Jadon Sancho is the name on everyone's lips.

The Borussia Dortmund teenager has taken Europe by storm and clubs are queuing up.

But Manchester United are reportedly at the front of the line.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED IN TOUCH WITH SANCHO AGENT

Manchester United have contacted Jadon Sancho's agent as they look to sign the Borussia Dortmund sensation, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Sancho tops the list of United's transfer targets following his exploits for the Bundesliga side, with Liverpool and Chelsea also reportedly interested.

But Dortmund – who will not stand in Sancho's way of a departure – are unwilling to budge on their €110million (£98m) valuation.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Chelsea are preparing a huge contract offer for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. It comes as the Blues reportedly look to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Juventus are interested in Achraf Hakimi, says Calciomercato. Achraf is set to return to Real Madrid following a two-year loan spell at Dortmund. Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked to the Moroccan full-back.

Inter have named their price for Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, Calciomercato reports. With a release clause of €111m, Inter want at least €80m in cash.

- Birmingham City's 16-year-old star Jude Bellingham is set to reject a transfer to United in favour of Dortmund, says Bild.

Tottenham and Arsenal, along with Crystal Palace and West Ham, are eyeing Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, according to Team Talk.

- Calciomercato claims Inter have not given up on signing Napoli forward Dries Mertens on a free transfer. The Belgian star is out of contract at the end of 2019-20.

Madrid is the preferred option for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, says Marca. Liverpool, Dortmund and PSG have also emerged as possible suitors for the 17-year-old.

- Corriere dello Sport says Valencia are eyeing Inter centre-back Diego Godin, who has been linked to United and Tottenham.

Roma are lining up a move for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, says Diario AS. Clubs in Brazil and Qatar are also reportedly circling.

The world of sport has ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that been holding the world hostage for the past few weeks. Some of my favourites – the English Premier League, tennis, track and field – have all been hamstrung.

My Liverpool faces the real possibility that their record-breaking Premier League season could be wiped from the record books and I will not get to see Shelly-Ann go for a record third Olympic 100m gold until next year, yet, somehow, I am not as perturbed as I expected to be.

Sports have been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember.  Ever since my days in prep school, I looked forward to listening to the sports news on radio and later on catching sports programmes like ‘ABC Wide World of Sports’ on television -“the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” rang truer for me than most.

I represented my high school at track and field, cricket, football, table tennis and badminton and I faced the agony of defeat more than I did the thrill of victory. Through it all, my love for sport has grown rather than diminished.

I cried when Donald Quarrie lost the 100m finals in Montreal in ’76 and cheered when he won the 200m. That was my first year in high school when I played book cricket and lined Quarrie up against Houston McTear, Steve Williams, Silvio Leonard, and Hasely Crawford in the 100m in book track.

Meanwhile, Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush were my football heroes, alongside Pele, of course.

West Indies cricket also became a big part of my life during those early high-school years and I became addicted. When the West Indies were not playing, no matter what else was going on, it was never enough to sate my desire to hear Tony Cozier and Henry Blofeld describe the majesty of Richards, Haynes, Greenidge and company and the carnage wrought by the likes of Holding, Roberts, Croft, Garner and Marshall.

Sports consumed my life more than anything else and looking back, I wonder why I even attended CAST to study Chemical Technology when sports was all I cared about.

Long story short, sports was my life and sometimes that can be a bad thing.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

For the past decade or so, sports consumed my life more than usual. Research, watching events, analysing performances, television appearances, radio interviews across the region took their toll.

The thing about these things is that you don’t even realise what is happening until something like this pandemic comes along. Suddenly when all the sports stop, you realise the relief.

That is why I don’t miss sports.

I have been using the opportunity to play catch up with other parts of my life like bonding with my boys, reading books that I started but have been unable to finish and taking a break from live sports until they finally start again.

In time, I will miss sports but for now, I’m good.

With football no closer to being resumed as the coronavirus pandemic continues, players across Europe's top-five leagues have lots of time to pore over their performances from this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of those ball-playing technicians: the pass-masters.

We have analysed nine key metrics for outfield players to play in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose passing could use some improvement. Those metrics are focused on the number of passes (overall, in a player's own half and their opponent's half), the accuracy of those passes, corners and crosses, and losing possession.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For instance, we have included overall accuracy percentages to give balance to the simple number of passes. A team's playmaker or set-piece taker, for example, is arguably more likely to have a larger number of misplaced passes than team-mates simply because he will be attempting more of them, and often in difficult areas.

