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Brazil, Argentina league soccer players seek full pay amid coronavirus

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SAO PAULO — As soccer players around Europe accept pay cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic, some of their less-well-compensated South American counterparts are fighting for every penny.

In Brazil and Argentina, players aren’t budging during the league shutdown despite forced cuts to staffing and wages in other leagues around the continent.

Negotiations in Brazil between an association of clubs and the players’ union have failed to reach a deal on pay and early vacations. Team captains and executives are now trying to reach individual decisions, but those could end up in court.

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Brazil’s top clubs, fearing a loss of sponsors and rising debts, wanted to cut player salaries by 25% until the pandemic ends. But some players – including those who have been paid late in the past – have asked for the Brazilian soccer confederation to step in. So far it hasn’t, but the union did give some ground on the issue of vacations.

Former players, executives and coaches said they were inspired by the example set by Lionel Messi, who took a 70% cut in pay to help Barcelona keep its staffers during the pandemic. But the voices in Brazil sound more like that of Atlético Mineiro defender Guilherme Arana.

“I don’t think there is a reason (to cut). We are stopping because we need to,” the 22-year-old Arana told Fox Sports. “It is the world that is stopping.”

Atlético, however, said Sunday it will cut salaries by 25%, except for staff members on lower wages.

In Argentina, which has about 4,000 male and female professional soccer players, clubs have not cut salaries and the country’s national federation has not made any recommendations on the issue.

Players’ union leader Sérgio Marchi was, unsurprisingly, against any cuts. He insisted in a radio interview that “it is fundamental” to respect the salaries of soccer players because it would allow the league to resume “without any sort of conflict after this contingency is over.”

“Some (officials) are seeking excuses or mitigating factors for their bad management or to their flawed behavior at the time they are setting up a budget,” he said.

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Players in Colombia asked for full pay, but clubs acted swiftly to start saving money.

Jaguares suspended the contracts of 13 members of its squad, Millionarios reduced wages without much debate and Santa Fé pitched fans against players on Twitter by asking them if salaries should be cut. The query ended with 62% of fans voting yes.

Colombian league organizers are also asking the government to broaden some economic policies to help clubs, including those that have suspended players’ contracts so they wouldn’t go bankrupt.

“We don’t want taxpayer money to deal with the financial difficulties during this mandatory stop,” Jorge Enrique Vélez, the head of the league, said in an interview with Radio Caracol. “We are asking for policies that the government has already set for tourism and aviation industries. We also had to stop 100%, and we have no revenues during this time.”

In Uruguay, some players are now claiming unemployment benefits after several clubs, including Montevideo powerhouse Peñarol, suspended their contracts. The country’s soccer association has also cut pay for staff, including 73-year-old national team coach Oscar Tabárez.

The biggest exception is in Peru, where Alianza Lima players openly suggested they should be paid less so the club can afford to keep all its workers. Goalkeeper Leao Butrón said the decision was “easy to make.”

“Yes, the offer actually came from us. We wanted to give the club a break,” Butrón said in a radio interview. “They told us that it is not necessary for now. But we don’t know when this will end. We are still willing. Beyond being an economic problem, it is a liquidity issue. A financial issue. We can give a hand if extreme measures are needed.”

Messi: Barcelona players to cut wages 70 percent

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Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has announced that players at the Catalan club will cut their wages by 70 percent among the growing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Messi, 32, released the update on his Instagram account on Monday as he also hit back at critics who had called for a wage reduction earlier as the situation had deteriorated in Spain over the last week.

The Barcelona and Argentine legend explained that extra time was taken to make sure every single member of staff at Barcelona would be paid due to a combination of their wage reduction and initial funds provided by the players.

“The time has come to announce that, apart from the reduction of 70 per cent of our salary during the state of alarm, we are going to make contributions as well so that club employees can collect 100 per cent of their salary for the duration of this situation,” Messi aaid. “If we did not speak until now, it was because the priority for us was to find solutions that were real to help the club.”

He also hit out at critics who had called for earlier action from the players as the Argentine superstar continues to find his voice, particularly when it comes to standing up against those in power at Barcelona.

“Much has been written and said about the first team of FC Barcelona in what refers to the salaries of the players during this state of alarm,” Messi said. “First of all we want to clarify that our will has always been to apply a decrease in the salary we receive, because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first ones who have always helped the club when asked.

