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The European Leagues & Competitions Thread V2

Started by CHOULO19,

16,490 posts in this topic
6 hours ago, Jason said:


Make sense due to player contract. I don't understand listening people who complained about this. 

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1 minute ago, communicate said:

Make sense due to player contract. I don't understand listening people who complained about this. 

That's assuming the leagues can start on time for them to be completed by June 30...

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1 hour ago, Jason said:

That's assuming the leagues can start on time for them to be completed by June 30...

Agree, If they can't resume playing at least in close door by May, there will be another meeting and it will be an interesting one. 

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Will we really finish the season in June? Football’s new calendar explained



Eight weeks after the outbreak of a virus led to some Olympic women’s football qualifiers being moved from one Chinese province to another, the last football fixtures were removed from the calendar everywhere.

Of course, we will play, watch, argue about and enjoy football again, but on Tuesday the last football dates we could circle on the calendar were moved. The 2021 Club World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, Copa America, Champions League, Europa League, Euro 2020… all paused, pushed back and provisionally rearranged.

And those are the tournaments everyone knows. The day in England started with coaches, officials, parents, players and volunteers reading emails from their county Football Associations and local leagues telling them the grassroots and youth seasons were on hold.

Tuesday felt like the first day football got a foothold. There were meetings and there were decisions. Those decisions were sensible and clearly communicated. And, for the first time in a fortnight, nobody appears to be threatening to sue anyone.

OK, what was decided and who decided it?

Last Thursday, a day before Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta contracted COVID-19 and the Premier League was forced to suspend its season, European football’s governing body UEFA invited its 55 member associations, the European Club Association, European Leagues and world players’ union FIFPro to discuss how the game should tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

That discussion took place in three separate video conferences on Tuesday, with the key announcement being the widely-trailed decision to move the European Championship finals from this summer to next.

In a joint statement, signed by the four presidents of the ECA, EL, FIFPro and UEFA, it was also revealed that the Euro 2020 play-offs scheduled for later this month to decide the last four sides in the 24-team competition will hopefully take place in the now-vacated June international window. The Nations League finals, Euro Under-21 Championship and Women’s European Championship that had all been scheduled for next summer “will be rescheduled accordingly”, as will the third and fourth rounds of European qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

On the club side, a “commitment” was made to complete all domestic and European competitions “by the end of the current sporting season, ie 30 June 2020 at the latest, should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough”. To facilitate this, there will be “possible limitations or drops of current exclusive calendar slots”, which means domestic games might be scheduled at the same time as European club fixtures and European games might have to take place on weekends.

But, and this is potentially very significant, it was also admitted that further “possible adaptions” to next season’s qualifying rounds for the Champions League and Europa League, which usually start in early July, might need to be considered “in case of late completion of the 2019-20 season, ie after 30 June 2020”.

And it was also announced that two working groups would be set up: one to look at the fixture list and how best to complete the current season “in a coherent manner”, and another to “assess the economic, financial and regulatory impact” of the outbreak and “propose measures to mitigate its consequences”.

Elsewhere, South America’s governing body CONMEBOL followed UEFA’s lead by moving the 2020 Copa America back 12 months and the African confederation postponed the 2020 African Nations Championship, which alternates years with the Africa Cup of Nations, indefinitely.

Later on Tuesday, world football’s governing body FIFA added its voice to the chorus of common sense by “accepting” the various postponements and agreeing to reschedule its new and improved Club World Cup, which had been pencilled in for next summer, to later in 2021 or some as yet to be discovered gap in the calendar in 2022 or 2023.

If that sounds like the very least it could do in terms of leadership, it did also commit $10 million to the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19  solidarity response fund and suggested setting up a “global football assistance fund to help members of the football community affected by the crisis”.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was probably not across the latest breaking news from north London when he dictated this statement but the very obvious need for such a hardship fund was confirmed shortly before it arrived when Barnet, a former English Football League side now in the fifth-tier National League, announced it was putting all non-playing staff on notice.

As FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told journalists on a conference call on Tuesday, “our industry employs hundreds of thousands — there is the potential for it to turn ugly very quickly”.

Why have all these different football bodies agreed to postpone their tournaments? 

For the simple reason that everyone  apart from those like West Ham United vice-chair Baroness Karren Brady or Southend United owner Ron Martin, who might have an agenda or two  agrees priority must be given to finishing this season.

To do anything else will only spark rows, resentment and reams of billable hours. That might happen anyway, such is the utter unpredictability and mounting gloom of the situation in Europe, but what was impossible a week ago, when Euro 2020 was still starting in Rome on June 12, is now less impossible.

Nobody believes football will be resuming in England, or anywhere else, on April 3, which is when the initial pause is programmed to expire. In fact, there is almost no chance of any professional football until May at the earliest, and many are wondering if even that is ludicrously optimistic given the prediction that the outbreak’s peak in the UK is still 10 weeks off. But let’s just be ultra-positive for a moment.

Teams in England have 10 or fewer league games to play, eight of them are still in the FA Cup and there are the three EFL play-off competitions to complete, which add another 15 games. It is a similar story across Europe, where most leagues have about a quarter of their games to finish, plus a domestic cup, and in UEFA’s two club competitions 12 of the 16 last-16 games have not been completed.

With a fair wind, some creative thinking, the best efforts of the players and a bit of luck that not too many of them will be self-isolating at once, it is just about feasible to squeeze all of that into nine weeks of non-stop football.

