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Soccer

Manchester United considering three options over Odion Ighalo’s future amid FIFA proposals

Manchester United are concerned about their ability to keep Odion Ighalo beyond May. The Shanghai Greenland Shenhua loanee is contracted at Old Trafford until the end of next month. He has impressed since sealing a shock switch on the final day of January’s transfer window.

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Manchester United are open to keeping Ighalo but are aware his loan contract is likely to cover the remainder of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign.

Professional football has been suspended since the beginning of March due to the coronavirus pandemic and is unlikely to resume until June.

As a result, Premier League action plus continental competitions are set to run deep into the summer causing issues over players’ contracts which are due to expire.

FIFA have laid out proposals for short-term renewals to cover the rest of this term.

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“It is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would,” FIFA said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.

“A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.”

According to ESPN, Old Trafford officials are concerned that the proposals will be difficult to implement in practice because Shanghai Shenhua will want Ighalo back in time for the beginning of the Chinese Super League season, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is claimed the Premier League giants are considering three options over the former Watford striker’s future.

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They include trying to renegotiate Ighalo’s loan, attempting to sign the 30-year-old on a permanent basis or allowing him to return to China leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer short on options in attack.

While they are eager to keep the Nigeria international, United are aware that Shanghai Shenhua have the upper hand in negotiations.

Ighalo has admitted he would like to stay at the Theatre of Dreams.

“I am inspired by a lot of things at United,” said Ighalo. “I am really inspired and I am looking forward to spending more time with the team.

“Seeing the club from the outside you don’t know how big it is. But when you are inside you know how big the club is.

“I am inspired by the way the club is structured, I am inspired by the direction of the club.

“I am inspired by the development of the young players and how they are coming through from the grassroots to the first-team.”

Ighalo has scored four goals in eight appearances since arriving on loan. A permanent transfer would likely cost around £15million.

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Soccer

Man Utd chief Ed Woodward unlikely to sign two players because of Alexis Sanchez

Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has been linked with Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale repeatedly over the years. And, this summer, the Barcelona and Real Madrid players are set to become available. However, because of Alexis Sanchez, Woodward is unlikely to bring the La Liga stars to Old Trafford when the transfer window reopens.

Manchester United no longer sign proven and tested talent but, in January 2018, sensed an opportunity with Sanchez.

The Chile international had just months to run on his contract at Arsenal and had established himself as one of the Premier League’s best performers in the years previously, propelling the Gunners to two FA Cup trophies along the way.

United saw Sanchez as a player capable of winning them a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

And that’s why Woodward decided to give him a massive salary, giving the 31-year-old blockbuster wages close to £400,000 a week.

However, things didn’t work out.

Prior to his loan move to Inter Milan in the summer Sanchez had found the net just five times – seeing his stock fall drastically along the way.

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And, these days, Woodward is a far more cautious man.

Sanchez has given United a problem. He’s not good enough to keep, with the Inter loanee scoring just once over at the San Siro.

And he’s too expensive to sell, too, with clubs deterred by the former Arsenal star’s massive pay packet at Old Trafford.

In recent times, United have been linked with both Bale and Griezmann amid their struggles at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

But Woodward is unlikely to go for either player because of how disastrous the Sanchez transfer turned out to be.

Bale’s days at Real Madrid appear numbered.

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Zinedine Zidane actually wanted to sell the Wales international last summer but a shock move to the Chinese Super League collapsed at the last minute.

Now, Real will look for a buyer in order to raise funds for summer swoops potentially involving Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.

But United are likely to swerve him, knowing full well that Bale’s best days are a thing of the past.

And they’re set to adopt a similar stance when it comes to Griezmann.

United thought the France international would move to Old Trafford in 2017, shortly after the club had won the Europa League under Mourinho.

But that didn’t happen and, just last summer, he finally left Atletico Madrid for Barcelona.

Griezmann has toiled at the Nou Camp, failing to replicate the same brilliant form he displayed at the Wanda Metropolitano.

And he’s been backed to join United, with Catalonian media suggesting the Red Devils are interested.

However, that’s again unlikely to be the case.

Like Bale he’s on a huge pay packet over at Barcelona and United, given how they had their fingers burned with Sanchez, won’t be coming to his rescue.