It's also worth noting that the number of times possession has been lost excludes 'Hoofs' (which, by their nature, make losing the ball more common), while corner and crossing accuracy is taken only from those to attempt, on average, at least one per game.

That said, the below gives a good indication of some passing figures that need improvement - and there are one or two surprising names...

THE WORST PASSING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most passes failed: Robert Andrich (291)
Worst passing accuracy: Anthony Modeste (55.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Jamilu Collins (110)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Kai Proger (60.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Sebastian Andersson (215)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Filip Kostic (199)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Filip Kostic (616)

LALIGA:

Most passes failed: Leandro Cabrera (352)
Worst passing accuracy: Enric Gallego (48.6 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Pervis Estupinan (94)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Sergio Leon (57.1 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Joselu (283)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Leandro Cabrera (43.5 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Jesus Navas (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Karim Benzema (0 of 19)
Most times possession lost: Pervis Estupinan (534)

LIGUE 1:

Most passes failed: Issiaga Sylla (281)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Fabien Centonze (111)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Andy Delort (238)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half:  Suk Hyun-jun (44.4 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Mathieu Dossevi (142)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): M'Baye Niang (0 of 11)
Most times possession lost: Angel Di Maria (539)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Christian Benteke (52.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Christian Benteke (48 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

SERIE A:

Most passes failed: Stefano Sabelli (324)
Worst passing accuracy: Lautaro Martinez (59.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Stefano Sabelli (94)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Stefano Sabelli (230)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Florian Aye (58.5 per cent)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Roberto Inglese (54 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Erick Pulgar (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Kevin Lasagna (0 from 13)
Most possession lost: Stefano Sabelli (494)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun and Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell and Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

Real Madrid are reportedly preparing for a rebuild and Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane are their top transfer targets.

The LaLiga club appear set for a busy close season amid links to numerous players.

While Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is said to be a target, it seems Madrid have other priorities.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND, MANE TOP TARGETS FOR REAL MADRID

Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland and Liverpool star Mane are Real Madrid's top targets, according to the Daily Express.

The report says Aubameyang is also wanted at the Santiago Bernabeu, but is behind Haaland and Mane.

Real Madrid were two points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Real Madrid and the LaLiga giants are tracking Sao Paulo midfielder Igor Gomes, according to AS. A Brazil youth international, Gomes, 21, has been compared to former AC Milan star Kaka.

- Ousmane Dembele is seemingly unwanted at Barcelona and could be set for a move. Sport reports Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp want Dembele, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga club.

- Barcelona are continuing their bid to land Lautaro Martinez. Sport claims left-back Junior Firpo could be part of a deal to bring the Inter star to Camp Nou. It says Inter, and Roma, are interested in the left-back and Barca would want the €18million they paid Real Betis for Junior last year.

- Manchester United could be set to make a big move this close season. The Daily Star reports the Premier League club are confident of landing Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez for a club-record £135m (€150.8m).

- Perhaps Manchester United had another target. However, Sport says Real Madrid have told United that midfielder Federico Valverde is worth his incredible release clause – £448m (€500m).

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is loving life in Rome. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder, who is on loan at Roma from Arsenal, wants to stay at the club and hopes they can agree to a €11.2m (£10m) deal.

Borussia Dortmund will respect Jadon Sancho's decision if he decides to leave the club, according to Hans-Joachim Watzke.

With Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Barcelona all reportedly interested in signing the 20-year-old, Dortmund CEO Watzke admitted it would be up to Sancho to determine his own future – but warned there will be no cut-price deal for the forward.

The England international had scored 14 goals in 23 Bundesliga appearances before the 2019-20 season was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Watzke still hopeful of retaining his services.

"Even before the coronavirus outbreak, we said that we prefer that Jadon stays with us," Watzke told Bild.

"At the end of the day, however, you always have to respect what the player wants."

With Sancho, Gio Reyna and Erling Haaland impressing this season, Watzke issued a message to other clubs who might be hoping to poach Dortmund's rising stars in the next transfer window.

"I'll say clearly say that even the very rich clubs shouldn't believe that they can come here to snap up bargains," he said.

"We don't have to sell anyone for less than they're worth."

