Premier League clubs on collision course with PFA over cuts to player wages

Premier League clubs will try and thrash out a pay cut agreement with their captains on Saturday.

That will put them on a potential collision course with the Professional Footballers’ Association who are effectively being cut out of the talks and are trying to resist cuts.

It comes after the Premier League summit on Friday which reached a collective agreement between the 20 clubs to discuss wage “deferrals and reductions” up to 30 per cent of their players’ salaries.

It is understood that the contracts would drop by ten per cent if games were behind closed doors and then a further 20 per cent if there was no broadcast or TV rights.

They are planning to ask the captains in emergency conference calls on Saturday for players to defer wages up to a maximum of three months – and then take a pay cut if football has not resumed by the end of June.

The PFA had held lengthy talks this week with the Premier League and were trying to resist pay cuts but it would seem now the clubs are ready to go their own way because of the potential financial disaster heading their way.

It comes after the Premier League decided to postpone games until further notice and until it was only safe to start again. The EFL then followed suit with an announcement on Friday afternoon.

But the Premier League has effectively regained the moral high ground as they unanimously voted to advance “funds of £125 million to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time.”

They also pledged a further £20m “to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It is also understood there was a backlash against clubs who have placed staff on the Government’s furlough scheme if they could still afford to pay them which comes days after Tottenham did that despite it being announced chairman Daniel Levy earned £7m last year.

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Jenson Button teaming with Lando Norris for McLaren in F1’s Virtual GP

Sky F1’s Jenson Button will return to McLaren – this time in the world of Esports – for a debut in F1’s Virtual Grand Prix series on Sunday.

Button, the 2009 world champion, will be back racing for them in the Virtual GP around Albert Park at 8pm on Sunday.

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Button joins fellow Sky F1 pundits Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson in the field for Sunday’s race at 8pm – live on Sky Sports F1, Main Event and YouTube.

The 40-year-old joins six 2020 drivers signed up to race, with Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi making their debuts, and Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi returning.

So I’ve been roped in to taking part in the next Virtual Grand Prix this Sunday Live on @skysportsf1. Should be a good laugh, take it easy on this newbie @georgerussell63 @landonorris @charles_leclerc @nicholaslatifi @alex_albon 🙏🏽#f1 #everyracelive #skysportsf1 #melbourne #albertpark

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton) on

World Cup-winning England cricketer Ben Stokes, meanwhile, is driving for Red Bull.

Button revealed on Sky F1’s new Vodcast series earlier this week that he had recently had a simulator delivered to his home in LA. He then got a taste for eSports in the same iRacing challenge that Max Verstappen and Norris compete in.

“He joined a race the other night on iRacing and he was surprisingly quick!” said Norris of the 40-year-old on Friday’s latest Vodcast.

“For the limited amount of time that I’m sure he’s had on it, he was pretty good. So I’m sure come Sunday I hope he can be a key player.

“These different games are not easy to get used to.

“Although it’s driving a car at the end of the day, it’s still how you drive and the physics of the tyre model [change]. A lot of different tips and tricks you need for each programme, each car and for each track. For him to kind to jump on to go against me and others you have spent hours and hours and days in the last couple of weeks on it, he did pretty good.”

Who’s taking part in Sunday’s F1 Virtual GP?

The confirmed list so far:
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Arthur Leclerc, Ferrari
Alex Albon, Red Bull
Ben Stokes, Red Bull
Lando Norris, McLaren
Jenson Button, McLaren
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
Johnny Herbert, Alfa Romeo
George Russell, Williams
Nicholas Latifi, Williams
Anthony Davidson (TBC)
Andre Heimgartner, Renault
Christian Lundgaard, Renault

Why are they racing in Australia?

While the plan for the Esports series was to mirror the corresponding event from the F1 2020 calendar – the Virtual Bahrain GP took place on the same day as the ‘real’ Bahrain GP was due to happen, for instance – that was not possible this weekend. That’s because the Hanoi track which was supposed to host the inaugural Vietnam GP on the F1 calendar on Sunday, is not available on the 2019 F1 game.

That means they are racing ‘at’ Albert Park – which is handy as they missed out on racing there in the F1 2020 season-opener.

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Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick signs permanent deal until 2023

Head coach of Bayern Munich Hansi Flick has agreed a deal to keep him at the club until 2023.

Flick had joined Bayern last summer as assistant to Niko Kovac, and was placed in charge on an interim basis in November when Kovac left by mutual consent.

The 55-year-old German was given a permanent deal in December until the end of the season, winning 18 of his 21 matches in charge. His new deal keeps him at the club for a further three years.

