Pedro 'to leave Chelsea and sign for Roma as a free agent'

Pedro to leave Chelsea and ‘sign for Roma as a free agent when his contract expires despite interest from Juventus and three other sides’

  • Spanish winger Pedro’s contract at Chelsea will expire at the end of the season
  • Pedro has been at Stamford Bridge since 2015, featuring 201 times for the club
  • Pedro has reportedly decided to leave Chelsea and sign for Serie A side Roma
  • However, the 32-year-old has attracted interest from Serie A giants Juventus too 

Pedro has reportedly decided to sign for Roma as a free agent when his contract expires at Chelsea at the end of the campaign.

The Spanish winger’s time at Stamford Bridge appears to be coming to an end and he can already negotiate a deal elsewhere.

And according to Spanish publication AS, Pedro views Roma as the ‘priority’ – which backs up a story from Italian paper Il Tempo – as he seeks his next move following five years in west London.

Chelsea winger Pedro has attracted heavy interest from the likes of Roma and Juventus

This comes despite attracting interest from four other sides, including Serie A giants Juventus, Sevilla, Valencia and Real Betis – according to Mundo Deportivo.

Roma have been in hot pursuit of the 32-year-old winger for some time now, and it appears their efforts have been successful.

Pedro joined Chelsea from Barcelona back in 2015, and he has gone on to feature 201 times for the Premier League outfit. 

Since moving to Stamford Bridge, he was one the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League once, and will be hoping to ensure Chelsea finish in the top four come the end of the season before leaving.

This season, the Spaniard has contributed two goals and three assists in 18 matches across all competitions for Frank Lampard’s side. 

The Spaniard has spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge, featuring 201 times overall




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Arsenal hero Ian Wright singles out one Man Utd legend who ‘is why they won so much’

Arsenal hero Ian Wright claims the intensity of Roy Keane was a major reason behind Manchester United’s success in the 1990s and early 2000s. Keane won seven Premier League titles in a 12-year spell at Old Trafford and was captain for eight of those years between 1997 and 2005. The Irishman is widely regarded as one of the best captains and central midfielders in the history of the Premier League.

And Wright, who played against Keane for a large part of his career, has described him as the “most intense” player he faced.

Wright says it was that intensity which carried Keane’s teams onto success.

“Well the most intense I’ve played against would probably have to be Roy Keane,” Wright told Stadium Astro.

“Roy Keane was really intense, there was no let up in his manner on the pitch when he was on there with Man United.

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“This is why they won so much, this is why they were so revered, that’s why they were so great because he was a captain that didn’t let anybody rest on their laurels and he drove that team for many years. He was majorly intense on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Wright says former Arsenal defender Martin Keown was the most intense player he played with during his career.

Keown made almost 450 appearances in two spells at Arsenal and won seven major honours, including the Premier League title win in 2004 where the Gunners went an entire season unbeaten.

“I think when you talk about somebody I played with and intensity, Martin Keown,” Wright added.

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“We’re talking about no day off for him, in training he was exactly the same to how he played, which is something that I tried to take from his game because you can’t switch it on and off like a tap, the intensity you have to play at at the Premier League level and international level.

“So if you can maintain a certain intensity all the way through, whether it’s training or whatever you’re doing, even in friendlies Martin said to me you should continuously play, train like you play.

“He was majorly intense to the point where it was over-the-top intense.

“Martin was one of the most friendly men you could ever meet.

“I think when you hear him doing his analysis you can hear he’s very concise, a very intelligent bloke and maybe a little bit misunderstood.”

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Get ready for a Premier League festival of football like never before

A freakish festival of football: Get ready for a mini-season like never before as Liverpool’s peculiar procession continues, the race for the top four resumes and the fight for survival reaches its conclusion

  • English football will be returning on June 17 after coronavirus halted the season
  • The Premier League will be back to bring a memorable campaign to an end 
  • Liverpool are close to clinching the title while the race for the top four is on
  • Top-flight sides such as Newcastle and Watford are battling to avoid the drop 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

 The covers are off. The ball is rolling. Touch your toes, reach for the sky, on your marks. Prepare yourselves for a summer of sport, albeit one like never before.

No strawberries at Wimbledon. No warm ale at extortionate prices and beer snakes in the Hollies Stand. No unseemly brawl in best bib-and-tucker by the champagne tent after the final race on the card at Ascot.

For football, no major international tournament, no crushing disappointment and soul-loathing for England. No circus of globe-trotting friendlies.

To the delight of many, including Liverpool (pictured) football is coming back in June

Here are all of the key dates and TV information you need to know ahead of football’s return

Instead, limber up for a mini-season like never before with a blur of 92 midsummer matches in the Premier League.

Behold Liverpool’s peculiar procession towards their first league title in 30 years. It may or may not be at Anfield. 

