It is Monday September 28, 1992, and Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is the location of a media circus rarely seen before or since in the stadium. Bavarian giants Bayern Munich are in town for a hastily arranged friendly.

Aside from the two teams' meeting in the UEFA Super Cup on Thursday and a Champions League quarter-final tie in 2018, this friendly 28 years ago is the only previous occasion in which Sevilla faced their illustrious German visitors.

Yet, Bayern were not the focus of the media attention. No, they were there for the first game of Diego Maradona's return to Spain.

The world's most renowned footballer - formerly of Barcelona - was barely given enough space to take part in the coin toss such was the scrum around him, with microphones and cameras shoved towards his face with little regard by voracious reporters.

 

STILL THE BEST

Maradona, wearing the captain's armband, was making his comeback from a 15-month ban for cocaine use which ultimately ended his love affair with Napoli.

From midfield, the 31-year-old dictated the tempo and stretched Bayern's defence with his imaginative passing. He, Diego Simeone and Rafa Paz combined excellently in the middle, while an understanding with a young Davor Suker showed evidence of promise.

Maradona forced goalkeeper Raimond Aumann into a smart early save before hitting the crossbar with an audacious free-kick from near the corner flag.

Out of shape, unfit and without competitive football in over a year, Maradona was still the best player on the pitch, setting up Suker before also playing a key role in one of Monchu's goals. Sevilla won 3-1.

His weight was mocked by a banner depicting a Maradona caricature whose belly could not be contained by his jersey, but, his "cosmic barrel" physique aside, this was the same player who had astonished with Napoli and Argentina.

 

REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD

His move to Andalusia meant a reunion with Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning coach – and close friend – Carlos Bilardo.

Bilardo called the signing a "gift", while Maradona said his "happiness is complete" upon arrival at Seville's San Pablo airport in a striking cerise suit – "I looked a treat," he concluded about his fashion sense.

Having lost Ivan Zamorano to Real Madrid, Sevilla president Luis Cuervas and vice-president Jose Maria del Nido will have been looking on, certain they had pulled off a masterstroke by getting Maradona in as a replacement, reportedly boosting season ticket subscriptions from 26,000 to 40,000.

His performances continued to excite in competitive games and he enjoyed what many consider to be his best display in Spain during an ill-tempered 2-0 win over Real Madrid on December 19.

Madrid, complete with the likes of Manolo Sanchis, Fernando Hierro, Michel and Luis Enrique, simply had no answer as Maradona ran the show. Everything was going as well as it could have, until things – somewhat inevitably – turned ugly in the second half of the season.

 

THE FALLOUT

A dispute over El Diego's juggling of international and club commitments saw the two parties at loggerheads, but things got out of control late in the campaign.

After being given painkilling injections against his will for a persistent injury caused by receiving a kick from an angry Venezuela fan in 1985, Maradona was withdrawn by Bilardo early in the second half of a 1-1 draw with Real Burgos and he blew his top.

"Bilardo, you m***********," he claimed to yell in his coach's direction, with the pair coming to blows a day later, as detailed in the troubled star's autobiography.

What made the situation worse for Maradona was Sevilla's chiefs revealed to him just a few days earlier their plan to offer him a player-coach role after ditching Bilardo. They received a stern refusal in reply, with El Diego not about to betray his friend, but he ultimately felt as though such loyalty was not reciprocated.

Everyone wanted out of the marriage, and Del Nido's public comments about Maradona's fitness proved the final straw.

"That's probably why that w***** Del Nido dared to say I wasn't even fit enough to play table tennis; to make me leave," Maradona wrote in his autobiography. "He knew I wouldn't put up with that kind of stuff. And that's how it happened, that was how my story with Sevilla ended. Badly."

Maradona then missed out on £625,000 worth of unpaid wages as Sevilla withheld payment because he had "not met obligations to the club", bringing a bitter close to a chapter which had promised so much on a thrilling evening against Bayern.