Instead, they’d prefer to invest their cash in players on a upwards career trajectory – rather than a downwards one.

And that’s why neither Bale or Griezmann are likely to end up at the Theatre of Dreams this summer.

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Soccer

Neymar and Lautaro Martinez to Barcelona double deal backed by Luis Suarez

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez has called for his club to act boldly in the next transfer window by signing both Neymar and Lautaro Martinez.

It is no secret that most of the Barcelona squad want Neymar to return from Paris Saint-Germain, three years after he left for a world record £198million.

The Brazilian attempted to force through a move back to the Nou Camp last summer but his valuation was never met.

A FIFA clause can allow the 28-year-old to cancel his contract this summer, but it would cost him a heavy fee.

Suarez would like to see the winger back in Catalonia – and he went further by urging his side to also capture Inter Milan hitman Martinez.

“It is difficult to talk about players today due to the situation in the world,” the Uruguayan told Mundo Deportivo.

“Talking about who could come in is complicated but I can speak about what they are like and they are huge players.

“Obviously, everyone knows Ney and we have great appreciation for him in the dressing room which is indisputable as a player because he still has so much to give.

“He would always be welcome in this dressing room because of the affection we have for him.

“Lautaro is a player who has grown a lot in Italy and is a No 9 with spectacular movement.

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“That reflects what a great striker he is.”

Barcelona need competition for Suarez, who is 33 and coming towards the latter stages of his career.

However, the forward is not afraid of being challenged for a starting spot as he would rather see the team improve.

He added: “It isn’t that you feel compatible but you feel happy that the club wants to sign players who can come in to help and fulfil the same objectives as everyone else.

“We always want to win everything. Then when it comes to healthy competition, which there will always be, we’ll always be on the same side.

“So players who come to fight for a place in the team and help us will always be welcome. It will always be better and strengthen the group.”

Barcelona would have massive Financial Fair Play issues if they completed both transfers.

Therefore, they would have to offload some of their stars first.

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Fighting

Conor McGregor mocks Khabib Nurmagomedov wrestling skills in now-deleted tweet

Conor McGregor poked fun at bitter rival Khabib Nurmagomedov’s wrestling skills on social media in a now-deleted tweet. McGregor lost to the Russian via fourth-round submission back in October 2018.

McGregor has been lobbying for a rematch ever since that night, which will go down in UFC has one of the most controversial evenings ever.

Nurmagomedov jumped the cage after making McGregor tap and attacked his cornerman Dillon Danis.

Since then, McGregor and Nurmagomedov have traded barbs, with the latter believing that the Irishman doesn’t deserve another shot.

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McGregor believes there are mistakes he made in the fight which he would correct in a rematch.

The Notorious also always finds a way to take a dig at Nurmagomedov’s fighting style.

And he’s made no exception this evening, poking fun at the way Nurmagomedov wrestles by calling one of his techniques a ‘little mermaid leg wrap thing’.

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McGregor made reference to it while mentioning some of the UFC’s greatest fighters’ signature attacks.

“Conor’s left hand,” McGregor wrote in a now deleted tweet.

“Anderson’s front kick. Ronda’s armbar. Hendo’s bomb. Crocop’s high kick. Jon’s side kick to the knees over and over again and actually the only thing at this stage?

“Khabib’s little mermaid leg wrap thing he does. What a sport! Who’s the greatest, you already know.”

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McGregor’s last fight camp against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246, where he stopped the American in just 40 seconds.

Nurmagomedov, on the other hand, last fought in September in Abu Dhabi where he made Dustin Poirier tap in the third round.

The UFC lightweight champion was supposed to fight next weekend at UFC 249, but is stranded in Russia on lockdown because of the coronavirus.

He was scheduled to take on Tony Ferguson, who will now face Justin Gaethje.

McGregor is without a next opponent but fans have called for a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz.

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Soccer

Real Madrid eye ‘new N’Golo Kante’ as Paul Pogba transfer alternative

Real Madrid have found their ideal alternative if they are unable to secure a deal to sign Paul Pogba in the upcoming transfer window. Madrid are viewing Eduardo Camavinga as their ideal plan B if they can’t sign Manchester United ace Pogba this summer.

Madrid are still plotting a move to sign Pogba this summer.