Unfortunately, it will not be in front of their passionate supporters. But it will be no more than Jurgen Klopp and his team deserve for 18 months of excellence.

The campaign is distorted but distorted for all. At least this way — and with no second wave of coronavirus — it can be settled in a sporting arena.

Jurgen Klopp (pictured)’s side are so close to their first Premier League title in 30 years

It will certainly seem freakish but we can immerse ourselves in a sprint for the top four. Or top five, perhaps, if Manchester City fail to overturn their UEFA ban.

Can Leicester City hang in there? Can Sheffield United or Wolves interlope? Can Frank Lampard finish an impressive first season at the helm at Chelsea? 

Will Manchester United’s fine form since the turn of the year and the signing of Bruno Fernandes survive? Will Tottenham or Arsenal recover and be involved in Europe next season, whatever that is going to look like? It is nicely poised.

Can Jose Mourinho guide his Tottenham side to a top-four spot ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal?

Spurs were in a terrible run of no wins in six. By the time we resume it will be four months since their last win. 

With the return to fitness of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, they ought to benefit from the time-out.

But how will Jose Mourinho cope, unburdened by the excuses of injuries, no time to work and the distractions of other cup competitions?

At the bottom, after weeks of political posturing by those against the concept of relegation, the survival fight will reconvene.

It looks like any three from six but with an other-worldly element of the unknown thrown in.

What about at the bottom of the table? Newcastle and Watford are trying to avoid the drop

Those in good form have lost momentum. Watford became the first to beat Liverpool in the Premier League but that seems like another lifetime and Nigel Pearson’s plans have been hit by positive Covid tests and some players, including captain and talisman Troy Deeney, with concerns about a return to work.

Will Steve Bruce’s Newcastle be energised or distracted by the Saudi takeover attempt? Will Leeds end their 16-year exile from the top flight? 

Will West Bromwich Albion, Fulham or Nottingham Forest be back? Or can Preston or Brentford reach the Premier League for the first time?

While there are no shortage of sub-plots in the Championship, the FA Cup is well set with four blue-chip clubs accustomed to finals and silverware in the modern era against four who have waited years for success in the world’s oldest competition. 

The FA Cup will be returning in June – with clubs currently competing at the quarter-final stage

Newcastle have not won it for 65 years, Sheffield United not for 95, Leicester and Norwich have never won it.

Of course, it will not be the same. Not without the noise in the stadium to turn up the intensity. 

We will miss the joy of the shared experience. The heat of June and July will slow the pace and extra substitutions will break the flow.

Our summer of sport will lack quintessence but pull up a chair and keep your eye on the ball because there will be drama. 

There will something for football fans to savour. Who knows, we might even enjoy it.    




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Philippe Coutinho ‘will never’ join Arsenal as Chelsea lead race for Barcelona star

Arsenal will not be signing Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona this summer, according to European football expert Julien Laurens. Express Sport understands Chelsea are leading the way for Coutinho’s signature. The former Liverpool star has been linked with a host of clubs after spending this season on loan at Bayern Munich.

Bayern will not look to make the deal permanent and Barca are keen on selling the 27-year-old.

Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in Coutinho but Laurens says, even if the Gunners sell Mesut Ozil, a deal will “never happen”.

“No chance, it’s impossible,” Laurens told ESPN FC.

“I know where it comes from, it comes from France, a newspaper with no credibility whatsoever.

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“We could talk about it but there’s no chance.

“It’s not my one and the only thing that could make people doubt slightly is that Coutinho’s agent is obviously Kia Joorabchian, who is very, very good friends and very close to Edu, the Arsenal sporting director, but that’s where it stops.

“Arsenal cannot afford either a transfer fee, his wages, not even a loan, a paying loan or anything like this.

“There were already links last summer with Coutinho.

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“Even if Mesut Ozil leaves, they’re not going to replace him with Coutinho.

“So this one I can guarantee you will never happen.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal defender David Luiz could leave this summer as the club are yet to activate a one-year extension in his contract.

But Laurens disagrees that Arsenal should let the former Chelsea man walk away for nothing.

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“I don’t think so, I think they should keep him,” Laurens said on the Gab and Juls podcast.

“I know he sometimes makes mistakes, and he’ll make more mistakes, I can tell you that now.

“I think he’s been very important in the dressing room.

“You don’t have to keep him playing every minute of every game.”

“You’ve got [William] Saliba coming in from Saint-Etienne, who I think will be amazing. You’ve also got a lot of other centre-backs.kia 

“I think you can look at selling [Rob] Holding, [Shkodran] Mustafi and others, but keeping Luiz would be a good idea for the influence he had on the younger players.

“For the harmony of the dressing room, he’s been really useful for that as well.”