That way, Liverpool get their title, asterisk-free, the relegation chips will fall where they may, Manchester City can seal the most litigious treble of all-time, Leeds United are given a fair crack at scratching their 16-year itch, the Championship’s Grand National-sized chasing pack are allowed to fight to the last fence, Celtic receive no gifts, Coventry City and Crewe Alexandra are forced to seal the deal and all the other sporting questions are answered as the fixture computer intended. Though if Manchester City continue in the Champions League and FA Cup, their schedule will be very tight.

UEFA might have to drop the two-legged quarter-finals in its competitions and organise “Final Four” weeks in Gdansk and Istanbul, and we might all have to get used to four different competitions being played on one day, but after two months of board games and boxsets we will be desperate for some live sport so, who knows, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

Finish by that June 30 target, six days after the Europa League final is supposed to happen in Poland and three days after the Champions League final’s new date, and you also avoid the headache of having to persuade thousands of out-of-contract players to accept short deals to keep playing or returning any money to broadcasters and sponsors.

You also avoid completely scuppering the start of the following season and if these games have to take place behind closed doors for public health reasons, well, at least we are avoiding meltdown on Merseyside and the prospect of Brentford trying to sue the Premier League.

Great, will it work? 

Erm, no. Probably not.

Not by June 30, anyway. And that is why the only date in the joint statement was prefaced with a bizarre but telling “ie” and then slightly contradicted two bullet points later with the reference to “possible adaptions” being needed if the seasons go beyond the end of June.

Because right now it just does not seem plausible that a continent at the epicentre of a global pandemic, which has killed nearly 8,000 people, will be playing much professional sport in six weeks’ time.

As FIFPro’s Baer-Hoffmann puts it, “the players will not just be able to walk out of their apartments and go straight on the pitch… they will need mini pre-seasons”, while Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt has talked about the resumption in even more sobering terms — “we could start playing again with quite a few of our fans missing”.

This brings us to the debate nobody wants to have this week — for good reason — but everyone knows must be had at some point in the next month. Do we start as soon as we safely can and then just keep playing until this season’s games are finished, whenever and wherever that is, or do we wrap up the season without playing all the games and dish out the merits and demerits as best we can?

At present, there does appear to be a consensus in the game to finish what we have started.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham repeatedly said “football is firmly of the view” the season should be completed, while the 24 Championship clubs held their own video conference and decided unanimously to play on until the last kick of their play-off final, even if that means continuing to Halloween.

It is heartening to hear that commitment to the principle of competitive integrity and letting teams decide their fates on the field but it will be interesting to see whether that consensus holds if the lockdown lingers beyond May. The contractual conundrum has already been mentioned and FIFA has said it will need to come up with some solutions to its rules on registering players after certain deadlines and working out when to open and close the next transfer window.

Broadcasters and sponsors will want certainty at some point, too. So far, they have not publicly started throwing their weight around but having invested so much in the football industry, they will be desperate to get back to normality with a brand new narrative to tell.

Fans with no dogs in the fight at the top or bottom of the tables might tire of the stoic march to completion, while FIFA and UEFA will also start to get a little antsy about the never-ending season and the knock-on effects it will have on their 2020-21 plans.

One possible hurry-up would be to come up with a series of play-offs to decide who wins what, who comes up and who goes down. It is something the Italian football federation has started thinking about… and apparently already decided against.

There is, of course, another solution to a season you cannot finish: you pretend it never happened.

This is the idea floated by Brady in a newspaper column last weekend and backed by Southend’s Martin, whose side are 16 points off safety in League One with nine to play, in an interview with the local paper on Tuesday. But it is an idea that attracted howls of indignation across the game, forcing the baroness to back-pedal.

This does not mean, however, these two pantomime baddies are the only ones thinking “null and void” is the only way out of the contractual chaos and scheduling nightmare the sport faces.

What Tuesday’s outbreak of collegiate thinking has done is silence those whispers for a few weeks. By removing this summer’s hard deadline for finishing the club seasons, the game’s bosses have created just enough space for a minor miracle to occur.

What happens next, then? 

The big bosses keep talking, the working groups get working, hard-pressed clubs cut costs and triple-check insurance policies, players post workout videos, broadcasters run their back catalogues, referees creosote their fences and agents moan to each other on WhatsApp.

But, most of all, we wait.

And for those who follow, play for or work for a club that needs to sell tickets, burgers and raffle tickets to carry on, we probably pray, too.

It was good to hear FIFA, with its reserves of nearly £2.3 billion, talk about a hardship fund, and it would be nice to think that UEFA might be able to chip in from its rainy-day fund of over £500 million, but there will be many mouths to feed after the economic shock of COVID-19 and it is hard to see how money tied up in a governing body’s bank account in Switzerland can help Macclesfield Town pay its bills in the coming weeks. The next set of wages are due in a fortnight.

“It was important that, as the governing body of European football, UEFA led the process and made the biggest sacrifice,” said UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin on Tuesday, and in purely numerical terms he is probably right.

As The Athletic reported on Monday, the European confederation believes postponing the Euros will cost it, and therefore all of its 55 member associations — the majority of whom depend on UEFA’s handouts — £275 million.

It is also perhaps worth noting that most of the money UEFA makes from its club competitions barely leaves a trace in Nyon because it is back out the door and on the way to the clubs so fast. Like the World Cup for FIFA, UEFA makes most of its money on one event every fourth year, the men’s European Championship. France 2016, for example, cleared £2 billion, which Ceferin has dished out to FAs over the last three years. Euro 2020 — sorry, 2021 — is meant to do the same thing.

“Moving (it) comes at a huge cost for UEFA but we will do our best to ensure that the vital funding for grassroots, women’s football and the development of the game in our 55 countries is not affected,” he added. “Purpose over profit has been our guiding principle in taking this decision for the good of European football as a whole.”

