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Athletes are at risk of having their careers cut short if soon-to-be free agents face a prolonged period of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, warned World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill across the globe, with the 2020 Olympic Games, major European football leagues, the NBA, MLB and NHL postponed.

Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 have been pushed back to next year amid the fight to combat the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 21,290 lives.

It remains to be seen when and if the 2019-20 Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 seasons will resume, raising doubts over the futures of football players – whose contracts are due to expire in June.

The likes of Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva (both Paris Saint-Germain), Willian (Chelsea) and Dries Mertens (Napoli) are all set to become free agents.

As clubs and organisations try to reduce costs amid the economic crisis, Schwab – who works for World Players, which brings together 85,000 players across professional sports through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries – told Stats Perform: "The challenge is to ensure enough liquidity during the shutdown so that the same content can be delivered to fans, broadcasters and brands but over a longer period.

"Existing contracts and regulations such as contract expiry dates and transfer windows will all need to be reformulated which can only be done though collective decision-making involving governments, sports bodies, broadcasters, stadia operators, player unions and civil society. The impact on the sporting schedule will be long-lasting and may take several years to return to normal.

"Seasons just starting – such as MLB, AFL and NRL – have a longer struggle in many ways. Shortened seasons are likely, but it all depends on the length of the shutdown, liquidity and the window available to complete seasons. Sports which own their own infrastructure will have greater flexibility and will be in a stronger position to design solutions.

"The key is collective decision-making, goodwill and long-term thinking, all of which can be difficult during such uncertainty. Many key sports governing, commercial and player contracts have 'force majeure' clauses which may apply in these circumstances. Certain parties may be able to 'cut and run', but that will only worsen the bleeding and make recovery more difficult. We need to bunker down, show we care about our people, fight the pandemic, exercise restraint, save as many jobs and legitimate commercial interests as we can, and re-emerge with a renewed, sustainable and collectively developed economic model.

"Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of arguably football’s most influential figure, Johan Cruyff. He famously said that there is advantage in every disadvantage. That thinking is needed right now."

Schwab added: "Individual players will be impacted differently. The destiny of free agents will depend much on the state of the leagues once the shutdown has been lifted. There is a risk that players coming off contract will face a prolonged period of unemployment if the shutdown continues, which can be career ending.

"The top players should be OK during this period, but remember they are a fraction of players and athletes who work professionally. It is likely that the economic impact of the shutdown will result in a deflated labour market for some time, which will suppress wages even among the viable leagues. For leagues outside the very top echelon, it may be a battle for survival.

"However, sport's essential role in society will be unchanged and may even be renewed and elevated. It will have a critical role to play as the community reunites after the pandemic and we expect a major resurgence in demand. Sport is therefore an important part of government planning, and it is pleasing to see that progressive governments in Switzerland, Sweden and some other countries have included sport in the stimulus packages they are announcing. They will reap a community dividend for doing so even as they balance the essential interests of the broader society and economy."

"[Next year] an intense year for sport as current seasons will now run well into the northern summer and that will require a readjusted schedule in 2021," the Australian executive continued. "The postponement of the Olympics may allow for existing concerns to be addressed including the health and safety impacts of the extreme heat of July-August in Tokyo. These issues all need to be worked through. We shouldn't assume the Olympics are simply put back 12 months. We are consulting with our affiliates about how to approach the shaping of the 2021 sports calendar."

Coronavirus has largely affected the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, but Schwab said: "We have been concerned with some of the heath information being conveyed, including that COVID-19 is a disease that mainly affects the elderly and the vulnerable. Athletes, too, are vulnerable, despite being young and fit. The disease attacks the lungs, and athletes themselves have suffered very severe symptoms which may be long-lasting. There have been fatalities among people between 20 and 44 and young people can transmit the virus even if they don't have symptoms.

"Players have also been forced into quarantine when living away from their families. It is necessary that effective support mechanisms are in place to ensure the mental health and social wellbeing of players as well as their physical health. Our player unions play an essential role here."

