• However, I have been told by one of my United contacts that the club could push this up to £400k if a new contract is forthcoming.
• Footballers are very privileged, earning huge sums of money for their talents and it is good to see many them, alongside their clubs, giving back to the community.
2020 has been a wretched time for Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba. Injury has meant he played no part in United’s progression under Ole Gunner Solskjaer and a public fall out between his agent Mino Raiola and United has done nothing to improve his relationship with the club.
Many of the staff inside Old Trafford expected him to move away in the summer although Pogba kept very quiet on the matter. Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane is known to be a big admirer of his World Cup-winning counterpart. This week, however, there seems to be a little more love in the relationship between the club and Raiola and Pogba is talking positively about helping in Reds’ resurgence.
He currently has nearly two years left on his contract and earns £300k-a-week. However, I have been told by one of my United contacts that the club could push this up to £400k if a new contract is forthcoming. Once the season restarts — if indeed it ever does — he will be fit for duty and then we should find out where his heart really is.
Willian returns to Brazil
Several foreign players are upset because their clubs have told them they cannot return to their home countries during the current virus outbreak. Chelsea’s Willian asked for permission to travel back to Brazil to be with his family and especially his wife and daughter. The club decided he could return but have told him to be back by April 6.
He described the UK as being like a war zone saying: “In the markets, everything is running out, there’s no more food. It’s like a war!” The problem is that if a player is back home in his native country, he might be prevented from returning by the government and if he does return, then a mandatory isolation period would possibly be ordered.
Football plays its part in helping combat virus
The football community is coming together to help people during these difficult times. Footballers are very privileged, earning huge sums of money for their talents and it is good to see many them, alongside their clubs, giving back to the community. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace’s mercurial winger has a big portfolio of properties which he rents to business travellers but he has now offered them to be given for free period to hospital workers and relatives of people who are at risk from the virus.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has given a staggering 1millon Euros to a medical fund in his native Catalan town in Spain. Former Manchester United player Gary Neville is co-owner of two hotels and he has offered free use of 176 rooms and Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich has offered 72 rooms in his Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge.
Former Wolves owner Steve Morgan is giving £1million a week to help charities which have been affected by the virus. Liverpool stewards have volunteered to help towards controlling crowds of shoppers who are panic buying goods and club captain Jordan Henderson has offered, with other players, £50,000 to help stock foodbanks for people who desperately need to feed their families. Sadio Mane has made a generous donation to help the poor in his home country of Senegal to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. He has made a video explaining that all people in Senegal should wash and disinfect their hands for 20 seconds. Mane doesn’t court publicity for his good works but he has given a lot to public food banks in Liverpool and also helped to build schools and hospitals in Senegal.
Everton have donated all the food which was meant for players and staff to be handed out to the needy and so has Brighton & Hove Albion, Newcastle and Sheffield United. Burnley run their own foodbank and West Ham captain Mark Noble gave his weekly newspaper column fee to charity for more foodbanks. Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic has been going to his local village shop in Serbia for the past few years and paying off the debts of local people who are short of money.
Now he has donated more to help the less fortunate than himself. Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld has donated money to buy hundreds of electronic tablets and phones for people who are at risk during the period when they cannot leave their homes. All these stories are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many more and it makes me proud that football has not been found wanting in these times of need.
Pedro chooses family over Chelsea
The one player I was convinced could step into the boots of Eden Hazard at Chelsea after he departed for Spain is leaving at the end of the season. I was told by Chelsea yesterday that Pedro has decided not to renew his contract which runs out in June. The Spaniard joined the Blues from Barcelona in 2015 and wants to spend more time with his family and says that the coronavirus has focused him on the most important thing in his life. Pedro said: “Living with much chaos, with uncertainty and the confinement. I’ve not been able to travel either and see my children.”
Kane approaching fitness
Tottenham have informed me that striker Harry Kane is three or four weeks away from being fit to return to first team football. He suffered a torn hamstring on New Year’s Day and underwent surgery two weeks later. Football is currently on hold until April 30th and Kane should be fit to make his return. He said: “I’m not too far away — I’m at a good stage now and just working hard doing a lot of recovery, a lot of rehab and just waiting to see what happens to the season. My family are well and everyone is thinking about coronavirus at the moment and it’s a time to be together, to stay safe and hopefully everything will be alright.” Harry has a home gym and is continuing his rehabilitation in isolation and the club have given him an individual planned fitness programme and talk with him every day.
Liverpool’s secret to success
Talking to Jordan Henderson, he was describing the training routine and fitness programme which manager Jurgen Klopp has installed at the club. He said, “We do our fair share in the gym when it comes to weight training, but weight training is usually in the pre-season to build up our strength and then we move towards more plyometrics which are jump training exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time which increases power (speed-strength) and body weight training when the season is underway.
“The plyometrics and body weight helps with our agility and core strength, both of which are important when it comes to football. The coaches usually give us a good blend of training; setting out the drills and giving us all our programmes to follow when we are in the gym to help focus on what we have to do in our positions. On a daily basis we usually do two sessions a day. That first session focuses on our fitness and strength, then we get more into training and tactics.”
Klopp also appointed nutritionists and a performance manager and Liverpool have a new head of fitness and conditioning.
All of this is designed to have Liverpool players at their peak fitness levels. Henderson also revealed that he uses protein supplements and mixes them into his smoothies and porridge to give him more energy and quick recovery from exhausting training sessions. With Liverpool’s astonishing record this season it seems that Klopp’s approach is working wonders.
The reason for Zaha’s drop in form
This season has not seen the best of Crystal Palace winger/striker Wilfried Zaha. There is no doubt that all the transfer talk in the summer break turned his head and when it failed to materialise Wilfried was very disappointed. However, there is another reason why he is not playing to his potential this season.
Manager Roy Hodgson switched his star striker to the right-wing but it has unsettled him. Hodgson thought it would give Palace a more balanced side but Wilfried prefers to operate down the left-wing, cutting inside to deliver balls to the main strikers or going for goal himself.
Before the coronavirus break, Hodgson paid special attention to Zaha and his assistant coaches have been working hard with the 26-year-old to improve playing on the right side of the field. Hodgson also wants him to improve his tracking back to help out the defence against strong opposition. Zaha is often left stranded upfield when his teammates are under siege in defence.
He has just reached his 27th birthday and he knows that the next few games when the Premier League continues are vitally important if he is to attract the attention of the top European clubs.
Which team has the most lethal strikers?
There is an exciting Premier League sideshow happening right now involving the big clubs and their three upfront strikers. Who has the best strike force? I was with other journalists recently and the debate was fast a furious.
Liverpool boast Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Are they better than Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dele Ali at Tottenham or Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Bernado Silva at Manchester City? City of course also have a potent second-strike force in Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane when he is fit but as potentially the richest club in the world I guess you can afford that sort of luxury.
Those players could slot into any team in the world and feel at home. Or there again, is it Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe who are the most lethal combination? Ole Gunner Solskjaer has Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard at Manchester United and Chelsea have Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Pedro leading the Blues charge. So the big debate is: Which strike force is the most dangerous?