Newcastle launch bid for Grenier; Life goes on without Cabaye

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Newcastle United’s first match without midfield magician Yohan Cabaye wasn’t anywhere near the tremendous letdown some expected, especially considering how poorly the Magpies reacted to the news that he might head to Arsenal back in August. Newcastle was obliterated 4-0 by Manchester City on the season’s opening weekend amid worries that Cabaye would skip the Northeast.

The Magpies outchanced, outran and outplayed former manager Chris Hughton’s Norwich City side at Carrow Road but couldn’t finish in a 0-0 draw that saw them pick up point No. 37 on the year. And it wasn’t the sort of no-finish affair that would leave supporters questioning if the post-Cabaye era was going to resemble some bleak “Waterworld” landscape.

Hatem Ben Arfa created splendidly before the consequences of his apparent love for sandwiches arrived late in the game, while the goalposts did all they could to make sure Loic Remy and the Magpies were snakebit before Remy was sent off for a perceived headbutt on Bradley Johnson at the end of an altercation that saw both players see red and put Newcastle in a poor position ahead of Saturday’s home derby date with Sunderland.

So if Ben Arfa can get in better match shape, it stands to reason the Magpies will be just fine, with plenty of attacking options in Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi (the latter a bit of a head-scratching revelation on Tuesday. Why hadn’t he been featuring at all for Alan Pardew?).

But what will they do to lift their European dreams out of long shot territory? Surely they’d need more than grabbing out-of-form Dutch striker Luuk de Jong from the Bundesliga and hoping for the best, even if he was the next big Newcastle target just a summer ago.

Enter a bid from 23-year-old Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, rumored for Arsenal but also a prospect for the Northeast club. Newcastle had flirted with signing Remy Cabella from Montpellier earlier in the window and the player wanted to come, but the higher-ups at his French club escalated their asking price to absurd heights for the in-demand youngster.

Lyon boss Remi Garde doesn’t want to lose his young playmaker, who has earned his first three senior caps for France this year and added six goals and four assists in Ligue 1 and Europe this year. In the past two seasons, Grenier’s started 47 matches, scored 13 goals and added 12 assists. The bidding price for  the midfielder is said to be between 10-12 million pounds.

It’s always an unknown whether a player’s game with translate, especially how long that will take, but Grenier does seem the sort to provide a lesser drop-off from Cabaye. Now will Mike Ashley, Joe Kinnear and Alan Pardew appear more attractive than Arsene Wenger? Ay, there’s the rub.

Atletico Madrid temporarily cuts player salaries by 70 percent

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Atletico Madrid says it has reached an agreement with its players and coaching staff to reduce their salaries by 70 percent while competitions are stopped during the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus ]

Atletico announced the agreement on Thursday and said it is temporarily suspending the jobs of club employees.

Atletico had previously said it would need to take such a drastic step but had yet to reveal the details.

A job suspension under Spanish law allows a company to greatly reduce its labor costs by having workers stay at home while guaranteeing they will go back to their positions when conditions improve.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Spanish club added that some of the money saved by the players’ salary cuts will be given to its other employees who will be furloughed.

Barcelona recently announced it had come to a similar agreement with its players.

Both clubs said that such cost-saving measures were necessary to ensure their financial stability due to the loss in revenue during the stoppage of competitions.

CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time