“Many times we have even done it on our own initiative, at other times that we thought necessary or important. It does not surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass and tried to add pressure about something that we always knew we would do. In fact if the agreement has been delayed for a few days it is simply because we were looking for a formula to help the club and also its workers in these difficult times.”

What Messi says goes and increasingly there is a feeling that he will one day be the president of FC Barcelona. If not, the way he has spoken out against the club suggests that tensions are running high and he could well be thinking about spending the final few years of his playing career away from Barca.

Barcelona prepared to meet $124M release clause for Martinez

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Lautaro Martinez’s incredible season is paying off big time for Inter Milan.’

The Serie A side reportedly resisted big money overtures from Barcelona this summer, pointing to his approximate $124 million release clause.

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Now Barca is said to be prepared to meet that clause in order to land Martinez.

Football-Espana says that a cash-plus-player deal is the other option. Barca would be willing to send Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic, while Antonio Conte would prefer Nelson Semedo or Arthur.

Signing the 22-year-old Argentine could help sate the concern of countryman Lionel Messi, who’s watched Barca fail to provide him adequate reinforcements as Real Madrid stockpiled young talent. Messi was reportedly disappointed that the Blaugranas failed to pony up for Neymar this summer.

Martinez has 16 goals and four assists in 31 matches this season, including a goal against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

He’s Inter’s second-leading scorer behind Romelu Lukaku, and the Serie A side has nine points insulation on the UCL chasing pack with a match-in-hand.

Barca is going to have get rid of some players to pay big for Martinez, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele challenging the club on different levels. And who knows who else may want to leave Barcelona given its messy season (maybe really messy is a better choice)?

Valencia’s Garay announces positive coronavirus test

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Ezequiel Garay has announced that he has coronavirus and is in isolation, as La Liga club Valencia announced five confirmed cases after squad testing.

The Argentine, 33, tore his ACL last month and has missed Valencia’s last eight matches.

Marca says Garay is the first La Liga player to make such an announcement. He was tested along with his entire team, putting the squad in isolation as well.

Valencia urged fans to stay in their homes, proclaiming faith in the direction of Spanish medical authorities.

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“It is clear that I started 2020 badly,” Garay began an Instagram post with a bit of sardonic humor before adding that he “feels very well” and will follow the isolation protocols given by doctors.

Garay joins a growing list of players to have been diagnosed with the virus, including Wolves loanee Patrick Cutrone, Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

The defender has 32 caps for his national team, and has represented Zenit Saint-Petersburg, Benfica, and Real Madrid amongst others.

Garay arrived in Europe from Newell’s Old Boys in 2005, and has won trophies in four countries including wins for Real Madrid and Valencia in the Copa del Rey.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Tevez goal gives Boca Juniors Argentine title on final day

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Boca Juniors leapfrogged rival Buenos Aires club River Plate on the final day of the season to win the Superliga Argentina, with Carlos Tevez providing the title-winning goal.

River Plate came into the day in first place on 46 points, with Boca Juniors a point back at 45. River Plate was wrestled to a 1-1 draw on the road at 14th placed Atletico Tucuman, held scoreless in the second half. That gave Boca a way through, and at home against 19th placed Gimnasia, Carlos Tevez scored the game’s only goal to see the hosts jump River Plate in the standings and win the title.

The goal was an absolute howitzer from the top of the box that Tevez smashed so hard that Gimnasia goalkeeper Jorge Broun got a hand to but still couldn’t keep out. The build-up play was quality as well, with Sebastian Villa shrugging off a physical challenge from a defender and substitute Ramon Abila sliding to deliver the parallel assist.

Boca had been in second since early December, dropping out of the top spot thanks to a three-match winless run. But they finished the season on a six-match winning streak, refusing to concede a single goal for the final five matches of the campaign – a 460-minute goalless streak to help secure the crown. River Plate bagged a five-match winning streak starting with the turn of the calendar year, but ended the season with a pair of 1-1 draws against Defensa and Tucuman.

The title is Boca’s 34th in club history and sees them return to the top slot after a year off, having finished third last season behind title-winners Racing and second-placed Defensa.

The Argentine top-flight features a single round-robin season with its 23-team league that carries through early March, with its Copa de la Superliga to follow and carry the campaign through the end of May. Boca finished second in last year’s Copa, falling to Tigres in the final.

Tevez was also on the field for Manchester City’s final-day title victory when they defeated QPR 3-2 in 2012 on Sergio Aguero’s incredibly late goal.