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan admitted he is "okay" with handing Liverpool the Premier League title following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the table but uncertainty over when the 2019-20 season will resume is leading some to suggest it may not be finished at all.

City clinched back-to-back titles in the previous two seasons, but Gundogan - who won the Bundesliga under Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during their time together at Borussia Dortmund - would have no issue in conceding the crown to their rivals this season.

He told German broadcaster ZDF: "It would be okay for me. You have to be sporting."

Asked whether playing out the rest of the season behind closed doors might appeal as an option, Gundogan replied: "Honestly, I can't imagine that - and I don't know how realistic it is."

With the Football Association opting to cancel the season for all clubs below the three National League divisions in non-league football, many of the smaller clubs in England are facing difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gundogan would be in favour of top players sacrificing their salaries to help those struggling lower down the football pyramid during the crisis, saying: "Of course I would find that okay, of course. The lower league clubs do not have it so easy."

The 29-year-old, who joined City in June 2016, revealed he is finding life difficult during the lockdown.

"You are sometimes afraid to go for a walk for 10 to 15 minutes outside, even though it was oddly and ironically extremely beautiful weather here in Manchester," said Gundogan.

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan admitted he is "okay" with handing Liverpool the Premier League title following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the table but uncertainty over when the 2019-20 season will resume is leading some to suggest it may not be finished at all.

City clinched back-to-back titles in the previous two seasons, but Gundogan - who won the Bundesliga under Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during their time together at Borussia Dortmund - would have no issue in conceding the crown to their rivals this season.

He told German broadcaster ZDF: "It would be okay for me. You have to be sporting."

Asked whether playing out the rest of the season behind closed doors might appeal as an option, Gundogan replied: "Honestly, I can't imagine that - and I don't know how realistic it is."

With the Football Association opting to cancel the season for all clubs below the three National League divisions in non-league football, many of the smaller clubs in England are facing difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gundogan would be in favour of top players sacrificing their salaries to help those struggling lower down the football pyramid during the crisis, saying: "Of course I would find that okay, of course. The lower league clubs do not have it so easy."

The 29-year-old, who joined City in June 2016, revealed he is finding life difficult during the lockdown.

"You are sometimes afraid to go for a walk for 10 to 15 minutes outside, even though it was oddly and ironically extremely beautiful weather here in Manchester," said Gundogan.

With the Premier League season on hold until April 30 at the earliest, the English top-flight's big names still managed to get their message across on Saturday.

The Premier League, along with the majority of sporting tournaments and events across the globe, is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many nations are in total or near-total lockdown, with people only allowed to leave their homes for essential trips and exercise.

Though there is no sport to keep people entertained, some of the biggest names – both players and managers – from the Premier League came together on Saturday at 1500 GMT to spread the message: "stay at home, save lives."

 

Using his official Twitter and Instagram accounts, Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling shared a video.

"We need to stay at home, let's help our NHS by staying home, only leave if you need food, medicine or exercise," Sterling said. "The NHS have been doing a fantastic job so let's help them continue doing their wonderful work."

He was also joined by his City team-mates Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy, as well as the club's ladies captain Steph Houghton.

Across the city, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also offered his support to the campaign.

"Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives," the Norwegian said in a video posted to United's Twitter feed.

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 and, having now recovered, he also shared the message.

"I encourage everybody, please be responsible and stay at home as much as possible," the Spaniard said.

Meanwhile, Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard said: "To help save lives, you must stay home. Only leave home to buy essential food, medicine or for individual exercise and always stay two metres apart. This is an urgent message. Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives."

Premier League leaders Liverpool shared a graphic which read: "Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives."

Tottenham striker and England captain Harry Kane did not share a video, but wrote in a post on Twitter: "Saturday 3pm normally means football. But at the moment it's far more important everyone stays home. Do your bit. Protect the NHS, save lives."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp felt staging the Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Anfield without restrictions earlier this month was a "criminal act", according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Everton head coach Ancelotti has spoken with Klopp amid the coronavirus pandemic and said the German had concerns over his side’s continental fixture going ahead in front of a full stadium on March 11.

Liverpool went out of the Champions League after the second leg of their last-16 tie ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat, their last match before top-level football was widely halted due to the outbreak.

Ancelotti told Corriere dello Sport: "I heard from Klopp the other day, he told me that going ahead with the game in those conditions was a criminal act. I think he was right."

