Manolo Gabbiadini

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AC Milan’s Paolo, Daniel Maldini test positive for coronavirus

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Legendary AC Milan defender (and current technical director) Paolo Maldini has tested positive for coronavirus after displaying symptoms of the virus this week, the club confirmed in a statement on Saturday.

[ MORE: Update: Which soccer leagues are still playing? ]

Maldini, who made more than 600 appearances for Milan — the only club for which he played during his astonishing 25-year career — along with 126 for Italy, became aware earlier this week of contact he made with a person who later tested positive for the virus. Milan revealed that Maldini’s swab test was administered on Friday and came back positive.

Maldini’s 18-year-old son Daniel also tested positive for the virus. Daniel is currently a forward in Milan’s youth academy. He has previously trained with the first team, though the club did not reveal if he had done so recently.

Paolo and Daniel are both well and have already completed two weeks at home without contact with others. They will now remain in quarantine until clinically recovered, as per the medical protocols outlined by the health authorities.

Paolo and Daniel join a growing list of well-known soccer figures in Italy to have tested positive for the virus over the last week. Juventus stars Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi and Daniele Rugani and Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini, among others, were revealed to have contracted the virus in the days since Serie A went on hiatus.

Klopp on Premier League suspension: ‘We must protect one another’

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Jurgen Klopp released a statement lauding the Premier League’s decision to suspend play through April 3, lauding the move and explaining that sports are second to public health.

“First and foremost, all of us have to do whatever we can to protect one another,” Klopp wrote in a post on the Liverpool official website. “In society I mean. This should be the case all the time in life, but in this moment I think it matters more than ever. I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things. Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.”

Liverpool is one team that will likely be dismayed by the current situation, with the Reds just inches from the Premier League title finish line. Klopp and company can secure the Premier League title with a magic number of six, meaning a combination of six points gained on their own and dropped by Manchester City would mathematically secure the crown. However, if the season is permanently altered, that could affect their standing as official league champions.

Still, Klopp was unmoved on if the decision to suspend the season was correct.

“Of course, we don’t want to play in front of an empty stadium and we don’t want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy – just one – we do it no questions asked. If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.”

“Today’s decision and announcement is being implemented with the motive of keeping people safe. Because of that we support it completely. We have seen members of teams we compete against become ill. This virus has shown that being involved in football offers no immunity. To our rival clubs and individuals who are affected and to those who later will become so, you are in our thoughts and prayers.”

As a result of the current situation surrounding COVID-19, Liverpool has suspended all training at its Melwood ground, instead giving players individual training programs to do on their own.

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Bundesliga continues with plan to play fixtures this weekend

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The German DFL has reiterated its plan to continue playing fixtures this weekend behind closed doors as the COVID-19 pandemic causes cancellations and postponements elsewhere across Europe and the world.

While the organization issued a directive forcing the suspension of fixtures starting next Tuesday through at least April 2, the league has gone ahead with its plan for playing fixtures this weekend, with all Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga games set to take place except Hannover’s match against SG Dynamo Dresden.

“With a view to the coming weekend, both the DFL and clubs will continue to work closely with the Federal Ministry of Health and the local health authorities at the respective stadium locations of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga,” the league said in a statement. “The health of the entire population and therefore all football fans as well as all players in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 have top priority. Therefore, it goes without saying that official instructions must always be implemented. Society as a whole, and with it football, faces a hitherto unknown challenge.”

The league statement placed the decision to go ahead with games squarely at the feet of local authorities at the specific stadium locations, saying the league is deferring to any changes in local policy between now and kickoff time.

Hannover’s match was cancelled as two players in the squad tested positive for the coronavirus, causing all players and staff to go into quarantine.

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was quoted as saying the decision to play this weekend “is the right way to go,” and claiming that while public safety should be considered, “at the end of the day, professional football is also about financials,” claiming that smaller clubs could face a crisis if they do not receive revenue. “There is a large three-digit million sum for the 1st and 2nd leagues that would be lit on fire.”

Rummenigge also asked UEFA to postpone World Cup qualifiers scheduled for later this month, saying the travel associated with cross-continent competition is an unnecessary risk. “I would strongly recommend that FIFA and Uefa skip the suspension period,” he said. “That would mean that the players would travel around the world. In our view, this is associated with risks that should not be underestimated.”

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich player Thiago Alcantara was against the decision, saying in a social media post, “This is crazy. Please stop fooling around and land on reality. Let’s be honest, there are much more important priorities than any sport.”

Bayern Munich is set to play Union Berlin on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET. The league’s matchweek schedule begins today as Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn meet with a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Bayern’s game against Chelsea in Champions League play scheduled for next week has been postponed by UEFA.

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UEFA postpones all next week’s European fixtures amid coronavirus outbreak

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On Friday morning UEFA announced that all of next week’s European fixtures will be postponed as the European governing body prepares to brace for the long-term effects of the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

UEFA is meeting next week to discuss the possibility of postponing this summer’s EURO 2020 tournament to next summer, and calling off any fixtures next week was a necessary first step towards a longer-term strategy.

The news means second-leg Champions League Round of 16 games between Manchester City and Real Madrid, Juventus and Lyon, Barcelona and Napoli, and Bayern and Chelsea have all been pushed back to an undetermined date. Also included in the blanket sweep are a swath of Europa League Round of 16 games that include Wolves, Manchester United, Inter, and many others. Both Wolves and Manchester United took part in matches on Friday, with Wolves drawing Olympiakos 1-1 and Manchester United hammering LASK 5-0. Italian clubs Roma and Inter both had their first leg matches postponed earlier this week with Italy one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus in the world.

Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis being diagnosed with coronavirus, causing the club to test its entire staff and squad, but all came back negative. In addition, Juventus player Daniele Rugani tested positive for the virus, along with Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The postponement also includes UEFA Youth League matches with the competition meant to be playing quarterfinal games next week. Clubs like Real Madrid, Ajax, Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb, and RB Salzburg are all still in the competition at this stage, while Juventus and Inter have yet to take part in their scheduled Round of 16 matches.

UEFA is considering postponing Euro 2020 this summer, which would give domestic leagues the opportunity to extend club matches through the summer in a bid to finish league competition without cramming an enormous amount of fixtures into a few months, putting significant strain on players’ bodies. It would also, however, clog the international window next summer with 2022 World Cup qualifying also meant to be played. It is possible the UEFA Nations League would have to be sacrificed in order to make the scheduling work.

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Scottish Premiership next to postpone indefinitely due to coronavirus

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The Scottish Premiership has become the latest European league to postpone its season amid the growing COVID-19 viral outbreak as all levels of Scottish soccer were frozen amid the growing pandemic.

While the Scottish government left the league wiggle room to play this weekend’s round of fixtures by tabbing Monday as its cutoff date for banning gatherings of 500 or more people, the league decided to suspend all operations with immediate effect. The news comes down ahead of Sunday’s scheduled Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox.

“Since the guidance outlined by governments last night we have been engaged in extensive dialogue to clarify the position and implications of that guidance for Scottish football,” said Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell.

“Today’s announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster noted that the league had taken into account decisions from other leagues around Europe, including that from the Premier League which came down earlier Friday morning. “We have been in intensive and detailed discussions since last night and have also been taking on board the experience of our counterparts in England and across Europe.”

“The health and safety of fans, players and officials is absolutely paramount. We have not yet had any confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst players in Scotland, but, given the nature of this outbreak, it seems only a matter of time. We realize that many people will be bitterly disappointed, and we would obviously prefer to be in a position where we can continue as normal, but that’s neither realistic nor possible.”

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