Infantino is no doubt feeling similarly magnanimous wherever he is right now — Switzerland’s various sporting headquarters have all been shut to slow coronavirus’s spread — after agreeing to delay his Club World Cup, a tournament with no teams, broadcasters or sponsors at the moment.

But the 60 staff at Barnet who have just lost their jobs might have something to say about who has made the biggest sacrifice, not that such talk even makes sense when people are actually dying ahead of time because of this awful illness and health workers are risking their lives to save others.

Tuesday was a better day than the most of the last seven or so in terms of football’s response to these uncertain times but we should be under no illusions that we are only just getting into this and that worse is still to come.

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Tennis season currently suspended until early June.

Different sport but if that's the case with tennis, then it doesn't seem likely football will resume before that..? 

Vesper likes this

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Even when the worst of this horrid thing is over the scientists expect another spike next year, so it's likely we'll see another period with no games. So, taking everything into account i think the best move would be to cancel next seasons leagues. That would leave plenty of time to finish off all of this seasons leagues and cups and enough time for next seasons cups. 

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Exclusive: UEFA to relax FFP regulations in light of coronavirus crisis



European football’s governing body UEFA has relaxed its Financial Fair Play regulations to help cash-strapped clubs survive the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

With the professional game facing its biggest economic challenge since World War Two, the move has been broadly welcomed by football finance experts but some have warned UEFA not to let clubs with the wealthiest owners take advantage of the temporary relaxation.

In response to calls for urgent help, the Swiss-based governing body has extended the deadline for clubs to prove they have no “overdue payables” — such as unpaid tax bills, transfer instalments or wages — from March 31 to April 30.

Furthermore, it has also reminded clubs that the principle of “force majeure”, a French term that means greater force, is written into the spending rules.

“Any extraordinary event or circumstances beyond the control of the club that are considered a case of force majeure are taken into account as part of the club’s assessment, on a case-by-case basis,” a UEFA spokesperson told The Athletic.

Introduced in 2011 to curb overspending, the FFP regulations are based on the idea that clubs should not spend more than they make from their ordinary business activities. Owners are allowed to invest as much as they like in the club’s academy, community work, stadium and women’s teams but there are strict limits on how much additional funding they can put into the first team playing budget or transfer kitty.

The rules are policed by an independent body known as the Club Financial Control Body, which has investigatory and adjudicatory arms. Numerous clubs have been sanctioned for breaching these rules, most notably Manchester City, who are currently appealing against a two-year ban from European club competition that was imposed last month.

It is understood that the decision to push back the deadline for unpaid bills and reassure clubs that any extra support from owners in the coming months will be assessed more leniently than usual follows talks with the European Club Association, the organisation that represents the interests of the continent’s leading clubs.

Confirmation of UEFA’s move comes a day after the Premier League warned clubs that domestic broadcasters might ask for £762 million back if no further fixtures can be played this season and former Football Association chief executive Mark Palios told The Athletic that clubs will go bust if players do not agree to pay cuts.

“UEFA has employed a practical and sensible approach,” says Kieran Maguire, a football finance expert who lectures at the University of Liverpool. “By giving clubs longer to provide proof of no outstanding debts it allows the clubs to focus on day-to-day issues rather than administrative compliance issues.

“In relation to the monitoring for FFP, UEFA has acknowledged we are in extraordinary times. It has effectively allowed clubs some flexibility in terms of FFP compliance.

“At the same time, those clubs who do have significant resources behind them cannot exploit their financial advantage to use the present circumstances to give themselves carte blanche in terms of spending money without fear of action.”

John Mehrzad QC, a leading sports law specialist at Littleton Chambers, agrees with Maguire that this move was necessary, pointing out that the relaxation of the March 31 deadline will help “clubs remain afloat” at a time of continuing expenses and uncertain income.

He warned, however, that it might not be so good for “clubs, players or staff wishing to be paid over the next six weeks, as clubs can effectively default until the end of that period and not face UEFA sanction”.

But this, he explained, is the “hard balancing act” governing bodies have right now, as they prioritise saving clubs on the basis that if they go bust, their players and staff might not receive any further pay at all.

On the decision to take a more generous view of injections of cash from owners, Mehrzad says: “That approach makes sense but it is potentially open to abuse if, for example, a very rich club injected in a lot of cash from an owner not to use on wages but to buy players in the next transfer window. Hence, the assessment on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.”

Nick De Marco QC, from Blackstone Chambers, is perhaps the leading legal expert on FFP rules in the UK and described the UEFA move as “obviously sensible”. But he would like to see the British football authorities follow suit.

“The suggestion that clubs may be able to rely on the principle of ‘force majeure’ will be of particular interest,” says De Marco. “In England, the clubs that are struggling the most to pay their players and keep going are governed by the English Football League’s (Profitability and Sustainability) rules which are far stricter than those of UEFA.

“In my view these rules need to be suspended during the current health emergency. Clubs are already struggling to be able to pay their players and other staff, and if the only way they can do so is by going into debt it makes no sense at all to then punish them for it.”

The EFL declined to comment on UEFA’s decision to loosen its rules but it is understood that any change to its profitability and sustainability regulations would have to be agreed by its 71 clubs and those conversations are ongoing.

Sean Cottrell, the founder and chief executive of LawInSport, sums up the situation like this: “Extending the deadline makes sense, given the crisis countries across the world are facing.

“Football, like all sports, is having to adjust rapidly to the situation and in many cases they are supporting local communities at this difficult time whilst managing their own internal difficulties.

