Aston Villa's English midfielder Jack Grealish (L) applauds the crowd after the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on August 23, 2019.
There are constrasting reports on players wanting the Premier League to return and the coronavirus testing costs to restart the season are revealed. It's Friday's Paper Round...
United want Grealish, not Maddison
Manchester United are known to be interested in young English playmakers Jack Grealish and James Maddison, and the Manchester Evening News says a move for the latter, rated at £80m by Leicester, is now unlikely due to the financial impact of the pandemic. Which means Grealish is now the No. 1 target, especially if Aston Villa are relegated. According to the Manchester Evening News: "James Maddison expects to stay at Leicester City for at least another season amid the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Manchester United have tracked Maddison, 23, for over a year but the MEN understands Leicester are confident his valuation will not be met in a summer transfer window already mired in uncertainty."
Paper Round's view: The full financial impact of the coronavirus cannot really be known at this stage but it is likely to significantly impact spending power. In that context, if Grealish is markedly cheaper than Maddison then it's the logical decision for United, who were struggling to decide between the two anyway.
Premier League footballers are pushing for a June restart in order to conclude the current season, according to the Star. The report states that the "majority of Premier League stars" have called on their clubs to pressure the League's bosses into agreeing to restart the season as soon as it is safe. The Premier League's board meeting to address 'Project Restart' is set to take place on Friday, but reports on Thursday rumoured a potential return to full training on May 18 and match days on June 8, subject to government clearance. The league's players are said to be confused by the "negativity" around resuming the season and they want to play if the "relevant protocols are put in place".
Paper Round's view: It's understandable that Premier League players are itching to return. Plenty of people are starting to get 'cabin fever' staying indoors under lockdown, but we need to remember that it's for everyone's safety. It is strange that players are dismissing the criticism behind the rushed return, simple labelling it as "negativity". The 'Project Restart' seems like it is too soon and being forced due to the financial losses in the Premier League during the coronavirus crisis. Even if England's top-tier is brought back, you can never guarantee that it will be 100% safe until there is a COVID-19 vaccine.
In contrast to the report from the Star, the Mirror state that some players are actually "scared" of returning to the sport so soon after the coronavirus pandemic. The media outlet spoke with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, who revealed his fears about restarting the season without a working vaccine in sight. The Argentine striker stated that players who have families and children will be in fear of being infected with the virus, which can even be asymptomatic. Aguero opposes the view from the Star, stating the "majority" of players are "scared" and he admitted he was doubtful the Champions League will return in August.
Paper Round's view: One minute it's reported that the majority of players are pushing for a June restart and the next an actual Premier League star is saying that the majority are scared of concluding the season any time soon. It's understandable that Aguero is afraid of the rushed return to the season. The United Kingdom have only just passed their peak and there is already talk about going back to training. Germany recently started to lift their lockdown restrictions, but their Bundesliga return date has been delayed due to the government pushing back the decision to May. The UK doesn't need to rush any decisions.
The Independent report that the costs of coronavirus testing could be the stumbling block behind the return of football in the United Kingdom. The alleged cost for clubs to test their players and staff three times a week - which is the government's request - is around £30,000 per week. A full squad and staff would be around 50 people and private testing currently costs between £150 and £180 per test. Premier League clubs are likely to be able to afford this fee, especially with money from television broadcasters when the league resumes. Championship clubs could be forced to decide whether it's financially viable, whereas lower-league outfits in the Football League are unlikely to be able to afford the testing.
Paper Round's view: When you consider that there are key workers and people who are in need of testing but unable to receive it, but the Premier League can go out and buy as many as they want for an unnecessary cause, you realise what a ridiculous situation we are living in. And then you have to consider the eye-watering fees involved. £30,000 is a lot of money. Realistically, only the Premier League clubs could afford this fee too. It seems like the league is just desperate to restart and is willing to do anything to conclude the current season.
The Telegraph have named Brighton as one of the clubs who are opposing the Premier League's proposed plan to have remaining matches played at neutral stadiums that have been "approved" under their strict coronavirus guidelines. The issue is reportedly the "biggest obstacle" that the league faces in its bid to conclude the current season, but Brighton have labelled it an "important priority" to play their remaining five home matches at the Amex, in order to keep it fair. The Premier League clubs argue that they will be able to maintain their home grounds as "sterile environments".
Paper Round's view: It doesn't seem necessary to play the remainder of the Premier League's matches at neutral stadiums, despite the fact that there won't be supporters attending. Brighton are right - clubs will be able to be in charge of making sure their grounds are clean. No side will want to take any chances if the league were to resume, so it is expected that thorough measures will be taking place across the country. Even if there aren't fans at the games, home sides definitely hold an advantage by playing at their own stadiums due to familiarity.