Skip: Liverpool against United, and a return to form? | England’s Euro 2020 players in limbo: Zlatan’s return to Milan is causing a stir in the US: McSauce or Tin Man?
Liverpool must look to Salah’s future.
Liverpool face a dilemma over the future of Mohamed Salah this summer, sources have told ESPN. There is a growing feeling within the Liverpool squad that Salah sees a new challenge elsewhere, with intermediaries who have previously worked closely with the club privately expressing confidence that a transfer could be possible.
Much will depend on how Liverpool finish the season, as they look to end a worrying slide in the Premier League, but also look for their third Champions League final in four years. The sources added that the Reds are relaxed about the situation as the 28-year-old still has two years of his contract to go and there has been no apparent drop in the striker’s form or commitment to the club. Salah has overtaken Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the Premier League scoring table with 17 goals this season.
Not qualifying for the Champions League adds to the financial pressure as Liverpool earned €111m to win the Champions League in 2019 and Jurgen Klopp finished seventh in the Premier League, five points clear of the top four. That pressure is being felt elsewhere, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, two possible destinations for Salah.
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Liverpool face Real Madrid in the first round of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday. Salah gave an interview to Spanish newspaper Marca this week, in which he left the door open to the idea of playing in Spain. But it would mean that the two big La Liga clubs would have to plump down a significant sum to lure the Egyptian international away from Merseyside, with a likely cost of around £100m. Barcelona and Madrid are interested in Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland and are in talks over a possible switch to the striker, which would also limit Salah’s options.
The dynamic will change if Salah insists on a transfer, although there is no indication of that at the moment. There are also no indications that the club will offer him a new contract that would increase his salary by £200,000 a week.
Liverpool could have delayed a decision on Salah’s future by a year, but he would have had 12 months left on his contract and would have received a much lower transfer fee than he did this summer. A new deal with Liverpool could be the best outcome for all parties. That way, the club can protect its star, give Sale the love he craves and give potential fans another year to replenish their transfer funds.
Klopp is expected to quash rumours of Salah’s departure, but while the manager will undoubtedly fight to keep him at the club, the reality is more complicated. -James Ollie
Mohamed Salah has two years left on his contract at Liverpool, but negotiations on a new deal have yet to take place. Robbie J. Barratt – AMA/Getty Images
Back to normal? Possible match between Liverpool and Man United during Super Bowl
UEFA hopes the 2021 Super Bowl will herald a return to full stadiums for club competitions, sources told ESPN. This match could even become a showdown between Liverpool and Manchester United if the two Premier League rivals win their respective cup competitions this season.
The Super Bowl, contested by the winners of the Champions League and Europa League, takes place on the 11th. August at Windsor Park in Belfast with 18,500 seats. This match is the next big date on the UEFA calendar after Euro 2020. UEFA is actively working on a plan to ensure fans can attend matches in all 12 host cities this summer. Confirmation of the competition schedule is expected on the 19th. April will be announced, but sources said it was unlikely a game would be played in front of a full crowd. UEFA also said this week that it would leave capacity restrictions to local authorities.
The return to full stadiums could take place during the Super Bowl, but all adults in the UK, including Northern Ireland, must be vaccinated by the end of July. According to some sources, the match could be the first major UEFA match to be played by a pre-pandemic crowd. The UK government has announced that all restrictions on COVID-19 will be lifted on the 21st. June in England will be lifted depending on the progress of the national vaccination programme, but the Northern Ireland government has yet to announce its own date for the return to normal.
The match could become even more important if bitter rivals Liverpool and United win the Champions League and Europa League respectively this season. Both clubs have big fans in Ireland and Northern Ireland, so the prospect of the two teams meeting in Belfast could be a credible test as the fans return. — Mark Ogden
Liverpool and Manchester United could meet in a UEFA Super Cup that could spell the end of restrictions on spectators over the coronavirus. Andrew Powell/Getty Images
Neymar deal done, but PSG waiting for Mbappe.
Paris Saint-Germain are hoping to announce Neymar’s contract extension in the coming weeks, but sources have revealed to ESPN that there is no breakthrough yet to secure Kylian Mbappé’s long-term future.
Both Neymar and Mbappe have contracts at PSG until 2022, but while Neymar has agreed to an extension, Mbappe’s contract proved more difficult to negotiate. One of the retention theories put forward by sources is that there is an ongoing discussion about whether Mbappé could agree to sign a shorter contract than Neymar and spend one more season at the club before switching to other players.