Former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Milan boss Ancelotti predicts there will be an economic "downsizing" after the virus has passed, with football feeling the effects of that.

"We are all living a life that we were not used to and that will change us profoundly," he said. "I'm sure we will all have to downsize, starting with football.

"Today, the priority is health, limiting the contagion. When you start again, when you finish, the dates - believe me, I don't care. At the moment, that's the last thing on my mind.

"I hear talk about cutting salaries, suspension of payments. They seem like inopportune solutions.

"Soon the economy will change, and that's at all levels: The TV rights will be less, players and coaches will earn less, tickets will cost less because people will have less money.

"I repeat, what matters now is to fight the virus effectively. Then, of course, if it will be possible to continue the season... otherwise, amen."

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has gone back on her previous claim that the season should be voided, saying the title is "all but owned by Liverpool" as the the Premier League aims to return to action.

Brady was criticised earlier this month for suggesting in a newspaper column that the top-flight campaign in England should be declared null and void due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

She was accused of putting her own club's interests first, with the Hammers only outside the Premier League relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.

Her suggestion riled Liverpool supporters in particular, given the expectation they will claim their first league title in 30 years should the season be completed.

She defended her initial comments, saying she was merely thinking of players and fans amid the coronavirus pandemic, but has now said the Premier League plan to “get going as soon as possible” still stands.

"It is a paradox that at a time football would be a great comfort to millions, it must not be played because, rightly, people's health is our priority," Brady wrote in The Sun.

"What is going on in our country and the world is unprecedented and the game is not a necessity – like food or healthcare.

"But to millions upon millions of us, football's disappearance from life is very relevant indeed. So, we all want it back in a hurry.

"There's the Premier League to be decided although, obviously, not the title – which is all but owned by Liverpool.

"But neither the Premier League nor the EFL have finished this season's games. Plus, there is the FA Cup, continental leagues, European competitions, European Championship and almost everything in between.

"The next Premier League meeting is on Friday and the main topic of conversation will be when games can restart. When we - all Premier League clubs - last spoke, we agreed to get going again as soon as possible. And that games will run into July, if req­uired, to get this campaign finished.

"This is the plan. This is what we want to deliver."

Brady also revealed eight West Ham players went into self-isolation after showing mild symptoms of the virus.

"Players are currently not in training and housebound to comply with social distancing rules currently in place until April 13, when we expect training to restart," she added.

"And following further Government guidelines, we have eight West Ham players in isolation. Although I am relieved to say they are all showing mild symptoms and, along with their families, seem to be well."

It is easy to lose track of time in these strange days of lockdowns and isolations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now it seems an eternity ago, yet it was only a year to the day – March 28, 2019 – that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as Manchester United's full-time manager.

The Red Devils had won 14 of their 19 games in all competitions during Solskjaer's temporary stint, including a famous Champions League last-16 second-leg comeback at Paris Saint-Germain.

Rio Ferdinand had demanded United hand his fellow club icon a blank contract to sign and the good times were, it seemed, on their way back to Old Trafford.

And yet after all that early promise, it has been a year largely of stagnation. Twelve months of two steps forward, then a couple back. Those early successes seem like halcyon days, although there were encouraging signs prior to the suspension of the Premier League as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Below, we have taken a look at how Solskjaer's United compare to the other "big six" (Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal) over the past 12 months in the Premier League with the help of Opta data.

ONLY HALF AS GOOD AS SIZZLING REDS

If Manchester United knocked Liverpool off their (insert naughty word here) perch, then Jurgen Klopp's Reds have conquered all in front of them in their bid to return to it.

Liverpool's wait for a Premier League title may have been frustratingly held up but over the past year they have accumulated an astonishing 103 points from 36 top-flight matches.

That is 22 more than Manchester City, second in our table for this span, have accumulated.

United are a whopping 50 points adrift of Liverpool's accumulation having played a game more. Indeed, their tally of 53 is only the seventh best and is fewer than Wolves (56) and Crystal Palace (55).

Chelsea have managed 63 and are fourth behind Leicester City (64), but United have amassed more points than both Tottenham (51) and Arsenal (50).

 

LAGGING BEHIND IN WINS AND GOALS

A slight concern for United fans is the fact they have won just 14 of the 37 league games played during Solskjaer's permanent stewardship thus far.