Barcelona seemingly continue to make progress in their pursuit of Lautaro Martinez, while Real Madrid reportedly have seven transfer priorities.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez has been linked with a move away, with Barcelona appearing to be leading the chase for the forward.

Meanwhile, Barcelona's rivals Madrid have priorities of their own.

 

TOP STORY – INTER READY TO ACCEPT PLAYERS FROM BARCELONA IN MARTINEZ DEAL

Barcelona want to make their move for Martinez cheaper by offering several players and Inter view this option positively, according to the cover of Sport.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games in all competitions for Inter this season.

Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich, and Ousmane Dembele are among the Barcelona players to have been linked with moves away.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have seven major questions to answer, according to Marca, which says the LaLiga club must sign a goalscorer, extend Luka Modric's contract, bring Martin Odegaard back from loan, decide on the future of Achraf Hakimi, sign Donny van de Beek, decide between Alphonse Areola or Andriy Lunin as second goalkeeper and loan out or sell Dani Ceballos.

- Will Jadon Sancho leave Borussia Dortmund? The Mirror reports Manchester United are increasingly confident of landing Sancho during the next transfer window. The Sun, however, says Dortmund may be changing their plans with the attacker due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- Barcelona may want to sell Samuel Umtiti, but it is shaping to be difficult. AS says the club are aware selling the France defender is likely to be tough due to his injury problems.

- With Martinez potentially leaving, Inter are lining up replacements. Sport claims Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud would be one of their signings, while they are also targeting Atalanta's Duvan Zapata.

- On loan at Monaco from Chelsea, Tiemoue Bakayoko may see his future elsewhere. Calciomercato reports the 25-year-old is keen to return to Milan, where he was on loan in 2018-19. It also reports Milan are targeting Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen.

- There could be other departures at Stamford Bridge. According to The Sun, Chelsea are ready to sell Emerson Palmieri and Victor Moses to raise around £30million with the duo linked to Juventus and Inter respectively.

Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina remains hopeful of resuming the 2019-20 Serie A season, either in July or August amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Serie A, like most leagues around the world, has been suspended indefinitely due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed more than 21,100 lives globally.

Italy has been the hardest hit, with over 7,500 casualties and at least 74,300 confirmed cases, as hospitals and emergency workers struggle to cope.

Various Serie A owners have debated whether the 2019-20 campaign should resume or be cancelled but Gravina is not giving up hope on the current season following the postponements of Euro 2020, the Copa America and the Olympic Games.

"For as long as I'm able to, I won't lose hope of resuming the campaign. I'll do anything to make that happen. I find giving up very difficult," Gravina told Radio Marte.

"I'm aware that it's still too early to think of a date, but we must think positively. We'll try our best to even play at the cost of asking for support from UEFA and FIFA to go beyond June 30, therefore also taking advantage of July and August.

"Right now, there's no room for individual interests. I plead for common sense because, ultimately, it's the FIGC that will have to decide.

"Tomorrow [Thursday], there will be a new appointment with the government to work on a series of proposals that concern some amendments, which the government will assess, but there are many other issues of our relevance.

"We don't want to ask for money, but we're denouncing a state of crisis. We ask the government to help us with a series of measures to help modernise our game.

"We'll see them tomorrow, then we will meet again next week for a permanent and constant worktable, putting together indispensable ideas to form projects.

"I consider [cancelling the season] a defeat of mine and one that diminishes the value of the competition. It would lead to an unpleasant scenario.

"I stubbornly reject any reflections that lead to such a conclusion. For as long as possible, I will continue to reject these hypotheses."

Prior to the postponement, reigning champions Juventus were a point clear of Lazio through 26 matches in Serie A.

The last league game was played on March 9, with Sassuolo defeating Brescia 3-0.

"We are a club in Serie C that already thinks with a Serie A mind."

Monza are no ordinary third-tier team in Italy. They are owned by former Prime Minister and Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, who returned to football in 2018 after selling his beloved Rossoneri a year earlier.