The La Liga giants have been after the Frenchman for some time, but are cautious that they will be unable to agree terms with the Red Devils.

Pogba has been vocal about his future this season, and hinted that he wanted to try a new challenge after four years at United.

He has been linked with Juventus, but recently was claimed to have changed his mind on leaving.

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Reports stated that he had decided to stay at Old Trafford in order to play alongside new signing Bruno Fernandes.

Madrid, however, are still sniffing around him, and are expected to make a move once the window opens.

If they don’t, though, they have an alternative in mind.

Spanish outlet AS claims Madrid are looking at Rennes midfielder Camavinga as their next target.

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The 17-year-old is one of the brightest prospects in Europe, and has also been linked with United.

He is described as being a mix between N’Golo Kante and Casemiro, with the attacking ability of Pogba.

And he has attracted attention from elsewhere ahead of the window, with reports of a £43million bid from Madrid circling.

The youngster has played 25 Ligue 1 games this season, having broken into the first-team squad last season.

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Rennes manager Julien Stephan is reluctant to sell, however, and wants the teenager to stick around.

“He is a player with enormous potential, he is also a young player who will need to confirm his ability in time,” he said.

“It could be in his interest to spend an additional year with us, at the club where he was formed as a youth player.

“The reality of the market could be different, but my desire is to see Eduardo Camavinga spend an additional season at Rennes and in Ligue 1 to allow him to confirm his quality and then leave after that for a more renowned side.”

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Soccer

David Beckham hailed as ‘one of the best of all time’ by Brazil legend Ronaldo

David Beckham is one of the best players of all time in the middle of midfield, according to former team-mate Ronaldo. Beckham played alongside the legendary Brazilian at Real Madrid for four years.

Beckham, who is currently on lockdown with his family, spent Wednesday afternoon on Instagram live with Ronaldo.

The iconic midfielder discussed their time together in Madrid, during which time they won La Liga together in 2007.

Ronaldo spent some of the best years of his career at the Bernabeu, scoring 83 La Liga goals in 127 games.

But he jokingly declared he should have been thanking Beckham for his deliveries during their time together.

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The legendary striker claimed Beckham was one of the best players he played alongside, while discussing their time on the pitch together.

Ronaldo said: “For me, you were one of the best of all time in the centre, the way you touch the ball, could put the ball wherever you want, and without looking at me the ball would come.

“I should thank you for many balls you gave to me.

“You were amazing.”

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Beckham was also full of praise for Ronaldo, and thanked him for playing a part in his 2003 transfer from Manchester United.

The Englishman left United after 12 years in 2003, signing for £25million.

And he thanked Ronaldo for helping him integrate into the fabric of the club.

Beckham explained that, due to the culture difference, it was difficult to make the switch from the Premier League to La Liga, but that Ronaldo helped him do it.

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He told Ronaldo: “When I moved from Manchester and I had been there my whole life, to move to Madrid was a big move for me.

“One of the first people that I ever saw was you, when you walked into the changing room it made me feel comfortable to be at the club.

“I remember you turning around to me and saying that the Brazil squad believed that if there was any English player that could play in the Brazilian team it would be me, but I never believed you!

“Because Brazilian players are the best players! You know that.”

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Racing

Lewis Hamilton pinpoints secret to success as F1 star opens up on Ayrton Senna inspiration

Lewis Hamilton says manifesting what he wants to achieve and then putting in the hard yards has been vital to his success on the F1 stage. The Mercedes driver goes into the delayed 2020 season with a target on his back having won the past three World Drivers’ Championships on the spin.

Hamilton’s personal haul now stands at six titles and he’s just one adrift of the legendary Michael Schumacher’s record tally.

Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc head up the list of drivers who would love to end the 35-year-old’s spell of dominance.

Hamilton has now revealed what he thinks has been crucial to making him the man to beat in the world of F1.

“I truly believe in manifesting things,” Hamilton told F1. “If you have a goal or a dream, I think you have to speak it into existence.

“And then you have to work towards it. I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. I am. I wanted to be a world champion. I am.”

Hamilton could be forgiven for looking at rising stars Verstappen and Leclerc with some trepidation as he approaches the twilight of his career.

But the former McLaren ace insists his confidence is unwavering as he attempts to perform to the standards set by his hero Ayrton Senna.