Kevin De Bruyne, Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer have made the shortlist for the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award for the 2019-20 campaign.

Manchester City playmaker De Bruyne, who recently won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award, is in the final three along with two Bayern Munich stars who helped their side to the treble last season.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk won the honour in the previous season, finishing ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

None of those three are on the shortlist this time, though, and whoever comes out on top will be a first-time winner.

Neuer missed only one game in Bayern's treble season and kept six Champions League clean sheets, while Lewandowski netted 55 goals in 47 appearances for Hansi Flick's team.

De Bruyne, meanwhile, produced a record-equalling 20 assists in the Premier League for City, adding 13 goals.

The final order of the top three is yet to be revealed, but UEFA has confirmed the occupants of positions four to 10.

Barcelona forward Messi came in at tie for fourth with Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, while Juventus attacker Ronaldo was down in 10th spot.

Thomas Muller (6th), Kylian Mbappe (7th), Thiago Alcantara (8th) and Joshua Kimmich (9th) were the others who featured in the top 10.

Ronaldo has won the honour three times since it was first awarded in 2011, while Messi has claimed it twice.

Andres Iniesta, Franck Ribery, Luka Modric and Van Dijk were the other victors, with the award voted for by coaches and journalists.

Lucy Bronze, Wendie Renard and Pernille Harder are up for the Women's Player of the Year accolade in the 2019-20 awards.

Bayern head coach Flick, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann are on the shortlist for Men's Coach of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the Champions League group stage draw ceremony on October 1.

Messi and Ronaldo also won the previous version of the award - UEFA Club Footballer of the Year – once each. That award was replaced after the 2009-10 season, when Diego Milito came out on top.

Lionel Messi is staying put, meaning he will be able to add to his stunning goal haul for Barcelona.

Messi made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old and has gone on to become Barca's all-time leading scorer with 634 goals and 276 assists in 731 appearances in all competitions for the club.

His incredible feats in front of goal have helped him win 34 trophies with the Catalan club, but his days had looked numbered when he expressed a desire to leave following a trophy-less campaign in which the club suffered a humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final loss to Bayern Munich.

However, after running into issues over the release clause in his contract, the Argentina superstar confirmed a dramatic U-turn on Friday.

Despite all of the drama, Messi's goals have undoubtedly solidified his status as an all-time great and here is a look at a chronological top 10 from the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's collection.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already seen one goal wrongly ruled out for offside – an audacious chip from the edge of the box – Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

Malaga (H): March 22, 2009

Thierry Henry's favourite goal by Messi during their time playing together for Barca. Why not let the France great take up the story? "It defied logic what he did," Henry said in the 'Take the Ball, Pass the Ball' documentary. "There's a diagonal ball and he controls it on his chest. He runs full speed, then the first player goes and the second player is just behind. If he takes another step, that player will clear the ball." A shimmy of the body and deft touch later – in the blink of an eye – Messi stabbed into the top corner to conclude a moment of 100-miles-per-hour brilliance.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, this strike against Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in a goal that began when he won the ball from a tackle at halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

At the height of the Clasico rivalry between Guardiola's Barca and Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, the two teams met four times in three different competitions in less than a month. The league meeting ended in a draw and Madrid won the Copa del Rey final, but Barca triumphed in the Champions League semi-final with a 3-1 aggregate win. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, an ill-tempered affair to say the least, saw Messi make it 2-0 by bursting beyond four attempted challenges and slotting past Iker Casillas, all in the space of around five seconds.

Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

Barca would regain their LaLiga title from Madrid but were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly side-footing home from just inside the penalty area.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Guardiola returned to Camp Nou with a Bayern side struggling with injury problems. They kept Barca at bay until the 77th minute of this Champions League semi-final first leg, when Messi finally struck. It was his second goal that earns a place in this list, though: collecting Ivan Rakitic's pass, a simple-looking shimmy left Jerome Boateng on his backside before he chipped Manuel Neuer with his weaker foot.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in stoppage time gave Jordi Alba the chance to square to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Rarely has a hat-trick been completed in finer fashion. Messi's two goals had helped Barca to a 3-1 lead at the Benito Villamarin, before he passed to Rakitic, ran onto the return ball and sent a first-time chip over goalkeeper Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from just inside the box. It was a sublime effort that even had the home fans on the feet, applauding – something Messi himself admitted he had not experienced before.

