned early Premier League return could bring game into disrepute 
  • A meeting on Friday indicated top-flight bosses are eyeing a June 8 resumption
  • Brazilian says even champions-elect Liverpool won’t be concerned about title 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Chelsea winger Willian has warned Premier League chiefs that they risk bringing the game into disrepute by returning football soon amid the coronavirus crisis and says even Liverpool players won’t be concerned about winning the title right now.

A meeting of the top-flight bosses on Friday indicated that they were eyeing a June 8 resumption of the league, with the prospect of completing the season by playing games behind closed doors being considered as a resolution.

But the Brazilian feels the spectacle of England’s elite league will be tarnished if it is played out without fans, while he pointed out that the primary focus for everyone right now should be the health of themselves and their close ones.  

Willian says the Premier League could bring football into disrepute if it returns too soon

‘Football without fans is no fun. I’ve heard that at we could return with closed gates, with no public in the ­stadiums. If it is necessary and if we must play for the good of all, it must be done,’ Willian told Brazilian publication Folha.

Much has been made of how best to finish the season in order to allow Liverpool to confirm the Premier League title they have all-but confirmed, but Chelsea man insisted even the players won’t be concerned about being crowned champions right now. 

‘Even Liverpool players themselves, if you ask them, will say that they are concerned about their own health and that of their families. Not with the English title,’ he added. 

A meeting between Premier League bosses indicated they are eyeing a return date of June 8

The Brazilian says even champions-elect Liverpool won’t be worried about the title right now

The 31-year-old indicated he has no interest in returning to players before it is deemed completely safe to do so, and pointed out that money should not be placed over health in importance.

‘I reflect and thank God that my family and I are healthy. You may think that I am a football player and I am well, but this virus affects everyone, regardless of who you are.

‘Money does not buy your health and many people have died from this disease.

Willian admitted that it is has been strange without football and opened up on the struggle of having to isolate after team-mate Callum Hudsoin-Odoi tested positive for coronavirus while his family were in Brazil.

Chelsea players has to go into isolation after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive

 ‘I realised that the coronavirus was serious when reading the news that it had arrived in Europe. But there was a moment when it really felt real for all of us – when Hudson-Odoi tested positive.

‘The club told all of us that we would have to be quarantined, inside the house, without contact with anyone. My family was in Brazil and I was alone for 14 days, locked up.  

‘I tried to find a way to train, which was difficult because in London I live in an apartment. As soon as those two weeks were over, I looked for leaders and asked them to release me to return to Brazil. They agreed.’ 

 

 

 

 

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