Carles Gil was surprised by the standard of MLS upon joining New England Revolution and believes the league is not fairly rated in Europe.

Former Valencia, Aston Villa and Deportivo La Coruna forward Gil signed for the Revs in a club-record $2million transfer in January 2019.

Gil has followed in the footsteps of Sebastian Giovinco and Carlos Vela by moving stateside during the prime of his career and quickly impressing.

Indeed, Gil suggests the reputation of MLS as a retirement league - exacerbated by high-profile deals for Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo - is inaccurate.

"[MLS] has surprised me positively," he told Stats Perform News. "I believe we have a different view from Europe about what this league is.

"Probably we think it has a much lower level than it actually has, looking at players who come here to end their career. This is changing a lot and we will be aware of it as the years go on.

"I am very good. It is a different format with no relegations and playing playoffs, but it is a very attractive league to play in."

Gil contributed 10 goals and 14 goals in 2019, earning the New England captaincy, a place in the MLS Best XI and the MLS Newcomer of the Year award.

"Personally, it's been great," he said. "One of the reasons I came here was due to the confidence they showed in me.

"I wanted to get back to the level I couldn't show in previous years. Being honest, I have felt very comfortable since the beginning.

"I have performed well when I have been shown confidence, and I knew I was at the time that I needed that again. That's why I took the decision."

Gil is yet to feature in the 2020 campaign, which was suspended after just two matches due to the coronavirus pandemic.

MLS is yet to confirm plans to return, although the MLS Players Association has reportedly approved a plan to resume the season in the form of a six-week tournament in Orlando.

Any opportunity to get on the pitch is welcomed by Gil, who added: "I don't mind where and when it is, but sooner is better. And especially in the safest way possible.

"If it has to be in Orlando, let it be in Orlando. And if we can restart the league as it has always been, it is even better. My opinion is to go on, safety granted, the best way possible."

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker said the state's five professional sports teams can re-open their practice facilities on June 6 as the Boston Celtics prepare to return on Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, especially in the United States, where the NBA, MLS and NHL seasons have been postponed since March.

The start of the 2020 MLB campaign has also been delayed due to COVID-19, which has killed over 104,500 people in the USA.

But the Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, New England Patriots and New England Revolution will be able to resume practicing next month, in compliance with the health and safety rules set in place by their respective leagues.

"The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again and I think we all hope opening practices will make that happen a little sooner," Baker said on Friday.

"For all of us, live sports and especially pro sports would be a great thing to see again. It's not only a significant milestone for fans, but also a signal that we continue to do all the things we need to do."

NBA franchise the Celtics, meanwhile, will allow voluntary individual workouts at the Auerbach Center on Monday.

The NBA has been on hiatus since March, but the league is reportedly planning to restart the 2019-20 campaign on July 31.

"We're happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center, and we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said.

The Celtics (43-21) were third in the Eastern Conference, behind NBA leaders the Milwaukee Bucks and defending champions the Toronto Raptors at the time of the postponement.

Neymar's return to Barcelona could be getting a little closer.

The Paris Saint-Germain star continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he left in 2017 for a world-record €222million.

While there is uncertainty over whether Barcelona can get a deal done, it seems it may be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CLOSER TO BARCELONA RETURN AS PSG EYE DEMBELE

Paris Saint-Germain remain very interested in signing Ousmane Dembele and it could help Neymar return to Barcelona, according to Sport.

France international Dembele has struggled with injuries since joining Barca from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, but the former Rennes attacker could be set for a return to his homeland.

However, Marca reports Neymar is not a priority for Barcelona with their focus on Inter star Lautaro Martinez and Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic.

Staying at Barcelona and Sport says the club are following Hertha Berlin's 18-year-old midfielder Lazar Samardzic.

 

ROUND-UP

- Timo Werner starred again for RB Leipzig on Sunday with a hat-trick against Mainz in the Bundesliga. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp held a virtual meeting with the forward in recent weeks, according to journalist Raphael Honigstein.

- With Bayern Munich deciding not to buy Philippe Coutinho, the Barcelona attacker's future remains unclear. Le 10 Sport reports Arsenal want to start talks with the playmaker's agent, with head coach Mikel Arteta dreaming of signing the Brazil international.

- Toni Kroos looks set to finish his career at Real Madrid. AS reports the 30-year-old midfielder has no interest in leaving Madrid, where he is contracted until 2023, amid links to MLS and the Chinese Super League.