Liverpool (H): May 1, 2019

Over the past few years, Messi has mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. Liverpool held their own for long periods at Camp Nou but goals from Luis Suarez and Messi gave the hosts breathing space. Jurgen Klopp's side then had to bow to greatness when, after being brought down by Fabinho, Barca's talisman swept an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top corner. Barcelona would incredibly blow their 3-0 first-leg advantage, however, losing 4-0 at Anfield as Liverpool reached the Champions League final.

Atletico Madrid (A): December 1, 2019

It was goalless in the 86th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano when Messi collected the ball on the right flank, 10 yards inside the Atletico half. Those famous feet began to shuffle with purpose, and although Atletico knew what Messi had in mind, they were powerless to resist the execution of his plan. Messi surged on, playing the ball to Luis Suarez on the edge of the penalty area before taking the return pass and cracking a brilliant 20-yard shot into the bottom left corner of Jan Oblak's goal. A winner, and one of the highest class.

Lionel Messi's incredible Barcelona career appears set to come to a remarkable end after the Argentina great informed the club he wishes to leave Camp Nou.

Messi made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old and has gone on to become Barca's all-time leading scorer with 634 goals and 276 assists in 731 appearances in all competitions for the club.

His incredible feats in front of goal have helped him win 34 trophies with the Catalan club, but Stats Perform News has learned he has committed to a decision to activate a clause to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Barca's campaign ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, with the arrival of club legend Ronald Koeman as the replacement for Quique Setien seemingly not enough to convince Messi to stay.

Messi's goals have solidified his status as an all-time great and here is a look at a chronological top 10 from the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's collection.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already seen one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

Malaga (H): March 22, 2009

Thierry Henry's favourite goal by Messi during their time playing together for Barca. Why not let the France great take up the story? "It defied logic what he did," Henry said in the 'Take the Ball, Pass the Ball' documentary. "There's a diagonal ball and he controls it on his chest. He runs full speed, then the first player goes and the second player is just behind. If he takes another step, that player will clear the ball." A shimmy of the body and deft touch later – in the blink of an eye – Messi stabbed into the top corner to conclude a moment of 100-miles-per-hour brilliance.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, this strike against Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in a goal that began when he won the ball from a tackle at halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

At the height of the Clasico rivalry between Guardiola's Barca and Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, the two teams met four times in three different competitions in less than a month. The league meeting ended in a draw and Madrid won the Copa del Rey final, but Barca triumphed in the Champions League semi-final with a 3-1 aggregate win. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, an ill-tempered affair to say the least, saw Messi make it 2-0 by bursting beyond four attempted challenges and slotting past Iker Casillas, all in the space of around five seconds.

Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

Barca would regain their LaLiga title from Madrid but were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly side-footing home from just inside the penalty area.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Guardiola returned to Camp Nou with a Bayern side struggling with injury problems. They kept Barca at bay until the 77th minute of this Champions League semi-final first leg, when Messi finally struck. It was his second goal that earns a place in this list, though: collecting Ivan Rakitic's pass, a simple-looking shimmy left Jerome Boateng on his backside before he chipped Manuel Neuer with his weaker foot.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in stoppage time gave Jordi Alba the chance to square to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Rarely has a hat-trick been completed in finer fashion. Messi's two goals had helped Barca to a 3-1 lead at the Benito Villamarin, before he passed to Rakitic, ran onto the return ball and sent a first-time chip over goalkeeper Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from just inside the box. It was a sublime effort that even had the home fans on the feet, applauding - something Messi himself admitted he had not experienced before.

