Welcome to our latest European football notebook, featuring contributions from ESPN writers across the continent. In this week’s edition, PSG must still convince a key loanee to stay, Manchester United resort to Zoom for training, Chelsea ready a bid for a Brazilian youngster, and much more.
JUMP TO: Chelsea prep Gabriel bid | Man Utd players use Zoom | Radio silence from Prem clubs | Bayern players break rules | Barca and Real shelve stadium plans | Liverpool linked to Sevilla star | Simeone tracks Atleti with GPS | Valencia’s Old Trafford goodbye ruined | Blanc to coach in Turkey?
Icardi doesn’t want PSG stay
If Paris Saint-Germain want to sign striker Mauro Icardi permanently after his loan move from Inter Milan ends, they can pay his £65 million (€70m) clause and that will be it. But they may have bigger problems in convincing the Argentine himself, sources have told ESPN.
At the moment, PSG’s opinion of Icardi is very positive. The 27-year-old is seen as the perfect replacement for Edinson Cavani, who is leaving on a free transfer at the end of the season, and he has 20 goals in 31 appearances this season for Les Parisiens, despite a dip in form that saw him lose his place in the starting XI since January.
PSG’s sporting director Leonardo still rates him highly. However, the former Barcelona academy graduate has had a few issues with manager Thomas Tuchel’s decisions behind closed doors and seems to miss life in Italy, with sources telling ESPN that he prefers living there — his family are still in Milan — and considers Serie A to be the better of the two leagues. –– Julien Laurens
Craig Burley remembers playing in a Coventry shirt when Chelsea’s kit manager forgot the Blues’ away uniforms.
Chelsea optimistic over Gabriel signing
Unless you are familiar with Lille or Ligue 1, you might not have heard much of Gabriel Magalhaes, the young centre-back at the French side who arguably has been one of the best in the country this season. That said, you should remember the name as the former Troyes loanee has become one of Chelsea‘s top transfer targets.
The 22-year-old is a very aggressive, no-nonsense defender, strong and physical but also at ease in possession. Most importantly, he is also left-footed, which is what Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is looking for. Gabriel was another great find by Lille sporting director Luis Campos, who signed him from Brazilian club Avai in January 2017 for just £2.7m; Chelsea will now have to spend at least £30m to get him. The deal is not confirmed yet but all parties are pretty optimistic for an agreement, sources tell ESPN.
Lille are nonetheless hoping that a bidding war could be triggered by the interest of fellow English clubs Everton and Arsenal. Before that can happen, Lille are hoping that the defender will help them achieve a top-three finish and a Champions League berth if the season resumes. — Julien Laurens
Steve Nicol compares the struggles of world giants Manchester United and AC Milan over the past 10 years.
Man United using Zoom for workouts
Manchester United are among the clubs who have allowed some of their foreign players to travel home during the coronavirus pandemic. When the decision was made to suspend the Premier League on March 13, a number of international players asked for permission to spend the break back in their home countries and closer to friends and family.
At United, decisions were made on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the medical staff and some members of the first-team squad have been allowed to make the trip home. They are still being monitored by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff after being given individual training programs, although the time differences have made group sessions over Zoom more tricky to coordinate. — Rob Dawson
PFA managment committee member John Mousinho discusses the representation of English players in the media.
Premier League clubs keeping quiet
Clubs in England’s top professional league are under pressure to ensure that players and management avoid unauthorised media comments and interviews during the football shutdown, with rights holders making it clear to the league that they are determined to be first in the queue for access to star names.
In the UK, Sky are paying £3.58 billion for a three-year broadcasting deal package up to and including the 2020-21 season, while BT pay £885m for their deal. TalkSPORT and the BBC have also invested heavily to secure radio rights.
Sources have told ESPN that some clubs are proving to be more accommodating than others when it comes to meeting the requirements of rights holders, while some more media-friendly teams are having to reject requests from trusted and respected figures from non-rights holders to avoid falling foul of those whose financial investment in the game is now proving so crucial. — Mark Ogden
Tolisso, Coman break Bayern rules upon return
Bayern Munich went back to training on Monday in groups of four players and the club had set very strict rules, especially no shaking hands when greeting one another. So guess what Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman did when they saw each other? They shared a huge hug! Bayern were not impressed and both players were reminded once more of the need of respecting all the rules regarding social distancing, which they’ve since followed. No more hugs for the two Frenchmen, who are also close friends. –– Julien Laurens
Barca and Real to shelve stadium plans?