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Bayern were four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga when the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with nine games left to play.

The club were also in good form in the Champions League, keeping a 100 per cent record and beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie, before the second was postponed.

Prior to his time at the Allianz Arena, Flick had served as assistant to German national team manager Joachim Low, helping them lift the World Cup in 2014.

“We are very happy with Hansi Flick’s work. The team has developed well under him and are playing attractive football,” said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

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Bears will have 'open competition' at quarterback

Mitchell Trubisky has had three seasons to prove he can be the guy in Chicago, and so far, the Bears aren’t convinced.

Look no further than Chicago’s trade for Nick Foles, a prized free agent a year ago who could end up being the answer to the Bears’ quarterback question. Bears general manager Ryan Pace confirmed such thinking Friday during a conference call with reporters in which he made clear the team will be holding an open competition at the position.

"With the addition of Nick Foles it’s exactly what we talked about from the start — we want to create competition," Pace said. "We’ve talked to both players and it’s an open competition."

The move to bring in legitimate competition — not just a veteran backup to symbolically push Trubisky — is simply out of need. The Bears were clearly limited by Trubisky in 2019, turning once-optimistic views of the quarterback in the opposite direction in a season filled with high expectations which ultimately went unfulfilled.

There’s no more room for buffer, no more time to let the youngster work out the kinks. The Bears have a defense that’s anchored by big money-making Khalil Mack and ready to win now. They need a quarterback to do the same.

"What we’re trying to do is what’s best for the Chicago Bears," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "Plain and simple."

Pace’s reputation is still very much attached to Trubisky. The general manager worked a trade to move up one spot to take the quarterback in 2017 — the same draft in which Chicago could have had NFL MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes or dynamo signal-caller Deshaun Watson — and it was later revealed the 49ers weren’t considering a quarterback at No. 2, where the Bears ended up selecting Trubisky. Pace rebounded from such a decision by acquiring Mack in a trade and inking him to a long-term deal, helping remake Chicago into a defensive machine that powered the Bears to an NFC North title and earned Pace Executive of the Year honors from the Sporting News.

Still, Trubisky exists as a reminder of a draft pick perhaps made out of desperation for a solution to Chicago’s quarterback need. At this point, the team won’t commit to Trubisky beyond a camp competition, with Pace choosing to not comment Friday on whether the Bears will pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option — which would only be guaranteed for injury — before the May deadline.

The general manager has provided himself with a legitimate Plan B in Foles, who quarterbacked the Eagles to a stunning postseason win over those same Bears in the 2018 season. If this works out, the Bears can move on from Trubisky in a year and allow others to lament what they could have done at second (or third) overall in 2017, but smile because they eventually found their guy anyway.

Or Trubisky could rise to the occasion and take the significant steps needed to gain a firm hold on his job for the foreseeable future.

"You could feel how much of a competitor Mitch is," Nagy said when asked about how the quarterback took the news of inbound competition. "He’s embracing it and he’s excited to get back to work."

Trubisky will have at least one edge on Foles, who will be tasked with learning a new offense with new teammates: familiarity. He’ll also be the beneficiary of a commendable gesture from Nagy at the start of camp.

"When we walk in on the first day, whenever it is, Mitch will be first in the huddle," Nagy said.

We’ll see who’s first to call plays come Week 1.

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Kevin Durant has been the most unfair ‘NBA 2K’ player to use for almost a decade

It’s difficult to pick out my most embarrassing “NBA 2K” moment because there are so many to choose from.

College dorm room losses were always brutal and came with in-person heckling that was difficult to shake. There were plenty of blown leads and backfired trash talk in those days.

But the worst experience? It probably came two years ago against a complete stranger using the video game legend that is Kevin Durant, who dropped 55 points on my head in shortened five-minute quarters. The lowlight was made exponentially worse by my opponent having a microphone through which he efficiently extinguished my soul by way of nonstop roasting.

It was then that I determined Durant to be the most unstoppable, unfair offensive weapon in “NBA 2K” among active players. In truth, he’d probably held that mantle for a while, despite the all-world excellence of LeBron James and a rotating cast of other dominant MVP contenders over the past decade. In the upcoming Players Tournament, beginning Friday on ESPN, Durant’s unguardable skill set should be on display for anyone who rocks the Nets.

Now, it’s important to note that I do not suck at the game. I do not allow 50-pieces. I do not allow 40-pieces. I do not even really allow 30-pieces. While I’m by no means great, I can hold my own against most people I run up against.