Liverpool (H): May 1, 2019

Over the past few years, Messi has mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. Liverpool held their own for long periods at Camp Nou but goals from Luis Suarez and Messi gave the hosts breathing space. Jurgen Klopp's side then had to bow to greatness when, after being brought down by Fabinho, Barca's talisman swept an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top corner. Barcelona would incredibly blow their 3-0 first-leg advantage, however, losing 4-0 at Anfield as Liverpool reached the Champions League final.

Atletico Madrid (A): December 1, 2019

It was goalless in the 86th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano when Messi collected the ball on the right flank, 10 yards inside the Atletico half. Those famous feet began to shuffle with purpose, and although Atletico knew what Messi had in mind, they were powerless to resist the execution of his plan. Messi surged on, playing the ball to Luis Suarez on the edge of the penalty area before taking the return pass and cracking a brilliant 20-yard shot into the bottom left corner of Jan Oblak's goal. A winner, and one of the highest class.

Kingsley Coman headed in Bayern Munich's 500th Champions League goal to open the scoring in the final against Paris Saint-Germain.

Winger Coman nodded in Joshua Kimmich's inviting cross to put Bayern in front after 59 minutes of the showdown in Lisbon on Sunday.

His goal put the Bundesliga champions on course to be crowned champions of Europe for a sixth time and seal a treble.

Coman also ensured Bayern reached the 500-goal landmark in the Champions League, a tally only Barcelona (517) and Real Madrid (567) have also achieved.

Serge Gnabry is eyeing Champions League glory and a treble of trophies this season after Bayern Munich defeated Lyon to reach Sunday's final.

Gnabry's first-half brace and a late Robert Lewandowski goal helped Bayern top Lyon 3-0 in the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

Bundesliga champions and DFB-Pokal winners Bayern are on the cusp of their first treble in seven years as Paris Saint-Germain await in the decider.

"We really want to win the final. That will be the deciding factor, we will give our all to win the treble," Gnabry said.

"It would be the icing on the cake of a super season for us," the Germany international added to DAZN.

Bayern had to weather an early storm as Lyon dominated, the Ligue 1 side – who stunned Juventus and Manchester City en route to the semis – unfortunate not to take the lead after Karl Toko Ekambi hit the post.

Hansi Flick's Bayern made the most of Lyon's wastefulness, Gnabry's powerful strike breaking the deadlock in the 18th minute before doubling the lead 15 minutes later.

Lewandowski scored his 55th goal of the season two minutes from the end as he and Gnabry became the most prolific duo in Champions League history with 24 combined goals this season – eclipsing the record held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale (23).

"Lyon put a lot of pressure on us," said Gnabry as Bayern eye their first Champions League title since 2013, while the German giants will feature in the final for the 11th time.

"They were very aggressive, they didn't give us many chances early on and we had a bit of luck in the beginning before finding our feet.

"You can't defend against everything, but all in all we were very strong."

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick said his team must defend better in the Champions League final after earning a date with Paris Saint-Germain.

Bundesliga champions Bayern booked their spot in Sunday's showpiece with a 3-0 win over Lyon at Estadio Jose Alvalade on Wednesday.

Lyon – who stunned Juventus and Manchester City en route to the final four – made a lively start and Karl Toko Ekambi hit the post, but the French champions were made to pay for their wastefulness.

A first-half brace from Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski's 55th goal of the season two minutes from the end sealed the victory as Bayern stayed on course for a first treble in seven years.

"We knew it would be difficult, they came in off the back of great performances against City and Juventus," Flick told Sky after Bayern won their 10th consecutive Champions League game, equalling the longest streak in the competition's history.

"They are strong tactically and they caused us problems early on. We know we need to defend better, we said before we couldn't afford to give away the ball easily, but we did."

Thomas Tuchel's PSG, who will look to the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for inspiration, will feature in their maiden Champions League final after outclassing RB Leipzig 3-0 on Tuesday.