- Odion Ighalo's Manchester United career may be over already. According to the Daily Mail, Shanghai Shenhua have rejected the Premier League club's requests to keep the forward – who has scored four goals in eight games for United – on loan for another three months.

- Could Raul Jimenez leave Wolves for Juventus? Todofichajes reports Juve offered Adrien Rabiot plus €30m (£26.7m) for the star forward.

- Less than a year after leaving Newcastle United, Rafael Benitez is being linked with a return. Benitez, now coach of Dalian Professional in China, wants to return to the club if their proposed takeover is resolved, and sign Manchester City defender John Stones and Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley.

Jaap Stam saw the funny side of FC Cincinnati's photo blunder when confirming his appointment, joking they used a "doppelganger" because he was too busy.

Cincinnati announced Stam as their new coach on Thursday, with their Twitter post accompanied by a composite image that included a man who resembled the Dutchman.

But the pictured man, who was also bald and dressed in a shirt, tie and large coat, turned out to be Ajax youth coach Tinus van Teunenbroek.

The mishap quickly went viral and left Cincinnati's media team red-faced, particularly after official accounts of fellow MLS clubs chimed in on the replies of the corrected follow-up tweet.

Each one posted a welcome message and an accompanying image of a different bald man – examples ranged from Jason Statham to Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers films.

Unsurprisingly Stam was asked about the mishap during his presentation news conference on Friday, but the former Manchester United and Milan centre-back, who cut an intimidating figure on the pitch, took it in good humour.

"Everything was going well and I know you're aiming a little bit at this picture that came out," Stam said when asked how it felt to 'go viral'.

"Yesterday [Thursday] was a busy day, a hard day, a lot of talking and a lot of meetings, so eventually we used a doppelganger to do the picture."

Stam was then asked what he thought about the MLS clubs' replies. He said: "I've seen it – somebody sent it to me and I can appreciate that as well.

"At a certain time we need to have a bit of a laugh. If we play against each other and we come out on top with a win, then we can have a laugh – that's what we're trying to do."

The Dutch journalist who asked the questions explained to Cincinnati's press officer that he was addressing the "elephant in the room", but further questions on the matter seemed to be discretely discouraged when she responded: "Well, no, we have Jaap in the room today, so we're good there."

Stam is returning to management for the first time since resigning as Feyenoord boss in October, as he quit following a 4-0 defeat by Ajax less than five months after succeeding Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

Cincinnati are in their second MLS season and lost the first two matches of the 2020 Eastern Conference campaign prior to the coronavirus-enforced pause.

FC Cincinnati have picked Jaap Stam as their new head coach, but the Major League Soccer outfit immediately blundered over the Dutchman's appointment.

Announcing Stam as their boss on Thursday, Cincinnati revealed the news with a picture of a man who certainly looked rather like the former Manchester United and Netherlands defender.

The man in question looked dressed for the job, in shirt, tie and a large coat, and as well as a bald head, many of his facial characteristics were comparable to those of Stam.

However, it turned out to be not Stam but a man widely identified by Dutch media as Ajax youth coach Tinus van Teunenbroek.

Red-faced Cincinnati pulled Van Teunenbroek's image from their coverage of the story once it became clear they had the wrong man.

A corrected version of the announcement was posted to Twitter, this time with an image of Stam, accompanied by the message: "Join us in welcoming our actual new head coach, Jaap Stam."

Jaap Stam has been announced as the new head coach of MLS side Cincinnati.

The former Manchester United, Milan and Netherlands defender heads to Ohio along with Said Bakkati, who has worked as Stam's assistant throughout his coaching career.

"For myself, to get the opportunity to work in America and to work in MLS for a club like FC Cincinnati, it's a dream," Stam told his new club's website.

"I've always liked the country and I've always liked the mentality of the people in the States as well in what they're trying to achieve.

"To get the opportunity to work for FC Cincinnati and this project by building the club – hopefully even further than where they already are, because I think they've already done a great job – but being a presence as a team, even more in MLS, getting results and working together with the fans and everybody already working within the club, for me it's a big challenge to do well."

Stam started his post-playing career with Jong Ajax in 2014 before spending two years in charge of English Championship side Reading.

He joined PEC Zwolle for 2018-19 before taking over at Feyenoord in June 2019, only to step down three months later after a 4-0 loss to Ajax.

"We are very happy and pleased to have Jaap Stam become FC Cincinnati's new head coach," said general manager Gerard Nijkamp.

"He has an extensive background in being part of some of the most successful clubs in the world as a player and has also proven that he can guide teams through transitionary periods as a head coach.