“Maybe you go to three at the back and play him as a sweeper… you don’t have to keep starting him, but I’d keep him around for sure.”

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Last Dance had Jordan as a winner but he's anything but as an owner

Michael Jordan was portrayed as the ultimate winner in ‘The Last Dance’, so why isn’t he the same as an owner? Charlotte Hornets made him a billionaire but he’s overseen a DECADE of mediocrity

  • Michael Jordan became an investor in the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2006
  • The Chicago Bulls icon seized control of the franchise in 2010 for $180million
  • The value of the team has soared to $1.5billion despite a dismal overall record
  • Jordan was a serial winner as a player but as an owner he oversees mediocrity
  • The Hornets have made the play-offs just three times since Jordan took over

‘The Last Dance’ confirmed for many that when it comes to a winning mentality, there has never been one greater than Michael Jordan’s.

Documenting the legendary career of the Chicago Bulls icon, ESPN and Netflix’s 10-part series captivated viewers across the globe with incredible behind-the-scenes footage of Jordan and his history-making team in their 1998 season.

The focus was not so much on Jordan’s skills and the game of basketball itself, but more his relentless drive to win at all costs. And win he did, the NBA icon ending his career with six rings and a perfect record in the Finals. He was flawless on the court.

Michael Jordan has found success incredibly tough to come by as an owner of an NBA team

Jordan (left) and coach Phil Jackson (right) finished in Chicago by winning the 1998 NBA title

Watching ‘The Last Dance’, Jordan came across as a man who would approach all areas of his life with the same winning mindset. The American was shown to be just as competitive on the court in front of thousands as he was playing cards at the back of the team coach.

However, that win-at-all-costs mentality doesn’t seem to have transferred to the boardroom as owner of the Charlotte Hornets.

The documentary acknowledges Jordan’s post-Bulls life with just one sentence, saying he went back into retirement, having first retired for baseball in 1994. 

There was no mention of his uninspiring two-year comeback with the Washington Wizards and nothing about what he has done since hanging up his Nikes. Maybe that is because it just didn’t fit the narrative of an uncompromising winner.

Jordan, now 57, remains firmly involved in basketball, but with polar opposite results.

He became involved in the Hornets – then the Charlotte Bobcats – in 2006, going on to take over as the the franchise’s owner in 2010 when he bought out Robert Johnson for around $180million, according to Sports Illustrated.

According to Forbes, the franchise are now worth $1.5billion. In the annual accounts, few boardrooms are winning like Jordan and his team.  

But fans naturally may have expected the serial winner they have come to adore in the documentary to do everything in his power to make his team as much of a juggernaut as the Bulls in the 90s. 

And yet in a decade of control, that just hasn’t been the case. It hasn’t even been close. 

It has been so dismal for the Hornets that criticism has been ever-present in his tenure – and even cost Jordan a friendship that had previously spanned two decades with Charles Barkley.  

He took majority control of the Charlotte Hornets in 2010 but they have struggled to progress


He was an investor when they were the Bobcats (left) but success has been difficult to achieve

‘I thought the people he hired around him were too many “yes men,” that was actually my statement,’ Barkley said on the Athletic’s Hoops Adjacent podcast when asked about why the two are no longer friends. 

‘I thought the people around him. They wanted the private jets. They wanted the steak dinner. 

‘They were always going to be “yes men”. I wish the guy nothing but the best, but I think I was in the right.’ 

Barkley, now a prominent TV analyst on the NBA, aired those comments back in 2012 and his relationship with Jordan has been non-existent ever since. If ‘The Last Dance’ showed us anything other than his relentless drive it was that Jordan can certainly hold a grudge if he wants to.  

Jordan’s 14 seasons in Charlotte have seen so little success, failing to win a single play-off series in that period, losing on all three attempts, twice being swept to nothing in the first round.

They hold an overall regular season record of 464 wins and 651 defeats during Jordan’s tenure, losing 59.4 per cent of their matches and only finishing above .500 (breaking even at 50-50 in a season) three times.

This is not just a franchise that isn’t winning, hard on their luck in the high leverage moments. This is a franchise that isn’t even in the conversation when the word success is banded around the league.

Jordan (pictured in 2008) was seen at a Bobcats game alongside film supremo Spike Lee (left)

Jordan (left) has seen his overall wealth rocket to billionaire status since owning the Hornets

To put things into perspective, even the New York Knicks, arguably the most starved franchise of success in the league, possess a better play-off record since Jordan has been in charge in. 

The problem is Michael Jordan the owner has never been able to bring in anyone like Michael Jordan the player. 

Granted, that is a lot easier said than done, but he hasn’t really tried when it has come to free agency or major trades.

Charlotte as a market is tough to attract the glamour names but playing under Jordan, being able to pick his brains to improve, could be a major bargaining chip if he wanted it to be. 