"Paris are a great team, they fought their way into the semi-final and then reached the final. We will analyse some things, we know they have quick players," added Flick, whose free-scoring Bayern have netted 42 goals in the competition this season – only the 1999-00 Barcelona (45) team have managed more in a single campaign.

"We will look to organise our defence, but we know our biggest strength is putting our opponents under pressure."

Robert Lewandowski's header to crown Bayern Munich's 3-0 Champions League semi-final victory over Lyon gave him a place in the competition's history alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was the Poland striker's 15th goal in this season's tournament, part of a remarkable haul of 55 across all competitions.

Ronaldo is the only other player to hit that number, although he has incredibly done so on three occasions – each time in successful campaigns for Real Madrid.

In 2013-14, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner struck an unmatched 17, while he scored 16 and 15 in 2015-16 and 2017-18 respectively.

Lewandowski has now scored in nine consecutive Champions League matches.

Only Ronaldo in 2018 (11) and fellow former Manchester United favourite Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003 (also nine) have netted in as many successive outings.

Serge Gnabry was the hero as Bayern Munich defeated a game Lyon 3-0 to book their place in the Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain.

Five days on from the 8-2 obliteration of Barcelona, Bayern avoided an upset against a Lyon side who had shocked Manchester City to reach Wednesday's semi-final at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Germany winger Gnabry, a scorer in the Barca rout, was influential, smashing in a stunning 18th-minute opener following a lively Lyon start before adding a much easier second.

The prolific Robert Lewandowski added his 55th goal of an incredible season in the closing stages for the Bundesliga champions.

Lyon found some encouragement in the second half but there is little doubt Bayern deserve their spot in the showpiece on Sunday, when they will aim to complete a second treble in seven years.

Memphis Depay shot wide when attempting to round Manuel Neuer following a rare Thiago Alcantara error and Karl Toko Ekambi struck the post as Lyon threatened dangerously early on the break.

Leon Goretzka's scuffed effort had Anthony Lopes scrambling before Gnabry darted in from the right and fired an unstoppable effort into the top-left corner to open the scoring in sensational fashion.

Gnabry tested Lopes again with a stinging drive and doubled the lead by tapping in after Lewandowski uncharacteristically made a hash of Ivan Perisic's low centre.

Marcelo headed Lyon's first effort on target in the 56th minute, while Ekambi wastefully shot their second straight at Neuer one on one after being found in the area by Houssem Aouar.

Philippe Coutinho brilliantly controlled and finished Thomas Muller's pass, only to be flagged offside after a slight touch from Goretzka.

But Bayern did have a third when Joshua Kimmich's delivery was met by a thumping header from Lewandowski for his 15th Champions League goal of the campaign

What does it mean? PSG a daunting road block for brilliant Bayern

Hansi Flick has completely re-energised a Bayern side many had written off under Niko Kovac since assuming the reins, at first temporarily, in November.

Bayern now stand on the cusp of a famous treble and a sixth title in Europe's premier competition. A fired-up PSG will have something to say about that, though, in what promises to be a thrilling final.

Gnabry leads the way

There was a comical moment in a news conference post-Barca where Muller twice attempted a 'Lewan-goal-ski' gag that did not quite land.

Fortunately, on the pitch his team-mate Gnabry did find the intended target with a goal worthy of any Champions League semi-final. His second was all about being in the right place at the time, but all evening Gnabry's presence caused Lyon's defence problems.

Lyon pay for wasteful Ekambi

Pep Guardiola received criticism for his tactics in City's shock loss to Lyon but early doors that his conservatism was not entirely misplaced.

The difference on this occasion is Lyon missed two great chances prior to Gnabry's opener, which set Bayern to cruise control. Had they scored either of those then who knows? Ekambi was guilty on one of those occasions and again in the second half on a disappointing night.

What's next?

