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Sports News

England vs West Indies: Cricket returns for first Test as frustrating and engaging as it ever was

If you have been lucky enough to reunite with the family and friends after lockdown, you will have had that moment. Long after the embraces and tears, when you remember how it all was. Ultimately, the annoying bits.

The mother that worries you have not been eating enough. The father that reckons you’ve had too much. The sibling that still knows how to push your buttons. Those mates who are still late even though they’ve had months of notice – or the ones that chastise you for doing so. That’s real love, the kind reinforced by healthy amounts of eye-rolling. A reminder of the faults that make what you love so unique.

Maybe, then, this was the way cricket was supposed to return. With just 4.1 overs possible by 2:50pm due to rain, and only a further 13.3 overs in the hour and 37 minutes. Why fans at home had their misery compounded at not being able to attend matches in the near future when technical difficulties meant Sky missed the first wicket. That – England 35 for one after 17.4 overs – was day one’s lot.

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It was a misery shared by those taking part. Or not, in case of Stuart Broad, whose streak of 51 consecutive home Tests ended, sidelined for a brisker triumvirate of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and his regular partner James Anderson, supplemented by Dom Bess’s off-spin and now uber allrounder, captain Ben Stokes. Numbers like “34 years old” and “485 Test wickets” tell the story of both sides of that decision. This is absolutely not the end, nor is it ‘just’ rotation.

Or even by Dom Sibley, who spent lockdown shedding 12kg and then lost his off stump four balls into his return. His misjudgement to leave a delivery from Shannon Gabriel that moved in when the previous delivery had moved out was the only wicket in an underwhelming 82 minutes of play.

But the pitfalls of the game are no strangers to us, even if they were becoming unfamiliar after not seeing any of it since March. And while these issues gave us some intimate torment, there were joys to behold from old times.

The usual hub-bub on the field at least with training drills and huddles – acceptably spaced – opening up proceedings. Two blazered captains tossing a coin up into overcast skies knowing how it falls will play a huge part in the coming days. The pontification as to whether Stokes was right to bat first followed, as it would have done if he’d chosen to bowl.

That first delivery of the match, skewed into the off side by Rory Burns off Gabriel, brought with it a welcome sound of leather on willow. Burns would also provide the first run – a leg bye – and the first boundary of this return: a typically atypical fluent flick through midwicket 35 balls – or four-and-a-half hours – into the day. He might not have been allowed to last the course had he been given out LBW when he offered no stroke to his fourth delivery. A more generous umpire – perhaps a more “match fit” umpire? – would have given the bowler the benefit of clipping, which is what ball tracking confirmed.

He would add two more boundaries – the best a wristy slap through backward point off Alzarri Joseph – to finish level on boundaries with Joe Denly, whose were a fraction more skittish. Few have split opinion more confusingly than Denly: a now 34-year old in the unenviable position of being neither here nor there AND a number three.

Perhaps, though, in a world of uncertainty, the uncertain one deserves faith. His 14 off 48 (Burns alongside him on 20 off 55) saw him almost find mid on without a run to his name with an ill-judged pull shot and then squirt his third four perilously through the slip cordon. Beyond him at number four is Zak Crawley who has age and a higher ceiling on his side. Joe Root’s return for the second Test next week will almost certainly be for Denly should he be outscored. That is for certain.

Beyond the prohibited use of saliva, the matchplay was much the same. The coronavirus protocols, for the most part, were for those on the periphery: the BBC TMS pundits going back to their rooms between on-air stints, the journalists temperature checked and given their own table each, complete with jugs of water and alcoholic wipes.

But this new world cricket has re-emerged into is not just one of coronavirus but social responsibility. And after months of cricket asking awkward questions of itself, the opportunity to make a more visual statement was taken by both sides at the start of play.

