With Project Restart firmly underway and the Premier League set for its return on 17 June, eyes have shifted to the current rounds of COVID-19 testing going on at every club.
Whilst so far the results have been encouraging, with a very small percentage coming back positive, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed that he has already suffered – and recovered – from the coronavirus.
Speaking toBBC Radio Leicester, Rodgers spoke about how he contracted the virus very shortly after the season had been suspended, revealing his experience of the illness.
Rodgers said: “Me and my wife had it just after the season broke up. A week later I really started to struggle, I had no smell and no taste. I had no strength, and I really struggled, and my wife was the same as well. I got tested and we both had it. I could hardly walk.”
“It reminded me of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, as you climb higher you get more breathless. Walking 10 yards felt very different. I went for a run, and I just couldn’t do it. I felt really weak, had no real appetite, and had a weird sensation for three weeks of having no taste.”
Rodgers is back to full health now, and looking forward to getting Leicester’s season back up and running away to 17th-placed Watford on 20 June. The Foxes are having their best season since their historic Premier League title win in 2015/16, in no small part down to the excellent management of the Northern Irishman.
They currently sit in third place with nine games to play, eight points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United. If they can continue their fine form from before the break, Rodgers will return Champions League football to the King Power Stadium.
If anyone knows about bursting onto the scene as a youngster and taking the footballing world by storm, it’s Ryan Giggs.
The Welshman first broke into Manchester United’s first team as a 17-year-old, where he remained a permanent fixture until he was 40.
So, he should rightly have some opinions about the next generation of young talent, and he has named a current United star, one of their former transfer targets, and a player heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford in his main three.
Speaking to Laureus, the Wales boss named Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland as three of the finest young players on the planet. All three are currently making headlines in the same way Giggs did in 1991, with Sancho looking increasingly likely to follow in Giggs’ footsteps and link up with Rashford at Old Trafford.
The two England internationals could form a longstanding partnership at United, and Giggs had special words of praise for both of them. Regarding Rashford, he said: “I’ve seen him coming through the ranks, such a talented player.”
On Sancho, who has been linked with a £120m move to United, he added: “And you have Jadon Sancho at Dortmund, a young player who’s made the bold decision to leave Manchester City and go to another country at a young age.
“And he really has made a difference. His teammate as well, Erling Haaland who’s scoring lots of goals.”
Rashford has previously hinted that he’d relish the chance to partner Sancho for more than just the Three Lions, saying on an Instagram Q&A: “He’s like the new generation player. It’s definitely exciting to watch the player he’s becoming, hopefully we can all play together. That would be good.”
90min revealed earlier in May that United remain intent on signing Sancho, though they no longer intend to break the £100m barrier for the winger.
While Giggs’ admiration of Sancho is not surprising, should he move to United it would surely hurt the development of young Welsh prospect Dan James. The winger started the season excellently after his move from Swansea, but hasn’t carried on that progression since.
James is still highly regarded by Giggs, who named him in the interview alongside other Wales internationals Ethan Ampadu and Dan Brooks. The manager reserved special praise for them, as their attitude reminds him of a younger version of himself.
He added: “It’s great when you see young players burst onto the scene and they’re just fearless. They just don’t think too much about the game and just express themselves. And you think back to when you were like that.”
The return of the Bundesliga gave fans across the world the chance to watch Jadon Sancho, perhaps the most in-demand player on the planet, in action once more.
With a price tag of over £100m slapped on his head, fans of all his suitors have been tuning in in the hope of catching the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund man at his dominant best, but things haven’t exactly gone according to plan since football returned.
Sancho is yet to start a game or even play more than the 45 minutes he managed against Bayern Munich, in which he proved powerless to stop his side from dropping even further behind in the title race.
Given his failure to perform in perhaps the biggest game of his season, Sancho has attracted plenty of criticism from trigger-happy fans who don’t believe the Englishman is worth anywhere close to that £100m+ fee anymore.