And so with such limited success, and a seeming unwillingness to go all-out to make success happen, it is perfectly valid to question where Jordan and the Hornets are actually going under his ownership.  

Even after drafting future All-Star guard Kemba Walker he failed time and time again to surround him with the type of talent needed to make a serious play-off run.

Walker is no longer at the Spectrum Center, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer was allowed to join the Boston Celtics in a sign-and-trade deal in the summer. Terry Rozier came in the opposite direction on a lesser contract.

They have made the play-offs just three times in his tenure and have never paid the luxury tax

All-Star guard Kemba Walker wanted to stay in Charlotte but was not offered a worthy contract

Waker had been eligible for a five-year super-max contract worth $220m but would have reportedly accepted a regular max deal offer of five years for $190m as part of a hometown discount. 

In the end, Jordan would ultimately give him little choice but to leave and take his game elsewhere.

Walker was reportedly lowballed in negotiations, according to the Athletic, and it was an offer he was never going to accept, seeing him walk out the door with a heavy-heart to Boston.

The priority here wasn’t the player, it was the finances. In fact, that is the story of Jordan’s ownership.      

Cost-cutting measures are commonplace in Charlotte and letting their best player in Walker depart was further proof of that. The decision meant Jordan and the Hornets remained under the NBA’s Luxury Tax – additional fees that need to be paid if the salary cap is exceeded – significantly. 

Jordan seen shaking hands with LeBron James in the first round of the play-offs back in 2014

The Hornets have the 10th best record in the Eastern Conference as things stand right now

In fact, the Hornets are one of only two teams in the league – the New Orleans Pelicans are the other – to have never paid the luxury tax.  

The Knicks have splashed out on the luxury tax 10 times, the Los Angeles Lakers have done it nine times and the Cleveland Cavaliers have spent it seven times. 

And so other teams are trying, other teams are rolling the dice in the hope they find the formula to have a winning basketball team. 

Jordan might have said in the documentary that he has a ‘competition problem’ but when it comes to life as an owner, the six-time Bulls champions appears to have no interest in playing. 




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Premier League clubs APPROVE a return to contact training

Premier League clubs unanimously APPROVE plan to resume ‘Phase Two’ full contact training that allows ‘tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact’ in biggest step forward for Project Restart yet

  • A Wednesday has approved the resumption of contact training at clubs
  • Last week, players returned to individual training and a Covid-19 testing system 
  • A step up in training intensity means a return to matches is now a step closer 

Premier League clubs have approved a return to contact training in a significant step forward for Project Restart.

Talks were held between clubs on Tuesday, overseen by new chairman Gary Hoffman, and it is believed that no major issues were raised over the protocol. The decision was unanimous and 14 clubs were needed to approve the plans for them to be passed.

Players returned to individual training last week where a widespread testing regime was rolled out across all Premier League clubs. That plan will remain in plays and players will still be tested twice a week. 

So far, Premier League stars have been keeping their distance in individual training sessions

But after Wednesday’s vote, a return to action has become a step closer to being reality

The 20 sides have carefully organised the arrival of players and the layout of training in order to maintain social distancing standards. 

There have only been a handful of positive tests – Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale are the notable players.

Wednesday’s vote means that the Premier League is looking at a June restart, although the initial June 12 date that was mooted now appears unlikely.

Friday, June 26 appears more and more likely to be the date competitive action begins again behind closed doors.

There is also an increasing likelihood that matches will be played at venues across the country rather than at neutral grounds.

Tottenham talisman Harry Kane will soon be competing among his team-mates in training

Manchester United’s team will now soon be returning to closer contact training 

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, speaking exclusively to Sportsmail, has thrown his backing to the idea.

I hope games can be played at their own venues. I think if that can be done, a lot of people’s complaints will probably be gone.

‘The neutral venues, it would have been very hard to manage. Hopefully this is a much better solution if agreed by everyone.’

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has backed Project Restart ahead of Wednesday’s vote

So, aside from the obvious, how much will things change for players who have been training individually for the last week or so? Sportsmail explains…

DO  

TRAIN FOR AS LONG AS YOU WANT

The new guidelines from the Premier League say that there is no longer a time limit over training sessions. 

For the time being, individual training lasts 75 minutes but now the vote has passed, players can be involved in group training for as long as clubs want.

DON’T 

11 v 11 TRAINING

Full-on practice matches are still set to be a short while away for players at present.

Guidelines say that players should gradually return to group training, initially in twos and threes, before that number then expands.

So 11v11 training will be happening in due course, but not immediately. 

There will still be a short amount of time before Raheem Sterling and City are in 11v11 matches

DO

TACKLE AND PASS

The main purpose of a return to contact training is to condition players for the resumption of competitive action. And conditioning is just as much something to protect players from injury as it is to help perform at the highest standard.