Bayern can now begin preparations for Sunday's final at the Estadio da Luz, where they face PSG searching to become champions of Europe for a sixth time. Lyon's gallant run is over and they must get ready for a new Ligue 1 campaign.

Get well soon Barca

August 16, 2020

All hail Bruno Fernandes! 

There hasn't been much to celebrate at Manchester United for the last few years and the success enjoyed under legendary manager Alex Ferguson is a distant memory. Despite not being a Man U fan, as a sports journalist, I award credit where it is due. The introduction of Bruno Fernandes in January has positively impacted the club. 

United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, did not hesitate when heaping praises on the Portuguese for his game-changing ability. “He knows that keepers will wait for him to do the jump. He practices both of them and he practices both sides so he’s got them sorted. Better than I was anyway,”  Solskjaer said in reference to the player’s successful penalty-taking technique.

The results speak for themselves, since his debut at the club, United has not lost a game in the league, rising up the table to finish third and qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2018-19 season.  His eight league goals and seven assists demonstrate his calibre.  What is clear is that in Fernandes you have a leader, risk-taker and quality player. Man U are definitely stronger with the twenty-five-year-old. 

CPL - Hard work behind the scenes 

The Caribbean Premier League is the biggest party in sport. It brings together people from different walks of life eager to support their teams.  Being staged amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition is shaping up to be different in numerous ways.  Sometimes, it is easy to by-pass the immense work that occurs behind the scenes to ensure fans can enjoy the matches.  This year the job is made even more difficult with no fans in the stands and a lengthy list of COVID-19 protocols to adhere to.  Earlier this week, I interviewed Head of Digital at CPL, Vishnu Kumar, who expressed great excitement for the tournament getting underway on August 18th

  Kumar stressed the importance of ensuring that CPL puts on a great show for fans around the world amidst the pandemic.  He explained, however, that even his journey to Trinidad and Tobago was not a simple task. “Air travel at COVID-19 times is extremely challenging but our operations team worked very hard to get us on flights with great social distancing and safety protocols in place and we flew first to Barbados where we quarantined for a few days before travelling onwards to Trinidad. We took a PCR swab test before we left to ensure that we were safe to travel and also had to wear masks and maintain social distancing throughout the duration of travel," he explained.

As if the travel to T&T was not difficult enough, as the CPL team get ready for a successful and exciting tournament, they are tasked with maintaining social distancing at all times.  The head of digital explained that they are required to work in assigned bubbles to ensure the safety of the entire cohort.  This means work that would normally be done face to face is being conducted online, sometimes plagued by faulty internet connections.  

  Despite being faced with immense challenges, Kumar sees simply getting all the players to T&T safe and sound as a success in and of itself. He explained that the entire CPL team is working to ensure they cover all the bases and demand the most of themselves to ensure that CPL 2020 continues to be the biggest party in sport. 

  Get well soon Barca! 

Barcelona are set to have presidential elections in the summer of 2021, as they seek a successor to incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu, however, it is clear more than that is required to save the club. Friday's 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich was the heaviest Barca have suffered in Europe and ends a season that has also seen them lose the La Liga title to Real Madrid.  

It is hard to imagine how long it will take Barcelona to get over the impact of ‘The 8-2’ but what I do know is things must turnaround very soon if the club is to be a competitive force again.  What is clear is that the club needs structural change, a complete overhaul.  Things have deteriorated to the extent that Messi’s exasperation has been made public several times. 

The off-field problems are so numerous that they have seeped on to the field of play, for example, confrontations between players and the board over pay cuts. Messi has called out the sporting director Eric Abidal for blaming the players over the dismissal of Valverde.  

Apart from off the field problems, Barca has not managed their signings well. They signed Philippe Coutinho, for more than 100 million pounds but mishandled him. This failure to integrate a player of his quality into the squad has backfired miserably. He is now loaned out to Bayern Munich and scored twice in the final minutes against Barca. 