With the players braced for the first ball of the day, and with every member of both sets of staff ringed around the boundary in front of the pavilion, both groups took a knee. While doing so the West Indies players raised their right fists, each wearing a black glove to replicate the Black Power salute made most famous by 200m sprinter Tommie Smith who performance the gesture while own the podium at the 1986 Olympic Games. On the broadcast, a stunning rain-delay feature on race led by Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent not just hammered home what this is all about, but why it is all about.

Cricket and politics has been a bond often used for nefarious means by both. But the taking off the knee in unison will have been all the more profound with so much of the world watching cricket’s return. Ensuring this goes beyond shareable photos and little but a long-term memory is very much down to all within the game – from power-brokers and players to casual observers. Society’s ills are cricket’s to bear, and the English game has many. And this served as a reminder as to how a welcome distraction

Cricket is back. As frustrating and engaging as it ever was. And yet, even after just 82 minutes, clearly never more important for both distraction and purpose.

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Soccer

Mason Greenwood offered 'life-changing amount of money' to leave Man Utd

Juventus offered Mason Greenwood and his family ‘life-changing amounts of money’ to leave Manchester United in 2019, according to the Athletic.

The teenager has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at Old Trafford, scoring 15 goals in all competitions and establishing himself as a first team player at the age of 18.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed his faith in the striker last summer when he allowed Romelu Lukaku to join Inter Milan in a £73m deal and promoted Greenwood into the first team squad.

The Norwegian described Greenwood as the best finisher he’s worked with after the striker’s brace against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Greenwood signed a four-year deal in October 2019 at Old Trafford but his potential was known across Europe and Andy Mitten claims Juventus offered the teenager a huge contract to move to Turin last year.

‘I think he can be a world-class player,” Mitten told the Talk of the Devils podcast.

‘I know that there has been offers for him. Go back a year and Juventus were prepared to offer his family life-changing amounts of money.

‘Manchester United deserve credit for the way they got him to sign a new contract’.

Greenwood is expected to start against Aston Villa on Thursday as United seek to capitalise on Leicester City’s draw against Arsenal.

Solskjaer’s men can move to within one point of the Foxes, who have won just one Premier League game since the restart.

However, Villa held United to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford earlier this season and they’re fighting to survive relegation.

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MLB

Patrick Mahomes compared to LeBron James and Peyton Manning – ‘Putting Kansas City on the map’

Patrick Mahomes’ meteoric rise as the face of the NFL has put Kansas City on the map, says KSHB Sports Director Mick Shaffer.

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Jaw-dropping talent on the field became worthy of jaw-dropping money off it this week as the Chiefs maestro signed the biggest contract in sports history.

An unflinching show of faith from both parties comes after Mahomes led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl crown in 50 years in February, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers.

It capped an incredible route to Miami in which Mahomes helped the Chiefs come back from 24-0 against the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round, before also coming from 10 points down against the Tennessee Titans.

“We’re in Kansas City, we’re modest for a reason here, not a lot of greatness happens in sports and we’re kind of humble in that way,” 41 Action News’ Shaffer told Sky Sports News. “So this is very new to us to have a guy making that kind of money. Everybody here is trying to wrap their heads around it still.

“I think he is the face of the NFL. If it wasn’t for LeBron (James) he might be the face of American sports these days.

“More than anything he’s one of these guys that can really put a city on a map. Nobody cared about Indianapolis before Peyton Manning got there, nobody really cared about Cleveland sports wise before LeBron got there and then they did.

“Mahomes is that type of guy. He’s putting Kansas City on the sports map and it’s really cool to be involved and be around it while it’s happening.”

Besides being appreciated for his talent on the field, Mahomes is universally respected away from it as both a humble and charitable professional.

For many in Chiefs Kingdom, their face of the franchise would have been deserving of even more than the half-a-billion he could bring in over the next 12 years.

“(The feeling among fans was) That the Chiefs got a steal of a deal basically,” Shaffer added. “Everybody has been like ‘they should have paid more!’ Because he really is a guy that you could make great arguments for him to get $50m-a-year or even more than that.