That means that, albeit tentatively, clubs will be looking to recreate the intensity of a match to help their players reach as strong a fitness level as possible. 

It may sound basic, and it is, but it is a small yet significant step. Another way for players to ramp up their level of sharpness is to play with their team-mates. Passing and shooting drills form a part of tactical work, so it is a key factor that allows managers to plot for how they want their team to play. 

Contact between players around training sessions themselves is still to be heavily restricted 

DON’T

SHARE EQUIPMENT

The government guidelines to all of this are key, and are what the Premier League protocols are anchored around. 

Part of those guidelines say that close contact training involves ‘close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, technical equipment sharing’.

But it is understood club protocols ensure will ensure that when it comes to equipment, shared use is still something that will be avoided wherever possible. 

It is something we have already seen not just in England but in Germany, with balls used for training and matches being sprayed with disinfectant.

They also say any training equipment, such as mannequins, must be disinfected after each use. They also encourage throw-ins to be limited as much as possible, to lessen the number of players touching the ball with their hands.

Balls used in training – and soon, matches – sprayed with disinfectant to prevent contamination

DO

WARM UP TOGETHER 

Players will be allowed to go through warm-ups almost as a complete squad. Guidelines say that groups of 18 players, with two-metre social distancing rules in place, are fine to undertake stretching as a team.

Government advice rates each exercise on a points system in terms of risk and a squad exercising with the correct distance between them is deemed low.   

DON’T

ALLOW LONG DRINKS BREAKS

Interestingly, guidelines provided to clubs have urged them to consider how they organise drinks breaks.

Competitive club action at this time of year is unusual – players are usually on pre-season breaks or gearing up for international tournaments. Training to rebuild fitness in the heat means breaks for water and refuelling are imperative.

But it is understood that during such a time, players usually tend to mingle in groups. This is something the government is keen to avoid – just because contact training is allowed in the throes of sport, it does not mean that two-metre social distancing rules are completely void now. 

Guidance given to clubs is so precise, players will be told how to behave during a drinks break

DO

LIMIT CONTACT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

Guidelines are really clear on this – while contact is now allowed, it doesn’t mean social distancing is over. Immense care has to be provided by clubs with how players arrive for training and how they are in contact with each other in the moments before and after a session. 

DON’T

SWAP BIBS

Bibs are often used in training sessions for team activities or even simple drills like rondo. 

Players will be told that bibs are not to be passed around the squad and will be distributed by a coach wearing PPE gloves. They will then be washed immediately after use from a player to lower risks of cross-contmaination as much as possible. 




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Gotze should be centre-stage as the world watches Dortmund v Munich

Mario Gotze should be centre-stage with the spotlight on Dortmund v Bayern tonight… instead, Germany’s once-in-a-generation talent faces a sorry exit after problems with his health, weight and bosses

  • Mario Gotze is 27 and coming into his peak, yet his career is at a crossroads
  • He will leave Borussia Dortmund for a second time at the end of the season
  • At Dortmund, he is on the sidelines due to players such as Jadon Sancho 

In another world, a parallel timeline, Borussia Dortmund’s title-race clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday evening would not be about Jadon Sancho, or Erling Braut Haaland, or Alphonso Davies. It would be about Mario Gotze.

On Tuesday, the whole world will tune in to a fixture which has defined German football for the last decade. Ten years ago, it would have been a safe bet that Bavarian-born and Dortmund-raised wunderkind Gotze was going to be that fixture’s defining player. 

At 27, he would now be approaching his peak, ready once again to play a starring role in the so-called ‘Klassiker’.

Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze is just 27 years old but his career is at a crossroads 

Gotze should be centre stage but instead, it belongs to Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland

Gotze will be watching on as a substitute when Dortmund meet his old side Bayern Munich

Instead, Gotze will spend Tuesday evening on the bench, mulling what might have been. His World-Cup winning strike in 2014 was recently voted ‘Goal of the Decade’ in Germany, but it is now six years now since his majestic moment in the Maracana. And they have been six long years indeed, full of injuries, illnesses, and countless false dawns.

On Saturday, Dortmund confirmed that Gotze would be leaving at the end of the season. ‘Mario is a really good guy…the decision was also made with him in mind,’ said sporting director Michael Zorc. ‘He is going to look for a new challenge, perhaps abroad.’

A new challenge, and a liberation from the heavy burden of Bayern and Dortmund, is arguably what Gotze has needed for a long time. One way or another, his affinity to these two clubs has always dragged him down, the rampant success of both teams – and the rivalry itself – laying an ever colder light on his own underachievement.

A Bayern fan as a boy, Gotze joined Dortmund at the age of eight and later established himself as a once-in-a-generation talent. His sparkling international debut against Brazil and explosive role in Jurgen Klopp’s double-winning Dortmund side made him the posterboy of a new dawn for German football, which had become a swashbuckling, rock’n’roll alternative to Europe’s bigger leagues.