That judgement is a little premature – let’s not act like starring against Bayern is an easy task – but there’s no denying that Sancho hasn’t been himself in recent weeks.
The thing is, when literally every eye in the football world is on you, there’s only two ways things can go: you either live up to expectations, or you fail. Unfortunately for Sancho, he’s falling into that second category right now. ‘Right now’, of course, being ‘over a ten-day span when loads of people are watching him for the first time’.
While some are bashing his talent, it’s important to note that Sancho is not playing at full fitness. A calf injury has stopped him from playing more or even taking part in intense training sessions, and the impact of that on his body is clear.
Sancho looks sluggish and off the pace, and he doesn’t exactly look in the best physical shape of his life right now. It’s a struggle which every footballer will face at one point in their careers, but Sancho gets the added bonus of dealing with that while trying to justify his £100m value in front of every single fan in the entire world.
Fans are seeing Erling Haaland and Julian Brandt turn up for Dortmund, while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are shining for RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen respectively. Of all those in-demand stars, Sancho has been the odd one out.
When your entire game relies on speed, agility and acceleration, losing all three is a real problem, and that’s what Sancho is realising.
Not only will Sancho be putting pressure on himself to get back to his best, but he also has to deal with the taunts and criticism from fans – albeit now…in the stadium. The pressure is building and building, and until he gets back to full fitness, disproving the critics will be nearly impossible.
Teammate Thomas Delaney recently suggested that Sancho was feeling the weight of all that expectation, although the Dane did correctly state that Sancho doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone anymore.
Things seem to be moving in the right direction for Sancho. His minutes have been slowly growing and his involvement in training is stepping up, but with only one month of the season remaining, will Sancho have enough time to shine before the transfer window opens?
Haaland’s absence this weekend means Sancho might be forced into a leading man role, and could turn all of this around with a single performance.
But pressure has a cruel way of mounting, and only Sancho can stop it.
A 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin has all but finished RB Leipzig’s tilt at the Bundesliga title, with Bayern now nine points ahead of them at the top of the table, but that shouldn’t stop the east German side from trying to continue their excellent run form in the league.
Despite their title hopes fading, RB Leipzig have only lost three games this season, with their current unbeaten run stretching back nine matches. Their last match was that disappointing 2-2 draw, where they valiantly defended their lead with 10 men, only for a late Krzysztof Piątek penalty to rob them of two points.
Köln are still waiting for their first win since the restart, after suffering a 3-1 loss against a Christoph Baumgartner-inspired Hoffenheim. They were played out of the game after losing their centre-back Sebastiaan Bornauw in the 26th minute, but can be proud of their fightback after Hoffenheim were reduced to 10 men after the 50th minute, with the damage already done.
When Is Kick Off? Monday 1 June What Time Is Kick Off? 19:30 (BST) Where Is it Played? Rhein Energie Stadion TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK), fuboTV (US). Referee? TBC
Köln have a problem at centre-back, with both first choices unavailable. Rafael Czichos remains injured, as he has done since February, and Sebastiaan Bornauw’s sending off against Hoffenheim rules him out against a free-scoring Leipzig side.
Captain Jonas Hector was surprisingly dropped against Hoffenheim, but should come back into the team to help shield a back two likely to be made up of Toni Leistner and Jorge Mere, who have barely played together.
RB Leipzig also remain without centre-backs Ethan Ampadu and Ibrahima Konate, but have been bolstered by the return of Dayot Upamecano in recent games. Marcel Halstenberg was another player sent off in midweek, and he is expected to be replaced by Willi Orban. Expect Angeliño to return for Dani Olmo so Christopher Nkunku can be deployed further forward again.
Yussuf Poulsen is still out after suffering a ligament injury on Sunday and, despite returning to the bench, Emil Forsberg isn’t likely to return to the starting XI yet. Timo Werner bagged a hat-trick in his last away outing, his only goals in his last six games, and he’ll be hoping for a repeat performance.