“What is of interest is UEFA suggests COVID-19 is considered a case of force majeure in terms of FFP. This may have significant legal implications later down the line for clubs and players.”


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People who think there is going to be Big 5 league football this summer that will finish off the 2019-20 season are probably in for some disappointment.

Calling it now.

I invite all to bookmark this.

I am not afraid to make predictions, and my past track record is more than decent.

Hope I am wrong, but judging off what I am seeing, not a chance unless there is MASSIVE changes.

We still are not even in lockdown here., the fucking government in Sweden are gutless PC cunts.

It is going to be a shitstorm here I fear

Same for the UK, Germany, France, etc etc etc

but the US is going to make us all look like pikers.

The US is insane, and will soon WELL and truly fucked.

they are going to be short millions upon millions of hospital beds and ventilators, etc etc

They still have at least 100 million fools running around do whatever the fuck they want, they are in  full Trump February 28th until 1 or 2 weeks ago 'its all hoax' mode

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2 hours ago, Vesper said:

People who think there is going to be Big 5 league football this summer that will finish off the 2019-20 season are probably in for some disappointment.

Calling it now.

I invite all to bookmark this.

I am not afraid to make predictions, and my past track record is more than decent.

Hope I am wrong, but judging off what I am seeing, not a chance unless there is MASSIVE changes.

I agree with you. Eurovision planned for 12-16 May and Roland Garros 24 May - 7 June are cancelled. Don't know about summer but no chance we will see any football in April or May like FA and UEFA seems to think. 

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CIES Football Observatory
n°288 - 23/03/2020

Weekly Post


Most expensive youngsters: Sancho and Håland at the top


Two Borussia Dortmund players head the rankings of big-5 league footballers born in or after 2000 with the highest transfer values according to the CIES Football Observatory algorithm: Jadon Sancho and Erling Håland. The Englishman is valued at almost €200 M and the Norwegian at €101 M. While the value of Sancho probably reached its peak, that of Håland is destined to grow. The top 50 list is available for free in issue number 288 of the Weekly Post.


The Real Madrid’s attacking duo Rodrygo and Vinícius have the third and fourth highest estimated values: €89 M and €74 M respectively. Both Brazilians also have a high potential for progression. With four nationals, England is the most represented origin in the top 10: Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi (5th, €72 M), Mason Greenwood (8th, €50 M) and Phil Foden (9th, also €50 M).

With an estimated value of €53 M, the French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga (Stade Rennais) is the youngest player in the top 10. Another footballer born in 2002, Ansu Fati (FC Barcelona) is worth more than €40 M. The value ranges for all big-5 league footballers is freely available here. The 53rd Monthly Report presents the variables and approach developed by the CIES Football Observatory research team to assess the transfer values of footballers on a scientific basis.

Estimated transfer value (€ Million)

Big-5 league players born in the 2000s (11/03/2020)



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Ramsey has clicked with Dybala but are Juventus playing him in wrong position?



A hoarse Antonio Conte was in no doubt about the precise moment his Inter Milan team lost the Derby d’Italia earlier this month. “The game was quite balanced,” the 50-year-old grimaced, as he tends to when breaking down a defeat, every word bitter to the taste. “We were doing better than them in the second half. Then (Aaron) Ramsey’s goal changed everything.”

The Inter midfielder Matias Vecino should have followed Blaise Matuidi’s run. Instead, he let the World Cup winner play a neat one-two with Alex Sandro and dash in behind Inter’s defence. At the near post, Milan Skriniar could have blocked the pass Matuidi pulled back across the box but it escaped him and all of a sudden, Cristiano Ronaldo is nudging the ball away from Skriniar’s centre-back partner Alessandro Bastoni. Ronaldo looks about to break the Serie A record for the longest scoring streak in the history of the league but fortunately for Bastoni, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s touch is heavy. Unfortunately, it falls into the path of Ramsey, who is perfectly placed to sweep it home and put Juventus in front in the biggest game of the season.

“They got better after that and we suffered in quite a big way without a reaction,” Conte acknowledged ruefully. Shortly afterwards, the Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri swapped Douglas Costa for Paulo Dybala and within five minutes, the champions had doubled their lead. Rodrigo Bentancur caught Ashley Young out with a long diagonal over the top for the Argentine, who then produced one of the most memorable moments of the campaign. “La Joya’s” first touch sent the wing-back the wrong way and after a one-two with Ramsey, he zig-zagged into the penalty area, agilely dribbling past Young again before finishing with the outside of his left foot.


The artistry involved made it understandable that the Italian sports dailies splashed Dybala all over the front pages the following day but, as Conte alluded to, Ramsey, with his goal and assist, played a pivotal role in deciding the marquee fixture of the Serie A calendar. The win sent Juventus back to the top of the table and, amid increasing pessimism about the prospects of the season resuming in Italy, it leaves the Old Lady where she needs to be to retain her title should the league and the FIGC decide to assign one if the campaign cannot be finished.

Ramsey had already announced himself with a goal on his Serie A debut against Hellas Verona in September, the first by a Welshman for Juve since Ian Rush’s strike in the Turin derby in May 1988. Almost six months later, the display he put in against Inter had an altogether different, more powerful resonance simply because it spoke to how one imagines Juventus and Ramsey saw their relationship working out when they agreed to join forces. It was a consecration, the delivery on expectation at precisely the right moment, a turning point. And of great satisfaction to the player must have been the awareness that he had decided a huge game while also playing true to himself.