So when the contest started against this random online competitor, who told me he would beat me without relying on Steph Curry or Klay Thompson for scoring production, I didn’t think much of the matchup. Maybe I’d lose, but falling to the stacked Golden State squad of that year wasn’t shameful. I certainly didn’t think anything embarrassing would take place.

Right away, though, I knew I was in trouble.

Playing as the Nuggets, I had Paul Millsap locked in as Durant’s primary defender. Millsap at that point was still considered one of the more versatile on-ball defenders in the NBA. Maybe not someone who could completely lock down the best of the best, but certainly someone who didn’t get smoked very often.

“Easy money,” my opponent jeered after isolating Durant at the top of the arc and nailing a 3 in my face.

For a bit, I hung around by hitting a series of long-distance shots of my own. When the score is tight in “NBA 2K” it can be difficult to realize just how much a single player is killing your defense.

But the do-everything nature of virtual Durant — much like his real-life self — quickly became far too much to handle against someone well-versed in maximizing the forward’s considerable talent. The trash talk escalated, too.

You know things are bad when your opponent keeps pausing the game to check up on the stats of the player they’re burning you with — and reads said numbers out loud to you each time.

By halftime, Millsap was reassigned, having been crossed over by Durant’s long, sweeping dribbles too many times to count, with many of those moves creating space for open 3s. Durant’s height-speed-shooting combo in the game is absurd. I tried Gary Harris on Durant next, but that just led to Durant using his large frame to overpower Harris inside. Will Barton couldn’t get the job done either.

By the end of the 55-point arc, I was ready to quit “NBA 2K” for good. That didn’t last, of course, but it still took a while to forget about getting destroyed in that manner.

This year, Durant continues to be a force. His 96 rating leads all participants in the Players Tournament, and the way he can stretch the floor, at least in my opinion, narrowly separates him from the likes of James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Whichever player gets to use the Nets in the Players Tournament, then, will have an instant edge in iso situations, even though the overall team might not be as good as the Lakers or Bucks.

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Anthony Joshua’s world title defence against Kubrat Pulev in June has been postponed

Anthony ‘world heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, scheduled for June 20, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain’s unified champion was set to face Pulev at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, live on Sky Sports Box Office, in his first fight in the UK in two years.

A new date for the fight, and the possibility of staging it at the same venue, is still being worked on.

“We’re speaking to Tottenham, we’ve postponed the 20th date,” promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports. “We are working with them for dates in July and early August as well, when we hope we’ll be back.

“Hopefully we see that fight take place at the end of the summer.”

Bulgarian Pulev is the IBF mandatory challenger for Joshua, who also holds the WBA ‘super’ and WBO titles.

Hearn previously warned: “You will see one of the best AJ performances – the shackles are off from the Andy Ruiz Jr 2 fight in terms of being disciplined and following a game-plan.

“He can be more destructive in a better stand-up fight.

“The mind-set is the same and has been the same since day one, with a couple of tweaks. The Ruiz Jr defeat taught him not to be influenced by outside noise. Stay focused, look after yourself, be selfish.

“He gave time to everybody but this is an unforgiving sport and you’ve got to look after No 1. He did that for the Ruiz Jr rematch and he will do it again.

“He’s been working since the Ruiz Jr rematch. There hasn’t been a week where he hasn’t been in the gym working on tactics, ability and technique. He’s absolutely driven to be the best.

“This isn’t a guy who fights then goes on holiday to have a few pints and a couple of pizzas, taking three months off with the kids. He is working day-in day-out. He’s an absolute role model to any athlete and any individual in sport.

“The Pulev fight is the focus. He has said: ‘You make plans, for me it’s only about Pulev’.”

Joshua is eyeing an undisputed heavyweight title fight against Tyson Fury in the future. Fury shares a US promoter, Bob Arum, with Pulev.

Hearn said: “I sent [Joshua] Bob Arum’s interview where he said ‘there will be no AJ after Pulev knocks him out’.

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Chelsea identify new left-back target with Serie A ace available for just £26m

Chelsea have joined the race to sign Atalanta ace Robin Gosens, according to reports from Italy. The Blues are on the hunt for a new left-back and have been linked with numerous potential signings in the lead up to the summer transfer window.

Ben Chilwell, Alex Telles and Marc Cucurella have all reportedly attracted attention from the Stamford Bridge club as they look to upgrade defensively.

And now Calciomercato claim Chelsea are also interested in Atalanta’s Gosens as manager Frank Lampard keeps his options open regarding recruitment.

The Blues are reportedly set to battle both Juventus and Inter Milan for the 25-year-old’s signature, who carries a €30million (£26m) price tag.

Lyon reportedly had a €25m (£22m) bid for Gosens rejected by Atalanta in January, with the Serie A club valuing the left-sided player between €35m-€40m (£31m-£35m).