A fairly new fixture in German football, Köln have only played RB Leipzig on five occasions, with the Red Bull-backed side winning three of them, including a 4-1 victory in the reverse fixture back in November. Köln’s only win was a 2-1 victory last season, and their first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw back in 2016.
The fact that Leipzig hold an 11-6 goal difference across five meetings demonstrates the gulf in class between the sides, but Köln may be catching their opponents at a good time.
Köln are a prime example of a club who have been hit hard by the suspension of the Bundesliga. They won four of the six games played before the break, only losing to high flying Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich, winning the other four. They are yet to win following the restart though, with two 2-2 draws and the 3-1 loss to Hoffenheim.
That run of form before the break should be enough to ensure survival at the very least, but there is a feeling that should Köln grab a win, they could end the season strongly. They haven’t failed to score a goal in a competitive fixture since a 2-0 defeat away to Union Berlin on 8 December.
RB Leipzig, however, will probably be glad of an away game. Their last time on the road ended in 5-0 rout of Mainz, a result sandwiched between uninspiring home performances against Freiburg and Hertha BSC.
They are still unbeaten in the Bundesliga since 26 October, and will want to end the season strongly with Monchengladbach and Leverkusen breathing down their necks, just two points behind them now. RB Leipzig may be done in the title race, but consolidating their Champions League place must be a priority for Julian Nagelsmann now.
Away form may be the new advantage, as only five fixtures out of 27 since the restart have ended in a home win, a percentage of just 18.5%.
Whilst neither side is in quite the electric form they were showing before the break, RB Leipzig should be able to show their quality if they manage to get their attacking players on the ball at the Rhein Energie Stadion.
The added pressure of Köln having a makeshift centre-back pairing, together with Nkunku returning to the forward line, should be too much for the hosts to handle. Whilst there should be little chance of an upset, Köln may be able to force a score draw if they start well and keep their performance high.
Football clubs’ finances may have taken a substantial knock as a result of there being, well, no football, but nevertheless Europe still boasts some sides with unmatched riches.
No matter their current predicaments on the pitch, some clubs still reign supreme when it comes to their overall value. Leagues across the continent feature, but the English top division boasts eight representatives in the current top 20.
The fifth annual KPMG report ranks clubs based on their enterprise value, which analyses profitability, popularity, sporting potential and television rights, as well as stadium ownership up to 1 January, 2020.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Lyon are not the most valuable French side in Europe.
Yet, their jump up two places from the last report comes off the back of a disappointing league campaign in which they finished seventh, which is a slight surprise.
The 2015/16 Premier League champions soared into the upper echelons of Europe’s most valuable clubs, aided by their resulting Champions League campaign.
They’ve slipped down slightly this time around, but with elite European football likely to follow next season, we could see them rise up the table once again.
Still hovering around at the right end of the value table, there is every possibility that we could see West Ham fall significantly in just a few months’ time.
With their Premier League status hanging by a thread this term, a drop into the second tier could have big implications on their financial clout
The first Serie A side on this list are Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli, who climb one place into 17th.
100% owned by Aurelio De Laurentiis (via Filmauro), the club are also one of the associate members of the European Club Association.
Backed by NEEP Roma Holding S.p.A, the capital city club haven’t claimed any silverware since 2008 but shoot up the table nevertheless.
It’s clearly the Chris Smalling effect.
There is a big difference value between 16th and 15th, with German side Schalke 04 boasting vast riches despite their lack of on-field success in recent seasons.
The last time they tasted trophy success was in 2011, when under the guidance and Ralf Rangnick they lifted the DFB-Pokal.
One of Europe’s biggest sides come in at 14th, something you’d expect them to do when they can afford to splash £74m on Romelu Lukaku.
Their wealth hasn’t granted them much success on the pitch as of late, but they could very well be title winners come the end of the season – with a large amount of luck on their side.