Part of the Old Lady’s charm offensive on Ramsey was their understanding of his skill set. Fabio Paratici, the club’s chief football officer, enunciated this in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last February when news of Ramsey signing for Juventus had already broken. “In my opinion, Ramsey is a player who is still yet to find his best position because he’s never played as a No 8 in a midfield three,” Paratici explained. Against Inter, this was the precise role Ramsey performed and to decisive effect.

Impressed by what he saw, Fabio Capello, now offering his opinions as one of the pundits on Sky Italia’s coverage of Serie A, suggested to Sarri that Ramsey is better able to express the full range of his talent from that position. “This is Aaron’s argument too,” Sarri said. “He claims he needs to have the play in front of him in order to time his runs. When he plays with his back to goal or cuts inside, he loses a second.”

Early in the season, Ramsey represented the first discernible break from Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus. Sarri’s inaugural starting XI surprised many people in how little it deviated from what went before, most strikingly in midfield where Sami Khedira and Matuidi — stalwarts of the ancien regime — kept their places despite the expectation that the pair would be the first victims of the Sarrista revolution. There wasn’t a single new signing in the team that kicked off the season in Parma and aside from a greater emphasis on building play out from the back and a higher, more sustained press, the mood was one of plus ca change.


A spark of reinvention only appeared after the fragile Douglas Costa pulled up against Fiorentina in September and Sarri switched from a lop-sided 4-4-2 to one with a diamond in midfield, with Ramsey, now available after some lower back trouble, playing in the No 10 role that Juventus fans associate with Michel Platini.

The 2-1 wins against Verona and Brescia, and 2-0 victory against SPAL, felt like the beginning of a brave new world for the Bianconeri. The passing got quicker and the combinations slicker. Acting on the encouraging signs, especially at the Rigamonti (Brescia’s home), Sarri concluded it was worth persisting with the system.

Configured as such, Juventus qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League with two games to spare, outplayed and defeated a then-unbeaten Inter side at the San Siro in October and went undefeated themselves until December.

There were flashes of what Ramsey was capable of as a player, but catching fire proved difficult for a couple of reasons. For a start, he missed nearly all of pre-season, including the tour, clocking up just 20 minutes in Juventus’ final friendly against Triestina. Still rehabbing the injury he suffered in Arsenal’s Europa League quarter-final against Napoli last April, Ramsey endured lumbar pain and some minor muscle fatigue in his hip flexors and adductors. Overall though, he has been available for 64 per cent of Juventus’ games.

In his absence, or as an alternative, Sarri tended to use Federico Bernardeschi. He also picked his moments to play Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain all together. Perhaps overly cautious with Ramsey — the Welshman has played three games in a row only twice and didn’t play 90 minutes until the Inter game earlier this month — finding rhythm and consistency has not been straightforward. The occasions when he was building up some steam only to find himself back on the bench — take the Leverkusen game in Turin for instance, the Derby d’Italia at the San Siro and the first leg of Juventus’ Champions League round-of-16 tie with Lyon — must have been the source of some frustration.


Playing as a No 10 isn’t necessarily new to Ramsey. He has done it, when the circumstances dictated, for Arsenal and Wales, and it’s also true Paratici felt he could “play as a dynamic trequartista like (Ashton-under-Lyne’s finest) Simone Perrotta was at Roma.” The difference is Perrotta could count on Francesco Totti, the perfect false nine, to put him through mid-stride or link up with him in some other ingenious way. By contrast, Ramsey – and Juventus as a whole – doesn’t have a reference point in the penalty box for him to bounce off because Ronaldo tends to start wide while Dybala goes right or comes short. That split-second Ramsey loses turning to face his strikers is the difference between being open and not. It’s a tell for defenders too, making him easier to read.

At least Sarri now seems to gradually be coming round to the idea that Ramsey poses a greater threat from deep. After all, this is where he stood out at the Emirates. The mind goes back to the 2013-14 season when Arsenal used 4-2-3-1 and Arsene Wenger lined him up next to Mikel Arteta. The balance of that tandem was something to behold. Arteta passed while Ramsey drove forward. He played some of the best football of his career.

Then, the Spaniard got hurt and Wenger couldn’t replicate the same dynamic, settling on Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla instead. There was no longer a natural place for Ramsey in the side and he ended up on the right. Beside Coquelin, he didn’t offer enough passing quality. Next to Cazorla, Arsenal lacked defensive steel. Ramsey couldn’t play as a No 10 because of the presence of Mesut Ozil, and the German’s arrival made it less likely Arsenal were going to play 4-3-3 when their big-name signing from Real Madrid wanted to drift between the lines.

The player the Old Lady fell in love with was the one who ran N’Golo Kante — yes, him — into the ground and scored the winner in the 2017 FA Cup final. Coming from deep, with Granit Xhaka covering for him, it is odd as we turn our mind back to Juventus that up until February, only 16 per cent of Ramsey’s minutes were in his best position.

Apparently more willing to accept that than he was in the first half of the season, Sarri’s response to Capello still indicates he hasn’t given up completely on Ramsey playing just off Juventus’ two strikers. Sarri remains curious to see what the 29-year-old can do there when he’s in peak physical condition. “I’d also say that his fitness is different now from when he was playing as a 10,” Sarri countered.

After not starting Ramsey in the league between October and the beginning of January, the former Chelsea and Napoli coach included him from kick-off in four of Juventus’ last five games before the suspension of Serie A. Playing as a No 8, Ramsey has now scored in each of his last two starts and the dinked finish to see off SPAL in February, with Dybala spotting his run and slipping a pass through for him behind the defence, offered a hint of what was to come in the Derby d’Italia. It’s nothing their team-mates haven’t seen in training, where the understanding between them has blossomed.

