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Chelsea's Rudiger: Fighting coronavirus more important than Premier League restart

Chelsea's Rudiger: Fighting coronavirus more important than Premier League restart

ESPN

The European Club Association (ECA), which consists of football's most powerful clubs including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, has scheduled a board meeting on Friday ahead of emergency talks with FIFA over the potential disruption to this summer's transfer window caused by the coronavirus pandemic, sources have told ESPN.

Every major football competition in Europe, with the exception of the Belarussian Vysheyshaya Liga, has been forced to suspend all fixtures as a result of spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many European nations, including Italy, France and Spain, are in complete lockdown due to the crisis.

With society on hold across the continent, football operations throughout the major leagues have ground to halt.

And with no date set for a return to action, concerns are growing within the game that the shutdown will lead to a huge impact on this summer's transfer market.

Sources have told ESPN that leading clubs have already held preliminary discussions with FIFA over possible solutions to the issues that will arise as a result of the lengthy periods without football, including the loss of income through attendances and broadcasting revenue.

There are also concerns that, with the prospect of the 2019-20 season being played to a conclusion at an unknown date in the future, the current timescale of the summer window, which runs from June 10 to Sept. 1, will prove to be unworkable if football is to be played throughout the summer months.

All professional playing contracts currently end on June 30, which is likely to pose another major problem unless FIFA is prepared to allow temporary extensions for those players whose deals are due to expire at the end of this season.

The ECA was founded in 2008 and is made up of 232 clubs across Europe. The 24-member Executive Board, led by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, is due to meet on Friday with the impact of the coronavirus on the transfer market set to be at the top of the agenda.

Senior figures from Real, Barca, United, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Ajax are also represented on the Executive Board.

Sources have told ESPN that the video conference will look to find a route through the many problems that have been thrown up by the coronavirus crisis before further talks with FIFA next week.

Manchester United are optimistic Paul Pogba will remain at the club beyond the next transfer window and doubt whether any of Europe's elite clubs can afford the midfielder, sources have told ESPN.

Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, has said he "wants to take a great player to Real Madrid" sparking more speculation the Spanish giants are set to bid for the France international.

Juventus are also interested in re-signing Pogba but there are significant doubts over whether either club could finance a deal, even if the 27-year-old insists he wants to leave Old Trafford.

Pogba has a contract until June 2021 but United can also trigger a clause to extend it for another 12 months until 2022.

Real Madrid were put off by the £180 million asking price last summer and while privately United accept Pogba's value will dip with time running out on his contract, they still value their record signing at more than £100m.

As well as the transfer fee, Real Madrid and Juventus would have to put together a hefty wage packet of around £300,000-a-week to seal a deal.

The issue is complicated further by concerns surrounding finances in football relating to the coronavirus crisis and the implications for broadcasting deals while major league and European club competitions are suspended indefinitely.

Pogba is training at home while United's Carrington training base remains off limits to the majority of players and staff.

The squad were due to return on April 10 but that is now unlikely after the British government imposed a nationwide lockdown on Monday night that will last for the next three weeks.

Pogba has been limited to just eight appearances in all competitions this season after suffering metatarsal and ankle injuries. He has not played a competitive game since United's 4-1 win over Newcastle on Boxing Day but was due to return to first team training just before the Premier League was suspended on March 13.

With almost all football postponed for the next month because of the coronavirus pandemic, star players have found themselves at a loose end.

Jump to: Bale sneaks a bit of golf into isolation, Chicharito's Amazon woe

With many training grounds off limits, clubs have sent footballers home, where they're adhering to an isolation period for the next few weeks. How are they passing the time?

ESPN will be keeping a daily eye on what the world's best are getting up to, as well as how clubs are keeping busy by battling in online competitions against each other.

Being a goalkeeper in isolation can be tough, as it can be difficult to keep your handling skills honed with nobody to fire shots at you.

Thankfully, this little shot-stopper came up with an ingenious solution while playing on his own in the backyard.

When you're a goalkeeper... and an only child... in self isolation... and trying to keep up with your training...

ESPN