"I strongly believe that Jaap can lead us through our next phase, to our new stadium, and help us achieve our goals in the future, making players better and bringing his knowledge and experience inside the club. I have full confidence that he will be successful at FC Cincinnati and will be a great fit to carry out our established playing philosophy and guide the club to achieve future successes."

Cincinnati finished bottom of the Eastern Conference with six wins from 34 games in 2019, their first year in MLS following the awarding of an expansion franchise to the city in 2018.

The MLS All-Star Game, scheduled for July, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles was due to host the game between the best MLS players and a Liga MX side on July 29, but it was officially cancelled on Tuesday.

It means this year will be the first since the concept was launched in 1996 that a game will not be held.

MLS has been suspended since March due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 324,000 people worldwide.

The United States has been hit hardest, with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and a death toll exceeding 93,000.

MLS announced the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup had also been cancelled for this year.

David Beckham says he still misses football as he marked seven years since his retirement from the game.

The former England captain played the last match of a glittering professional career when he turned out for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 match against Brest on May 18, 2013.

To recognise the occasion, Beckham posted a video of some of his greatest moments – including Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph – along with an accompanying message on Instagram.

Beckham, now 45, cannot believe so much time has passed and still has fond memories of his playing days, with his attention now on his ownership of new MLS side Inter Miami.

"I can’t believe it's 7 years today since I played my last game as professional footballer," he wrote.

"Such great memories. I was so lucky to have played with incredible teammates and had amazing support from the fans. Still miss it. 

"Can't wait for the next chapter at Inter Miami."

As part of a 21-year professional career, Beckham also represented Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Milan.

Tigres UANL winger Jurgen Damm said he was priced out of a move to the Bundesliga in 2016 and claimed Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg were interested in him.

The Mexico international holds a German passport and was heavily linked with a move the year after helping Tigres reach the Copa Libertadores final, which they lost to River Plate.

Damm is expected to leave the Liga MX club at the end of the season and stated he previously came close to a Bundesliga switch, though no concrete offer was forthcoming.

"My agent had close contact with Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg – they were the two teams from Germany that were interested," he told 90min.

"The issue was the release clause, which was very high. As I have said on many occasions, the price of Mexican players is very inflated.

"Of course, Borussia or Wolfsburg can pay 10 or 15 million [euros], but it's not a matter of having it but of what you are really worth."

Atlanta United have been credited with an interest in Damm, who is open to MLS for his next move. River and Tigres' rivals Monterrey are the only teams he will not consider playing for.

Asked about MLS, he said: "It is an option that we manage for my future. MLS is a very attractive league that has grown a lot in recent years," he said.

"I do not shut off any options, I just wouldn't want to play for River and Monterrey, because I am a Tigres fan."

He added: "In Argentina I like Boca a lot more, aside from us losing the Copa Libertadores final [to River]. Tigres is the team of my heart, the one I love, the one I appreciate and will be a fan off all my life."

Florida followed in the footsteps of Arizona by announcing it is open to professional sports teams amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey opened the door for sport to return to the state without fans on Saturday following the COVID-19 outbreak, which has wreaked havoc globally.

The NBA, NHL and MLS seasons have been postponed, while the start of the 2020 MLB campaign has been delayed.

But Florida's Ron DeSantis became the second governor to clear the way for sport to resume on Wednesday.

"All these professional sports are going to be welcomed in Florida," DeSantis said in a news conference midweek. "That may not be the case in every other state in this country, as we've seen.

"So what I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida. Because we think it's important and we know that it can be done safely."

The United States has been the hardest country hit, with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases and over 85,000 deaths.

Last week's UFC 249 event was held behind closed doors in Jacksonville, Florida, while WrestleMania 36 took place in Orlando.

"Our people are starved to have some of this back in their lives," DeSantis said Wednesday. "It's an important part of people's lives."

United States star Alex Morgan has given birth to her first child.

Striker Morgan announced she was pregnant in October, just three months after helping the USA retain their Women's World Cup title.

The Orlando Pride player revealed she and husband Servando Carrasco, a former LA Galaxy midfielder, welcomed a girl, Charlie Elena Carrasco, into the world on Thursday.

"At 1130am on May 7 weighing 8lbs5oz, Charlie Elena Carrasco made her grand entrance into the world," Morgan posted on Twitter. 

"She made us wait longer than expected, but I should have known she would do it her way and her way only. My super moon baby."

As well as winning two World Cups, Morgan is also an Olympic gold medallist from the 2012 Games in London.