Of the so-called "big six", only Arsenal (12) have triumphed in fewer outings, with Tottenham on the same number and Chelsea (18), City (26) and Liverpool (34) all ahead.

In the same period, only Spurs – now managed by the man Solskjaer replaced, Jose Mourinho – have lost more games, with 14 to United's 12.

The January signing of Bruno Fernandes has gone some way to helping United's creativity void in midfield, though their return of 51 goals is significantly lower than Liverpool (85) and City (84).

Only the Gunners (50) have managed fewer, with Chelsea (64) and Spurs (57) both ahead of Solskjaer's side in this bracket.

It comes as little surprise that United also struggle in terms of shot conversion (9 per cent). Chelsea (10 per cent), Spurs, City, Arsenal (all 12 per cent) and Liverpool (15 per cent) all perform better.

It is not necessarily for a lack of efforts, either. United have registered more shots (544) and shots on target (203) than both Arsenal (411 and 141) and Spurs (486 and 169).

 

FEWER CLEAN SHEETS THAN A HOTEL LAUNDRY ROOM

Defensively, United stand up reasonably well against their five major rivals. They have conceded fewer goals (44) than each of Arsenal (48), Spurs (47) and Chelsea (45). Liverpool (25) and City (33), unsurprisingly, lead in that department too.

But United have not been able to keep too many clean sheets. Indeed, they have denied opposition sides from scoring on just eight occasions. Only Tottenham - with seven - have a worse record.

United have faced 142 shots on target, which is less than Spurs (180) and Arsenal (185).

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

Rayan Cherki is Lyon's latest academy prodigy and has set his sights firmly on the top, openly admitting last week that he aspires to one day play for Real Madrid.

He is the 16-year-old who has already made 12 senior appearances for Lyon and been tipped to emulate Kylian Mbappe as the next big thing to come out of Ligue 1.

Madrid are not alone in showing an interest in the teenage midfielder, though, with Manchester United and Liverpool also among those to have been linked.

Able to play on either flank or through the middle and capable of embarrassing defenders with his trickery, Cherki is very much a player with the world at his feet.

@UEFAYouthLeague pic.twitter.com/Rmi94MAfaZ

— Rayan Cherki (@rayan_cherki) March 9, 2020

THE BREAKTHROUGH

After scoring in the UEFA Youth League at the age of 15, becoming the youngest player to do so at the time, Cherki was already a name on Lyon fans' lips when making his senior bow.

That came in a stalemate with Dijon in October, making him the youngest player - at 16 years and 63 days - to appear for Lyon in Ligue 1 since Willem Geubbels in 2017.

By comparison, World Cup-winning striker Mbappe was still more than nine months away from his Monaco debut at the same age.

And while the game finished in a bore draw, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas heaped praise on the youngster and later said he has the potential to become better than Mbappe.

"He is more technical than Mbappe... and more important - he has broken out at a younger age," Aulas told Tuttosport in February. "If he stays at Lyon for another few years, he will become even better than Mbappe."

Aulas was not alone in hailing Cherki, with boss Rudi Garcia singling him out for his energy in the middle of the park - something that would start to become a more regular occurrence.

Faut pas trop lui parler d’âge hein. @rayan_cherki https://t.co/lqZ6ihu600

— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) January 18, 2020

STEPPING UP

Praise and potential is one thing, of course - showing that you are capable of living up to the hype is another matter entirely.

In the five months between making his senior debut and the enforced Ligue 1 break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cherki regularly justified the talk of being the next big thing.

He has gone on to make 12 appearances for Lyon in all competitions - four of those as a starter - totalling 453 minutes in total.

Impressively, the France Under-16 international already boasts three goals and two assists, giving him a return of one goal involvement per 91 minutes on the field. He is also creating a scoring opportunity every 41 minutes.

Four of those goals involvements - two strikes of his own and two assists - came in January's Coupe de France win over Nantes, earning front-page billing on French daily L'Equipe. 

If Europe's elite clubs had not taken notice of Cherki before then, they certainly did at this point.

What a performance! @rayan_cherki pic.twitter.com/pi97bCaJMD

— OL English (@OL_English) January 18, 2020

SUSTAINING HIS FORM

Lyon have a history of bringing through talented youngsters, with the likes of Nabil Fekir, Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso and Samuel Umtiti among them.