Now, Monza are dreaming big – aiming to be in Serie A in 2021. The Bagai were on track for promotion to the second division prior to the coronavirus pandemic, comfortably top of Serie C by 16 points through 27 games.

While COVID-19 has halted Monza's quest, their aspirations remain the same, despite the disruption.

"It is undoubtedly true that we are experiencing a very challenging situation," Sporting director Filippo Antonelli told Stats Perform. "We are in constant contact with the players and the staff regularly send personalised workouts. To date we have done something extraordinary, and the players remain really focused and highly motivated to achieve the Serie B objective.

"Monza's ownership is deeply solid and we enjoy a widespread network of relations and contacts developed over the many winning years, which makes it easier for the club to carry on their plans, even in difficult times, such as the one we are currently living.

"Such a situation was unpredictable, however safety comes first. With patience, once all of this will be over, we will start again with greater enthusiasm. Monza aims to be playing in Serie A. An exciting opportunity for all of us that we live with a lot of passion and commitment to make the most and best we can, day after day."

There is a Milan feel about Monza. After purchasing the club through his Fininvest company, Berlusconi turned to his trusted right-hand man Adriano Galliani – who was born in Monza – as CEO. Their partnership helped turn the Rossoneri into a superpower, with eight Serie A titles and five Champions League/European Cup crowns among the 29 pieces of silverware between 1986 and 2017.

Monza are also coached by former Milan midfielder and boss Cristian Brocchi, while the club boasts ex-Rossoneri defender Gabriel Paletta.

"When Berlusconi became the owner of the club, there was an immediate change of pace in the interest towards Monza, both from the media and the general public," Antonelli said. "The impact of such a high standing ownership on the club and the fans was indeed remarkable and significant: the sports centre has been renovated [redevelopment of turf pitches, synthetic pitches, gym, locker rooms and offices], the facilities have been secured, the Stadio Brianteo has been redeveloped through countless interventions [lighting, central grandstand, sky box], not to mention the improvements on the transfer market with the strengthening of the squad.

"I believe that all of this is what makes the difference, besides, of course, the winning mentality that Silvio Berlusconi has imprinted on the club, the team and the staff in the meetings that we were lucky enough to have with him… as for our CEO [Galliani], he often tells us that he 'belonged' to Monza for 10 years, he then was 'borrowed' to Milan for 31 years and now he's back at Monza."

Berlusconi's presence has changed the landscape for Monza, who tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic before the star striker opted to move 15 kilometres away to Milan – the capital of Lombardy. However, Monza continue to be linked with the 38-year-old as he faces an uncertain future at San Siro.

"Ibrahimovic is a champion, our ownership has always hired champion players," added Antonelli, who has no trouble bringing new players to Monza under Berlusconi's ownership.

"If compared to how the situation was before, now a phone call is enough to immediately make a negotiation possible, today everyone would like to receive a call from Monza: at this time it is much easier for me to convince players to come to Monza."

For Antonelli, Monza means more than most. The 41-year-old emerged from the club's youth system in 1997 before eventually returning in 2015 once his playing days were over, witnessing Monza's relegation and two seasons in Serie D.

"I am very fond of these colours," Antonelli continued.  Monza are a club with fans who have ideals. The more time passes, the more I understand this reality and I feel increasingly involved in this project."

Another day, another Lautaro Martinez rumour.

Inter star Martinez continues to dominate headlines as Barcelona reportedly circle.

Barca appear to be closing in on the Argentina international forward.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA MOVE CLOSER TO MARTINEZ

Barcelona have reached an agreement in principle with Inter forward Lautaro Martinez, according to Tuttosport.

Martinez is a player in demand amid links to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City.

But Barca are desperate to sign Martinez and the report claims the LaLiga champions have reached a deal on the contract and must now negotiate with Inter.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports United are "optimistic" they will have Paul Pogba at their disposal in 2020-21 as no club can afford him. The disgruntled star has been linked to former team Juventus and Madrid.