Gotze is a once-in-a-generation talent but in recent years, has struggled to maintain sharpness

It was former Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp who got the best from Gotze at club level

At Bayern, he struggled to make a strong impact under the guidance of Pep Guardiola 

When that period reached its peak with Bayern and Dortmund’s meeting in the 2013 Champions League Final, things were already turning sour for Gotze. Injured and about to move to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern, he watched from the stands as his new team won and his former fans decried him as Judas.

Working under Guardiola is something which can make or break a career, and for Gotze it appeared to be the latter. Plagued by injuries and unappreciated by the Catalan coach, he made less than 60 league starts in three years in Munich, before a shock return to Dortmund in 2016.

Yet somehow, the old magic had gone. A few months later, it emerged that Gotze had long been struggling with a metabolic disorder which played havoc with his fitness and his weight. 

Over the next few years, he would be in and out of the Dortmund side, but never out of the headlines. Especially in light of his World Cup heroism, Gotze’s slow-motion decline has been a gruesome spectacle from which the nation has been unable to tear its eyes.

In his first ever pre-match interview as Dortmund coach, current boss Lucien Favre was asked whether he would find a role for Gotze. In the two years since, he has never stopped having to answer the same question. 

On the international stage, Gotze won the World Cup with Germany, scoring in the 2014 final

Fast forward to 2020 and Gotze has made just five starts for the Dortmund side this season

He will leave the club at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and possibly move abroad

That is partly what moved the club to announce his departure last weekend. Dortmund wanted no distractions before the derby, and Gotze has long been the greatest distraction of them all.

In truth, he had been on his way out for a while. He has made just five starts this season, and his social media antics have reportedly irritated club bosses. 

Alongside model wife Ann-Kathrin, the 27-year-old has refashioned himself as one half of an influencer power-couple in recent years. Last week, just days before Dortmund announced his departure, the two took on a TikTok challenge which involved him wearing a leopard-print dress.

‘Gotze can earn millions on social media without sweating every day in training,’ remarked Bild rather meanly on Monday. Yet in general, the 2014 World-Cup hero is still looked upon fondly in Germany. Most are desperate to see him find some kind of peace, even if it is outside the country.

‘He would be well advised to continue his career abroad. That’s the only way he can break the vicious circle which has seen him go from one setback to the next since 2014,’ wrote Bild. In a recent poll in Kicker magazine, only 18 percent of respondents said they thought Gotze should stay in Germany.

Where he should go is another matter. A move to England would arguably only bring the same problems he has at Dortmund. No longer the explosive player he once was, Gotze is ill-suited to the era of Haalands, Sanchos, Salahs and Sterlings. As Bild put it: ‘Football has moved on, he has stayed still’.

His social media antics – such as posing in a dress with his ‘influencer’ girlfriend – have left some of the Dortmund hierarchy unimpressed

Dortmund manager Lucian Favre has been repeatedly asked about Gotze since joining the club

Yet that is not entirely true. For a few months under Favre, it looked as if Gotze might be about to reinvent himself as a more cerebral number eight: less agile, perhaps, but no less quick-witted and creative. Some in Germany believe he may still have a future at a major European club.

‘When space is tight and it’s about short, quick passing, Gotze is still one of the best in German football,’ wrote Der Spiegel magazine. ‘In that regard, Barcelona could probably find a space for him without too much trouble.’

That may be a slight exaggeration. But there are other teams, whose game is less bombastic and more possession-based, where Gotze could yet find a home.

Yet that is not Dortmund, and it is not Bayern. On Tuesday, the world will watch those two teams battle it out for Bundesliga supremacy once again. Gotze, the decade’s supreme tragic hero, will also once again be a mere spectator.




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Fabregas: Arsenal were 'angry and upset' as United ended unbeaten run

‘Gary Neville, what he did to Reyes… mamma mia!’: Cesc Fabregas reveals Arsenal’s Invincibles were ‘angry and upset’ after their 49-game unbeaten run was ended by Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2004… and he accuses Wayne Rooney of DIVING

  • Cesc Fabregas is still furious at Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester United in 2004
  • Sir Alex Ferguson’s side ended the Gunners’ Invincbles run with a 2-0 victory 
  • Fabregas accused Wayne Rooney of diving to win a penalty for the opener
  • The Spaniard also recalled how Jose Antonio Reyes was repeatedly hacked down

Cesc Fabregas has said he is still furious over Manchester United ending Arsenal’s Invincible run in 2004.

United beat the Gunners 2-0 at Old Trafford as Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney sealed victory in a game full of controversy. 

The Red Devils were awarded a penalty in the 73rd minute after Rooney was brought down by Sol Campbell, but Fabregas accused the Englishman of diving.