As in the 1950s, a Welshman (John Charles) and an Argentine (Omar Sivori) are starting to hit it off in black and white, and Juventus need connections like the one emerging between Ramsey and Dybala to take hold, considering how dependent they have become on Cristiano. Since December, the 35-year-old has propped up Serie A’s fourth-best attack and is responsible for 63 per cent of its goals.

The lack of a reliable flow of goals from midfield has been of particular concern, especially given the output in the past from players like Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and, more recently, Khedira. If Sarri is looking for more goals from that area of the pitch, then Ramsey has certainly made a strong case in limited minutes. Compared with the other midfield options, he has the same amount of expected assists per 90 as Bentancur (0.18), yet the Uruguayan has racked up six assists to Ramsey’s one. A haul of four goals makes Ramsey Juventus’ top-scoring midfielder and it begs the question how many might he end up with if he continues to make runs from deep on a consistent basis.

Unlike Rush, who was homesick in Turin — though he claims never to have uttered the infamous line “it was like living in a foreign country” — The Athletic understands Ramsey is enjoying life in Italy, where he’s practically next-door neighbours with Ronaldo. He’s got to know the city over the last nine months, identifying his favourite restaurant spots and is learning about the Barolo produced in the Langhe, where the cheese and white truffles are also delicious.

Ramsey has certainly given Juventus a taste of what’s to come and Sarri could do a lot worse than continue to blend the flavour he brings to the team with Dybala.

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CIES Football Observatory
n ° 289 - 03/30/2020

Weekly letter

Pandemic: 28% loss on player transfer values


The coronavirus pandemic is heavily impacting the football industry. Issue number 289 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the gaps in the players’ estimated transfer value in the event that no matches will be played and no contract will be extended until the end of June. As such, the total player transfer value at big-5 league level would decrease by 28%: from €32.7 to €23.4 billion.


The extent of the decrease varies according to several factors such as the players’ age, contract duration, career path and recent performance. The greatest loss in relative terms concerns ageing footballers with short-term contracts who played fewer matches during current season than in the previous one. As matter of example, Paul Pogba’s estimated transfer value would almost halve from €65M to €35M.

The greatest potential percentage loss per club was measured for Olympique de Marseille: -38%. Conversely, the lowest one was recorded for another French Ligue 1 team: Stade Brestois (-16%). The values presented have been calculated on the basis of the exclusive CIES Football algorithm. The transfer value ranges for big-5 league footballers before the league shutdown are available here.

Aggregated transfer value decrease, 11/03/2020 - 30/06/2020

20 players with the highest values per club (€ Million), if no matches played and no contract extension


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Serie A’s rising stars: ‘Kulu’ – the missing piece of Sarri’s Juve puzzle



“Yesterday was positive,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic explained with unusual understatement. “Me in Milan. Dejan [Kulusevski] in Juventus.” The transfers, both concluded at the end of December, left Zlatan with an almost avuncular sense of pride. “If you’re a Swedish player and you represent a big club, it’s good. There aren’t many of us at big clubs, not just in Italy but all over the world.” Ibrahimovic returned to Serie A on a free transfer in January, well into the twilight of his career. At the dawn of his own, Kulusevski ended up as the second most expensive buy of the winter window (behind Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United) when Juventus, one of Zlatan’s old teams, edged rivals Inter and Manchester United to the teenager’s signature.

All told, the fee could rise to £37 million — no Swede other than Ibra has fetched more money. Sent back to Parma for the remainder of the season, where he was already on loan from Atalanta, Juventus’ chief football officer Fabio Paratici admitted “we would have loved to” have the 19-year-old for the second half of the campaign. It’s not difficult to see why.

Even out of position on the wing, Kulusevski still managed to have a hand in 12 goals (seven assists, five goals) in his first four months as a regular in Serie A. The only player of a similar age in Europe’s top five leagues affecting games to a greater degree was Jadon Sancho. Firmly installed by December as the outstanding candidate for rookie of the year in Serie A, Juventus sensed that if Kulusevski carried on at the same rate and attracted even more attention at the Euros, then the hype around him would only rise and take up his price with it.

Whichever way you look at it, “Kulu’s” ascent has been rapid. In hindsight, it’s strange he never started a league game for Atalanta and made only three cameo appearances towards the end of last season. The limited game time he received did not culminate in him making the same instant impression other kids like Musa Barrow and Amad Traore did upon being granted their first bow on the big stage. Kulusevski never seriously doubted himself though. Without being arrogant, the shy red-head has always believed he could make it to the pinnacle, visualising every step of the way, as Bartosz Grzelak, the assistant coach of Sweden Under-21s, tells The Athletic.

In March last year Grzelak’s boss, the former Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday defender Roland Nilsson, planned to call up Kulusevski for a couple of friendlies against Russia and Scotland, so he sent his deputy to Italy to get to know him a bit better. “I went down to Bergamo,” Grzelak recalls. “We were sitting at dinner and he was very clear about how he saw his career panning out. He said, ‘My plan is first to make my Serie A debut with Atalanta. Then I’ll probably go out on loan to one of the clubs where I have more chance to play and from there I’m aiming for the top clubs in Europe.’ I’ve sat down with some young players over my coaching career and you always hear those stories: ‘I want to go to Barcelona or United or Juventus.’ You’re like, ‘OK, son, it’s good to have high goals.’ In this case you then look back at what happened: Dejan made his Serie A debut, he went to Parma, a team where he could have playing time, and then he went to Juventus.”