- Serie A champions Juve are keen on replacing forward Gonzalo Higuain with City's Gabriel Jesus, says Calciomcercato.

Barca are struggling to offload Brazilian attacker Philippe Coutinho, according to Marca. Coutinho, on loan at Bayern Munich, has been linked to Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham. However, Barca have been unable to find a team willing to spend at least €80million (£73m). Another loan spell is being considered.

- Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland has become Madrid's primary transfer target, ahead of the likes of Martinez and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, claims Marca. Madrid continue to eye Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe as his contract is due to expire in 2021, while team-mate Neymar is reportedly another option.

Napoli will demand at least €40m for striker Arkadiusz Milik, says Calciomercato. It comes as Milan and Inter reportedly circle the Poland international, who is no closer to signing a new deal in Naples.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Zlatan Ibrahimovic is considering retirement but Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis wants the 38-year-old striker to sign a new deal.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is at the top of Juve's wish list, Tuttosport claims. Tonali is also wanted by Inter, United, City and PSG. Alternatives for Juve are Roma pair Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, as well as Fiorentina duo Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli.

Fabio Cannavaro believes it will be difficult for European football to return before the season ends amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport has been brought to a standstill due to COVID-19, with Serie A, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League all on hiatus.

The Champions League and Europa League finals have also been postponed, with Euro 2020 pushed back to next year following more than 18,800 deaths worldwide – over 9,800 of the casualties from Italy and Spain.

Former Italy, Juventus and Real Madrid defender Cannavaro – now in charge of Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande – is not confident that football will resume by May.

"In less than a month it is not known what is going to happen in the world," the 43-year-old told COPE.

"I think it will take a long time for this to end in Italy and Spain.

"It will be difficult for European football to return before the season ends."

Cannavaro has been based in China since joining Evergrande in 2014 before returning in 2017, while he was briefly in charge of the national team last year.

China has enforced strict measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, which originated in the country and has claimed more than 3,270 lives.

"The virus in Guangzhou is under control and life is beginning to go back to normal," Cannavaro added. "There are no more restrictions, only 14 days at home.

"In two days, I finish my quarantine. All of us who come back have to do it.

"Staying at home is essential because we do not give the virus the opportunity to infect more people.

"We have to learn from China, they have more experience in this situation."

Inter full-back Ashley Young offered tips for staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic, including treating everybody that is not in your household as if they have COVID-19.

The impact of coronavirus has been devastating, with more than 18,600 deaths globally and at least 418,270 confirmed cases.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill, with Serie A among the professional leagues on hiatus amid the global health crisis.

Italy – particularly Milan and the Lombardy region – has been the hardest hit, with almost 7,000 casualties and over 69,100 cases.

Former Manchester United star Young, who left Old Trafford for Antonio Conte's Inter in January, shared his own advice from Milan, where a lockdown has been enforced.

"Hi everyone, just wanted to share my thoughts given I'm currently living in Italy, the epicentre of the virus," the 34-year-old Englishman wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "Realistically a supermarket is now your main risk at spreading this virus and even catching it. Speaking with family and friends at home it sounds like going to get food is just crazy. Remember, lockdown means lockdown!

"In Italy going to the supermarket is surprisingly calm... no fights over food, no stripped shelves and most certainly no abusing staff members for limiting food or any reason at all! And in almost every case it's usually just one person shopping for a household!

"Please read the following and share this if you haven't already, it really is time to do your bit to help tackle this awful global crisis we are in!

"Queuing to go into supermarket is standard, but not because it's for stockpiling or greed. Supermarkets have limited the number of people entering at any time so it's never over-crowded! So wait and be patient to go in if your supermarket is doing this.

"If you have to get in the lift only get in with one more person, two people per lift at one time. And stand on opposite sides of the lift and face the wall – don't breathe outwards towards that stranger.