Now moving close to one billion pounds worth of value are Spain’s other capital club, who are regularly floating around the top end of La Liga, as well as featuring in the Champions League.
Boasting a shiny new stadium that is packed out each week has seen their value boost, while the club itself clearly has money in the bank with their £113m spending spree on Joao Felix.
With one of the finest stadia in world football and a raucous fan following, the value of Dortmund is naturally high.
‘Sporting potential’ comes into the overall rankings, so all they need to do is sort out their inferiority complex and they’ll fly up on this list.
Italy’s most successful club also happens to be its most valuable, boasting star names and huge popularity.
They’re in the driving seat to add further gloss to their reputation, sitting atop the Serie A table ahead of the league’s eventual resumption.
Their on-field struggles may be painstakingly evident, but Arsenal still find themselves among the ten most valuable clubs in Europe.
If it was based on sporting potential alone, however, you’d back them to be outside the top 100.
France’s big boys appear ninth in the table backed by Qatar Sports Investments who, if you didn’t already know, have quite a lot of money.
Challenging (winning) in every competition on France every season, as well as competing in the Champions League ensures they remain a major force in football. And, not to mention, they’ve got two of the best players in the world.
The pride of north London is always at stake, but while this may not be on quite the same level as beating one another in a football match, Spurs fans will enjoy seeing them leapfrog Arsenal as the more valuable club.
Talk about a so-called ‘power shift’ has been going on for a while, as Spurs have been climbing up the table while Arsenal have been slipping down it. Even it terms of value, it seems that is the case too.
Backed by a wealthy Russian owner, Chelsea will be somewhat disappointed to see themselves drop down a place in the rankings. Or maybe they won’t since they’re, y’know, still rich.
Frank Lampard is building an interesting young side over in west London this season, different to the likes we’ve come familiar with over the years, and with wealth on his side, success could be forthcoming.
Not in the Champions League this season, though, it must be said.
All those wonderful footballers and Premier League titles and they can’t even make it into the top five? Poor form.
But truth is City did make a loss last year. Granted it was a tiny one, but a loss is a loss at the end of the day. Their financial situation, coupled with another English side’s booming situation, has seen them drop down one place and just behind….
Champions League winners last year and inevitable Premier League champions this season has done plenty for Liverpool’s value -19.3%’s worth, to be precise.
One of the finest sides in Europe and backed by an immense fanbase, their iconic Anfield home is packed out each and every week, with all the criteria used to determine value earning them a top five spot in the rankings.
The German giants drop down one place in the rankings but still boast incredible wealth and value. Constantly challenging for titles and regularly featuring in the latter stages of the Champions League certainly helps their case.
It looks almost done and dusted they’ll claim at least one trophy this season, with their place atop the Bundesliga table looking unlikely to be surpassed following their recent victory over Dortmund.
Sneaking their way into the top three this year is a club with immense global recognition. Sure, most of the clubs in this list can say that, but they’re not Barcelona.
One half of Spanish football’s top two sides, their popularity, stadium, wealth and sporting potential meant they were always going to be among the most valuable sides in Europe, something that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
If only their value was reflected in team’s performances. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as the club’s manager, United have failed to match their previous success – but that hasn’t prevented them from being one of the biggest clubs in world football. Perhaps even the biggest.
Keeping their place as England’s powerhouse club, as well as second spot in the rankings, they recorded a profit last year and with the Premier League resuming and Champions League football in their sights, they could finally be on course for a return to success.
Nobody was going to knock Madrid off their perch this year either, as they remain the most valuable club on the continent. They’ve boasted a slight increase on their value within the last 12 months.
They have all the aspects one could desire from a top football club, with world class players, an incredible stadium, an iconic kit, rich history and so much more going in their favour. In footballing terms they could still lift La Liga this term, and they’re not yet out of the Champions League. The least you’d expect for a club of their stature.