Today’s back pages: Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid tie linked to coronavirus spread

A round-up of the sport headlines from UK newspapers on 21 April

Alvaro Morata scored for Atletico in their 3-2 win over Liverpool at Anfield on 11 March
Alvaro Morata scored for Atletico in their 3-2 win over Liverpool at Anfield on 11 March
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images )

Anfield tie under spotlight

The Guardian reports the claim that Atletico Madrid supporters may have brought coronavirus with them when they came to Anfield for last month’s Uefa Champions League tie.

The match, on 11 March, saw 3,000 Spaniards make the journey to Liverpool at a time when Madrid was already in the throes of a partial lockdown.

The Guardian says that Liverpool city council’s director of public health, Matthew Ashton, has admitted that the fixture “should have been called off”, while the mayor of Madrid, Jose Luis Martínez-Almeida, said at the weekend that it was a “mistake” to permit Atletico fans to make the journey.

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Speaking yesterday at the daily coronavirus press conference at Downing Street, the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, described the possibility of a link between cases of the virus in the two cities as an “interesting hypothesis”.

She then told a reporter from the Liverpool Echo: “I think it would be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that have circulated in Spain.”

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Gunners agree deal - but Ozil snubs pay cut

Many of the papers report the news that Arsenal have become the first Premier League club to agree a wage cut with its players.

Watford, West Ham and Southampton have all announced wage deferral schemes in recent weeks, but yesterday the Gunners revealed the terms of their deal.

“Arsenal hope to take a short cut”, says Metro, with the paper explaining that the players will take a 12.5% cut until March 2021, but this money will be reimbursed if they finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. If Arsenal make it to the Europa League the players will receive 7.5% back.

Metro quotes the Arsenal statement declaring that the “agreement is based on the assumption we will finish the season 2019/20 and receive the full broadcasting revenues”.

The majority of Arsenal’s squad agreed to the deal but the Daily Mirror and Daily Star report that Mesut Ozil is one of three first-team players to reject the club’s 12.5% pay cut.

Arsenal confirm wage deal but Mesut Ozil refuses 12.5% cut

Depression worry

The Times devotes part of its back page to a report warning that among professional footballers “symptoms of depression [have] doubled in the wake of lockdown measures”.

Between 1 January and 31 March, 299 members of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) sought therapy through Sporting Chance Clinic’s networks of therapists and a confidential helpline, “just under half as many as sought counselling services in the whole of 2019 [653]”.

As a consequence every pro player has been sent a mental-health survey by the PFA as they “seek feedback” from players in England’s male and female professional leagues.

The Times says that “counsellors have been made available to players via the Skype, FaceTime and Zoom video call apps to discuss any problems”.

Today’s sport headlines

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