“Every single one of us athletes believes we’re the best,” Hamilton said. “If you start to compare yourself to someone else you can easily start to doubt yourself.

“There’s not a single driver or other racer that inspires me. I’m inspired by one driver and that was Ayrton Senna.”

Senna tragically died in 1994 after succumbing to injuries sustained in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

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Hamilton fondly remembers watching the Brazilian, who won three World Drivers’ Championships, when he was a child.

“I started racing when I was eight years old,” Hamilton said. “I actually started racing radio-controlled cars when I was four.

“I seem to remember when I was like five or six, watching Ayrton race. It was the only thing I think I could probably sit still to watch.

“There was either Superman or Ayrton. So I wanted to be one of the two.”

Hamilton and his rivals are set to start the 2020 season in France on June 29 after the coronavirus pandemic saw the year’s first nine races called off.

The reigning F1 champion will race at Senna’s home city track of Interlagos in November when the F1 circus makes its way to Sao Paulo.

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Fighting

Tyson Fury ‘not heard’ Deontay Wilder will step-aside so Anthony Joshua fight can happen

Deontay Wilder hasn’t indicated to Tyson Fury’s camp that he would be willing to take a step-aside fee to allow the Gypsy King to face Anthony Joshua for the undisputed world heavyweight titles. That’s according to Top Rank president Todd DuBoef.

Fury battered Wilder across seven rounds in February to claim the WBC world title and Ring Magazine belt.

But the American was quick to invoke his rematch clause, whilst giving excuses for his loss to Fury.

Fury’s team reportedly want to make a mega-fight with fellow Brit Joshua, however, as he holds the heavyweight division’s other three belts.

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WBA, WBO and IBF champ Joshua is scheduled to fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev this summer, but the coronavirus pandemic has halted those plans, as well as Fury’s third clash with Wilder.

Because there are so many obstacles in the way at the moment, DuBoef can’t see how Fury vs Joshua will get made, as he doesn’t think Wilder will step aside.

“I have not personally had any conversations about that. It is not on my radar,” DuBoef told Sky Sports.

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“I am working with Wilder’s representatives on coming up with new potential dates in late-summer or early-fall for the Fury fight. We are speaking about potential venues too.

“That fight breaking up as a result of [Joshua vs Fury] fight? I have not been privy to any conversations about that.

“I have not heard that they are willing to step aside. Nobody has communicated that.

“We are contractually obligated to Wilder at this point. Pulev and Joshua are contracted.

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“There is too much uncertainty across the board, with everything, to speculate on [Joshua vs Fury] happening.

“In a perfect world without this virus then I could possibly see a path [to Joshua vs Fury] but right now I don’t see it.

“We are obligated to the Wilder camp and we are concentrating on that.

“It is so cloudy even with two matches but to make a third match? That’s even cloudier.

“It’s really hard to see through the clutter to see.”

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Soccer

Paul Pogba transfer hint dropped by Man Utd boss amid Real Madrid, Juventus links

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has claimed Paul Pogba is still one of his “big players”, pouring cold water on rumours linking him to Real Madrid and Juventus.

Pogba attempted to force through a move to the Bernabeu last summer but United’s valuation was not met.

The Frenchman has been limited to just eight appearances for the Red Devils this season, albeit injury has played a big part in his limited time on the pitch.

It was unclear if Pogba would ever make another appearance for United after he underwent ankle surgery in January.

However, the postponement of the Premier League because of the coronavirus pandemic could offer the 27-year-old one final chance to remain at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer has admitted that Pogba may return to the squad when fixtures resume as he still feels the midfielder has a key role to play.

“Paul and Marcus [Rashford] have been out, now we’ve still got games left, and I think everyone in the league will start more or less on the same level,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

“Maybe they’ve got more motivation to keep going now, as they can see when they’re back they may be on the same level or even a better level physically.

“In a way, they have got an opportunity here to play a bigger part in this season than they had hoped. And they are big players for us, some of the most important players.

“I’ve always been impressed with the players when we’ve had breaks. When we came back from pre-season they were really focused. We’ve had the mid-season break now, we did a few things tactically in Marbella in that week and they came back focused.

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“We can kick on, I’m sure we can get a good start and climb up that table if we keep doing the right thing. Even with the FA Cup and Europa League, if that does go ahead, we’ve got good chances there.”