“Mahomes if you know him, he’s not just all talk. He’s still kind of the same small town Texas guy that hasn’t changed. Obviously now his guard is going to have to be up a little bit more, that comes with the territory of being the Super Bowl MVP and having that type of contract.

“I just got off a one-on-one zoom with him, he’s playing in a golf tournament this weekend out in Lake Tahoe, we spoke about that, he loves Whataburger which is a big fast food chain coming here, he’s still so down to earth and everybody here loves him.”

In a Chiefs press conference on Tuesday, Mahomes cited his desire to not only gain job security through his bumper deal, but ensure his teammates continue to be ‘rewarded’.

While Mahomes’ agents Leigh Steinberg and Chris Cabott played a significant role in negotiations, the 24-year-old himself was also heavily involved in seeking flexibility that would allow the team to sign players.

“He can do no wrong,” said Shaffer. “I joked that if Mahomes starts robbing banks, everybody in Kansas City would be like ‘okay, that’s fine, what’s wrong with that?’ He can’t do any wrong.

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Soccer

Man Utd and Chelsea linked with ‘new Alvaro Morata’ who has already rejected Arsenal

Sparta Prague could be forced to offload sought-after attacker Adam Hlozek in the upcoming transfer window, reports claim. Premier League trio Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have each been linked with the teenage forward.

The 17-year-old striker, who can also operate on either flank, is considered the brightest talents in European football and won the 2019 Czech talent of the year award.

Hlozek’s scored 12 goals and provided 12 assists in 60 appearances for Sparta Prague’s senior side – including one during a Europa League qualifying clash with Trabzonspor.

His exploits and rapid development have seen him earn comparisons with Czech greats Pavel Nedved, Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky.

And he’s already got several heavyweights circling.

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In fact, Arsenal and Bayern Munich both invited the then 15-year-old Hlozek to their respective training facilities for trials in 2018.

But his agent Pavel Paska revealed that Hlozek rejected their advances in favour of staying at Sparta Prague.

“Before he signed his first contract with Sparta at the age of 15, scouts from all over Europe put enormous pressure on him, saying: ‘Come to us; we will make you a star!'” Paska said.

“It is not easy to reject Arsenal or Bayern.”

Goal claim Chelsea and Manchester United were also interested around that time.

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Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Ajax and RB Leipzig are also being linked with the forward who’s been likened to Alvaro Morata.

Italian publication Calciomercato are now reporting that AC Milan have expressed their interest on the advice of Ralf Rangnick, who will become the club’s new head coach and technical director at the end of the Serie A season.

Former Arsenal star Rosicky, who works as sporting director at Sparta Prague, doesn’t think now would a good time for Hlozek to leave.

“I think it’s early for him to go somewhere,” Rosicky told iSport. “Let’s be patient; let him grow up. He is 17 and if he continues to grow, he will not miss out on moving abroad.

“If something happens, which I don’t expect, it will be too soon for him.”

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Soccer

Chelsea star Jorginho responds to transfer rumours amid Juventus links

Jorginho admits he is "focused" on getting Chelsea into the Champions League while acknowledging there is speculation over his future.

The Italian has only been at Chelsea for two seasons but has been linked with a move to Juventus.

Jorginho followed former boss Maurizio Sarri to west London but the tactician returned to his homeland after just one year.

The midfielder has always been key to the possession-based system Sarri looks to play which led to rumours of another reunion.

But the 28-year-old maintains his sole goal in to ensure the Blues are at Europe's top table.

"I just have to stay focused on when the team needs me," he told the club's official website.

"There have been rumours but I haven’t heard anything, I am just focusing on finishing the season well with Chelsea and qualifying for the Champions League."

Jorginho has plenty of competition in midfield with the likes of N'Golo Kante, Matteo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all eyeing starting berths.

The emergence of Billy Gilmour has added another name to the mix with the youngster getting the nod in Chelsea's 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.

But Frank Lampard insists his team selection at Selhurst Park has no reflection on who he wants to keep at Stamford Bridge.