Cesc Fabregas admitted he is still furious over Manchester United beating Arsenal in 2004

The Spaniard accused Wayne Rooney of diving to win a penalty for United’s opening goal

Jose Antonio Reyes was repeatedly hacked down by United’s Gary Neville and his team-mates

Van Nistelrooy converted the spot-kick before Rooney added another in the final minute.

The Spaniard admitted he is still frustrated about the way his side’s unbeaten run came to an end and recalled how team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes was repeatedly hacked down every time he had the ball.

‘We were so disappointed. We were angry, we were upset,’ he told Rio Ferdinand’s FIVE YouTube channel. 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=RURqZafgC00%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1

‘It had to come to an end, the 49 games, it can happen at Old Trafford against a great Man Utd side. But I think it’s the way it happened.

‘First of all, Gary Neville, what he did to Antonio Reyes… mamma mia! But every single time he had the ball! Wayne [Rooney] dived for the penalty against Sol [Campbell].

‘The emotion was that we had lost against a great team, which can happen, but we didn’t feel we should’ve lost. We didn’t feel it was the right time to lose our invincible run. Everyone was really, really upset.’

Arsenal had gone 49 games unbeaten after an ‘invincible’ season in the 2003-2004 campaign

The game was dubbed the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ as Fabregas was involved in the ‘Pizzagate’ scandal.

Players and staff clashed in the tunnel following the fiery encounter with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson having a slice of pizza thrown at him.

For several years the identity of the culprit remained unknown until Fabregas admitted it had been him who had launched the pizza in the Scotsman’s direction.

Players clashed both on and off the pitch in what became known as the ‘Battle of the Buffet’

The former Chelsea and Barcelona midfielder also admitted how tough it was to go up against Ferguson’s side during that era. 

‘What a team you were. We beat you a few times and it felt amazing but I always felt that in big games, where something really mattered, you were on top of us,’ he added.

‘Even the FA Cup final in 2005 (Arsenal beat United on penalties after a 0-0 draw at the Millennium Stadium) – you deserved to win that game.’ 




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In a world of social media abuse, Madison Keys wants to spread kindness

In the life of a tennis player, it’s not always obvious to see kindness.

Hardened pros are taught to fight for every point – battle is hardly synonymous with being kind.  

But for Madison Keys, the world No. 13 from the USA, spreading kindness has been at the forefront of her mind as professional tennis takes a collective pause amid the coronavirus crisis.

Professional athletes like Keys are not always on the receiving end of kindness.

Behind their computer shields, keyboard warriors regularly fire abuse into the social media sphere, which remains laxly moderated. Keys has had her fair share.

‘Honestly, for me, a lot of the time it’s sort of more anger after I lose matches from people who have bet on the matches. It’s just very nasty stuff,’ Keys, 25, tells Metro.co.uk over the phone from her Florida base.

‘Often it’s bad stuff about my family, wishing harm to them and things like that. It’s not something I would wish on anyone else.

‘I’ve dealt with it personally, but also know that pretty much every other tennis player on the tour has dealt with it.

‘But I’m sure even though we all are used to getting it, every once in a while you are cut deep a little bit.’

The problem is far from limited to tennis. Earlier this month, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright highlighted vile racist abuse directed at him on Instagram; many athletes are subjected to vitriol on a daily basis.

On Friday, Keys hopes to reset the balance.

Her foundation, Kindness Wins, wants to celebrate and spread kindness across the internet on a special day of recognition – aptly named #KindnessWinsDay.

Each ‘kindness call-out’ will recognise an individual who has done something kind for others, while nominating others to do the same.

‘So often you see negative comments on social media,’ she adds. ‘I really just wanted to have a day where all we were trying to do was put out positive messages for other people and acknowledge the great things they are doing.’

Her initiative was not driven from her own experiences. In her work with Fearlessly Girl – the name of the foundation before it was rebranded to become ‘broader and more open to everyone’ – she engaged with young girls who had become accustomed to witnessing negative messaging on social media. According to statistics gathered by her foundation, 87% of young people have witnessed cyberbullying.

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Many of you know that I’ve been the face of Fearlessly GiRL for several years. Together we reached so many young girls and I learned so much during our partnership. Now I’ve decided to launch my very own new initiative called Kindness Wins. Spreading kindness is and always will be my passion. Everyone has something they’re going through or have gone through or something they’re being negatively affected by. Including me. I want everyone to know they’re not alone and that there is something we can do about it – spread kindness. I want to be a champion of kindness and encourage others to do the same – being kind to themselves and kind to others. Soon I will be joined by some of my fellow champions to continue this mission of spreading kindness. Kindness doesn’t know one sport, gender, age or ethnicity so I’m excited for the greater impact we’ll all have together! I can’t wait to share more information with you on how we can do this together. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of positivity so we can show everyone that Kindness Wins. 🤍 @kindnesswinsfoundation

A post shared by Madison Keys (@madisonkeys) on

‘We’d open questions for younger kids and they were asking about “how do you deal with cyber bullying? We’re dealing with it right now”. It was so sad that at such a young age they’re already dealing with it,’ says the former US Open finalist.