However, transfer expert Duncan Castles thinks Pogba could clash with new signing Bruno Fernandes.

“With Bruno Fernandes now installed and basically elevated to position of most important player in the team in the space of a few games, you have that individual who can play that attacking, creative role,” Castles said on the Transfer Window podcast.

“There’s an obvious point of conflict when he does come back, if he does come back into the Manchester United team whenever football’s played again and Bruno Fernandes has the freedom to play as he is at the moment as the No 10 position.

“He’s basically playing exactly where Paul Pogba wants to be.

“We know he doesn’t like defensive duties, we know he doesn’t like playing in a two, we know he thinks he should be the central attacking, creative force in the team and for good reason because that’s what he’s best at.

“But if you try and put Fernandes and Pogba into the same midfield, you’re going to have that conflict because one of them’s going to have to sacrifice their best position.

“We’ve seen that Bruno Fernandes has been working for Manchester United so it will be surprising if Solskjaer says ‘We’ll let you Pogba, who’s missed the majority of this season and caused endless problems with not just the previous manager not just for the previous manager but also myself, have the position you want’ and sacrifice Fernandes in that way to make it happen.”

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Soccer

Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi gives verdict on Premier League return amid coronavirus crisis

Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi has implored the Premier League not to return to action until after the coronavirus pandemic “stops”. There has been no English top-flight football since March 9 due to the public health crisis, which has infected close 1.5million worldwide and killed over 80,000 – though those are only the confirmed cases, with the real number likely to be even higher.

Arsenal have not played since the win over West Ham on March 7, with the Premier League not expected back any time before June.

The current campaign has been extended indefinitely with all 20 clubs keen to complete the season, despite talk it could be cancelled despite teams having played 29 of 38 matches.

The latest indications are that matches could be played behind closed doors in June, with the view to wrapping up the season in July so that the Champions League and Europa League can be finished in August at the latest.

The 2020-21 league seasons could then all start on time, or even just a week or two later than scheduled, though they too would likely be played in empty stadiums up and down the country.

But as the United Kingdom hopes the peak of the coronavirus could be in the next two to three weeks, Guendouzi insists he is not comfortable even returning to training until the outbreak of COVID-19 comes to an end.

“For me, what I think is most important is to not start things up again, no games, no training, until this epidemic stops,” the Frenchman told Telefoot.

“What’s most important is everybody’s health, and not just in the football world, but in the medical world and the world in general.

“That’s really what’s most important. I’m in favour of nothing starting up again until this virus is taken off this world.

“For now, the orders have been clear. There’s nothing at all. No training, no games, and not for a while.

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“We know the United Kingdom took measures a bit after France, which means this period is starting to be very difficult here.

“There’s a lot of people who are starting to die from this virus.

“I don’t know if we’re at the start or just in the middle, but we know it’s not the end of this virus, so we know it’s not going to start back up just yet.”

In their last statement on the virus, Arsenal said last week: “The Premier League and Women’s Super League announced today (Friday, April 3) that fixtures will not resume at the beginning of May and that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time.  

“As a club, we are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019/20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition. 
 
“We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of Government and when medical guidance allows. 
 
“We are delighted that the Premier League also announced today a unanimous vote by all member clubs to advance £125 million to the EFL and National League within the UK football pyramid. A further £20 million will be given to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups. These measures are fully backed and welcomed by all at our club.

“Most of our staff continue to work from home. Our sites at Emirates Stadium, London Colney and Hale End remain closed, other than a small number of staff who are making sure our pitches and sites are secure and ready for when we return to action. We continue to follow all government guidance. 

“As a result of the current situation, our men’s, women and academy playing squads remain at home and are keeping in regular contact with our coaches and support staff. 
 
“Many Arsenal staff are continuing to coordinate a meaningful response to help those most vulnerable during these times. Arsenal in the Community have found ways to continue their great work through our initial response and we remain working with our local London authorities, the NHS in the UK, and Save The Children in order to explore ways we can support local and worldwide communities. 

“Finally, and most importantly, keep well and follow the guidance of the World Health Organisation on the prevention of the spread of the virus. 
 
“Take care everyone. 
 
“The directors, players and staff at Arsenal Football Club.”

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