    As a Barcelona fan, I can only hope the team gets its business in order very soon, keeping in mind that Messi is not getting younger. The level of dependence on the player has to stop. Get well soon Barca! 

With the Champions League back on, I went in search of predictions about who fans in Jamaica thought would win.

What I found was there aren’t really fans. Well, I didn’t find what I expect from a fan.

The term fan is an offshoot of the word fanatic. A fanatic is someone who shows so much loyalty to something that they, not only, have strong emotion about it, but are knowledgeable by virtue of spending so much time dedicated to understanding it.

In seeking answers to my questions predicting the winner of the Champions League, I found humiliating explanations, shallow reasoning and anything but persuasive arguments for one team or another.

Come to think of it, maybe they used a little strategy. There were two matches being played at the same time in the UEFA Champions League— Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon. Fans were aware and had to develop a strategy to watch them both. But that's just about it.

When I asked my ‘fair-weather friends’ who they think would win the Champions League and why, their responses were uninspiring.

They usually started confidently enough, but that was where the solidity ended.

“BARCELONA!”, “MAN-CITY!”, “CHELSEA!”, “REAL MADRID!” etc, came the answers even before the questions were completely out of my mouth.

The problem they all encountered though, was the question of … why?

Suddenly the confidence of the answers were replaced with almost incoherent, largely uninformed drivle.

“Definitely you know it’s Barcelona. And I know other persons are going to say otherwise but this is the reason why: Barcelona is a champion...beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion…”

Another picked Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as his winner.

“Neymar is a star baller,” was his ‘very solid’ reason.

I wanted a response from a seasoned fan. I figured it would have some substance but a seasoned fan is not common place.

“Man City definitely! I think they have the best ballers,” is the closest I could come to something resembling a thought-out explanation.

That being the best of the answers left me, an admitted novice, dejected.

Look, I’m not expecting fans to necessarily be able to provide reasons with the analysis of seasoned commentators like Lance Whittaker, but I would expect that a ‘fan’, has more to offer in the way of some understanding about the game.

The Champions League is now down to eight teams, who will play straight knock-out games in Lisbon, Portugal beginning October 12.

The teams in the quarterfinal are; Atalanta, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Lyon.

Who do you think will come out tops?

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Kylian Mbappe will meet with Paris Saint Germain's medical team before a decision is made on whether he will be on the bench to face Atalanta in the Champions League, says Thomas Tuchel.

The France superstar suffered a serious ankle sprain in PSG's 1-0 Coupe de France final victory over Saint-Etienne last month and scans ruled him out for around three weeks, seemingly confirming his absence against Atalanta.

Head coach Tuchel later said Mbappe needs "a miracle" to play in the quarter-final, which will take place in Lisbon next Wednesday, while the World Cup winner sat out the Coupe de la Ligue final versus Lyon.

Tuchel was again asked about Mbappe's availability prior to PSG's friendly against Sochaux on Wednesday and was unable to provide a definitive answer when asked if he will feature against the Serie A side.

"For Mbappe, I have no idea," he told beIN SPORTS. 

"He works hard, but he's short, super short. We will see on Saturday with the doctor whether it is possible that he is on the bench against Atalanta."

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro said playing behind closed doors at Manchester City can help the LaLiga holders overturn their Champions League deficit.

Madrid travel to Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Pep Guardiola's City on Friday, having lost the opener 2-1 prior to the coronavirus-enforced break.

Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne condemned Madrid – who had captain Sergio Ramos sent off in the Spanish capital – to defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu in February.

Madrid have a mountain to climb in Manchester, but star Casemiro believes Zinedine Zidane's side can benefit from playing without fans on the road.

"Without fans it's a different game," Brazil international Casemiro told Esporte Interactivo.

"It will be a very good game and difficult for both sides, but we're Real Madrid and we know we have a chance to go through.

"They won't have their fans and that might favour us a little.

"But the players are the same, the coach is the same and we all know that the difficulty level will be the same because they're a great team."

