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Enrique: ‘I could return’ to Barcelona one day

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Barcelona may be able to go back to a club favorite coach in the future, as Luis Enrique said he would leave the door open for a chance to coach the Blaugrana again.

Speaking in a Q&A from home with Spanish National Team fans on Youtube, Enrique covered a number of topics including the coronavirus, his thoughts on how the current Spain squad compares with other big nations in Europe, and Barcelona.

[READ: The Premier League provides an update on future matches]

“I cannot choose,” Enrique said when asked if he had a favorite season at Barcelona. “I spent eight years as a player and three as a coach, as well as another three at Barça B. I keep all the experience. I feel lucky for having spent so many years in a club like Barça, which gave me everything.

Enrique added, when asked if he would return to Barcelona: “In all the teams where I have trained, I have left the door open and could return, but my time at Barcelona was wonderful and I will always be grateful.”

Enrique was Barcelona manager between 2014 and 2017, and led the club to some of its best results, as well as playing a beautiful style of soccer, since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2012. Enrique won two La Liga titles as well as the UEFA Champions League, UEFA SuperCup and FIFA Club World Cup. He also won the Copa Del Rey in all three years as manager.

The 49-year-old former midfielder has been Spanish National Team coach since 2018, though he took a break from the position in 2019 as his family suffered a terrible tragedy, the death of his daughter. He has since returned as full-time national team coach.

On a brighter note, when asked what he is doing to fill the time during his self-isolation at home in Spain, Enrique said that one of the things he is doing is learning English. He reportedly lived for six months in Australia after he retired as a player in 2004 and he’s been rumored to take over at Premier League clubs in the past.

In general, you don’t need to speak English to coach in the Premier League, but if he can speak well enough to get his message across, he may feel even more confident about taking a job in England. Perhaps after the 2021 European championships, Enrique could look to move abroad for the first time since a one-season spell at AS Roma in Italy.

Pep Guardiola gives more than $1 million to coronavirus fight in Catalonia

Pep Guardiola
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has donated over $1 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Catalonia.

Guardiola, 49, is a sporting hero in Spain, where he won six La Liga titles and a European Cup as a player with Barcelona before leading the club to three more La Liga crowns and two UEFA Champions Leagues as manager.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sky Sports, Guardiola’s donation will help the Fundacio Angel Soler Daniel with the acquisition and supply of health equipment as well as the “alternative 3D production of respirator masks and other protective items for health workers.”

Guardiola was named the 2009 Catalan of the Year, and the region’s causes have always been very close to his heart. He was charged for wearing a yellow ribbon in tribute to the Catalan independence fight in 2018.

The BBC says Guardiola is spending time at his home in Barcelona during the Premier League suspension, which runs until at least April 30.

Asensio leads Real Madrid to victory in online tournament

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MADRID — Real Madrid forward Marco Asensio led his team to victory in an online video game tournament that raised more than 140,000 euros ($149,000) for the fight against the coronavirus.

[ MORE: La Liga suspended indefinitely

Marco Asensio beat Leganes player Aitor Ruibal 4-2 in Sunday’s final of the three-day tournament hosted by well-known Spanish e-sports play-by-play commentator Ibai Llanos.

Eighteen teams participated, each represented by a player from their real squads.

Spanish authorities have said more than 33,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the country, with 2,182 deaths.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

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La Liga suspended indefinitely

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La Liga has been suspended indefinitely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has hit Spain incredibly hard over the last week.

The Spanish Football Association and La Liga had previously agreed to suspend the season until April 3 but given the huge rise in cases in Spain in recent days, they have released a new statement.

In that statement they do not give a date for when the league will return and instead state that games will return when the Spanish government say they can resume without any health risks.

“The Monitoring Commission established by the current RFEF and La Liga Coordination Agreement agrees the suspension of professional football competitions until the authorities of the Government of Spain and the General Administration of the State consider that they can be resumed without creating any health risk.

“Both the RFEF and La Liga wish to express our greatest public gratitude to all those who are dedicating their best efforts to provide essential services to the Spanish people and also share our condolences for all the deceased and a warm embrace from the world of football to the many families that are losing loved ones.”

This is the correct call from La Liga and it is one many leagues in Europe and across the world will start to follow.