Few footballers have enjoyed the worldwide acclaim which came the way of David Beckham.

Originally a superstar at Manchester United, he later became a 'Galactico', an MLS trailblazer and one of England's most-capped players.

Here, on his 45th birthday, we look at the highs and lows of his career.

 

HIGH - A STAR IS BORN AT SELHURST PARK

The goal that changed everything. Back in August 1996, Beckham was a promising young midfielder who had just become a regular for United, his boyhood club.

Then he spotted Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line and dispatched an arching effort over his head and into the net from his own half, raising his arms aloft in celebration as if to acknowledge he had truly arrived.

"When my foot struck that ball, it kicked open the door to the rest of my life," he wrote in his autobiography.

LOW - THAT SIMEONE KICK

An England debut followed soon after that goal and Beckham was a regular for his country during the qualifiers for World Cup 1998.

Yet at the tournament itself, one petulant kick out at Argentina's Diego Simeone resulted in a red card and meant Beckham swiftly went from hero to villain.

Glenn Hoddle's team lost on penalties in the last 16 but Public Enemy No. 1 had already been identified, with an effigy of Beckham even hung outside a pub.

 

HIGH - A TREBLE WINNER

Beckham followed up his World Cup disappointment by turning in the best season of his United career in 1998-99, when Alex Ferguson's side famously won the treble.

The midfielder had 11 assists in the Premier League and one of his six goals came in the come-from-behind win against Tottenham that sealed the title.

Later that month he would slot in at central midfield in the Champions League final, with United dramatically beating Bayern Munich thanks to two late goals which came from Beckham corners.

HIGH - SEALING QUALIFICATION AGAINST GREECE

Cometh the man, cometh the hour.

In October 2001 England were on the verge of missing out on automatic World Cup qualification when trailing Greece 2-1 at Old Trafford, only to win a last-gasp free-kick 30 yards from goal.

Beckham, by then Sven-Goran Eriksson's captain, stepped up and dispatched one of his finest, and most important, free-kicks into the net. Next stop: Japan and South Korea.

 

HIGH - REDEMPTION IN SAPPARO

Four years after Argentina had eliminated from the World Cup, England faced one of their arch-rivals again in the group phase.

And when Michael Owen took a tumble as Mauricio Pochettino dangled a leg in the box, Beckham stepped up with a chance to right the wrongs of Saint-Etienne.

He thumped the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle and celebrated with an outpouring of relief as England won 1-0.

LOW - PAYING THE PENALTY

'Golden Balls' was not always deadly from set-piece situations and it was a missed spot-kick that contributed to England's quarter-final exit against Portugal at Euro 2004.

Beckham began the tournament by missing from 12 yards when England led 1-0 against France - Fabien Barthez saving that effort - and two goals from Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane, including one from the penalty spot, meant the Three Lions were beaten.

Later in the tournament Beckham missed his third straight penalty for his country and blamed the turf for an effort that ballooned over the crossbar, with Portugal going on to win 6-5 in the shoot-out.

 

HIGH - A LALIGA TITLE FROM THE GALACTICO ERA

Beckham had left United for Real Madrid in 2003, the latest 'Galactico' to join Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Raul in the Spanish capital.

However, as he approached the end of his fourth and final season with the club, he had just a Supercopa de Espana medal to show for his efforts.

Beckham had already agreed to join MLS side La Galaxy in June 2007 when he won his first LaLiga winners' medal, though it was his replacement in the final match against Mallorca, Jose Antonio Reyes, who ultimately scored the goals which sealed the title.

 

HIGH - BACK-TO-BACK MLS CUPS

The rise of MLS in recent years owes much to Beckham's impact, the England midfielder having brought interest and respectability to the competition when he went Stateside.

It had looked like being an ill-fated spell in 2009 when Beckham was booed by Galaxy fans on his return from a loan spell at Milan which saw him miss the first half of his second MLS season.

A similar arrangement followed the next season, but Beckham would be around for the entire 2011 and 2012 campaigns, both of which ended with Galaxy winning back-to-back MLS Cups.

HIGH - BOWING OUT WITH ANOTHER LEAGUE TITLE

Not content with league titles in three countries, Beckham added a fourth with Paris Saint-Germain before he was done.

He played 10 times in the latter stages of the 2012-13 campaign having signed a short-term deal that would see his entire salary donated to a local children's charity.

Beckham was made captain for the final match of his career, a 3-1 victory over Brest on May 18, 2013, and he was reduced to tears when he was substituted in the second half.