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However, the latest report suggests that figure has come down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Gosens, who was born in Germany to a Dutch father and holds passports from both nations, can play as a left-back or a wide midfielder.

He has scored eight goals and provided five assists for Atalanta across all competitions so far this season, earning a contract renewal which is set to keep him at the club until 2024.

Gosens has spent the past three seasons at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia but is now on Chelsea’s radar as they look to bolster their rearguard and replace Emerson Palmieri, who is expected to join Juventus.

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However, the Blues face competition from former manager Antonio Conte as Inter Milan look to muscle in on yet another of the Blues’ transfer targets this summer.

Both clubs are supposedly battling to sign Hellas Verone youngster Marash Kumbulla while Lazio ace Francesco Acerbi is in a similar situation.

Conte came close to signing both Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso in January, while Victor Moses moved to the San Siro on loan at the start of the season and a permanent deal may be completed this summer.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are keen on Inter frontman Lautaro Martinez but the Serie A side could frustrate the Blues by offering the Argentine to Barcelona in an attempt to lure Philippe Coutinho the other way.

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Elsewhere, the Blues hold all the cards in negotiations around former player Jeremie Boga with Conte powerless to sign the Sassuolo star if Chelsea decide to activate their buy-back clause.

Reports of interest in Gosens come as a surprise after the Blues were believed to be closing in on a deal for Porto left-back Alex Telles.

The Brazilian is out of contract in 2021 and has told Porto he will not sign a new deal keeping him at the Estadio do Dragao.

The Primera Liga club are therefore keen to cash in this summer and talks are said to be in an advanced stage after Telles swapped agents and began working with Pini Zahavi .

Zahavi has close links with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, having helped the Russian purchase the Blues in 2003.

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Raiders signing DB Damarious Randall to 1-year deal

The Las Vegas Raiders added another veteran to the safety corps.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Raiders are signing Damarious Randall to a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, per a source informed of the deal.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson first reported the deal.

Randall spent the past two seasons in Cleveland after a 2018 trade from the Green Bay Packers. The 27-year-old safety fell out of favor last season in Cleveland, playing 11 games with the Browns earning 61 tackles and six passes defended. For the first time in his five-year career, Randall did not record an interception.

Owning range and speed, Randall joins a safety crew in Las Vegas that added veteran Jeff Heath to go along with 2019 first-round pick Johnathan Abram, Lamarcus Joyner and Erik Harris.

The contract with Randall comes after a deal with corner Eli Apple fell through.

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Lukaku reveals Thierry Henry embarrassed Belgium star so much he left training

Romelu Lukaku says Thierry Henry was still showing his class long after he retired and embarrassed one Belgium player so much in a training session that they hastily left the pitch.

The legendary Arsenal striker, who scored 175 Premier League goals, was brought in by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez as one of his assistants in 2016, helping them finish third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He has since left the Belgium national set-up to forge his own coaching career and currently manages MLS side Montreal Impact after an unsuccessful spell at Monaco.

With football across the globe suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, Henry and Lukaku decided to have a catch-up on Puma’s Instagram page and the Inter Milan striker reminisced about how the World Cup winner transformed training and even showed up some of the players.

Speaking on Instagram Live, Lukaku said: ‘I think, in the national team when you were there, I think for us the strikers we had maybe the best time we could ever had, because the competition was there.

‘Everyone played at a high level, thanks to you. We constantly wanted to do better, outdo each other.

‘And even you were joining in the competition! That was the funny part. You may have been retired, but it was not visible at times.’

A smiling Henry chimed in, trying to remain modest, saying: ‘Sometimes. Not all the time, sometimes.’

Lukaku continued: ‘I remember when my brother came and he was like you did this skill in training but I’m not going to say any names but the player left the pitch.’

‘No don’t!’ interjected Henry, wary of Lukaku giving away the identity of the player he had embarrassed.

Lukaku continued: ‘Jordan [his younger brother and teammate] came to me and he said, “Rom! I’ve seen some s**t today! Damn!” He was like, “Damn man, that s**t was crazy!”‘

Both Henry and Lukaku burst out laughing as the Inter striker recounted the tale, with the 42-year-old saying he ‘felt good in Belgium’ and always looks back on his time working under Martinez fondly.

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2020 NFL Draft: What SHOULD the Bengals do with the No. 1 pick?

There’s a widespread assumption that the Cincinnati Bengals, who hold the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to begin the proceedings on April 23. But is that the best use of the selection? The question we have is simple:

What should the Bengals do with the No. 1 pick?

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