Her organisation works with other athletes – skier Mikaela Shiffrin is the latest on board – to show that kindness can still thrive, even in the most competitive of environments.

‘I think you can want to win and you can try your best and be as competitive as you possibly can be but also still be nice to people,’ says Keys. ‘I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think it can be both.

‘For the most part, I think it is both. On the tour we’re all pretty close. We see each other more than we see our families most of the time so we’re definitely there for each other most of the time.

‘We can go out and play each other and you want to win the match that day but once the match is over and you’re back in the locker room, you’re just people.’

In her own sport, one example of kindness sticks out above the rest.

At the US Open last year, teenage sensation Coco Gauff was beaten comfortably by defending champion Naomi Osaka. As the tearful youngster attempted to head off court, Osaka invited her for an emotional dual on-court interview after the match.

‘The way they both just talked to each other – it was a real moment,’ says Keys. ‘I always get really happy when I see those.’

At the same tournament, two years earlier, Keys was the recipient of kindness from her compatriot and good friend Sloane Stephens.

Both were playing in their first Grand Slam final, on home soil, but it was a one-sided affair, with Stephens claiming her first major title.

After a heartfelt embrace at the net, Stephens sat next to her friend – rather than in her own seating area, as is typically custom – in a touching moment that still resonates with Keys.

‘In the moment it was really tough for me to handle, obviously, in public, with so many people watching and all that,’ she adds.

‘For Sloane to comfort me and give me all of her support in that moment was really nice and special. It’s one of the reasons she’s one of my closest friends.’

While all too aware of the negativity in the online realm, Keys is appreciative of how it has allowed her to be better connected to her fan base and is still adamant that the positives of social media outweigh the negatives.

The message of spreading kindness is particularly pertinent, she feels, in the current Covid-19 climate.

‘I definitely think we’re more appreciative of people because we’re not really busy, we’re not running around, we’re not preoccupied with other things and I think we’ve been able to take a pause and think about how grateful we are for so many things that we take for granted,’ she says.

‘So I definitely think there’s a gratitude and an appreciation that’s been pretty apparent during this time period. Hopefully it can stick around.

‘If someone is kind to you then it makes you happy and it makes you acknowledge, “Wow, that was something so small but it meant a lot to me”. Just having that happen to you, it makes you think about how you could do that for someone else.

‘When you’re doing that, it might start off as something you’re thinking about but eventually it just becomes a habit and I think that would be a great thing for basically the entire world right now, just to be a little bit kinder to each other.’

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Alex Scott joins Government task force to provide advice for professional sport’s return

Alex Scott has been snapped up by the Government to join a task force aiming to get sport back up and running in the United Kingdom. Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, announced the creation of the group at the daily coronavirus Downing Street press conference.

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  • Danny Rose: Footballers are being treated like ‘lab rats’

Premier League and EFL action has been suspended since mid-March while professional sport across the country has been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott, who won 140 cap for England, will provide advice to help the Government “think through how we can get sport back safely in a way that works for both clubs, players and supporters alike”.

A number of high-profile figures across the country’s arts and culture scene have also been recruited for the task force.

Dowden said: “I know that people are also eager for news of the return of live sports and the arts.

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  • Jurgen Klopp details Liverpool coronavirus testing as training resume

“I know that the last few months have felt rather odd without them and our calendars have been strangely bare.

“Finding creative crowd-free ways to navigate coronavirus is the biggest challenger for our recreation and leisure sectors right now so this week I’m setting up renewal task force which will help them bounce back.

“It will be made up of the brightest and the best from creative, tech and sporting worlds.

“These are experts in their field. They will be advising me how to find new and different ways to get industries back up and running.”

Premier League players were back in training on Wednesday, running through basic drills. It followed news that six players and staff at top-flight clubs have tested positive for COVID-19.

Dowden, who is optimistic sporting action will resume in the coming weeks, claimed credit for helping get the stars back out on the practice pitches.

“We’ve helped to reopen the country’s tennis and basketball courts, and guided elite athletes back into training safely and that in turn will pave the way for the return of live sports behind closed doors in the near future,” he added.

“Normal life as we have known it is still clearly a long way off and the path to get there is a narrow one. But these things will return when it’s safe for them to do so and thanks to the same drive and creativity that makes a great performance or a great piece of art.

“I really think that when they do and we’ve overcome this crisis together we will appreciate them that much more.”

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