MLS players can begin individual workouts at team training fields from May 6 provided plans comply with comprehensive safety protocols set out by medical and infectious disease experts, the league has confirmed.

Only two rounds of matches were played in MLS before it was suspended on March 12 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was hoped originally that action could resume by May 10 but last month MLS said it may have to play a shortened scheduled.

While it remains unclear when play will begin again, MLS released a statement on Friday confirming a step forward in a return to training, with all workouts on a voluntary basis.

The statement read: "Major League Soccer today announced that as of Wednesday, May 6, players may begin to use outdoor team training fields for individual workouts, in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts.  

"All individual workouts are voluntary and may not be in conflict with local public health official or government policies.

"By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, to utilise team-operated fields for individual workouts, MLS clubs will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff.

"The individual player workout protocol prohibits access to club facilities including but not limited to locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club's chief medical officer.

"The league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through, and including, Friday, May 15."

The statement said every team must submit a club-specific plan detailing how they plan to adhere to health and safety protocols.

The criteria included the restriction of training facility access to essential staff only, plans for sanitisation and disinfection of equipment, a screening assessment for each player prior to arrival and temperature checks at the facility.

It added there should be staggered player and staff arrivals and departures with each designated parking spaces. Furthermore, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used from parking lots to the field, while staff should use PPE through training and keep a distance of 10 feet from players.

Clubs can use outdoor training facilities, with each field divided into a maximum of four quadrants and only one player per quadrant can participate per session.

All teams must create an emergency action plan for all COVID-19 related issues, which is to be approved by the club's medical staff and local disease expert before being submitted to MLS.

Gareth Bale has declared he would love to play in MLS - and revealed Luka Modric is a lousy golfer.

The Real Madrid winger has two years left to run on his Santiago Bernabeu contract and the 30-year-old has indicated he will see out that deal.

Bale ranks among the world's best-paid players and his present salary, reported to be worth upwards of £15million annually, would be out of the reach of MLS teams.

But there may come a time when Bale can be persuaded to leave Europe for the United States, and the golf courses he loves across the Atlantic could be a selling point.

Speaking on the Hat-Trick podcast, Bale said of MLS: "I really like the league. It's grown so much over the years.

"When we come over and play them now in pre-season, the games are difficult. The standard's getting a lot better, the clubs are improving, the facilities are improving, the stadiums are improving.

"It's a league that's on the up and still rising. A lot more players want to come over to America now and play and I'd definitely be interested in it.

"I love going to Los Angeles on holiday."

Asked by the US-based podcast what he enjoyed doing in Los Angeles, Bale said: "I play a lot of golf.

"I've played Pebble [Beach] a couple of times. I played Cypress Point which is a private members' club which is next to Pebble Beach - that was probably the best course I've ever played so far."

Bale faced heavy criticism in Spain after celebrating Wales' European Championship qualification with a flag bearing the now-famous slogan of 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.'

He insists it was "a bit of banter... a bit of fun", but Bale's love for golf is not something he hides from.

And when Madrid team-mate Modric proved hapless with a golf club, Bale had to laugh at the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner.

Asked to identify his worst golfing team-mate, Bale said: "Luka Modric, 100 per cent.

"We were staying in a hotel and there was nothing to do, and they had a golf course and a driving range there, so I said [to Modric], 'Do you fancy coming down to the driving range to hit some balls?'

"He's got a club in his hand and he doesn't know how to hold it really. He turns his back and he hits the floor, missed the ball.

"I reckon he hit about one ball in 20 attempts and he just gave up.

"The next day he came down and said, 'My back is in absolute agony.'"

Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry said the MLS club simply needed to be ready for whatever could be coming if the campaign resumes.

The MLS season was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 217,000 people worldwide.

Earlier this month, MLS postponed matches through June 8 as the United States, with more than one million confirmed COVID-19 cases, struggles to contain the virus.

Henry, whose team claimed four points from their opening two games, said he would be prepared for whatever followed.

"I'm sure the [MLS] commissioner and whoever's involved to take that decision are working, obviously, extremely hard, to find out what we are about to do," he told a conference call on Tuesday.

"All we can do on our side is to be focused and to prepared for whatever comes our way. They are going to take the decision, we are going to have to execute whatever they want us to execute.

"On my side, all I can try and do is keep my team, the staff, whoever, prepared to whatever is going to come our way,

"As you've mentioned I've seen that people [Ligue 1, Eredivisie] took one way and one path.

"I don't know what's going to happen with the league, we just have to wait and see and be ready for whatever’s going to come our way."

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