Fans, clubs, players and everybody else in-between are keen to have a date in mind for when games will return but this is such a fluid, dangerous situation that setting a date just isn’t plausible.

All leagues in all sports should be suspended indefinitely until things are under control.

Interestingly this statement comes shortly after La Liga president Javier Tebas said he believes European leagues would return in mid-May.

Lower-division clubs among hardest hit by pandemic

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MADRID — A Spanish third-division soccer team had just started selling a special membership package for the decisive portion of the season, hoping to bring in some extra income.

Another was counting on the boost from revenue on the back of ticket sales for the upcoming derby against a regional rival, one of its biggest matches of the season.

They were not expecting the coronavirus outbreak, nor to see soccer come to a halt.

The suspension of competitions across the globe has taken a toll on top teams everywhere, but it will be for the smaller clubs that the financial impact may cause the most damage.

While the stoppage has already forced some teams in the major leagues to cut players’ salaries, the effect of the crisis on lower-division clubs may be even more dire, lasting longer and possibly leading to financial collapse.

“Every team in the third division will suffer serious consequences,” Franco Caselli, president of Spanish third-division club Burgos, told The Associated Press. “Some more than others, depending on their economic situation.”

In most countries, there are no lucrative television broadcast deals for teams outside the first and second divisions. Their income comes mostly from ticket sales, small sponsors, team merchandising, season memberships and youth academy memberships – most of which have been affected by the suspension of games.

Caselli said Burgos, one of the bigger clubs in Spain’s third division, is doing well financially and should be able to withstand the crisis, but not without losses.

“We had put on sale a special membership package for the last matches of the league, and more than 1,000 had already been sold,” he said. “That was a 20 percent increase in new memberships at this stage, so the losses will be important.”

Mérida, also in Spain’s third tier, was looking to pack its 14,600-capacity stadium for the derby against Badajoz just before it was suspended because of the outbreak, jeopardizing one of its biggest revenue sources of the season.

Fourth-division club Sant Andreu, which plays in a Barcelona neighborhood at a small stadium where players’ errant shots can go over the stands and onto the nearby streets, estimated a 30 percent deficit from the current stoppage of play.

“We are facing the unknown,” Manuel Camino, president and owner of the club, told the AP. “We don’t know how long this will last.”

Camino said he also doesn’t fear for the club’s future, but others elsewhere were not so optimistic.

Italian third-division club Casertana was one of several lower-league teams to announce it can no longer pay players’ wages.

Casertana President Giuseppe D’Agostino said the financial strain on his cheese company – which specializes in buffalo mozzarella – combined with the lack of matches, became too much to handle.

“Unfortunately, the state of emergency created by the coronavirus represented an enormous blow to all commercial enterprises … and did not spare my company,” D’Agostino said. “That has made it impossible to respect (a) deadline for players’ wages.”

English clubs also struggled to withstand the crisis. Fifth-tier Barnet had to place all non-playing staff on notice in “emergency measures to preserve the club.”

“We have to consider the impact that COVID-19 will have in the immediate and long-term future,” the club said in a statement.

Club chairman Tony Kleanthous said it was his “responsibility to ensure Barnet FC continues to survive and remains financially stable and therefore, I have had to make difficult decisions.”

In Spain, the Spanish soccer federation, which oversees the lower divisions, said it has been able to guarantee the money destined to smaller clubs thanks in part to the extra revenue it generated by taking the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

“We have guaranteed 100 percent of the help this year and also for next year,” federation President Luis Rubiales said.

Top-division teams in Europe had already shown signs of struggle, with some in Germany making salary cuts. Players for German title challenger Borussia Mönchengladbach this week approached the club with an offer to take reduced salaries, while Scottish club Hearts asked all of its players and other full-time employees to accept a 50 percent pay cut or contract termination.

Clubs in Switzerland and France also took measures to try to reduce the losses caused by the pandemic, which has infected more than 275,000 people and killed more than 11,400 worldwide.

Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said recently that he hoped the leagues could resume as soon as possible, even if the matches are played in empty stadiums.

“If someone says they’re ruling out ghost games (empty stadium games), then they don’t need to think any more about whether we’ll be playing with 18 or 20 pro clubs,” he said, referring to the debate about promotion and relegation for next season. “Because then we won’t have 20 pro clubs anymore.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.