He said: “It doesn’t mean anything for the future of Jorginho, Gilmour or anyone else in the team, or on the impact that Jorginho had on the team in calming the team down with his passes at the end.

"I know he can give us that and he will continue to give us that.”

Jorginho has made 38 appearances for the Blues in all competitions.

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Rugby

Coronavirus: 10 players and staff at Premiership clubs test positive

Six players and four non-playing members of staff have tested positive after the first round of Premiership Rugby’s coronavirus testing.

A total of 804 tests were carried out across the 12 clubs on Monday.

Those who have tested positive and their close contacts will now isolate and be assessed in line with guidelines.

The season was suspended in March and Premiership Rugby hopes to resume the league on the weekend of 15 August.

The identities of those who have tested positive have not been made public.

Premiership teams were told at the start of June that they could begin socially-distanced non-contact training in small groups, and were able to progress to close contract training from Monday onwards.

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MLB

As Redskins review name, Dan Snyder’s once-touted Native American foundation has gone dark

In the face of mounting public pressure to change the name of his NFL team, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wrote in a 2014 letter that it was time to focus on actions, not words.

That's why, he wrote, he was announcing the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, a nonprofit organization that would "provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities."

"I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life — one tribe and one person at a time," Snyder wrote.

Now, more than six years later, the team is undergoing a "thorough review" of its name amid a new wave of criticism and public statements from key sponsors. 

And after a splashy start, Snyder's once-trumpeted foundation has effectively gone dark.

According to an audited financial statement obtained by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (WROAF) distributed $0 in grants or donations to Native American causes during the fiscal year ending Feb. 28, 2019 — the most recent year for which records are publicly available. 

The absence of financial giving in the 2019 fiscal year is part of a steep decline since the foundation's inaugural year. 

Tax records show the WROAF donated nearly $3.7 million to Native American causes in that first year, but less than half that amount ($1.6 million) in Year 2. The foundation subsequently donated about $650,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, $303,000 in the 2018 fiscal year and $0 in the 2019 fiscal year, according to tax records.

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As a result of that decline, the WROAF has spent more money maintaining its own staff than it has directed to Native American causes in each of the two most recent years for which records are publicly available.

Brian Mittendorf, an expert in non-profit accounting, said the organization's finances paint the picture of a private foundation that is "just kind of hovering out there."

"They’ve shifted away from providing grants to charities that are engaged in these areas. They’ve, in fact, shifted to a level of zero," said Mittendorf, an accounting professor at Ohio State.

"I guess the big question you would say is: What is it they’re doing instead? And it’s largely paying salaries. How that translates to the charitable outcomes is unclear."

In response to a series of questions about the WROAF, team spokesperson Sean DeBarbieri said the foundation has directed more money to Native American causes than any other professional sports team since its creation in 2014, citing a figure of nearly $10 million. (He later clarified that only $6.25 million has been directly distributed to Native American communities, and that the $10 million figure includes the foundation's operational and overhead costs.)

DeBarbieri also wrote in an email that the WROAF conducted two football camps, facilitated the donation of 160 pairs of glasses and delivered food and supplies to various tribes in South Dakota during the 2019 fiscal year, which covers the period from Feb. 28, 2018 to Feb. 28, 2019. 

Boyd Gourneau, a leader with the Lower Brule Sioux, confirmed that his tribe benefited from all three activities, but he said the glasses were donated in the fall of 2019 and the other activities occurred roughly three or more years ago. He said his tribe nevertheless has a "great" relationship with the foundation.

"We haven't had a lot of interaction lately," Gourneau said Wednesday morning. "But you know, every tribe is kind of in a fight for survival right now. And when it comes, we'll take it. We can sure use it."

While the WROAF is still registered as an active charitable organization in Virginia, according to state records, there have been few public traces of its activity since 2018.

The foundation does not have active social media accounts, and the domain name for its web site has expired, though the site itself is still accessible. Promotional materials distributed by the team focus on the efforts of The Redskins Charitable Foundation, a separate nonprofit entity.

