Juventus mid-fielder Sami Khedira  (centre)
Juventus mid-fielder Sami Khedira (centre)

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira is learning to play the piano, La Liga clubs are facing off on playstation and Atalanta's Robin Gosens has been revising for exams in psychology.

Yet as thousands of footballers, from the highest levels to the lower leagues, remain on lockdown while coronavirus spreads across Europe, all of them are tasked with keeping themselves fit, as well as entertained.

"Everyone needs to be ready so that when the health advice says resume, we can resume straight away," Emmanuel Orhant, medical director of the French Football Federation (FFF), told AFP.

Nobody knows when that will be and with the global death toll from coronavirus passing 13,000 on Saturday, there is little appetite yet even to address the question.

But within football, the absence of a deadline only enhances the sense of urgency. In theory, the season could restart in a matter of weeks and clubs are determined to be ready.

"Players may even need to get their summer break in now," Brighton striker Glenn Murray told AFP.

"We might finish the 2019/20 season and then roll into 2020/21 without any break at all."

Asked if the players would accept that scenario, Murray said: "We don't have any choice."

It means fitness coaches and club doctors are creating week-to-week conditioning programmes, personalised for individual players, explained through Whatsapp and Skype, and dependent on both technology and trust.

"Every one of our players has been given the guidance they need from our coaches, nutritionists and doctors," Real Betis head of medical Jose Manuel Alvarez told AFP.

"It is up to them to take it."

Betis, who sit 12th in La Liga, have divided their squad into groups depending on physical characteristics, with one coach assigned to each.

Devices then send data on fatigue, sleep, pain and even moods while players submit reports to the doctors on their weight and temperature, and to the fitness department regarding targets achieved.

"Players know if they don't do their job they will be at a clear disadvantage against their teammates when normal training resumes," Alvarez says.

In that sense, they are given no excuses. Many players already have gyms at home but club owners have paid thousands to ensure those without have all the equipment they need.

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Free Press Journal