The first player born in 2003 or later to play in Ligue 1, Cherki now needs to maintain the form he has displayed in his first half-season in order to emulate those aforementioned stars.

And the attacking midfielder, whose solitary league start came away at Paris Saint-Germain, certainly does not lack confidence when it comes to his career path.

"My dream is to play for Real Madrid," he said in an interview with Lyon TV last week, perhaps swayed by the progress of compatriots Benzema and Raphael Varane at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cherki, also eligible to represent Italy or Algeria at international level through his parents, also outlined his intention to one day win the Ballon d'Or.

The versatile attacker still has a long way to go for that to happen, of course, and there are improvements to be made. One of the criticisms has been his insistence on going it alone too often, rather than taking an easier option.

"He has a strong ability to beat players but uses it too much and not especially wisely," Garcia said at the turn of the year, perhaps trying to downplay the growing hype. "We have to be careful with our young players, that's why we protect him a lot, especially in the media aspect of things. He is fairly quiet, but he must be aware that he still has huge room for improvement. The good thing about him is that he listens. If he continues like this, he will be able to go as high as possible."

Heed the advice of his manager and the path to superstardom awaits for Cherki, whether at Lyon, Real Madrid or elsewhere.

Lyon's youngster of many talents appears very much to be the next big thing to emerge from an academy that just keeps on giving.

Jurgen Klopp was moved to tears after being shown a video of NHS workers singing a rendition of Liverpool club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

Footage of the healthcare staff swaying their arms from side to side as they chanted the song was posted on social media this week.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to gather pace across the world, Britain united as one on Thursday to thank those who are battling to save lives.

And Liverpool boss Klopp has praised the "extraordinary" work being done by nurses, doctors, carers and other medical professionals in testing circumstances.

"My English is not good enough to say. It's extraordinary, it's great," he told Liverpool's official website. 

"I think yesterday I was sent a video of people in the hospital just outside the intensive care area and when they started singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' I started crying immediately. 

"It's unbelievable. But it shows everything, these people not only work but they have such a good spirit. They are used to helping other people, we need to get used to it because usually we have our own problems and stuff. 

"But it's their job, they do it day in and day out. They bring themselves, if you want, in danger because they help ill, sick and seriously handicapped people, so I couldn't admire them more and appreciate it more, I really couldn't."

The COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc on the sporting calendar, with Liverpool being made to wait for a maiden Premier League crown and first top-flight title since 1990.

Klopp's men are two victories away from lifting the title, but the German coach insists football does not matter at a time like this.

"We said it now often enough, and I think everybody knows, football is not the most important thing in the world," he said. "One hundred per cent not. In this moment it's clear what is. 

"But the only way to get football back as soon as possible, if that's what the people want, the more disciplined we are now the earlier we will get, piece by piece by piece, our life back. 

"That's how it is. There is no other solution in the moment, nobody has another solution. We have to be disciplined by ourselves, we have to keep the distance to other people.

"In 10, 20, 30, 40 years, if we look back and then the conclusion is that this was the period when the world showed the biggest solidarity, the biggest love, the biggest friendship or whatever, that would be great, that would be really great."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and former Manchester United star David Beckham expressed their gratitude towards healthcare workers in the United Kingdom amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 23,900 people have died from COVID-19 globally, with over 528,000 confirmed cases as the world struggles to contain the spread of the virus – which has brought sport to a standstill.

In the UK, there have been 578 deaths and almost 11,700 cases, and the country came together to pay tribute to NHS staff as part of the "Clap for Carers" initiative on Thursday.

With the Premier League on hiatus, Klopp – whose Liverpool were top of the table prior to the postponement – delivered a message via the club's official channels.

"Myself, the staff and all the players of LFC would like to take this opportunity to deliver a message to say thank you to all the incredible people who work in the health services, all the health workers, if you want, out there," Klopp said.

"It's unbelievable what you are doing and on behalf of all of us from LFC, I would like to say thank you. Or, how we would say in Germany, vielen dank."

Ex-United, England, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Milan winger Beckham also used social media to show his appreciation.

"Happy to be able to come together with the whole country to thank the brave healthcare workers and our brilliant NHS working tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19," Beckham – now co-owner of new MLS franchise Inter Miami – said in a caption on Instagram.

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