All in the space of less than a year. “That’s amazing,” Grzelak says.

Born and raised in Stockholm with a Macedonian mother (Katica), Kulusevski started out at the same club as Grzelak: Brommapojkarna. Small in profile, BP have made a disproportionate contribution to the development of Swedish talent, rivalling the bigger, richer and more illustrious Malmo, where Zlatan broke through at the end of the 1990s.

“If you look at the national team right now, I think we’d have five players that have been at the academy from a young age,” technical director, Andreas Engelmark explains. They are Kulusevski, two members of the Under-21 European Championship winning side from 2015 (John Guidetti and Ludwig Augustinsson), Sampdoria midfielder Albin Ekdal and back-up keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, who is now in Turkey after four and a half years at Swansea. Engelmark first came across Kulusevski when he was coaching BP’s Under-14s. There were three players on his team who were playing for the age group above and Kulu was one of them. “I saw pretty soon that he had something special,” Engelmark says, “but it’s still too early at 12 or 13 to assess if they’re going to be a professional and even more difficult to predict he was going to be the player he is today.”

What stood out to Engelmark was the skill Kulusevski displayed on the ball. “The clearest thing for me is that he was a very strong dribbler. He was dribbling all the time.” Malmo didn’t boast a player like him. Everyone focused instead on a kid coming through at AIK, Alexander Isak, who Dortmund paid £8.4m for shortly after his 17th birthday. The slightly younger Kulusevski, who likes to watch Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, wouldn’t have to wait much longer for his own move abroad. He gracefully began bleeping across the radars of bigger clubs from top leagues around the time BP were touring Europe. They were participating in a series of youth tournaments of which no one, apart from scouts and agents, will know the names, like the Gusella trophy just outside Turin. There were others, including in Pordenone, where Atalanta first caught sight of him.

Reflecting on the Gusella, Engelmark says: “I think we ended up in sixth position out of 48 teams. We lost to Roma 2-1 but they had a really good side. Some of them are professionals now like Luca Pellegrini (who moved to Juventus for £19.5m in the summer). The other guy, Gianluca Scamacca. He’s at a decent level now (on loan in Serie B from Sassuolo) and was twice the size of everybody else. They were better than us, but the year after we were stronger. Dejan left after that. We actually beat his team, Atalanta. We beat them 1-0. I think they had a few players away but it was still a very strong team, Alessandro Bastoni (now a starting centre-back for Inter who left Atalanta for £28.3m) was in it. We had a guy up front who was really strong as well, Joel Asoro, he’s now on loan at Groningen from Swansea.”

The fee Atalanta paid for Kulusevski is chicken feed in today’s game. Initially reported as 200,000 euros, the club’s sporting director Giovanni Sartori told sports daily Il Corriere dello Sport: “It was for less and if you really must know, it was half of that.”

The pitch to Kulusevski was easy. Atalanta, long known as the nursery of Italy, have a proven track record of bringing through top talent and, in Gian Piero Gasperini, a coach prepared to put faith in the academy. He promoted from within in 2016, integrating Mattia Caldara, Andrea Conti, Franck Kessie and Roberto Gagliardini into the first team and was rewarded with a fourth-place finish.

When that team broke up, the circumstances began to change. Atalanta developed into an even better team — the one we know today — and the pathway for Kulusevski was blocked by Josip Ilicic and captain Papu Gomez. Despite lighting up youth football and being in a class of his own in the club’s physical testing, deep down he knew he’d have to leave to keep progressing. In the meantime, Grzelak consumed every game of Atalanta’s Under-19s on Wyscout. “He was exceptional at that level,” Grzelak says. Kulusevski contributed 1.28 goals or assists every 90 minutes and Atalanta went onto become national champions. His role in that success was undeniable. Kulusevski not only scored and set up a goal in the semi-final against Torino, he laid on the winner and only goal of the game in the final against Inter too.

As much as Kulusevski’s decisiveness in that tournament persuaded him this kid had a very bright future in front of him, Grzelak found himself marvelling at his qualities as a team-mate. The Primavera finals were in June and as such they clashed with the Sweden Under-21s’ next get-together. Kulusevski asked for a leave of absence. “He’s very loyal to his team,” Grzelak explains. “We understood after his explanation that this team and his team-mates meant a lot to him. He’d been with the Primavera for a few years. The year before, they had lost the semi-final, so they really aimed to win the whole competition. We decided that since we were only playing friendly games, it was all right. And he was very grateful for that. He even said: ‘If we lose the semi-final [a seven-goal thriller that went to extra-time] I can fly. I’ll come the next day.’ We said just focus on that. He focused, they won the semi-final and the final and he was the MVP of the final.”

As elite clubs scout younger and younger these days, it should not come as any great surprise to learn Kulusevski was already attracting high-calibre interest last summer. Juventus wanted him for their Under-23s side. But Kulusevski was too good to be playing third-division football. Manchester City expressed an interest, albeit with a view to sending the Swede out on loan. The examples of Sancho and Phil Foden indicated consistent game time would be hard to come by. RB Leipzig (of course) wanted to be in the mix, too.

In the end, the decision was made to prioritise a loan to a club content to act as a stepping stone. It came down to Cagliari and Parma. After analysing the profiles of both teams and drawing some technical parallels between Parma winger Gervinho and old team-mate Asoro, Kulusevski elected to move to the Ennio Tardini. As with Bastoni the year before, Parma played the loan market perfectly. Kulusevski made an instant impact, setting up two of his side’s three goals in the Crociati’s first win of the season away to Udinese. His first top-flight goal followed less than a month later.