 

Sergio Ramos is the best defender in the world and can keep on playing until he is 40, according to former Real Madrid team-mate Rafael van der Vaart. 

Ramos was very influential in helping Madrid end Barcelona's run of success in LaLiga, scoring 11 goals as Zinedine Zidane's squad were crowned champions for the first time since 2017. 

The Spaniard was signed from Sevilla as a teenager in 2005 and was still young when he was joined at the club by Van der Vaart, who stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu for two seasons before joining Tottenham in 2010. 

However, having watched on as his old club secured the title once again, the Dutchman is impressed by how Ramos has matured and, considering his physical condition, sees no reason why the 34-year-old should be thinking of retiring anytime soon. 

"For me, he is the best defender in the world," Van der Vaart told Stats Perform News as part of the UEFA Europa League Trophy Tour. 

"When I was at Real Madrid, he was 21 or 22 and bursting with energy. He wanted to be everywhere. Free kicks, corner kicks, everywhere. 

"Now it is different, he has so much focus now. A focus on winning and he uses all his talents for that purpose. He's aware of his skills, strength and conditioning and that helped him being so important for his team in winning already so many titles. His body is unbelievable, he is a machine. 

"When I was watching a game the other day, I thought, 'how old is he? 34?' I believe he can still be playing for another six years, I've so much respect for him."

With LaLiga won, Madrid will now focus on potential European success as they return to Champions League action. 

They need to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in their last-16 tie with Manchester City if they are to progress, with the remaining knockout rounds to be staged in Portugal, though Ramos will miss the match against Pep Guardiola's team at the Etihad Stadium due to suspension. 

However, Madrid have been outstanding since the season restarted in Spain midway through June, and Van der Vaart expects a "really interesting" return clash with City, who finished second in the Premier League. 

"Real Madrid have been very, very good after the coronavirus break," he said. "They have all been very focused [on the games]. Including a 10-game winning streak. 

"Karim Benzema and Ramos have been a key part of the team for me, and Zidane for bringing calmness to the team. 

"However, I watched Manchester City against Arsenal playing the semi-final of the FA Cup, as well as other games. They have so much individual talent, so they are always dangerous, for any team, including the magnificent Real Madrid. That's what we've seen in the first leg, so it is going to be a really interesting game." 

Van der Vaart was speaking as part of a Europa League Trophy Tour that has been collecting football boots from fans for Syrian refugees based in Jordan, a cause the former Netherlands international is passionate about. 

"It's great, I remember how incredibly happy I was as a little boy with my football boots. I even put my first pair on to bed and I dreamed of playing football. I hope that all children in the world may experience that kind of childlike joy. I'm so proud that I can help a little bit," Van der Vaart said. 

"We are collecting boots, which hopefully gives a bit more hope and fun for all children. So, I'm proud that I can help a little bit and be a part of it. 

"It's really important [to be able to go out and play]. Now there are so many things, but when I was little you would just go on the street and play. 

"In lockdown it was difficult, of course. You want to meet with friends, you want to go out and play games, but when I started playing it was just me and the ball."

Marco Verratti said Paris Saint-Germain are not thinking about their Champions League clash with Atalanta as they focus on the Coupe de la Ligue final.

PSG will face Atalanta in a one-legged quarter-final tie in Lisbon on August 12, not before Friday's Coupe de la Ligue showpiece against French rivals Lyon.

And PSG star Verratti insisted the Lyon showdown at the Stade de France in Paris is the Ligue 1 holders' sole focus.

"We are not thinking about that game yet, the most important match is [Friday]," Verratti said in a news conference.

"We are happy to play against Lyon, they are an excellent team."

PSG are set to be without star forward Kylian Mbappe for the Atalanta fixture after he suffered a sprained ankle in last week's Coupe de France final victory over Saint-Etienne.

"We thought of him when we raised the trophy, but injuries are part of being a football player," added Italy international Verratti.

"We will miss him. Any team would miss a player like him."

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