"Always use gloves from moment you get out of your car! You don't want to touch trolleys that other hands have been on. Keep the gloves on until you are getting back in the car.

"Use a face mask or scarf to keep your nose and mouth covered. Always keep your distance at the till. Keep the trolley behind you when you unpack at the till as it stops people from being able to get too close.

"Don't unpack your shopping right on top of somebody else's, make a gap between theirs and yours so none of your shopping touches theirs. Here we can't put our groceries on the belt until the person in front has finished paying.

"This may sound harsh but treat everybody that's not in your household as if they have the virus, you just don't know!!! Most importantly, just stay safe! This is what we are doing here, it's not an overreaction, it's staying safe. And just remember others should be looking at you in this way as well. It's not horrible, it's a way of keeping your distance to ultimately help save lives."

Paolo Maldini expects to recover from coronavirus "within a week" after his diagnosis was confirmed by Milan over the weekend.

Former Italy great Maldini, who now works for the Rossoneri as technical director, tested positive for COVID-19 along with his 18-year-old son Daniel, a current Milan player.

A club statement issued on Saturday revealed both men had completed two weeks in isolation at home and that they would remain in quarantine until clinically recovered, in line with medical protocols in Italy.

Paolo Maldini posted a video on his Instagram account to thank well-wishers and was optimistic about himself and his son achieving a full recovery in the near future.

"With this video I wanted to thank all those people who expressed on social media their love and concern for my and my son's health,” he said.

"We're fine. We should be able to get rid of this virus within a week. Thanks for your continuing affection.

"I wanted to thank all those doctors, nurses, health workers, civil protection and law enforcement officers who are facing this emergency with the utmost professionalism and enormous courage.

"Once again, you make us feel proud of being Italian. Thanks again."

Italy is the country most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll now in excess of 6,000.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Juventus coming to an end?

Ronaldo swapped LaLiga giants Real Madrid for Serie A champions Juventus in 2018.

But the 35-year-old superstar reportedly wants out of Turin.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO EYES JUVE EXIT

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Juventus as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United circle, according to Diario GOL.

The report claims Ronaldo has an offer from Ligue 1 champions PSG, who want to partner the five-time Ballon d'Or winner with Kylian Mbappe.

Ronaldo has also received a proposal from former club United and the 35-year-old wants to restore the glory days at Old Trafford, though it depends on Champions League qualification.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Star says Barcelona have made a bid for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez as their interest in Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has cooled. Aubameyang has been linked to Barca, PSG and United.

Chelsea have been offered the chance to sign out-of-favour Barca attacker Philippe Coutinho, reports The Mirror. Barca are looking to offload the Brazilian, who is on loan at Bayern Munich. United, Arsenal and Tottenham have also been mentioned as possible destinations.

- El Pais says Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors are keen on signing PSG forward Edinson Cavani, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Declan Rice to return to Stamford Bridge? Sky Sports says Chelsea are hoping to re-sign the West Ham midfielder, who spent most of his youth career with the Blues.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's future at Milan is uncertain. Calciomercato claims a farewell cannot be ruled out amid contract negotiations. Real Madrid, PSG and Everton are among the reported suitors for the Italy international goalkeeper.

- According to Calciomercato, Napoli are preparing for life without star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who continues to be linked with the likes of United, Madrid and Bayern. Freiburg's Robin Koch has emerged as an option for Napoli.

Inter and Juve are interested in former Milan midfielder and current Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports Calciomercato.

Napoli have postponed their return to training amid the coronavirus pandemic, the club announced on Monday.

Serie A side Napoli were planning to resume training on Wednesday, despite being warned it would be dangerous with Italy in lockdown due to COVID-19.

But with more than 6,000 deaths in Italy, Napoli have delayed their training comeback amid Serie A's hiatus.

"Napoli announces that sporting activity has been suspended until further notice," the club tweeted.

"The date when training will be resumed will be established in due course depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 emergency situation."