PSG owners Qatar Sports Investments have no intention of waiving Mbappe’s contract to allow him to leave for free next summer, which would end the deadlock over a new contract or open the bidding for France at international level this year.
Liverpool and Real Madrid have been regularly linked with Mbappe in the transfer columns, although the Premier League side are mainly focused on settling Salah’s future at Anfield before they look for his replacement. — Julien Lawrence
ESPN FC’s Alejandro Moreno answers the toughest question in football today.
England’s stars in Euro 2020 limbo
Gareth Southgate’s scepticism over the name of England’s expanded squad for Euro 2020 has increased the pressure on those vying for a place in this summer’s tournament.
Rumour has it that UEFA are prepared to allow countries to include two extra players in the 25-man squad for the final, should there be any problems with COWID-19. Italy coach Roberto Mancini has proposed a limit of 26 players and the issue was raised at UEFA’s Executive Committee meeting earlier this week.
A few days after the end of the Premier League season, on 23. Southgate will call up his travelling squad in May and many top players are concerned about their participation. Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold was the biggest absentee during the recent international break and everyone on the sidelines, including James Maddison, Jesse Lingard, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saca, knows that time is running out to come together in one place.
Southgate said: I know there is talk of strengthening the team. I’m not sure I was behind it.
I know COWID can play a role, but I think it’s possible to pick 23. It means making good decisions, important decisions, and I think some of that can be lost when you have a large group. So let’s wait and see how this plays out, but I’m not 100% for it, I have to say.
Southgate alluded to missing several key attacking players against Poland. The trio of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were among the players who should definitely have turned up for kick-off, fitness permitting. Southgate also favours Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker at right-back, while Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold is declining in form. -James Ollie
Zlatan Ibrahimovic talks about his performance at the World Cup in Sweden.
Milan can boast great interest in the United States after the return of Zlatan.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to AC Milan has helped the club become the most popular Italian sports club with fans in the United States, a study has found.
YouGov Football Index, a global sports research company, asked fans to rate their favourite team on six key factors and Milan achieved a 221% higher score than in February 2020, when Ibrahimovic returned to the club.
The survey asked fans to rate their favourite team based on their impression of the club and players, their assessment of the established leadership, fan culture, traditions, quality of play and success on the pitch.
The surge of interest in Milan has pushed him into the top ten of fans surveyed in the United States, with Manchester United still ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona in first place. The share of first division teams has decreased by 13% compared to the previous year.
Ibrahimovic, who played in the Premier League with LA Galaxy before returning to Europe, has also strengthened Milan’s position closer to home. According to Yougov, the club is now second in Italy behind Juventus after being beaten at home by Manchester City and United last year.
The striker, who temporarily moved from Barcelona to Milan in 2010, has helped the club fight for their first title in many years this season, despite Stefano Pioli’s side being six points behind Inter at the top of Serie A – Andrew Cesare Richardson.
Man United’s Scott McTominay has several alternative nicknames.
Maxious or Iron Man? McTominay reveals his ESPNalias
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s manager in midfield and is fast becoming a favourite at Old Trafford – especially on social media.
The Scotland international is enjoying his best season so far at United, scoring four goals in the Premier League and seven in total. The club hope to finish the league first behind Manchester City and also hope to win the Europa League to end five years of waiting for the trophy.
McTominay scored twice in three minutes on his debut in United’s 6-2 win over rivals Leeds in December, and as always when the 24-year-old makes a man of the match, McSauce is trending on Twitter. Moniker has become McTominay’s unofficial nickname among United fans, but you shouldn’t say it to his face like that.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, McTominay said: I don’t know where it came from. It’s all about social media, right? I don’t pay attention to Instagram and Twitter. I’m trying to stay away.
I’ll give you a nickname. My former backup coach, Warren Joyce, always called me the Iron Man. So, yes. When I was growing up, I was very small and then suddenly I was very big. It was a pretty big adjustment, but I was very even, my legs, I always had trouble moving my hips and everything.
Dean Henderson still calls me that because we were on the same reserve team, so to this day he calls me the Iron Man. And foreigners always look at it like that: You’re okay. Why do you call him that?
So that was years ago. But we don’t need it to stick around, I don’t like it! — Alex Shaw
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