The lapse of the WROAF stands in stark contrast to the bombast with which Snyder, who has owned the Redskins since 1999, announced its creation.

In his four-page letter to fans in 2014, Snyder wrote that he had visited 26 reservations across 20 states in an effort to learn about the hardships faced by Native American communities. He also outlined charitable efforts that were already underway to address them.

"Because I’m so serious about the importance of this cause, I began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight, to learn and take direction from the Tribal leaders themselves," Snyder wrote.

In subsequent years, however, the WROAF quickly became a source of tension in some Native American communities, with multiple tribes or reservations declining to accept grants or donations from the foundation out of fear that they would become props in the ongoing fight over the NFL team's name.

The Quechan Tribe in Yuma, Arizona, for example, said it turned down a "blank check" from the WROAF that would have constructed a skate park on the Fort Yuma Reservation.

"We know bribe money when we see it," the Quechans said in a statement at the time.

Others were more open to the foundation's offers. The Chippewa Cree Tribe in Montana, for example, allowed the WROAF to finance the construction of a burgundy-and-gold playground on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. According to tax records, the tribe received more than $960,000 from the foundation in a three-year span beginning with the 2015 fiscal year.

Like other tribes, though, the Chippewa Cree saw that money dry up during the 2018 fiscal year. It did not receive any grants or contributions in that time period, according to the WROAF's tax filing. (A message left with the tribe's finance department Tuesday was not immediately returned.)

Mittendorf said he found the WROAF's recent financial records to be both bleak and unusual. He noted that the foundation had just $1,000 in cash on hand in February 2018, for example, and that its spending on staff relative to grants and donations was "pretty skewed" — especially in the 2019 fiscal year, when it did not issue any grants or donations at all.

"It’s certainly rare for a private foundation to not engage in grant-making, and not engage in direct charitable activity, either," Mittendorf said.

DeBarbieri said the foundation plans to focus on future programming that will have a larger reach than its past efforts. According to the WROAF's tax filing for the 2018 fiscal year, the majority of its most recent donations have been directed to schools. The median gift or grant distributed that year was $3,600. 

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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Racing

Jimmie Johnson announces return to NASCAR racing with a cringe-worthy rap video from his spotter

Surely, Jimmie Johnson shared a video of a dancing Earl Barban on Wednesday with good intentions and with permission from his Hendrick Motorsports spotter. But a simple “I’m back” would have sufficed.

Johnson, who was cleared Wednesday to return to racing after testing positive for COVID-19 and missing last week’s Brickyard 400, confirmed his status for Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway and, obviously unknowingly, embarrassed his spotter in the process.

Johnson said Barban’s support video, which appeared to be filmed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend, was “too good not to share.” We’ll have to agree to disagree.

It’s unclear whose voice recorded the cringe-worthy rap, but the culprit of the lyrics seems to be Barban himself because of the line, “I’ll do good for (Justin) Allgaier,” who ran the Indy race in Johnson’s place but crashed out early and finished 37th. Below are the lyrics.

“To our brother Jimmie, sure miss you at Indy.

“We wish our boy was here, but since you’re not, enjoy a beer.

“I’ll do good for Allgaier, but if I say I like it, I would be a liar.

“Kick this WuFlu in the ase, so you can get back here and race.”

Oof. At least Barban ended the video on a positive note with a message of care to Johnson and his family as they navigated a difficult scenario.

Johnson is able to return to racing this weekend because he has tested negative for COVID-19 twice this week, once on Monday and once on Tuesday. NASCAR requires two negative tests at least 24 hours apart before a person in the sport who tests positive can return.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” Johnson said in a team release. “I especially want to thank Justin Allgaier for stepping in for me at Indy and being a true pro. I’m excited about getting back to business with my team this weekend.”

Johnson, who was the first NASCAR driver to test positive for COVID-19 since the sport’s return to racing in May, never experienced any symptoms of the virus.