Globally, there have been over 378,300 cases and at least 16,490 deaths.

 

Rumours linking Neymar to Barcelona refuse to subside.

Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017, but the Brazilian star wants to move back to Camp Nou.

Barca are desperate to make it happen by any means necessary.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TO INVOKE CLAUSE IN NEYMAR PURSUIT

Barcelona are plotting an audacious plan to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, according to ESPN.

The report says LaLiga champions could invoke a little-known FIFA clause – Article 17 – in order to lure Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Article 17 states that players can leave their contracts "without just cause" once the three-year protection period ends.

 

ROUND-UP

Marc-Andre ter Stegen to leave Barca? The Germany international has been in contract negotiations with the Spanish giants, however, Sport says he is being tempted by Bayern Munich.

- Sport also claims that Barca have put Antoine Griezmann on the transfer market. It comes as Barca look to sign Inter's Lautaro Martinez at the end of the season, while keeping costs down amid the coronavirus pandemic. Manchester United, PSG, Chelsea and Arsenal are possible suitors for Griezmann. The same publication reports Barca's stars have agreed to take a pay cut to help the club deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Real Madrid are interested in signing Wolves striker Raul Jimenez, AS reports. Madrid are eyeing a striker with Karim Benzema ageing and big-money recruit Luka Jovic so far failing to convince Zinedine Zidane. Mexico international Jimenez previously spent a year at Atletico Madrid in 2014-15.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Arsenal and Tottenham are set to rival Serie A side Lazio for Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.

- With Lovren set to leave, AS suggests Liverpool have lined up three possible replacements – RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, Atletico Madrid defender Jose Maria Gimenez and Inter's Alessandro Bastoni.

- Calciomercato says Mauro Icardi – on loan at PSG from Inter – wants to return to Italy at the end of the season amid strong links to Juventus. The Argentina striker is also open to joining Madrid.

Inter are working on a renewal to tie down star midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, reports Tuttosport. The Croatia international is contracted until 2022.

Juve, United and Barca are all tracking PSG's highly rated 17-year-old Edouard Michut, according to Calciomercato.

Patrik Schick is "very attracted" to the Premier League, despite the possibility of his loan move to RB Leipzig being made permanent at the end of the season.

Leipzig signed Schick on loan from Roma in September for the 2019-20 season, and the forward has been a success in the Bundesliga, scoring seven goals in 15 league appearances for Julian Nagelsmann's side.

The German club will reportedly have the option to make Schick's transfer permanent for €29million if they quality for the 2020-21 Champions League.

However, the 24-year-old might have his eyes on a new challenge, even if he believes joining Leipzig was the right move.

"When I left the Czech Republic, my dream was to play in Italy and I achieved that," he told iSport.cz. "Now, I feel very attracted to England, to be honest.

"Leipzig was absolutely the right choice for my career. I had also talked to Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke here in Germany.

"In England, there were Everton and Crystal Palace, plus Valencia in Spain.

"I just felt that Leipzig wanted me more, and I was also attracted to the playing style of coach Julian Nagelsmann. I am sure that I made the right choice."

Romelu Lukaku might have been playing for Juventus rather than Inter had the Bianconeri sold Paulo Dybala to Manchester United, according to the Belgium international's agent.

Lukaku left United for Inter in a €65million deal in August and went on to score 17 Serie A goals before the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the former Chelsea and Everton striker could have instead been turning out for title rivals Juve this term.

Lukaku's agent Federico Pastorello claims Dybala's departure would have made room for the 26-year-old in Turin.

Dybala was linked with both United and Tottenham but instead stayed at Juve, netting seven times in the league so far in 2019-20 - including strikes in a pair of precious victories over Inter.

Pastorello told Sky Sport Italia: "If Lukaku is wearing the Inter shirt today, it's only because of Paulo Dybala's failure to join Manchester United."

However, Lukaku's representative also suggested the player felt a warmer welcome at Inter than he would have expected with Juve.