“From texting him and reading what he said in the media, that was a really big relief for him to score,” Engelmark explains. Gasperini’s tentativeness in giving Kulusevski opportunities with Atalanta had made him understandably curious about whether he could deliver as quickly as he wanted in Serie A. “Dejan started to grow slowly but surely,” Engelmark says. “There were a few games in the fall where I could really say this is the player that I’ve seen before, but at a level that’s so much higher.”

The speed with which Kulusevski adapted surprised but did not astonish Grzelak. Those around Kulu say that whenever he steps up a level, he tends to need one or two games to figure out the standard of the competition and recalibrate. Serie A was no different.

Grzelak, who sees flashes of a taller, more physical Freddie Ljungberg in Kulusevski’s game, recalls the player’s debut for the Under-21s against Russia. Sweden lost and Kulusevski didn’t play particularly well. “I remember him taking in the feedback he got from that game. It was not like it was bad or anything. He got honest feedback. And I remember him asking for the full video of the game. That’s not always common from the players. He went up to his room and took a good night to watch it through and he came down in the morning and said ‘I understand now’. From then on, he hasn’t made the same mistakes. That’s Dejan. I think he’s extremely strong mentally. You know he left Sweden quite young. He moved to a country where he didn’t know the language. It was a huge step for him to take.”

There’s a maturity about him that is unusual for players still a couple of years shy of their 21st birthday. “When I saw his first games at Parma I saw that he was very comfortable on the ball. He was not like a young boy who is just happy to be on the pitch. He contributed from the first game and I think that is connected to his mental strength.”

Another indicator of that kind of fortitude came as Parma’s other attacking players started to drop like flies. Roberto Inglese has barely played this season and needed surgery in Finland on a torn muscle. Gervinho has been in and out of the team and pushed rather too hard for a move to Qatar in January. The Ivorian was frozen out until he made an apology to his team-mates and Parma’s coaching staff. As for Yann Karamoh, he didn’t even show up for training one day in September and isn’t always fit either. Then there’s former Cardiff striker Andreas Cornelius, who had only scored once until Kulusevski set up two goals of a hat-trick he scored against Genoa at the end of October.

For Kulusevski it has meant playing as a winger, a No 10, a false nine; anywhere Parma coach Roberto D’Aversa needs him. He trusts Kulusevski and knows he not can only cope with whatever’s thrown at him but also pose a consistent threat, from kick-off to the final whistle. D’Aversa compares him with former Ballon d’Or winner — and current Juventus vice-president — Pavel Nedved for his ability to affect games, allied to the sheer amount of running he gets through. For context, only one player (Inter’s wandering playmaker Marcelo Brozovic) is averaging more kilometres per game than Kulusevski in Serie A this season.

“He constantly moving,” Grzelak says. “And he’s available for his team-mates. That’s why you see him involved in so many situations in the final third. He’s extremely strong. When it comes to covering ground with the ball, he’s fast. He doesn’t appear that fast, but he’s fast with the ball and he can definitely handle body contact. He can handle tackles and in his decision-making he seems to find the right solution very often. When you look at his goals and assists, it’s clear he knows when it’s time to shoot or pass to someone else in a better position. His understanding of the play is brilliant in that aspect.”

Perhaps at no point was that more evident this season than in his man-of-the-match display against Napoli. Kulusevski outpaced Kalidou Koulibaly and sent him flying as he put Parma in front early on, then 90 minutes he later joined a counter-attack and still had the lucidity to pick out Gervinho for a stoppage-time winner. To have the presence of mind at that age after running more than 14km — a record for a player in Serie A this season — was jaw-dropping.

In the stands that night Engelmark knew his friend had ascended to another dimension. “You kind of understood now something is going to happen,” he says. The week before the Napoli game, Marco Ottolini, Juventus’ loan players’ coordinator, had been in touch with Engelmark to get some information on a BP player they wanted to trial. The pair had known each other for eight or nine years, so after Parma’s win in Naples, Engelmark went up to Turin, stayed with the triallist and caught up with Ottolini. “He asked me about Dejan. A little bit if I could help convince him.” But Engelmark politely declined. He knows Dejan too well. “He’s going to make his own decision,” Engelmark said.

Juventus needn’t have worried. Paratici outlined the club’s plans for Kulusevski. Juventus see him as the missing piece. He’s the No 10 Maurizio Sarri needs to make his 4-3-1-2 work, a role Kulusevski was born to play. It’s one that exists in Turin but not in Milan, where Antonio Conte has set up Inter to play his trademark 3-5-2. Seeing the photos of Kulusevski putting pen to paper on a four-and-a-half year deal still blows Engelmark’s mind — but not too much. “For him and everyone who knows him it was a bit surreal in one way, but I also think it felt natural. He’s the kind of guy who’s going to keep going until the end. And you can see that when he plays. He always plays 90 minutes.”

As exciting as it is for Juventus, the prospects for Sweden are even better. “We haven’t really seen this type of young player coming through for a long time,” Engelmark says. “Maybe Ibrahimovic in terms of technical ability. For us to see Isak and Kulusevski reaching that level at such a young age, it’s extraordinary. It’s not common. Not this young. I think the generation coming up now and the next one, they’re working harder. They’re more detailed. They’re doing everything they can to compete. I also think with Dejan and Isak coming through in Stockholm and being able to break through at an early age will help kids here see that it’s possible. It’ll be interesting in the next few years because the ceiling now is higher than before.”

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13 hours ago, Vesper said:

Serie A’s rising stars: ‘Kulu’ – the missing piece of Sarri’s Juve puzzle


Or he can be just new Bernardeschi.

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