Barcelona were already having problems financing work on their Camp Nou home but the coronavirus crisis may bring an end to plans to revamp their 100,000-seater stadium as part of the larger Espai Barca project. The issue is likely to be put to the club’s members in a referendum once circumstances allow but a source has told ESPN that “it doesn’t look good.”
Real Madrid could also run into difficulties with plans to upgrade the Santiago Bernabeu. La Liga chief Javier Tebas revealed this week that some Spanish clubs will have trouble playing home games if, as hoped, the domestic season resumes in the summer due to planned construction work on their grounds. The contracts with the construction companies are worth “millions” and it leaves Madrid with another coronavirus-inflicted problem to solve. — Sam Marsden
Julien Laurens and Gab Marcotti discuss Liverpool’s reversal of their decision to furlough non-playing staff.
No Diego Carlos offers yet amid Liverpool links
Sevilla are aware of interest from a number of clubs in centre-back Diego Carlos, a club source told ESPN, but have yet to receive a bid for the Brazilian after reports of an offer from Liverpool. The 27-year-old has impressed for the La Liga club this season after being snapped up by sporting director Monchi for just €15m from Nantes in 2019.
Premier League interest would come as no surprise at Sevilla, where there is a recognition that his characteristics — above all his strength, pace and aggression — would be well-suited to English football.
He has been linked to Liverpool as a potential partner for Virgil van Dijk, as well as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. “If I leave one day, it would be to go to a much bigger club, because Sevilla are already great,” Diego Carlos told Muchodeporte last week.
The defender had a relatively low profile when he arrived in Seville last summer as part of a 14-player spending spree to build a team for new coach Julen Lopetegui. Yet that stance has changed after a campaign that has seen him recognised as one of the best centre-backs in Spain. Sevilla are aware that his €75m release clause would be unlikely to deter a top club, given the dearth of reliable central defenders on the market, although the coronavirus pandemic has put many transfer plans on hold. – Alex Kirkland/Rodrigo Faez
Atletico tracking players training via GPS
Diego Simeone is famously hard on his Atletico Madrid players, and they’ve had no respite even while training at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Alvaro Morata revealed this week that each of the squad have been given GPS trackers so coaching staff can monitor their daily physical activity.
“They’ve given us a GPS for training, so they can see what we do at home,” the striker told Atletico academy player Brayan de la Cruz in a video call published on the club’s website. “The boss is really demanding when we have to train. In training he’s just like he is during games.”
The GPS data will be analysed by Atletico’s physical trainer Oscar Ortega. The Uruguayan physio known as “The Professor” has been an integral part of the club’s success since joining alongside Simeone in 2011 and the pair have a close relationship, having previously worked together when the now-coach was still an Atletico player. — Alex Kirkland
Man United’s Valencia plans dashed by shutdown
Antonio Valencia made a quiet exit from Manchester United last June, sealing a free transfer to LDU Quito in his native Ecuador after 10 years at Old Trafford, but plans were in place for the 34-year-old to make a public farewell this summer. As part of the deal which took Valencia to Quito, an agreement was struck for the player to be given a farewell game at United ahead of the 2020-21 season.
In what would have been a re-run of the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup final, when Sir Alex Ferguson’s team beat LDU in Japan to become club world champions for the second time, United were set to play the Ecuadorian outfit in a preseason curtain-raiser. But while United are still committed to playing the game at some stage, the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis has put preseason plans at the bottom of the list of priorities due to nobody knowing when, or where, football will resume again. — Mark Ogden
No Turkey for Blanc yet
Laurent Blanc is still looking for a job almost four years after being sacked from PSG in the summer of 2016. The former France head coach (2010-2012) has tried to get back into the game but has been aiming for top clubs and his applications have been rejected every time, including at Lyon, the last job he went for.
Now, Turkish side Fenerbahce are looking for a new manager and Blanc is part of their shortlist. However, sources told ESPN there have not been real discussions and the Turkish league is not, at the moment, one of Blanc’s priorities. The 1998 World Cup winner is still hoping to connect with a top club in Italy or England this summer. –– Julien Laurens