"Romelu wanted to leave the Premier League and move to a club where he felt loved," Pastorello said.

"He immediately noticed the affection and warmth of the Inter fans compared to those of Juve, and this made the difference.

"Lukaku's arrival at Juve would have pleased many fans, but for Inter his engagement instead represented a turning point after the arrival of Antonio Conte, the intention to try to start a winning cycle.

"He perceived this immediately, even on social media. He felt wanted at Inter. Conte put a lot of pressure on the club to have the player."

Massimo Cellino has said he doesn't "give a s***" about how Serie A finishes, declaring: "If anyone wants this cursed Scudetto, take it."

The Brescia owner, who admits his team deserve their position at the foot of the table, called for the 2019-20 campaign to be aborted. At present, it is suspended indefinitely.

He says players should give up a third of their wages and clubs should accept an equivalent cut in their TV income while the coronavirus continues to stop football taking place.

In an emotional interview, Cellino said he had been feverish for three days and was experiencing depression amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Italy has been the world's hardest-hit country in terms of the number of deaths from the pandemic, with over 4,800 losing their lives.

And for Cellino, football can wait while his country attempts to protect itself from worse days to come.

"You don't have to think about when to start [football] again, but whether you survive. And if we talk about football, everything has to be moved to next season," Cellino said. "Realism, gentlemen. This is the plague."

Speaking to Corriere dello Sport, Cellino said: "I've had a fever for three days and I've been in quarantine for eleven. I'm staying in at home in Padenghe sul Garda, I am alone. My wife Francesca is stuck in Cagliari, I have a son in Milan, the others elsewhere. I have seen and heard things that you cannot even imagine."

He said the people of Brescia "ripped my heart out" with their bravery and added: "They have only one desire, to get back to work, to start living again. And do you want to talk about the championship, the championship? I don't give a s*** ... I'm afraid to leave the house, I'm having depression."

The 63-year-old former Leeds United owner spoke of his admirations for 'ultras' who are taking oxygen to hospitals and his sorrow for those who are suffering.

"You can no longer play this season. Think about the next one," he said. "Some people still doesn't realise what is happening, and that is worse than the virus. I don't believe in miracles, I stopped doing it long ago. We reset.

"The season is gone. If anyone wants this cursed Scudetto, take it. Closed. Finished. And I don't talk like that because Brescia are last in the standings. We are last because we deserve it."

As for how Italian football should confront its financial problems that have been triggered by the suspension of all matches, Cellino said the solution was "very simple", defining it as: "One third of the championship was burned, and then one third of the players' salary was cut, one third of the television rights and one third of the taxes."

Torino president Urbano Cairo says it is "foolish" for Serie A clubs to be considering returning to training given the ever-changing circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport in Italy has been on lockdown since March 9 due to the spread of COVID-19, with most domestic leagues across the globe now suspended.

There have been 4,825 deaths in Italy as a result of the virus, the highest tally of any nation.

However, Cagliari and Napoli are among the clubs to say training will resume in the coming week, while Lazio are also said to be planning on returning.

Cairo expressed his frustration at those plans in an interview with Turin paper La Stampa.

"If I think back to the Lega meeting on March 10, there were still those who talked about training and returning to play," Cairo said.

"Those speeches, to be heard now, seem [like they're] from another planet.

"I said, 'If we do not take drastic action, moving fans will also contribute to increasing the infection of others'.

"It seems foolish to me to argue a thesis on the basis of contagion data. Saying 'my region has no problems' with such a changing situation isn't a good explanation.

"Meanwhile, there are 16 clubs who don't want to think about [returning to training]."

Asked why he thinks some teams want to train, Cairo replied: "I guess for sporting interests. Perhaps to take advantage of the preparation."

Cairo also said it was "inevitable" clubs will have to ask players to take pay cuts during the crisis and believes the only way to complete the season is to have matches behind closed doors.

"Football is now more united, it is not time for cunning. If the championship ever resumes, it will be played behind closed doors," he said.

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