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Tennis

Novak Djokovic joins Rafael Nadal in casting doubt over US Open appearance

Novak Djokovic says he is unsure whether he will play at next month’s US Open. As it stands, the US Open is due to get underway on August 31 at Flushing Meadows, without fans in attendance.

Players will be required to stay at an official hotel outside Manhattan or private property at their own expense and there will be a limit on the number of people they can bring with them to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.

Following the US Tennis Association’s unveiling of their plans, Djokovic appeared to be more receptive to playing at the US Open.

But in the weeks since then Djokovic has tested positive for coronavirus and the number of cases in the US has risen again.

Victory in New York would move Djokovic to 18 Grand Slams and edge him closer to the record held by Roger Federer.

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But speaking in an interview with Serbian outlet Sportski Zurnal, Djokovic suggested his sights were set on the build-up to the rescheduled French Open.

“I still don’t know whether I will play at the US Open,” he said.

“I certainly won’t play Washington; Cincinnati is planned. Participation in Roland-Garros is safe for now, and Madrid and Rome are also planned.

“I fully support the USTA’s wish to hold tournaments in Washington, Cincinnati and the US Open, because it is very important for survival of many tennis professionals.

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“Like everyone, we are going through economic difficulties. Personally, I don’t have that kind of pressure that the others feel and of course I understand them because vast majority need to play now and earn money.

“I salute to the efforts being made to hold tournaments, especially in the USA and in Europe, despite this big crisis, but there is a limit to everything.”

Djokovic’s comments come after he appeared to signal his intention to skip the US Open by confirming his participation in the Madrid Masters.

The Masters 1000 event in Spain is set to start on September 14, one day after the men’s singles final.

Nadal is the defending US Open champion but has shared his worries about travelling to America in the current climate.

There is also the quick surface change from hard to clay which he will be reluctant to do given his past injury troubles.

On Tuesday, Madrid tournament director Feliciano Lopez tweeted: “I talked to my friend @RafaelNadal and he has confirmed his participation in Madrid next September.

“We wait for you as always with open arms in the Magic Box!”

And Nadal replied: “See you in Madrid in September. Meanwhile everything goes well!”

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Categories
Soccer

Chelsea chief Roman Abramovich gives Frank Lampard green light on latest signing

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will continue to bankroll the club this summer as he wants to take advantage of a unique opportunity to close the gap on Premier League pace-setters Liverpool and Manchester City.

The coronavirus has affected many clubs around the world as revenue streams were hit hard when matches were postponed for three months.

Supporters are still banned from entering stadiums across most of Europe which will continue to have a damning financial impact.

However, Chelsea are in a strong position following the recent sales of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard.

Abramovich is also one of the richest owners of a football club with Forbes’ latest information ranking his net worth at £9.6billion.

Therefore, the extremely rich Russian is hoping to snap up a few bargains and he is willing to fork out for Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

According to Sky Sports, Abramovich believes there is more value in the market and can see prices dropping because of the global pandemic.

The 53-year-old would rather invest heavily with the market severely affected so he is getting more for his money.

That is music to the ears of boss Frank Lampard, who has steered the club out of a two-window transfer ban.

The former midfielder resisted the opportunity to spend heavily in January but he will do so this summer.

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Ajax ace Hakim Ziyech and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner have already completed their moves to Stamford Bridge.

And Lampard has now been given the green light to press ahead and sign Havertz, who has scored 16 goals this season.

Meanwhile, German football expert Raphael Honigstein thinks Leverkusen will not let their star leave on the cheap.

“Well Chelsea are among a number of clubs who are interested in Kai Havertz, why wouldn’t they be?” Honigstein said.

“They are talking to him of course but that is no different from literally everybody who is talking to him. It comes down to the sticking point which is Leverkusen’s valuation.

“They want nothing less than €100million plus, maybe €120m for a player who is worth the money.

“But the current market doesn’t find clubs necessarily ready to put that much money on the table.”

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