• Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said that was the first step in a return to normality.
• Elsewhere in Europe, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was among the Juventus players to return to training at their Continassa base in Turin after an absence of 72 days that included the last two weeks in quarantine.
Premier League squads returned to non-contact training on Tuesday as the English top-flight took another step forward in ‘Project Restart’.
The Premier League hopes to restart its season in June, having been suspended since March 13.
The easing of government restrictions have allowed players to train in small groups, with all 20 clubs unanimously agreeing to stage one of the return-to-training protocols on Monday.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said that was the first step in a return to normality.
“I always said we don’t want to rush anything, but I don’t think it is rushed. I hope that we are now in England on the right side of the thing. It’s all about when — but you need to re-open different parts of life again,” Klopp told Liverpool’s website.
“Everybody agrees about that. I think the way how we do it now with the Premier League, it’s now a good moment to do it for the football teams.”
Elsewhere in Europe, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was among the Juventus players to return to training at their Continassa base in Turin after an absence of 72 days that included the last two weeks in quarantine.
Ronaldo, who flew back to his native Madeira before the Serie A season was suspended and returned to Turin in a private jet earlier this month, was due to have a medical before joining coach Maurizio Sarri and his team-mates.
Serie A clubs returned to training on 4 May but are restricted to working in small groups and must respect social distancing guidelines.
Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain only returned to Italy from Argentina last Thursday and will spend another 10 days in quarantine.
A number of players wore face masks while driving into the training ground, including Argentine forward Paulo Dybala and Colombian midfielder Juan Cuadrado.
Spanish La Liga clubs also returned to training earlier this month, and have been allowed to move into larger training groups this week.
Training sessions of up to 10 players are now allowed. The next phase would be a return to full training before a possible restart on June 12.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian authorities’ decision to allow the domestic league to restart but without any fans in attendance after the COVID-19 stoppage has sparked widespread criticism from clubs and supporters in the Balkan country.
The top-flight season, which has been on hold since mid-March as part of lockdown measures, will resume on June 5 in a shortened format with clubs already conducting team training.
However, several managers and players along with fans have criticised the government for allowing the reopening of cinemas and holding of concerts with spectators, maintaining a safe distance, while keeping soccer supporters away from stadiums.
“Such matches are a parody,” said Cristiano Giaretta, the sporting director at Bulgaria’s most successful club CSKA Sofia. “They look like friendlies with no crowd, no intensity. “This is not football,” added the Italian. “Football includes full stadiums, people eating sandwiches...”
Some fear the performance of players could suffer in the absence of spectators and a normal atmosphere at the grounds.
“The matches (in the Bulgarian league) with spectators were not very attractive and you can only imagine what they will look like without fans,” said Botev Plovdiv coach Ferario Spasov. “It’ll be only for the sake of appearance.”
On Saturday, Germany’s top-flight Bundesliga became the first major European soccer league to return to action, with several other championships also resuming without spectators this month. Fans are allowed at matches in Belarus.
Bulgaria began easing its partial lockdown in late April but continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping to prevent a widespread community spread of the virus across the Black Sea state. But the prospect that supporters will not be able to return to stadiums anytime soon has frustrated those in the game.
“It’s so painful to see the empty seats,” said goalkeeper Hristo Ivanov of Etar Veliko Tarnovo, who were 1991 champions.
“It’s hugely unfair to let people go to cinemas and concerts, allow shopping malls to reopen and not let fans at the stadiums. We are all much more tired mentally than physically and we are hungry and thirsty for sports and football.”
As of Tuesday, Bulgaria had 2,259 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 112 deaths.